Olympia SM9

This was one of the first typewriters I ever bought, the second in fact. The case was rotted and had to be thrown away. The typewriter was well used and was covered and filled with dirt and grime. I remember sitting on my couch typing for the first time and over the years, after buying more typewriters, I had forgotten this small gem and let it collect dust as it had before. It sat for more than a year at an antique booth that I had and nobody bought it for the $30 I had it priced at. I pulled this guy out of the basement for the sake of this project and found that I had been overlooking one of the best portable typewriters that I own. The keyboard takes some getting used to with the backspace key located on the right-hand side instead of the left like so many others. Besides cleaning I never had to do anything to the machine except for switching the ribbon that had dried out.
I wrote a letter to a friend today for their birthday. Typing on the Olympia was no different from typing on a computer. The action was smooth and clean. Overall the machine was quiet without the rattling and thumping of other typewriters I have used over the years. I never understood until today why so many people are willing to dish out large amounts of cash for an Olympia. It might not be the colorful model from the sixties with a curvy case and chrome trim but it works like a charm and that is what I like something that is reliable and faithful. In a world of planned obsilesence these are traits you rarely find these days.


The Remington Sperry Rand

On my quest to find the best models of desktop typewriters I came across an attractive Remington from 1966. The tan body is made of plastic and the keys, although they are also plastic, are very durable compared to other models of the time. The machine is large and robust comparable to a desktop computer that would appear on the market twenty years later.
The Sperry Rand came in the mail wrapped in cardboard and bubble wrap. It needed some dusting and the body was polished before I started to try it out. The lever is long and easy to use. The keys have the usual tension adjustment found on the left-hand side of the keyboard. The shift keys have a lot of tension to them but the action of the carriage and keys is smooth. The biggest criticism that I have about the Sperry Rand is the lousy body that rattles and echoes the sound of typing as you work. The plastic body has minimal insulation that helps the situation very little compared to the long hours of work I would be planning to have with it. It is unfortunate that the design has such a big flaw. I suppose that if you were typing to music or didn’t mind the rattling this might be a good machine for you but I would have to pass when it comes to looking for a hardworking machine.
The Sperry Rand comes with spools that require the ribbon to be replaced with a metal ring sliding in the mechanism and a steel cover sliding on top. The capacity is larger and ideal for minimal ribbon replacement.
The sleek body reminds me of the cars built during that time period but I have to say, like many things that were built around that time, the transition to plastic was the biggest flaw that occurred during that time. Perhaps if it was built with a metal body, I would give it higher rating but the way things stand now I would have to say this is better as a show piece than it is for work.


Early 1930s Smith-Corona portable

I came across this little portable yesterday while trying to ignore a hole in my mouth from a tooth that was pulled. In an antique shop out of town I spotted a burgundy Smith-Corona with a tiny medallion on the ribbon cover. Its medallion stood out to me and I could remember that it meant something but not exactly what it was. There wasn’t a label for Silent, Silent Super, or Standard. I was at a loss for what it was.
I bought the Smith-Corona and carried it out in its case that still had the original leather covered handle. The carriage worked, there was some scratching from the ribbon cover not being put all the way down before typing, and the platen is rock hard. At home I had a better look at my find and found that most of the body was in great shape and the machine worked smoothly only needing some dust cleaned out.


Smith-Corona with a layer of turtle wax.

This morning I rubbed a layer of turtle wax on the body and let it sit for 30 minutes before polishing it to a shine. Some of the keys were bent and whomever owned it last was a little rough on this machine. Who am I kidding? It was probably some kids smashing their fingers against the keys at the antique mall.
The Smith-Corona now has a new shine to it. I learned that the medallion was put on the machine to mark the first portable model made by Smith-Corona after the two companies merged together. It didn’t have a name yet and I learned that they made 350 silver bodied models in that first batch. The article also talked about how these machines were likely melted down for the silver and who knows how many still exist. I will likely try to sell the Smith-Corona. While it is a beautiful machine, I already have the ones that I truly enjoy. There is the Remington portable model 1, an Underwood four bank, and of course the Hermes 3000 that sit on my shelves. Should the burgundy Smith-Corona find a home here? Only time will tell.


