Friday, July 31, 2009


Sorry, I have to get all fanboy for a moment here:

Oh, please don't suck please don't suck pleasepleaseplease...

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Punching on the Edge

The punch I talked about earlier just came in, and I'm thrilled. It's exactly what I was hoping for: something to make a neat, V-shaped notch in the edge of my homemade edge-punched cards:
Edge-Notched Index Card
The red overlay shows the sizes of the punches I've tried and how much paper they remove. The first one was too big. The second one was too small. But the third one? Just right. Zsa Zsa, my Studio 44 is home this weekend for a touch of case repair, so she helped me type up cards for the remaining ideas that I'd jotted down over vacation. I was concerned about running the perforated edge down into the works of a typewriter -- visions of the line of holes being chewed up -- but I needn't have worried: Zsa Zsa offered a gentle touch and was most well-mannered.

Zsa Zsa gets to work

The saga:

Friday, July 24, 2009

On Noodling

20090724 typecast

Production note: I was trying to emulate Joe Van Cleve's color-wash technique, but had little luck getting the wax to transfer to the page. My color wash of diluted fountain pen ink made the page a lovely mushy blue, but no letters. So, I fell back on the method demonstrated by his grandson and just scanned the wax paper outright, boosting the contrast in Gimp.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Now in 3-D

Seems like I'm riding a wave of gimmickry lately, enabling the inner colorcasters ("Throw off your bichrome shackles and follow me!") and many apologies to your spouses/significant others/parents for making your kitchens smell like burnt wax. I promise not to let my novelty ADD cause too many more domestic problems.

Say "cheesecheese" A few you you might remember my last ill-fated attempt at budget 3-D photography. If you've mercifully forgotten, it looked like this. The results were exactly what you would expect from two dollar-store cameras held together by packing type and cardboard scavenged from the copy room. Let's say they were less than stellar and move on.

3-D photography (technically stereo photography) has been around for decades, it's not a new trick, and you can even fake it by taking two pictures, sliding your camera horizontally a bit between shots. There were a lot of dedicated cameras built over the years, some which would even let you prepare your own View-Master slides. Pretty cool stuff, but being collectible, this sort of camera is one of those would-be-nice-to-have-but-not-at-that-price items.

Well, it looks like Fuji is trying to reinstate 3-D photography again, giving it a 21st century kick in the pants with a new dual-lens digital camera that sports an tehnobabble-laden set of diagrams illustrating exactly how this will work. It's all very fancy and impressive, and one of the points they're touting is the use of "a fine pitch lenticular sheet" over printed photos to give you the 3-D effect without glasses or a viewer or doing some kind of crossed-eye technique. You know what lenticular sheets are: remember those little rulers we'd have as kids that had pinwheels printed on them, and as you tilted the ruler, the wheel would appear to turn? (Hey, it was the 70's.) That bumpy, clear plastic surface was the lenticular lens, which showed you different views of the underlying image. There's software and products out there that will even let you do this yourself.

What Fuji fails to mention, though, is that lenticular 3-D photography is nothing new, either. Behold!

Nishika N8000 3-D 35mm camera

This monster is a Nishika N8000 camera, which takes four half-frame photos on 35mm film. (It's also freaking huge, and I'm been informed that it's "totally pimp style" whatever that might mean.) Despite all the high-tech appearance, this is just a basic, mostly-plastic fixed-focus camera. You can follow the article links on Camerapedia to find out more about its history. Nishika would offer lenticular printing of your cherished photos of... whatever you decided needed the winky-blinky 3-D treatment. Nishika's gone now, but of course there's a small group on flickr of folks who use it and scan the results, assembling them into animated images that trick your eyes and brain into figuring out the 3-D scene. This one is one of my favorites right now since it demonstrates the advantage of a multi-lens camera: taking photos of something in motion.

