This is the machine that renewed my interest in older American standards, specifically those of the ’20s and ’30s. I’ve had it for a few weeks and can’t put it down: it fascinates and excites me. I love its feel, which I find unique. It’s a great typer, and the pica typeface is stunningly neat.
It came to me in the most unusual way. I bought an Underwood Four Bank portable from a craigslist seller in L.A. and he offered to deliver it to San Diego. When he arrived, he had a big box on the hood: it was the No. 5. He apparently got confused and thought that was the one I purchased, since he had others online.
I was delighted. I had been looking for one at the time on eBay. It was in very good condition, and its feel sealed the deal.
Five days later, the drawband snapped. It was the first time that happened, and I was crestfallen. A friend from Texas, however, guided me on the repair, which entailed making a new belt out of fishing line (I used 50-pound test). But I couldn’t hook it up to the other side of the carriage, opposite the drum. After nearly two hours, I took it to the shop, where the German repairman completed the repair.
It was my most enterprising repair, and thanks to my Texas friend I learned key things about how a typewriter works. If I had been told I would have attempted to repair a 90-year-old machine, I would have laughed. The extent of my know-how regarding repairs is limited, though I can do basic fixes and cleanings.
I love the sound the keys make on paper: it transfixes and invites writing. It’s a spectacular machine, and I wouldn’t hesitate to snap up another. I have resumed using my Woodstock 5 and L.C. Smith Silent-Secretarial, which are great machines, but this Underwood is used the most. Every typewriter collector should have one.
I fell in love with this when I saw it at the shop: I have never seen an L.C. Smith in such good cosmetic shape. It has replaced the Corona Four as my most beautiful machine. I like to sit in the atrium, where I often work, and ogle it: it’s that type of machine.
But it’s deeply flawed: it’s misaligned, and the shop wasn’t able to fix it. That, however, gave me more leverage and I got it for a far lower price.
I ordinarily don’t buy typewriters with misaligned type or jumping letters, but I knew I had to have it–there was no denying that. I knew that if I passed, I would regret it. It spoke to me, it beckoned, and I have learned to listen to these instincts.
The capitals print high and the “a” prints either high or low; at best, the machine is inconsistent. I typed a few pages and, to my surprise, found that the misaligned print didn’t bother me as much as I thought it would. I realized that, at least in this instance, feel trumps print precision.
I am sometimes a perfectionist when it comes to machines, but that quality vanishes when I type on this beauty. To paraphrase Dylan Thomas, we learn to love them for their faults.
The Bitchin’ Kitsch recently published this poem, included in my latest poetry collection, The Elastic Dome. The book, printed in letterpress, will be available here and in Amazon in a few months. In an effort to increase readership, it will sell for $7 shipped, half the price of a conventional chapbook.
This one ended up in my hands because of a misunderstanding. A friend wrote to me with a Lettera 31, and I was so impressed by the elite typeface that I ordered one–a 35, that is. Only after the purchase did I realize I had confused the two.
It turned out to be a happy accident.
The 35 is a stunning machine with a crisp feel, much unlike other Olivettis with a softer touch. Its sleek design invites stroking its lean sides. It has a solid, meaty body with plastic keys.The keyboard may seem a bit crowded, but I find my fingers glide along it effortlessly. I find the elite typeface beautiful; then again, I have a penchant for 12-pitch.
This is at my 7th Olivetti, and is my favorite so far. The return lever is a bit too stubby for my tastes, but I don’t struggle with it. This compact portable, which came with a sturdy molded case, can hammer out a manuscript as well as its beefier counterparts.
Oz has a wonderful post on the Lettera 35 here.
This machine’s bulk and weight astonishes me: if dropped from a plane, it would create a sinkhole that would swallow a small city. It’s not a scorcher in the looks department: the SG1 is far easier on the eyes, whereas the SG3 is all business. It has a no-frills appearance that exudes German efficiency. It’s a hulking beast made for heavyweight writing: You could till a small plot with the carriage return lever.