Typewriters: portables versus desktops

It is not everyday you hear someone try to argue the benefits of working on a desktop typewriter, the clunky, heavy, space demanding writing utensils that collect dust in the local antique shops, but I’m willing to give it a shot.
I have been writing on typewriters for a few years now and while I own both portables and desktops I have to say I prefer the desktops. These are a difficult thing to collect and an even harder thing to sell. The space taken is more than the series of carrying cases that neatly fit onto a shelf. One has to be careful when stacking desktop models because the return levers can break when thirty pounds is dropped onto them. The sheer weight of the machines is enough to turn anybody off considering that once you put the thing down you don’t ever want to move it again.
Now that we have all the complaints out of the way lets talk about the benefits of desktops shall we. I have come across most of the highly sought after typewriters in our subculture and typed on them all. While we look at the cross between visual appeal and function I will be concentrating on function. The best machine I ever typed on, and still own, is a 1947 Royal KMG. It was a machine well maintained for a typing class in a rural classroom. Under the paper shelf the dates of maintenance were written in crayon and the platen is still soft. After hours of work being done on this machine I have never had a problem with it. The keys never stick and I can type 70-80 words a minute without a problem.
The next machine on the list of desktops I enjoy would be the older sister, the later 1930s Royal KMM. The noticeable difference between these models is the round keys on the KMM instead of the tombstone keys and the KMM is black instead of grey. Other than those differences the machines work almost identical and when working on the KMM I also had no issues with the machine. The typeface is larger and therefore each line fits fewer works but I guess it all depends on what you are looking for in your manuscript.
My fondness has carried on in the Royal family. The HH and the FP came my way in the last year and while they are built internally much like their predecessors the outside bodies are much different. The HH has green plastic keys that you will usually find missing from machines out in the wild. While the bodies are durable the keys were not made as well. The FP on the other hand was more stylish and had color options for the paint. Gray is the usual color you will find these in and with the other changes made in design you will find square keys much like a computer keyboard. The action of a FP is similar to the KMG in the sense that it runs smooth and has no issues while typing.
These machines were built to be work horses. They took a pounding for decades and still keep going with little or no maintenance needed. To only issues I have ever come across is the use of correction ribbon and eraser bits jamming the comb and other parts. Like a car this is due more to operator error than a problem with the machine. I have come across machines that had bent rods and other issues that were easily fixed and had the machine working like new when the seller had a sign on it saying, For Parts Only. Nothing is made these days that works as well or is as loyal as a Royal. My last laptop computer lasted ten years before the hard drive burned out. My 1947 KMG will never stop working unless I run out of ribbon because it is no longer produced. I should probably stock up.
Some of my complaints about portable typewriters feed into my love of desktops. When I’m writing on my Hermes 3000 I hate how the machine turns and slides as I move the return lever over. Sure, it’s light weight and looks cool when you are at the local bar but I hate it when I have to readjust the machine to keep writing. With a desktop this isn’t an issue, it stays in place and doesn’t move. You and the machine are stuck in place only concentrating on the work.
The desktop makes your writing area into what it is. It won’t be moved. That place has one purpose and one purpose only. There is no other use for a typewriter. When you place a desktop on a table or a desk that space only has one purpose after that.
The desktop is a machine of power, it demands respect and attention. It is the muscle car of the typewriter world. It may not be small, light weight and fast like some Japanese rice burner. The almighty desktop, the heavy boat anchor that sits in the back of the antique shop, is the one machine that if treated properly will be your best friend for life. Some say that a dog is man’s best friend. I am allergic to dogs and while I am a writer I have found that the best substitute is a nice heavy desktop typewriter.


Make what is old new again

While working on a project titled “The Climate Change Manifesto” I wrote a quick sectioned called make what is old new again. I thought I would share what I meant by that and hope that this idea might carry on into the near future. I have a side hobby of fixing up old typewriters and making them as close to new again as I can. Sometimes putting them back into working order means I have to have new parts made and for anything made after the 1950s that means using a 3D printer to make new keys or feet that have rotted out. The idea of using a 3D printer to create new parts for an old machine is nothing new, however there are a few people out there that have come up with ways of making typewriters a 21st century product. The USB typewriter is an open source product that can convert several styles of typewriters into a working keyboard for a computer. When connected to an Ipad or tablet the typewriter can mimic a laptop with a lit up screen sitting on the carriage of the typewriter. more about this product can be found at http://www.usbtypewriter.com

This isn’t the only piece of old equipment that is finding new life in the 21st century. Old vacuum tube AM radios are finding new life with blue tooth routers and mini-jack being added to century old technology. These old wooden radios are able to broadcast podcast and new music via cell phone without needing to plug anything in. For more about these old but new radios check out at ExceptionalRadios at http://www.etsy.com

With technology becoming more available and at a cheaper price there isn’t much that we couldn’t fix if we just put in the effort. Currently, my ability to fix things on typewriters is limited, however there is new material coming out that expands my ability to fix more typewriters. Rubber material is available now to create new rollers for carriages, new rubber feet for older pre-WWII models, or handles on older models like the Royal #10. New laser printers are available that could possibly replace those glass panels if they are broken.