I loaded up my Nishika this morning for the walk with the dog and took some photos around the neighborhood. I don't want to befuddle the Walgreens clerk with a roll of seemingly identical half-frame shots, so this is going to be another Caffenol roll. I'll let you know how they turn out. With four lenses, this should be twice as much fun as that jazzy new Fuji, right? Besides, Nishika even bothered to put together this painfully earnest and horribly cheesy instructional video starring the late, great Vincent Price:
  1. Vincent Price Nishika 3D Camera: Part One
  2. Vincent Price Nishika 3D Camera: Part Two

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

At Last

Royal Quiet DeLuxe c. 1953, aka "Etta"

20090721 typecast

Update: for those having trouble getting a clear impression (*cough* Speegle *cough), here are some detail photos of the paper used for this typecast. I tweaked the "levels" on the above pic to boost the contrast a bit, though I'm not sure that was necessary, since you can see the lettering on the other side bleeding through.

Colorcast and source paper Crayon "carbon Paper" detail

Monday, July 20, 2009

Colorcasting Redux

I experimented some more over the weekend with ersatz color carbon paper
made from crayons, trying to take a slightly scientific approach to what worked and what did not. Your own experiences may vary (and I'd like to hear them.)
  • Using thin paper as the backing for the crayon was essential. I tried some 24# all-cotton stationery and some very heavy cardstock, and neither worked as well as the plain old 20# office white. Newsprint or vellum might work even better.
  • Related to that, coloring on smooth paper on a hard surface was better than textured paper or an irregular surface. When I'm done coloring, there's no plain paper peeping through the wax.
  • Baking the paper still seems to be the best way to truly get the wax smoothed out. I tried ironing a sheet between aluminum foil, but the impressions were faint and irregular. I'm still doing small pieces that fit in the toaster over (much faster than the main oven) and am baking at about 300° F for several minutes. This is a low enough temperature that the paper isn't burning, but I still didn't leave it alone. Solar-heating didn't work at all (hung paper from the clothesline on a 100+° day.) Crayon shavings pretty much require heating unless you want to pick them out of your typewriter later. (Not recommended.)
  • Dark colors work best on white paper, duh. I did a sample with yellow, and it barely showed up. I don't have any good, dark paper around to test lighter colored crayons. (I did use yellow to blend in with other colors, though.)
  • Crayon brand doesn't seem to make any difference. Washable crayons performed about the same as regular ones, though my own experience making recycled crayons has taught me that the originals melt the best.
  • Stencil mode worked better than having the ribbon getting in the way. Of course, this means you're also "blind typing" (though see the note below.) This would be an interesting experiment to try on a standard machine designed to hammer through multiple pages. Anyone want to try this with a Selectric?
  • Touch control may make a difference, but it's hard for me to tell when the T.C. affects my regular typing. A machine with very fast/hard action is bound to work better than a soft-touch machine, and better than a noiseless-style machine.
I noticed that the best samples were evident because the letters I had just typed on the back of the colored pages were very clearly visible in white, as if the wax had broken away on the other side. Samples that I typed using other prep techniques (ironing the colored sheet, for example) did not show this effect -- I was truly blind-typing then.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Lazy Blogging: Musical Type

OK typeonauts, someone find this guy and sign him up for a theme song:
Seriously: get this guy on board.

And although Geeksugar has endorsed typewriter-key "jewelry" in the past, there's no denying that I want one of these for my ancient craptop. Wonder if they come in AlphaSmart size?

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Pliers, Drills, Needles, and Waiting for Martha Stewart's Tears


What's Your 20, Good Buddy?

I'd blame Olivander for this one, but honestly, the seeds were planted almost two years ago with this topic that I contributed to on the D*I*Y Planner site. (I'm "Friend of Pens" in the comments section, if you're interested.) D*I*Y Planner is to organization nerds what Will Davis' site is to typewriter freaks: enabling pr0n of the worst order. And reading about these mysterious edge-punched cards intrigued me and the budding retro-nut lurking within.

The idea is simple: with a deck of blank notecards, punch a series of holes on every card along an edge, and attach some significance or category to each hole. Say, if you were going to catalog members of your family, you might have a set of holes to represent "eye color" (blue, green, brown, gray) and some for "hair color" (red, blond, brown, black) and so on. After you fill out a card for a particular member of the family, punch out the little strip of paper remaining between the correct hole and the edge of the card. Here's a photo of a very elaborate card, with the holes labeled. See how some of them are punched clean through to the edge?

