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.
A 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.
Everything 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.
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.
I wanted a Harris Visible as soon as I saw one owned by a friend. But asking prices online were too high, and I ended up with this Rex, not knowing at the time that they are essentially the same machine. That didn’t matter much, though, when I received it: it seemed as if it had languished in a farm shed. It had rust issues, a stiff carriage and a hiccuping space bar. Even worse was the catching carriage: I couldn’t type a full line without stalling. I was mortified: another clunker.
I took a closer look at the carriage the next day and noticed it snagged at the same points. On a hunch, I removed the tab rings in the back. It moved along without a hitch. It surely helped that I soaked the innards in penetrating oil the previous night. It hiccups now and then, but not enough to distract me.
Though Rex typewriters, which were manufactured starting in 1915, were reportedly budget models at the time, there’s nothing cheap about them. In fact, I find the design and engineering brilliant: the red tab button and margin release are at left, and the shift release, ribbon selector and back-space key at right. The ribbon reverse is in front. Makes sense: everything is within easy reach.
The feel is very similar to my oldest L.C. Smith No. 8: crisp and slightly jaunty. Unlike the 8, this has a three-bank keyboard, something which confounded me at first. But typing speed improved after a few days with it, though this isn’t a machine to be hurried. Which, I believe, is a good thing: being more deliberate results in less typos and, often, writing that is better thought out. The only hurrying I do is hurrying home to switch on the desk lamp and work this beauty.
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.