I had to wait months to relish this one: the drawband snapped during shipping, and it lay idle as a wounded bear for months. My handyman fashioned one out of twine. The repair was complicated, and involved drilling a new hole for the twine in the drum. After two days, my friend got it going. I was ecstatic: it was the first time I typed with it.
It’s a gorgeous East German machine, and the touch is exceedingly responsive. The keystrokes are silky, inviting a crisp, soft touch. The rimmed glass-topped keys are alluring and spaciously arranged. The pica typeface is neat and has character. I’m sometimes put off by type that is too tidy, too upstanding. Then again, there are instances in which one wants that, such as when typing a final draft.
The biggest surprise was the condition of the platen and feed rollers: both are in excellent shape, and there are barely any marks on the backup sheet. That makes me suspect they were replaced, since most prewar machines have exceedingly hard platens and misshapen rollers. There’s also an overflow of rubber on the left platen ring, which may confirm my hunch.
Note: The poem above is one of a series of cut-ups on authors.
This one gave me a hell of a time. The carriage kept sticking halfway, though sometimes it only stalled, piling on letters. I oiled it, cleaned it, shook it (small pieces of rubber came out), pried it with a screwdriver and damn nearly slammed it against the wall. It frustrated me for three weeks.
And then I noticed the frame was loose. I also noticed the carriage wouldn’t advance at all when it was on a typewriter pad. However, it moved when on a flat surface. I put in washers and tightened the front bottom nuts, and now it does quite well. It still hiccups now and then, but I hope that improves with continued use. It’s a beautiful machine, and the pica typeface has lots of character.
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 compliment. 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.
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 jive 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.
Gorgeous 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 different 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.
Stunning machine. Hard to put down: it’s silky smooth and exudes engineering precision. The bulbous body glows with a sheen, and the feel is crisp; the return lever swings like glassy water. It mesmerizes and seduces, extracting secrets and confessions. It laughs at your puny reams of paper, and responds like a coiled spring.
I’ve owned two Woodstocks, and I was disappointed by both: they seemed very sensitive to typing technique, and had a tendency to blur and shadow letters. I sold the No. 5 recently and, on a whim, decided to write a letter with this one, which had also languished for several months. It was my favorite due to its soft feel and angular grace. But the squashed type was a turnoff.
Halfway through the page, I realized this is a wonderful machine. I realized the muddy lettering was due to being overly aggressive with it, and that a gentler, slightly sharper touch did the trick without sacrificing the quality of the imprint.
It has a few issues: it often misaligns upon the return, and the backspace key doesn’t work. I have both issues with a Rheinmettal KST, and I resolved them the same way. I shifted the margin setting, at which point it sometimes goes past the beginning of the line. This is much better than having to return the carriage with added force: all I have to do now is tap the space bar. The backspace problem isn’t really an issue: I simply move back manually. Once I adjust to the velvety keystroke, I have crisp copy. But it usually takes me a graph or so to get there: I’m used to pounding uprights.
It amazes me how some machines improve with time and distance, and how perceived defects become character quirks.