Category Archives: Thrift shop finds

Commander Majestic

newspaper staff photo – date and place unknown – likely London, England

The chap in the rear, third from right, was a journalist named Fred Openshaw. His hat, which looks a tad too large, is a classic fedora or trilby style, which can still be purchased from Christie’s of London should you be so inclined (I have a Knightsbridge model that looks pretty much just like these here).  Fred’s granddaughter graciously allowed me to photograph this picture after I purchased her wonderful old Royal Commander c. 1941, that was one of four typewriters Fred once owned. Fred worked at the London Times before moving to Canada, long ago. The Royal Commander must have been acquired here, since it is a Canadian model. When I offered to buy the machine the owner asked me if I would love it. I assured her I would. I didn’t bother to check it over to see if it was in working order, and she only wanted $7 for it, but I gave her a ten dollar bill anyways.

Royal Commander c. 1941 – Made in Canada

That was last Sunday and I am pleased to report that the old Commander is now up and running, and is a fine typewriting machine if ever there was one. It is also very lightweight, a real portable, and comes with a nice wooden case covered in a tweedy fabric. There were several minor problems when I got it – the carriage didn’t go far before stopping; the return lever was bent down too low, and the once rubber feet were now hard brittle disintegrating things. There was also a screw missing from a bar that pivots underneath. I found a screw that was a loose fit and filed off the tip of that to serve as a new pivot, then put that screw in place with a wrapping of teflon tape which held it tight. The carriage was still jamming midway however, so I removed the side-front-side panel and found that underneath was another frame, and I couldn’t see anything. I replaced that and when I was done I noticed on the bench that there was one tiny extra screw. Also, the carriage now worked.

the new screw (plated)

I brushed, vacuumed and blew out as much dust and dirt as I could and gave the innards a good soaking with PB teflon lube (not the cleaner). That stuff gets everywhere but it sure frees things up! For the feet I got an extra large soft pink plastic eraser at the dollar store ($1) and carved some new feet. I may do this again and get the fit a little tighter, but overall I’m quite content with pink feet. I have no desire to restore this machine to showroom condition, preferring the modifications to show. It pleases me that the paint, keys and handle retain something of the past that has rubbed off on them.

Commander seems to be a rarer label for these than Companion, which is what they are generally known as. I speculate this had to do with it being Canadian. Perhaps the Imperial Typewriter Company had dibs on the Companion name here? I like Commander better, no matter. I am puzzled as to why these old portable Royals are not at the top of the list of best all time typewriters. I’ve tested many machines and this one ranks with the best, even with carriage shifting. It is compact and surprisingly light.

genuine hand carved feet

So what about the heading? Oh yes – Majestic! Last Saturday I picked up another JP-1, this one called a Majestic 400. It was cheap too, twice the price of the Royal at $14, but I liked the teal blue lid, so why not? It too had a problem – most of the old typewriters do, and that is a major source of amusement for me in my collecting habit – I enjoy fixing stuff. The back space didn’t work. I removed the bottom and there found the entire escapement. Those Brother engineers were brilliant – they not only made the most successful typewriter of all time, but they made it easy to fix! I saw that the little wire spring that held the lever which pushed the star wheel backwards was busted. Using a guitar string, of which I have many old spares in a box, I fashioned a new spring and with a bit of fiddling I got it do its job. A high E string of 0.010″ is very useful for small springs like this. Music wire is very much like spring steel.

Majestic 400

I admire the simplicity and everything about the JP-1 typewriter, even though it looks cheap, which it was, and clearly still is. I once got one for $1. Some folks get them free however, which is infinitely cheaper, but that is largely irrelevant. What is the fair market value of a JP-1? Who knows? Maybe one day when the world is clamoring desperately for manual typewriters again, it will be worth its weight in gold. Aside from the spring repair, the rubber feet on this were all fossilized too, along with the rubber grommets that the lid snaps into. I took a grommet that was too large for the lid holes, and cut it in half. Then it fit into the holes and that holds the lid on once again. As for the feet – I haven’t figured that out yet, but since the bottom is a flat plate I can just place the machine on a rubber pad to use it.

half a grommet is better than none

the colour didn’t come through well – but it is a lovely teal blue

Parents’ commended it, and I recommend it.

