Thursday 30 June 2011

Silver dream machine

 ...well, not quite. I put it back together to see just how good the finish on the inside needed to be. Turns out it is good enough. I used a wire brush in the electric drill to get the paint off the inside, so it isn't anywhere near a mirror finish. You can see there's still the odd patch of paint to come off, and then the whole thing needs polishing to get the worst of the abrasion scratches and watermarks out (see bottom pic) ...and I have to make 4 new feet. And the shift and rails need lubing and the keytops cleaning. I scoured the spotty growths from the platen with dry wire wool. So now it is shiny, but paper still feeds OK. 

But none of that really matters. The important thing is, it looks pretty damn good so far!

(Click pics to supersize)

Underwood Portable typewriter restoration

Wednesday 29 June 2011

Ribbontop's-a- gobo

Bobbin lid, reel shield, spool cowl Take your pick.

Here's all that's left of the branding on the Underwood Portable Typewriter. I'll try to polish some of those abrasion marks but steel's so much harder than alloy. Getting there...

Tuesday 28 June 2011

Grumpy wizards

Click image to go to Google Web Font

Just been alerted to Google Web Fonts new collection. If you fancy adding a "... Smith Corona Special Elite Type No NR6", and don't mind getting your hands dirty under your website's hood, head on over to the collection and pick a font to add to your site. For legibility, I'm sticking with Georgia, for now. Special Elite could be good for headlines though!

Beyond the pale

An update on my stripping of the Underwood 4

I'd harboured a hope that after the first application of Nitromors, I would be able to restore this 1930 Underwood 4 to its original finish. I tried to control the degree of paint removal by applying the paint stripper and leaving it for only short periods before rinsing and scrubbing it. But the glimmer quickly turned into a gleam as the aluminum began to show through, both as  normal wear patches at the corners of the keyboard and elsewhere. 

The original black was largely intact but the rear gold decals on the back were already softened and blurred by my first attempts and the original clear laquer had come off with the brown enamel. This left the black dull and lifeless. 

I'd generally consider it a sacrilege to rub down to bare metal on such an old typewriter but there wasn't much option to do anything else. I could have left it partially stripped but I'm not going to beat myself up about it. After the application by its former keeper of the brown enamel, this was never going to make a museum quality specimen - I reckon they made quite a few of this model. After a minute's reflection, I decided to go for it. The frame and front plate are both aluminium but the paper table and ribbon covers are steel and seem to be painted with different stuff which is harder to get off.

On the aluminium, I'm using 400 grit wet paper which I'll follow with 0000 grade steel wool, finishing up with Autosol chrome and alloy polish. I tried this routine on the back as a test and it seems to work OK.

After finishing, I'm not sure whether to clear laquer it to preserve the polished finish or paint it with some design or other. Suggestions welcome!

Sunday 26 June 2011

Rear of the year

Lots of reasons for getting this typewriter:
  • One-piece quick-release alloy footbed (not sure why)
  • The colour is just about interesting enough to make it desirable
  • Groovy cat-flap at the back hides the tabulator pins
  • It is Italian
  • It is beautiful type on (despite warnings to the contrary)
  • It had my name written all over it (see above)!
  • From the rear, it has the profile of a freshly baked crusty white cottage loaf.

Test: See if you can spot the deliberate 'mistake' in its Eurotrash gallery mug-shot. 
Answers welcome in the comments box below.

PS: If you get stuck, I'll post the answer in the next post.

Friday 24 June 2011


So, Typewriter Day 2011 has been and gone. Trips were taken, photos made and videos captured. Google's response to typewriterday2011 numbers 129 results and counting - the typosphere's 40 watt light bulb glows a little brighter this evening.

For me, it was a day in two parts: first, I have made better movies with typewriters in them - but when you see everyone tapping away on the same day and for the same purpose, well, it brings a tear to the eye. Fun to be part of it. Like Facebook groups, another strange 'out of body' experience, bumping into folks on the 'Tube. But then, my view count went through the floor. Could it be all my regulars were out with their camcorders? Not that stats matter. This is all about personal expression and a fondness for typewriters... right?

The Good Companion has just left the building on its way to my little sister, courtesy of another good companion. Sorry it is late Di, worth the wait, should be there by 11.00pm. And there's a gap in the carpet on the dining room floor where it used to sit. Sigh.

NOT to worry, please allow me to introduce you to Everest K2! You'll have spotted it in action in the video of the previous post. At £32.45, it was VERY expensive (for me) but worth every penny. Proper photo under controlled studio conditions will follow soon when the K2 is greeted at the Pearly Gates and finds a  final resting place among Typewriter Heaven's other Eurotrash.

