Friday, 27 July 2012

Typecasting in the outback.

I took a bit of a drive further west of Charleville, and tried to set down and do a few typecasts, and perhaps write a couple of letters. The bonnet of my car can make an interesting desk. 

All photos can be clicked to enlarge them. 

 Seriously, they ain't kiddin'.

The Exxy gets a Typewriter supercharger. Typing here on here was quite fun. Except for the wind. 

Just a quick pose before I move on.

This road has been torn apart by mining activity and flood. There's actually a hint of the original sealed road here. 

This shot is quite spectacular at full resolution. I think I might make a poster out of it. 

Take my back to town, oh Ruby! 

Man.... I really need to refine my 'Its & It"s'. I swear, I do know better!

Coming up next.... The Royal Flying Doctor Service & The Morse Typewriter. 

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Normal function will resume shortly

Good evening guys, gals and inbetweeners. 

Sorry to take a posting pause in the middle of putting up my typecasts for my trip. It wasn't intentional, and is largely as a result of a sudden lack of time - due to returning to work. 

Simple as it may sound, I unfortunately need to spend a bit of evening time off my mechanical keyboards, and on my electronic one - as I need to spend a few nights on some crucial work. 

Normal function will resume shortly. 

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

The Brutal Road

The following typecasts were written ad-hoc in my hotel room or on the roadside. Sure, they're full of errors and dodgy use of the english language, but they are what they are. 'Its and it's'... it's all the same right? 

 Just after sunset on the road out of the town of Morven. 

Still was lush and green just outside Toowoomba. 

I stopped at Morven to take a few photos just as the sun was setting. This is a rail cleaner, which is used to re-align the rail tracks and clean them. This is one of a couple that travel for thousands of kilometres around Queensland rail-network. 

Hotel room, sweet hotel room. 

Cow cocky and roadside fashion at its best. 

I turned up the TV so my typing didn't sound so invasive. 

Coming up next..... Roadside typecasting. 

Sunday, 22 July 2012

I'm back! Now, let's get these typecasts organised.

Just as a side note: Although I couldn't find one in a thrift shop, antique store or second-hand dealer, typewriters ended up being absolutely everywhere in Charleville. I've actually had my hands on a special one that Robert Messenger has mentioned in his blog in the past, while I came across others in some of the often most unexpected corners.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Loaded and ready to roll....

I'm off..... Of to Charleville.

So, I've picked a typer to go. It was a tough decision between all my machines, but the Quiet-riter wins out.

Sure, it's barely portable - but I'm not going trekking over any dunes and mountains, and through fiercely dense Rain Forests. No, it is sitting in the footwell just behind my drivers seat.

All the creative hardware I want with me on this occasions. 

And no, the Medium Format camera isn't bent. it is just distortion from my phone camera. 

I'm dropping a camper and their gear (a sh*tload of gear) out to a campsite at lake Sommerset on the way, so my stuff actually is very tightly bundled up in the Exxy at this stage. 

I also won't have mobile reception - and as such 3G reception till I get back at least as far as Roma, so I'm going to be largely off the grid for a little bit. 

So folks, see you when I'm back.

Catcha later! 

Have a great Day. 
Scott K. 

Monday, 16 July 2012

'The Mystery Part', or.... 'The Six Million Dollar Typewriter'.

Okay.... I had a bit of time last night and today, so I have decided to put this part into use, get a few photos, and tell you all about what it is and why I think it is special, before I went away to Charleville.

We have the technology. We can rebuild him. 

About a month and a half ago a Remington Noiseless arrived at my place in a pretty awful state. While the typebars moved nicely, the spacebar was frozen. The drive band was cut in half (yes, cut - not snapped) and a key was missing. Worse, the carriage lever was but a mere stub - a fraction of its useful self, with a piece of electrical tape surrounding the end of the stub; a futile attempt to try and hold the thing together. 

The broken part of the carriage return lever was no-where to be seen. As was the missing 'Margin release' button. 

This machine has potential. I weighed up the possibility of the Noiseless becoming just a shelf based poser, and decided that I didn't want to start a trend. Especially as at the time, I wasn't confident that I could repair the Valentine that I was also sitting next to my desk. 

