Tuesday, February 4, 2020

A tiny bit of resistance to the throwaway culture

A while back I decided to get a typewriter to assist my letter-writing (I like writing old-fashioned snail mail, but my lefty handwriting is atrocious), so I found an old 1948 Royal Quiet DeLuxe in an antiques shop that was broken and filthy and fixed it up into a sparkling machine. 

This made me inordinately happy, so I found another broken and dirty typer and fixed it up so I could have a typer upstairs to use to type my notes for my botanical project sketchbooks, and a typer downstairs so I could type my letters in the morning without disturbing Walu’s sleep. (Also, he mocks my anachronistic ways roundly whenever he hears me typing, so that is another advantage to having one where I can type away from the madding crowd.) I enjoyed getting the second typer and fixing it so much that when another little gem showed up...

And so it goes. This latest typer was one I went looking for because it is a true portable: A 1953 Swiss-made Hermes Rocket, weighing in at 8.5 pounds. Typewriter aficionados call it “the laptop.” It was the usual sort of dirty that a 60+ year old typewriter would have, but though the keys were sluggish, none were actually stuck. So I cleaned it up and set to tinkering. The cleaning made the key action snappier, but there was a problem with what is called the “trip”—when the carriage moves forward as the key slug approaches the platen. Maladjusted trip can cause letter piling or crowding (when letters literally pile on top of each other instead stringing out in a line), and that was the problem I had with this Rocket. I put out a query on the FB Antique Typewriter Maintenance page, but nobody had any good ideas about how to adjust the trip. Fortunately, there are typewriter fanatics in the world, and some of them have collected typewriter repair manuals, which they have reprinted and bound, and so I ordered one. It came in the mail yesterday, and there on page 26 were instructions on how to adjust the escapement trip (shown in the photo with the screwdriver). I got my pliers and two minutes later I had a Hermes Rocket that is a good as the day it was born. 

I got the Rocket to take with me on my field excursions. I think it will be perfect for typing up my notes at the end of the day—a computer and word processor in one, that needs no power but that of my fingers and mind.

What I like best about all of this, though, is that here was an object someone had decided was no use anymore because it was broken. And now it is not broken. And it is still useful.

Just like The Maggie

Saturday, February 1, 2020

Adding solar power to The Margaret Mee

I am waaaaaay behind the updates on my work on the MM, but one of the big projects--arguably the biggest--was adding the option of running off solar power. The camper came with a 12 volt system, which, when plugged into electric at a campground, runs just fine with the use of a converter. By adding a 100 watt solar panel and 20 amp charge controller, however, I am not tied to using only campgrounds with electrical outlets. This way I can run LED lights, charge my phone, and play a radio while in camp. The solar power is not enough to run a heater or AC, however, so if I decide to add and use those luxuries, I will have to plug in.

Anyway, here are some photos of the work:

Ordered everything online: 

Did some investigating to see how to tie into the existing system:

Tied everything into a new 75 ah AGM battery:

Hooked up the charge controller:

And then hooked up the solar panel (this should always be the last step--otherwise you can ruin the electrical system):

Made a nice panel to hide the charge controller (the botanical print is by Elaine Searle):

I will not lie, this was hard for someone with very little electrical experience, but I read up on it quite a bit, asked a lot of questions of people who do have experience on the Facebook DIY Teardrop Camper group page, and then had it checked out by a neighbor who is an electrical contractor. I think I spent about $600 total. I probably could have done it for less, but I didn't have many of the tools or materials lying around for this.

There might be one little hiccup, though: I tried hooking up the Maggie to practice backing up last week, and the trailer's brake lights now do not work. Since I did not mess with that particular wiring in the installation, I am hopeful it is not something I did. I had my car mechanic check the car, and that system is working just fine, so there is the possibility that it is the four pin connector that connects the car wiring to the trailer. It was old, so I replaced it, but I have not yet had a chance to see if that fixes the problem. If It doesn't I'll have to take it somewhere to have someone work on it.