Thursday, August 29, 2013

On With the Show

Logging truck, Georgetown. Painted August 2013
My show is up. That would be my display as featured artist for the month at Art on the Divide Gallery Coop in Georgetown, California. Hardly a show, it covers little more than one wall in our cozy, but richly-packed, little gallery in a 150-year-old brick building in a historic mining town in Northern California's Sierra Nevada Foothills. The gallery is hardly a commercial venture, more like the glue which holds our small group together. A group that is more about mutual support and inspiration than making a cash register ring.

Dodge truck and house, Church Street, Georgetown. August 2013
I joined the group as a photographer about a year and a half ago. But for better or worse, its inspiration and support has renewed an interest in watercolor painting that last existed in the 1980's when one of my daughters and I enjoyed a few painting classes. So I used the anticipation of my turn to fill the featured artist wall as an impetus to dive back in. (Dive in ... watercolors ... get it?).

Preparation for this little display has pretty much filled my time for the last month or so. Time not otherwise filled with my half-time day job (environmental cleanup project manager), correspondence (to and from grandchildren and a growing number of Typospherians), maintaining the indoor/outdoor entropy balance, being a husband, being owned by two doggies, napping, acquiring unneeded typewriters, and answering those delightful recorded telephone messages.

A watercolor lesson completed in 1983
Like the completion of any great project, it has left me a bit at sea. Where to turn next? Polish the TR6 and get it ready for its next owner? Ensconce myself in my workshop happy place and begin releasing some of my incarcerated typewriters from the dungeon? Research wooden boat building? Sign up for a wingsuit base jumping class? Refurbish the rudder and daggerboard on Sharlet, our beloved little sailboat? Pack up Hilda and the doggies and head for the coast? Sling a hammock in the garden and give it a thorough test? Explore more hiking trails?

Stay tuned!

Gallery garden tools. Photographed December 2012

The Mindling/Peters family farm, settled in Washington County, Ohio, about 1840. Painted in 1983.

Back alley nasturtiums, Fort Bragg, Mendocino County, Northern California. Photographed about 2005.

"The Fox", folksong, illustrated 1983 (with thanks to Peter Spier)

Sanderlings, Newport Bay Wildlife Preserve, Photographed January 2012.

Study after the style of Peter Spier, 1983

Horses in Utah, 2009

Imagined oak and barn, watercolor, 1983

Blacksmith shop in Novato, California, watercolor, 1983. Imagined as it might have appeared about 1900. The building is now a coffee and tea shop.

Oh, by the way, the show will be up throughout September, with an opening on Sunday afternoon, September 8.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Sunday in the Golden, Rollin' Hills of California

Photo from Capitol Public Radio Website
No, it's not a new volcano. A difficult-to-fight fire in one of the steep, timbered Sierra Nevada foothill canyons has grown to 14,000 acres over the past week. While typing a letter to a typospherian in Louisiana this morning I was going on about how, while back there natural disasters ordinarily involve hurricanes, out here we have our wildfires. Many of them are lightning-caused when warm and moist monsoon air flowing over the Sierra Nevada triggers convective storms. This fire is burning about 40 miles to the northeast of us. During the morning a light northeast breeze brought smoke that turned the rising sun into an orange ball and did interesting things to the light.

From my perch out on the balcony where I was typing my eye caught the way the light was enhancing the shapes and honey color of my old swivel chair, and I had to get the camera fired up.

Then it was back out to finish the letter with the 1972 Olympia SM9, while blinking back tears. Although the smoke was irritating, mornings in the cool air out here are too precious to waste. Pardon the skivvies. 

Time to head back in and get breakfast going. The Royal No. 10, seen here lording it royally (get it, get it?) over a few lowly portables, actually saw use later in the day writing another letter. Normally it only gets to address envelopes. Buddy observes.

After our breakfast on the deck, Hilda gets the fish their breakfast. They show their gratitude by hiding from the camera.

While I am off purchasing framing supplies, Hilda digs into her project, a Sunbonnet Sue quilt for a new great grandbaby. Naps follow in the afternoon, induced by the spectacle of the American women golfers getting totally whomped by the European lasses.

And so goes a fine Sunday here in the golden, rollin', hills of California.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

A Shift of Focus

I have exactly two weeks to prepare for the hanging of my show at Art On The Divide Gallery in Georgetown, California. I have exactly zero (0, none, nada) works matted and framed. A week ago I had tidied the workshop and cleaned off the workbench in preparation for this project. And what happened? Somehow that lovely clean space attracted hordes of wounded and crippled typewriters who escaped their cuppboard dungeons and massed on that workbench demanding attention. What was I to do, but administer to their needs?

But now we are down to that point, the near-panic point, where the subconscious mind senses a deadline approaching and calculates that there is just enough available time remaining, minus ten percent, to complete the project . So the wounded typewriters are rounded up and mercilessly herded, at the tip of a tiny but fierce screwdriver, back into their dank cells. Ear and eye protectors are donned, and the big guns are deployed.