Now for the magic: when you want to find a set of "things" in your cards -- all the blue-eyed redheads, for instance -- you slip in a long needle through the holes, and lift up the deck. All the cards that fall out match your criteria, because the needle passed through the slot you've punched. Matching multiple criteria? Easy! Just keep cutting down the deck of "dropped" cards. Do one pass for eye color, and then one for hair color. Or do two passes and combine the results for something like "anyone with blue or green eyes." Or even really fancy stuff like "blue or green-eyed people who do not have brown hair."

It's elegant, and certainly beats flipping through endless stacks of cards. I suggested this application to Olivander, and he's run with it, repurposing old spiral-bound notebook dividers and cutting them down to form his own, one-edge-punched cards. He's even color-coded the assortment, and I'm sure he'll be gracing us with photographs any day now. *cough*

Needless to say, I'm completely jealous that he gets to have a real use for this system, while I've been pining away for years now, hoping to find something to do with this idea. Pining until now.

I'm taking a lot of inspiration from this page, which was linked to from the D*I*Y article, discussing the use of these cards in novel-planning. Novel planning. On index cards. Now where have I heard that before? And oh yes, do I have an organization problem. Once a month I shake out the box and clip all the loose cards to the pile that represents "a bunch of related ideas that might make a story." This is tedious, and dull, and doesn't really get me anywhere, but it would be worse if I waited a whole year to do it.

But now, ah ha! I can be tedious and dull and play with sharp objects at the same time. I followed the site's suggestion to get spiral-bound index cards and use pliers to remove the wire, but all the cards I can find now are perforated "for easy removal." Feh. Luckily, Staples does spiral-binding (as do most other print-service places, I'm sure) and for a penny a page, they will happily offer "drilling service" to run a nice, neat edge of holes down the side of the cards -- spiral binding sans spiral, in other words. It took the clerk about three minutes to do the pack of 100, and they're far neater and smaller than I could hope to make on my own. And -- added bonus -- a U.S. size 4 knitting needle is a perfect fit down the center of the holes. The machine puts four holes to the inch, which means I've got twenty overall "things" I could use for tagging the cards. And so I've been thinking:
  • Devote some holes to indicate which character the card is about: Main Character, Secondary Character #1, #2, #3
  • For cards not about characters, I could have: Scene, Background, Plot Point, MacGuffin
  • Maybe some descriptive terms to be applied to the other holes: History, Motivation, Secrets, Quirks, Sketch/Map
That's thirteen holes right there. There's a system (actually, several) developed to help make cards sortable, too, usually by having a numbered range of holes like 1,2,4,7 and then using the sum of holes to represent a number. (3 = 2+1, 6 = 4+2, etc.) It's possible to have the cards order themselves, just by various passes through with the needles. I could use the other seven holes for something like that. If I truly run out of room, I'll have the clerk punch up two sides next time.

And this leaves me with Martha Stewart. Ideally, it would be easy to find a suitable hole punch to make that magical gap between hole-and-edge. If you looked at the sample picture, you can see that the notches are actually V-shaped. A plain, round-hole punch cuts out too much paper (I tried) and there's surprising little variety available locally. Not all of us are married to wildly prodigious paper-crafters who no doubt have the Exact Perfect Tool on-hand for this sort of thing. Some of us have to slum it up with Martha Stewart, or at least on the person hawking her goods on eBay. If this works out, that poor Staples clerk better be prepared to offer a bulk discount, because otherwise these things start looking pretty sweet.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Comfortable, now in COLOR

Just as an update on Monday's bleakness, my dog's been diagnosed with heart problems of a kind not uncommon in larger breeds, but still shocking given her young age. She's on a load of medicines, and the advice from the vets have all boiled down to "just keep her comfortable and we'll see." This blog was never meant to be a forum for me to air my personal goings-on, and I don't want to turn it into a pity-me-and-my-poor-ailing-pet sort of thing. That doesn't make me very comfortable, honestly.

I hope you won't think me callous if I indulge in my typical retro-paper-photo-lust, then. Believe me, there's a large part of my mind and heart tied up with the big fuzzy lump asleep at my feet.