Maybe I am being too much of an optimist, delaying the inevitable fate for technology that has seen its day come and go. At the local Michael’s store I saw the box for a Memory Keepers typewriter, brand new and produced in China. I don’t know what this says about typewriters in our culture these days, could the demand be so high that a new over priced option is a viable option? The new typewriters cost $175 and most collectors that have bought one to try it out only complain about the cheap parts and being over priced. the overall opinion i have seen is that anyone would do better to buy an older model at an antique booth and oil it up. I haven’t used the new machines even though I have been curious but when the going price could pay for three or four machines at a flea market i would rather save the older ones and let the new model sit on the shelf.

I hope this kind of behavior becomes the new normal, fixing and refurbishing older technology to fit into our new lifestyles. There is something missing from this digital age. Craftsmanship and quality have been sacrificed for the promise of a new and better model next year. There was a time when you could buy one product and it would be with you, loyal and reliable till the end, for have a century or more. What happened to that kind of quality? Why don’t we value our time or money like our grandparents did, instead choosing to stand in line for half a day trying to get a new Iphone? As a society, when do we start to realize that we have become disposable like the shitty products we have been fed to purchase?


Is the world a typewriter?

I have this hobby of finding and repairing old typewriters. I look for these things at flea markets, antique shops, and garage sales. It is amazing how many good deals I come across and the quality of these machines sometimes a century past its prime. with a little oil and some cleaning they work just as well as they did when they came off the assembly line. The older the machine the better.

I see these machines and I wonder if this is like the planet, are we longing for the way thing used to be while knowing somehow they will never be like that again? I heard a story on NPR today about Walden Pond and how the water has been ruined by the hundreds of thousands of visitors who come to see the place made famous by Henry David Thoreau. Who came blame them? There was a time when it may have been one of the most beautiful places in the state, now it is a tourist destination that has had the chemical balance changed from people peeing in the pond. The same thing happened with the beach seen in the Leonardo DiCaprio movie, The Beach. so many people went to find it and play in the clear blue water, the pristine site has been destroyed by those who wanted to enjoy it.

Those beaches, like my typewriters, will be forgotten and stored away in the forgotten past, having been loved too much and being traded in for something better. I came across an old Underwood four bank portable the other day. sitting alone in an antique booth waiting for me. I found the lid under the table and paid for it at the counter. It was painted blue, the decals still visible under the new blue hue. the keys looked like new with their chrome rings and glass tops. the parts moved smoothly being oiled and cared for during it’s life. I took it home and found it to be almost too good to sell. I regretted selling the last Underwood portable I came across wanting to write on it like Kerouac did when he typed out On The Road using a roll of teletype paper. The Underwood was a great find and maybe one to protect, keep it away from hands that might not appreciate it for what it is. There are still wonders in this world that can be saved, places that need to be forgotten and stored away for other to never find. let them become legends and fables for people to tell. Our planet has seen better days, Walden pond and the Beach aren’t dead, just asleep waiting for the right people to come along and give it some TLC. There is a chance that the earth can be saved. maybe we can’t save the entire planet at one time but we can find some gems and polish them up to be loved again. maybe we can fix this world one typewriter at a time.


Treat yourself like someone you are responsible for helping

This title comes from the second rule of Jordan Peterson’s 12 rules for life. While the lesson may appear obvious it is harder than it looks. When my daughter was in the NICU for three months the staff repeatedly told us to take care of ourselves first. How useful were we going to be in helping her if we weren’t taking care of ourselves? This rule goes beyond everyday care, but also applies to the you of tomorrow and twenty years down the road. If you had to plan how you wanted to be in the future what would you do to help that guy? As a parent we do this type of thinking with our children. what school will she go to? How do I make sure she can go to college? What hobbies or sports should I encourage for the best outcome? We do this all the time except for ourselves.

Recently, financial security has been a concern for me. One of my goals for this year is to have a decent amount of savings for security. While researching for my podcast I came across some things in the market that had me concerned about the near future of our economy. So how do I help myself and my future self if something does happen? For starters I have to be more responsible with my finances. Spontaneous spending has stopped, I don’t buy anything these days unless I need it or plan to flip it for a substantial profit. I run an antique booth on the side and have found some ways of adding some profitability to the setup. Along with the typewriters I sell I also supply new ribbon and coming soon I will offer what I am calling “Kerouac paper.” Sales have been well but there are times when I consider closing the booth to spend time and money on other adventures. When I have these thoughts I am pulled back in by customers who are thrilled they can not only find typewriters that work but also the supplies to keep them going. At times I tried to branch off into other areas such as sewing machines but I have yet to sell one of the cast iron beauties I refurbished and restored. typewriters is where I will stay until they stop selling.

