Alpina DT33

AlpinaDT33a

AlpinaDT33c

A beast. The return lever is among the beefiest I’ve seen. The DT33, which has a decimal tabulator, exudes brute strength:  Norbert Schwarz, an authority on Alpinas,  points out that they are “small office machines.” Even my beloved Olympia SM3 feels like a toy compared to this DT33. The platen is rock hard, which was a bit off-putting at first, but two backup sheets improved the type.  I’ve noticed that my German portables of this time period have unusually hard platens.

An acquaintance remarked that it looks like a Buick, which, judging by his tone, wasn’t a AlpinaDT33bcompliment. I find it a beautiful machine, and think it has a distinct flair. I like its rounded features and turret-like cover. The keys are spacious, though not outsized, and it’s easy to settle into a good clip.

Will Davis (willdavis.org) notes an important feature: “One notable feature of Alpina machines is that, while they employ carriage shift, only the platen actually moves when the shift keys are depressed.  This makes shifting rather easy considering the size and weight of these machines —- these are among the very biggest and heaviest portables in the post-1958 enlarged overall size.”

It’s a portable that feels like an upright.

 

 

 

 

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Cole Steel Model 2

1ColeSteel

This one took me by surprise. I almost passed on it because it seemed flimsy at first glance: I was woefully wrong about that. Although it has plastic keys, the body is metal. One may be tempted to classify it as an ultraportable, but it has more heft than a Hermes Rocket or Adler Tippa. Closer inspection revealed that it was barely used, aside from small chips in the paint. The type slugs gleam, and the pica typeface is astoundingly crisp. The backup sheet barely shows indentations.

I’ve been using a Remington Rand 17 upright, but on some days my fingers don’t jiveColeSteel2 with the smaller keys. On those days, I often turn to this Cole, which has ample keys and a nicely spaced keyboard. I like the paper gauge on the right carriage knob: one aligns the red window on it with the red arrow painted on the body. The ribbon selector eluded me at first: it’s under the knob, and I mistook it for a carriage lock, which is on the other side. Seems like an afterthought.

This one was manufactured in Western Germany. To my understanding, Cole Steel had them made there for some time. If I were going on a long trip and portability was an issue, and reliability of the essence, this one would be at the top of my list.

ColeSteel4

 

1937 Erika S

ErikaS

ErikaSz

ErikaS3Gorgeous machine. I don’t usually put up with misalignment issues, but it’s a great typewriter that’s hard to put down. It was carefully packed and ready to use straight out of the box, having a fresh ribbon. That’s surprising: I usually have to clean and oil machines upon arrival. But there was a bigger surprise. After typing a page, I saw that there were barely any indentations on the backup sheet. The platen feels rubbery, and may have been replaced.

The exposed spools and stubby return lever remind me of my Corona Four, but this is a ErikaStypefacedifferent animal altogether. It reflects an added degree of craftsmanship and engineering. Far from me to diminish my lovely Four, but there’s something about this Erika that eludes definition–something that draws me to it.

Misalignment issues are usually a deal-breaker, especially on days in which I insist on mechanical precision–days where typeface must reflect attempts at precision of language–but in this instance I see it more as a character trait trumped by aesthetics and an unusual personality. It’s a German bombshell with perfectly crooked teeth.

ErikaS9

1955 Underwood 150

Underwood150

Underwood150d

Underwood150bA good friend in Waco sent me this one. He wanted me to have what he considers one of the best Underwoods. It didn’t disappoint: it’s a workhorse and certainly one of the better Underwoods I have. John nurtured this one back into working order, and sent one with elite typeface, which is my favorite. He did a lot of work on it, and even painted the blue spool covers to match the keys. It feels like a Touch-Master Five, but I prefer the 150, mostly because it has a hinged panel in front instead of a removable front, something I never liked about the Touch-Master.

Underwood150cEverything is within reach: line settings, ribbon selector, tabs and ribbon reverse. The keys accommodate my big fingers easily: everything feels just right. I keep this one always within reach: it’s reliable and has its own peculiar grace and beauty. I’m particularly attached to it because it’s a gift from a dear friend who was careful to get it to me in good shape. John went so far as to cushion it with, well, cushions, which lightly powdered the machine during transit. I like it that way: it adds to its rugged exterior and reminds me of crushed paper, which is what the 150 does.  It’s a beast.