And now on to business, namely, fostering intra-typecaster jealousy. If you're anything like me, Strikethru's recent series on her Print Camp 2009 trip has you checking round-trip fares to Oregon. Egads, all this and Blue Moon too? When do we leave?

It was just this weekend that I pulled out some old, yellowed mimeographed worksheets from my elementary school days to show to my daughter. I swear I can remember seeing those hand-cranked machines in use at some point, but perhaps this is just a wishful, false memory. Of course, I have no need to make multiple copies of anything I've typed, or at least not to do it with ink and rollers and a pile of papers prone to jam. But you can't deny the elegance, and the purple ink... whew, nostalgia.

And so my mind wandered, as it is prone to do, back to the post about the Cuban author who wrote her novel by blind-typing, with carbon paper, and to discussion thread from the portable typewriters group from a writer wondering how to re-ink ribbons for use a manual machine after civilization's collapse. My suggestion at the time was "home-made carbon paper" and now with the experience of our novelist, this is a very likely prospect. So likely, in fact, that I thought I'd like to try it, though I don't know if I can easily find carbon paper, or want a whole pack of the messy stuff. I started thinking about carbon-less forms -- that might make interesing typecast paper -- and then like a bolt, it all came together.


These are two quickie samples from my home-made paper. Ingredients? A Rose Art "Violet" crayon, a piece of paper, a 3x5 card, and Gomez, my Olympia SM-3.

  1. Cover side of paper in crayon. Really lay it on thick.
  2. Place colored side of paper and blank paper together.
  3. Wind through typewriter such that you are typing on the back of the colored page.
  4. Type, perhaps using the underutilized "Stencil" setting (white dot on your ribbon color selector.)
I did this twice: once with a plain "raw" page, which is the top half of the typecast. The results were good, and very mimeo-ish, though the wax bits flaked off and stuck to the index card I used as a blank. You can see them above the first line, and the line of asterisks. Also, the closed letters tended to punch through all the way, filling in the loops on the "e" in a few words.

Being a neat freak, I then took the color sheet and baked it on a very low temperature in my toaster oven until the wax melted into the paper a bit, then typed the second half of the 'cast (from the asterisks down.) The type is darker, and cleaner, and the stray wax bits were bonded more to the page. Keeping in mind the low burning point of paraffin wax, I'd recommend this method if you DIY, but don't burn down your house, or blame me when you do. (Also, place the paper on tinfoil on a baking sheet of some kind, just in case.)

OK, crafty 'casters. Let's see what you can do with this. I fully expect to see bands of color, strips and swirls and such. And this needs a Clever Name. "Colorcasting" was the best I could do, but I'm sure one of you has a clever variant on "lost wax technique" or "Crayola paper" or the like.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The Id and Ego Go Thrifting

Lunch break with everyone's favorite Freudian constructs.

Id: Man, is it hot outside.

Ego: You said it, kid. Too hot to walk, we'll get all sweaty.

Id: Hey! Let's go shopping!

Ego: Do what now? Don't we have some NaNo note cards to type up or something?

Id: C'mon, it'll be fun! I call shotgun!

Ego: *sigh*

[Our duo drives to Goodwill]

Oooh! Look at all the treasures!

That's pronounced "crap."

Don't be such a Gloomy Gus. Maybe there's an old camera. You remember the Argus C-3 we found here, right?

And paid too much for, yes, I remember it well.

Oh hush, you like it too. And we need to see how those firework photos came out. I like fireworks! Boom! Shhhhhh-pow!

One quick loop around the store, and then we're going.

OK, OK, fine. Ummm... no cool old leather cases in the glass cabinet. Maybe there's a typewriter in the back.

Oh, like we need another typewriter.

We sure do! Let's look!

[15 fruitless minutes later]

Oh, nerts. But look at this cool wooden desk organizer I found!


What? What do you mean, "no?" It's only seven bucks! Look, we could put pens here, and note cards over there. You like that, right? Sorting stuff?

Id, we can't find the desk for all the organizers we've got piled on it. Put it back.

Oh, OK... but wait! What about at home? We could totally use this at home!

No desk. Also, same problem, but with index card boxes. Let's move on.

