Saturday, October 30, 2010

Typecast: Typewriter meet-cutes


Here's the typewriter that almost came home with me but for its snarling seller. It really wasn't about the couple of francs more or less, but the fact that I enjoy a machine much less (and in fact avoid using it) when there is no joy that comes with finding and acquiring it:


P.S. Note that it had been raining and the seller hadn't even bothered to cover it up. Yikes.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Monday, October 25, 2010

Retro Tech goes to Retro Technica II

Part II of our trip to Fribourg on Saturday, by popular request :)

* * *
So, at the end of my last post, I was admiring the antique 19th century typewriters at the stand of collector Stefan Beck, which included this lovingly-restored Rofa:


In addition to the older machines that I don't think he was selling, Mr. Beck also had a few typewriters of more recent vintage offered to the general public. First up was this Olivetti Praxis:


In person, the Ettore Sottsass-designed Praxis is much smaller than I would have thought. Mr. Beck also offered a plastic mint green Hermes Baby with elite font, as well as this immaculate orange metal Silver Reed portable with techno pica font:


I'm ashamed to say I lingered over this one for so long that Mr. and Mrs. Beck took me for a total cheapskate who did not want to fork up the very reasonable CHF 20 asking price. That's the thing about this multilingual country: the Becks spoke German, we did not (seeing as how we live in French-speaking Geneva), and so I could not even introduce myself as a fellow typewriter-enthusiast and trade tips on busted escapements. Pity, isn't it? The funny thing is that we spotted some prospective buyers in a similar predicament who, instead of bargaining verbally, wrote down the proposed figure and showed the paper to the seller, who promptly crossed it out and wrote another. 

Regretfully leaving Mr. Beck's stand, we came across our usual Shiny Black Hermes:


There were also a couple of '50s Hermes Medias and Hermes 2000s, but you already know what those look like. No Hermes 3000s or Media 3s - perhaps they are so common that the sellers did not bother hauling them to this event meant to showcase curiosities? Probably.

A few feet away, I came across something rather interesting:


A Macy's Portable No. 1! This has a special keyboard layout - it looks like Swiss-German, except that it is actually QWERTY, and also includes a couple of special symbols, like the Greek sigma. This Macy's Portable No. 1 typewriter is a relabeled variant of the Barr typewriter, which has been thoroughly documented by Will Davis here. Finds like this make me wish I had a huge house with generous storage space so I could be a real collector!

The same vendor was also offering up this '50s Erika 10:


Lovely. I've always wondered what these looked like in person, and I would say they are quite a bit larger than I anticipated. Size-wise, I would compare it to an Olympia SM-3,  although it looks deceptively small in this photo. Speaking of Erikas, we came across another one that had been sold by the same Henri Zopf this one came from:


The glass keys on this typewriter were just beautiful - each one as thick as a cough drop. Overall, it was also a good bit smaller than its successor pictured above. Modest asking price of CHF 20.

More typewriters, as well as the one machine I wish I could go back in time and bring home with me, after the cut.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Retro Tech goes to Retro Technica

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How could I not? The only thing I think of when I hear "Retro Technica" is lots and lots of typewriters! No bias, obviously :). Anyway, I've been looking forward to attending this since I stumbled on their website a couple of weeks ago, and I'm fortunate that Geneva is only about an hour's train ride from the venue in Fribourg. The goal was NOT to purchase any typewriters (again, no space :-( ), just to admire the eye candy and determine if my visit was worth the CHF8 entry fee.  So, did I see anything interesting? Let's find out:

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We opted to walk from the Fribourg train station to Forum Fribourg, where the exhibition was being held. The image above is what the building looked like from behind as we approached it. Once we were inside, every stand pretty much looked like this:

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A large jumble of retro items of all kinds, like you would find at a flea market. Quite impressive. These next pictures will be a bit grainy because I turned off the flash on my camera and we were indoors. We spotted our first typewriter fairly quickly:


An Adler Junior 2, balancing precariously on its case. I didn't inquire about the price for this and it wasn't listed. It was in fairly good condition, for what it is, but a perfectly ordinary pica font and  plastic case don't exactly pique my curiosity.