Advertisements

5 Comments

Filed under Thrift shop finds, Typewriters

Typewriter Day 2018

Typewriter day came and went here without fanfare, or so much as a peep. However, I did sell 2 typewriters to a budding typerata. She arrived minutes after she got my response to her email about a machine I had listed on Craigslist. She loves typewriters and has a few, all with names and their own ink colours. We spent a good hour talking typewriters, and I showed her a few interesting ones. Then she spotted one of my Olivetti L22’s that was on the floor. I picked it up last week, broken, and had spent a few hours getting it to work. So she bought that one too, complete with speil about Nizzoli, MOMA, etc. Despite the general lack of community here, we had a mini celebration for typewriter day, which was good.

L22, made in Canada, gone to a new home

Meanwhile I have been shooting film again and developing it in Caffenol. I dried the washing soda in the oven this time, and also added some table salt to the mix. This works great, and even after 3 weeks it worked well enough to develop 3 rolls. The only problem is that I’ve been using very stale film. The BW film was Ilford Delta 100, and that was almost like new judging from the results. However, the 14 year old Kodak Max 400 came out very grainy and low res, despite the camera. One roll of Kodak Max was shot with my Nikon F and the much vaunted Nikkor 85/1.8 and yet the results are pretty much indistinguishable from a Brownie. The best results were from the Ilford, a film that was 11 years old, shot with a Spotmatic and a SMC 50/1.4, which gave brilliant results. Check out this old Cressida!

vintage Toyota Cressida

Colour film curls up horribly, and attracts dust like a magnet attracts iron filings, but the B&W film dried almost flat, and was relatively dust free. After this I just tossed away all the old colour film, because it’s too disappointing to get a good shot that is all dusty and grainy and looks barely focused. I’m not keen on 35mm film for this very reason, preferring 120, but since I have a lot of old cameras I like to exercise them once in a while. My Nikon F Photomic is a classic, but quite heavy and clumsy. I’d like to try shooting with it through the top, something I haven’t done. You don’t need a waist level finder to do this, although that would be nice.

Lettera 35

The 2nd Olivetti of the week was this L35, really just an L32 with a new cladding. The carriage lock was jammed, but I took it off and straightened out the metal tab that goes up and down, filed and polished the edges where this meets the lower rail of the carriage, and now it works fine. The whole thing comes apart as easily as can be, which is brilliant. I think it would take one minute if you know what you’re doing. The beauty of this is the shell can be painted any colour you like, as there are no other painted bits to fiddle with. This machine has every feature you need in a typewriter; full auto set tabs with a nifty brake that works, rabbit ears, and a paper table, plus a platen clutch. It has an interesting design – Italian Modern – and would fit right in with snazzy futuristic furniture. However, I prefer the feeling of the L22 over the 32, although it is a more complex machine and difficult to adjust.

vintage pen stand anyone?

Here is another thing you don’t find in the store anymore – marble pen stands. This one is a Parker, and it came with one Parker pen – a ballpoint. I polished up the plastic barrel and it shines like new. They made these with high grade plastic. I also have a matching fountain pen, a Parker 51, but the ink tends to run out under gravity, so I leave the pen in there dry.

the ink bottle collection

These go with the pen collection. Some are new, others are old bottles found (rarely) in thrift shops. Probably have a lifetime supply.

our garden

seen in someone’s yard

Here are a few more scans:

reclaiming the land where the old bridge stood

4 Comments

Filed under Cameras, Pens, Photography, Street photography, Thrift shop finds, Typewriters

Typewriter Hunting in Washington

As I have repeated here, perhaps too frequently, due to my last novel I became enamoured of the Royal 10. I did get one after some hunting, but I thought that they were hard to find – until last week. We spent a week as we often do this time of year in Washington, camping and of course scouring the many antique shops. So what did I find? Yes – many Royal 10’s!

how about a sign saying”type please”

Sadly I couldn’t own them all; the one I have is perfect for me, but if I didn’t already own one… well that might be different. One in particular was in beautiful condition, and it was the least costly. Go figure. It was a rebuild, too, as noted on one shift key – by Regal, on Varick Street, NYC.

rebuilt model

80 bucks, and broken!

All were post 1923 with single glass sides, some with the gauge on the right side, which I don’t know the purpose of. I’m sure someone reading this will educate us on that! It was ironic that so many typewriters in the wild have little signs forbidding typing – I’d like to see signs that say “type away”. Do these sellers think that a Royal 10 that has lasted for 80 years can be broken? How absurd!

note the various decimal tabs

There were other interesting oldies too:

1928 Underwood Universal

expensive broken folding Corona

The Corona folder was exciting to see, but it was not in working order and well over $100! Had it been working… maybe. One other new to me phenomenon in these old junk stores is the proliferation of the Erie iron pans, Griswold being the next big thing. Some shops had huge collections of these, priced into the hundreds! Imagine paying $100 for a frying pan when you could buy a Royal 10 for less. More absurdity!

