Sunday, July 27, 2014

My First Repair Project and Lucky 7's

Greetings from Dallas!

I'm here spending a full week with my beautiful fiance and her parents. Never been to the Lone Star State before. Got burned on my first day out, despite using sun screen, twice. Lesson learned. Of course I've been antiquing whilst down here, but first, I want to talk about fixing a typewriter I bought in Jefferson City.

My Japanese-imported Signet is a great little machine, but the feet had decayed years ago and so had the rubber which held the ribbon spool cover on the frame.

Last week when I got home, I noticed that a few more keys on my Sears Tower were sticking again. I've used a lot of alcohol on this thing since I bought it four months ago, and I was beginning to think I should try some lubricant instead.

The tools: one bottle of oil, one long cue tip.

I took some Miltec, which is marketed as a dry penetrating lubricant. When this is applied to a firearm, it bonds with the metal and doesn't need reapplying until several thousand rounds later. I used an extra long cue-tip (courtesy of my parents, who have lots of nursing supplies around the house). I applied a tiny amount in the segment, on top, bottom and the sides of each type bar.

So far, it seems to have solved the problem. We'll see how long it lasts.

Meanwhile, I still had the Signet to contend with. It's a great laptop typer, but...

The problem: no feet.
People usually don't care what kind of epic story you're
writing if it scratches their furniture in the process.

First thing's first. Completely stripped and cleaned.
Found a bobby pin at the bottom...

Some of this. 
Four of these rubber grommets.

Glue grommet to washer. The screw will pinch the washer against the frame,
preventing it from falling out even if the grommet breaks off.


Another grommet with a tiny insert glued inside.

Fits perfectly onto the frame.

It works. The machine has new feet and the ribbon spool cover isn't going anywhere.

I'm quite proud of myself for fixing this little typer (and grateful to Dad for helping me). It was a weekend well-spent, and after that it was off to Dallas!

My beautiful and insightful fiance and I have waited so long to visit with one another. We hadn't been together since before my internship. I've never been to Texas before, but I figured I'd never have a better reason to go!

I flew in on Tuesday and we went on our first antiquing trip on Thursday. The High Street antique mall was interesting; it has its own tea room/cafe! The following pictures are a combination from our trips to High Street and Curiosities.

The Croque Monsieur sandwich, courtesy of The Chocolate Angel inside the store.
Toasted sourdough, bacon, ham, cheese, apple butter. 

I guess the kid wasn't such a prodigy after all...

A lineman's test phone. Never seen one before.

That's not a radio...

First wild sighting. A Royal Heritage. $65
In great working order, just seemed a little plain.

Interesting white tail mount. Tag said it was rare, hence $300.
Not sure what's so special about it.

Dallas has a population of over a million people. Hence, there are more shops than we could possibly visit in detail. Each place had at least one booth with an African safari theme, and multiple copies of James A. Michener's Texas. No surprise. They had things for the high-end collector or the regular enthusiast. Every place had more than one typewriter, but sadly, few that worked.

"Burroughs" typewriter with long carriage. A mystery machine.

Wicked! Vile! Filthy! Liar!
A typewriter case with no typewriter! $15

Royal KMM. $120.
Broken draw string. None of the keys move the carriage.

Royal Royalite. "C" key broken in an odd way; depressed but still moves the
type bar if you press all the way. Would be a great piece if it functioned correctly. $30


Corona 3. $195. Same problems as the KMM.

Interesting children's book series. They just don't publish titles like they used to.
Seriously, "Stories of Wonder and Magic" is a great way to interest kids in reading.
I may have been more inclined to read if I was given these instead of The Scarlet Letter.

Underwood Champion with built-in table and carry case. $200.
First time I've ever seen a wild typewriter with test phrases printed on paper.
Needs lots of alcohol and probably lube, but seems ok otherwise.

Unknown typer, probably another Underwood. $50.

A 1920s Royal portable in GREEN. One of the rarest I've ever seen in person.
If money was no object, I would have plopped down $300 bucks for it.
Somebody, anybody, PLEASE save this one!

