For new typewriter owners: a little basic maintenance. Oiling keys, changing ribbons, and polishing.

In the past two and a half years, I have had about 75 typewriters move in and out of our house. A little bit of me wishes I could keep more of them, but Ed likely would be less inclined to  keep me around if I did. Priorities, I guess. 

Over the course of those two years, a handful of customers have asked me for a few basics when it comes to typewriter maintenance. And so, better late than never, here are a few of them, including how to oil the keys, a very basic how-to on changing a ribbon and, in the case of glossy metal machines, how to polish them to a great shine.

First, a few basic things that any typewriter owner should purchase to maintain their machines: 1) compressed air; 2) Machine Oil, such as 3-in-1 oil or Zoom Spout Oil; and 3) mild cleaning wipes (preferably without bleach, as bleach can cause old paint to peel).  You should avoid WD-40 because it can actually dry the keys out.

The first step, after you've wiped down the dust and grit as best you can from the exterior of the machine, is to use the compressed air to blow out any dust bunnies or cobwebs that may have built up inside. 

Next, to oil the keys. Run a thin line of the machine oil along the "joints" of the keys, where they encounter a lot of friction. The spaces between the keys do get buildup from dust, smoke and grit. If a key is sticking, a little patience might be required. Hold the key at its end and work it back and forth. As you move the key up and down, alternate gently pushing the key to its left, then to its right. You really are just trying to work the gunk out. All are different - some just take a little bit of oil, some take some real effort to get unstuck. I have spent 20 minutes working on one key in a really sticky situation. Sometimes it is also worth going back over it repeatedly.  

Finally, to install the ribbon. Typically they are set up to run from the left spool to the right, so I install the emptier spool on the left side (pic 1). {Side note: Most machines have a small lever that you press that actually shifts which direction the ribbon runs, so it can move from one spool back to the other. Each machine is different, though, so if you can, find a manual for your machine online. I may be able to help you.} Anyway. Thread the ribbon through the prongs on either side of the spool holders (pic 2), then through the ribbon holders just against the platen (the round rubber roller inside of the carriage - pics 3 and 4). There are also quite a few demonstrations on youtube if this isn't quite clear enough (and... it probably is not). 

The most fun part, if you have one of the older glossy metal machines, is to polish them up! Do not try this with a machine that has a crinkle finish, as the one in the photos above is. With the glossy machines, though, you can use auto wax - my favorite for typewriters is Meguiar's in the red bottle (though something like Turtle Wax works just fine). You apply the wax in just the way you wax a car; wipe a thin layer on with one cloth, wipe it off when dry with another cloth.    

I welcome the (hated) Christmas creep - vintage Christmas looks from KC's West Bottoms

I know that fall sightings of Christmas decor/stuff in any store or tv ad makes many (most?) of my friends rageblind with anti-consumerism, but I can't help myself. I totally love it. I love lights and trees (real and fake) and cozy fires in fireplaces. Christmas is nostalgia on crack, and I associate it with good memories with my family. So, when I see the Christmas creep popping up in September, I, unlike many/most, start rubbing my hands together and plotting - Clark Griswold meets Mr. Burns.

I do have a (fake) tree picked out, but I have summoned enough self-control to hold off on buying it (as of today, at least). Ed meets my Christmas decor enthusiasm with a bemused side-eye - though that bemusement will someday turn to alarm when I finally throw it all off and start dressing the dogs and cats in Christmas sweaters and costumes year-round. Cracker would be most fetching (and angry) in a pair of Rudolph horns.

This Christmas love meets my love of old stuff beginning about this time of year with the West Bottoms' First Fridays. If you are not from KC, one sweet, musty-smelling weekend per month, one of KC's oldest neighborhoods opens up to hundreds of vintage and antique vendors. A dozen-plus old factories and warehouses down in the West Bottoms rail district have been turned into vast vintage showcases with hundreds of thousands of square feet of old stuff. It's my favorite place to go get a sense of what kinds of things to buy for my stores here and on Etsy, and to get ideas on how to use these pieces in decorating at home. 

There are always great displays and ideas in the West Bottoms - though now because of the season, the Christmas crap is popping up in all of the entrances and empty corners. My favorite of the Christmas displays was one of the more classic: 

But, with great, great volume comes lots of other good inspiration:

Fence project, part one. Or, chain link can go to hell.

We knew when we bought our new house in KC that we'd have to build a new fence. We have large dogs that need to be outdoors. The partial, decades-old and half-buried chain link marking out about 60% of the yard would have to go. Ugh, chain link. So ugly. So rusty. Also in this case, so incredibly overgrown.

Three months after moving in, we hadn't quite made the progress on it we probably imagined, but we finally got spurred into action when our surprisingly kind and patient neighbors informed us that our German Shepherd, Hank, had more or less decided he was king of Waldo. He had found ways out of the temporary fence we put up, and, as any independent boy should, he was taking himself for walks while we were at work. He also liked hanging out in our front yard,  and he also enjoyed his new yard next door (that does not belong to us). Most cunning of all, he would let himself back in to our backyard so that by the time we got home, he would be there, as if he'd been patiently waiting all day.  

My yard.

We're thankful that nothing bad had happened, and that our neighbor, Eban, was kind enough to just tell us rather than call animal control. Hank would not fare well in the joint. Yay for not-jerk neighbors. Also yay for neighbor in that he told us we could do whatever we wanted, to cut or tear down whatever trees necessary to put up a new fence. So, about 3-4 weeks ago, it began. 

Now I hated chain link before this all began. It is fine in that it is cheap and it does work, but be it on a playground, or at any house, it is just such a bummer. So institutional. Cage-like. There is not a single attractive chain-link fence in the world, is there? 

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I can't really pretend I did the hard stuff (like, any of it). Ed and our Dodge City bestie John did the real heavy lifting. They ripped out the chain link with a come-along and our truck. They dug out the awful, huge roots and blocks of concrete holding the old fence posts in. They cut down a fairly large tree. They discovered that previous homeowners had basically just been burying the fence over time. I got off pretty light, with tree trimming and hedge clipping and landfill-going. I made lunches. Me=lucky (and not very muscly).

Might be a couple of decades of neglect. 

Horrible, buried, overgrown shit. This is after removing the giant hedge.

Ed and John over the course of the week got post holes dug (which is another Herculean non-April task), and new concrete poured around the new posts. And as we have had time over the past couple of weeks, we've added the frame and slats. Here, I am thankful to say, I can help! I can't do much, but yes, I can use a power drill and a level. 

We are about halfway done - the next steps are to add mulch to fill in the gaps under the fence, add cattle guard (metal grate) for the top third of the fence, cut off the tops and add post toppers (or not), and to build a legitimate gate for the driveway. There also is another tree (or perhaps two) to remove. And another side to build. Details.

Most importantly though, the other side holds and Hank can now only be king of our yard. And Ed and John are champions of fence-building men.

Molly results are also good: