Typewriter Hunting in Washington

As I have repeated here, perhaps too frequently, due to my last novel I became enamoured of the Royal 10. I did get one after some hunting, but I thought that they were hard to find – until last week. We spent a week as we often do this time of year in Washington, camping and of course scouring the many antique shops. So what did I find? Yes – many Royal 10’s!

how about a sign saying”type please”

Sadly I couldn’t own them all; the one I have is perfect for me, but if I didn’t already own one… well that might be different. One in particular was in beautiful condition, and it was the least costly. Go figure. It was a rebuild, too, as noted on one shift key – by Regal, on Varick Street, NYC.

rebuilt model

80 bucks, and broken!

All were post 1923 with single glass sides, some with the gauge on the right side, which I don’t know the purpose of. I’m sure someone reading this will educate us on that! It was ironic that so many typewriters in the wild have little signs forbidding typing – I’d like to see signs that say “type away”. Do these sellers think that a Royal 10 that has lasted for 80 years can be broken? How absurd!

note the various decimal tabs

There were other interesting oldies too:

1928 Underwood Universal

expensive broken folding Corona

The Corona folder was exciting to see, but it was not in working order and well over $100! Had it been working… maybe. One other new to me phenomenon in these old junk stores is the proliferation of the Erie iron pans, Griswold being the next big thing. Some shops had huge collections of these, priced into the hundreds! Imagine paying $100 for a frying pan when you could buy a Royal 10 for less. More absurdity!

We got as far as Portland and just happened to park one block from Powell’s Books, the largest bookstore I’ve ever been in – it’s like a department store – think a Walmart dedicated solely to books. One thing struck us; the foul language we heard coming from the mouths of people just talking on the street. I suppose all the books with swear words are simply indicative of the general debasement of language skills these days. But what’s with all the f*cking asterisks? Just spell it if you plan to use it. Only one author among many seemed to feel thus, which is commendable, although not admirable.

Portland reminded me of Seattle, except it’s flat. Aside from the cool bookstore I can’t say it was impressive. Lots of canyon streets that feel oppressively dark, and of course the usual sad cases of homelessness. No one pays attention any more. Not that this is uncommon here either, just that it emphasizes how our society in general has failed so many people.

The thing is, when it comes to all the pseudo-wisdom spouted in the endless river of self-help books, there is no solution to the real problems. It’s all focused on the self. The age of ME. F*ck off, self help authors!

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Sunday Sketch In

The annual Opus Outdoor Challenge Paint-In has come and gone, and it was a perfect day, weather-wise. Some years I have been too cold to hold a paint brush for more than an hour, but this year it was mid 20’s C and glorious. I found a shady spot beneath a tree across from this old hotel, known hereabouts as the JBI, and set up my plein air kit around noon after wandering the neighbourhood for an hour in search of a subject. Lots of folks stopped to peak and chat, which I don’t  mind at all, as most of them are very complimentary – which is nice but a little embarrassing too. One lady asked me where I sell my work. If only it was that good!

It takes a lot of study to draw buildings accurately, since it is so easy to detect flaws in proportion when rendering a building, compared to the amorphousness of landscapes. This sketch took three hours, compared to the last one, a landscape, which took 45 minutes.

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Seaside Sketching

It is as fine a place to sit as I can think of, to be on a high bluff overlooking the Juan de Fuca Strait with my plein air kit at hand. I have revised the kit with one major change – I removed the head from my tripod and now I screw the pochade box directly to the top of the vertical post of the tripod. I can level it with the legs and it’s much steadier than on the three way tilting head made for a camera. That piece was unnecessary for my purpose, and I saved another pound or two of useless weight. I also set up an umbrella on a walking stick, which shaded the canvas. This is also a major help, as staring at a bright white surface in full sunlight is bad for the eyes and also makes it difficult to judge colour and tone. I had 45 minutes yesterday to do this sketch, but sometimes faster is better. Had I worked it more it probably would have only gotten worse! Sketches are supposed to be rough and fresh anyhow. I may do a large painting of this scene using a photograph I took, as it was exceptionally beautiful there.

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Hummingbird Update

May 1 – one baby left

Late this afternoon I walked over to inspect the nest and saw only one baby. I had to use the flash to get a picture as the nest was in deep shadow. Two days ago there were still two in there:

April 29th – still 2 on board

Late afternoon light is a good time for pictures as the low sun makes for dramatic contrast.

rabbit

robin

sparrow

goose

 

 

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Instaxography

the Instax 200 – instaxographers weapon of choice

Instaxography (copyright) is my latest hobby of the week, for this week, until the film pack is gone that is. I picked this baby up at a thrift shop complete with the batteries, several shots left on the pack, and a new pack of 10 pictures, for cheap – about what the film pack costs. I knew I had to have it after I took a test picture of the clerk in the store who showed it to me. They keep these under glass, like gold jewelry, and you must request a showing. They don’t wear white gloves however, which spoils the entire effect. However, it brings me back to the days of Polaroidography (copyright that too) and my old SX70. I thought the film was expensive 35 years ago! Holy crap! Today…. don’t ask! But Fuji is cheaper, and just about as bad as Polaroid was, so why not?

the bay bridge (not THE Bay Bridge – our Bay Street Bridge)

While out for a bike ride we stopped beneath the bridge and I also did a watercolour sketch.

Looking the other way we have a lovely barge and a lot of water and sky, but Instaxography gives it a very artistic feel, don’t you think? Ugly can be beautiful.

