Buying a Typewriter: What You Need to Know

People think typewriters are cool.

They must do, otherwise there wouldn’t be anyone buying them anymore. And there wouldn’t be anyone fixing them. Or selling them anymore.

And they are.

In the 21st Century, there is a growing number of typewriter collectors, and users who are returning to, or changing over from a computer to, a typewriter. This posting is here to serve as a guide for the novice typewriter-collector, the first-time buyer, the aspiring writer or the antiques bargain-hunter.

You want to buy a typewriter. What do you need to know? Keep reading, and you’ll find out.

Who Uses a Typewriter Anymore?

No, seriously…who?

You’d be surprised.

There’s still a large number of professional writers who use typewriters. There’s still an active repair-community. There’s still an active collecting community. One of the most famous typewriter-collectors and users on earth is Tom Hanks. He’s well-known for it.

I use a typewriter. Hell. I used a typewriter before I used a computer. Not because computers didn’t exist when I was born…they did…but because a typewriter was what my parents could afford when I was growing up. I learnt to touch-type on a typewriter before I ever learnt how to do it on a computer.

What do I DO with it?

What do you DO with your typewriter?? No seriously, what??

A lot of people who own typewriters today use them for writing short stories, novels, books, letters…much like typewriters were always used for. But in the 21st century, some people even use typewriters for blogging.

Called “typecasting”, bloggers will type up an entire blog-posting on a typewriter. Then, they will scan the typed copy, and load it onto their blog.

Why?

Because typing on a typewriter produces something more interesting than simply using “Courier New” in your blog-composition window. Because typing on a typewriter produces text variants which not even the most intricate downloadable typewriter-font can produce. An electronic font can’t reproduce things like strikeouts, type-overs, floating capitals, dropped letters, and faded or misformed print, which some bloggers enjoy, because it makes their posts more interesting and personal.

Perhaps…that’s why YOU want a typewriter…eh?

Deciding on What You Want

When buying a typewriter, as with buying anything, it’s important to know exactly what you want to buy and own. You don’t need to know precisely, right off the bat, but you should at least have a general idea of your tastes and desires. Different typewriters have different issues. Different things that could go wrong. Different prices. The variables are almost endless. So before you head off hunting, you need to know what you want, and the issues or restrictions that might come with your choices.

Typewriters – Style & Design Points

When selecting a typewriter, or drawing up a list of potential purchases, keep in mind a few things…

Do you want a Desktop? Or a Portable?

Desktop typewriters are NOT named-so for nothing. Models such as the Remington 12, Remington 16, L.C. Smith Bros. No. 8, Royal 10 and Underwoods 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6, weigh a LOT. The Royal 10 starts at about 30lbs. Something like a Remington 16 or a desktop Underwood goes up to about 50 pounds or more. Can you cart that home from the flea-market? Or ship it across the ocean on your flight back from your overseas holiday? Can you carry that back from the antiques shop halfway across town?

Do you want a portable? How old? Portables are much lighter than desktops, obviously, but they come with their own issues. For example, portables did not become really practical until the 1920s. Portables did not have all the features of a larger desktop typewriter. And portables manufactured during the Depression years of the 1930s were likely to be super-duper cheap, with only basic features. A fascinating look at the impact of the Depression on the American typewriter industry, but as practical typing-machines, you’d have more options with a sharpened pencil!

Do you want pretty glass keys?

Black-letters-on-white, or white-letters-on-black keys, capped with glass, and edged with pretty chrome rings are the signature of the typewriter. They’re pretty, shiny, stylish, artistic…and rare.

Typewriters with glass-topped keys were only made for a relatively short period of time. From the 1890s up to the 1940s. If you want a typewriter with those classic glass keys that you see in movies and on TV shows, then expect your machine to be at least 70 years old. When WWII ended in 1945, glass-key typewriters went out the window. They were considered oldschool and boring. By 1950, there were almost none left in production, and all typewriter-manufacturers had switched over to machines with plastic keys.

Metal or Plastic Body?

More modern typewriters were made with cheaper, moulded plastic bodies that can warp and bend and crack. These are usually the budget typewriters from the 1960s and 70s. A typewriter with an all-steel body is something that would’ve been made before, or during the 1950s. Metal bodies may be slightly heavier, but they offer the strength, durability and assurance that a flimsier plastic body cannot.

Missing Keys?

Until the 1960s and 70s, the vast majority of typewriters did not have 1-keys, !-keys or 0-keys. Instead, lower-case l’s, apostrophes, full-stops, and capital ‘O’ keys did double-duty for these numbers and symbols. So if your typewriter doesn’t have these keys…relax. They never did. And most other typewriters didn’t, either, until the 1960s and 70s.

It was a common practice, to save money, space, and weight on the manufacture of typewriters. It may make for an interesting and new typing experience, but it’s only a minor adjustment to worry about. If your typewriter MUST have those symbols on its keyboard as stand-alone keys, then you’ll need to buy one made in the 1950s-1980s. With only a few exceptions, all pre-1950s typewriters did not have them.

Ribbons and Spools

The vast majority of typewriters use ribbons. But it’s important to know WHAT TYPE of ribbon your machine uses.

Most typewriters from major manufacturers (Olivetti, Royal, Remington, Underwood, Brother, L.C. Smith, Corona and so-forth) will use a standard, 1/2-inch typewriter ribbon. Today, such ribbons are made of nylon. Ribbons come in either solid red, solid black, or two-tone red-black. Buying an all-black, or a red-black ribbon are the best options for regular typing.

While your typewriter ribbon-size might be 1/2-inch, which is more or less standard across the board (some older typewriters, or typewriters from more obscure manufacturers may use different ribbon-sizes which are harder to find), not every typewriter uses a standard ribbon-spool size.

Most typewriters accept what is called a “Universal Spool”. A universal spool is one that will fit most typewriters, and which sports a 1/2-inch ribbon. These are manufactured in their thousands and you can buy them brand-new online (eBay has dozens of them), or from a stationer’s shop which stocks them. 

But…what if your typewriter does NOT take universal-spools?

If it doesn’t, don’t despair. So long as you have your typewriter’s original ribbon-spools, all is not lost.

Simply remove the old ribbon from the spools and throw it out. Now, wind the new ribbon from the new spools, onto the old spools, which were original to your machine. So long as the ribbon and the spools are same size (which is more than likely), you should be able to use the new ribbon in the old spools with no problems at all!

Alternatively, if the original typewriter ribbon is in good condition, you could simply re-ink it and reuse it. To do this, you’ll need a bottle of stamp-pad ink (available at any good stationer’s shop), and my instructions about how to re-ink ribbons. 

Where do I Find Typewriters?

eBay, Etsy, Gumtree, Craigslist, and the surprisingly large number of online typewriter-dealers, are all excellent internet sources for typewriters of various vintages and styles. They all come with their ups and downs, of course. With eBay and other online seller-sites, you have to deal with how much, or how little the seller knows about the machine, and what they’re willing to sell it for, and whether or not they’re willing to haggle and negotiate.

With professional dealers, the typewriter you buy may be more expensive, but this is countered with the assurance of a professional restoration which will keep the machine running for years to come.

How much do you Pay for a Typewriter?

Postwar models, ca. 1950-1980s are cheap as old chips. You can find these at any flea-market or junk-shop. Don’t pay more than about $25. They’re really common and to spend more money than that on a functioning postwar machine is just wasting your money.

The machines which cost more are typically the older machines. Those from the 1940s, 30s, 20s and the 1910s and the 1900s. These, in working condition, can go for a couple of hundred dollars. If they’re not in working condition, then the price obviously drops. Don’t pay more than about $200 for something in working condition from this vintage, and don’t pay more than about $50 for something that isn’t working.

As you may have guessed from all this, typewriters are not worth a great deal of money. Don’t forget that until about 30 years ago, every office, every study, every desk in the world had a typewriter on it. They’re super-duper common. So the value just isn’t there. It doesn’t exist. But this is good news if you’re looking for a functional machine on the cheap. Just don’t expect to retire on it if you sell it in the future.

Testing your Typewriter – What to Check For

You want to buy a typewriter. You want to buy it at a good price, and you want to buy it in working condition. Or perhaps you don’t. Maybe you want to buy a typewriter as a fixer-upper restoration project? Perhaps fixing typewriters is your hobby? Or perhaps you want to go on a little desktop restoration-adventure?

But if you do want to buy a typewriter that works, you need to know what constitutes a working typewriter, and what you need to check, to ensure that it does, actually, work.

In particular, pay attention to the following areas:

Rubber

Roughly 20% of the stuff on a typewriter is rubber. The platen, the feet, the feed-rollers, and in some cases, the paper-bales (although not always, in this last instance).

Rubber is there to act as a cushion, and to provide grip for the paper when you type. The issue with rubber is that it’s a natural product, and is therefore prone to degrading. When buying a typewriter, you want to check the condition of the rubber.

Checking the rubber on the feet is easy. Just lift the typewriter up. You can buy replacement feet pretty easily online, or even at your local hardware shop, if they need replacing.

Next, check the rubber on the platen. Platen-rubber should be firm, but not solid. Tap it with your fingers. If it feels firm, then it’s fine. If it feels like tapping glass or the side of a bowl, then it’s too hard. This can be remedied by sanding the platen with fine sandpaper (to remove hard rubber and expose fresh, softer rubber, and therefore improve grip), or by rubbing the platen lightly with a rubber-solvent to soften up the platen. If the rubber on the platen is in good condition, then you can just leave it as it is, and not worry about it.

Then you need to check the condition of the feed-rollers. This is a little harder to do. Feed-rollers are the two, or four, depending on the typewriter, free-spinning rubber rollers inside the carriage, underneath the platen. They grip the paper when you crank it into the machine, and roll it under the platen, and feed it up the front of the carriage. Feed-rollers. See?

Feed-rollers are also covered in rubber, much like the platen. To find out if your feed-rollers are in good condition, simply roll a couple of sheets of paper into the typewriter.

Does the paper get pulled easily into the machine? Or does it just not go at all? Does the paper come out evenly on the other side? Does it advance evenly when you hit the carriage-lever?

If the answer to all these questions is “Yes”, then the feed-rollers are in good condition. If the answer to even one of them is “No”, then the rollers are not in good condition.

To try and rejuvenate the feed-rollers, you need to remove the platen from the carriage, fish out the rollers (they just sit there) and sand them, or treat them to rubber-solvent.

If the rubber on your rollers or platen is dry, hard and cracked then you should either PASS on the typewriter, or buy it with a view to REPLACING THE RUBBER ENTIRELY. Cracked rubber is completely unsalvageable, and no treatment with paper or chemicals is going to save it.

Rubber that feels like rubber, and rubber that is somewhat pliable, is rubber that’s in good quality. Rubber that is hard, dry, cracking, and which feels like plastic, is rubber that needs to be replaced.

Carriage

Does the carriage of your prospective typewriter advance smoothly as you type? Yes? Fine. Does the bell ring? Yes? Great! Do the margin-stops work? Yes? Wonderful.

IF the carriage does NOT advance when you type, that means that either the mainspring is kaput (possible), or that the draw-band has had it, and is toast (much more likely). Replacing a drawband is finicky, but possible. Most drawbands are nothing but a shoelace tied around the carriage-drum, and a hook or ring, at the right side of the carriage. This is a repair you could do at home with the right string, a pair of tweezers, and a bit of patience.

