Category Archives: 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!

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

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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!

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Royal Magic

6-IMGP7361Ah, how sweet to find what one has been seeking. I found a 1923 Royal 10 typewriter, which it must be said is genuine royalty. The saga began after I wrote a book last year, titled The Magic Typer. Along the way I chose a Royal 10 to be the magic machine, as it fit the plot well, and when writing fiction you can’t go wrong with royalty.

Once I finished the book, I had the notion that I must have a Royal 10 for myself, after all. So I began searching for one like in the story, with dual beveled glass side panels. I soon discovered what was available was too expensive and too far away. Then by a stroke of good luck around a month ago I noticed on Craigslist a collection of old typewriters that had come from a former office supply shop in Vancouver. One looked like a Royal 10 but there was no way to tell if it was the correct version.

An email to the seller confirmed it was indeed a Royal 10 with twin glass. We haggled and he said he had a very high offer for it. That was the end of that, until a month passed and he offered it to me for a reasonable price. The buyer didn’t want it after all.

A courier went to fetch it from Vancouver. All day I waited in eagerness, wondering if it would be what I hoped for, or just a ruined piece of junk, and not even the right typewriter. It arrived packed in a large cardboard orange crate with a piece of styrofoam over it. I paid the courier, carried it inside and removed the covering. 8-IMGP7354

There it was, old but intact, dusty but not filthy, tarnished yet not rusted. I lifted it out of the box and placed it on the bench. I pressed a key at random and it snapped right up and thwacked the platen. There was an old ribbon and the original spools, a necessary part of the mechanics, since they trip the ribbon reversing levers. I slipped a sheet of paper into the platen which was a bit lumpy but not rock hard. A few taps and there it was, actual type on the paper. Even the red ink worked! According to the seller it had not been used since the 1970’s, when he cleaned it up for his grandfather.

I wiped the ribbon with WD40 and the ink began to flow. I like the idea of having an old cotton bi-color ribbon, since that is what was on this machine from the first. The mechanics are nearly perfect. Everything works, and no solvents or lubrication were necessary. I sucked out a few cobwebs with the vacuum and adjusted one linkage. The keys all work, as do all levers and buttons. One rubber foot was gone however, which I replaced with a cheap bung from a wine shop.

So that is the story. It couldn’t have been better: a Royal 10  acquired from an old typewriter shop where it sat for decades gathering dust, just like the Magic Typer! Now to order up some magic…

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I admire the symmetry of the back panel. The bell has a wonderfully pure tone. The tab stops are missing and the tab bar is slightly bent, but I’m not very concerned about such triviality! 3-IMGP7357

All the beveled glass is perfect, although there isn’t really much to see inside.2-IMGP7356

The left front foot was missing the rubber, but there was a thick felt washer still in place. The feet are remarkably well designed to absorb shock.

Parts of the machine have been repainted, as evidenced by the faint appearance of the original decals on the dished part of the front panel and on the paper feed panel at the top. If anyone has replacement decals please let me know. I have been polishing the paint and it seems that there is an endless layer of tobacco smoke embedded in the black enamel. Whoever used this must have held their smokes over on the right side of the machine, judging by how much more stained the rag gets when wiping the right side! Fortunately there is no tobacco smell after all the years. This machine is close to the last of the dual beveled glass models according to the serial number, as they switched to single glass in the latter part of 1923.

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Enter the Magic

very expensive Royal 10

the frontispiece de resistance

p.s. although I got some printed I haven’t yet published the book. I sent it to several agents who were too busy to even reject it! Woe to them when it sells a million copies!

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They Came in Pairs

baby hummingbirds

I received a reminder today of what photos I had taken exactly one year ago. Google does this, for reasons that escape me. All I wanted was a place to backup my picture files, but this is what you get when you join the big machine. However, it was synchronous with a thought I’ve had mulling in my head for some time, which is the phenomenon of pairs – the duality of things. When you get right down to it, everything started with a singularity, which was simply everything in the universe compressed into a point with no dimension. It had no dimension because there was nothing to measure with. Try to imagine the concept – it floors me, so I avoid thinking about it. Maybe Steven Hawking could have explained it to me, alas, but we shall never meet.

So what happened? It expanded, fast. But, mathematically it had to go from being one thing to two, didn’t it? I mean if mathematics holds true in all universes, then the whole number that follows one is two. So I say that two is thus extremely important. With one, there was nothing, but with two there was instantly something, because the 2nd thing made the first thing a point of reference, before which there was none.

Before this gets too confusing I just want to share some pairs of things that I have recently encountered, just because they were a pair. Some were alive, others man made.

Here we have a pair of Smith Corona Sterling’s; a 1951 and a 1956 – one pica, one elite = a perfect set. Since I had collected a few of these, as wonderful as they are, I decided to sell them both. One sold in 2 days. The other just went on the market. What’s the point of having only one of them? So I have to sell the pair. I’m hanging on to my pair of Silent Supers however.

A pair of Olympia SG1’s, both 1963. Both had the same problems – including a disintegrated right margin stop. How odd – clearly a design defect. One elite, one pica – is this a pattern? One sold, the other still for sale. The advantage of this pair coming along in short order is that I have had a chance to examine the engineering closely, since they both required a fair bit of tweaking.

Buying and fixing these is not only fun, but also is a small contribution to keeping these great old machines from the dump. There are no repair shops left in this town, so when I get a typewriter back on the road I feel like I’m contributing something, and the money I make helps me buy and fix more machines, so I’m not out of pocket. Still, they are cheap when you think about what they are worth and what it would cost to buy one in today’s money.

Smith on the left, Corona on the right

Now we move on to wildlife. I always thrill to a pair of bald eagles. This pair was first encountered in one tree, then they flew away. Later on my rambles I saw them again in another tree. To see a pair of them take flight up close is a wonder to behold.

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I saw a pair of ducks we could eat!

Moving on we find some ducks. They tend to hang out in pairs, male and female, but I wonder if they form couples? I think not, but they say geese do.

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Flies I Have Known

I knew him, fly

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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

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