Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Singapore, you've been good to me.

Typewriters have been running hot lately almost everywhere but on my own desk. NaNoWriMo has seen the Typosphere reduced to a skeleton crew, while the ICI has been chugging on.

Even my own computer keyboard at home has been feeling largely rejected of late.

It's not that I've lately lost the passion for writing, typing and just generally blathering. But rather I have had a distinct lack of time and energy to be able to just simply - enjoy these little things in life. Not to mention reply to some of the letters that I have received from some of the members of the Typosphere. I really, really need to get onto that. Sorry Ken.

I seem to be missing out on a lot of late. I haven't had the time or mindspace to read Teeritz's latest Bond fan fiction. I haven't had time to mow the lawn, wash the car, or even just... call my sister and tell her that I wont be coming down to Melbourne for Christmas.

I really should get onto that last one. Maybe I'm just procrastinating on that... and the lawn.

Work has been something of theme park mess of late. One moment I'll be on the workplace emotional roller-coaster, only to then jump onto the workload dodgem-cars.

In amongst this personal mess, a handful of bright and cheerful people invaded my desk with their wonderful letters and bright and cheerful gifts.

A lot of the Typosphere bloggers may have noticed something interesting of late - a large amount of page views from Singapore. I'd been hearing rumors of a passionate crowd of users and collectors in Singapore for a while, and I was delighted to recieve some letters from some of the Singapore crew.

Not just letters.... Oh no.... But photos of typewriters and a puppy, a bookmark that looks a lot like my Lettera 22, stamps and beautiful envelopes. One of the letters even came bound in a card depicting a wondeful sketch of the writer's Hermes Baby Featherweight typewriter.

Seriously, this was nice stuff.

My lettera 22 looks over my collection of goodies! Look at that awesome bookmark!

Firstly I received a letter from Caroline C, who can be found over at the Inkleaves blog. She was replying to my original ICI letter, but did it in far grander style. A beautiful Lettera bookmark along with the card made from a sketch of Caroline's Hermes machine accompanied the letter in a striking blue envelope. 

On the same day that Caroline's letter arrived, another letter from Singapore appeared in my letterbox. It was another beautifully written letter that was a thank-you note for helping repair a typewriter. It came adorned with gifts and goodies that I also enjoyed. 

But this letter was different. One of the first things I noticed was that the letter had a distinct lack of the sender's details. The writer's name was no-where to be seen! Also it was a thank-you note for helping repair a typewriter that I had not even laid a hand on. Actually, I lived approximately half a country away from the typewriter. Not only that, but the person writing the note had yet to actually touch the typewriter themselves!

Confused? I was a little at first... 

Nat over at the NatsLapTaps blog had a little issue with her Adler Tippa one evening. To help her fix the problem I grabbed my own Tippa and set about dismantling it, and re constructing it while I sent her instructions live via Facebook's chat function. I didn't know it at the time, but the Tippa was to soon be delivered to one of Nat's friends in Singapore, and it was this friend that sent me the lovely little package.

I'm hoping they'll write again soon with their Tippa... this time with their name, so I can write back to them! One good turn certainly deserves another. It was very touching to get a thank-you note like this - so completely unexpectedly.

Speaking of Nat... 

Nat is also from Singapore, but is currently living in the Australian city of Darwin. There's a nice road between my city (Brisbane) and Darwin, but it is hard 3 to 4 day drive through some of the most desolate countryside that I have ever come across. 

Nat also sent me a little envelope with a bit of a treat inside. 

A great little package of Sholes and Glidden themed Post-it notes!

Nat informs me that these are actually pretty rough to use, and are more ornamental than anything. Sounds a bit like the typewriter that it depicts actually. 

But is this all I got from Singapore?

Oh good grief no! 

While all of this was going on, my friend 'Mars' (no, she isn't typewriter people) took a bit of a trip to Singapore. Mars and I often discuss blogging and online goings-on, and you can find Mars's 'Mars on life' blog over here.

Coming back from Singapore with Mars were a couple of very funky little gifts that now sit my desk. Firstly, there's the globe....

Ms Jane floated past my desk not long after I put the globet next to my computer. A subsequent fight to the death ensued, and I only narrowly escaped having the globe stolen and relocated to her desk at work. Which would have been bad, as her desk at work is in a building that was heavily damaged by the storm I mentioned in my last blog entry, and is currently uninhabitable.

But Mars also got me this -- super cool pop culture mouse mat. 

Fraken awesome! 
Just for reference, the mouse is covering Sean Connery's face. 

