Monthly Archives: February 2020

Halda by Malmsten

my 1958 Halda

When I first started collecting typewriters, I got spoiled by the low prices, so when I saw a Halda up for auction at $60, I declined to bid on it. That was years ago, and in the interim I developed a craving to have a Halda, for numerous reasons. For one, it looked great. Two, it reputedly was well made, and one of the best portables. Three, the body was designed by a Swedish architect, Carl Malmsten, whose work I admire. Four, Ernest Hemingway used one. Ernest must have known something about typewriters, so I took this as being a quasi recommendation.

Halda purportedly owned by Hemingway. Zipper broken no doubt.

Five, I love the green colour of the Halda. Six, I like Swedish things, and admire their design ethic and particular way of thinking. So when I recently discovered a Halda for sale across the water in Vancouver, I decided to buy it. It came by courier a few days later, and I eagerly opened the beat up wooden case. I was not disappointed. The Halda is a thing of beauty, and not merely skin deep. True to my hopes and expectations, it captured me with its subtle, clean, compact shape, and the minimalist but elegant use of chrome trim with a red stripe. Here is as close to perfection in appearance as it gets, certainly rivaling the Lettera 22, which of course was also designed by the great Italian architect and designer, Marcello Nizolli, chief designer at Olivetti.

side view with carriage lock lever

It gives me a vicarious thrill to see such quality products that are designed by architects. Perhaps it’s simply the confirmation of my opinion that the training ground is fertile for designing many things, not just buildings. There are no doubt a lot of excellent typewriters in the world, typewriters that function brilliantly as machines, but that lack the je ne sais quoi that separates the merely functional from the beautiful. That is why I treasure my Lettera 22’s, of which I can’t seem to let go, and now my Halda. They not only do what they were intended to do, but also are so beautiful to look at that I never grow tired of admiring their beauty.

My Halda, built in 1958, has the more modern larger green key tops, not the original rounder black ones. They have a good feel, so I don’t mind that. Hemingway’s Halda had the original key tops, however, as can be seen in the pictures. Other than that, I’m fairly sure the workings of the Halda remained the same throughout it’s life. There were various cases for it, and mine is not the nice leather one, but a plywood box. The lid had suffered, so I ripped off the thin cloth exterior and the top layer of veneer that had peeled away. I glued down all the loose edges, patched the bare spots with the scrap piece from the lid, and glued on a heavy piece of primed canvas. I masked it all and sprayed the lid with dark green spray paint. Lastly, I wrapped the worn out handle with heavy black leatherette, sewn in place.

double catch safety latch

The typeface is 11 pitch, which I find pleasant. I have no information on who designed the font, but in my searching I discovered an excellent research paper on Academia, entitled Type Design For Typewriters: Olivetti, by Maria Ramos Silva. A must read for anybody interested in the fascinating history of Olivetti and typeface design.

Type_design_for_typewriters_Olivetti

Carl Malmsten was a Swedish modernist, but not of the Bauhaus sort. He was closer to Alvar Aalto and Frank Lloyd Wright, who eschewed the stark, form follows function ethic of the so called Modern School that more or less made a de facto coup d’etat of much of the world’s architectural schools in the previous century. I wish we had been more influenced by Scandinavians! Not that I’m against the Modernists, but I love  Scandinavian design on the whole, especially when it comes to furniture. Malmsten once designed a simple solid pine table that you will now have to pay many thousands for, clearly a predecessor to IKEA, which may have been expensive in its day, but surely not as expensive as it is now. Such is how famous name designer furnishings have appreciated, like some art that once was sold for the price of the canvas and the paint, and is now the purview of millionaires only. Far better to get a Halda for only $75 plus shipping, no? This table is listed at more than five thousand dollars. One look at this and I know I could build a decent replica in my shop, if I really wanted to. But build a replica Halda? Never! Nobody could, or they would – wouldn’t they?

Malmsten dining table in pine = early IKEA!

Here is a picture of the Malmsten table, discovered for sale on line in Dronten, Netherlands. I once made a trip to Dronten to see their town centre, called the Dronten Agora, or Meerpal.

