Yamaki guitars were well made, and many had solid tops. The bracing is a copy of a Martin D28, as is the body size. The scale is a bit shorter than Martin, 640mm vs 645mm. The interior bridge plate is rosewood, indicative of high quality. Cheap guitars have spruce. One thing I don’t like is the thick lacquer on the top. I might strip it off, which should improve the tone. A poor man’s D28 for about $50 after I buy tuners and strings.
Category Archives: Thrift shop finds
In 1976 I had the good fortune to have lunch with Deiter Rams at the Braun Headquarters in Kronberg, Germany.
Rams gave me a tour of their design department where they were working on the latest Nizo Super 8 movie camera, among other things. I have owned lots of Braun products, like the coffee grinders, and the wall clock and alarm clock, as well as Braun electric shavers. I still own an old series 3000 shaver that continues to work well, but for the fact that I stopped shaving again and grew a beard. I was surprised however, when last week I spotted a Braun wristwatch in a consignment store for $18. I liked the look of it, and being an admirer of Braun products I decided to buy it. I pried the back off with some difficulty and replaced the battery (379) and it began to work. When I did some research I discovered that Rams didn’t design this watch, but it sure looks like something he would have designed.
I asked Rams why all the Braun products came only in white, or black, and he just said that was how it was. In other words, “it is what it is”. I wasn’t sure if I got it back then, but I recently read an excellent explanation of “it is what it is” in “The Log of the Sea of Cortez” about John Steinbeck’s sea voyage to the Gulf of California in 1939 with his friend Ed Ricketts. I am told that Ricketts actually wrote much of that book, but that Steinbeck got all the credit. So I am not sure who wrote the part on “it is what it is”, but it was fascinating nevertheless.
During my recent book writing I tested many typewriters here and came to the conclusion that the Facit and Halda typewriters were becoming my first choices. I was consequently thrilled last week when I unexpectedly came across another 1961 Facit, with larger type than the others. I found in the case a few typed sheets with several versions of a creation legend. Whoever owned this must have given up on writing, which is too bad, but good luck for me!
Wednesday Jan 27, 2021
I’ve just collected my 199th typewriter yesterday – a 1974 Adler J2. I am typing on it here, to give it a test and see how I like it. Despite how good many of my typewriters are, I generally go back to the same old ones after a while, because they seem to suit me best. This has a delightful typeface however, which is a bonus. This machine has a plastic shroud, which makes it somewhat less desirable. Metal seems to be preferable for some reason, probably because I associate it with my childhood, an era for which nostalgia rules my heart. The idea of collecting typewriters is wrapped in nostalgia, because of the fact that they are now a thing of the past, and were mostly all made of metal. Only the later models had plastic shells, and though many of those are great, I and others, seem to have this preference for metal. It is illogical, but so is collecting things, unless done for profit, and even then there is not much profit in this when you consider all the time and effort spent to find a typewriter, clean it up, and fix whatever may be wrong with it. Often there are plenty of problems, and the hours spent do not pay well for the cost or price received when selling. But we persist, for the joy of finding typewriters, like birdwatchers scouring the bushes for rare birds, we scour the thrift shops in search of the new and unusual models, yet still glad to find some old favourite thing, even as we decline to buy it, unless it is such a bargain…
I wonder if typewriters were all $5 each, and there were half a dozen in every thrift shop, would anyone bother to collect them? I think not. We tend to value things that are rare and or expensive. If every typewriter was $5, which one would I buy to use? Not some rare old thing, unless it worked so well that I preferred using it over a better made model. When one removes price and rarity from the equation, then we find an entirely different set of values. I think of this as something like a blind test. I find this to be true for guitars, especially.
People will pay thousands of dollars for a guitar that has some label on it that they imagine confers a great value to it, even if in a blind test there is no difference between that and a similar guitar that is practically free by comparison. If I were to offer someone any typewriter in the world, and they had no idea what any of them were worth on the market, I bet they would chose simply by how the machine felt, how good the typed page looked, and last, what the machine looked like. But if I had informed them that the Hermes 3000 was worth ten times the cost of the one they selected, I also wager they might well change their mind fast! This happens to me, I should admit, despite my trying to judge things solely on logical grounds.
I think this is a factor of knowledge versus ignorance. When I was young I had less knowledge, and hence more ignorance. The things that I liked then were selected on my youthful judgment, unclouded by the opinions of others and or what the thing cost. I liked things for what I perceived them to be, not for what others perceived. When judging the worth or something now, I always try to keep that thought in mind, and think like a child, rather than as a fan of this or that because everyone else is.
The week of smoke goes on. We now have the worst air quality we’ve ever had, almost like a good day in Delhi. Despite the smoke from the fires in Washington, life goes on. The good news is now everyone owns a filter mask! I have a whole collection of them, mostly blue surgical types, but just the other day I scored a real N95 in white (China), that fits great. So stylin’ too. Now I can parade the town with my mask on and not appear to be afraid of that little virus thing. It does make smoking difficult however. Just joking!
With my trusty filter mask I went out on my rounds yesterday, Saturday, and attended a birthday party for a friend, then later hit some thrift shops. I intended to buy an nice enlarger I’d seen, but the lens was gone. I did see a nifty painting of the Last Supper, however, which I was tempted to buy but didn’t when I realized it was not Leonardo’s, just a copy. My son and his wife are waiting for the baby to arrive at any moment, too. On the way home I saw a neighbour whom we had supposed had vanished. All this and more was later immortalized in a round of haiku typed on the Olympia Traveller, while M used her new favourite toy, the Oliver.
Yesterday I blogged about a Baldix 6×6 folding camera c.1950 that I found in a thrift shop, with an old roll of film inside. The film was Kodak Ektacolor 160, which has not been made since the late 1990’s, from what I can gather.
