Typewriter paraphernalia—from vintage paper and letterhead to tape dispensers and paper holders–has always fascinated me. When I received the spring issue of ETCetera, a quarterly typewriter journal edited by typewriter guru Richard Polt, I was turned on to vintage letter openers.
The article, which is well researched, has pictures of several letter openers, two of which I was able to find on eBay: a Burroughs and an A.P. Little. The latter is in poor condition but the Burroughs is in very good shape. Considering their rarity, I think finding them a coup; they were also fairly priced.
If you have a typewriter addiction, and correspond regularly, you may as well go full hilt and open letters in style.
It’s a long story, of course: that’s one reason I bought the paper roll in the first place. It’s graph paper made for EKG machines and measures 8 1/2 and, I’m guessing, at least 100 feet. I decided to use the white backside because it’s less distracting. I bought it for $10 shipped from a shop in China.
I turned to the roll because my prose slowed to a trickle: I was overly deliberate while trying to write “literature.” And yet, I wrote letters every day, usually for hours. So I decided to pen a manuscript that is essentially a long letter. The goal is to put aside the ivory stage and tap the inner core, “energy unchecked;” to forge ahead regardless of polish. That will come–if it gets that far–during the editing process.
I chose one of my Olympia SM3s with elite typeface for this project: I don’t foresee changing typewriters, and I made sure to choose one that I would look enjoy. I relish its crisp, sharp touch: it even sounds beautiful.
So far, the writing is coming along: average is three or four graphs a day (I still work on letters, and keep a journal). I don’t labor as much because I write as if I were addressing a friend, not an audience. But I have to remind myself that, if I expect progress, I need to keep in touch with the roll and roll with it.
This is a stunning typewriter that exudes elegance. It’s in great cosmetic shape and seems rarely used: the seller’s relatives said the father liked to collect typewriters but didn’t use them. Besides the customary cleaning and a brushing of type slugs, it was ready to pound paper. But it had a glaring flaw: the capitals were misaligned.
I was able to fix it after finding the adjustment nuts at opposing sides below the machine. It took a good hour of tweaks and turns which resulted in a busted knuckle. I haven’t done many alignment repairs, and was overjoyed.
A week later, I noticed it was typing lightly at times, which annoyed me. So I tinkered again with the adjustment nuts. Big mistake: while tightening, I heard a slight pop, and then the shift key seized. After two hours trying to make it functional again, I gave up. It’s the first typewriter I damaged during a repair, and the last one I wanted to bungle.
Weeks later, I took it to the shop, already bracing for a call from the German repairman telling me it was “a dead dog.” (He had used this phrase before in reference to an Olivetti Praxis.) I was resigned to selling it on craigslist as a wedding prop. But ‘ole Ott fixed it, though it took him nearly two weeks. I was elated.
However, when I tested it at home (always test a machine at the shop), I found the capitals slightly misaligned. It was an easy fix, requiring only a few quarter turns of each alignment nut. The shift key remains slightly stiff, a small price to pay for having it back in the small writing studio, a luminary among elders.