This awesome stuff is now all over my desk, and I feel really guilty for not responding to anyone's letters and posts of late. Caroline gave me a little prompt on my page the other day, reminding me of her letter (yes... I got it about 2 weeks ago, Sorry!) and as such has prompted me to get off my butt and actually post a blog.

Actually, more accurately she prompted me to get ON my butt and tap out a response on my blog. 

Anyway, thanks a heap guys - you came at just the right time. Singapore, I've yet to visit you... but you're clearly awesome!

Saturday, 17 November 2012

... and then the rains came.

My suburb awash at about 11am....

Brisbane was lashed by a series of.... rather expected storms, yesterday afternoon. I say rather expected, because the forecast for the entire week had been for severe storms on Saturday. However, many of the locals have since vented their collective and self-righteous spleens because the B.O.M. hadn't sent them SMS storm warnings for the first severe session in the afternoon.

They most certainly issued warnings for the latter - and much more prolonged storm.

As the second storm approached, I set up my camera on the front deck to take a series of long exposures - in the hope of capturing some lightening. It missed a couple of dramatic moments unfortunately, but it did document the advancing of the storm quite effectively.

Take that... Lighting pole at the Rugby field!

A little after 9pm however, the strongest part of the storm hit. This forced me to quickly rush outside and grab my camera gear. As I retreated inside and quickly shut the windows to stop the now horizontal rain from coming in, the power died. Having anticipated this happening, there were already candles burning throughout the house. I also had been charging my mobile phone to make sure I still had contact with the rest of the world in the eventuality of the power failure.

So, what does one do when the power goes down?

You typecast of course!

The suburb dived into an eerie silence and darkness as the power went out. But the sky kept the world alight at night with lightening strikes.

Blog entry sitting on my typewriter - waiting to be scanned when the power came back on.

And then it was over....

Actually, not quite.

By the next morning I was awoken by the rumble of thunder once again rolling across the landscape. 

And then the third storm hit....

Not long after the storm subsided, another SMS warning arrived from the BOM warning us of the same kind of conditions that had been predicted the night before. By about mid-day the 4th (or was it 5th?) storm crashed over the city, once again turning streets to rivers.

It is now 5:30pm, and from my front deck I can see another front coming up from the south of Brisbane. The BOM has issued another severe weather SMS warning.


Sunday, 11 November 2012

Oils 'aint oils.

Warning: Post is heavy in tech talk.

It is true. I am an over-thinker. I over think my breakfast, I over think my method for getting to work (I have three easy options to pick from every day after all) and I over think plots for stories till it gets to the point that I can't find myself out of my mental miasma to get the work down on paper. 

And..... I over think my typewriter repairs. Constructing new parts via 3D printers, re-shaping rubber in boiling water and baking washed typewriters in an oven? I certainly can't be accused of not being lateral enough with my problem solving.

Oh, how egotistical do I sound...

Anyway... I've been over-thinking stuff again. In this case it was a problem that doesn't even exist. I've been thinking about typewriter lubrication.

I've been using sewing machine oil for a while now, and I've been mostly quite happy with the results. But when I bought that meticulously maintained Hermes 3000 QWERTZ machine I discovered something that started me thinking a bit more about what kind of lubricants I use.

The machine was nearly 40 years old, yet it felt new. The carriage on this machine felt like no other machine I have - including my other H3K machines. Whenever I pushed down the carriage release, it traveled so smoothly that it felt like it was gliding on a cloud.

On closer inspection I could see little trails of a very fine yellow grease. On the end of the carriage rail I could see a small dollop of the grease had gathered there.

The H3K had been kept by a very meticulous owner who had barely used it since its last service in the 90's. It had been kept in its cocoon of a case, which allowed me to mull over with near forensic attention to detail, the service of this machine that had been conducted in an era when they were still maintained by talented mechanics.

Over thinking much?

Part two of this tale takes part about 2 years ago, in a motorcycle workshop.

I needed to get my motorcycle's chain changed some time back, and when my bike (nicknamed Roxanne) rolled out of the workshop with its new chain, I noticed something unusual about it. The chain was coated in a white waxy substance. With a bit of investigation, I discovered that this was a  compound that was produced by dupont, and it used Teflon as its lubricant base. The great advantage with it was that it was 'dry', and it didn't gather dirt into oily cakes.

This stuff is really hard to find in Australia, and is extraordinarily expensive here.