I have noticed a change in my behavior since I finished the Self Authoring Program. I am more focused now on the things I am working on. I have started projects I would have talked myself out of in the past. There is a new podcast, I am considering expanding the website beyond the free site so that I can offer more than these simple articles. I have a plan on where these projects are going for the next couple of years. The difference is that I now have a plan.

There are still other things on my list of goals for the year that I need to work on. I have kept up my hikes with Zoey and try to get outside more than I normally do. I budget my time more and accomplish a set list of goals per day. I stopped eating out as much and cook more often at home. I am already making some headway on how I want this year to go but it is a slow process and I have to make sure I stay on the path. I have to treat myself like somebody I am responsible for helping.


Typing like Kerouac

Today was the first time i ever stepped into a Hobby Lobby store. I had loathed the place after the supreme court ruled in favor for them in the ability to discriminate against their employees, but i digress. Sarah needed to pick up some items for a project so i decided to make the most of it and do the same thing. on YouTube a man named Joe Van Cleave had been tinkering around with figuring out a way to run a roll of paper through a typewriter, in order to writing a constant stream of consciousness. he had played around with several forms of paper and created devices to hold the roll of paper. I took the “fuck it” approach and rolled it into the carriage and plopped the paper on the table. a few feet of paper later i i was running into few, if any, issues with the set up. I an using an old Royal 1930s desktop KMM and the weight alone is enough to move the paper how it deems fit. The machine is a beast and works long after many typewriters f a younger age have seen their demise.

I have been a fan of Kerouac for a few years now, truly reading his works in the past couple of years and learning about him and the rest of the beat generation. After On the Road I went onto The Dharma Bums and Big Sur. Kerouac lived a life that would surprise most being the young good looking man that he was. His style of writing was as tough on his mind as his drinking was on his body. endless hours spent behind the typewriter drinking coffee and taking whatever drugs were available to keep him awake. the life of a writer is not an easy one and it can only become harder when one decides to take the path never traveled before. today I continued on that path and started to write a book that had my attention long ago. the rough draft needs to be written and this is the way I decided to get it done. the paper won’t be changed until it runs out. 50 feet stands between me and a break. I don’t have the option of devoting weeks to finishing the piece or the majority of a day for that matter. it won’t turn out like On the Road, a steady stream of thought placed on paper, instead it will be broken up and continued when time allows. maybe, one day, when the chance arrives, i can take that break and torture myself doing something that most people would never dream of doing.


Renew, Reuse, Recycle

Over a year ago I started a hobby that has taken a few twist and turns. While thinking about global warming and where our world is heading I quickly realized that there aren’t many things made these days that will be around a decade from now. However, there are many tools and items that were made a hundred years ago that not only still exist but still work.

This adventure started with an interest in typewriters. I had bought my first typewriter, a Smith-Corona super speed that had a few parts missing and needed a little love. The adventure took over a year, it was finally fixed a few months back, but after ordering a few parts online it was working perfectly. During that tim,e I came across dozens of typewriters that had different things wrong with them and I was able to fix them all. It was during that time I realized I was saving these machines from the recycling and trash dumps to continue being used. I became a middleman between a death that would come too soon and a new life with a good home.

While a part of me wonders why people won’t take the time to figure out what is wrong with these machines it also keeps me busy looking for more that people are trying to flip or make a profit from. The oddest part of this trade is finding rusted out machines with broken carriages and platens missing from the rubber rotting off are the machines that have the highest price. People will look online and see what some machines are selling for and thing their piece of junk will sell for that, not seeing what it really is. These machines I would find useful for the parts they contained. For the price they are being sold for they will sit on the shelf and eventually move on to a darker place.

A few months back I found three AM radios at a sale where everything was half off. I picked up the radios to see if I could figure out how to fix them. I knew little about vacuum tube radios or electronics in general, but I replaced the power cords and cleaned out the bodies. Plugging in the first radio and turning it on I waited a few seconds to see the lights turn on and the static from the speaker start to fill the room. An old zenith radio had found a second chance.

When it comes to the eco conscious individual I see a few things that make sense but there are many aspects of their personality I can’t get past. They will buy new cars that cost several barrels of oil to create from the beginning of production to the point of reaching the parking lot. They by cell phones from china, eat food from supermarkets, even if it is organic it was still harvested, wrapped, and shipped from oil. At the end of the week they feel good about putting their recycling out and making money for somebody else who sells the raw material produced.