First up is the table saw, which reduces some lovely rescue lumber - in this case old-growth redwood two-by-sixes with a priceless 40-year-old patina, into about 25% scrap, 25% sawdust, and the remaining 50% into rustic picture frame molding.

I love my 12-inch miter saw. I loved my 1968 Craftsman radial arm saw, too. But it took half a day to get the blade set to make that precise 90 degree by 45 degree cut needed for frames. This saw just does it. Not 45.1 degrees, not 44.9 degrees, but 45.00 degrees every time.

And so the first frame goes together sweet and true, and even gets a momentary smile out of the old curmudgeon ... until he realizes there are ten more to go. And then there is the matting and assembly. But it's a good start, and as always, I'm looking forward to seeing a collection of nicely presented photographs and watercolors on the gallery wall.

Poster Credit: Richard Moore

Oops - note: Reception date is Sunday, September 8.
C'mon by - there might even be a photo (or painting?!) of a typewriter.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

A Clean Workbench Sidetracks the To Do List

I'm not a tidy worker. Tools, spare parts, packing materials, notes, projects in process, labeled containers of pieces of typewriters, etc., etc. accumulate on my workbench until it simply gridlocks. But the upcoming need to prepare for the opening of my show at our cozy art gallery in Georgetown, which means matting and framing, which in turn requires lots of free space has resulted finally in a clear workbench.

And so what do I do with all of that delicious space? Yep - I play with typewriters.

Having gotten the piddly amount of work on my framing project to satisfy my conscience, I pulled out this Adler J4 from the dungeon, where it had been confined since its arrival months ago. It had arrived with ugly cracks in its plastic shell and case, and a bent frame. No wonder - it had been packed by the eBay seller with no more than a quarter of an inch of bubble wrap between its case and the carton. When I had emailed the seller regarding return and refund, the seller claimed no responsibility for the item once they had shipped it. The seller had, fortunately, insured the package, and eventually, after several trips to the post office and the filling out and mailing of forms, a payment arrived in my Paypal account.

And so yesterday I pulled it from its dusty corner in the dungeon and set the whole mess on my nice, clean workbench. With the friendly sounds of the brothers, Tom and Ray, NPR's "Car Talk" in the background, I went to work re-forming the frame with my biggest pair of pliers. A whack during shipment on the machine's front right corner had turned the stamped metal frame portion under the keyboard into a parallelogram, jamming the space bar and putting an ugly crack into the shell at the same time. 

Not having anything to loose, I applied vigorous force accompanied by appropriate grunting and eventually, to my surprise, the frame was back in a position that fit the shell and also allowed the spacebar to function. Krazy Glue then did the trick on those once horrible cracks, to the accompaniment of the standard gluing of fingers together. Surprisingly, the result was not bad, and once fitted with a new ribbon the machine turned out to be an excellent typer, producing nice, even, impressions with its pica font:

 While working on the Adler, our mailman came up the driveway and helped me carry two boxes into the workshop. On opening the first, after having been working on the stodgy gray Adler, my retinas were nearly seared by this Adler Tippa:

Even though the packaging was minimal, it arrived in excellent condition, USPS having for once not using the carton as a jack stand.

Even though it is not that great a typer, I'm sure a grandchild will eagerly snap this one up because of its compact size and bright color.

The second arrival yesterday turned out to be a beauty of an Olivetti Studio 45. Although already possessing one of these fine machines, the earlier purchase uses a cursive font, which while somewhat unique, always wants to put me into the persona of a Dolly Parton when I use it. So I was delighted to discover that the new arrival used a nice plain pica.

A lovely design combined with solid workings, this one is the best typer of the bunch. It even included a usable ribbon. Just one issue - the line advance mechanism has a pretty casual attitude about spacing, switching randomly between single, double, and triple line spacing. Thanks goodness I am left with a fix-up task to further keep me from that matting and framing job.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

The Slippery Slope ...

I'd been driving myself crazy trying to sort out my entries in The Typewriter Database for my nearly twin Olympia SM9s, confusing the serial numbers, their dates of manufacture, and mixing up which one was pica and which elite.  I finally sat them down side by side on my office couch for a direct comparison and eventually worked it out that the 1972 machine has the smaller elite typeface, while the twin born six years later in 1978 uses pica. OK, fine, but seeing them together revealed some other, more subtle, while at the same time perhaps more significant differences.

Now, whining is something one does not normally relate with talk about the SM9, so prepare yourself.

(Almost) Twin Olympia SM9s

1972 Olympia SM9

1978 Olympia SM9
Above is the 1978 pica version of my 1972 elite SM9. Still a fine typer, but there are a couple of changes from the 1972 version. The unnecessary but lovely machined swirl pattern on the paper support is gone. Gone also is the red paint on the casting of the key lever pivot support bar. Unnecessary embellishments but they gave a special bonus touch, exhibiting a bit of corporate pride in the machine, and retained from the design going way back to my 1957 SM3. I noticed and appreciated those enhancements even as a pimply high school adolescent. Gone, too, is the handy, white-capped carriage lock lever. By 1978 it has become an unattractive and somewhat unpleasant-to-the-touch lever sticking out from under the left end of the carriage. Obviously all of those 1972 features added to the cost of manufacture while doing nothing for the touch or typing quality. 