So I went looking for alternatives last week, when I came across another series of Teflon based lubricants that caught my attention. Not so much for my motorcycle - but because I had been looking for a grease type of product that could have been used on my typing machines.

The stuff is called TF2, and it comes in a variety of versions. What originally caught my eye was a grease produc, that came with a small grease gun that would have been perfect for applying the compound into tracks on my typers.

But it was a different product that got my interest in the end. It was substance called TF2 Plus - Dry.

Don't let the name fool you - it isn't like graphite powder. The dry is actually a liquid while it is in the bottle.

This is a product that was designed for use on bicycle gear systems, chains and derailleurs. It is made so that it attracts a minimum of dirt, and protects the metal surfaces from wear by using Teflon. I looked at the data on this stuff, and the more I read about it, the more I liked it. 

So... I grabbed a bottle of it, and a can of the spray lubricant (which isn't a 'dry' product) to give it a go.

It is more expensive than graphite or Sewing machine oil, but I was hoping the benefits would out weight the relatively higher cost. The bottle was a whopping $9 after all. My theory is that it would be an excellent middle ground between Oil and powder, that could be used in a variety of ways. 

It was probably a silly idea, but I decided that I would experiment on my Oliver 5 machine first. And can I say... I don't regret it for a second - yet. I tried using it with the plastic nozzle at initially, but this proved to be a disaster as the oil flowed out of this far too freely and abundantly. As such I returned to the medical syringes that I have used with my sewing machine oil. 

This is where I noticed the first and most immediate difference. Using an 18g 'drawing up' blunt needle, I often struggle to draw the sewing machine oil up into a syringe. But this time the lubricant drew up almost like it was made from water. It was obvious that the viscosity of this was much finer then sewing machine oil. 

I strategically deposited the TF2 onto the carriage rail of the Oliver, and onto the bearings - and I worked it on or spread it over with a wipe of my finger. As expected the compound dried into a slippery wax quite quickly.  I slid the carriage back on, and everything seemed to work fine.

Great, I thought! Now... lets try some finer work. I used the syringe to shoot some oil into some areas that seemed to have been quite gummed before, and still felt a bit... awkward. I dropped a small amount into the metal at the joins, and quickly found the lubricant drawing across and into the gaps of the metal. I had never observed the sewing machine oil do this.

I spun parts, pushed bits around to work the oil in, and I was astonished with the results. The Oliver practically flys now. Before it felt old and stiff... but now everything seems to just glide brilliantly as though it were near new. I had attempted to achieve this with sewing machine oil, but clearly the lighter viscosity of this stuff nailed it. I distributed about 1ml in total with the syringe, which worked fantastically. 

In trying to use the nozzle at first, I spilled a bit onto some of the paint of the Oliver. Instead of just washing it off, I've actually spread it about on the surface. It dried clear, and feels like a fine and slippery wax to touch. But I'm more interested in seeing how much dust it collects while the typewriter sits on my desk. The paint hasn't been harmed by it, which was quite a relief. After some the the dust has settled, I'll see if it blasts off easily with a bit of air. This will give me an idea as to how it bonds to dust, and what the likely outcome is going to be while using it.

Anyone that has tried to un-gum a machine that has been filled with oil in the segment, will know exactly why this is important.

As such, I think - long term this potentially could very well be used in those times that you absolutely have to get some lubricant into the type bar bearings. I'm not willing to try it yet, until I've seen how well it deals with dust. But I have a candidate lined up ready for experimentation. 

I bought the TF2 spray, but I haven't really used it yet. I thought I would experiment with it, as a substitute for the kind of people that feel compelled to drench their typewriters in that evil WD40 shyte. I'm not a drencher, but I felt like giving this a bit of a test run. However, so far I've been too impressed with the application of the TF2 dry to bother.

On preliminary observation, I highly recommend this for use. I've also used it on the rails of my Adler tipper, and found that it improved the feel of the movement dramatically. 

I'll give an update on my results when the data is in.


Another Royal... and a story to be told.

Friday, 9 November 2012

The flying typewriter.... maybe

Oh hi there! It has been a couple of weeks since I last posted and I felt a bit of a need to do some writing.

I'd been in two minds about attempting Nano this month. And I actually sat down to make a start. But the decision has been largely taken out of my hands by circumstance. Post work fatigue, a massive (but delightful) wedding, and a few general responsibilities (like writing applications for new jobs) all conspired to make this a sub-optimal time to be writing fiction.

It is not that I don't have any ideas. I have about 5 stories already on the go, with notes and research for all of them - just waiting for me to pick up the keyboard and write.