Thursday 23 June 2011

Typewriter Day 2011

Happy Typewriter Day! The best intentions, and all that. A deadline and then rain stopped play - or at least put me off a canoe trip. At least I'm not trying to do something serious, like play tennis. Reckon stage fright got the better of my spelling by the look of it.

Wednesday 22 June 2011

Alicia Keys - Typewriter

Just in time for International Typewriter Day (23 June) a new anthem for angst-ridden typorati. Nice change from Leroy Anderson's The Typewriter.

Tuesday 21 June 2011

SM3 induction

Surprise, surprise, I have decided this typewriter is a keeper. Now on permanent display (and with a foot-fetish friendlier photo) in the Typewriter Heaven Olympia gallery.

Underwood stripper

Regarding the previous post: Shordzi asked about the brand of paint stripper I used to remove the hand-painted brown finish (I think it is model maker's enamel). The can recommends 40 minutes. I left it for 10 before dunking in a bucket of water, brushing and rinsing it off.

Warning: This softened the decals to some extent, especially on the back of the frame where I left it on for about 15mins. This means that the writing is indistinct. The underlying original finish seems unaffected by the stripper.

Monday 20 June 2011

Underwood uncovered

This looked sooo much nicer on ebay!
This 1930s machine has sat neglected in the loft for several years but these silver surfers over the pond have shown that a new paint job is achievable, without too much stress. It is a crying shame that removing the paint will destroy the original Underwood decals.
Thinking that if someone could paint it so badly and in such a crappy colour, the technical challenge of dismantling this Underwood wouldn't be beyond me. It didn't take long to find the two screws fixing the aluminium body to the its guts. I'm going to run into a challenge when it comes to the feet. The front ones are bolted to the frame but specifically shaped to take the nut and and bolt and grooved to accommodate the case fixings. Maybe I can whittle something. The back feet also need replacing...

STOP PRESS: I just had a quick dab with paint stripper. The hand-painted brown has started to come off fairly easily - decals and original enamel pretty much OK. Maybe this could turn into a renovation rather than a reinvention?

The glue sticking the aftermarket interior sponge foam (???!!!) is harder to get off than the paint!

Sunday 19 June 2011

Wilhelmshaven vs Frankfurt

Got one of these?

The Emoticon Legend types thank you letters to aunts, uncles and grandparents for birthday presents
...get some of these :-)

However will we survive when these are all used up? Note lack of bar-code on the 1980s' packaging

Friday 17 June 2011

Mint Imperial

...well, almost mint. Here's a second booklet hand-made by the cherubim in Typewriter Heaven along with the Antares Parva manual. This one is about a basket-shift tabulator from an outpost of Imperial's empire on England's East Coast*.

*Try saying that with a mouthful of Rice Crispies.

Disclaimer: publication not intended as a user guide or maintenance manual. 

Thursday 16 June 2011

Strip show

By popular request, a slide show of the stripped plywood case from the Olympia SM3. The case had been somewhere damp as you can tell from the tarnished metalwork and black stain. I haven't tried to conceal any blemishes and the only work on the furniture was to polish the chrome and emery one of the handle fasteners which was all rusty. The tricky part (aside from removing the paint) was to protect the interior which is flocked (not fabric lined) and easily damaged by clamping in a workbench. It wasn't in great condition to start with. Clean flock by dabbing, not wiping.

You can see that the case was only intended to be painted - the joinery is crude and the beech veneer marked, though the original paint in those areas was intact. The rubber feet were compacted, crumbling and damaged. Since they are symmetrical, I sliced the damaged surface off, reversed them so the good side is on the outside, and glued them in place after varnishing the case - they'll need tidying inside with a patch of felt.

Anyone fancy a go? After removing the handle, catch and feet (4x metal and 4 rubber), here's a list of what I used:
  1. 1/3 sheet orbital sander (beech is pretty tough and shows no sanding rings)
  2. 40 grit Aluminium Oxide abrasive paper to remove the top paint
  3. 80 grit once the wood starts to show through
  4. 240 grit emery paper to hand flatten the surface prior to varnishing
  5. Rag and spirit to clean between sanding and varnishing
  6. 2 coats quick drying polyurethane varnish (at least)
  7. Dust mask, ear protectors and forgiving neighbours.
Have fun...

    Wednesday 15 June 2011

    True grit

    Furniture screwed back in place. The varnish said "satin" on the tin - but it looks almost glossy.
    So there I was, thinking I'd never get all the paint off the Olympia SM3's case, but I decided to try a new batch of paper on the orbital sander. Wow! 40 grit Aluminium Oxide paper really shifts paint without clogging. 80 grit swept away the undercoat and primer all the way down to bare wood. All in about half an hour. £3.00 well spent.

