I’ve given away a few machines lately (the latest was my only electric portable, an early one), mainly because I know I wouldn’t have used them as much as they deserve to be used. I’ve pared down my collection a little to the essentials. Several factors prevent me from having a larger collection:

1. Money, or lack of it.

2. Lack of space. I live in a modest home with not even a place to have a permanent workbench.

3. I’m not much of a collector by nature. I don’t just pick up machines in an effort to have examples of everything (although I applaud those that do – they are preserving a part of our history). I selected the ones I own because I like to type on them.

I figure I’d like to have a small collection of machines in excellent working condition. This dream team would include one of each of the following: Hermes 3000 (2nd generation), Olympia SM9 (got it), Olympia SM3,4 or 5 (got the ‘3), Smith Corona Silent Super from the 50’s (got it), Olympia SF or Hermes Rocket, Olivetti Lettera 32, Olivetti Studio 44 (got an Olivetti 21 – essentially the same thing), Torpedo portable, Underwood TM5 desktop, Olympia SG1 or SG3 desktop. That’s 10 machines total to achieve Omnipresent Galactic Creaminess. A goal worth reaching for, I think.

Let’s hope I can achieve it before they all end up either in the landfill, or with their fingertips all cut off.

This had to have been one of the last models made by Smith-Corona. We must be talking early 80’s here. I got it for $6, just to see what the last gasp of manual typers was like. Man, is this thing cheap! I have nothing against plastic per se, but ultra-cheap plastic is just not acceptable. One of the tab levers crumbled in my hand.

100_0870 Since it is a relatively small and flat machine, I’m guessing this was the end of the line for the Skyriter lineage. If so, then it came to a sad, sad end. I can’t imagine this thing lasting for more than a few term papers in the hands of a college student. At least I can get the sticky keys unstuck and let my daughter play with it – that’s about all a machine of this build quality is good for. A toy.

Like I said, I was curious what the last days of the manual machine were like. It made me instantly feel even more grateful for my SM9 and Olivetti 21 (which, by the way, I finally got around to fixing). Those were machines built to last a lifetime – machines meant to crank out thousands of hours of serious typing, typing, typing. I think I’ll go pound out a few pages of my story, now that I think about it. Happy Summer!

I was able to make a trip down to Cambridge Typewriter in Arlington this morning. It’s something I’ve only done twice before – to drop off & pick up my SM9 when being refurbished. This time, I was on a fact-finding mission. I had a few specific machines I was hoping to test drive, get some questions answered about my ‘project’ machine – the Olivetti 21 that has been sitting for over a month now, and just take in the smell of the place.

Man, they have a lot of machines there. The owner, Tom Furrier, was very helpful, and answered all of my questions thoughtfully, even the inane ones. Then I took a look at what he had on hand, picked out a few machines to test, and got to it. Here are my initial impressions:

The first machine I tried was a Royal Quiet DeLuxe from the late 1940’s? – the ones with the first post-war angular chassis, but still with the glass keys. I was surprised at just how small this machine was in person. Ebay listing photos don’t give a good sense of scale in general, and I was a little taken aback when he pulled it from the case and placed it on the table in front of me. He had just serviced this one, and it was in overall excellent condition. The action was medium to me (after using many different machines today, I have to say the action on my SM9 is what I would describe as heavy. Not in a bad way, just requiring more force to get a crisp letter on paper), and maybe a little stiff. It may be just this particular machine, but it did give nice, crisp type. Not bad, I thought, but the keys felt small on my fingertips.

Next was a Corona from the 1930’s. The ones with the lacquer finish (this one was maroon) and the subtle, curvy top. Not the flat top ones – that was next. This machine had a decent overall feel, but seemed not so smooth. I was told this one had probably seen a lot of use over the years. Beautiful machine aesthetically.