Nothing had really caught my fancy that was affordable, but then, hiding under a table...

Wait, what's this?


Isn't it just beautiful? I found this gem in the same booth as the empty typewriter case. I noticed it at the last second; a glimpse of the corner and the carry handle. Courtney said she wished she had videotaped my reaction, because I was like a kid on Christmas.

I've been collecting for a year next Wednesday. I've been to a lot of antique stores, seen a lot of typers. I have never ever seen one that was this good. Jones Typewriter Company has two DeLuxe's for sale and they're both priced at $125 (they've been professionally serviced, of course).

This one cost me $75, including tax.

The paper was bent, hence the weird flow of text.
Should have put it down on a flat surface before scanning with my phone.

Perfect glass tombstone keys.
Even the label on the back is pristine!

Insert dumb Wizard of Oz joke.

Pardon me while I clean up this drool.

The love of my life using a manual typewriter for the first time.
I can't tell you how much I've enjoyed sharing this passion with her.
She writes the most beautiful hand-written notes, but it'll be just as neat to get a typed letter from her!

Is the color original or restored? The anodized matte finish is characteristic of post WWII production. The user's manual from 1948 seems to be the same machine. Perhaps it came from the factory like that? In either case, it doesn't really matter, because it looks good and feel great under my fingers. There might be a few escapement issues, and the platen makes a squeak whenever you turn it clockwise. Very minor issues that don't detract from its use. If it becomes worse, I'm sure Texas of all places has a few repairmen left.

I haven't found appropriate names for my other machines. But me and my sweetie are thinking of calling this one "Vincent," since it reminded us of dark things, like the painting "Starry Starry Night."

We went antiquing again on Friday, though nothing matched our previous luck. Even so, we found some interesting pieces.

K-Mart electric. Price unknown. Buried under lots of stuff. It was hard to take this photo.

Remington standard, unknown model. Broken draw string.

Old Underwood. Lots o rust.

Portugease-made Royal Safari. In good working order. $62

Remington Standard No. 10. Also lots o rust. Missing a foot. $70-ish

What I think is a Remington KMC (has a KMC button).
Needs cleaning, but nothing seems broken. $70

Royal KHM with a grey paint job and blue plastic replacement keys.
Good working order, if you don't care about its looks. $70

Really nice Olympia standard. $100

Nice Olympia DeLuxe in a wooden case that fell open and mashed my finger.
Only problem is that the bell didn't work. $70

My trip to the Lone Star State isn't over yet, but we probably won't be doing any more antiquing. We've already got a bag full of memories. While at a local book store, I managed to snag a copy of Stephen King's On Writing, which I'd been after for some time. So, I gave Courtney my copy of Misery. We'll see if she turns into a fan.

Been getting good reviews for my flash pieces on Zoetrope. Hopefully an editor somewhere will agree with the forum and publish one, or all.

Power to the pen, and punch the key's for Pete's sake!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Jones' Typewriter: A Testimonial


I'm very excited about this week's post. You know why? Because I get to share the wonderful work that Jones' Typewriter Company did on my machines.

My internship in Jeff City is over (had a wonderful time), and I picked them up on my way back to Paducah. They did everything I asked of them and even threw in a few surprises.

Front of the store. The Jones sign is in the other window.
It was really bright outside. Sorry for the reflection.
First time I visited these guys I drove right past them...

Cashing in my claim checks. Free contact information!
There were more machines around the front desk than the last time I went.
Someone's been busy.

My Royal KMM. They painted the serial number!

And treated the platen. Looks like new!

My Remington Rand Model 1.
For some reason, the previous owners had removed the tab stops.
No problem! Charlie didn't just replace them, he manufactured them out of scrap metal!
You need a pair of pliers to move them around, but they work! 

