My latest novel is now available on Kindle. I set out to write a story about a poet who lives in his Mom’s basement and is enthralled by a book by a professor Schlitzenberger called The Wisdom of Gandalf. No sooner did I begin than somehow my brain hijacked the plot and turned the story into a sequel of my book The Magic Typer! I don’t know how that happened but one rule I follow when writing is to go with whatever crazy ideas come through my fingers onto the paper. So this guy, Warren, lives with his mother, but upstairs there is a girl that he is in love with, named Olympia. She of the Magic Typer, but this is 20 years later. I won’t say more, maybe you’ll read the book! I had a great time writing this one, and it’s filled with excerpts from a fictional book about Gandalf (you know who he is), as well as lots of poems and bits of another novel, plus letters that should amuse.
Category Archives: Typewriters
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.
Today, January 23rd, 2021 is Django Reinhardt’s 111th birthday. On Bilbo Baggins’s 111th birthday he threw a big party and vanished. Having just finished editing my latest novel, which involves a fair amount of analysis, letters and discussion of The Lord of the Rings, I couldn’t help but wonder about the coincidence of these two Eleventy-first birthdays. LOTR is a book about magic in some sense, as is the book I just wrote, A Year in the Life of a Poet, a sequel to its predecessor The Magic Typer.
Django Reinhardt was magic too, if you appreciate anything about the guitar. Where this magic came from is impossible to explain, but to accept that there are things we cannot understand.
I leave you with a paragraph excerpted from my latest novel – a few words from the renowned philosopher AF Schlitzenberger, author of The Wisdom of Gandalf:
It happened to me, so I’m telling you – there are things we do not know and powers we cannot understand at work here, right now, on this planet. If they are good or bad I cannot say, but I am sure they exist. And as sure as I am of that, I am also sure that The Lord of the Rings must have been influenced at the very least by some power that is trying to communicate with us.
When I was at my aunt’s funeral, about 50 years ago, my Dad whispered to me that there was a guy in the hall who was a bookmaker. It turned out he was my Dad’s step brother, and he had been a millionaire and broke again more than once. I am a book maker too, but of a different sort…
Nanowrimo is over and I have printed my book. I started typing on October 30th with several pages, then began in earnest on November 1st and wrote all the way until December 4th, with but one day off. I wrote over 80,000 words and got a serious back spasm along the way. All the writing was done on manual typewriters, mostly a small group that I prefer; the Hermes 3000 & Smith Corona 5 for desktop portables, and the Hermes Baby, Olympia SF/Traveller, Olivetti Tropical (Hermes Baby clone) & Olivetti Lettera 22 for smaller ones that I use on my lap.
Instead of sending my book off to a POD house for printing, I decided to make my own book for the first copy anyhow. I checked out some videos on book binding and researched how to set up a printer to print signatures. I wish I’d known this earlier! It’s not difficult and very enjoyable. I printed the book at half letter size, 5.5 x 8.5 inches precisely, so the signatures are printed 4 pages to a letter size sheet. The PDF print driver allows this to be done and all you have to do is set the number of pages in each signature. I set mine to 5 pages, and then printed 20 pages at a time to fill the five sheets on two sides. You could go ahead and print the whole thing at once however, but then you’d have to sort the signatures afterwards. You need a laser printer that will duplex, I should add.
Rather than hand stitch, which was taking too long, I decided to sew the signatures on a sewing machine, which went through 5 sheets of paper with ease. My book has 230 pages, which means I should have made 12 signatures of 20 pages each to end up with an even number of sheets. The last signature had fewer sheets, so I added another signature at the end to make up a few blank pages for the cover, and for any correction notes, etc. These next pictures are an example using scraps to show the process.
With the signatures together in order I clamped them and glued the spine with a sheet of paper wrapped down the front and back an inch, using white PVA glue. Then I glued on a heavy card cover to the front and back sheets, but not the spine, and clamped it to dry between two boards. So far it is holding up and looks like a real book!
A better job can be done if you wish to make a fine book, complete with cloth cover. The proper way is to sew the signatures together, but I didn’t bother since I just wanted a copy to read and edit, and didn’t wish to make a work of art for my purpose. If you research bookbinding you will discover there are many more steps that can be done to make a fine book, but for just a sketch or note book this method here will do well enough.
When I first began this annual torture test, it would have been inconceivable to imagine that I would go on to do it 10 times, and now, if I succeed, which I will – damn it, do it for the eleventh time. I have already started, after having come up with the sole viable concept my poor old brain could conceive of under the circumstances. I could not wait for November first, as I feared that to do so might have left me bereft of all thought, in a sort of paralysis of the mind, sitting on the couch with my typewriter in a bewildered daze. The typewriter of the day is a Hermes 3000, which has the distinct advantage of being light enough to use on the lap, and being the best typewriter ever made in history, blah blah blah etc etc, as if anyone gives a rat’s ass about that. Suffice to say it works splendidly, an UZI for words, rapid firing, accurate, largely infallible, small, light, comfortable – a word spewing tool as effective as the Papal Swiss Guard, who only rarely failed in their duty… (historians may fact check this assertion). So it begins, 30 days of living the novelist’s dream; the goal – 50,000 words, every last one of them painstakingly constructed by pressing on plastic buttons connected to a series of wires and levers that slam inked impressions onto pre-punched Hilroy notepaper from Walmart. I exaggerate – it’s not so bad really – in fact I enjoy it. It gives me a chance to put at least one of my typewriters to good use (or bad use), and what good do they do just sitting there collecting dust for 11 months, if I never use them? Why do I have all of these obsolete devices anyhow? Nanowrimo provides the perfect answer – to write the next _____ novel, or perhaps the _____ book ever. Fill in the blanks and win a lollipop!
This giant size Seidel & Naumann IDEAL Model DZ33 standard typewriter was made around 1939 or 1940. I acquired it by chance while out on an errand with my son when we decided to visit a nearby antique mall. The place is closing and everything is going cheap, so they said!
After looking around at the last of the remaining junk, I saw this hulk of a typewriter, with a sign that said Fabulous German Typewriter, $399. Fabulous indeed! Impulsively, I negotiated the price down and became the new owner. We, my son that is, carried it out to the van, and deposited it on the floor.
Despite being 80 years old, it works perfectly. I squirted the segment with a little lighter fluid, and solved the one sticking key. Considering how heavy the carriage is, the shift force isn’t bad. The carriage runs smoothly over two round rods on ball bearing wheels, like a miniature train. The bell has a lovely tone. If only it was a proportional spacing Fraktur model!
On the back there is a plate indicating the machine belonged to the accounting department of something, and with a warning: wer mich maust oder verborgt, wird bestraft. which translates to this: whoever pinches this will be punished.
This was the only typewriter, but there was a fascinating old Leitz microscope with built in camera.
“Two hundred and fifty,” said the owner, “think what fun you could have!”
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.
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.
I replaced the old worn down hardened rubber feet with new soft rubber wine carboy bungs. I sawed them to the right depth and drilled out the centre holes to enlarge them for the holding screws. The bungs were the perfect diameter and the feet work very well now. All old typewriters should be so easy to fix this way!