We got as far as Portland and just happened to park one block from Powell’s Books, the largest bookstore I’ve ever been in – it’s like a department store – think a Walmart dedicated solely to books. One thing struck us; the foul language we heard coming from the mouths of people just talking on the street. I suppose all the books with swear words are simply indicative of the general debasement of language skills these days. But what’s with all the f*cking asterisks? Just spell it if you plan to use it. Only one author among many seemed to feel thus, which is commendable, although not admirable.

Portland reminded me of Seattle, except it’s flat. Aside from the cool bookstore I can’t say it was impressive. Lots of canyon streets that feel oppressively dark, and of course the usual sad cases of homelessness. No one pays attention any more. Not that this is uncommon here either, just that it emphasizes how our society in general has failed so many people.

The thing is, when it comes to all the pseudo-wisdom spouted in the endless river of self-help books, there is no solution to the real problems. It’s all focused on the self. The age of ME. F*ck off, self help authors!

4 Comments

Filed under Books, Philosophy, Thrift shop finds, Travel, Typewriters, Uncategorized

Instaxography

the Instax 200 – instaxographers weapon of choice

Instaxography (copyright) is my latest hobby of the week, for this week, until the film pack is gone that is. I picked this baby up at a thrift shop complete with the batteries, several shots left on the pack, and a new pack of 10 pictures, for cheap – about what the film pack costs. I knew I had to have it after I took a test picture of the clerk in the store who showed it to me. They keep these under glass, like gold jewelry, and you must request a showing. They don’t wear white gloves however, which spoils the entire effect. However, it brings me back to the days of Polaroidography (copyright that too) and my old SX70. I thought the film was expensive 35 years ago! Holy crap! Today…. don’t ask! But Fuji is cheaper, and just about as bad as Polaroid was, so why not?

the bay bridge (not THE Bay Bridge – our Bay Street Bridge)

While out for a bike ride we stopped beneath the bridge and I also did a watercolour sketch.

Looking the other way we have a lovely barge and a lot of water and sky, but Instaxography gives it a very artistic feel, don’t you think? Ugly can be beautiful.

Anyhow, I’m not finished this experiment yet, and I have to say it is still a sort of thrill to watch and wait for the image to appear as if by magic. My Dad had a Polaroid, I had a Polaroid, and recently I sent my son in Germany – a Polaroid! I hope the film is cheaper there. If not he can get himself a Instax, or just forget the whole thing. But one day, I know his genes will express themselves and he will take up instant photography, if only now and then. It’s in our blood! Also, I took Polaroids of the babies… you gotta love that.

Leave a comment

Filed under Cameras, Photography, Sketching, Street photography, Technology, Thrift shop finds, Uncategorized

Royal Signet

About 15 years ago I spotted a little typewriter on the shelf in the Sally Ann for five bucks. Prices were reasonable then, in the good old days of thrift shopping. Thrift shops were filled with cheap used goods, and the pricers didn’t check what something was listed for on Ebay before putting it out on a shelf. I brought home the little typewriter and used it a bit, but I got a pain in my neck so eventually I donated it back. It wasn’t until I got the collecting bug that I wondered what sort of typewriter it was. All I had as a record was a Polaroid of me with it, on which I had noted that I was “pretending to be a writer”. The idea of a “writer” seemed the most appropriate label for a person with a typewriter and a glass of beer.

Polaroid

me and the little typewriter c. 2003 (Polaroid SX-70)

I puzzled for years trying to determine what that little typewriter was, but I never knew until yesterday. That was when I found a Royal Signet, made in Holland. As soon as I got a good look at it I knew it was the very same model as the one once had, so of course I had to buy it. I had the perfect excuse!

1-Don w Signet TW Apr 25 18154

me and the new little typewriter 2018 (Fuji Instax)

Now I can say positively that I am a writer, and no longer pretending. This Signet is a great little machine, and is mechanically the same as the Royalite, but with a body style related to the Royal Futura and similar to the Olympia SF of the 1970’s era. These are remarkably quiet, perhaps the quietest typewriters I have used. With a cast aluminum casing, and two tone colour scheme I think it’s a real looker. In the interim Polaroid has gone and I sold my SX-70. Now the film is back, but I have no camera. However, I just found a cheap used Fuji Instax 100 that came with a new pack of film. I am now a Fuji instant film convert!

