The Kowal Portable Typewriter and Adding Machine
Look what Iíve got. The first Kowal Portable Typewriter and Adding Machine.
I mentioned that I wanted to modify my computer to have some of the stylings of a portable typewriter. After a great deal of thought I decided to go with sticker applications on the keys due to the wee attachment points on the existing key caps. To create the sticker, I started by taking a photo of my keyboard as close to straight on as I could. If I do this again, I will scan it instead.
Next I grabbed a stock photo of a typewriter key. Now, since the computer keyboard has a lot of keys that a manual typewriter doesnít, I knew that I would have to create keys from scratch. So, I erased the letter on this one and used it as the template for all the keys. For the font I chose P22ís Parish Roman, which is a gorgeous spin on the standard Roman fonts. Youíll see how lush it is in the next photos.
I laid out the keyboard directly over the photo I took to control for spacing. If I do this again, I will squish the keys closer together so that I have more space around the keyboard area for making adjustments to fit. I thought I allowed enough, but I didnít.
Iím about halfway through the process in this photo. I used a piece of paper to make a template to cut the keyboard area of the sticker to the right size. As you can see, I wound up with silver space all the way around, but in my original, I was going to run the sticker right up to the edge of the keyboard. I think the image was enlarged slightly when they placed it on the sticker. The process of modifying the keys is pretty simple. HereĖ Iíll show you.
Pop the key off the keyboard with a butter knife. Cut out the corresponding key with your exacto knife. I was paranoid about losing a piece so I only cut out one key at a time. Carefully center the sticker on the key. This is the squiggly part. I had to bevel the edges of the stickers as I was trimming them, or the edges were noticeable and distracting under my fingers. Next, I colored the edges with a permanent marker. I initially did that before adding the sticker, but the edges of the sticker showed up as white. Over the two week since I did this, the ink has crept under the stickers giving a slight patina to my new keys. It doesnít look bad in this context, but itís not what I planned. Iím also discovering that in a couple of places, the ink is wearing offĖnot surprising, but faster than I expected. Next time, I think Iíll try to seal the edges as well as experiment with black enamel paint. Edited to add: I now use black nail polish. It is smooth, glossy and chip-resistant. The black marker wound up rubbing off.
Hereís the finished key ready to be installed. And here it is in all its glory.
Well, not quite all its glory. I still have to do the space bar, but I need to go to an art store for that. Iím debating about doing the space around the screen itself, which would be pretty, but just seems like a lot of wasted sticker, unless I can come up with something clever to do with the middle section. Hm, I guess I could do a style thing to the power supplyÖ Nah. That would just be silly.
Edited to add: In response to comments.
Further edited to add: The fine folks at Laptop Skins Schtickers Shop Create Participate have said that they would like to offer readers of my blog a 10% discount. Just enter the discount code KOWAL during the check out
- I used Laptop Skins Schtickers Shop Create Participate to create the sticker. These are repostionable tough stickers designed to protect the exterior of a laptop and have prooved pretty durable on the exterior, which I did about a month ago. I travel a lot and so no signs of wear, so I went for the interior. The stickers have a beefy vinyl coating so I think theyíll hold up to wear.
- I donít believe that Iíve done anything which will impact the warranty. Although itís a moot point, since the laptop is well past warranty date.
- And for the curiousĖthe plan for the space bar is to use a very thin wood veneer to make an ďebonyĒ space bar. It comes in paper thin sheets at the art store. I expect this to be the spot that shows the most wear, but thatís the way it is on actual vintage typewriters too.
- Edited to add: I finished the space bar. Pictures and process are detailed here.
- The design is based on a blending of an early Royal, a Remington and a Ox-blood red Smith-Corona.
- The background is actually a screen saver from 3planesoft. I wound up deleting it after trying the demo version, because it goes through this loading thing that was bulky. It is pretty though.
process. You might also want to use their old interface, as the new one does some resizing that might frustrate you.