The Remington back home. The "N" was crooked. Fixed.
The "P" keytop sagged because of a worn spring. Fixed.
Various escapement problems, aka "skipping letters." Fixed.
The right line guide snapped off during one typing session. Fixed
(and I had to mail them that part).
Feet replaced. Ribbon replaced. Platen treated. Carry case latches fixed.
This thing has a new lease on life!

Sadly, this original paint is going to need attention soon.
Perhaps I can get some stencils...

The Remington needed more repairs than the Royal, and I'm very glad I brought it along. Thanks to the new feet, the machine doesn't dip forward in the case, which means I can use it in my lap! It types so quietly...but I'll save that for an in-depth review.

The Royal's line lock problems was caused by some bad links in the machine. Charlie replaced the rubber feet and now it's ready to write that novel!

These guys are the real deal. They don't do paint or other cosmetic restoration work, but if you want your machine to function like the day it rolled out of the factory, then give them a call! I'll certainly be taking my Underwood Touchmaster Five to them next time I get up that way.

Total waiting time: about five weeks

Total cost (both machines): $157.70

Customer satisfaction: 100%

Before I left, Vern let me look at a really interesting machine.

In case you can't read it, this is a Williams typewriter.
The patent dates range from 1875 to 1890.

From this angle, it looks like a cross between the Oliver and the Scholes.

Vern said that a customer brought it to the shop and asked him to fix it. Trouble was, he'd never seen one of these before. I was stumped, but told him I'd look it up on Google when I had the chance. I didn't have to look very far, as it turns out, because (ta-da!) Richard Polt has already done an extensive writeup on the subject.

Since they don't have internet at the shop, I'll be printing this page and mailing to them along with my check.

And since this is the first typewriter-themed post I've been able to do in a while, I thought it fitting to close with an excerpt from a book where the typewriter plays a crucial role.

Cover art of the version I own.
I'd been on the lookout for this book for awhile. I loved the James Caan movie, and since I'm a writer, I love to read King stories that feature writers. This one goes into great detail about the mental process of a writer who's been chained to a certain character for years, a character he doesn't like. He wants to break out of his mold and write other stories, but his fans keep demanding more of the same (something King has talked about several times). This is the book that King wrote after his fantasy novel The Eyes of the Dragon was rejected by the fan base. 

About two years ago, OzTypewriter wrote an article featuring the novel and the film here.

The novel's protagonist, Paul Sheldon, is from the era when electric typewriters were the industry standard. In fact, in the first few chapters (as he drifts in and out of consciousness while recovering from a severe car wreck) he reminisces fondly about his IBM and the correcting tape.

We all know the premise of the story: best-selling author gets kidnapped by a psychotic nurse who claims to be his "number one fan," and then forces him to write another book reviving a character he killed off.

The typewriter in the novel and movie is the ubiquitous Royal 10, by far one of the most iconic typewriters ever made, even though it debuted exactly 100 years ago.

One of the few machines I'd be willing to drop serious cash on...assuming it worked and looked this pretty.

What I like about the novel is how the typewriter takes on a personality of its own. Sheldon is kept on drugs while being held hostage, and as a result, he hallucinates...a lot. It's so bad that the machine appears to grin at him (this is supposed to be a reference to the type basket, but on later models like the KHM and KMM, it could be the paraph underscoring the Royal logo). The machine taunts him, daring him to outdo himself, to write a great book and stay alive.

Many subsequent publications feature a typewriter on the cover of the novel, but they're usually a direct descendant of the Royal 10, like the KHM or KMM. Experienced collectors can tell immediately, even if only by the shape of the silhouette. I'm already half way though, and even though I know how it ends, I'm enjoying it.

Meanwhile, I've taken up flash fiction. These little gems of fiction are about 300-1000 words long. You could fit one on a single sheet of paper if you type single space. Writers get lots of ideas or concepts that can't be fleshed out into full-length novels or traditional short stories. Just one joke or a single "ah ha!" moment in the middle of a scene. I think it's the perfect way to try out a new typer.

Tune in next week when I talk about my very first repair project!

Power to the pen!