Procrastination and the Keyboarding Arts

Fresh Ribbon

Christmas break is a lazy time and its getting lazier. My momentum is shot and in no time at all I’ll have to reawaken the working beast and throw myself into the post-holiday pace – which looks an awful lot like my pre-holiday pace. I love the lolling and moseying, though, so I’m not going to think about the other just yet.

I’m finding all sorts of nothing in particular to do – mainly time-wasting Ebay grazing – but I’ve definitely not resorted to skimming hours making typewriter art. I might, you know, but not just yet. It’s not that there’s nothing for me to do, I’ve just decided to put it all off until Monday. Procrastination has to be an all or nothing project, really. Either you put things off entirely or you dive in athletically and flail around. At least I’ve set a deadline.

This morning I decided to cruise some sites that didn’t require me to pay with Paypal, and found a nice piece about writing and old typewriters and a little about procrastination on The Munchkin Wrangler’s blog. Nice Olympia, as well.

Typewriter Storage as Art. Problem Solved. Kind of.

Fresh Ribbon

The lovely machines at my house are multiplying like rabbits. The problem , thus far, isn’t how to get rid of them (GAD!), it’s where to store these vintage beauties.

I ran across Rebecca Horn’s Blue Monday installation on the Guggenheim collection, and voila! Storage as art. I even found a blog where David Scrimshaw had a happy little storage accident – more art.
So now I’m thinking hard about the seven or eight typewriters cozied under my bed, nesting in their cases like off-season tulip plantings. Clearly, I need a storage solution less on the hide-it-under-the-bed side and more along the lines of oooh aaaah art.
I’m also thinking about the five typewriter cases stacked side-by-side in the bookcases, but not too much. While the effect is scarcely art, it does add a bit of ambiance – another A-word. Close enough for me. Besides, hanging 15- to 20- pound typewriters up like a string of freshly-caught bass has got to be a strain on some structurally important part of the house. I’ve lived in too many old houses to play fast and loose with architectural integrity, even for Art.
It’s not like I leave all my typewriters under the dust ruffle to die. I do take them out for regular spins that can last four or five days each, giving each a good run for their ribbons every single night. I write on them. A lot.
It would be odd to turn my house into a Typewriter Guggenheim, not that there’s enough space to even imagine it. I’ve had houses with indoor vistas, but now I’ll take the storage problem over the electric bill every time. Especially lately.
Another Terribly Good Idea might be to fill out my collection by scattering a few typewriter-related goodies here and there. Fish Nor Fowl gathered a charming group of vintage typewriter delight from Etsy, and I suspect many of these will end up on the Christmas List/in my house/not under the bed.

I Don’t Know What to Think


You know, there are key-choppers and there are key-choppers.

The first kind is the Opportunist who chops the keys from antique typewriters and sells them willy-nilly on Ebay for jewelry making. The jewelry is a fad, and when the fad is tossed for some new project there may be, oh, five or six usable antique or vintage machines left in the world. These kind of key-choppers make me alternately sad and angry because there are some stunning, usable typewriters out there that don’t deserve a rude beheading. Besides, there are typewriter collectors and obsessors out here who feel gut-punched every time we see “Will cut off and send only the keys. Only $5 to ship.”

The second flavor of key-chopper is the one I can’t quite hate. These are the Artist Choppers. While they hack and hew and chop along with the best of the Opportunist Fad Choppers, the end product has depth and respect for the old machines. I still ache when considering the surgical procedures necessary to produce the art, but I do find it somehow a little less sadistic. A proper burial for a wrongful death.

There are those who ride the line by creating gorgeous, wearable art. But all typewriter key jewelry is not art. Sometimes an earring is just an earring.

Is it the difference between murder and euthanasia? Have I become an arts vs. crafts snob? Am I blinded by Beautiful Things? Would my typewriter morality be intact if machines were already functionally useless? I don’t know. I’m just not as angry with the Artist Choppers, even though the end result is the same – one less typewriter.

Jeremy E Mayer

Michael Demeng

Disclaimer: No typewriters were harmed or mutilated for this post.

Fresh Ribbon…ruins a good manicure


Before I begin complaining about changing the ribbon on my Lettera 32, let me share a little gorgeousness from uppercaseyyc’s incredible collection on Flickr. These old typewriter ribbon tins are individual masterpieces, but collectively they’re an absolute bouquet of vintage collectibles. Do take a look at her individual photographs of each tin – I dare you not to start a collection.

I’m going to have to look locally, though, because some of these badboys are going for upwards of twenty dollars apiece on Ebay. I can fill my house with with all manner of flea market/yard sale typewriters for that kind of cash. I’m not cheap, I’m just thrifty.

Now for the complaining. I just spent entirely too much time replacing a ribbon in an achingly sexy Olivetti Lettera 32 and it’s not an experience I want to repeat for a while. I assume it would be easier to replace a ribbon if I had, say, an operator’s manual with a step-by-inky-step guide, but I’m not sure. There are all manner of ribbon guides and things that screw on and off (right-y tight-y, left-y loose-y) as well as these THINGS that poke UP and are clearly meant to somehow KEEP the ribbon from TOUCHING THE PAPER.

Well, I eventually figured it out but not before completely ruining my manicure. I’ve changed ribbon in all my typewriters and have never had such a snafu. It was like something out of I Love Lucy. The thing is done now, and I’m feeling a little pleased with myself for figuring it out sans written directions. Not that it would have helped.

I’m buying a box of surgical gloves for next time. This re-manicure is going to cost me at least one Empress typewriter tin. Maybe two.