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.


Olivander said...

You know what might be the perfect machine for this technique? An Oliver! The strike is hard and sharp (superior manifolding was one of its most heavily advertised features). Often, the wooden ribbon cores are missing or damaged, making an otherwise functional machine unusable. Even if you have the cores, threading the ribbon is a PITA. I'll certainly give crayoncasting a shot on an Oliver at some point.

Word verification: sucition: the sneaking feeling that something inside your typewriter is sticking to some other part.

mpclemens said...

It just now strikes me that having a couple of prepared sheets on-hand would be the ideal way to give new typers a test run without monkeying with a ribbon. Duh.

The Oliver idea sounds good, especially since it was also famed for its readable, clear type, yes? I would expect that pica or large machines will take to this process better than elites or scripts. I'm not sure how one measures the dpi of crayon...

Mike Speegle said...

Believe it or not, your "baking" method is probably superior to the heat gun method. Blasted things gets so hot that the wax actually gets partially absorbed into the paper, and then nothing comes off!

Ooh, I WOULD like to try it on the Selectric, though...

mpclemens said...

Hmm. The wax gets absorbed into the paper when I bake it, too, but I don't think that's a bad thing. As long as it comes back off when you type.

I wonder if it's the same problem that I had with ironing? An all-over heat (and a higher heat) seemed to be more effective that spot-heating.

Mike Speegle said...

Hm. I got nothin'. Maybe I'll try it again tonight with different paper or crayons or something. I may just have to come to term with the fact that I was never meant to be a colorcaster.