Typewriters

Is it possible to have too many typewriters?  Maybe someday I’ll find out!

Typewriters are amazing machines. The main one I use is a 1928 Remington portable. Other than the ribbon, it still has all the original parts and paint. Think about that. Is there anything made today that’s built to last over 90 years? Not that I know of.

Typewriters were built to last, and built to be USED. There is nothing more satisfying than the “clack” of each letter being imprinted on paper. Of seeing each letter permanently stamped as you type it. With a typewriter, there’s no “delete” key, no eraser. You make a mistake, you can’t take it back – just like life.

Which I find wonderfully freeing; because I KNOW I’m going to mess up with a typewriter (lots of times!), I don’t worry about it. I just type and let the words flow out.

And typewriters are simply beautiful machines. Inside, the parts are intricately connected, like a fine watch. On the outside, they sparkle and shine – especially the older models. Some of the earliest ones even resemble delicately inlaid sewing machines – because they were built using modified sewing machine factories!

I don’t own one of those, but I do have a healthy collection of over 40 typewriters, from the 1960s to the 1890s. Here are a few of mine.

MAINTENANCE TIPS

  • Ninety percent of typewriter problems can be fixed by a good cleaning
  • To remove dust & grime & gunk everywhere
    • Spray a can of condensed air all over, especially underneath.
    • Use dry Q-Tips or Swifters all over.
    • Use a dental pick (yup!) to scrape between typebars and get the ink gunk off the letters at the ends.
    • Use a big soft cosmetics blush brush for regular dusting.
  • To clean the exterior
    • For glossy paint, use the same products you would on a car. I use NuFinish Scratch Remover – it works wonders!  And it’s safe on all glossy paint, even decals. Use it with a soft cotton cloth, old shirt, or cotton makeup removal pads. Avoid microfiber – it tends to scratch paint.
    • For plastic or crackle paint, use a few drops of Dawn dish liquid & water, and a very soft cotton cloth or old cotton shirt (again not microfiber), clean as gently as possible.  (I almost never use Dawn & water on glossy paint machines; NuFinish Scratch Remover usually is enough to clean anything on those.)
  • To clean the keys
    • Use Windex (a lot of older keys are glass-topped) with Q-tips or Swifters (Swifters are stiffer, give an even better cleaning).
    • Use metal polish for the ones with metal rings.
  • For stuck keys
    • DO NOT USE WD-40. EVER.
    • Often, cleaning the gunk and grime out will do the trick.
    • If not, try rubbing alcohol.
    • If still not, try PB Blaster (it’s awesome, but hoowhee it stinks).
    • If still still not, try bending the key slightly (it’s metal, it can take it!); sometimes it’s just catching an edge.
  • To replace the ribbon
    • My go-to is calculator ribbon, which they still sell at Office Max & Office Depot; it’s the same width as all typewriter ribbon – just re-spool it on your machine’s original spools.
  • To clean the platen (the rubber roller thingy)
    • Use rubbing alcohol and cotton balls.

EXCELLENT TYPEWRITER RESOURCES:

  • Richard Polt’s page.  The best typewriter resource on the web, period.
  • Sales & Repair, New England:  The awesome Tom Furrier at Cambridge Typewriter Shop.
  • Sales & Repair, Pacific Northwest:  The equally-awesome Paul Lundy at Bremerton Office Machines.
  • Buying on eBay:  eBay is where I get most of mine. There are tons of sellers, but one of the best in terms of quality and selection and reasonable price is the AntiKey Chop.
  • Museum:  If you get a chance, it’s so worth your while to check out Frank Romano’s amazing typewriter collection at the Museum of Printing in Haverhill, Massachusetts!