Yes, still a very fine machine, and if I had to place my life in a wheelbarrow to flee a burning house both would likely be in it. But are these subtle signs of the beginning of a worldwide corporate slide away from pride in quality and integrity towards avarice and greed?

No, of course not, I'm just a cranky old curmudgeon this evening.

Monday, August 5, 2013

You Loose Some, You Win Some

What's wrong with this listing ...

Yep - only two feedback ratings and a feedback score of only 75%! Guess I was blinded by the lovely cerulean blue of this Smith Corona, thinking a grandchild might enjoy it, and didn't notice that rating. When it arrived today playing peekaboo through its flimsy cardboard box things did not bode well.

And as the unboxing continued, things just got worse ...

I will request my $59.42 back from this seller, but don't anticipate even getting a response (But see the addendum at the bottom of this post!). So what did I learn from this purchase?

  1. Of course, read the whole listing. Don't buy from sellers with low feedback response or score.
  2. When paying for the item send an email to the seller with a friendly note requesting them to pack it carefully. Multiple layers of bubble wrap, at 90 degrees to each other, building a cocoon at least four inches thick, placed in a nest of styro peanuts or similar of at least four inches all around inside a sturdy carton, is simple and does the job. Then thank the seller for reading the note, saying how I am looking forward to adding the machine to my collection, It's worked before.

Overall, my experience with eBay has been good. I've received no machines in a condition other than what I expected from carefully looking at the photos and reading between the lines of the description. Of the 30 or so machines (please don't tell my wife) that have arrived, only two were damaged in shipping, and one of them is repairable. But not this one, unfortunately. If anyone needs a Coronet Super 12 for parts, just let me know!

And now for the winner. One of my granddaughters is a writer, in her second year of working toward a degree in marketing. She lit up like the sun when I asked if she might be interested in having and using a typewriter. She even gets it about editing hardcopy away from the distraction of the computer. My quest for a suitable machine resulted in this treasure which also arrived today:

A twin to the Hermes Rocket that I use as an RV typer, it arrived in beautiful shape, thanks to careful packing by the folks at Seattle Goodwill - it even included a fresh ribbon. A clean up of the case and the body with a bit of Scrubbing Bubbles was all it needed. There will be no incarceration in the dungeon for this little beauty, which will go out into the world to help seed a love for these machines in a new generation.

Contrary to my pessimistic expectations, the seller of the unfortunate blue Coronet provided a refund the same day I requested it, for the total amount of the item plus my shipping cost. This is a reminder that I must add a third tip for purchasing via eBay:

3. eBay sellers are, for the most part, well intentioned, and do not purposely try to cheat or mislead. This basic quality of human nature is supported and encouraged by the eBay feedback mechanism. Straightforward and friendly communication is an important part in eliciting that positive human quality.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Not a Junker: There's hope in this Remington Rand No. 5

Most, if not all, of the blogs I have read with photos of typewriters, at least those that the blogger admits to having paid money for and taken home to incorporate into their household, are of pristine and polished museum-ready machines, that function, if not perfectly, at least with minimal quirks. Same here.

Now for a change of pace.

Rummage sale items at the Nevada County Narrow Gauge Railroad Museum.
Like the arrangement of a fish trap entry, items for sale are carefully arranged to lead the browser to his doom. Quiet spoken and disarming, elderly museum volunteers are cleverly deployed to soften the defenses of the most hardened rummage sale shopper.
On the pleasant drive to the sale through our "rollin', golden hills of California", I told myself that $20 was my limit, and that I definitely did not need another typewriter. I'd even purposely made a pass through our cluttered garage earlier to ink in the note-to-self that no more stuff, especially in the typewriter category, was needed.

The main point of the expedition was to have a visit with my uncle Don, a volunteer at the museum, and just get out of the house for a bit. But once at the sale I automatically veered past the one typewriter for sale. Although an ugly grunge pit, with sticky keys and snapped carriage draw-string, it did appear redeemable. But I have plenty of redeemable typewriters in the dungeon. So, taking myself in hand, I walked on to look at children's books and lamps, where I found at $5 a steal of a craft lamp that would be good for redeeming typewriters. At the cashier the tab was still less than $10. But suddenly the gremlin that sits on my shoulder took control of my tongue, and made mumble, "would you take $10 for the typewriter". The cashier said, "Yes!" with the reflex of a fisherman setting the hook, and even gave me a cardboard box to take the thing home in.

At home on the work bench, in all its grungy glory

There is some light corrosion (let's not use the r-word), but most of its issues - sticky keys, stiff platten - are likely due to a build-up of crud, and should clear up with a good bath.
A test application of the universal cleaning solvent (saliva) reveals this to be the case with the key tops.
Things don't look too bad down here.
These typebars are destined to once again produce that wonderful thwackety-wack - I do believe it, I do, I do.