Suggested carriage-string materials include fishing-wire, and shoelaces. Keep the original carriage-string just in case you need it as a measurement-guide.

On most portable typewriters, there is a CARRIAGE-LOCK feature. The carriage-lock jams the carriage in-place, so that it does NOT move when the typewriter has been placed in it’s carry-case for transport. When testing a prospective portable typewriter, if the carriage doesn’t move when you type, the carriage-lock may be engaged. Ask the seller to unlock the carriage for you, if you don’t know how. If anything breaks…it’s their fault, not yours!

Keys

This probably goes without saying, but keys are important. But there’s a lot more to checking typewriter keys than finding out if they’re made of glass.

For your potential typewriter to be a practical typing machine when you get it home, you need to make sure that ALL the keys work. Typing “The Quick Brown Fox Jumps over the Lazy Dog” will be useless if the shift-key is broken, if the backspace doesn’t work, if the tab-keys are jammed or if the spacebar is broken.

You want to check every single key. You want to check all the switches,, knobs, levers, bells and whistles. Even the keys you don’t think you’ll ever use…check them. Do they press down? Do they pop up again? Do the hammers work? Do the levers work? If you press the backspace, does the carriage move to the right? If you press the shift-lock, does the shift-key actually LOCK? And if you hit the shift-key afterwards, does the key then UNLOCK like it should?

Do the margin-stops work? Does the margin-clear button work? Does the paper-release lever work? Does the carriage-release lever work? Does the carriage-return lever work? Do the tab-stop, clear and set keys all work?

Depending on your typewriter, there can be all that, and more, to check. Does the ribbon-reverser work? Does the ribbon-selector work?

Some things, you can probably do without. For example, it doesn’t matter if the shift-lock doesn’t work, so long as the actual shift-keys work. The typewriter will still function perfectly fine. Just that typing in capitals for long periods of time might be a bit harder.

Do NOT be worried if keys stick or if hammers jam up. That’s just a sign that the typewriter requires cleaning. You can do that easily at home. Here’s my guide to cleaning jammed-up typebars. You can do it with stuff you can buy at your local supermarket.

Buying a Typewriter “in the Wild”

In collecting circles of most objects (pens, watches, books, guns and typewriters, for example), to buy something “in the wild”, is a term used for making a collectible purchase at an establishment such as an antiques shop, junk-shop, thrift-shop, garage-sale, or flea-market. They’re called “Wild” finds because they are purchased outside of the established channels of collectibles dealing, such as fairs, shows, club-meetings, or from online dealers.

When buying a typewriter ‘in the wild’, there are a few things you should know.

You’ve done your research. You see a typewriter in the local flea-market that you REALLY WANT. It’s your dream machine. It’s the Mary Poppins typewriter. Practically Perfect in Every Way. The price looks fairly reasonable, and you wanted it YESTERDAY! How can you buy it so that things work out in your favour?

– Be DISCREET. Don’t ever show your cards. Keep a poker-face. If you mouth off and act like you know everything and then some, the seller’s gonna clam up, and the price is probably gonna go up like a rocket. Play dumb and pretend you know as much about typewriters as a toad.

– Examine the machine THOROUGHLY. Point out any issues to the seller, and ask if he might be willing to lower the price slightly on their account.

– Not many people use typewriters anymore. So the buying-pool may be rather small. If you don’t buy it, chances are that it may be, nobody ever will. This may make the seller anxious to get rid of it. This may be another bargaining-chip in your pocket.

– Typewriters are HEAVY. And BIG. A small portable is 5-10kg. A desktop model is 20-30kg! Imagine this:

You’re a flea-market stallholder. You lugged your damn Remington 16…

…all the way from home, to the market, in your car. It’s taking up space at home. Nobody uses it. It’s getting dusty and rusty and you just want to get it the hell out of your life. It’s dislocating your shoulders every time you have to move it, and you’re just sick of it! Then along comes sumgai* who wants to buy it. You have $150.00 on it. He offers you $100.00. You’re desperate to get rid of it. So you accept it.

That’s what you, as the buyer, should be hoping for. Typewriters, especially the big, chunky desktop models like that Remington 16, are heavy enough to break your leg if you drop it on there. Most likely, a seller who bothered to lug the thing to the market, doesn’t want to lug it back home again! Use this as leverage, and ask for a smaller price. If he really wants to get rid of it, he’ll take it, or at least haggle a bit, just to get it out of his life.

– Perhaps you walked to the market? Or caught a bus? Or a train? Or a tram? If you find a typewriter that you really like, but you can’t get it home, and the price is reasonable and it’s in good condition…have a few words with the buyer. Offer to pay full price if he might be inclined to deliver it to your house. It’s a little more work for him, but he gets his money,  and he gets rid of it in the end. You get your machine, and you get delivery thrown in, to boot!

*”Sumgai” is another collecting-term, much like buying stuff “in the wild”. It’s a corruption of the words “some guy”. As in, you show up at the flea-market, ask a stallholder about a particular item that he may or may not have, and the seller replies: “Oh sorry. Some guy just bought it and walked off with it”.

A ‘sumgai’ is someone who got there first and pinched all the good stuff, leaving you with all the shit that nobody wants. To be a sumgai yourself (ie, to get first pick at all the goodies at the market), you should arrive early and have a keen eye. That way, you won’t have to hear the famous speech from the seller about that “sumgai” who bought the pretty 1929 Remington Model 3 Portable for $25 just ten minutes ago and walked off down the street with it.

Remington Model 3 Portable…

Knowing Your Machine

When it comes to buying your typewriter, it’s important that you know what all the parts are, what they do, and how they work. This will help you pick a good machine from a bad one, and it’ll make you a more savvy buyer, which is always good and important.

When you roll the paper into the typewriter, you rest it on the paper-table. This is the back panel of the typewriter. It usually has the make of the machine painted on there as decoration, such as “UNDERWOOD”, “ROYAL”, “REMINGTON” or “L.C. SMITH & Bros”.

Rolling the paper into the typewriter is done by turning on the two platen-knobs, attached to the platen, the central, rubber-covered drum in the middle of the carriage. The carriage is the part of the typewriter that moves to the left as you type. As you turn the platen-knobs and pull the paper into the machine, two, three, or four feed-rollers grip the paper and pull the paper around the platen.

When the paper comes up the front, you raise the bale-rail at the front of the carriage and slip the paper underneath it. The rail has two (or more) paper-bales on it. These are sometimes made of metal, but some are coated in rubber. The paper-bales are there to hold the paper in place when you type, so that the paper doesn’t flap around everywhere. They can be adjusted to whatever position you like on the rail. If you have two bales, then you want them 1/3 in from the left, and 1/3 in from the right, so that they divide the bale-rail into thirds, and hold the paper evenly.

Along with the paper-bales and the rail which holds them are the paper-fingers. They slide along the front rule of your typewriter, in line with the ribbon-vibrator. They serve much the same purpose as the paper-bales, to hold the paper in-place on the platen.

A typical mechanical typewriter has three or four rows or banks of keys. The keys are attached via levers and linkages to the typebars. On the head of each typebar is the type-slug. Pressing a key pulls the linkages which pulls the typebar up, forcing the slug forwards and down, to strike the ribbon.

The ribbon is held in the ribbon-guides and the central ribbon-vibrator. The vibrator is the central ribbon-guide that jumps up and down as you type.

When you reach the end of the line, the warning-bell goes off, to tell you that you have (usually) six keystrokes left, before the key-lock mechanism kicks in. This deliberately locks the keys so that you can’t keep typing. To unlock them, you push the carriage back to the right, using the carriage-return lever. Pressing this lever hard enough also pushes the platen back, bringing up a fresh line, so it is also called the line-advance lever.

Next to the carriage-lever is the line-spacing lever. The line-space lever adjusted the operation of the line-advance lever. By adjusting this lever, you could affect the line-advance lever to advance the page 1, 2, or on larger machines, even 3 lines, to produce double and triple-spaced documents if you needed to.

As you type, the carriage moves along the carriage-race. This is the toothed rail which the carriage rides on. Each tooth is one keystroke. Typing releases the power stored in the mainspring, which is inside the mainspring-drum. As the spring unwinds, it rotates the drum, which has a drawcord or drawstring attached to it. As the drum turns, it winds up the drawstring, pulling the carriage along with it.

When you push the carriage back, the drawcord is pulled out again, and the mainspring is wound up at the same time, ready for the next line.

As you type, the inked typewriter ribbon, stored in two ribbon-spools, moves along, to provide fresh ink. Ribbon-spools are held in a pair of spool-cups. Typewriters made before the 1930s did not generally have spool-cup covers. So if your antique typewriter doesn’t have these covers, don’t despair.

This is a 1926 Royal Portable Typewriter, Model 1:

And this is a 1930 Royal Portable Typewriter, Model 2:

As you can see, the 20s, 1st-model typewriter doesn’t come with spool-covers. The second, 30s model typewriter, does. This was common with many typewriter manufacturers of the period. Companies like Underwood and Corona did the same thing.

Back to the parts of your typewriter…

Most, but not all, typewriters came with something called a “Ribbon-Reverser“. The ribbon-reverser determined which spool-cup would rotate as the machine typed, and therefore, which spool would wind up with used ribbon while the machine was in-use. Switching the reverser-switch back and forth changed the receiving spool from left to right, and vice-versa, as the user of the typewriter required. A handy feature.

Along with the ribbon-reverse switch is the bichrome ribbon-selector. The bichrome ribbon-selector typically had three settings: Black, for black-ribbon. Red, for red-ribbon. And Stencil.

Stencil-mode disengaged the ribbon-vibrator altogether. This allowed you to type out clear stencil-masters on your typewriter. The completed stencil-documents were inserted into duplicating machines…

…and as many duplicate copies of the original could be printed as you needed or desired. They were the Victorian equivalent of the photo-copier.

To set left and right margins on your machine, you have the margin-stops, which are usually (but not always) situated behind the typewriter, on the margin-rail. You shift and move the margin-stops along the rail to where-ever you want your margins to be. Setting the left margin determines where the carriage stops when you push it back. Setting the right margin determines when the bell rings at the end of each line. Once that bell rings, you have six keystrokes left before you need to return the carriage all over again.

Located on the carriage are two more levers or switches. These are the paper-release lever, and the carriage-release lever (there seem to be an awfully large number of levers on these old typewriters, huh?).

Lifting the paper-release lever eases up the pressure on the platen and feed-rollers.

Remember those films about frustrated writers who stop typing, grab their paper and rip it out of the machine, scrunch it up and toss it over their shoulders?

To do that, you need to flip the paper-lever. It allows you to just pull the paper right out of the typewriter, without damaging the mechanism.

The carriage-release lever, or switch, disengages the ratchet-mechanism between the carriage and the toothed carriage-rail. You can now slide the carriage left or right along the carriage-rail to set up your typing start-point wherever you want on the page. Pressing this button will cause the mainspring to unwind super-fast. It will grab the drawcord and yank the carriage all the way to the left. If you’re not prepared for this, expect an almighty bang when the carriage hits the end of the line! That may damage the mainspring or the drawcord (if they’re old and original to the machine), so don’t do it too often, or you may wear them out prematurely. Or if you need to use this switch, hold tight to the carriage, first!

