Thursday, April 4, 2024

Front panel lettering of the Standard Folding Typewriter

The very distinctive 'Standard Folding Typewriter' lettering on the aluminum front-panel is now also applied to the restored machine. At first it was a bit faded and not quite the result that was aimed for, but it did look 'aged' and in keeping with a century-old machine :)

In the process of restoring this derelict machine, the front panel was completely stripped to bare aluminum again. To complete the restoration, it was also to get a new 'decal' with the distinctive 'Old English black' typeface stating that it is a Standard Folding Typewriter.

To start with, a suitable 'Old English' typeface was found and the basic lettering created with it. This already gets close, but there are still noticeable details that are 'off'.

Using some of the many photographs that are available online of Standard Folding typewriters, the lettering was tweaked to better match the letter-kerning and line-spacing.

Then the size of the lettering was estimated from counting pixels on photographs, and calculating what percentage of width of the front panel was the distance between the outside of the uprights of the 'F' and the 'r'.

This lettering was then laser-printed mirror-image on silicone-covered backing paper. That's by re-using the backing of a regular label-sheet for laser-printing - giving several 'heat-transfer' labels.

A 'transfer' was then taped to the front-panel and an iron was used to heat-press the black laser-toner onto the aluminum surface.  The sintered toner again becomes soft and adheres better to the aluminum than it does to the backing-paper, at least that's the theory. (In hindsight, should have cleaned the aluminum surface better, with acetone or similar de-greaser - a next time...)

Some corners of the decal somehow didn't transfer neatly - the right-most 'r' was e.g. missing. Also the black toner transfers to the textured aluminum imperfectly, as if leaving the tops of the texture exposed and resulting in a faded, grey appearance. (Possibly some printer-setting could be found to apply excess toner, again something for a next time...)

The net-result after application was not quite what was hoped for; it does match the look of an aged machine, but does not match the 'new' keys and overall clean machine. On the plus-side, the heat-transfer laser-toner is not fragile - it's a very rub-resistant 'decal'.

Alternatives could have been a waterslide transfer or direct ink-jet printing. Because of the bare, textured aluminum a waterslide transfer is however not ideal, because the outline of the backing would probably show clearly. The direct inkjet-printing onto the aluminum surface also has its challenges; a consumer-printer would require some significant modification to accept the front-panel. A more suitable printer would be a UV-cured inkjet printer that can print also on irregular surfaces. These are usually found in a professional setting (e.g. as used to make promotional merchandise, printing on bottles etc.), so also not readily accessible for tinkering/exploring as an option.

With some careful retouching, the end result of this attempt with heat-transfer of laser-toner is however not too bad. There were enough 'hints' from the transfer to create the missing 'r' and to e.g. complete the 'd'. (Retouching was done with a fine camel-hair brush and black latex paint - this paint can be easily removed with a damp cloth in case of mistakes. Not so durable, but safe and reversible.) 

End-result is a fairly decent reproduction 'decal' on the Standard Folding Typewriter, fitting for a restored 100+ year old machine. 

(There is always the option to clear the panel with a gentle glass-bead blasting and re-do things; in case a better option comes along. For now, we'll leave it for a bit - see how this 'ages' :-)

No comments:

Post a Comment