Though often downplayed when compared to the SG1, I find it very similar in feel. It doesn’t have as many features, but has equally beautiful elite type and authority. I have trouble putting it down (no pun intended).
This one arrived with a few frozen tab keys, something which matters little to me because I only use five spaces for indentations. One of the keys jammed in the slot and wouldn’t improve despite gentle bending. On a whim, I lubed the slot, reasoning it would jam less and, with repeated use, align itself. It worked with this machine and a Royal KMG.
It also had an odd malfunction. When I returned the carriage, the carriage would drop slightly while typing, creating misaligned text at the beginning of the line. The line spacing would also sometimes revert from one space to a half. I lightly sanded the feed rollers and carriage, which didn’t improve matters.
Then I noticed that it had two paper-feed levers. Both were facing toward the back. I brought the left one forward, and it worked flawlessly, though now and then the lever will disengage. Later, when I used the SG1, I noticed both levers were in opposing directions.
This is an astounding machine. It’s made to last, and will laugh at your puny 600-page novel. Then again, it may inspire that bildungsroman.
This machine is like a bad addiction: once you get your hands on it, you can’t stop. It has the same crisp, cushioned feel of an SM3, though for some reason I find the carriage shift on the SM4 heavier; in fact, it feels like my SM5. I bought this one from a young lady who it was a gift but didn’t use it anymore. The white body has age-related stains which resemble big freckles, and the labels on it show it was serviced a few times. It came with the original instructions and a cleaning kit, and the case is in good shape. I really like the keyboard tab system, which make setting tabs a cinch. Unlike my SM3s, this one has pica Senatorial typeface, which I have come to like very much. Like my two SM3, this one is never far from the desk. You can read more about the differences between the SM3 and SM4 here.
I didn’t know anything about this maker until very recently, when a friend wrote a letter with one and noted that not many people know about them. Though they are not cheap for the most part, I found one for a reasonable price. I was crushed when I saw that the keys were frozen. Thanks to another friend, however, I was able to free the keys fully after coating every moving part with hot transmission fluid and penetrating oil. This is an unorthodox method, but it works, although I prefer denatured alcohol. But in dire circumstances (and I had a sinking feeling then), I turn to it gladly. The machine worked fine after that. Its only flaw is that it doesn’t always engage at the same point when I return the carriage. A firmer touch remedies that.
This KST is an excellent machine, one I also find very appealing. Some find the touch a bit stiff, but it doesn’t take long to get used to it. I find myself cruising swiftly when I write with it: the carriage has a buoyancy that is suited for heavy-duty work. I find the pica typeface on this one very legible and tidy. If given the opportunity at the right price, I wouldn’t hesitate to buy another.
I’m a big fan of Olympias, and consider my SM3 and SG1 some of my best machines. I also have an SM9 but I never took to it. I thought the SM7 would be more like the latter, but I was wrong: the SM7 has its own personality. The feel is very crisp, and the keys make a beautiful “clack” when they hit paper. I was tickled by the Double Gothic typeface on this one, which has been getting heavy use. Oz notes in this post that James Baldwin was a fan of them, although he also used Adlers. Scott Schab, author of Typewriters for Writers, says he uses the SM7 when he wants to make an impression.
An excerpt from Fernando Pessoa’s The Book of Disquiet.
I’ve had a thing for Hermes typewriters since I bought a 2000 model earlier this year. To that I added a Hermes 3000 (’70s version), a Hermes 10 electric and this ’60s Hermes 3000. My favorite remains this earlier version of the 3000, which is featured in “All the President’s Men.” It is a beautiful machine that exudes grace and power. Look at those curves! Unlike the later version, this one has a solid metal body; both are great typers. This one is in great shape, and was well taken care of. I found it interesting, however, that the “a” key will jump if my typing technique gets sloppy. I have the same issue with my 2000.