Monday, January 5, 2015

Underwood Electric: crafting new legends

When we last saw my Underwood Electric, I was engaged in an alarming-looking process of swapping its drab plastic keys for metal-ringed ones from a circa-1930 Underwood portable parts machine. 

I've made some progress. Here we see most of the new keys installed, along with a good-looking spacebar from a '30s Remington Streamliner parts machine and two large "RETURN" keys found in my stash of Royal parts. It's a blend of parts and styles from various decades, but I think it looks good.

Some keys had to be disassembled (which is a bit challenging, since the metal ring is a very tight fit).

Why did they have to be disassembled? Because these four key legends don't match the keyboard layout on the Underwood Electric.

I scanned the key legends and used some simple photoshopping to create four new legends that match the Electric:
But five more key legends had to be created in a more elaborate way.

I found a font that was to my liking, akaPosse, on

Then, with considerable trial and error, I managed to create these key legends using inDesign:

Then I took screen shots of the key legends and incorporated them into my Photoshop document:

I tried printing the document on ivory paper on an inkjet printer.

The printing, predictably, was a bit less than crisp, so I reprinted on a laser printer.

To be continued ...


  1. Nice! I love the typeface you used (:

  2. Good luck! I like how the glass keys look.

    As much as I'm sad to see Writing Ball go, I really like your new blog header. Is that your Optima's work?

    1. Yes, The Belle of the Insurgency typed the header, and the subtitle was typed on a Royal Aristocrat.

  3. Oh Richard, you are such the badass typewriter whisperer. I can't wait to see the finished product.

  4. I admire your work.

    A big part of me loves these scanned images. They seem like they would make really cool buttons...hah, ideas brewing.

    Thanks for allowing us to be part of your process. Good luck!

  5. Seconded on the buttons: that's immediately where my mind went. I would proudly wear a POWER SPACE button at every opportunity.

  6. This is amazing dedication. I can't wait to see the results.

  7. Nice work! Sometimes mixing and matching different brands, models, ages and technologies make a wonderful machine.

  8. I love the Typewriter Insurgency, indeed I'm/we are a part of it! But, I'm not sure I prefer it as the name of your blog - it's a bit harsh, and "in your face". I was actually taken aback a bit when I saw the new header - it didn't quite give a comfortable feeling for a blog like yours. Just my 2 cents, and I will and do appreciate what ever you believe in. Thanks for all you do, and are! The Underwood project is very cool.

    1. The size of the typing on the header seemed a bit big to me, so I'm shrinking it down. Maybe then it will be less "in your face"! Thanks for your comment.