Hi profSteve and Welcome:
Are you using your VCR as a tuner because your TV is too old to reach the upper channels?
In the set-up for your VCR, there should be an auto programming option so it can recognize the signal coming from the cable and that should allow you to see all unencrypted channels.
Regarding purchasing your own box, as I understand it, you have a right to purchase your own box but are not likley to find a vendor willing to sell you one (basically, because they are wholesale only). If you purchase a "universal box" off ebay for example, TW is not going to support it (at least they didn't several months ago) and I believe they are moving to boxes with Smart Card technology.