The wedding was specular by the way. An Irish dancing teacher marrying a Businessman? Both of them are really lovely people... and we expected the wedding to be quite a show. And a show it indeed was!

Be warned - the camera girl screams out in excitement a far bit. 

As for the job applications, don't get me wrong... I love my job. But like a lot almost every other role in my hospital at the moment, there's absolutely no certainty that I will still have my job in 2 months time. So it is best seek out new opportunities in a market that is thin of opportunities, before I find the rug pulled from under me. I may still have my job in two months - so if you guys could cross your fingers for me, I'd be more appreciative. 

Anyway... I decided that I needed to thin out my typewriter herd a few weeks ago. I'd acquired a few machines that were rather less than inspiring typewriters, and I felt it was time to perhaps cut down a bit. 

As such I dipped my toe into selling on eBay with a machine was in perfect operating condition - and aesthetically in very good condition, compared to most of the machines on ebay. The reason I chose this machine was simply because it was a really uninspiring typewriter. Its action was too light for my typing style, and the edgy 70's design of the machine matched nothing in my collective of typewriters. It even didn't look right next to my 70's Hermes. 

It was, of course my Imperial 220. 

The gaudy and boxy style was really not to my taste. It was a machine that was made at a time when the market was more inspired by the new computer technology that the had started to see fill back rooms in offices. I'd been looking for a typewriter that was designed in this era - something that captured the cobalt blue and sharp edge design that was iconic of computers at the time. And this machine sort of fit the bill. 

I bought it as a job lot actually. It came along with an Olivetti 32 which is going to be a gift to 'Baroness' - Once she gives me back my Hermes baby. But it was far from the machine I was looking for. Something along the lines of the Blue and bone Hermes 3000 of the time, or a blue Selectric would have been more ideal. They captured the design ethos far more accurately. 

This machine sort of looked like it - but was actually more of a toy than a typewriter under my hands. I had no love for the Litton mechanicals, or the chunky plastic design. There's Royals out there that are identical to this one - and they even come in that faux woodgrain look that was endemic in the 70's. I almost could have lived with that... 

So, the Imperial 220 had to go. 

I put it on ebay and the bidding was slow and steady. I'd serviced and cleaned this machine - which I had originally bought very cheaply, and I even put in a new ribbon. It was the ideal machine for someone wanting to get into typing. I even tried something different, and dual advertised it in the 'Scrapbooking' section of ebay - as I felt this lightweight typing machine could be more useful to a crafts person than a writer. 

As usual the last couple of days of the auction was where the real action happened. And it soon sold at a respectable price that made my efforts worth while. But as the final names and numbers came up, I noticed a very familiar name amongst them. 'Oztypewriter'. 


He'd been beaten by a woman here in Queensland that lived over in the suburb of Annerly. 

He noticed my odd and comprehensive approach to selling this typewriter, and immediately messaged me after bidding had finished. If I had have known that Robert was looking for something like this, I would have just posted it over to him. But now it was already committed. 

However the woman that bought it was quite interesting. Annerly is only a couple of suburbs away from where I work, as opposed to the hour long drive that it would have been to where I live, and as such I suggested that we meet in my office. 

She turned up with a very fashionable scooter helmet in hand, and short but somewhat crazy hair. I started to give her a quick rundown of the operation of the machine, but she didn't seem all that interested. We talked for a bit, and in the process of doing so she told me that the typewriter was to be used in a 'show'

"Oh, what kind of show'? I asked. 
"We're not sure yet. We're still working on it" she answered with a hint of avoidance. "But this is going to become a flying typewriter"! she went on to explain with a glint of excitement in her eye. 

Before long she handed over the exact amount of money to me, and was gone. I imagined the Imperial strapped to the back of a scooter somewhere, having an exciting ride through 'The Valley' and across the Story bridge back to Annerly. Not that it wasn't used to bikes, as it had come to work with me strapped to the back of my bike just a few hours earlier. 

I asked her to keep in contact with me about her show, as i would have loved to have seen the flying typewriter. But I wasn't surprised that she hasn't, as she seemed very much to avoid talking about it. I get the feeling that she thought a typewriter selling man that worked in an office in a hospital wouldn't be her kind of audience. Shame really... I used to work as a theatrical stage manager - and even if it was to be used in a burlesque show, this would have still been great to see. 

I gave her the details to this blog, and she may swing past at some stage. We'll see. 

But I hope the Imperial 220 has a good flying life as a stage prop. Not everyone gets to fly, you know...