Fine. (Meany.)



[Drive to the youth center thrift shop]

Hey! Isn't this the place where we saw that old Underwood?

Yes, and it's the place where we left that old Underwood, too.

Maybe it's not as bad as we remember...

[Finds lonesome blue case in store]

Oh, it's worse.

You said it. Is the metal plate supposed to come off like that? And what's with the return lever? Why is it pointing at 3 o'clock?

This little guy sure has lead a hard life. Maybe it needs a cozy new home!

Oh be serious! I've seen starved hyenas leave more behind. Where's the right platen knob? And Ye Gods, what a jangly touch. No wonder Will Davis doesn't like those post-war Underwoods. This has to be their little-known "Crapper" model. And for ten bucks, this is a total pass.

OK, I guess you're right. Maybe over there on that table?

Well, that old Selectric clone looks like it's picked up a couple of friends. More electronics, even you don't like those.

You're right.

[Checks watch] Look, we need to get back to...

Oh! We totally have enough time to drive out to that hospice store!

What? That's miles away! And what if we hit traffic? We'll be late getting back.

[singsong] I'm going out to the caaaar...

[Bregrudging drive out to the hospice store]

Hey! 50% sale on the 12th!

Noted. If we see anything we like, maybe we can come back. And this place is always so pricey.

I stopped listening to you ten minutes ago, you know. Nothing cool outside, let's go in and sweep the camera shelf!

The wife will Kill Us, you know.

Junk, junk, junk... ooh, some nice cheapo panoramics! We could convert these to pinholes! You like that shot of Duffy's yes?

I do, but how much... five bucks each? Put 'em back. We've got junkers at home you can break.

But... but...

No buts, put them down. I'm not paing $10 for something you can do with a cardboard mask. No sir.

Fine. And for the record, let me just say...

Kodak box, to your left, down a shelf!

Wha? Whassat? Hey! A Brownie Flash outfit, flash, bulbs...

Where's the camera?

Wow! Look! Even an unopened box of 127 film! Expired in 1961, but hey, it's probably still usable...

Hello! Where's. The. Camera?! Big hole in middle of box, yes? I didn't see it anywhere, yes? And sure, old film is fun, when it's not disintegrating or the emulsion flakes off. Also, I don't have reels to process it. Whoopee, big fun!


No, no, and again no. And look! Ten bucks again. Still too much.

We could totally eBay that film.

...and thus lose the only thing of actual value here. No.

You're no fun at all.

And don't start on that movie camera, because yes-I-saw-it and no-we-don't-need-it. While you were drooling over the flashbulbs, I read the silly thing, and it takes batteries, which pretty much means that there's some leakage all over the inside of the thing, and we'll never use it.

[Id picks up old-school mixing board] Hey, lookit! "Mic 1", "Mic 2", "Mic 3", "Phono In"... man! I love old records! Wouldn't it be cool to get this and hook it up and mix some... um... stuff?

[Taps foot]

OK, fine, I'm putting it back. Geesh.

Look, we need to go, it's late and we have to get back.

Shinies in the jewelry case!

That overpriced Brownie?

No! Better! PENS.

Whazzat? Where? Budge over and let me look.

"Excuse me, could I please take a look at these pens over here?" (Glee!)

Eversharp? I know the name, but HOW MUCH do they want? Oh lord, no. And this set for... *gasp*... $95?!

Half off, though, see the little red line through the tag?

Uh huh. No. But what's this little red one?

Sheaffer 350

It says "Sheaffer" on it. Can't. Budge. The. Section.

Piston-fill, from the back. Unscrew that bit, see? Pretty good shape, and at half off...

It's so SHINY!

Yes, shiny. See pretty shiny. Nice pretty shiny. Also, manufacturer's name engraved on the side, so it's probably not a fake or a frankenpen. Will need to look this up on FPN when we get back...

"I think I'd like this one, please."

Wait, what? I need to analyze this! How do we know the section will come undone? Maybe it's all, I dunno, shellacked or something. And like we need another pen.

Super-ego: Quiet, both of you. I'm trying to make exact change here.


[Clapping hands] We got a shiny! We got a shiny!

Sheaffer 350