Care and Placement of your Typewriter

You have read about where to buy a typewriter, what to look out for, and how much you should pay. You have purchased the machine of your dreams! Perhaps it’s a 1930s Imperial…

…or an Underwood from the 20s…

Perhaps it’s a sleek, postwar model like the Royal Royalite “El Dorado”…

or a more common Olivetti Lettera 32?

Perhaps you bought yourself a desktop or “Standard” typewriter? A Royal 10…

Or an Underwood No. 5?

Perhaps it’s none of these, and many more, historic and stylish machines? But whatever you bought, it’s important that you know how to look after it now that you have it. Here are some things to consider:

Keep Your Typewriter out of Direct Sunlight 

A good typewriter is like a vampire. It’ll last forever, but it’s allergic to strong sunlight. And, for that matter, heat. Keep your machine away from windows that receive full sunlight, or anywhere where it might be exposed to heavy rays or high levels of heat for a long period of time. Remember all that rubber on the platen and the rollers? That stuff can dry up and crack if you expose it to heat and light like that. So try and avoid it.

Keep Your Typewriter Free of Dust

Back when they were the only method of rapid word-processing, a typewriter was an essential piece of equipment in the office, and in the home. For reports, essays, homework, letters and stories and plays and novels. Because typewriters were so important, they were built to last. Any company that produced machines that broke down or were outdated as soon as they were introduced (much like the stuff today), would never have lasted in this highly competitive market.

To make their machines last, typewriters were made almost entirely of steel. There’s very few things that can break on a typewriter. And most of the issues with typewriters (sticky keys, wriggly carriages and so-forth) are usually caused by neglect rather than damage.

Keep your typewriter FREE OF DUST. Dust and debris gets into the mechanism and jams up the machine. And you’ll have a hell of a time trying to get it out of there.

To keep your machine running smoothly, when you’re not using it, cover it. If it’s just a temporary pause in usage (like overnight), you can just cover it with a sheet of paper, to stop dust getting into the typing-mechanism. But if it’s for longer periods of time (up to a week or more), then cover your typewriter with its dust-cover, or its protective case.

Typing on your Machine

A typewriter is not a computer. EVERYTHING is mechanical. To type, you need to exert more force on the keys than you would with a modern keyboard. But don’t smash the keys with your fingers. If you’re not used to typing on a typewriter, even half a page of continuous typing can seem exhausting, but as you do it more often, your fingers will get used to it. Use more force than you usually would, but don’t bear down on it.

Use More Paper

Traditionally, you typed with two sheets of paper inside your machine. One, the actual page of text, the other to act as padding. This provides cushioning against the typebars and the platen, ensuring that they will last longer.

Place Your Typewriter Somewhere STURDY

Typewriters are BIG, FAT, CHUNKY MACHINES.

Or at least, some of them can be. When you get your machine home, make sure that you place it somewhere that’s suitable for it. I probably don’t need to tell you now that typewriters are heavy. A desktop Underwood, Royal or Remington weighs in excess of 30-50 pounds.

Make sure that you put your typewriter on a table, or a desk, that is strong enough to take it. Nothing flimsy that’s going to shake around, or that’s going to warp and bend under the weight of the machine. Something that’s sturdy and which won’t shift and wobble.

Typewriters are totally mechanical. The typing, the shifting of the carriage, the clunking of the levers. Everything produces motion and vibration. You need a desk that can cope with the vibrations and jolting produced by the typewriter in regular operation. If you don’t believe how much vibration a typewriter produces, just watch this:

The typewriter in that video is an Underwood Model 3. But those kinds of vibrations (like what shorted out the desk-lamp) can be produced by almost any typewriter, especially the older, heavier ones. Having a desk that can absorb the shocks produced by the typewriter is important. It makes for a smoother typing experience.

If you want to keep your desktop clean, or if you want to try and muffle the sounds of the typewriter somewhat, you can buy a typewriter-pad online. Typewriter-pads were used in the old days, to cushion typewriters and to muffle the sound of the keys. You simply slip the pad (made of thick felt) underneath the typewriter, to deaden the sound. A cheaper alternative is to use a small towel, folded over and slid under the machine.

Don’t Move your Typewriter Unnecessarily

Unless it’s a portable, and therefore, designed to be moved around, don’t shift your typewriter all over the place unnecessarily. This will prevent potential damage. If you must move your typewriter around, make sure that you have its next destination cleared for landing before you dump the typewriter on top of it.

When moving your portable typewriter around, use the carrying-case. It’s not only easier, it protects the machine from jolts and bumping.

Typewriter Desks

Back when typewriters were more common, large office-buildings would invest in specially-designed “typewriter desks”. These desks had special, drop-down platforms which a typist’s machine could sit in. It was at a comfortable height for typing, and the desks featured a pull-over tabletop which would cover the typewriter from dust at the end of the workday, and which would double as a writing-surface on top of the typewriter, when the cover was pulled over.

These desks are ideal for typewriters, because they are specially designed to deal with the weight and vibrations of these machines. They are obviously no-longer made brand-new, and if you want one for your machine, you’ll have to go out and buy one second-hand.

A typical vintage typewriter-desk, with an Underwood No. 5 desktop typewriter. The desktop cover (behind the typewriter) is pulled up, and forwards, covering the typewriter when it’s not in use, and can double as a writing-surface. The desktop is lifted up, and pushed back and down when the typewriter needs to be used.

Desk opened…and closed…

This is what the same style of desk looks like, when the desktop cover has been pulled up and back over the typewriter.

Cleaning Your Typewriter

The majority of typewriter issues (faded text, stuck and jammed keys, sluggish movement, etc) are caused not by age, but by neglect. To keep your typewriter in working condition, you should keep it clean. This can be as simple as keeping it covered when you’re not using it…even if it’s just with a sheet of paper overnight. But sometimes, cleaning your typewriter is necessary.

Cleaning your typewriter can vary from level to level, from a light scrubbing and polishing, to partial or even complete disassembly, to clean out the gunk inside your machine. To do all this, you’ll most likely need some, or all, of the following bits and pieces:

Cotton Buds/Q-Tips – To clean out the dust and gunk inside the typewriter carriage.
Methylated Spirits/Denatured Alcohol – To clean the typing mechanism (see my guide on cleaning typebars on how to do this in-depth). Do NOT use anything else other than this, for this purpose. Meths washes out the dust, and then just evaporates, leaving everything clean and dry.
A watchmaker’s squeeze-bulb puffer – To blow out loose dust and lint. Handy things, when blowing with your mouth simply won’t do.
Needle-nose Tweezers – For any restoration, cleaning and repairs of machines, these are ESSENTIAL. I said the same thing in my guide on how to restore sewing-machines, and i say the same thing here. Without these, you may as well give up. You need them to fish out gunk, to scrape away crud, to hold tiny screws while you screw them in, to guide thread, or loose cables and straps, and to hold parts in-place while you fix them back on. They are ESSENTIAL.
Pliers – These are handy (in conjunction with screwdrivers) for unscrewing stuck and stubborn screws.
A set of small, jeweller’s screwdrivers – Handy for the tiny screws that you find in old typewriters. You can buy these things cheaply at those convenience stores that sell almost everything in the world, from blue Ethernet cables to toilet-plungers. They cost like $5.00 a set and they’ll last forever.
Sewing-Machine oil – Yeah I know it’s a typewriter…but sewing-machine oil is a really high-quality, thin, runny, extremely slippery machine-oil. It’s ideal for lubricating all those squeaks and squeals inside your typewriter. But do not use more than the smallest amount possible. ONE drop on any affected area is more than enough. This stuff can be bought at any big supermarket. Or if not, then your local sewing-machine shop or arts-and-crafts shop will most likely have it.
Tissues/Toilet-paper – Always gotta have these.
Paper-towels – For when you clean any sticking keys (again, for the reason why, read the guide dedicated to this).
Small, soft, clean paintbrush (for cleaning keys).
Small bowls (for holding screws, knobs, plates etc as you pull apart the typewriter).
Windex – Or a similar product. Typewriters, especially the really old ones, were smoked around…a LOT. A typewriter that’s 50, 70, 90, 100 years old, will have been smoked around for at least 20-30 years, if not its entire life. The nicotine and the tobacco gets ALL over the typewriter and it sticks and clings to the metal surface of the machine. Remember how those antique typewriters have really shiny, high-gloss metal finishes on their bodies? All that gets covered up by the smoke. To remove it, you need Windex, some tissues, and a lot of elbow-grease, to scrub off the smoke and nicotine stains. This can take a LONG time; it took me two days to clean all the crap off my typewriter, and it’s just a little portable number!

Paper, Ink and Ribbons

Almost every typewriter on earth will use standard A4 copy-paper without any issues, easily purchased at any stationer’s shop, or even your local supermarket. Most big stationery/office-supply franchise stores will still sell carbon-paper if you feel the need to have it, or use it.

Typewriter ribbons may be purchased easily on eBay, or from online dealers who repair and/or sell typewriters. As per my instructions regarding ribbons, further up, it’s best NOT to throw out your old ribbon and spools until you’ve purchased a brand-new ribbon for the typewriter, and made sure that everything fits properly.

For Melbournians reading this, standard-size, 1/2-inch typewriter ribbons may be purchased brand-new from INDUSTRIAL STATIONERS: 53-57 Queen St., in the Melbourne C.B.D. The ribbons will fit almost every major-brand typewriter. Even my 80-year-old antique Underwood!

 

312 thoughts on “Buying a Typewriter: What You Need to Know

  1. Best summary I’ve read online. Thanks so much for creating a place for the newbie and moderately experienced typospherian to check their acquisition and maintenance process.

     
    1. You’re very welcome, Tapper 🙂 There are several excellent typewriter-specific blogs online which will probably be far more detailed than mine, but thanks!

       
      1. Oh yes, other blogs and links (Will Davis’, Richard Polt, etc), but I’ve not seen such a good overall summary of what to look for ‘in the wild’ when typewriter hunting. thanks.

         
  2. Best summary I’ve read online. Thanks so much for creating a place for the newbie and moderately experienced typospherian to check their acquisition and maintenance process.

     
    1. You’re very welcome, Tapper 🙂 There are several excellent typewriter-specific blogs online which will probably be far more detailed than mine, but thanks!

       
      1. Oh yes, other blogs and links (Will Davis’, Richard Polt, etc), but I’ve not seen such a good overall summary of what to look for ‘in the wild’ when typewriter hunting. thanks.

         
  3. That’s excellent, you really didn’t miss much there. I was thinking of what I look for when buying a typewriter and the only thing you didn’t mention was size of type (10/12 characters per inch, pica or elite) and type style. As I don’t particularly like typewriters with small ‘elite’ type I always check this.

     
    1. Hi Jupiter,

      I’d completely forgotten about the characters-per-inch! But yes, if that’s important to the prospective buyer, then it’s something that should also be examined.

       
  4. That’s excellent, you really didn’t miss much there. I was thinking of what I look for when buying a typewriter and the only thing you didn’t mention was size of type (10/12 characters per inch, pica or elite) and type style. As I don’t particularly like typewriters with small ‘elite’ type I always check this.