Next was a flat top Corona, probably from the same era. He gave me this one specifically to show me the action. This was a great machine. The sound of the bars smacking the paper was the exact pitch you imagine a typewriter to have, and the bell was perfect. Nice, low-tax feel. If I wanted a really old machine, this would be a great one to have. Beautiful black lacquer finish, in overall excellent condition.

I had asked if he had any Hermes or Olivetti machines around, and he didn’t disappoint. First was a Hermes 2000, but it hadn’t been serviced yet and had some sticky keys, so back in the case it went. Next was a 3000 with the second-generation metal chassis, not the sloping, curvy one. This machine was in excellent condition, so I put in a piece of paper and started typing. Oh. My. God. He noticed right away the difference in how I was typing and said “See what I mean, you’re using about half the force as you would on your Olympia.” I could have typed on that machine all morning. Then he told me that the action on the 2000’s is even better, and I knew I had to have one. He acknowledged the problem of brittle platen knobs on the 3000’s, and said he hasn’t seen the same issue on the 2000’s (hmmm…2 things to recommend the 2000 over the 3000). He did say that many people prefer the basket shift of the 3000 to the carriage shift of the 2000. “But it’s like driving a stick shift instead of an automatic – eventually you forget you’re even pressing the clutch pedal”. I have to agree.

As far as an Olivetti, he had a Lettera 33. Same exact mechanicals as the Lettera 32, just in a different suit. This was the first travel, flat top machine I have ever tried. I have to say it was pretty darn good. Medium to low-tax feel, nice crisp type, decent overall sounds and experience. I could see bringing one of these on a trip, sure. No Hermes Rockets in the shop to compare it to, though. He said those things go just days after he gets ‘em in the shop.

I had him take a look at my Olivetti 21 (essentially a Studio 44) and he felt it just needs a thorough brushing and cleaning, then some light oiling with sewing machine or ‘light machine’ oil. He even showed me the types of brushes he uses. I was there for almost an hour in total, and would have stayed for more, but I didn’t want to occupy his time any longer. I saw he had the newspaper open to the Sudoku puzzle on his desk, and I wanted to let him get back to it. I was a little light headed when I left, more inspired than ever to learn how to fix these things.

For me, that was the equivalent of seeing Kiss when I was 16. Funny how your definition of exciting changes over the years. Now I just have to get my hands on a 2000 and if it’s as good as Tom says they are, I think I will have achieved Omnipresent Galactic One-ness.

Wow, and the weekend is not even half over! Life is goooood.

I bought her on EBay for $13. Had her serviced at Cambridge Typewriter Co. in Arlington MA. Now she purrs like a kitten. A disciplined, German kitten. I plan on passing her to my daughter in 10 years or so. A lean, mean writin’ machine! She’s 1971 vintage, and built to last. I remember Strikethru referring to the Olympia SM9 as a cross between a Swiss watch and an anvil, or something like that. I agree. She has a great, precise touch but is built like a tank.

 

Go on, I dare ya!

Go on, I dare ya!

I wanted to use her for NaNoWriMo this year, but I got sidetracked early in the game. I’m going to keep plugging away, but won’t make the 50k. Maybe next year.

 

My little future writer

My little future writer

As soon as I brought it home, she was all over it. She doesn’t know what she’s writing, but she loves the feel and the sounds and the smells. I think I’ll try to find one for her. Purple, of course!

Since I was thinking about trying to enter NaNoWriMo this year, I started thinking about the old manual typewriter I had when I was a kid. I’m pretty sure it was a Smith-Corona from the late 60’s, but don’t quote me. Anyhoo, I started looking around the Interwebs and lo and behold! I found that manual typewriters have a small but fervent following. Long story short, I ended up buying a 1971 Olympia SM9 portable manual machine. For $13! I just recently had it serviced by Cambridge Typewriter Co., and she is sweet! (yeah, she’s a lady). Next thing I know, I’m daydreaming about typewriters at work, constantly looking at listings on eBay, buying typewriter paper, and gearing up for a crack at NaNo. I think I have a new obsession on my hands.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.