Growing up I learned three words to help the world. Reduce, reuse, and recycle was printed on a triangle pinned to the board on the side of the classroom. So far recycle is the only one that has gone anywhere in the last 20 years. Reduce is not popular with the Walmart crowd, but let’s look at reuse. I’m the type of person that likes to go to garage sales, antique shops, estate sales, and flea markets. What I try to find is items that are at their last leg in life and have a second chance waiting for them. Many of these machines are better for the environment and had their carbon bill created almost a century ago. A typewriter is Microsoft word on a machine that prints what you write while you write it, no electricity needed. The AM radios offer entertainment that have a classic sound and still play modern music if you tune in to the right channel.

My latest project is a 1922 Minnesota domestic model A sewing machine. This machine is a clone of the Singer sewing machines of the time and came with a solid oak cabinet that contains the foot pedal and belt that powers the sewing machine. Again, a fully functional machine that doesn’t use electricity. Not only is it useful but the quality of materials and the beauty they were made with isn’t matched by anything today. With a little oil, cleaning products and love the machine came back to life for another hundred years. The oak cabinet is still solid and just needs a little sanding and finish to come back to life.

While people stick to their recycling and think they are making a difference I have started to look at the other two words in that phrase. Reuse isn’t just taking stuff out of the closet and using it once in a while, for me it means bringing things back to life that people will want to use again for a second or maybe third lifetime. As for the reduce aspect of the triangle I can say that selling these items takes care of the stockpile that builds up while fixing these machines. Their sale isn’t for much profit since I try to sell them for a price that the average person can afford and are more likely to appreciate. For the type writers I don’t see many collectors trying to find typewriters, what I have been seeing is people who want one to use for letters or writing that novel they always wanted to do.

Reusing items isn’t just that one word. You are recycling the material they are made out of, reducing the need for more items to be created, and renewing a machine that somebody will love for the first time. While I have expanded into world of sewing machines it won’t stop there. I have seen quite a few tobacco pipes that are looking for a second chance and what I have learned is that with a little buffing, cleaning and a shot of whiskey they are like new for a new owner to enjoy. Who knows maybe renewing old products that were created so long ago will become a new industry.


A Vision of the Future

When I imagine what the world will look like, specifically my area of Michigan, I see a drastic change from the world we have today. Some of the things we no longer have include supermarkets, a large number of cars, and less people. There will be some resemblance of our current normality. Local governments will have more power compared to state of federal. Roads will still be around. Electricity will be available to those that can figure out a power source. Libraries will be the main source of knowledge and entertainment.

Economically, the main stores will include reuse merchandise. Items that can stand the test of time and be fixed by a steady hand. This won’t be the electronics that we have today. Cell phones won’t be around. Home phones will return as the norm, for a while. The post office will send correspondence if it is still around after a republican administration. With a return of a reliance on the post office will come a return of earlier technology like the typewriter. Some people as about ribbon and how to get more? The bright side is that ribbon is a fairly easy product to make, also if the ribbon is still in good condition it can be reinked and used several times over. I can’t think of any modern technology that has that ability.

We will see a line in human history marking when humans stopped building tools that were reliable and sturdy. The quality of tools will mean more than how pretty they are.

Slate records and the hand crank Victrola will be items of luxury. The mechanically inclined will be the most valuable people to the general public. They will be the gateway to an easier life and a reminder of the world we once had. Communities will have to return for the sake of the population at large. Neighborhoods will no longer be boxes to hold your stuff, instead everyone will rely on sharing of goods and supplies to get by. Festivals will no longer be a place to sell and buy goods, instead a place to share and enjoy one another’s company.

Acoustic music will be the norm and making those instruments will become a new craft, revived from the local need. Old hand crank or foot pedal sewing machines will be a sign of luxury again. I don’t know if money will survive. People might think it was a nice idea and some will hold onto it thinking it is special while it is not edible and doesn’t serve any purpose besides existing. Festivals and local customs will be dictated by the seasons. Blueberries and other crops will become a focus point and become more than just a garnish in a salad. The first two R’s in reduce, reuse, recycle, will finally be used. While these items are saved and restored for future generations, life will be easier than if they had disappeared along with the rest of civilization. Mechanics will be the wizards of the future, speaking words like Metric and Inches as if it was a foreign language only they can understand. Life will become more simple while becoming more dangerous with people dying from diseases we consider a hindrance these days. In the end, everywhere will become a small town. Jobs will no longer be the concern on people’s minds. With the fall of banks and corporations the only job people will have is to survive. In order to survive people must work together, and hopefully remember the mistakes of the past and not repeat it in the distant future.