Tuesday, 31 May 2016

For the love of words

Ticking away at a typewriter and hearing the ding of the bell before hitting the return lever are some of my favourite sounds in the entire world. It's a type of satisfaction that you don't get while typing on a laptop or computer, and it reminds you of how good it feels to just sit and be removed from technology. I never thought I'd be this fond of typewriters, but the spare moments I've spent scrolling through Trademe and visiting local op-shops have proven that this fondness is growing on me a little bit too much. It is because of these spare moments and love for words that I've found myself with three of my own vintage pieces - a Smith Corona Corsair, Olympia Traveller de Luxe S, and most recently, an Olivetti Lettera 32.

I used to keep these babies proudly displayed in my room - on my desk and cabinet - before deciding to keep them in their cases to keep them beautifully pristine.  Now, only my most recent typewriter is displayed on my desk, with the others kept in their cases and brought out for maintenance and story-writing.

My most recent (and current favourite) purchase is my Olivetti Lettera 32, which I bought from Trademe and picked up in Auckland. The seller told me that it belonged to her grandfather and was so relieved when I told her I'd be using it for writing instead of keeping it as a prop. A popular typewriter amongst enthusiasts and successful writers, the Olivetti Lettera is a beautiful machine. This is particularly evident in the Olivetti that I bought since it was so nicely taken care of. I love the muted teal colour and how it looks so robust, as if it's just waiting for a manuscript to be written on it. A downside that I've noticed so far? There have been times where I'm on a typing roll and have missed the ding of the bell! I love the sharp reminder of the bell and constantly wish it was much louder!

This was my post-exam gift to myself and it felt incredible to win the auction for this particular typewriter. I had been looking for a great quality Olivetti Lettera 32 for more than a semester after losing out on multiple auctions so I'm so happy to call this baby my own.

I've created quite a ritual for myself when it comes to typing: put away my electronics, brew a cup of tea (but apparently in these photos a cup of water), take my watch off, put on some hand cream, pile a stack of clean papers next to me, open up my bullet journal, and... well.... type. Doing this has become a hobby and a replacement for writing in my diary!

I love having my bullet journal next to me since I can review my to-do lists and priorities for the day. My next writing goal is to create a letter to myself and open it up in five years' time, and I have a whole bunch of other crazy ideas on my list.

Fun fact: "typewriter" is the longest word you can type using only the top row on a qwerty keyboard!

My Moleskine journal, two of my Frank Stationery notebooks and my yellow Lamy Safari that's currently inked up with J Herbin Rouille d'ancre. 

A sample of the typebar output from my Olivetti - with a fresh ribbon!

Olivetti without its top cover - from here you can see the ribbon and typebars (which admittedly needs a bit of a clean). 

My second typewriter purchase was the Olympia Traveller de Luxe S, which I purchased from Trademe at a bargain! The seller had a fixed price of $25 and I paid for shipping and extra packaging up to Auckland. This typewriter also belonged to the seller's grandfather and it was kept in excellent condition. It has a smaller and bolder 'font' than my Olympia, which looks so striking on paper. I love bringing my Olympia out of its case every now and again

Now, say hello to my very first typewriter, the Smith Corona Corsair. Admittedly, I should have done more research before purchasing this typewriter, as it apparently has a bad rep for being clunky and not so great to type on. Albeit this, I have no regrets. I've written diary entries and letters on this machine with as much joy, love and appreciation for the other two typewriters I have today.

This particular typewriter was the one that taught me most about paying extra for secure packaging when buying on Trademe. I was crushed to find that the plastic case had cracked on one corner and the carriage return lever temporarily broken after arriving at my house. This was a very expensive lesson to learn since this machine cost me $120+!

But my experience with typewriters had to start somewhere, and I'm glad I bought a well-functioning machine to start my love of words. I still remember sitting down on a Sunday morning sipping my tea, listening to my 'Chill' playlist on Spotify and just... writing. It was a great feeling.

I've affectionately named this typewriter "Clunky"

Typewriter purchasing tips:

  1. If purchasing from Trademe, don't be afraid to ask for close-up photos and a sample pangram like "the quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog" so you know the condition of the typewriter and its type bars.
  2. Ask if there are any stuck keys and if it seems to be in working order - if you're okay with buying a 'broken' typewriter, know that the minimum price for repairs is $95 NZD from a specialist in Auckland - I've previously asked for a quote.
  3. If getting your typewriter delivered, offer to pay extra to make sure it is packaged correctly (should approximately be $5) and that it is labelled fragile - I've learned my lesson when it comes to this!
  4. If buying from an op shop - check for defaults yourself and look for excessive rust or dust within the typewriter.
  5. Before purchasing, make sure you know where to buy ribbons from and whether they stock for your typewriter (check inkcartidges.co.nz they deliver quickly and ribbons are inked up nicely).  Otherwise, be prepared to manually spool your ribbon!

Simple typewriter maintenance tips and tricks:

  1. Never use WD-40, it might work like a charm for the meantime, but it won't be great for the long run - just make sure you keep it in its case when not in regular use to stop dust.
  2. Never use ordinary twink - it will ruin the platen and your type bars.
  3. Whenever in use, make sure you've rolled two pieces of paper (one on top of the other) to type on - this will ensure your platen remains clean and undamaged. 
  4. Learn how to reverse your ribbon if your typewriter doesn't do so manually, it'll make sure your ribbon lasts for longer and you won't have to buy more as often.
My dream purchases are the Olivetti Valentine (a typewriter in a rich, apple red) and the Olympia SM9 (just like the one Calvin uses in the movie Ruby Sparks)!

Which typewriters do you own? Do you have any typewriter purchasing/maintenance tips that I've missed out? Misty and I would love to hear and learn more from you!

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