I thought about welding a metal piece to the stub, and grinding it down so it looked nice. I also considered just getting some local engineer friend to knock one up. But I decided against that, as I should have been able to do that myself - if I had the tools. 

Late last year I read an article about 3D printing, and how a company called 'Shapeways' were even offering to make stainless steel prints. I recalled this when I was thinking about rebuilding this lever, and thought about designing something that I could slip over the end of the stub, and adhere it into place. 

Again, I wasn't happy about the possible durability of such a design, so I boldly decided to design the component from scratch. I checked over the materials data, and felt the most confident with the more expensive, but closer to specification, stainless steel - instead of the hard wearing ADF. 


I actually have formal training in CADD, and have used such tools in my younger - lets make my own hardware - years. But I really couldn't be stuffed going into a complicated and expensive CADD tool to design something which largely was a free flowing shape that only attached at a crucial 'head point'. 

So I delved into a simpler to use tool that is free to access on the internet - called 'Google Sketchup'. 

I brought out the micrometer and measured the heck out the the stub and head point, and then analysed the functionality of the design. I measured up sections and did a bit of thinking about it, and laid out some preliminary designs in Sketchup. 

One of the things I love about the Noiseless, is its very Art Deco inspired design. I have decorated my place with a lot of Deco furnishings, and I loved the idea of a Noiseless, and beautifully Deco typewriter. So I decided I would give this lever the bold deco stylings the I believed that the typewriter needed. I also started making plans about how to repaint and re-finish the whole - somewhat damaged, machine into a beautiful deco piece of writing machinery. 


By version V3 of my design (technically version 4), I had most of the style cues in place, and the design largely structured how I wanted. But I had messed up some dimensions, and as such everything was - well, giant sized and out of proportion. 

I rushed a V4 design at the last minute and loaded it up into the printer's software. The printer doesn't guarantee tight tolerance observation, advertising that they work to tolerances of 0.2mm. They also require structural thicknesses of a certain size, so it doesn't collapse after printing. 

The material technically isn't stainless steel. But it is pretty close to it. When it is produced by the printer, it comes out in a very fragile form, and needs to be 'cured'; heated to a high temperature so it fuses togeather. As such, I was quite worried as to the strength of the outputted component - so this was really only going to be a prototype. 


I shouldn't have worried. The piece arrived yesterday in a bubble wrapped bag inside a rigid cardboard envelope. The piece weighed surprising heavy, and in my hand felt substantial. 

I tried connecting the pieces together to make the carriage return, but nothing would slide into the centre hole of the piece. The whole design was about 0.1mm smaller than size, but the centre hole was about 0.15 off dimensions. But I expected this. 

The post that slots into the centre of the head was exactly 4mm wide, and so I was happy to use a 4mm drill to bring it back up to size. I had a 4mm bit on hand already, as I had expected to have to revise the size of the hole anyway. 

It was then that I discovered how hard and tough this steel was. I managed to drill about 2mm into it before my cheap 4mm drill was blunted. The vice couldn't crack the piece, and at one point I sent the bit sailing across the room at high speed, while I tried to ream the inside of the hole out. I have no doubt what so ever that this unit is tough. 

I slotted the piece into the typewriter after that, and it worked perfectly. I need to make a couple of small changes to the design for future use, but largely I am very happy with the result. 
The detail on this design is finer than what already exists on this typewriter. I think the whole writer needs more work. 


Shapeways provide you with the facility to create an online shop on their site. As such, I have listed this component up in my own (still work in development) shop. This part really isn't ready for use yet, as I learned a couple of things last night when I tried to use it, that will all me to refine it down, but it does offer a glimpse as to what is possible.

I also designed up some rubber feet to replace my Adler Gabriele's feet. They are on sale there now too.  Shapeways have just started producing a rubber like material to use. 

At this point I realised, a lot is possible. I'm currently designing a replacement platen knob for the Hermes 3000, based on the two different model 3000's that I have. The end result will still need to have a drill and tap set taken to it to put a thread in the hole, but essentially you will be able to print out your own H3000 knob. 

