Friday, November 28, 2014

Underwood Electric: keyswapping

Gasp! Has Richard P become a keychopper??

No, not exactly—just a keyswapper. 

The machine on the right is a hopeless ca. 1930 Underwood portable parts machine. On the left is my Underwood Electric (click the "Underwood Electric" tag at the end of this post to see previous posts about it). The electric came with depressingly unattractive gray plastic keys, and part of my restoration/modification project is to give it classic keys with glass tops and chrome rings.

The classic Underwood keys fit snugly on this '50s electric. 

The underside of each is a "stem" that tapers down to a narrow slot that grips the key lever.

How tight does it grip? Extremely. But I developed a removal technique that works most of the time:

Grasp the lever tightly with one pliers, just under the key:

Then use another pliers to pry off the key. Don't grip the key, but simply use the pliers as leverage. I am using a pliers with a curved tip that is ideal for this purpose:

Does this always work? No. In some cases the key levers snapped before the keys popped off. Then it's very difficult to remove the keys. I managed to get two of the ones below separated from the lever stubs, but others will have to be taken to the physics shop on campus where I'll use a vise to grip the stubs while I pry off the keys (I hope). 

My hands are sore and I have uttered many four-letter words, but I think this will all be worthwhile.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

A thought from William James

The italic portion of this typecast comes from an Adler J4, a beautifully preserved machine that was donated to WordPlay by Judith of Dante's Wardrobe; it will soon go on sale. The roman portion comes from a Brother Opus 901, a great find for $5 at the thrift store a little while ago; it, too, will be benefiting WordPlay.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Mr. Coulter's first-grade class writes a book

Here's a followup to the story about Brad Coulter's first-graders and their typewriters in Kirkland, Washington.

The class has now completed a book of typed creative writing. Brad says:

I've been gathering typewriters over the last year (all old manual typewriters and one electric), and I now have enough for each student. I've found sources for new ribbons and I've learned how to repair them. They range from 35 to 95 years in age and in general they work as well now as the day they were made.

Each week the kids are assigned a typewriter. For writing they have the option to type or to write in their journals. Most kids use the typewriters. The room sounds like an old newsroom with the kids clacking away. As you can see, they spell things the way they sound, and I've taught them that typing mistakes are part of the page, and they continue on. We don't start over, we don't mess with white-out, though sometimes we edit and re-type, but only occasionally. We have access to netbooks, but I've found that with primary age kids, the time it takes to log on, along with network issues, deleted files, mistakes in saving, printing, etc., generally make for trouble. The typing is immediate, tactile, all that. I've seen great improvement in their writing skills since September. I'd like to quantify this somehow. Of course it's not about the typewriters, it's about the writing, but I think I might be onto something.

Congratulations, kids and Mr. Coulter, and thanks for sharing!

You can download the book here.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

A Remington 10 from the '80s

Miguel included this report ...

... and this coded message:

If decoding Morse isn't your idea of fun, you can peek at the answer here.

If you haven't seen Miguel's meticulous, interesting, and bilingual blog, check it out.

Here's a Remington 25 (from an auction in Spain):

The styling of these Brazilian Remingtons is reminiscent of the Monpti:

And finally, here's that old Remington 10 I mentioned. No plastic here—but lots and lots of cast iron.

PS: Some followups to my previous post. WordPlay did not get the $5000 grant, but I'm sure there will be other opportunities for the typosphere to support this nonprofit — thanks to those who voted. And the Wall Street Journal article on typewriters has been delayed, supposedly until next weekend.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Voting, Round 2


PS: WordPlay didn't make it into the top two, but thanks to those who voted!

Monday, November 3, 2014

Help WordPlay Cincy win $5000

Details: Round 1 of voting is November 3-7. You may be able to vote more than once if you use more than one social medium. If WordPlay makes it to Round 2, there will be more voting Nov. 11-14. As of Nov. 4, WordPlay is in the lead! 

(The following video features a typewriter donated by Nat of Natslaptaps!)