     
    1. Hi Jupiter,

      I’d completely forgotten about the characters-per-inch! But yes, if that’s important to the prospective buyer, then it’s something that should also be examined.

       
  5. Hello there!
    Your page is wonderful, thank you for such a comprehensive guide!

    I don’t know if you can help me, but I am having trouble identifying an old typewriter I just found in a skip tonight (lucky me!)

    It looks pretty much exactly like the “underwood from the 20s” you have a photo of, except it is covered in maroon crinkle paint (which must be covering up the make?) There is no brand name on it at all, but there’s a small sign on the paper-table in black and gold that reads: “service & supplies to this machine. WM Lowe & Co. 5/7 Arcade St. Tel. Wigan 2757.” The town of Wigan is 20miles west of Manchester, UK.

    I found the serial number behind the ribbon on the left hand side: 49158.

    These are the only clues I have.

    Can you help me to identify it please? It works perfectly and is so beautiful! =)

    Kind regards,
    Sophia

     
    1. Hi Sophia,

      If you take photographs of the machine, and email them to the address notyetpublished@hotmail.com , I’ll take a look and see if I can help.

      The Underwood Portable came in a number of variations. Three-bank, four-bank, spool-covers with, and without. As well as a number of different paint-colours/styles, and bodyshapes. It was produced from 1919 and remained in production for nearly 30 years!

       
  6. Hello there!
    Your page is wonderful, thank you for such a comprehensive guide!

    I don’t know if you can help me, but I am having trouble identifying an old typewriter I just found in a skip tonight (lucky me!)

    It looks pretty much exactly like the “underwood from the 20s” you have a photo of, except it is covered in maroon crinkle paint (which must be covering up the make?) There is no brand name on it at all, but there’s a small sign on the paper-table in black and gold that reads: “service & supplies to this machine. WM Lowe & Co. 5/7 Arcade St. Tel. Wigan 2757.” The town of Wigan is 20miles west of Manchester, UK.

    I found the serial number behind the ribbon on the left hand side: 49158.

    These are the only clues I have.

    Can you help me to identify it please? It works perfectly and is so beautiful! =)

    Kind regards,
    Sophia

     
    1. Hi Sophia,

      If you take photographs of the machine, and email them to the address notyetpublished@hotmail.com , I’ll take a look and see if I can help.

      The Underwood Portable came in a number of variations. Three-bank, four-bank, spool-covers with, and without. As well as a number of different paint-colours/styles, and bodyshapes. It was produced from 1919 and remained in production for nearly 30 years!

       
      1. i thought this article was amazing! thank you soo much i will always check on this website when i get my typewriter

         
      1. i thought this article was amazing! thank you soo much i will always check on this website when i get my typewriter

         
  7. Thank you for your great article – very informative! I am trying to decide what typewriter to buy but as I am going to buy online, will have to rely on the description in terms of working condition. I’m looking at the Olivetti 45 – would you recommend this typewriter? I’m just going to be using it sparingly for craft/scrapbooking but I would like something that looks “pretty” and not too big (relatively) as it will be in sight. Thanks in advance.

     
    1. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Personally I’ve never liked the look of postwar Olivettis. But mechanically, they’re sound enough machines.

       
  8. Thank you for your great article – very informative! I am trying to decide what typewriter to buy but as I am going to buy online, will have to rely on the description in terms of working condition. I’m looking at the Olivetti 45 – would you recommend this typewriter? I’m just going to be using it sparingly for craft/scrapbooking but I would like something that looks “pretty” and not too big (relatively) as it will be in sight. Thanks in advance.

     
    1. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Personally I’ve never liked the look of postwar Olivettis. But mechanically, they’re sound enough machines.

       
  9. Very informative guide! I recently purchased a Royal Model O from 1936 with the help of the info on this blog and could not be happier. One small issue is that I am looking for replacement glass keys as the one I purchased has rubber, but it seems all the keys I find online are used for jewelry or arts and crafts. Any idea where I can find some replacement keys? Thank you in advance 😀

     
    1. Like I said, glass keys are extremely hard to find. Your best bet is to buy the “jewellery” keys and weld, fix, glue or solder them onto the typewriter. That’s about all you can do. Purpose-made reproduction keys don’t exist.

       
        1. Hi Jules, you may have to. I mean you PROBABLY can find ORIGINAL glass keys…but they’re very rare these days. Glass keys on typewriters really died out after WWII. They were seen as old-fashioned and bland, and so they stopped making them. And then there are those keychoppers who literally rip keys out of typewriters like dentists ripping teeth. And they use them to make bracelets and jewellery and earrings and cufflinks and…yeah. They destroy the typewriters.

           
    2. The Royal Model O should have the glass keys. If you have rubber ones they are probably what are known as ‘Peerless Rubber Keys’. These are removable. They were supposed to make typing a little less hard of the fingers. You will probably find the original glass keys underneath.

       
  10. Very informative guide! I recently purchased a Royal Model O from 1936 with the help of the info on this blog and could not be happier. One small issue is that I am looking for replacement glass keys as the one I purchased has rubber, but it seems all the keys I find online are used for jewelry or arts and crafts. Any idea where I can find some replacement keys? Thank you in advance 😀

     
    1. Like I said, glass keys are extremely hard to find. Your best bet is to buy the “jewellery” keys and weld, fix, glue or solder them onto the typewriter. That’s about all you can do. Purpose-made reproduction keys don’t exist.

       
        1. Hi Jules, you may have to. I mean you PROBABLY can find ORIGINAL glass keys…but they’re very rare these days. Glass keys on typewriters really died out after WWII. They were seen as old-fashioned and bland, and so they stopped making them. And then there are those keychoppers who literally rip keys out of typewriters like dentists ripping teeth. And they use them to make bracelets and jewellery and earrings and cufflinks and…yeah. They destroy the typewriters.

           
    2. The Royal Model O should have the glass keys. If you have rubber ones they are probably what are known as ‘Peerless Rubber Keys’. These are removable. They were supposed to make typing a little less hard of the fingers. You will probably find the original glass keys underneath.

       
  11. Hi

    Excellent post! I’ve just purchased a Royal 1930’s typewriter in great working order however was wondering if you could help me regarding capitals. If I type a capital it seems to sit slightly higher than any lowercase letters I type. Is there any specific reason or remedy for this?

    Any help would be appreciated!

     
    1. Capitals are made in one of two ways:

      1. Shift-key press. Carriage rises up (“Carriage shift”)
      2. Shift-key press. Basket lowers, or rises, depending on the machine. (“Basket shift”).

      If there’s no problem with the shifting mechanism, then you’re probably having “floating capitals”, where the capital letters are out of alignment on the page with the regular text.

      This is caused by NOT pushing the shift-key down all the way. The result is that when the character is printed, the key isn’t in the right position, so it hits the page at the wrong height.

      You need to make sure that you press the shift-key down fully before you press the letter to be capitalised. You have to remember that this is an ENTIRELY mechanical process. If you don’t exert the correct amount of force – then it simply doesn’t work.

       
    2. Capitals out of alignment is a common problem. Assuming that the reason is not an obstruction that can easily be removed there will be ‘Motion Adjustment Screw Lock Nuts’ that you can use to equalise the capitals and small letters. Quite fiddly though and not necessarily an easy adjustment to make. I have a typewriter with this problem that I decided to leave as it was, regarding it as part of its charm. For specific advice on your model ask at:

      http://groups.yahoo.com/group/theportabletypewriterforum/

       
  12. Hi

    Excellent post! I’ve just purchased a Royal 1930’s typewriter in great working order however was wondering if you could help me regarding capitals. If I type a capital it seems to sit slightly higher than any lowercase letters I type. Is there any specific reason or remedy for this?

    Any help would be appreciated!

     
    1. Capitals are made in one of two ways:

      1. Shift-key press. Carriage rises up (“Carriage shift”)
      2. Shift-key press. Basket lowers, or rises, depending on the machine. (“Basket shift”).

      If there’s no problem with the shifting mechanism, then you’re probably having “floating capitals”, where the capital letters are out of alignment on the page with the regular text.

      This is caused by NOT pushing the shift-key down all the way. The result is that when the character is printed, the key isn’t in the right position, so it hits the page at the wrong height.

      You need to make sure that you press the shift-key down fully before you press the letter to be capitalised. You have to remember that this is an ENTIRELY mechanical process. If you don’t exert the correct amount of force – then it simply doesn’t work.

       
    2. Capitals out of alignment is a common problem. Assuming that the reason is not an obstruction that can easily be removed there will be ‘Motion Adjustment Screw Lock Nuts’ that you can use to equalise the capitals and small letters. Quite fiddly though and not necessarily an easy adjustment to make. I have a typewriter with this problem that I decided to leave as it was, regarding it as part of its charm. For specific advice on your model ask at:

      http://groups.yahoo.com/group/theportabletypewriterforum/

       
  13. Hi 🙂 I have an Olivetti Lettera 25, wondered if you knew how to free up a line spacer lever? It will not move! Many thanks.

     
    1. Hi Gaynor. It’s possible that it’s just jammed through dust and gunk. If you can, try and pick out any fluff and grime with a pair of needle-point tweezers. If that doesn’t work, then you can try flushing it out with methylated spirits. Once that’s thoroughly done, the switch should work. If it doesn’t, add in a drop of sewing-oil. That should loosen things up.

       
  14. Hi 🙂 I have an Olivetti Lettera 25, wondered if you knew how to free up a line spacer lever? It will not move! Many thanks.

     
    1. Hi Gaynor. It’s possible that it’s just jammed through dust and gunk. If you can, try and pick out any fluff and grime with a pair of needle-point tweezers. If that doesn’t work, then you can try flushing it out with methylated spirits. Once that’s thoroughly done, the switch should work. If it doesn’t, add in a drop of sewing-oil. That should loosen things up.

       
  15. I have a type writer in a hard black carrying case, but the latch that opens it has somehow been broken. I can’t figure out how to hack into the case to use the typewriter. Are there any standard remedies to open up a stuck case like that?

     
    1. Hi Skarlet, do you have a key to the lock? Or is it just a simple catch? Either way, about the only way you’ll get in is by jemmying the lock. Not a pleasant thing to do, but that’s about all you can do. Unless you’re willing to spend the money on a locksmith.

       
  16. I have a type writer in a hard black carrying case, but the latch that opens it has somehow been broken. I can’t figure out how to hack into the case to use the typewriter. Are there any standard remedies to open up a stuck case like that?

     
    1. Hi Skarlet, do you have a key to the lock? Or is it just a simple catch? Either way, about the only way you’ll get in is by jemmying the lock. Not a pleasant thing to do, but that’s about all you can do. Unless you’re willing to spend the money on a locksmith.

       
  17. Hi
    This has all made very interesting reading. I have a Scheidegger which was working but suddenly now it is not moving along when I type. Is there a simple solution to this – such a shame as it was fine last week!
    Thanks

     
    1. Hi Emma,

      There are three possible reasons for this:

      1. You have the carriage-lock engaged.
      2. Your mainspring is shot.
      3. Your drawband is shot.

      A broken mainspring is unlikely, but it can happen if the typewriter is very old. There are methods for fixing this situation mentioned online.

