Saturday, July 27, 2013


typecast 20130727

"Coccyx" being the word I was trying to spell when I had the problematic "C" key in there. I'm not sure what "coccxy" is, but it sounds suspect. This is the first time I've used a ribbon beyond the standard bi-color or all-black varieties. It's subtle, but I like it. The purple seems very Gothic to me, appropriate for Wednesday Addams, who was something of the proto-Goth.

Here's the machine, with a zoomed in view of the cleaned cover.


I can only see traces of the original mess, near the chrome trim. A few more minutes with the cotton swabs and alcohol ought to take care of that.

Crinkle paint, sans white-out

In typewriter adoption news, the boxes are in! Staples chose not to inform me of this fact, but I now should have enough supplies to get the first wave of adopted machines out to their new homes. Thanks again for your patience: I'll email folks directly if they're on the list for a typer.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Balancing Act


I took a day off yesterday to cash in a birthday present from my son. The two of us took a two-hour Segway tour through Oakland, and if you think this sounds incredibly geeky or dorky, then you haven't even begun to imagine me in a bright-yellow safety vest and bike helmet, trying to look in control of a $6700 hunk of technology with grace and poise, though I possess neither. I'd hoped to snap a picture or two, but the tour didn't afford us much chance to stop.

It was incredibly fun. I've only experienced Oakland from inside a car while passing through, usually from the elevated highway that slices the waterfront district from the rest of the city. I don't have a lot of reason or opportunity to go into either of our cities these days. My job is close to home in the suburbs, and the kids have school and sports and activities that keep us within a 5-mile radius or so. My son is purely a product of the suburbs, too, and rode wide-eyed through the various highs and lows that any major urban center has to offer: the bustle of Chinatown and the riot of color for murals both official and "volunteer", "old" Oakland vs. "new" Oakland, the polish of Jack London Square contrasted with the obvious signs of human habitation under the highway, the sunny spectacle of Lake Merritt just two blocks away from homes with bars on all the windows, beauty shops offering permanent makeup, and an all-grillz jeweler. It was good to shake him up a little bit, and give him a taste of life outside the sycamore-lined streets of his hometown.

It was good for me, too. I don't take nearly enough time off from work, which is something I'm reminded off on those few times I arrange it, like yesterday. My own self-balancing mechanism is out of true.

The Segway pulls off a pretty complex technical act to stay upright, and there's a little training at the start of the tour for newbies and vets on basics like getting on and off, and moving and stopping and turning. As a first-timer, you need to overcome your awareness that the machine is standing, impossibly, on two parallel wheels without visible aid... and that it's going to react to your slightest movement in an undesirable way. Hesitation or staring down at the ground is a recipe for disaster. A tour-mate did this, and his body posture made the scooter edge away. I'm pretty sure they can smell fear.

The advice the tour guides gave for starting out was pretty good, and no-doubt applicable to those of us who need to work at maintaining our own balance:
  1. Hang on with both hands
  2. Look straight ahead, not at your feet
  3. Step up with confidence
  4. Find your center
  5. Relax

Admittedly, there are are other device-centric instructions in there like "don't run into fire hydrants" and "stick out your butt to stop" but that doesn't translate as well to life advice for the chronic workaholic. I'll have to keep working at my own balancing act.

Friday, July 19, 2013


Had it been any other machine, I would have opted either to leave it behind, or put it directly up for adoption...

Laptop money, c. 1954

But you know, I have this weakness... for all things Olympia.

Lifetime lubrication

Especially SM3s, and extra-especially ones with a Pica typeface. I find the bigger face easier to read and edit, and it seems to scan better for me at NaNoWriMo time.

The tweedy case threw me off at first, and it was locked, so if nothing else, I had to solve the mystery. I gathered up my tiny collection of case keys (two) and hoped that one would fit so I could solve The Secret of the Anonymous Case at Goodwill. Evidently, junior sleuths the world over have nothing to fear, as closer inspection the next day revealed that someone had masking-taped the manual to the outside of the case. Tucked inside the manual, though, were the added bits of ephemeral joy scanned above: the original invoice, and the lifetime lubrication and oiling certificate, sealed by the Northern California Office Machine Dealers Association. As soon as I build that time machine, I plan to dial it back and check out one of their regional meetings.

Peck's Office Appliance Company left a fine sticker inside the case which I'll have to photograph and include here. It's swag, to quote my teenager. The former site of Peck's appears to be smack in the middle of the BART line's Rockridge station, the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit system: an electric elevated/subway train that is one of the major transit options around here. They're currently having a labor dispute, and we suffered from a strike back at the beginning of the summer that led to serious traffic headaches. They're still battling it out, leaving everyone scrambling for alternate ways to get around.

View Larger Map

That's something we don't really think about as commuters: the homes and businesses that were replaced by our transit system. It really only comes to mind in a few places along the line, as the tracks skirt close to a crumbling property or appears in the narrow buffer between streets. Rockridge was one of the stops on the line that I rode for years in and out of San Francisco. BART opened in the 1970s, and was a fixture out in the suburbs by the time I moved to California twenty-five or so years later. Rockridge station opened up in 1973, says Wikipedia, just nineteen years after this typewriter was sold. I don't know how long Peck's held on after that, but I don't think I'll be able to cash in on that "Lifetime Lubrication" offer any time soon.

