Saturday, December 05, 2009

Sic Transit Gloria Mundane.

Sickened by all the eBay typewriter auctions that state "Will cut off the keys". That's like killing an elephant for the tusks. -Marko Kloos on Twitter
My friend Marko really likes him some typewriters. The process of using a manual typewriter resonates with the particular strain of creativity he possesses: The letters imprinting mechanically onto the paper, with finality, all in one pass; the writer feeling connected to an intricate, well-crafted machine that, further, might be significantly older than he is.

Of course, the very things he most enjoys about typewriters are the reasons they have been pretty much entirely supplanted for day-to-day use by computers and word processing programs. People generally don't give a rodent's hindquarters about the gestalt of the creative process when they want to knock out a business letter, a brownie recipe, or an email to grandma, and we'll usually gladly give up that feel of a well-oiled mechanical interface for the ability to back the cursor up and change "rat's ass" to "rodent's hindquarters" so as not to shock said grandma.

Myself, I love old military rifles, and I most love them in their original condition. I know that every day they get re-finished or cut down into ungainly hunting rifles, are left to rust in neglect, or are even broken up for spare parts on GunBroker. I know that if I want to ensure that one is preserved in its original condition, the only way I can do so with any assurance is to buy it myself and leave it alone. I have to live with the fact that other people may not see things my way, and that they are free to do as they want with their rifles.

It's the nature of the beast; for every old treadle sewing machine or wooden spinning wheel lovingly preserved, dozens have been turned into planters and thousands upon thousands have been thrown away. The comparatively few all-original '32 Fords and '57 Chevies are valuable because so many were turned into "hot rods" and so many more were turned into scrap metal. What were the everyday appliances of yesteryear are the treasured artifacts of today precisely because so many were altered or destroyed.

With old manual typewriters, the fad of the moment is to turn the key caps into costume jewelry, and throw the rest of the typewriter away. This understandably annoys Marko, although it's perhaps more respectful of the typewriter than what would otherwise happen, which is the machine getting pitched into the dumpster or recycling bin, key caps and all. It was seeing this typewriter butchery mentioned on eBay that set my roommate off on her latest round of acquisitions.

I know well the feeling of "People are destroying these things I love so much..." The trick is in not appending the second half of the thought: "...somebody oughtta DO something about it!" because that way lies madness. At best you wind up trying to adopt every puppy in the pound; at worst, you start some annoying organization like People for the Ethical Treatment of Antiques.

14 comments:

skipelec said...

Guilty!
I have not altered the metal, but my Mausers [the shooters] are restocked and scoped.
Sorry :{

Tam said...

I've largely come to terms.

After all, there are a LOT of Mauser 98s and Mosin 91/30s out there. And if somebody wants to buy the very last one and paint it Mossy Oak and put it in a fiberglass stock? Well, they bought it, it's their gun.

Blackwing1 said...

"I know that if I want to ensure that one is preserved in its original condition, the only way I can do so with any assurance is to buy it myself and leave it alone."

If you have a unique specimen, or even just one that's in particularly good condition, there is an alternative to clogging your storage space with a "safe queen". That's to donate it to a firearms museum. I picked up a 1926-vintage Marlin 39, not knowing at the time that the bolt was subject to cracking if fired with high-velocity ammo. I cleaned it, and fired it with CCI "standard" (i.e., "low") velocity ammo, but I wasn't going to stock that stuff (at the outrageous price they get for it) just for that rifle. The rifle itself was beautiful, with burled walnut stock and (what was left after rusting in a basement) color-case-hardened receiver.

Rather than leave it languish in the back of the gun safe, my wife and I donated it to the Buffalo Bill Historical Center's firearms museum. We never had it appraised, so we never even took the tax write-off, but we know that it's in very safe, clean, dry, museum-quality storage, and will be available for anyone to look at.

It just made us feel good to know that we had preserved it for future generations to look at and admire. Yup, it cost me the price of the rifle and my time in cleaning it, but I felt that was just part of the donation to posterity. Donation to a museum with a firearms branch is just another way to keep them intact.