I imagine that it is possible that we could be able to create large libraries of difficult to replace components for our typers. Further more, I'd be confident enough to say that the strength of the metal components produced, would allow us to produce things like - replacement type stubs. 

Want to put Vogue/Moderne Pica typeface on your Hermes 3000? It is plausible. 

As well as the sintering technology that has been used here, there are also other rapid prototype production methods out there that can produce metal, plastic, stone, ceramic and rubber parts with finer tolerances, that machine them out of specific raw materials. 

Building up a library of models, designs and components can guarantee that we can continue to use and repair these typewriters - long after the current computer technology has been broken up and recycled. It just depends on how people wish to use this technology. Make computers work for your typewriter? Absolutely. This kind of technology will only get better in the future. 

The online shop allows andyone to produce the printed piece at your own cost, and it pays a tariff to the person who designed it. As it stands, I've put a $3.50 tariff on the lever, and a 0.50c one on the Adler rubber feet. I thought this was fair, as I spent some hours revising these designs. Both of these designs are immediately usable, but give me a little while longer to revise this lever. I believe this lever may be usable on a variety of older Remington portable models. 

My Mistakes:

Some of these mistakes have been a bit of amateur impatience. But:

Know your software: When laying out the design I entered in diameters as radiuses. Sketchup uses this as default, and doesn't really move on from that. I almost printed this with an 8mm wide hole. 

Think about finish: I fiddled with the settings on the Shapeways site when I put the design in, and left the 'Antique bronze' finish still switched on. As such, I got that finish, and got charged for it. Instead, I should have had them grind the finish down smooth. They ground a section of it - probably to remove a working tag - and it looks smooth and polished, while the surface of the lever for the most part has its default pitted - post print surface. But you can grind and sand the finish afterwards anyway, so don't worry too much about this. 

Consider shrinkage: Shrinking is consistent feature of something that is cured, and has predictable results. look at the forums on Shapeways. 

Think about your materials: There's other options than stainless steel. I should have prototyped in a much cheaper ADF, but I wanted to evaluate hardness and toughness of the metals produced, so I went for the expensive stainless steel. Incidentally, there's more expensive materials - like sterling silver. 

*  *  *

This is only the start of what I'm going to do to this Noiseless, and it still needs a heck of a lot of work yet. It'll end up costing me, but I'm learning a lot in the process, so I think it is invaluable. 

Stay tuned to see the end result. 

Un-shrunken image (click to view) so you can see the partially polished section. 

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Rushed post - Coming attractions!

My shirt was filthy. It was my 'working on my car' shirt after all. There were dots of sweat all over it, and prints of my hands where I had wiped my palms on my hips.

"You'll be looking for Scott" I said to the man walking down the driveway in a friendly and welcoming tone. He didn't even look up at me, while he read the name on the package in his hand.
"I'm looking for a Scott" he replied to me, clearly having ignored what I said. This was a man that was very no-bullshit, who just wanted to get a package delivered.

I rolled my eyes behind my sunglasses, before I pushed those glasses up into my unkempt mop of sweat soaked hair. "That'd be me" I replied to him, using the same dry pitch that he'd just spoken to me.

He scanned the barcode and got my signature on the screen of his machine, before turning away and heading back to his van.

I knew what the package was. The back of my car was open, and the delivery man just left the package  sitting just inside the tailgate of my car before he walked away. I saw the name of the company emblazoned across the top of the package, and I suddenly started to get excited. So I snapped a shot of the driver heading back to his van for the sake of illustration in my blog, and then finished what I had been doing under my car. 

*  *   *

About a month ago I was trying to find a solution to a problem that I had with a typer I had just bought.  I wrote down a few ideas, and then set about researching a couple of them. From that research this was born:

Any ideas on what this is? And.... for what typewriter?

I was too excited when this arrived. It is a prototype, and I'm hoping that it represents a tiny tip of what might be possible in the future with our ageing typewriters. I don't want to spoil it just yet, but there's a tale to be told. The typewriter insurgency might just be about to discover that the future isn't as grim for their machines as they first thought.

