Thursday, April 30, 2009


  • Like a dolt I missed World Pinhole Day this past Sunday. This from the guy with a drawer full of various junk-store cameras, including at least one that has been converted to pinhole use. I even bothered to put it on the site links, too. Argh. I had intended to redo the pinhole plane on my crappy Bell & Howell plastic junker -- the hole is off-center, which bothers me more than I'd like to admit.
Pinhole of my office

  • Speaking of days, did you realize that it's supposedly Manual Typewriter Day today? Yeah, me neither. That's the bad news. The good news is that tomorrow, all those decorations will be half-off, just in time to prep for your own Typewriter Day festivities (June 23, don't forget!) A Typewriter Day in April? Sounds like an excuse to sell more greeting cards to me.
  • From the gotta-try-this department, I stumbled into the recipe for "Caffenol" film developer, made from kitchen ingredients like instant coffee and washing powder. This just sounds too cool to ignore, despite the long develop times and the reported mega-stink that it makes. Of course, real developer is no bouquet of roses, either. Those zany kids and their chemistry knowledge.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Recipe for Nanowrimo Success in 2009

20090429 typecast

Scenes from 2008's NaNoWriMo:

Young author at work November dreaming NaNoWriMo 2008: Day 14 The secret to a high word count

Typed on a most girly super-size recipe card that in no way makes me less of a man. Thanks to Little Flower Petals I've somehow decided that I need still more vintage metal boxes to hold my massive stash of 3x5 cards, and so of course pick out the one that's packed with paper products. It's a sickness, I tell ya.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Too Dang Hot

20090421 pencast

These two posts over at Just Write got me thinking about records again, and more than once have I ogled one of those old console record players at the secondhand shop and dreamed of somehow hauling it home unnoticed. I don't think that's going to happen anytime soon.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Touchstone, albatross, or punchline?

20090415 typecast

Wow, sorry about that sudden bleakness at the end. I've a birthday coming up, and I think that I'm beginning to feel it, despite my protests that I'm not. Here's that first typecast, by the way. My speed and accuracy have improved, although I still rush this old machine more than it wants to be rushed.

Royal Portable Model "O" c1932

Monday, April 13, 2009

Genuine nostalgia

A bright, clear image of your subject I'm justifying this as a blogiversary present to myself, the first camera I actually remember owning and using, a Kodak Instamatic X-15. Mine (as a child) was quite possibly bought for me brand-new, given the dates when this thing was made (I was about 5 or 6.) Like finding an old favorite toy in the attic, finding this on the thrift store shelf with a box and a half of unused Magicubes was a complete nostalgia trip. The other typewriters and cameras are a sort of artificial memory I'm wrapping myself in -- I obviously never really used a typewriter or a fountain pen or a mechanical watch for day-to-day life, but that old Instamatic went with me on camping trips and visits to the grandparents. The loud ratcheting sound of the winding lever put me right back in plaid Garanimal flare pants (you whippersnappers can look that one up on your Google thingus.)

Instamatics were cheap plastic affairs, semi-light-tight since they used the 126 film format, a drop-in plastic cartridge that contained the film, rolled with a thick backing paper so you could see the frame numbers through a little window on the back of the camera. Perfect for a kid. And perfect for a big kid, too, who found directions on how to convert an instamatic to 135 film (better know as 35mm.) My conversion was even simpler, just by notching the top of the film spool and then covering the numerous gaps in the camera with black sticky-back craft foam. I ran a roll through this weekend, and am going to get the negatives done at Walgreens over lunch.

Post-lunch update:

Factoring in the amount of hacking I had to do to get this image digitized, the results are not bad.

