Saturday, October 22, 2011

NORMAN CORWIN: 1910 - 2011

One of the best writers for radio, a man famous for, among other things, radio documentaries, passed away 18 October. Norman Corwin was 101, a man whose career hit at about the peak of radio broadcasting as family entertainment.

Although he later wrote for film and TV, as well as several plays, radio was medium in which he most excelled. The spoken word can be the slipperiest of instruments; unsupported by images, with no turning-back of pages, the listener's attention must be gripped and held -- and Corwin was unmatched at doing just that.

Much of his work survives. He will be missed.

(A tip of the hat to alert reader Noel, who brought it to my attention; I knew who Mr. Corwin was but had lost track of him, assuming his passing to have been long ago).

Monday, October 17, 2011


Radio hams may be a little surprised to learn the paddlewheel steamer USS C. W. Morse, used by the Navy as a receiving ship in WW I, did not specialize in radiomen. Who was C. W. Morse? I don't know. A cursory websearch finds only the ship.

Sunday, October 16, 2011


Set in wooden type, in fact: the Hamilton Wood Type & Printing Museum in Two Rivers, Wisconsin keeps the obscure skill of wooden poster type and printing therefrom alive. (So can you, if you join: they offer studio access as a benefit of membership.)

Wooden poster type? It was the standard; most old posters (and even some new ones), especially the ones run off in huge numbers to promote events, were made with wooden type, offering huge flexibility in font and form.* It was cheaper than cast type, too. How good is it? Have a look at a nice topical example, and you tell me. (Plenty more in their store).

More about wood type can be found at the Rob Roy Kelly American Wood Type Collection at the University of Texas at Austin. It appears the very last commercial manufacturer held on until 2001.
* Windows users will find a parallel in Word: if regular typesetting is like normal typing in that program, wooden type is the Word Art utility.

Saturday, October 8, 2011


Have a gander at Hand-Eye Supply. With a primary client base in the art/handicraft printing community, they carry a number of interesting and useful items, including a nice selection of sturdy work clothing and very fine-looking safety glasses.

Not a huge stock but a number of items I've not seen elsewhere.

Friday, October 7, 2011


It's like the old carpenter said, as he hammered the screws into place: "Every trade has its tricks but mine."

Here's one. It's not much of a trick, but it helps keep me out of trouble with a router. You usually need to know the distance between the edges of the routed groove and the edge of the baseplate of the router, so you can clamp a guide down at the proper spot. You can calculate it but it's easy to get tripped up -- and why do it on paper when you can create an example and measure it directly? There you go! It's a lot easier to get everything in the right place with an actual example you can plop down on the work and use to mark it. A real pro might even use it to set dividers and eschew the numbers altogether. Me, I'm an amateur and this makes it easier to visualize how things will turn out.

As you might suppose, I'm building more bookshelves. As ever, I find a ratio of at least 4:1 between the measuring/setting-up and doing the cutting.

(The greenish tint to the freshly-exposed wood? It's a scrap piece of poplar, which often looks a bit green. Very nice to work with, harder than most soft woods. Smoothed and linseed-oiled, it will usually retain the hue.)

Monday, October 3, 2011


Proud of your new minivan, are you? The one with a flexible interior: repositionable seats, maybe a table? The nice flat-floor unibody automobile, all streamlined and with excellent visibility?

Yes, a heck of a vehicle -- as good an idea now as it was in 1935, when the Stout Scarab first rolled out. What, you've never heard of it? Most people haven't, despite contemporary articles describing it as the coming thing. They were very expensive and only a few were built.

But, allowing for stylistic differences and engine placement, you'll see plenty of its distant descendants on the road today.

(Stumbled over the Scarab looking up the Dymaxion car. Did you know a new one was finished just last year? And they're still tricky to drive).