I'm currently doing some inspections on my car before I hurtle myself across the Great Divide and into the desert. When I'm back, hopefully I'll be able to get to work on using this piece, and tell you why I think it is so special.

Postponing Mr Messenger.

It is unfortunate, but I have to postpone going to see Rob Messenger's magnificent exhibition in Canberra. I mentioned last week that I was taking leave at a point that it wasn't the most  financially optimal time for me to do so, and at the end of last week a couple of things made it a bit difficult - if not impractical to launch into a drive down to Canberra.

It means that I'll probably just fly down in about a month, instead of embarking on a lengthy road trip by myself. But in the meantime, I have something else in mind to get me out of brisbane, and I'm going to need a bit of Typosphere assistance. Let me elaborate:

And yes. It will involve a typewriter.

Brisbane - Canberra 'round' trip: 2600 KM. (1616 miles) Visiting Rob's exhibit.

Click to view in more detail.

I'd planned to stay a night in Dubbo or Orange, a night in Canberra, and probably a night on the way back in Newcastle. I had not organise accommodation previously, and despite knowing people in Dubbo, Orange and Newcastle, I had no certainty about getting accommodation cheaply or even freely. 

Having my car serviced unfortunately ended up costing more than originally quoted, and this put a bit of a strain on my budget. After I collected my car - the afternoon after I finished writing the 'Valentine' blog post, I ended up getting struck down by a severe Migraine that left me writhing about in bed for most of Friday, feeling like I was being repeatedly struck in the back of my head with a shovel.

I knew something was wrong when I couldn't shift that headache I had been suffering for a few days prior, and dealing with the Valentine project seemed to be oddly beyond my usual abilities. I'd had a hugely stressful week the week before, and I guess something just had to give way when I took leave. 

It really just highlighted to me just how much of a strain I had been under. Two days after my Migraine, and I'm feeling relaxed, and a lot more optimistic. 

But the strain reminded me that I needed to take things a bit easier at the moment. I love driving, but pushing it hard through New South Wales along the Great Dividing Range didn't strike me as being the best thing to do. However I decided I still needed a bit of a trip away from Brisbane. I was my first voluntarily taken paid holiday since I've been working at the Hospital, after all. 

Charleville Odyssey:

Click to view in more detail. 

Charleville is approximately 770 km (478 miles) out of Brisbane. It sits far over the other side of the 'Great Dividing Range', and essentially is on the doorstep of one of the most rugged parts of the Outback. 

Yeah! It even has a golf club. If only I could play. 

Charleville is at the edge of a region that is known as 'The Channel Country' - an area that despite being largely desert, occasionally floods to form a series of vibrant rivers which will feed into Lake Eyre. 

I've lived in Brisbane for 7 years now, and as yet I haven't gotten any further into exploring Queensland than a town west of Brisbane called Toowoomba, while going no further north that Hervey Bay. That is to say, I haven't explored outside relative safety of the South East Queensland region. 

So what's at Charleville? Well, nothing in the traditional sense. Queensland is largely seen in Australia as being something of a Tourism hub. Most of this is concentrated along the eastern coast where the beautiful beaches, tropical island resorts, amazing rain forests and the Great Barrier Reef holds the interest of tourists. 

I could point my car north and follow the endless lines of beautiful beaches where I could take thousands of amazing sunrise photos that my friends could use to make Facebook memes of about love and positive thinking. But that just doesn't interest me. I've seen enough beach. Heck, I've driven on them, camped on them, swam off them, walked on them and photographed the hell out of them. 

I don't want to stare at the beauty of palm trees and sand surrounded by tourists dressed in their most tropical attire. I want to explore, in the way I have always explored. I also know people located at Charleville and Roma hospitals, that I talk to on the phone on a professional basis occasionally.

So I'm loading up Ruby the Exxy (my car) and hitting the road to see what is out there. What life is like elsewhere. The reason I want to go out this way, is because of a town named Cunnamulla - a town about 200km south of Charleville.