      A broken drawband is another common possibility. Typewriters which see frequent use will have a lot of strain placed on drawbands (the cables which pull the carriage along the top of the typewriter). If the drawband is of poor quality, or very old, it can eventually just fray, wear out and snap. Replacing the band is possible as an at-home repair, but it can be rather fiddly.

       
  18. Hi
    This has all made very interesting reading. I have a Scheidegger which was working but suddenly now it is not moving along when I type. Is there a simple solution to this – such a shame as it was fine last week!
    Thanks

     
    1. Hi Emma,

      There are three possible reasons for this:

      1. You have the carriage-lock engaged.
      2. Your mainspring is shot.
      3. Your drawband is shot.

      A broken mainspring is unlikely, but it can happen if the typewriter is very old. There are methods for fixing this situation mentioned online.

      A broken drawband is another common possibility. Typewriters which see frequent use will have a lot of strain placed on drawbands (the cables which pull the carriage along the top of the typewriter). If the drawband is of poor quality, or very old, it can eventually just fray, wear out and snap. Replacing the band is possible as an at-home repair, but it can be rather fiddly.

       
  19. Fabulous article! I am considering purchasing a Remington typewriter with glass keys. I noticed in the picture that one of the key top facings, the letter itself, is loose and appears crooked. It’s a minor presentation problem, but I want to know the best way to fix it. Thanks.

     
    1. Hi Willy,

      It probably is possible to fix it, but it’s gonna be very fiddly.

      Keys were made in the following way:

      1. The keytop blanks were soldered to the key-arms.
      2. The paper letters were placed on the keytops.
      3. The glass covers were placed on top of the paper letters.
      4. The chrome key-rings were placed on top of the glass.
      5. Little tabs at the bottom of each chrome ring (3 or 4, usually) were folded in, to hold everything together.

      To fix that problem, you’d have to do that process in reverse, and then seal it all up again. The danger is that the tabs underneath the chrome rings would snap off from age. So you either have to live with it, or be extremely careful if you’re going to pull the key apart.

       
  20. Fabulous article! I am considering purchasing a Remington typewriter with glass keys. I noticed in the picture that one of the key top facings, the letter itself, is loose and appears crooked. It’s a minor presentation problem, but I want to know the best way to fix it. Thanks.

     
    1. Hi Willy,

      It probably is possible to fix it, but it’s gonna be very fiddly.

      Keys were made in the following way:

      1. The keytop blanks were soldered to the key-arms.
      2. The paper letters were placed on the keytops.
      3. The glass covers were placed on top of the paper letters.
      4. The chrome key-rings were placed on top of the glass.
      5. Little tabs at the bottom of each chrome ring (3 or 4, usually) were folded in, to hold everything together.

      To fix that problem, you’d have to do that process in reverse, and then seal it all up again. The danger is that the tabs underneath the chrome rings would snap off from age. So you either have to live with it, or be extremely careful if you’re going to pull the key apart.

       
  21. Thanks for posting such a comprehensive blog on typewriter maintenance. I too have a couple of typewriters and have recently got them repaired. I am typing my blogs on the paper and then posting scanned copy of the blog posting (Typecasting), the first one being back in 2010. Anyway, I would like to know if you have any tips on saving the paper while typing. I have known that people have been in the habit of making mistake and then taking the whole paper and throwing it in the waste basket. I think this is sheer waste of resources, even though we are not facing any serious paper shortages but still.

    Hope to hear from you.

    Thanks buddy!

     
  22. Thanks for posting such a comprehensive blog on typewriter maintenance. I too have a couple of typewriters and have recently got them repaired. I am typing my blogs on the paper and then posting scanned copy of the blog posting (Typecasting), the first one being back in 2010. Anyway, I would like to know if you have any tips on saving the paper while typing. I have known that people have been in the habit of making mistake and then taking the whole paper and throwing it in the waste basket. I think this is sheer waste of resources, even though we are not facing any serious paper shortages but still.

    Hope to hear from you.

    Thanks buddy!

     
  23. I have a portable Olvetti 25 and its in perfect condition as far as I can tell but after about 10 types I have to manually tighten the used ribbon. It’s my first typewriter and I think I may have set up the ribbon wrong? What do you think?

     
    1. Make sure the ribbon is installed in the spool-cups correctly, and that the ribbon-reverser switch is at the correct setting (there’s only two settings, so it’s either one or the other). Unless the typewriter is physically damaged, I’m not sure what else would be wrong.

       
  24. I have a portable Olvetti 25 and its in perfect condition as far as I can tell but after about 10 types I have to manually tighten the used ribbon. It’s my first typewriter and I think I may have set up the ribbon wrong? What do you think?

     
    1. Make sure the ribbon is installed in the spool-cups correctly, and that the ribbon-reverser switch is at the correct setting (there’s only two settings, so it’s either one or the other). Unless the typewriter is physically damaged, I’m not sure what else would be wrong.

       
  25. This is an amazing article! Very very helpful for a newbie like me. I’m considering buying a ’57 Underwood Quiet Tab and the guy on Craigslist is selling it for $45….too much? What should I ask this guy before I buy it?

     
    1. Any discount you can get is good. Postwar typewriters are not worth as much as pre-war typewriters, which aren’t worth much to begin with. But that sounds like a fair-ish price. Just make sure that the keys work, the carriage works, the bell works, and that the platen is not damaged or overly worn out or in need of replacement rubber.

       
  26. This is an amazing article! Very very helpful for a newbie like me. I’m considering buying a ’57 Underwood Quiet Tab and the guy on Craigslist is selling it for $45….too much? What should I ask this guy before I buy it?

     
    1. Any discount you can get is good. Postwar typewriters are not worth as much as pre-war typewriters, which aren’t worth much to begin with. But that sounds like a fair-ish price. Just make sure that the keys work, the carriage works, the bell works, and that the platen is not damaged or overly worn out or in need of replacement rubber.

       
    1. Looks like a pretty modern Smith-Corona portable. Probably 70s manufacture. I doubt that there would be anything seriously wrong with it, but best to ask, as always.

      It should take standard 1/2-inch ribbons.

       
    1. Looks like a pretty modern Smith-Corona portable. Probably 70s manufacture. I doubt that there would be anything seriously wrong with it, but best to ask, as always.

      It should take standard 1/2-inch ribbons.

       
  27. Thank you so much for this article ! I have a question. I want to type a number on a business cards. do you think if I can put business card in a typing machine instead of A4 ?

    Thanks 😉

     
  28. Thank you so much for this article ! I have a question. I want to type a number on a business cards. do you think if I can put business card in a typing machine instead of A4 ?

    Thanks 😉

     
  29. Hi scheong, this is really great and so informative. One question though regarding my Underwood No. 5 – the keys and the space bar does not advance the platen. The drawband is in tact at the back but where do I find the main spring that you mentioned could also be the problem?

     
    1. Turn the typewriter so that the back is facing you.

      The mainspring is stored in the big, circular drum inside the right side of the frame. Above the bell on the right side.

      Before you fiddle around with that, make sure that there’s nothing else that might be wrong. It may need cleaning or lubricating to unjam the typing/escapement mechanism.

       
  30. Hi scheong, this is really great and so informative. One question though regarding my Underwood No. 5 – the keys and the space bar does not advance the platen. The drawband is in tact at the back but where do I find the main spring that you mentioned could also be the problem?

     
    1. Turn the typewriter so that the back is facing you.

      The mainspring is stored in the big, circular drum inside the right side of the frame. Above the bell on the right side.

      Before you fiddle around with that, make sure that there’s nothing else that might be wrong. It may need cleaning or lubricating to unjam the typing/escapement mechanism.

       
  31. Does anyone have any reasonable shops in mind who are capable of repairing old manual typewriters? I have an Olivetti 32 that isn’t working as it should. I would love ti get it in working order but just cannot find a place. I’m located near Baltimore, not far from DC.

     
    1. After enjoying my first typewriter purchase, I’d now like to purchase a cursive font typewriter. I just use these in my scrapbooking pages so doesn’t have to be fancy but would love your opinion on good ones to look out for. I’ve just seen someone buy a Tippa which has the most beautiful cursive font – are these ok?

       
      1. Hi,

        A number of manufacturers produced script-font typewriters. Brother, Underwood, Olivetti…It’s just a matter of finding one that works. They weren’t super-common, so it may be tricky.

         
  32. Does anyone have any reasonable shops in mind who are capable of repairing old manual typewriters? I have an Olivetti 32 that isn’t working as it should. I would love ti get it in working order but just cannot find a place. I’m located near Baltimore, not far from DC.

     
    1. After enjoying my first typewriter purchase, I’d now like to purchase a cursive font typewriter. I just use these in my scrapbooking pages so doesn’t have to be fancy but would love your opinion on good ones to look out for. I’ve just seen someone buy a Tippa which has the most beautiful cursive font – are these ok?

       
      1. Hi,

        A number of manufacturers produced script-font typewriters. Brother, Underwood, Olivetti…It’s just a matter of finding one that works. They weren’t super-common, so it may be tricky.

         
    1. Most do have ribbons. Some of the really early typewriters did not. They used ink-pads or rollers to apply the ink to the typeslugs. I can’t remember which makes off the top of my head, but they are out there.

       
    1. Most do have ribbons. Some of the really early typewriters did not. They used ink-pads or rollers to apply the ink to the typeslugs. I can’t remember which makes off the top of my head, but they are out there.

       
  33. Hello, your article was very informative and probably the best help I’ve gotten thus far in my typewriter search! I was going to purchase a typewriter and if possible…I was wondering if you wouldn’t mind giving some feedback on the type? Make?
    Model? I was going to buy a vintage royal companion typewriter, but it has plastic keys and I wasn’t sure if I could interchange them with glass top keys? Thanks!!!

     
    1. In short? No. Glass keys are extremely hard to find these days. It’s often not worth your while to rip off plastic keys, HOPING that you’ll find glass keys. And even if you do, glass keys fix to the typebars in different ways, I think. So I’m not sure if it’d be compatible anyway.

       
  34. Hello, your article was very informative and probably the best help I’ve gotten thus far in my typewriter search! I was going to purchase a typewriter and if possible…I was wondering if you wouldn’t mind giving some feedback on the type? Make?
    Model? I was going to buy a vintage royal companion typewriter, but it has plastic keys and I wasn’t sure if I could interchange them with glass top keys? Thanks!!!

     
    1. In short? No. Glass keys are extremely hard to find these days. It’s often not worth your while to rip off plastic keys, HOPING that you’ll find glass keys. And even if you do, glass keys fix to the typebars in different ways, I think. So I’m not sure if it’d be compatible anyway.

       
  35. Hi–I wonder if you can advise me on which typewriter to buy. My 12 year old daughter wants one to write short stories on (obviously behavior I want to encourage). She has a small desk but tends to write/ work sitting on her bed, so it shouldn’t be one that weighs 100 lbs. It should have aesthetic appeal–not too modern/ 70s/80s. Any specific leads most appreciated…Thanks–Helen K.