6-IMG_0869

2 Comments

Filed under Thrift shop finds, Typewriters, Uncategorized

Olympian Steroids

Olympian on Steroids

The Olympics are on again, and everyone knows that those some cheaters (uno who) won’t be there because they were caught using banned performance enhancing drugs. Steroids, mostly, which make muscles bigger and stronger. I get my muscles however from lifting my Olympia SG1 typewriter. That machine has appropriately been described as a typewriter on steroids, for it is larger and stronger by far than most every other typewriter I’ve encountered. I recently brought it home from a thrift shop, where it sat on the floor because the staff found it too heavy to lift up onto a shelf, no doubt. Perhaps that is why it has a removable carriage. It does help to take the carriage off when carrying the thing, but even so the base unit remains one heavy sucker. I only brought this home because it is something to be seen and admired. Under the bodywork, which is thick bulletproof steel, is a cast steel structure that more resembles part of a building or a bridge than any other typewriter. The only real problem I encountered with it was the sliding metal block of the right margin control, a piece that incomprehensibly was made of cheap pot metal. That stuff is infamous for self destructing due to internal oxidation. Why Olympia made those parts from such bad material is puzzling, as everything else on the machine is made of extra large extra strong steel.

side view of the inner framework

I salvaged the part by gluing it back together with JB-Weld and little pieces of scrap steel cut from a tin of canned tuna, the sort that peels open with a ring pull. Lets hope that steel holds up. It works again, and the carriage stops at the set point. However, the space bar releases the margin stop, unlike any other typewriter I’ve known. Inspection of the mechanics indicates to me that this is normal, but it does seem odd. Once I got it all back together I gave the ribbon a rubdown with WD40, which revived the ink very well, and then I wrote the following piece. Forgive the typos, I just dashed this off as a test. The SG1 certainly works well enough, but I see no reason for having such a monstrous typewriter around here, so I will sell it. Whatever I get will not cover the many hours of disassembly, repairs and cleaning, but that was part of the fun of having it here for a while and admiring the engineering that went into it. Among other things I did was to disassemble the tabulator brake to get that working, another marvel to behold as the carriage glides slowly along and gently comes to rest when the tab bar is tapped.

the escapement gears

rear view of guts

half naked SG1

1 Comment

Filed under Thrift shop finds, Typewriters, Wildlife, writing

A Good Companion

We recently saw the movie The Darkest Hour in which Churchill dictates letters to his lovely young secretary, who types on an Imperial typewriter. Seeing this I knew I had to get an Imperial, but I had no idea it would happen so fast.

It was a week that will live in the history of my typewriter collecting. I sold all 3 of my Olympia Traveller/SFs with script face, and purchased 4 other typewriters. It was all quite by chance. I listed a Traveller script and had multiple inquiries. With all the interest I decided to sell while the market was hot so I could get some cash and also make room in the shop. Little did I suspect what was going to happen next.

Last Monday I put a Traveller in the mail to a fellow in Washington, then on my way to town I put in a bid for a 1954 Imperial Good Companion 3 being auctioned at the Sally Ann. I carried on to hit 2 more thrifts and picked up 3 typewriters: an Olympia SG1, Olympia SF, and a 1949 Remington Noiseless 7. The SG1 was filthy and the typebars stuck with tarry goo. The SF had been dropped and the carriage was detached, the back panel smashed. The Remington was perfect however, and even had the key to the case.

Today I am featuring the Good Companion, which I won, to my surprise, for $22! What an interesting find. It came with the original warranty sheet, instruction manual, brush, wiping cloth, oiler, a few sheets of carbon paper, and typing instruction sheet with finger positions! It has a lovely typeface, similar to the Oliver Courier, and more stylish than most.

The machine was sold in Fiji, in January 1955. The list of dealers in the manual has them all over the globe, but none in the USA.

The case is very fancy, and looks like real leather.

There was one minor issue, the platen clutch was seized. I was able to fix it with a squirt of super lube, but I had to remove the platen to do this. It took about five attempts to reassemble, but at last it went back together and now the clutch works. While it was apart I discovered that the inside of the platen was made of wood.

I wonder what sort of oil that was?

There was no oil in the tube, but the brush works.

The cloth is a bit oily, so I won’t be using it for wiping the typewriter.

I’ll stick to hunting and pecking. Should have learned in high school!

the Guarantee

Thank you, C.L. Sohn, for keeping all the paperwork and the accessories.

1 Comment

Filed under Thrift shop finds, Typewriters