Tuesday, June 30, 2015

ETCetera no. 109

The latest ETCetera has been published.

I'm returning as editor after a couple of years off. Nick Tauriainen (x over it) is doing the layout, and this issue's authors include Robert Messenger (ozTypewriter), Peter Weil (typewriter historian extraordinaire), Ted Munk (To Type, Shoot Straight, and Speak the Truth... and The Typewriter Database), and Greg Fudacz (Antikey Chop).

From my editorial:

Ted is a prominent typospherian, and his contribution to this magazine favored by typosaurians (as Jos Legrand has dubbed them) is much appreciated. But what are typospherians and typosaurians, exactly? Typosaurians focus on collecting odd, early, and rare specimens, and they prize their printed reference works. Typospherians are digitally fluent, and take at least as much interest in common midcentury typewriters as in antiques, because they like to actually type on their machines. ... Although typospherians and typosaurians may tend to have different predilections, there’s no need for them to be at odds. I consider myself a member of both tribes, and the groups can clearly benefit from each other. 

More information on the magazine, including lots of back issues that you can download for free, is here.

Oh, and that font we're using for the masthead is my Cassandre Graphika.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Friday, June 26, 2015

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Quiz answer

So: what is this piece I showed you yesterday?
It comes from an Underwood no. 5 and is called the line space disengaging cam. Found next to the left platen knob, it allows you to type temporarily between the horizontal lines of your typescript. In order to remove an Underwood platen, you have to remove this piece.

I'm currently working on a beautiful no. 5 made in 1929. I've gotten familiar enough with these typewriters that it took me only seven minutes to break it up into these parts:

The typebar rest on this machine has an inscription woven into it that you don't see every day:

"Underwood pad pat. in U.S. & all foreign countries. Patented & licensed only for insertion in Underwood typewriters. Made in U.S.A. by the patentees."

Would you like to know how to remove an Underwood carriage and platen? It's essential for good cleaning as well as for mechanical repairs, such as adjusting the ribbon throw. Here are the instructions, straight from holy writ, the 1945 Ames Typewriter Mechanical Training Manual. (You can download the whole thing on my website—see the bottom of this page.)

Can you spot the line space disengaging cam on one of these diagrams?

PS: Thanks to the Kalamazoo Typochondriacs for a fun visit by Skype today!

Friday, June 19, 2015


Here's a quick little quiz to test your typewriter knowledge. What is this piece? If you know the answer, just say "I know" in a comment, and don't tell what it is, so that others can keep wondering. I'll post the answer in about 24 hours. 

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Front & back book cover design

Here's the final design for the front and back of my book. Thanks to Alan Seaver for the shot of the little Brother! And I'm glad that in the end, the press decided to go with a closeup of my clean and shiny Tower President.

The cover will be a textured "flexibind" material; the title will be indented or "debossed" (it will feel like it's been typed into the cover by a giant typewriter); and there's going to be a black and red ribbon that looks like a typewriter ribbon.

Click the image for a closer look.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Revolution in the mailbox: Typewriters, Continental & continental

Sent from my Continental (shown with some much more obsolete equipment in the background)

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

One more typewriter in Madrid

In Madrid I got to visit my friend Javier, who showed me his small but beautiful collection of typewriters. His before and after photos were amazing—he's able to take a rusty, dusty machine, disassemble it, clean it, and make it look gorgeous.

Javier has sent me photos of one typewriter that I found especially delightful. He bought it in the country that uses this keyboard. What country is it? Who will guess it first?

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Typewriters in Madrid (2)

I'm back from an eventful and interesting trip to Spain. In addition to the typewriter sightings I shared in my previous post, I had a few more adventures pertinent to this blog.

In the central Retiro park, the yearly book fair was underway, with hundreds of publishers' stalls.

One publisher specializing in classic works of Spanish literature with rather dull covers spiced up the display with a creatively adorned Underwood.

At the fair I bought a copy of a little 1,342-page novel by Javier Marías, Tu rostro mañana (Your Face Tomorrow). Yes, that's a typewriter he's proudly using. It's an Olympia Carrera De Luxe.

Here's an excerpt from an interview with Marías:

Q: Why do you keep using your old typewriter? Is it a phobia of new technologies? Superstition?

A: No, I just like writing on paper, taking out the sheet, correcting it by hand, crossing things out, drawing arrows, typing it over again, and doing so as many times as I have to. I’m not in a hurry, I don’t have to “save time” when I’m writing. To the contrary: In part, I write in order to lose time.

Some passages from the novel suggest why Marías would avoid a digital-heavy life:

"Then the majority forget how, or through whom, they came to find out what they know, and there are even people who think that they brought it to light—whatever it is, a story, an idea, an opinion, gossip, a play on words, a maxim, a title, a history, an aphorism, a slogan, a discourse, a quotation or a whole text, which they proudly appropriate, convinced that they are its progenitors. Or maybe they do know that they're stealing, but they distance this from their thought and hide it from themselves that way. It happens ever more in our time, as if there were a hurry for everything to pass into the public domain and there were no authorships anymore—or said less prosaically, a hurry to turn everything into mere rumor and refrain and legend that run from mouth to mouth and from pen to pen and from screen to screen, everything uncontrolled without fixity or origin or attachment or owner, everything spurred on, running away without a brake."

"An idea occurs to someone, and normally that's enough for him—the idea. He stops complacently at the first reasoning or discovery and doesn't keep thinking anymore, or writing more deeply if he writes, or challenging himself to go farther; he's satisfied with the first crack, or not even that: with the first cut, with penetrating a single layer of people and facts, of intentions and suspicions, of truths and deceits; our age is the enemy of intimate dissatisfaction, and of course of constancy, everything is organized so that everything should get tired right away, and attention should turn restless and erratic, distracted by the buzzing of a fly, sustained investigation and perseverance aren't tolerated—really sticking with something in order to find out about it. And the long look isn't permitted, the look that Tupra had, the look that ends up affecting what is looked at. The eyes that linger offend today, and that's why they have to hide behind curtains and binoculars and telephoto lenses and remote cameras, and spy behind their thousand screens."

My next expedition was to the Calle Hernán Cortés:

Tucked away among the fashionable clothing stores and pop-culture outlets of the Malasaña neighborhood is the García typewriter shop.


It was closed, and it looked pretty disheveled as I peeked through the window.

The sign reads: 

Well, I certainly would have come in, very gladly, if someone had been there. It looked to me like the shop was out of business, but my collector friend Javier Romano assured me that it's not; the owner just doesn't show up very often.

I had no more luck at the other Madrid shop I'm aware of that fixes typewriters, Calcu-Regist.

A peek through the window of the closed shop did not create much confidence:

They maintain a Facebook page here.

Pretty soon I hope to show you one of Javier Romano's wonderful typewriters from his collection.