In the year 2000 a documentary about Cunnamulla was released. It wasn't about the town per-se, but rather a collective tales about the darker sides of some of the people living there. It is a hard film to watch because of the content and the brutal honesty, but it is worth it because it can give you a picture of what being brought up in some of Australia's most isolated areas can be like. 

But these harrowing personal tales tell nothing about the town and the life out in this region. I want to go and see the land for myself. Living in Brisbane gives you a skewed view of what country life is like, as much of the city's culture tends to be about being a 'big country town'. it celebrates this with  festivals like the oxymoronic 'Urban Country Festival', and the recently defunct 'River festival'. But Brisbane is more of a sprawling suburban metropolis that is filled with would-be cowboys in Hilux utes and land cruisers, that country it up on Fraser island ever so often. 

Meanwhile the same cowboys 'Fly in - fly out' of rural areas, as we rush to dig up the landscape in what we call 'the mining boom'. They care little for the farmers, the towns folk and the indigenous Australians that actually live there. 

I've done trips like this before. In the past I spent a large amount of time in Whyalla, South Australia where I worked in a Mobile Disco that travelled to many mining and industrial towns in the region. I got to see some of the best, and worst of what life was like in the desert of South Australia. 

So I'm off for a handful of days, to get my first taste of the region. My mobile provider only provides coverage as far as the town of Roma, so I'll be very much on my own. I'll be loading up my camera, clothes, UHF and..... my typewriter. 

So..... Which typewriter to take? 

The prerogative is that it needs to be portable. Ideally the more robust the better. But I also want it to be nice to type with, as I'll be bashing out a few pages, letters and ideally a handful of typecasts. Mr Messenger - I may not make your exhibition this week, but it doesn't stop me getting my type-on out there in the outback. Australian typing - or the Australian typewriter museum. 

I have quite a collection of typers, but these are the candidates on this occasion. I have typecast on almost all of these on here before. 

My Royal portable. Arrow or QDL? Who knows... it has no name. But Ernest Hemingway once hammered on the glass keys of a near identical model. Perhaps this is the machine for  telling a journey of adventure - or to tell the tale from the point of view of an action ready Journalist. Good to type on this machine robust enough to have actually survived being drowned in a flood.

Smith-Corona Sterling - T.S. Eliot used one of these to explore the mental landscapes of men and women from many different places. He has explored the diversity of cultural clash, and the dreams of failed dreamers. But he often found beauty in the most intimate of places. This machine is solid and stylish, and a very capable typer. 

The Valentine. No respectable writer has ever claimed to bash out a tale on one of these. But the hard case looks at home amongst camping gear hard cases. Not to mention this machine owes me serious quality time after I brought it back to life. Robust? No. Good to type with? Meh. But it does it with style. 

Hemes 3000. Jack Kerouac, Stephen Fry. Both these men are immeasurably intelligent, and are immeasurable in their diversity. Kerouac explored the freedom that living gave you, and its consequences, while Fry is compassionate and inquisitive. This machine is very robust, and beautiful to type with. 

(Not pictured) 
Adler Tippa - Script. Jill Kernaghan (my mother) spent many hours at the keyboard of her Adler. She never could justify buying a cursive model, but she loved them. While this isn't my mother's typewriter, I have kept this on has my memory of her. Quite robust and reasonably nice to write with. this machine looks almost new, bar the scars on the case where it had been the writing tool for a man that was painter and a musician. 

(Not pictured)
Hermes Baby. 
John Steinbeck. The landscape played second fiddle to the drama and the passion in his writing. But there was a love of the land, and an appreciation of the struggle of the people living on it. Harsh to type with, its size makes it amazingly portable. A competent writer, that is nearly 60 years old but is well made enough that it doesn't show any of those years. 

Remington Quiet Riter. Hermann Hesse. Hermann was a passionate artist who was also a highly analytical thinker. He was a courageous man who questioned the dogma of the time, and often rushed in to put his life at great personal risk to do what he felt needed to be done - or said. This machine is a word tractor, and is built like a tank. It is a reliable writer, even if it can sometimes feel a bit too mechanical to write with. 

So, el typosphere - what should I take on my little adventure?