Dronten Agora – click for good article about the building

In researching my final year thesis project at architecture school (c. 1975), I came across this building in a magazine. It was a recently built multi-use facility in a fairly new part of the Netherlands that had not long before been the ocean. When I was in Holland the next year, I had to go see the place, so we drove a long way across the monotonous flat barren polders to Dronten. This is not where one would expect to find expensive dining sets. But I suppose it was cheaper at one time; much, much cheaper! Seeing it again in the above noted article, the building is still as impressive as ever, both in concept and execution. I was originally inspired by how the building was not a tour de force so much as a place where people could go and do all sorts of things. Its usefulness was much greater than any one activity, style or fleeting fad. Multifunctional – like a typewriter!

M for margin release

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Clipper Makeover

repainted Smith Corona Clipper

Boeing 314 “Clipper”, named after a typewriter!

It’s been years since I repainted a typewriter. I recently sold the last one I repainted, so when I picked up a drab Smith Corona Clipper I decided to have another go at repainting. I had forgotten just how much work it is, and how fussy. I removed all the panels, sanded out the chips and scratches, then filled in the holes with quick body filler, sanded again, then primed and then got down to spraying. Of course I screwed it up right away by missing spots and then adding too much paint to others. You can’t respray this paint unless you wait 24 hours, another mistake I learned about the hard way when the old paint wrinkled. This machine has CLIPPER printed on the back of the paper feed, but the serial number and features are those of a Sterling, series 5A, not 5C. So it’s a Sterling with a Clipper label. I decided to recreate the Clipper logo with the Boeing Clipper, and print my own water slide decals for that and the Smith Corona name. I copied the clipper logo from a photo I found on line and worked up a reasonable facsimile by hand drawing the plane and importing that into MS Publisher. Combined with text and another imported file of a blue line I drew for the waves, I designed my own Clipper logo, which I then printed on clear water slide decal paper.

 

Same thing for the Smith-Corona logo.

I clear coated the lid to protect the decals and reassembled the bodywork. It’s a lovely typewriter, but I’m going to sell it because I have several of these already, and don’t need more of the same. I hope someone will enjoy this little gem. I won’t get enough money for it to justify all the work involved, but it was fun all the same. Also, I learned how to make water slide decals, and made some labels for my guitars.

During the process of hunting down the logo for the Smith Corona Clipper, I learned a lot about the Boeing 314 “Clipper”. Air travel should be like this! Beds and staterooms, dining rooms, lounges, and separate bathrooms for men and women. Air travel has really improved since those days, because now we have gender neutral toilets. Plus we have 50 channels of programs. Back then they had to get up to go eat. Now they bring you the “food”, and it is so delicious.

Boeing only ever made 12 of them, all for Pan Am Airways, but the plane is much larger in legend. Every plane was called a Such and Such Clipper. There are none left. Only typewriters remain…and of course our own Victoria to Seattle Clipper – a fast catamaran that goes from here to Seattle daily. Maybe they will buy this typewriter for the passengers to use!

The Victoria Clipper

sheet of decals

my version of the Clipper logo

my Smith Corona decal

Guitar logos:

 

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*Corona*

Just for a minute, forget the virus, the beer, the ring around the moon, and everything else but this: *Corona* the typewriter. There are a multitude of pages about the Corona typewriter, which was a sensation in its day. Now I understand why.

Corona 3 – 1916 – front view

folded position

case with manual (reprint)

The above scans are from the first test pages I typed just as soon as I could get the thing ready. Pretty impressive for 104 years old. I had to hunt around to discover where some of the symbols were, since they were not clear from the keys. The = sign is on the K, but it is indicated with a -. As noted above, the comma is indicated by the “.”, and where they show “,” is actually “-“. I straightened out the off kilter key symbols by pushing the paper discs from the underside of the keys. Several rings just came off, and I pushed them back on. The typebar cushion rest was made of cork and had been damaged, so I removed that and slipped in a piece of heavy wool piano felt. The feet are there, but no longer soft, so I might dig out the hard old rubber and slip in some new grommets that should fit nicely. Aside from that, the front panel of the case needs some repairs to the hinge of leather, and that’s it. Lastly, thanks to Richard Polt again for making all those manuals available. I downloaded the Corona manual, which was extremely useful! I might never have figured out how the ribbon winding system worked without the manual to explain it. I printed a small version to keep in the case where it originally fit, too.

“=” is on the K, and “,” is on the “.” key

rebuilt in Vancouver BC

chrome plated bell! nice chime, too.

bottom of the folding carriage

gears for ribbon winding

case latch and leather handle

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