     
    1. Hi Helen,

      There are plenty of 1950s/60s portables out there which are light and easy to use. Of course, which country you live in will determine how easy/hard expensive/cheap they are to find. Look at brands like Royal, Underwood, Olivetti and Remington for nice, quality mid-century portables. For something a bit quirky, look for say, the original Hermes 3000 model. If memory serves, it came out in the early/mid 1950s.

       
        1. I love mine so much that I bought a second for parts. I bought a Super Silent as well but the Olivetti is much easier to use. It’s cleaner and typing strokes are light.

           
  36. Hi–I wonder if you can advise me on which typewriter to buy. My 12 year old daughter wants one to write short stories on (obviously behavior I want to encourage). She has a small desk but tends to write/ work sitting on her bed, so it shouldn’t be one that weighs 100 lbs. It should have aesthetic appeal–not too modern/ 70s/80s. Any specific leads most appreciated…Thanks–Helen K.

     
    1. Hi Helen,

      There are plenty of 1950s/60s portables out there which are light and easy to use. Of course, which country you live in will determine how easy/hard expensive/cheap they are to find. Look at brands like Royal, Underwood, Olivetti and Remington for nice, quality mid-century portables. For something a bit quirky, look for say, the original Hermes 3000 model. If memory serves, it came out in the early/mid 1950s.

       
        1. I love mine so much that I bought a second for parts. I bought a Super Silent as well but the Olivetti is much easier to use. It’s cleaner and typing strokes are light.

           
  37. Thank you all! Very helpful. We’re in the US, so between Etsy, Ebay, and Craigslist, we should be able to find one of these.

     
  38. Thank you all! Very helpful. We’re in the US, so between Etsy, Ebay, and Craigslist, we should be able to find one of these.

     
  39. So…I bought the Olivetti (not yet in my possession) but then saw a 1932-3 Royal Signet which looks like it might be cuter (which matters when you’re 12). Any thoughts on whether I bought the right one much appreciated. I could conceivably buy both and sell one…

     
    1. Never used a Royal but am absolutely in love with my Olivetti. I own two. One is perfect, the other is a spare for parts should they become necessary.

       
        1. Before I settled with the Lettura, I did exactly as you implied and bought a Smith Corona Super Silent because everyone raved about them so much. I like it a lot but it’s not as easy to type on as the Olivetti. Everyone is different though and if you have the budget I would buy both. My SC is still on the desk though. Haven’t been able to bring myself to sell it yet so be cautious. 😉

           
  40. So…I bought the Olivetti (not yet in my possession) but then saw a 1932-3 Royal Signet which looks like it might be cuter (which matters when you’re 12). Any thoughts on whether I bought the right one much appreciated. I could conceivably buy both and sell one…

     
    1. Never used a Royal but am absolutely in love with my Olivetti. I own two. One is perfect, the other is a spare for parts should they become necessary.

       
    1. That’s not a 1932-33 Royal Signet, that’s Royal Signet circa 1968. Never used one, but it looks good for a child.

       
  41. I have a project and I chose to do the typewriter and I was wondering what happens when a typewriter wears out and what do you do with it when it wears out? It would be really helpful if you had the answer to this. Thank you

     
    1. It would be very difficult to wear out a typewriter. But in the old days if it was worn out, they’d send it to a typewriter repairman, who would repair stuff like broken hammers, keys, replace rubber parts, pull-cords, springs, etc.

       
    2. Danivega –

      If I were you, I’d invest in a good quality “older” typewriter. Personally, I like manual typewriters – less moving parts. I bought myself an Olivetti Lettera 32 and love it. I use it for a first draft where spelling and the like aren’t a requirement. They things have been around forever and can handle whatever you dish out as long as you take care of it.

       
  42. I have a project and I chose to do the typewriter and I was wondering what happens when a typewriter wears out and what do you do with it when it wears out? It would be really helpful if you had the answer to this. Thank you

     
    1. It would be very difficult to wear out a typewriter. But in the old days if it was worn out, they’d send it to a typewriter repairman, who would repair stuff like broken hammers, keys, replace rubber parts, pull-cords, springs, etc.

       
    2. Danivega –

      If I were you, I’d invest in a good quality “older” typewriter. Personally, I like manual typewriters – less moving parts. I bought myself an Olivetti Lettera 32 and love it. I use it for a first draft where spelling and the like aren’t a requirement. They things have been around forever and can handle whatever you dish out as long as you take care of it.

       
  43. I recently acquired a typewriter and was wondering what kind of desk accessories would complement it. Do you have recommendations for lighting, paper type/color, erasers, wool mats, etc?

     
  44. I have a questiom, if I may. I’m very uneducated when it comes to typewriters. I just purchased one – a Brother Sx-4000 – and I can’t even seem to get it started up correctly. It whirs, loudly, and just beeps afterwards – any ideas?

     
    1. That’s why I use manuals. If something goes wrong with the electrics, you might have a paper weight. Is it jammed? Sounds like a jam.

       
    1. If you can’t find the actual ribbon needed, you can wind any half inch ribbon, such as the common and cheap 1001 FN GROUP 1, onto the spools that come with the typewriter. If you’re after an Imperial Good Companion to write on though, the best one is the later Imperial Good Companion 5.

       
  45. Been lustily looking at a Smith Corona Sterling Portable from the 40s…but it would be my first typewriter and I don’t know what sorts of characteristics it has. It’s an online purchase so I couldn’t test drive it… Any thoughts?

     
  46. Been lustily looking at a Smith Corona Sterling Portable from the 40s…but it would be my first typewriter and I don’t know what sorts of characteristics it has. It’s an online purchase so I couldn’t test drive it… Any thoughts?

     
  47. I have a Corona Silent speedline typewriter from 1939. It is maroon and looks great. I paid quite a bit for it and for a while I wanted to convince myself it was the greatest typewriter in the world. But it doesn’t type nearly as well as my 1954 Bluebird, nothing types as well as that. The Corona is a bit of a shaky bird I think. But then perhaps when it was new it was better. You can’t really say what a good typewriter is until you’ve tried at least ten. Sometimes you have to buy them to try them. Just don’t pay too much until you know. Sometimes a typewriter is good just to look at, but if you want a workhorse for writing that may be a different one.

     
  48. I have a Corona Silent speedline typewriter from 1939. It is maroon and looks great. I paid quite a bit for it and for a while I wanted to convince myself it was the greatest typewriter in the world. But it doesn’t type nearly as well as my 1954 Bluebird, nothing types as well as that. The Corona is a bit of a shaky bird I think. But then perhaps when it was new it was better. You can’t really say what a good typewriter is until you’ve tried at least ten. Sometimes you have to buy them to try them. Just don’t pay too much until you know. Sometimes a typewriter is good just to look at, but if you want a workhorse for writing that may be a different one.

     
  49. Hi! I love your article. I just picked up a typwrifer yesterday, at a rummage sale, (for free!) And i dont know what type it is. It is a royal but it doesnt match any pictures that ive found from this brand.. i just want to know the make.

     
    1. What type of keys does it have? Round glass/plastic, or square/blocky plastic? If it’s got square, blocky plastic keys, then it’s after WWII.

       
  50. Hi! I love your article. I just picked up a typwrifer yesterday, at a rummage sale, (for free!) And i dont know what type it is. It is a royal but it doesnt match any pictures that ive found from this brand.. i just want to know the make.

     
    1. What type of keys does it have? Round glass/plastic, or square/blocky plastic? If it’s got square, blocky plastic keys, then it’s after WWII.

       
  51. I have a Royal Custom III, and the line space lever isn’t stuck, but requires a very hard touch to use it. It used to be easy to use, but the leg on my table broke and the table fell and as a result the typewriter fell. How do I fix this?

     
    1. And THIS is why say to put typewriters on a STURDY surface. A PROPER DESK. Not some folding field-table. Because they are very heavy and the vibrations produced by typing can shake things around a LOT.

      By the sounds of it, the line-space lever may be bent. Check to see if it isn’t straight. If it is bent, you might try using some pliers to VERY CAREFULLY bend it back so that it’s fully-straight again.

       
    2. Seems to be such a following on this link. I almost wish we could turn it into a forum or an email list.

       
  52. I have a Royal Custom III, and the line space lever isn’t stuck, but requires a very hard touch to use it. It used to be easy to use, but the leg on my table broke and the table fell and as a result the typewriter fell. How do I fix this?

     
    1. And THIS is why say to put typewriters on a STURDY surface. A PROPER DESK. Not some folding field-table. Because they are very heavy and the vibrations produced by typing can shake things around a LOT.

      By the sounds of it, the line-space lever may be bent. Check to see if it isn’t straight. If it is bent, you might try using some pliers to VERY CAREFULLY bend it back so that it’s fully-straight again.

       
    2. Seems to be such a following on this link. I almost wish we could turn it into a forum or an email list.

       
  53. I have an Underwood Model 3 Long Bed. I get a lot of questions on why it has the long bed. Do you know what the original purpose was?
    I’ve heard, accounting, news papers and other ideas I can’t recall 🙂

     
    1. Long-carriage machines are HUGE. I think the biggest I’ve seen is about two or three feet. They were used for typing out accounting-details, since the long, long, LONG landscape-profile of accounting department documents would be impossible to produce on a regular typewriter.

       
  54. I’m told there are typewriters better suited for someone with speedy wpm that would use a typewriter towards heavy storywriting. My mother says there are typewriters out there that help with this.. My keystrokes are immediate so something like this would be better for me. Problem is, I’ve already purchased the typewriter. When I asked the seller about it, they wouldn’t say much on it so now I’m back to square one afraid to go down a long road of returning and shipping. The seller said most of my options were fine but never really seemed to acknowledge the heavy use I’d be doing with a typewriter. I purchased a model from the 70s I believe, it’s a Galaxie. Other choices were between an Olivia 25, royal and underwood, all later models. Most are sold now. Again, absolutely no idea which to purchase.. We payed a good deal but if I go ahead with a return. Without any real advice to choose a typewriter, I’m left virtually stuck with this machine or deciding on a different one.. Any advice?

     
    1. Casey, a typewriter will work as fast as you want it to, so long as it’s clean, smooth-actioned and maintained.

      My typewriter is an 80+ year-old Underwood. I type at 105wpm every single day, and I still type at 105wpm when I use that Underwood. And it has never had any problems handling my speed.

       
    2. I’m using the Olivetti Lettera 32, know now as the laptop of the 60’s and love it. My intent is to only use it for a first draft. I care not for spelling or punctuation. Just roll with it and then I’ll work on a laptop for the re-write. It’s a process I just started but it works for me.

       
    3. For serious writers, some typewriters are definitely snappier than others. Some just aren’t as fast as I would like, they just don’t have the right typing action. I spent a long time looking for the snappiest I could find. I saw a lot of recommendations for the Torpedo 18 in that regard. Couldn’t find that here, but my 1954 UK Bluebird is the same machine rebranded for the UK market. It is easily the snappiest I’ve used, really fast action. Second to that is the Good Companion 5 (mine is 1960). My pre-war 1935 Underswood Universal is also pretty snappy, but a bit ‘cranky’ compared to the Bluebird’s smooth action.

