Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Wherefore "Wherefore"?

I enjoy reading Shakespeare.  Apparently, so did Shakespeare himself.  He spelled his name many different ways over the course of his literary career, so it is easy to conclude that either he was a terrible speller or he just liked seeing his name written in a multitude of manners.  My suspicion is that the latter interpretation is likeliest true.  He simply liked words in their numerous forms - hence that most confusing question uttered by Miss Capulet:  the bane of school students - "wherefore?"  Why not just 'why'?  Well, why use a simple word when the moment calls for a more memorable one?

At bottom (or 'Bottom'), Shakespeare had a sense of humour with which he poked fun at us as much as his characters.  I can appreciate that!

I like writing, but after completing five novels, and starting several more, it was becoming a bit of a chore.  I started trying to spice it up a tad with a new keyboard for my computer:  a 2013 Razer Black Widow Ultimate gaming keyboard with Cherry MX Blue mechanical key-switches, to better imitate the loud clack and positive-feedback of a typewriter's action.  It worked... partially.  When this wasn't enough I did actually break down and buy a typewriter.  The feel of my SG1 was just superb!  I loved it from the start and brushed up on my typing style so I could harness the right amount of force to actuate the keys satisfactorily.  It also meant getting used to not having a backspace key, or a return key - OR a 1 digit.  The thing took some time to acclimatise to, but I finally did it.  I was able to start a new book with verve and gusto.

Sadly (from the perspective of a writer), I got sidetracked and started teaching myself repair and maintenance.  I had to pull the whole thing apart to clean it thoroughly, and that drove me to obtain another typewriter to serve as replacement parts.  It was broken, so I only bought half of it to save on shipping.  Imagine my shock and wonder when I opened it and examined my haul to discover that it included a carriage that was about three inches longer than mine!  I was drooling with anticipation at swapping the two carriages, and that was where everything came to a screeching halt.

The carriage was from a 12-pitch machine, not an 11-pitch one like the variant I had.  It took a while, and the purchase of a parts manual on eBay to discover the horrendous truth - that it would never be compatible with my original SG1.  I was disappointed, but not before I bought another SG1 that was in a terrible state.  That one, I fixed and swapped several parts from to fix up the 15-inch carriage.  To my surprise, the big carriage DID work with the new-but-broken typewriter, so I put down my ball-pein hammer after straightening the shell, and set to adjusting the seating of the big carriage on the second frame.  That was when I noticed the crack in the frame.

The crack wasn't, however.  It was a full break through the cast steel of the frame rails.  Glue didn't work, but a gas-tungsten arc weld did the trick.  My friend Brian did the welding for me because he had the necessary skills, and I would have probably been the first (and last) person to work out how to cause the inert gas shield to explode taking about twenty oxygen and acetylene tanks with it, and thereby half a building and several dozen lives as well.  I'm that good at causing accidents, you see.  He was the one who declared that it was steel and not iron, incidentally.  I defer wholeheartedly to his judgment on such matters.

The saga of SG1 v2.0 was complete, and v1.0 reverted to its original form, albeit whole in body once more.  Tempted, I fell for a lovely little SM4 like a mistress!  She took some work and cleaning, though.  Now the typeslugs sparkle with promise and the action of the keys is unburdened by weight or friction.  It is a beautiful machine to write on!  The feel is so light and perky - the fingers literally bounce off the keys.  The SM4 has a return spring mechanism that it shares with the SM3, but it also has the unlimited tab options that the SM3 lacks.  Of the twain, I was utterly decided upon the SM4, and very glad to have made the decision.

The ONLY downside to it was that the small platen had not weathered its 54 years as well as the thicker, heavier platens of the massive SG1s.  The hardening of years of drying out had ultimately taken its toll and left the material hard as slate.  Poison, I see, hath been her (sic) timeless end!

It couldn't safely be used because, although the letters were very crisp and precise on the hard platen, the paper would slip slightly with each line, and the stresses on the typebars would cause damage eventually.  I'd seen that before - typeslugs cracking off and ricocheting around.  Of course, while that embarrassing result had befallen a Smith-Corona (a much less solidly-engineered device than the Olympia), it was a lesson well learned, and a warning wisely taken.

JJ Short and Associates in Macedon, NY, currently have the platen in question.  They will grind it down and then resurface it with fresh, new rubber that should last many more years.

At 10-pitch, the letters are large and shapely, yet elegant and demure.  I have to find a name for my SM4 - and it will be female I'm sure - but whatever it is she will deserve it, and will help me write my next book.  I already have an idea in mind for the new platen and old typewriter to help me imprint it on paper.

After all - I prefer not to contemplate 'wherefore', but rather 'therefore'?

(Not Droll)