Anonymous said...

14-year-old son is crazy about 1960s and 1970s era cars. His latest quest is to get an old Beetle and stick a Meyers Manx (dune buggy) body on it. This process involves removing existing body, cutting out a 14" section of the chassis and re-assembling the two halves.

My first two cars were Beetles (66 and 68). On one hand, it's a great project to do with a teenager, on the other hand, I hate to chop up a working Bug (not enough of a mechanic to resurrect a dead one).

Samsam

Jeffro said...

Welp, guns and typewriters are one thing. However....

Eliminator or stock? Modified for me, thank you very much!

Borepatch said...

Dad (who's written a bunch of books) says that when he wrote with pen and ink, he wrote a word at a time. With a typewriter, he wrote a sentence at a time, and with a computer it's a paragraph at a time.

Of course, that practical, results oriented approach is what causes people to put a scope on their lever gun. (shudder)

New Jovian Thunderbolt said...

Bucolic farm scenes painted on the blade of a fine old Disston D-115, or Panther handsaw. Then screwed to the wall of a bad chain restaurant through the rosewood handle... (at least you can strip the 'art' off the blade and thus restore. the handle is ruined forever.)

Screwing fine Chelor 400 year old molding or sash planes worth $10k+ to the wall of the same restaurant. Or worse. Using them as kindling in your woodstove.

Yup, it happens all over. Uusually

D.W. Drang said...

...for every old treadle sewing machine or wooden spinning wheel lovingly preserved, dozens have been turned into planters and thousands upon thousands have been thrown away. And, since we have a "sewing room" that is more spinning wheel museum than sewing room, I always expect Mrs. Drang to weep on seeing said planters. But. She often looks and says "It wasn't that good to start with" or points out missing or warped/unusable parts.
Besides, they still make spinning wheels. Treadle sewing machines, too, I bought Mrs. Drang one fomr the PX catalog shortly before we were married...

Old Grouch said...

I hate to chop up a working Bug (not enough of a mechanic to resurrect a dead one).

Think so? Check this out before you make your mind up:
How to Keep Your Volkswagen Alive: A Manual of Step-by-Step Procedures for the Compleat Idiot
Written "by hippies, for hippies;" will guide the novice all the way up to engine rebuilding. (One of the best technical manuals I've ever encountered.)

You CAN do it!

Firehand said...

All the forges I've seen turned into planters...

perlhaqr said...

Samsam: As someone who does crazy stuff like that to cars, if the boy isn't enough of a mechanic to resurrect a dead Beetle, I predict that you're going to end up with a de-bodied and sawn in half VW littering your back yard.

On a project of that scope, he'd do well to acquire the mechanical skills before embarking.

Joseph said...

I am one of those who would like to adopt every puppy in the pound. My heart cringes every time I see a stray; anyone who dumps a dog by the side of the road needs to be flogged till they bleed. They cannot survive in the wild long, cars, disease or other animals will kill them quickly and unpleasantly.

I'd still like to buy a Mauser, I have several Mosin-Nagants...all non-modified. I know a lot of people are looking for a "cheap" hunting rifle, but if you can afford it, for Pete's sake buy a decent hunting rifle. Don't cut up a historical rifle to do it. Of course, as Tam points out, it is YOUR rifle. This is why it is hard to find original Springfield '03's.

Pedro said...

Vindicated!
My WW1 vintage Lee Enfield .303 hasn't been fired in nearly 10 years, mainly because my ageing eyesight can't handle iron sights anymore.
The legion of carpetbaggers who want it to "cut down" or "scope up" have been told in no uncertain terms never to darken the door again.

You cannot recreate history.

Buddy said...

I just finished restoring a 1903A3 that used to belong to my brother-in-law. It was not cut, or drilled, and the original wood was sporterized. I found a new bolt, new back sight, and all the other little bits missing, and bought a set of wood with all the metal from a co-worker with intact cartouches and stampings. Now it resides in a place of honor next to my CMP 1903. At least one old warhorse saved!