Like all good Olys, this one needs the standard bushing replacement surgery. It's no big deal: I'm familiar with the process now, and know exactly where to go in the hardware store for the replacement parts.

Broken typewriter? Call a plumber

Replacing a set of crushed and fossilized bushings hardly warrants a mention...


What this does mean, though, is that one of the other machines is now up for adoption. After some soul-searching, I've put up a Smith-Corona Sterling that's basically sat idle since it came in on a swap from Olivander of Machines of Loving Grace fame. It, along with the other machines, are up on a new dedicated "adoption" page. This might be the best way for me to deal with the thrill of the hunt, without the space considerations of the "trophies": find 'em, fix em, find new homes for 'em. Sometimes replacement is the only way.

UPDATE: the lighting couldn't be much worse for these. Anyone know a secret for getting White-Out out of crinkle paint? (At least I hope it's White-Out) 

Olympia SM3, c.1954

Ted's database says 1953 for serial number 403296. Sounds about right to me.

Peck's Sticker

Golden label with green lettering, just about the same as the paint color. Stylin'! I wouldn't mind this being on the machine itself, but it's discreetly tucked inside the case lid.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Boxing Day is Coming, an UJTU

Those of you waiting on an update from the Clear Out have just a bit longer to wait. I opted to go ahead and order a quantity of shipping boxes for both inner- and outer-layer packing, and even splurged on the double-wall box for the inside. I've read too many horror stories about typewriter shipments gone Horribly Awry to trust to anything less. The good news is that this should actually bring the total ship cost down slightly since I'll just pro-rate across all the machines going out.

Those of you (Joe?) asking for a semi-portable machine may have a little longer since those things are a tad bigger. I'm hopeful that I'll be able to repurpose a computer box from the office.

In the meantime, Fate is greatly amused at my attempts to stop accumulating machines. Aside from the usual plastic wedges, I spotted a familiar-shaped case at Goodwill, though (luckily?) the lock is on and the key is missing. Hmmm... is it worth it? I never thought this hobby would get me seriously thinking about the value of owning a small set of lockpicks on a keyring... and possessing the skills to use them, too. I'm trying to stay true to my new mantra... One machine in, one machine out...

News that the Kremlin is buying typewriters to presumably replace hackable computers is rocketing around my news feed now. I find it interesting that nearly ever news outlet that's carried the story has chosen to illustrate it with a photo of a vintage manual machine, instead of the electric wedges that they will surely be buying. There's a lot of debate on the various Yahoo typewriter lists about the hackability/spyproof nature of an electric machine. Physical access appears to be crucial, although there's talk about reading the electrical signals output by such a machine, too: monitoring the amount of energy needed to rotate a daisy-wheel print element, for example, or the drop in current as the typewriter is being used. It's all very James Bond. I'm sure the modern-day spy would just use a tiny digital camera, but if we're going back to typed documents, we really need a double-agent outfitted with a Minox.

I'm also trying to work through my backlog of fountain pen ink cartridges. If you ever feel like complaining about the cost of inkjet printer supplies -- the consumables cost more per ounce than human blood -- then let me steer you towards your local office supply store. If you can find a package of cartridges, and do a little mental arithmetic, you'll soon realize that those tiny plastic tubes must be filled with unicorn tears. I just got a pair of "Universal" converters for my everyday pen so I can actually start working through the bottles of ink I have stowed around. Any Noodler's users out there? My wife is always asking for gift ideas for me for holidays-and-birthdays, and I'm at the point where something consumable is a lot more desirable than something that will sit around and need dusting (cf. the typewriter clean-out.) Ink is just about perfect,as I take copious notes at work, and like to mark up my rough drafts. Ink recommendations, anyone?

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Finders and Keepers, a Refocusing

20130713 Typecast

Wow, sorry about the line spacing. That's shockingly bad, even for the low standards of this blog. The Baby's advance mechanism doesn't mesh quite as cleanly as it should, and disuse isn't helping. It deserves better than the neglect that's been heaped upon it.

In case you can't read the post: if you're local and have requested a machine or three, let's figure out a pickup. If you're not local, get me your shipping details. If you don't yet know what I'm talking about, check out the previous post. Next stop for unclaimed machines is likely the TYPESWAP Yahoo group.

What's more embarrassing that the pile of unopened and unfamiliar cases is the stack of boxes sitting around with typewritten drafts within. Not that the drafts are anything special, mind you -- "shockingly bad" could apply here, as well -- but they (and the Nano Rhino what begat them) also deserve better.

Typed with difficulty on a 1943 Hermes Baby
Hermes Baby, c 1943

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The Clickthing Clear-Out: Adopt Us, Please!

Have you gone through the spreadsheet yet checked the adoption page? There's still a lot of adoptable machines in need of good homes.

Yes, it pains me to get rid of some of these machines, since I oohed and aahed over them when I first found them. Some were just picked up in the momentum of the heady acquisition days of this blog, and some didn't make it through my rigorous mental brackets: "If I had to choose between X or Y, which would I keep?"