       
  55. I’m told there are typewriters better suited for someone with speedy wpm that would use a typewriter towards heavy storywriting. My mother says there are typewriters out there that help with this.. My keystrokes are immediate so something like this would be better for me. Problem is, I’ve already purchased the typewriter. When I asked the seller about it, they wouldn’t say much on it so now I’m back to square one afraid to go down a long road of returning and shipping. The seller said most of my options were fine but never really seemed to acknowledge the heavy use I’d be doing with a typewriter. I purchased a model from the 70s I believe, it’s a Galaxie. Other choices were between an Olivia 25, royal and underwood, all later models. Most are sold now. Again, absolutely no idea which to purchase.. We payed a good deal but if I go ahead with a return. Without any real advice to choose a typewriter, I’m left virtually stuck with this machine or deciding on a different one.. Any advice?

     
    1. Casey, a typewriter will work as fast as you want it to, so long as it’s clean, smooth-actioned and maintained.

      My typewriter is an 80+ year-old Underwood. I type at 105wpm every single day, and I still type at 105wpm when I use that Underwood. And it has never had any problems handling my speed.

       
    2. I’m using the Olivetti Lettera 32, know now as the laptop of the 60’s and love it. My intent is to only use it for a first draft. I care not for spelling or punctuation. Just roll with it and then I’ll work on a laptop for the re-write. It’s a process I just started but it works for me.

       
    3. For serious writers, some typewriters are definitely snappier than others. Some just aren’t as fast as I would like, they just don’t have the right typing action. I spent a long time looking for the snappiest I could find. I saw a lot of recommendations for the Torpedo 18 in that regard. Couldn’t find that here, but my 1954 UK Bluebird is the same machine rebranded for the UK market. It is easily the snappiest I’ve used, really fast action. Second to that is the Good Companion 5 (mine is 1960). My pre-war 1935 Underswood Universal is also pretty snappy, but a bit ‘cranky’ compared to the Bluebird’s smooth action.

       
  56. So maybe my mother’s anxious vibe is rubbing off. When the keys get stuck, I keep thinking it’s about to break. I hope that it can handle well. You feel every letter in a typewriter but as opposed to a CPU, I definitely feel like I’m barely grazing the keys to the end of the sentence. I really admired the Galaxie for my first typewriter, I just want to know if I should handle the typewriter with a certain fragility or if there is something better suited for faster keystrokes. My mother told me the electric was the way to go but that seems to defeat the purpose of a typewriter for me.. It’s supposed to be more sensitive on each key. Should I look into something like this or maybe just shrug it off and enjoy the galaxie? Thank you for all the helpful comments.

     
    1. Pound the damn thing. Hammer it. Those keys are meant to be hit hard. If it breaks, then it’s a rubbish typewriter. It’s as simple as that. If you don’t like it, try a different typewriter.

       
  57. So maybe my mother’s anxious vibe is rubbing off. When the keys get stuck, I keep thinking it’s about to break. I hope that it can handle well. You feel every letter in a typewriter but as opposed to a CPU, I definitely feel like I’m barely grazing the keys to the end of the sentence. I really admired the Galaxie for my first typewriter, I just want to know if I should handle the typewriter with a certain fragility or if there is something better suited for faster keystrokes. My mother told me the electric was the way to go but that seems to defeat the purpose of a typewriter for me.. It’s supposed to be more sensitive on each key. Should I look into something like this or maybe just shrug it off and enjoy the galaxie? Thank you for all the helpful comments.

     
    1. Pound the damn thing. Hammer it. Those keys are meant to be hit hard. If it breaks, then it’s a rubbish typewriter. It’s as simple as that. If you don’t like it, try a different typewriter.

       
  58. This was really informative when I was looking for a typewriter. Do you know anything about Royals? I need a ribbon for mine, but the only information I have for it is that it’s a Royal 202. When I search, Royal Imperial 202 ribbons come up. Is that the same typewriter? And do you know where a serial number might be?

    Also, the ribbon colors are confusing. Should I get a solid black or a black/red?

    Thanks!

     
    1. Royals should take what’s called a “universal ribbon” (1/2-inch wide). Most typewriters do.

      Black & red is if you need to type things in different colours (like accounting or important documents). If it’s just regular typing, I would just buy black.

       
  59. This was really informative when I was looking for a typewriter. Do you know anything about Royals? I need a ribbon for mine, but the only information I have for it is that it’s a Royal 202. When I search, Royal Imperial 202 ribbons come up. Is that the same typewriter? And do you know where a serial number might be?

    Also, the ribbon colors are confusing. Should I get a solid black or a black/red?

    Thanks!

     
    1. Royals should take what’s called a “universal ribbon” (1/2-inch wide). Most typewriters do.

      Black & red is if you need to type things in different colours (like accounting or important documents). If it’s just regular typing, I would just buy black.

       
  60. My Neighbour has just bought a Underwood golden touch typewriter and she thinks it is broken as carriage does not move. Is there a lock on this typewriter.I have looked but without a handbook it’s hard to find. Would be grateful if you could help me otherwise whe has wasted £145 and can’t afford this loss. Many thanks.
    May

     
    1. Hi May,

      Only portables came with carriage-locks, because they were moved around so much. Desktops did not. One possibility is that the margin-locks have been moved really close together.

      The margin-slides or tabs tell the typewriter how far left or right to move the carriage. If they’ve been put really close to the middle, that effectively ‘locks’ the carriage. You might check that, just in case.

      If it isn’t one of those two things, then it’s probably some mechanical fault.

       
    2. The Underwood Golden Touch is a portable. There’s a carriage centralization lock on the left side of the typewriter near the carriage.

       
  61. My Neighbour has just bought a Underwood golden touch typewriter and she thinks it is broken as carriage does not move. Is there a lock on this typewriter.I have looked but without a handbook it’s hard to find. Would be grateful if you could help me otherwise whe has wasted £145 and can’t afford this loss. Many thanks.
    May

     
    1. Hi May,

      Only portables came with carriage-locks, because they were moved around so much. Desktops did not. One possibility is that the margin-locks have been moved really close together.

      The margin-slides or tabs tell the typewriter how far left or right to move the carriage. If they’ve been put really close to the middle, that effectively ‘locks’ the carriage. You might check that, just in case.

      If it isn’t one of those two things, then it’s probably some mechanical fault.

       
    2. The Underwood Golden Touch is a portable. There’s a carriage centralization lock on the left side of the typewriter near the carriage.

       
  62. A very informative and helpful piece of writing here. I just dragged out mom”s old electric…Sears model161.53990. Works great except the “7” key sticks….I will research your info further to see how to clean it. My only dilemna is that when i push the auto-return, the platen does not advance to the next line;I have to roll it manually. Any clues how to fix that?
    Also-it has a black ribbon with white correcto tape on it. (LOL!) Are those even made anymore? It has been fun to play with anf I am excited to show it to my grandkids.

     
  63. To be honest I didn’t read THE WHOLE thing, umm, I was just wondering what should I get, I’m 16 and I’m a writer, I write all the time, and I’ve always wanted a typewriter, finally I’m allowed to get one, the problem is I don’t know where from or which to get.
    I’d prefer a portable one , and I love the old ones not the ones with the keypads looking like a normal keyboard, I wonder if you can help me 😀

     
    1. If you want something inexpensive and reliable, and quite legendary, get yourself a Smith Corona Super Silent. $40 will get you something nice. I’m partial to the Olivetti Lettura but its small(ish).

       
  64. To be honest I didn’t read THE WHOLE thing, umm, I was just wondering what should I get, I’m 16 and I’m a writer, I write all the time, and I’ve always wanted a typewriter, finally I’m allowed to get one, the problem is I don’t know where from or which to get.
    I’d prefer a portable one , and I love the old ones not the ones with the keypads looking like a normal keyboard, I wonder if you can help me 😀

     
    1. If you want something inexpensive and reliable, and quite legendary, get yourself a Smith Corona Super Silent. $40 will get you something nice. I’m partial to the Olivetti Lettura but its small(ish).

       
  65. I love your blog.. very nice colors & theme. Did you make this website
    yourself or did you hire someone to do it for you? Plz answer back as I’m looking to create my
    own blog and would like to find out where u got this from.
    thanks

     
  66. Hello!

    I’m a Theatre practitioner and short-play writer from India.

    A novice coming to typewriters.

    Thank you for such a detailed write-up.

    Looking for a portable model, which one do you suggest (Owing to the fact that I like anything vintage and can buy just for the looks of it)?

    Also, whether the typewriters available online on eBay, Etsy, Gumtree, Craigslist are ready to use or is it a gamble?

    Thank you.

     
  67. Hi! Yeah, in addition to the comments, thanks for the crash course on typewriters! Very informative. I like the older styles, looking at an Underwood and an Oliver No. 9? How does that sound? I know you said you were going with the Olivetti, but I think I like the more classic look… Want to go with a good quality typewriter… And, if you could suggest what a good base price would be, that would be extremely beneficial as well!

    Thanks!

     
  68. Hi! Yeah, in addition to the comments, thanks for the crash course on typewriters! Very informative. I like the older styles, looking at an Underwood and an Oliver No. 9? How does that sound? I know you said you were going with the Olivetti, but I think I like the more classic look… Want to go with a good quality typewriter… And, if you could suggest what a good base price would be, that would be extremely beneficial as well!

    Thanks!

     
  69. Hello, i just bought my first typewriter (olympia SM2) and now i saw a remington 10 for 20 euros, do you think is a good price?

    thank you

     
  70. Hi,
    I have a royal epoch, and I believe the tab set feature does not work; it sets sometimes but is very unreliable; also I am not 100% sure how to use it because the directions are in chinglish. I opened and examined the tab stop bar that is filled with tiny teeth, it seems that the tab+ key is not providing enough tension to knock up the teeth. I cannot find any info anywhere about this; thanks in advance.

     
    1. If something doesn’t work, the first thing to do is CLEAN IT. Most instances of things jamming or not working is because they’re clogged with decades of dust and gunk.

      Most typewriters with adjustable slide-tabs work on a sort of ratchet-system. Slide the tab-stops to where you want them and then just leave them there and let them click into place.

      For a typewriter where the tab-settings are entirely from the keyboard, I think you may need to try lubricating. But be as sparing as possible with the oil. Too much will attract dust and cause clogging in the long-run.

       
      1. Thanks for the input, it actually has the normal tab margins which work fine, but it also has an additional set of teeth behind the carriage, and when you press a key, a tiny hook lifts the tooth up, so that it just barely blocks the carriage. Pressing the key that is supposed to set the tab is not providing enough strength, If i really jam on the key it sometimes works. The typewriter is great, but having the ability to set.,custom tab stops really would make writing screenplays easier., rhere are so many nitpicky rules with screenplay margins.
        Anyways thanks for the response.

         
  71. Hi,
    I have a royal epoch, and I believe the tab set feature does not work; it sets sometimes but is very unreliable; also I am not 100% sure how to use it because the directions are in chinglish. I opened and examined the tab stop bar that is filled with tiny teeth, it seems that the tab+ key is not providing enough tension to knock up the teeth. I cannot find any info anywhere about this; thanks in advance.

     
    1. If something doesn’t work, the first thing to do is CLEAN IT. Most instances of things jamming or not working is because they’re clogged with decades of dust and gunk.

      Most typewriters with adjustable slide-tabs work on a sort of ratchet-system. Slide the tab-stops to where you want them and then just leave them there and let them click into place.