Anyhow, I’m not finished this experiment yet, and I have to say it is still a sort of thrill to watch and wait for the image to appear as if by magic. My Dad had a Polaroid, I had a Polaroid, and recently I sent my son in Germany – a Polaroid! I hope the film is cheaper there. If not he can get himself a Instax, or just forget the whole thing. But one day, I know his genes will express themselves and he will take up instant photography, if only now and then. It’s in our blood! Also, I took Polaroids of the babies… you gotta love that.

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Royal Signet

About 15 years ago I spotted a little typewriter on the shelf in the Sally Ann for five bucks. Prices were reasonable then, in the good old days of thrift shopping. Thrift shops were filled with cheap used goods, and the pricers didn’t check what something was listed for on Ebay before putting it out on a shelf. I brought home the little typewriter and used it a bit, but I got a pain in my neck so eventually I donated it back. It wasn’t until I got the collecting bug that I wondered what sort of typewriter it was. All I had as a record was a Polaroid of me with it, on which I had noted that I was “pretending to be a writer”. The idea of a “writer” seemed the most appropriate label for a person with a typewriter and a glass of beer.

Polaroid

me and the little typewriter c. 2003 (Polaroid SX-70)

I puzzled for years trying to determine what that little typewriter was, but I never knew until yesterday. That was when I found a Royal Signet, made in Holland. As soon as I got a good look at it I knew it was the very same model as the one once had, so of course I had to buy it. I had the perfect excuse!

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me and the new little typewriter 2018 (Fuji Instax)

Now I can say positively that I am a writer, and no longer pretending. This Signet is a great little machine, and is mechanically the same as the Royalite, but with a body style related to the Royal Futura and similar to the Olympia SF of the 1970’s era. These are remarkably quiet, perhaps the quietest typewriters I have used. With a cast aluminum casing, and two tone colour scheme I think it’s a real looker. In the interim Polaroid has gone and I sold my SX-70. Now the film is back, but I have no camera. However, I just found a cheap used Fuji Instax 100 that came with a new pack of film. I am now a Fuji instant film convert!

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Royal Magic

6-IMGP7361Ah, how sweet to find what one has been seeking. I found a 1923 Royal 10 typewriter, which it must be said is genuine royalty. The saga began after I wrote a book last year, titled The Magic Typer. Along the way I chose a Royal 10 to be the magic machine, as it fit the plot well, and when writing fiction you can’t go wrong with royalty.

Once I finished the book, I had the notion that I must have a Royal 10 for myself, after all. So I began searching for one like in the story, with dual beveled glass side panels. I soon discovered what was available was too expensive and too far away. Then by a stroke of good luck around a month ago I noticed on Craigslist a collection of old typewriters that had come from a former office supply shop in Vancouver. One looked like a Royal 10 but there was no way to tell if it was the correct version.

An email to the seller confirmed it was indeed a Royal 10 with twin glass. We haggled and he said he had a very high offer for it. That was the end of that, until a month passed and he offered it to me for a reasonable price. The buyer didn’t want it after all.

A courier went to fetch it from Vancouver. All day I waited in eagerness, wondering if it would be what I hoped for, or just a ruined piece of junk, and not even the right typewriter. It arrived packed in a large cardboard orange crate with a piece of styrofoam over it. I paid the courier, carried it inside and removed the covering. 8-IMGP7354

There it was, old but intact, dusty but not filthy, tarnished yet not rusted. I lifted it out of the box and placed it on the bench. I pressed a key at random and it snapped right up and thwacked the platen. There was an old ribbon and the original spools, a necessary part of the mechanics, since they trip the ribbon reversing levers. I slipped a sheet of paper into the platen which was a bit lumpy but not rock hard. A few taps and there it was, actual type on the paper. Even the red ink worked! According to the seller it had not been used since the 1970’s, when he cleaned it up for his grandfather.

I wiped the ribbon with WD40 and the ink began to flow. I like the idea of having an old cotton bi-color ribbon, since that is what was on this machine from the first. The mechanics are nearly perfect. Everything works, and no solvents or lubrication were necessary. I sucked out a few cobwebs with the vacuum and adjusted one linkage. The keys all work, as do all levers and buttons. One rubber foot was gone however, which I replaced with a cheap bung from a wine shop.

So that is the story. It couldn’t have been better: a Royal 10  acquired from an old typewriter shop where it sat for decades gathering dust, just like the Magic Typer! Now to order up some magic…

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I admire the symmetry of the back panel. The bell has a wonderfully pure tone. The tab stops are missing and the tab bar is slightly bent, but I’m not very concerned about such triviality! 3-IMGP7357

All the beveled glass is perfect, although there isn’t really much to see inside.2-IMGP7356

The left front foot was missing the rubber, but there was a thick felt washer still in place. The feet are remarkably well designed to absorb shock.

Parts of the machine have been repainted, as evidenced by the faint appearance of the original decals on the dished part of the front panel and on the paper feed panel at the top. If anyone has replacement decals please let me know. I have been polishing the paint and it seems that there is an endless layer of tobacco smoke embedded in the black enamel. Whoever used this must have held their smokes over on the right side of the machine, judging by how much more stained the rag gets when wiping the right side! Fortunately there is no tobacco smell after all the years. This machine is close to the last of the dual beveled glass models according to the serial number, as they switched to single glass in the latter part of 1923.

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