Drop a note in the comments if you're interested in something, and check the blog links in the table above to jump to a post either featuring or produced by the machine in question.

The list is now on its own dedicated page. This might become a standard procedure around here: find 'em and fix 'em and send them on their way.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

The Clickthing Clear-Out: "The Rules," such as they are

The Issue at Hand 

In case you missed it, limited storage space and a rare burst of common sense has me paring down a lot of my machines. My first pass is to try and get them into Typospherian homes, since I have a number of keychopper-tempting machines that I'd rather see used than turned into a bracelet. I'm funny like that.

So, I've spent the week pulling together most -- not all, mind you, just most -- of the machines into one place, so I can do a proper inventory.

Conclusion: I'm about three cases away from my own Very Special Episode of a hoarding show:

The Pile
Not shown: a few more portables, and the standards. Egad.

What started out as a means to acquire a useful writing machine-and-spares has turned into a space-consuming bad habit.

Confidential to Messrs. Seaver, Polt, and Messenger: I know that this is a typical weekend haul for you gentlemen. For our tiny little ranch home, though, it's a blight.

Next step: catalog everything

So my next task is a proper inventory. I've already decided that the machines will be grouped and priced according to size.
  • travel typers
  • portables
  • semi-portables
  • standards

I need to get an inventory of the machines, and for that I'll note:
  • Make and model
  • Serial number and my guess at year (per Ted's expanding serial number database)
  • Type size and style, most are just a plain Roman-type face
  • If anyone has been promised particular machine, including me :-)
UPDATE: the available inventory is online in a dedicated page.
All of the machines I'm planning to ship out are in typing shape, although I know of a few hiccups here and there. Serious repair cases (the Underwood Noiseless, for example) are staying put. And of course, I have favorites, too.

Once I get the catalog in place, I'll get it published here and we'll move ahead.

After that: adoption

My #1 goal is the safe and swift placement of these machines into new homes. I'm generally doing a first-come, first-served approach, but I do prefer local pickups if it can be managed, and shorter shipment versus longer transit if not. I'm going out-of-pocket for packing supplies, so the less the kind folks at the UPS store need to see me, the better.

Again, shipping will not be cheap. I'm a student of the schools of Double-Boxing and Over-Packing, and know that a case is not protection against transit. Please budget accordingly. I'm happy to work out payment-by-installment with you if you're a Typospherian in good standing. We'll get it sorted out.

PayPal is gladly accepted here at Clickthing Typewriter Closeouts, and we thank you for finding loving (?) homes to these fine machines, and for staving off both divorce proceedings* or paramedics finding me crushed under the Smith-Corona section after the next earthquake.**

* Kidding: Mrs. Click has been very supportive, as long as she stays off the porch and doesn't count the cases

** Not entirely kidding

Bonus Micro-Blog: Typewriter jewelry I can get behind

Not the key-based sort, of course, but this stuff: card-catalog jewelry. The specific one I linked to claims to be a men's necklace, which, I dunno, maybe? Cufflinks seems like a more natural "men's" category to me, though I guess each is necessarily a one-off unless the library had two copies of the book.

But does the product need to be authentic? A clever typewriter-owner could make a quick trip to the library with some tea-stained cardstock and churn out the raw materials for hundreds of these things until they were chucked out for the racket. Got a favorite book? Bang out a pseudo library-card or two and turn them into some retro-reader-chic fashion.

Perhaps one of the more artistically-minded members of the 'Sphere can roll up a "typer-safe" logo for Etsy sellers, in the same way the tuna industry proclaims "dolphin-safe" products. Now's the time to capitalize on the goodwill from the documentary and promote a little typewriter justice. Down with poached keys! Up with harmless re-purposing!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Calling the Typosphere: Divestiture

Space considerations have me needing to pare down my acquisitions by a large number; there's simply too many machines around here, and not enough places to store them. (Attention lottery winners: if you're in the market for a New Best Friend please drop me a line.)

Some of the more modern portables are earmarked for our local homeschooler's group, at least one is a likely donation to Ryan's Classroom Typewriter Project, and a couple are most certainly staying with me*, but I'm looking for good homes for many of the others, especially for the older, keychopper-bait type machines. They're pretty! Far too pretty to shove out on Craigslist where they are sure to be poached for retrowear quicker than you can pick up a pair of tin snips.

I'm still shuffling around the pile, but generally I do these things as a "low cost + shipping" deal, where the shipping component is by far the largest part of the cost. I've shipped a few typers within the U.S. via UPS Ground and had good luck with them adding an outer box + packing to my own inner box + packing. I'm in the San Francisco area, if that helps you estimate costs, and I'm sure we can work out some kind of installment plan if you're short on cash but long on typer-desire.

So, hit me up, Typosphere! Check out the adoption page and see if there's something you like. Drop me a note in the comments or via email or Google+ and we'll chat. I'm mpclemens on teh Googles if you want to say hello. I promise not to cause too much of a weepy scene.

* Very likely the Olympias, so don't ask, sorry. :-)