Instamatic Dog
(photo tinkered with since my yard is not blue-green)

Let's consider:
  • Crappy camera to start with
  • Using film twice as fast as recommended for the camera
  • Using film not at all made for the camera
  • Hand-held photograph of the negative as pressed against my (tinted) office window
  • Hand-inverting the image from the negative
What's most magical to me, though, is the areas between the photos. You can get a little glimpse of this on the sides of this picture, but all between the shots it's cloudy and hazy, like gaps in memory only sliding into focus for certain moments -- the dog resting in the yard, my daughter as we're taking a walk together, the big ornamental cactus that grows down the street. The gaps are necessary due to the way 126 film was made (one hole per picture) and I overcompensated on this first roll, but the net effect is... wild.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Bulking up redux

So just to recap:
  1. Found a bulk loader at the thrift store
  2. Stopped at Walgreens to grab as many empty film canisters that they had, after unsuccessfully trying this at Rite-Aid this morning (their mini-lab machine is long gone)
  3. Found out that not only does the photo lab next door not carry bulk film (expected), but also -- to my dismay -- the photo place they partnered with for developing chemistry went out of business. A year ago.
So now I'm on the cusp of making the big financial outlay: buying the actual film, and (now) the powders to mix up my own magical brew to process this film. I'm already loathe to spend "real" money, and now it looks like I'm going to be laying out more to get the chemicals shipped to me. Total financial outlay to date is $1.09 for the loader, plus tax. Total projected outlay for this project... priceless? No, wait, that's not right.

Tell me again that film is worth it. I'm having my retro-tech regrets a bit early, and all because I need to spend an extra $15 or so plus shipping for chemistry. I need talking down here, people. Deeeeep breathing.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Bulking up?

I seem to be getting back into cameras again in a big way this year (no doubt helped by my tendency to obsess on some technology, acquire randomly, and then feel guilty.) I took a couple sessions of black-and-white photo developing ages ago -- has it been ten years? gads -- and I'd like to get back into it again. I won't be able to sacrifice a bathroom as a darkroom right now, but at least I can get into processing again, and maybe eventually get a decent negative scanner.

Anyhow, I'm thinking about doing bulk-loading of my own 35mm film, even going go far as to see if anyone local has a bulk winder to spare. Anyone ever try this? Once you swallow the $30-$50 charge for 100' roll of film, the economics seem to work out well, especially if you use spent spools harvested for free from the 1-hour photo place as I intend to do.


Six days later...

My favorite thrift store comes through again. Why do I even bother with the other places?

Watson Bulk Loader

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Style over substance

Smith-Corona Corsair Deluxe I like to think of our little group of retro-nuts as loving conservators of bygone technology, and not, as my wife would put it, junk collectors. I suspect she thinks worse things, too, when I bring home another little suitcase-sized treasure or battered old camera case. I've been pretty good lately, limiting my purchases and staying away from the eeevil temptations of the flea-bay, even passing over some reasonably priced deals within the comfortable-driving-distance of Craigslist. I've been good, really, and in general have made good choices. Look, but don't touch. Thou shalt not covert thy neighbor's typer, and all that.

And then it showed up on the Goodwill site. Not the typewriter pictured, in fact, but a nasty 70's-yellow Royal Charger with very minor cosmetic damage. I told myself I would not bid on it, did not need it, have plenty of Royals anyway, etc.. You know the drill. I bid on it anyway, a reasonable bid that kept to my informal "under $25" rule for impulse buys. I was sniped out of a win, somewhat predictably, and that was that. Lesson learned, no harm, no foul. But no little suitcase to bring home.

Except I wasn't. I was pretty peeved, actually, more than I had a right to be. Something about that awful mustard machine called to me, despite it being well outside the era of machines that I prefer -- by that time, I think only Olympia was really turning out serious portables. And yet the envy burned in my heart. So I allowed myself the consolation bid for this Corsair Deluxe, a.k.a. a very late model Skyriter. This from the time when Smith-Corona was in their last gasps, shifting operations overseas, and then across Asia -- this particular example was made in Singapore, which I think may make it from the mid 1980's.

It's not a great machine, although the Skyriter is not the ideal typing experience to begin with. It's an OK typer, and requires those smallish Skyriter spools, which means inky fingers. But it's curved, and tiny, and aqua, for goodness sake -- a close match to Norma Jean -- and despite all I'd read about this model on the portable typewriters group... I bid anyway. And won. And don't regret the decision, really (it was very inexpensive, even with cross-country shipping.) But now I've opened the door to buying these things purely on style, and not substance. I'm not trying to build a collection or a legacy, I'm just picking up machines as they appeal to me and interest me. But I feel like I've cheated, somehow: I've let down the others.

I think I need to go hug my machines.