the state of the typewriter fleet.

The first step in denying addiction is to proclaim that you don’t have a problem.

I pared the collection down from eleven typewriters in varying conditions to five typewriters in perfect working order. All of them have been serviced and overhauled. The oldest one is 76 years old, the youngest 45 (and at that still older than its current owner.)


Clockwise from top left:

  • Olympia SM9, 1966. Utterly reliable machine; the Mercedes-Benz of typewriters. If I had to bang out a 100,000-word novel using only a manual, that’s the machine I’d pick for the task.
  • Royal KHM, 1935. The platen is hard as a rock, but still grabs paper, and the KHM is still mechanically sound. The biggest and heaviest of my manuals, and the most solid-feeling one of the bunch. This was an old shop find, and a birthday present from my wife for my 37th birthday.
  • Royal DeLuxe Portable, 1935. The portable brother to the KHM. I got this one from the estate of a friend who passed away a few years ago, so this one’s more heirloom than workhorse. I still had it serviced and restored to full working condition. This one was used by my friend’s mother when he was young, back in the 1930s, and by my friend when he was in seminary school and college in the 1950s.
  • Olympia SF, 1963. The business laptop of its day. Doesn’t give up much to its bigger brother, the SM9. One of the best portables ever made, this SF has a new platen and types like a dream.
  • Olivetti Lettera 22, 1960. This was a gift from a reader. I had been pining for a Lettera 32 for a while, and the Lettera 22 isn’t very different at all. This Lettera 22 has an unusual “universal international” keyboard that lets you type the special characters in quite a few languages.

Since reducing the fleet to these five, I’ve stopped actively looking around for new used typewriters. But you never know what still lurks in the dark and dusty corners of thrift stores and antique dealerships. I won’t take on any more fixer-uppers (restoration of these babies is an expensive endeavor), but I won’t say that I wouldn’t rescue some pristine Smith-Corona Skyriter or Hermes Baby sitting on a shelf somewhere.


6 thoughts on “the state of the typewriter fleet.

  1. Fred2 says:

    Check out Deutsche Optik’s website, despite the name they carry old cameras, old typewriters, old binocs and a variety of other “surplus” stuff.
    ( where else can you get battleship signaling spot lights ? I’d love to own a mountain top and use that on passing ships 🙂 (Queue: “Fear not, Dreadnought” story.) )

    Often pricey, but an amusing catalog.

  2. DaveG says:

    Nice. I knew there was a reason I’ve been popping by here for the last six years now: anyone who digs typewriters is okay by me.

    I’ve owned three Lettera 32s in my time, and still have two. (Pro-tip: when travelling by air, do not put your typewriter in your suitcase. They break.) And, having in fact banged out a 130,000 word novel on one, I can tell you the 32 is more than up to the job.

    Now, if I could just have a couple of Olivetti Valentines, one in classic red, the other in the rare sky-blue, I’d be happy.

    Type on, MacDuff!

  3. Roberta X says:

    Superkewl! –I need to start running mine through the shop.

  4. PhilaBOR says:

    I think the big Olympia is pretty much what I took 9th grade typing on, and my college papers were banged out on a portable Olympia, maybe a decade newer. I got a nasty back ache from the tension of not making mistakes so I wouldn’t have to get out the chalk tape or White-Out.

  5. MSgt B says:

    Marko, your hardcore geekery is showing….

    Have you tried something like stamps? They’re a little easier to store and transport.

  6. blocksworld says:

    Cool. (long time no read).
    I used to live a mile or two from the empty Royal Typewriter factory. It burned in an “accident” awhile back and now there’s a Stop & Shop or movie theater there, I forget which.

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