Monday, June 14, 2010

Updates, Links and Sawbuck Restoration

It's time to sweep off the accumulated dust from my little corner of the typosphere. (Yes, I know that spheres don't have corners. Don't be picky.)
  • Restoration/recovery continues on Morticia, my snatched-from-the-curb SM3 I wrote about last week. Although I cannot say with certainty what's freezing up the works, I've a pretty good guess that it was a once-benevolent coating of oil that has since gone to the Dark Side thanks to our generally hot, dry climate in these parts. Throw in a few years of disuse, and you've got yourself a recipe for complete machine seizure. I've been picking at it in free moments, though, with my carefully-assembled toolkit (see below) and things are improving. I can move the carriage, for one, though it takes a lot of steady pressure. Many of the keys work, and all work very well when the segment is moistened with isopropyl alcohol first. In my diagnostic zeal, I managed to unfasten the drawband, but have reattached it after a mental lapse on how to tension the drum (hint: turn it the opposite way, dummy.) And I've replaced the infamous "smooshed-flat" washers underneath the body with some roughly same-sized equivalents from the auto parts store. Morticia's lovely, and burgundy, not brown as I had first guessed.
  • In one of those you're-joking-me moments, a twin machine has turned up in the hands of another type-blogger. I advise all members of the 'sphere to keep their eyes peeled for that tell-tale silver-swoopy case in their favorite thrift haunts. Two is a coincidence, but three is an invasion force.
  • Numerous typewriter-related news items -- though none regarding a vintage Germanic invasion force.

    • You've surely seen the write-up in Wired by now on Bay Area repair shops. Yes, I know that I have to make the pilgrimage at some point before they disappear. I worry about my resolve in the face of all that want, though. You folks who have made the Hajj to Blue Moon Camera are made of sterner stuff than I.
    • A brief tribute to a pretty Smith-Corona, left out to gather stray thoughts of passers-by. Every well-furnished hallway should have one.
    • A reminder that typing still holds on in some parts of the world. And yes, I I am very much a Mr. Ek Botte.
    • Rowlf the dog types! And other Muppet mayhem. I do miss Jim Henson's lunacy. Who else is playing "name that model" when they watch the video?
    • Love the following quote from this article, concerning a modern fixed-carriage machine to the ones we know and love:
      There is no click to it and I cannot adjust to that [...] You don't hear anything, even when the carriage goes back. That does not entertain me.
      Can I get an amen, brothers and sisters?
  • Big Hurrah to Little Flower Petals for finishing her draft, and Mr. Speegle for losing his mind. We knew you both had it in you. I'm still slogging through my transcription, only about forty pages left to enter! And then the editing really begins. I'm going to pretend I'm working on this by reading a book about editing, instead of actually editing my book. Likely Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, which I see praised highly in various places and which my library has a copy. I'll report back on it if it's any good. (I'm holding another title as well, it just escapes me at the moment.)
  • As promised/threatened: the Sawbuck Restoration list:
As I've pointed out repeatedly, I'm cheap, cheap, cheap. Conveniently (?) I work near a dollar store, a thrift store, a craft chain store, a drug store, and an automotive supply store, so I've been compiling a collection of low budget repair-and-cleaning items for your amusement:
  • Dental tools: from the dollar store. A pair of menacing looking metal picks, a mirror on a handle, and a pair of toothbrushes: one "normal" and one with a round head. Brushes are always good to clean type faces, the metal picks are handy for digging out ink from the insides of closed letters ("e", "o", "b"), for reattaching springs, and for grabbing the end of a drawband that someone stupidly let go slack and now is wound around the drum grr grr grr.
  • Cotton swabs: from the dollar store. These are very cheap and made from bendy plastic. I've since learned that you can make your own from bamboo skewers and a bag of cotton balls. I'm using this setup to swab out the gunk from Morticia's rails. A little bit of cotton wrapped around the pointy end of the skewer will reach just about anywhere.
  • Artist's paintbrushes: dollar store, craft store, drug store. Dust's worst nightmare. Less nasty than canned air, but more time-consuming to be complete.
  • Set of small screwdrivers: dollar store again. Nothing fancy, but handy. Also the screwdrivers on my battered up Swiss army knife.
  • 35mm film cans: always save these, as they are godsends for keeping track of small parts, and can hold small amounts of your cleaning fluid of choice, when you don't feel like contaminating a whole bottle with your nasty home-made swabs. My dollar store sells film, which is great -- cheap film, free can!
  • Rubber washers: plumbing section of the hardware store if you have one handy, but I found some "wire conduit bushings" at the auto store that also did the trick. They're donut-shaped and meant to snap into metal panels to protect wires passing through, but they also make good replacement washers when exact size isn't critical (like SM3 washers near the feet.)
  • Oral syringe: free, if you ask at the prescription counter at the drug store. I had hoped for a real syringe for refilling fountain pen ink cartridges, but that was a no-go at my Walgreens, and I didn't feel like pushing the point. ("Do I look like a crackhead? Do I look like I'd do favors for crackheads?") Grab one of those little coffee-stir straws and you've got a way to drip solvents into your machine in a semi-controlled manner. Better lay down some paper towels first, though.
  • Goo Gone: from just about everywhere. An effective gunk-remover from parts, and good to remove nasty price sticker residue from machines. Also takes off ink from the ribbon vibrator, if you obsess about this like I do.
  • Isopropyl Alcohol: from the drug store. Not rubbing alcohol, which contains oils and sometimes colors and other additives. I can find the stuff that's 91% alcohol and the rest water. Very effective de-greaser, and well-behaved to a point. Try to keep it and all other cleaners/degunkers/solvents away from the rubber parts, though. It's very drying.
...and that's about it. It's not anywhere near a "real" typewriter repair kit, but it does the trick for me for the machines I pick up, which tend to be pretty operable to start with.