      For a typewriter where the tab-settings are entirely from the keyboard, I think you may need to try lubricating. But be as sparing as possible with the oil. Too much will attract dust and cause clogging in the long-run.

       
      1. Thanks for the input, it actually has the normal tab margins which work fine, but it also has an additional set of teeth behind the carriage, and when you press a key, a tiny hook lifts the tooth up, so that it just barely blocks the carriage. Pressing the key that is supposed to set the tab is not providing enough strength, If i really jam on the key it sometimes works. The typewriter is great, but having the ability to set.,custom tab stops really would make writing screenplays easier., rhere are so many nitpicky rules with screenplay margins.
        Anyways thanks for the response.

         
  72. Wow this is the most amazing summary I have found yet!!! Thank you so much I used all these questions when asking my dealer about the type writer and it worked out nicely as I know own an roughly 80-100 year old imperial typewriter.

     
  73. Thanks a lot for the post! 🙂

    I’ve been trying to find a Royal Royalite “El Dorado” in good condition, but unfortunately I haven’t found one. Does someone knows where I can find one? Thanks in advance!

     
  74. Thanks a lot for the post! 🙂

    I’ve been trying to find a Royal Royalite “El Dorado” in good condition, but unfortunately I haven’t found one. Does someone knows where I can find one? Thanks in advance!

     
  75. Great info, thanks! Just got a Smith-Corona Courier, had it cleaned and repaired. Now I need to know how to clear the tabs which were set before. It doesn’t have a tab clear button, just margin release.

     
  76. Great info, thanks! Just got a Smith-Corona Courier, had it cleaned and repaired. Now I need to know how to clear the tabs which were set before. It doesn’t have a tab clear button, just margin release.

     
  77. Thank you so much learned a lot . Our granddaughter wants a type writer and has for a very long time she is 12. What your take she loves to write and has a friend with one . She would like an older one

     
  78. Thank you so much learned a lot . Our granddaughter wants a type writer and has for a very long time she is 12. What your take she loves to write and has a friend with one . She would like an older one

     
  79. Hello scheong! I was wondering if you knew during which era typewriter companies stopped using carriage return bells. Thank you so much in advance. Excellent read by the way!

     
  80. Hello scheong! I was wondering if you knew during which era typewriter companies stopped using carriage return bells. Thank you so much in advance. Excellent read by the way!

     
  81. Wonderful blog! Have just bought my father a Silver Reed Silverette II. The cover case was damaged in transit but the typewriter seems to be ok except the tops of the ‘t’s and ‘h’s don’t get typed properly. Any suggestions? Thanks

     
  82. Wonderful blog! Have just bought my father a Silver Reed Silverette II. The cover case was damaged in transit but the typewriter seems to be ok except the tops of the ‘t’s and ‘h’s don’t get typed properly. Any suggestions? Thanks

     
  83. So, this might be a really silly question: how can I tell if I need to get a new ribbon or if I need to re-ink my existing ribbon? I recently acquired a Royal Heritage typewriter from a thrift store, and I don’t know much about them. I *think* I can see how the ribbon fits in and how it should work, but, when I type, nothing actually gets typed onto my paper. Mind you, the ribbon I have now is the ribbon I found with the typewriter, which is at least several decades old.

     
  84. So, this might be a really silly question: how can I tell if I need to get a new ribbon or if I need to re-ink my existing ribbon? I recently acquired a Royal Heritage typewriter from a thrift store, and I don’t know much about them. I *think* I can see how the ribbon fits in and how it should work, but, when I type, nothing actually gets typed onto my paper. Mind you, the ribbon I have now is the ribbon I found with the typewriter, which is at least several decades old.

     
  85. That was the most eloquent article on typewriters. But even so I’m really scared of picking the wrong one. Also, I live in India and typewriters here are not common at all. Neither are flea markets who sell them. Would you please be kind enough to suggest me some? Keeping in mind that it ships to India and the shipping costs are not much because my budget is below $150

     
  86. That was the most eloquent article on typewriters. But even so I’m really scared of picking the wrong one. Also, I live in India and typewriters here are not common at all. Neither are flea markets who sell them. Would you please be kind enough to suggest me some? Keeping in mind that it ships to India and the shipping costs are not much because my budget is below $150

     
  87. Ive bought a silver reed silverette typewriter which has red and black ribbon. When I type with the black the top part of the letters are missing ( h looks like n) but are ok if I use the lower red ribbon. I wonder if it’s either the ribbon that’s somehow not high enough or the platen or carriage that’s not high enough but I don’t know if it’s possible to adjust the height of either ?

     
  88. Hello,

    Thank you for this excellent article! I’m looking for a non-electric portable-style typewriter for casual use (journaling and perhaps letter-writing), and wondered about a comment you made about pricing:

    “Postwar models, ca. 1950-1980s are cheap as old chips. You can find these at any flea-market or junk-shop. Don’t pay more than about $25.”

    Were all manual typewriters made before 1950? I found this one online and am not sure how old it is or whether it’s worth the price they’re asking: http://phoenix.craigslist.org/evl/for/4858852688.html

    Do you have any thoughts on this typewriter?

    Thank you so much!
    Leah

     
  89. Hello,

    Thank you for this excellent article! I’m looking for a non-electric portable-style typewriter for casual use (journaling and perhaps letter-writing), and wondered about a comment you made about pricing:

    “Postwar models, ca. 1950-1980s are cheap as old chips. You can find these at any flea-market or junk-shop. Don’t pay more than about $25.”

    Were all manual typewriters made before 1950? I found this one online and am not sure how old it is or whether it’s worth the price they’re asking: http://phoenix.craigslist.org/evl/for/4858852688.html

    Do you have any thoughts on this typewriter?

    Thank you so much!
    Leah

     
  90. I have a Royal Quiet De Luxe (portable), and the carriage stops moving about halfway across. The margin release key allows it to continue moving, but resetting the right margin doesn’t solve the problem. I assume there must be a carriage lock lever somewhere, but I’m not able to find it, and the manual doesn’t show it. Are you familiar with this/do you know where I could find the information?

     
    1. Portable typewriters come with a carriage-lock that will stop it from moving (when it’s being transported, etc).

      Have you checked tab-stops etc? They might also be the problem. And double-check the carriage-lock. The RQD was a very common typewriter. Finding out where the carriage-lock is should be easy enough if you search online.

       
  91. I have a Royal Quiet De Luxe (portable), and the carriage stops moving about halfway across. The margin release key allows it to continue moving, but resetting the right margin doesn’t solve the problem. I assume there must be a carriage lock lever somewhere, but I’m not able to find it, and the manual doesn’t show it. Are you familiar with this/do you know where I could find the information?

     
    1. Portable typewriters come with a carriage-lock that will stop it from moving (when it’s being transported, etc).

      Have you checked tab-stops etc? They might also be the problem. And double-check the carriage-lock. The RQD was a very common typewriter. Finding out where the carriage-lock is should be easy enough if you search online.

       
  92. Wow, thanks for this post, especially the guide on what attitude to have and what prices to look for.

    Any thoughts on how much you should pay for a restored typewriter, and for a typewriter you get off a site like Etsy? I ask because the average prices on Etsy are way higher than you’re saying to spend, but flea markets aren’t a thing out where I live (and the Craigslist pickings are slim to none).

    I’m also seeing restored models that have been ‘professionally cleaned and serviced’, which seems like a good idea. Additionally, I know the price should go up when the manual is included. So what are your thoughts on that?

    (I have a specific 60s model in mind that’s been restored, cleaned, and has a manual. They want 165 + 45 shipping. Reasonable? Should you haggle on Etsy? Is that a thing?)

     
  93. Wow, thanks for this post, especially the guide on what attitude to have and what prices to look for.

    Any thoughts on how much you should pay for a restored typewriter, and for a typewriter you get off a site like Etsy? I ask because the average prices on Etsy are way higher than you’re saying to spend, but flea markets aren’t a thing out where I live (and the Craigslist pickings are slim to none).

    I’m also seeing restored models that have been ‘professionally cleaned and serviced’, which seems like a good idea. Additionally, I know the price should go up when the manual is included. So what are your thoughts on that?

    (I have a specific 60s model in mind that’s been restored, cleaned, and has a manual. They want 165 + 45 shipping. Reasonable? Should you haggle on Etsy? Is that a thing?)

     
  94. I really enjoyed this post and it helped push me over the line and I purchased my first typewriter a couple of days ago.
    I’ve always wanted a typewriter but never really considered the steps to purchasing one. Your article really helped me in that regards.
    A question though, I’ve bought an Imperial The Good Companion, but I can’t seem to locate the serial number (I’m having a hard time figuring out which model typewriter I’ve purchased, and the sellers had no clue). It’s the matte grey one that looks like this: https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/-jwCK8N5GIOU/TW7kyLmFGUI/AAAAAAAAAOU/hVmmWNgrCwE/s640/Imp-GC1-1000px.jpg

    This website (http://typewriterheaven.blogspot.com.au/p/other-gems.html) just calls it The Good Companion.

     
    1. The Good Companion came out in the 1930s. It lasted for DECADES. I don’t think it finally stopped production until the 1960s or 70s. But I’m not sure where the serial-numbers are on G.C.s. you’ll have to search. Try under the carriage.

       
  95. I just bought at typewriter from an old thrift store yesterday for £4, a bargain if you ask me!
    It’s the first typewriter I’ve ever bought and used, so this article has been very useful! I think this is the one I’ve purchased: https://www.etsy.com/listing/105327048/brother-charger-11-free-shipping-usa

    I was wondering if you know what model this is, whether it takes a universal ribbon and any other facts or information about this particular model? Thank you!

     
  96. I have a royal 10 and when I type the cap letters r one line higher than the lower case letters how can I fix it?

     
  97. I recently purchased a 1955 royal senior companion typewriter for 40 dollars. It is in near pristine condition, and works great. I got the guy down from 55 dollars. Was this worth it?

     
  98. I recently purchased a 1955 royal senior companion typewriter for 40 dollars. It is in near pristine condition, and works great. I got the guy down from 55 dollars. Was this worth it?

     
  99. Hello I am considering buying a Smith Corona Skyriter from 1956, is there anything that it is made of that would made it toxic to use daily? For example lead paint or metal…Thnaks for any help you can offer in answering that…

     
  100. Thank you! This website was really helpful. I mean, practically, my knowledge about typewriters is just next to zero. I’ve always been fond of them and lately it occurred to me that buying a good, working typewriter is all that I want to do with my savings of this month. I hope to get one of my liking. And surely I’m gonna keep in mind your tips.

    Thanks again.

     
  101. Thank you! This website was really helpful. I mean, practically, my knowledge about typewriters is just next to zero. I’ve always been fond of them and lately it occurred to me that buying a good, working typewriter is all that I want to do with my savings of this month. I hope to get one of my liking. And surely I’m gonna keep in mind your tips.

    Thanks again.

     
  102. I just purchased a 50s Remington and I quite had the suspect that there was something I needed to know more than just pushing the keys…
    This article proved I had more to learn than I expected, thank you very much!

     
  103. Hello! May I know what other types of materials can a typewriter type onto it besides the common A4 paper? Can it type on a sticker material label? Thanks!

     

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *