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Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Cleaning up Metal Typewriter Keys

Went out to the studio this morning, nothing specific on my to-do list. I put on music and started organizing, and ended up getting all my old typewriter keys cleaned off.

I got a 1940's typewriter a couple of years ago at the second hand store. Normally, they are pretty pricey, but the one I bought looked like someone had dropped something in it--it was mangled, which meant I could cut it up without feeling bad--

Taking things apart is an art. I don't always have the patience that I should, and the typewriter was a classic example of that. One day last year I cut all the keys off using my handy-dandy bolt cutters, which worked well but didn't allow a very close cut.

So I was faced with a bowl full of keys that looked something like this one. I got out my Dremel (Best. Tool. Ever.) and put on the metal cutoff wheel. The keys were impossible to hold using my big vice--I didn't want to clamp them so tightly that the keys would get distorted or crunched, so I ended up holding the keys using my needle-nose pliers.

I just got the safety glasses this week. I usually just wear my regular glasses, but noticed that sometimes I would not have them on when I went down to the studio and I'd use the Dremel without any eye protection because I'm lazy and didn't want to run all the way up the hill to the house. These cost around $4 at WalMart and I just leave them in the studio. Not to mention the fact that they're so stylish, having that oh-so-hip, "I cut things up with electric saws" vibe...

Anyhow. I got the metal pieces all cut off (without cutting any of Karen off in the process, which is a good thing. I slipped with the grinder a couple of weeks ago and grinded part of a finger nail off. Ouch.) 

The keys are grimy, kind of an ancient greasy dirt that doesn't want to come off. I have been cleaning metal with a new solution, which consists of some vinegar, heated up in the microwave, and some salt stirred in. It cleans things without any scrubbing or using any nasty chemicals--you should see what it does to copper! Drop in an old penny, stir it around for a second, and voila! Hot vinegar and salt--it's the bomb.  Cleans off that yucky years-old buildup without any scrubbing.

Also have made rings from the portion of metal that holds the little tiny keys that actually strike the paper. This one (left) is for sale in my Etsy shop. My goal is to use the entire typewriter in one way or another. When I eventually solder these keys to rings, or add jump rings so I can use the keys for bracelet charms, I will have the clean the spot where I will be soldering immediately before I solder. This old metal (steel, I'm pretty sure) oxidizes extremely quickly and must be sanded, fluxed, and soldered all in the space of a few minutes or the solder joint just won't hold--and yes, that's the voice of experience.

1 comment:

Faye said...

Wow, you are really handy! Yes, by all means, always wear safety glasses. I even do bush trimming with safety glasses because I'm a klutz.