Oh, who am I kidding: if it's not bolted down, I'll pick it up. But at least I won't go broke trying to clean it, or hauling it in to Berkeley to pay someone else to clean it.


Anonymous said...

Wait wait, you live near San Fran? Can I move in with you in two years? (weeeeee!)

You're typewriter cleaning kits sound perfect really. I have some pretty lame Q-tips that snap apart at my house. I think you should include a vacuum, because I pretty much suctioned my whole machine.

Those darn West Germans are trying to take over the typosphere. I'm pretty sure, with it's great sturdy machine. CURSE THEM! (or not. Really not)

Still, it sounds like you're getting Morticia up and running, and I hope she pleases you soon! (am I the only one who thinks that sounds a bit perverted?) Now stop pretending to edit and EDIT! I'll get working on my next novel ONLY if you promise to get your publisher ready. And have a review of that book. PINKY SWEAR!

James Watterson said...


I really like how you have the knack for typewriter repair Mike. It is something that I love almost on the same level as writing. Bringing old things back to life to serve another 20 years or more is so rewarding.

Gotta love the West Germans is right! My first machine was the SM9 and it has a special place in my heart. When I got it it needed repairs but was quickly brought to life. I feel that I moved up a lot in the world and found my soul mate, the SG1. It reminds me so much of your workhorse, Norma Jean. As Strikethru stated "SG1 mania is sweeping the typosphere!"

Joe V said...

Your cleaning process reminds me (sea-story alert) of my days in the Navy, as an IC Technician, we'd clean telephone switchboard X-Y switches by dunking them in a bath of trichlorotriflouroethane (came in metal gallon cans), which would completely de-gunk them toot-sweet. Of course, the stuff is bad for the ozone layer, and supposedly carcinogenic; but hey, it was the Cold War. But a tub of that stuff would clean your lovely typer in no time.

Thanks for the tips on your cleaning process and tools involved.


Strikethru said...

Ha ha Speegle!

Nice write up of the cleaning kit.

Elizabeth H. said...

I think my typewriter acquisition days are over for the foreseeable future, but this is a dandy guide...nice job! Worth bookmarking.

And thanks for the congratulations! It's nice to be done, though I think now I'm headed into a post partum downward slide. I need another story. If anyone happens to see a lonely plot wandering around aimlessly, shoot 'em in my direction, will you?

Olivander said...

Dude, I've been looking for the Henson IBM pieces for ages!