Monday, March 18, 2024


I was paging through the first volume of my journal today and was delighted to find this story, written by hand on February 8, 1982. I had forgotten its details and didn't know whether a copy still existed. I decided to type it up on my trusty RNP7 and publish it in a way I couldn't have imagined back then.

When I wrote this story, I was 17 years old. I'd been reading Borges and Cortázar. The name Vinukonda came from a small dot on a page of a world atlas. 


Friday, March 15, 2024

WCPO story on WordPlay Cincy and Urban Legend Typewriters

Kristen Skovira of local TV station WCPO visited my basement last week for a story on WordPlay Cincy, the kids' creative writing center that my typewriter repair work helps to support.

You can see the story here:

Monday, March 11, 2024

Jewett no. 2 typewriter

This 1895 Jewett no. 2 is a recent addition to my collection. I haven't bought a 19th-century typewriter for years—much less a big one—but this was so pretty that I couldn't resist. It's in near-mint condition, with the original pinstripes and hand-painted details. There's even an original purple ribbon.

This serial number looks like 8113:

But note the 6113 painted inside the front frame:

That interesting notched wheel is part of the ribbon mechanism. As the carriage moves, the shaft of the ribbon spools moves horizontally, and the wheel turns one notch, ensuring that the entire 1.25-inch-wide ribbon is used in a zigzag pattern.

Take a look:

The name of the company still reflects its initial, disastrous attempt to market a typewriter that could print two characters at once. The Duplex is one of the rarest collectible machines.


Saturday, March 9, 2024

One weird trick for making a cotter pin

The left Magic Margin stop on a customer's Royal Quiet De Luxe wasn't working. When I peeked at it, the problem was evident.

I removed the carriage's back panel and took a closer look.

Evidently, the device had lost a screw like the one you can see here on the right margin stop.

Did I have such a screw? No. But I realized that the problem might be solvable with a cotter pin, also known as a split pin.

Here's where the magic of paper clips comes in. They are easy to bend, but very unlikely to break unless you bend them repeatedly back and forth. I've used them to replace the C-shaped links that connect the type lever to the typebar on Olympia portables. I realized I could also use a paper clip to make a cotter pin. Using pliers, I bent the wire around a thin cylinder (the shaft of a spring hook) to create a loop. One end of the cotter pin should extend farther than the other, to make it easier to insert it into a small hole and easier to bend the tip once it's through the hole. 

The next step was to line up the holes in the margin stop, placing the spring onto the right end of the lower piece.

I worked the cotter pin through the holes, and then used a screwdriver to bend the tip of the pin.

The pin holds just fine, and the margin stop is fully functional again. Job done!

Thursday, March 7, 2024

An Imperial telegrapher's typewriter

Thanks to Leicester Museum and Galleries for permission to publish these photos of an extraordinary Imperial portable, made in Leicester. This is a Model T, serial 2N 634 (1940), with a three-row telegrapher's keyboard. You can click on any photo to see a high-resolution image.
In the back, there is room for a roll of paper.

The keyboard includes a FIGS shift on the left and a LTRS key to return the carriage to the unshifted position. 

The CAR RET key is mysterious, as one would presumably use the usual lever to return the carriage. The lever with the arrow is for setting tab stops, as explained on page 9 of the user's manual for the Model T

As you can see, each type slug includes a sans-serif capital letter on the bottom and a figure on the top. 

I do wonder why telegraphers would prefer a three-bank typewriter that required you to shift for figures over a four-bank typewriter. Many standard-sized telegrapher's "mills" were four-bank machines, after all. Perhaps the three-bank design saved some weight.

For more examples of telegrapher's typewriters, click here.