The film had been wound up to frame 3. After I figured out how to wind the film on, which requires winding forwards until it stops, then winding backwards until it stops, and then winding forwards to the next frame number, I wound it on to frame #4. The accessory on top is another odd bit I found at the same shop; a Voigtlander Kontur viewfinder. While not made for this camera, it fit onto the accessory shoe nevertheless. At first I had no clue what it was for. I then discovered how it works: you use both eyes!
This is what you see:
I went for a walk around the lake with the camera, my exposure meter, and wife. I rated the film speed at 100, to give it a bit more light, since it was so old. Last night I developed the film in caffenol, using this recipe:
600ml water at 20 degrees C/ 38 gms Arm & Hammer washing soda (monohydrate)/ 10 gms vitamin C powder/ 24 gms Maxwell House instant coffee/ 8 gms table salt.
I presoaked the film for 10 minutes and poured out the bluish water, then in went the caffenol. One minute of agitation, then 20 more minutes in the tank, agitating at one minute intervals. 21 minutes is longer than normal, but I wanted to overdevelop, again to compensate for the age of the film, assuming it had lost some vitality. Rinse, fix, wash. I was pleasantly surprised to see 9 images. The edges were fogged, but there was enough detail and contrast to get halfway decent results from the scanner (Epson V600) using a little backlight correction to brighten the images and compensate for the density of the colour film base. Ektacolor is a C41 film, with a slight brown tinged base stock.
I have another old expired roll of colour film in a 35mm camera, waiting to be processed. Time to get more coffee however, as my jar of Maxwell House is empty.
Oliver and Olympia are the names of the twins in my book The Magic Typer, so when I found a very unusual little Oliver typewriter for sale this week, I was delighted. The Oliver #4, as my research on the TWDB attested to, is mighty uncommon. This one dates from 1953, and is in such perfect condition that I assume it has been very carefully looked after for 67 years.
It works like a charm, but is a trifle loud. The design floors me; the round key-tops, gracefully curved top, colour matched spools, and the kicker – the punched thru logos on the top and feed table. They both have a red insert, but the feed table insert is transparent, and will glow under the right lighting. It will also cast its image onto the table!
This is one for the permanent collection, right up there with the Hermes Rocket and the Olympia Splendid. It reminds me very much of those two, more Olympia than Hermes, but having the same essence of quality in the design and build. I also picked up a fine old folding camera at the same time, a Baldix 6×6, along with a strange little viewfinder that was not with the camera. The viewfinder is a Voigtlander Kontur, a clip on device that was made for some Voigtlander 35mm camera, naturally, but which works with any camera that has an accessory shoe on the top. I had no idea what this was until I looked it up and discovered how it works. It has no view as such, but a black frame within which are some lines that let light in and create a bright frame. Keeping both eyes open, you will see the bright frame lines superimposed on the view from your other eye. Once I got the hang of it, the thing works like magic.
The camera dates from the early 50’s, like the Oliver, so they seemed like a perfect set. There was an old roll of Ektacolor Gold film in the camera, with only 3 frames exposed, so I shot the rest of it and will attempt to develop it in caffenol, which works on C41 film, albeit not particularly well, but it does develop. Ektacolor? That film was never sold here, and any I could find on line expired 23 years ago. Typewriters never expire however.
Here are some recent BW scans from several rolls of Kentmere film I shot in the past 2 weeks, using a Minolta SRT 101 and a Nikon EL. For those who care about lenses, I used a Rokkor 50/1.7, a Nikon 55/3.5 micro (reported to be the sharpest of all Nikon lenses @ $5), and a no name 28mm Japanese lens good enough that I can’t see any difference between that and the others.
The purpose of shooting film and developing it at home is to become frustrated, screw it up, and carry on until you finally get something decent, which describes how it seems to go every time. But the results can be fun, and interesting.
If you just want a good picture, find a Canon A510 or something like that for $10 in a thrift shop.
But if you want some excitement, combined with a way to waste some time using old and simple do it yourself methods, then Caffenol developing is the thing.
I just added another old Eaton’s phonograph to the collection, the Eaton’s “Roamer’ (model 50-26), made by Dominion Electrohome Industries, the company that I assume later became simply Electrohome. A previous post covered the Eaton’s 703. Presumably you could roam about with this neat little unit in hand, taking it over to a friend’s apartment to listen to the latest music:
It’s hard to determine the date it was made, but my guess is the 1940’s, before the advent of the LP, since this machine is made to play 78’s. It was on the shelf with the electronics at the thrift shop, where I spotted it immediately from the old style box and handle. The power cord was cut off so there was no way to test it, but for twenty bucks I decided it was worth a gamble. I saw from peeking into the underside that there were two vacuum tubes, so I figure that if it didn’t work I could convert it into a 5 watt guitar amp. However, after I soldered on a new power cord it did indeed work. The tubes began to glow and a loud hum was heard from the speaker. I put some silicone lube on the platter spindle and the platter began to turn very fast.
Looking at the pickup I noted an offset stylus with some sort of dark point, that I assumed to be the sapphire, or some such thing. The pickup itself was made by Shure. With it humming and the platter spinning around quickly I reached for the nearest 78 album, and grabbed the first disc in the set – Xavier Cugat’s Waldorf-Astoria Orchestra playing Begin the Beguine.
How appropriate – my parents spent their honeymoon at the Waldorf Astoria in 1947. Maybe they even danced in the ballroom while Cugat’s orchestra played this song. Compared to my much older windup 78 phonograph, this one is high fidelity. It certainly does explain how those recording engineers managed to get decent quality edits from old recordings that exist only on 78’s from that era. They manufactured these discs with the highest technology of the time, as explained here:
Now here is – Begin the Beguine.