    Thanks Richard the Bikecaster for the ID tip. Looks like it is a non-Deluxe SM3. I should have guessed by the way it doesn't say Deluxe on the type basket.

    Tuesday 14 June 2011


    Un-painting this Olympia's box could end up being a lost cause. The promise of a fine wooden finish seems out of reach because of the tenacity of hammerite primer.

    Richard commented he was curious about how these boxes were made: the bottom and two sides are solid wood and the curved top is steamed ply. They are nailed and glued with any gaps filled with... filler. In short, they were made to be painted. But the same heavy duty sanding which originally profiled the corners isn't proving anywhere near as effective at removing the paint.

    I'll persevere a little longer before preserving with varnish and replacing the hardware.

    Also, I'd thought I had an SM3 but the manual I downloaded from MLG suggests otherwise. There's no tabulation and the paper support isn't push-button operated. These are reffered to in the manual. It DOES have spring-loaded key tops though. Any helps with ID welcome. The SN is 728899.

    Sunday 12 June 2011


    Blond beech veneer shining through the grey hammerite - photos of the SM3 to follow soon.

    Saturday 11 June 2011

    Dove grey

    I just picked up this Olympia from a nice lady in Cowley, Oxford, home of the Mini. You could say it was Dove Grey - a favourite colour of the Mini's forebear, the Morris Minor. It needs some cleaning and the carriage is grinding on the bodywork, so I'm just off to the hardware shop to get some half-inch tap washers to replace the rubber mounting bushes.

    The case is painted metallic Hammerite grey. From the finish, the styling and the age of the machine - I'd guessed it was fibreglass like the case for my Imperial Good Companion 5. Not so. It is steam formed beech ply and I'm tempted to strip it and varnish it! According to Schumann, the s/n 728899 makes it a 1956 SM-3. It has sprung key tops but no tabs.

    It was a lazy purchase. I saw it was local and checked I could pick it up from the seller (nobody wants to package a typewriter if they don't have to) and got it for £9. The intention being to fix it up and sell it - just for fun - to see if I could turn base metal into gold like the recent Channel Blue Corona 4 proved was possible. Could be tough parting with it now though...

    Wednesday 8 June 2011

    Open and shut

    I'm in the process of making a new typewriter manual for The Good Companion Model 5 and I just couldn't resist sharing a couple of the photos.

    News just in: The Imperial Typewriter factory in Leicester, UK, was raided yesterday and 33 illegal workers arrested. Leicester has a large community with origins in India and Pakistan who have found UK borders alternately open and shut.  Read the full story...

    Link to homepage

    Tuesday 7 June 2011

    Olivetti apparel

    The inevitable T-shirt. The previous Antares and Groma designs are pretty much redundant logos. This one is too, but Olivetti's still trading under a different flag. If you stare at it long enough - it looks like a Japanese character. Just realised the animation might put some viewers in a trance - if so, enjoy...

    Link to homepage

    Monday 6 June 2011

    Olivetti braggadocio

    Having previously pooh-poohed the Olivetti logo of the 50s, 60s and 70s as being neither pictorial nor consistently applied, the celebration of Giovanni Pintori's work by ninonbooks prompted a revisit. I don't know if it was drawn by him but my conclusion: it is a glorious logo.

    Have a play with it. Right click to download your very own hi-res bitmap here.

    I don't have access to the fonts used in the advertising, though Bodoni italic is a good start for words like Lettera etc. The namestyle on Sottsass'es Valentine is appropriately, for a red plastic typewriter with orange bobbin-knobs, set in Braggadocio. On contemporary machines, so's Adler. And cruelly mis-applied in Boston.

    Sunday 5 June 2011

    Channel blues

    Have good photography and an active Typosphere helped to inflate prices of used typewriters? You quite often see people on ebay offering, say, a Remington Noiseless Portable with a reserve of £300 - needless to say, they don't sell.

    I was I was keeping an eye on a Corona 4 in Duco Channel Blue on ebay - just idle curiosity, you know - and which did sell for a very high price, as did this pretty ordinary-looking Underwood from the same seller.  I have ones just like them which cost around £20 a few years ago.

    Then there's the article posted yesterday on Technorati about old typers being a good investment. Anyone starting to think about insurance yet? And so much for my dreams one day of finding (and affording) a Lavender and gold C4

    Has the sad day may have arrived when a used typewriter costs many times more than the postage?

    This is what a £113 Corona 4 in Channel Blue looks like and...

    ...this is what a £20 Corona 4 in Channel Blue looks like

    Thursday 2 June 2011

    Flat Lake

    This coming weekend 3 June:
    Irish literary and arts festival Flat Lake discounts entry fee if you bring a typewriter.

    ...and a Malling-Hansen reference for Richard.