Next up is a large Hermes that was being offered for CHF 100. After this, it took a while to spot some more typewriters amid all the radios, sewing machines, gramophones, and record players, but we soon came across a very interesting stand:


Well! Exactly what I had come to see, I would say. More details of this line-up as well as some of the other machines we spotted (about 30 total) follow after the cut:

Friday, October 22, 2010

Typecast: Anticipation


In keeping with the theme, a few pictures from a snowy Easter in Davos a couple of years ago:





Sunday, October 17, 2010

Rheinmetall KsT Glossy Black Script Typewriter (1956)


This is a typewriter I've been wanting to share on the blog for some time now, so I'm excited that I finally got around to it today. I like almost everything about it - Rheinmetall, like Voss and Alpina, is more of a "collector's typewriter" than a "writer's typewriter", so it is nice to have it as a showpiece that is also perfectly functional if I so choose. However, primarily due to that carriage shift, it is not as finger- and wrist-friendly as your average Hermes 3000 or Olivetti Lettera 32. Here are some pictures:


It was just about impossible to take a head-on picture without having my mug reflected in the glossy ribbon cover, so this was as close as I got. 


This was straight out of the box, before I cleaned it, if you can believe it. It's always a great feeling to get a machine from someone who obviously cared a lot about it. There was the usual grime/ eraser shavings sticking to grease on the interior, but a few minutes with some cotton swabs took care of that. 


I like the ornate paper supports on these old machines. I looked up the serial number on this one and it's dated 1956. Which makes me think that perhaps I purchased this from the son of the original owner, because otherwise he would be very old indeed to be carrying large boxes to the post office!


Here's a look at the script/ cursive typeface, lightly tinged with green from the ribbon (which didn't show up so well in the typecast, sorry). I wish I knew where to procure these colored ribbons! They're a treat to use. 


Here is the case, which is made of wood covered in leatherette fabric, and is in good condition considering its age. The bottom is a board on which the machine is fastened, and then the top closes over. I wish these old cases were more streamlined... I imagine once the typewriter is in the case, there is still quite a bit of room, unlike the almost-hermetic fit of the Hermes 3000.
Oh, finally, a look at that impressive packaging job:


I saved the Styrofoam pieces and I'm using them to pack a Hermes 3000 that I'm sending overseas. Fingers crossed that the padding works its magic a second time!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Hermes Baby Marbled Grey Portable Typewriter (1940s)

So, fall is here and I seem to be letting my love of US TV shows (Parenthood! The Good Wife! Community! etc...) interrupt my typewriting fervor. I started with these shows when they debuted last year, and now I feel an obligation to the shows' characters to keep watching. For someone who doesn't have an actual television, I can't even pretend to be a TV snob with all the online watching I do. This has upsides and downsides: the negative being that I am not typecasting as often as I should be; the positive being that I am now thinking about something else besides "typewriters!", and my groaning IKEA shelves can take a breather. Relentless acquisition phase over.

That said, there are a few lovely machines from this summer that I haven't yet presented on this blog, so I shall start off with a marbled grey Hermes Baby (smooth finish, not crinkly paint):


I spotted this baby at the local flea market sometime in late May, but I passed it right by because I thought I had enough typewriters (ha. There were only like, six, at the time.).  Thereafter, I saw this very machine on Mike Clemens' blog, and after encountering one depressing crinkled gray Hermes Baby after the other, I began reminiscing fondly after this one, the one that got away.


It seemed to be gone for good, though. We made cycling to the flea market part of our weekend routine, but no dice. After three months, when I was no longer looking, I happened to walk past that same seller's stall and spotted the elusive typewriter. The case was closed and partially buried under some old crockery; if I hadn't been looking out for it, it is doubtful I would have found it. 

But find it I did, and there was much rejoicing. After negotiating a fair price with the seller, I hoisted my prize into my backpack  and rode back home to clean it up. Having already decimated a couple of painted logos with my overly keen scrubbing, I was extra-cautious with this one. It still suffered a bit, though, but overall looks fairly decent. 


This is a rather interesting machine - or, to be more specific, interesting paint finish. It looks like someone scratched it with a thousand little keys, and yet it is all very deliberate. It's odd at first, but it grows on one. I've seen a few Babys with this finish up for sale here and there, but they are far outnumbered by their dull gray counterparts. Not exactly common, that's for sure. The case matches, of course:


The label from the Hermes agent in Geneva that sold it, A. Strachan on the Boulevard du Theatre, remains. It's a nice bit of ephemera. A phone book search of the exact address reveals that Monsieur Strachan is long gone, of course, and the building houses a couple of real estate agents.


Here's a font sample (pica typeface):




Sunday, October 10, 2010

Olympia SM-3 1950s Forest Green Typewriter (Carbon ribbon test)


And here, a few pictures of the tough-as-nails typewriter:







Saturday, October 9, 2010

ABC/ Cole Steel Series 3 Ivory Portable Typewriter (1950s)


Last Friday, I received this ABC typewriter, which I had picked up for a bargain on a Swiss auction site (please note that this was before my vow of typewriter chastity, which is still going strong). Anyway, ABCs don’t take up much space, so I figured in the worst case I would put it on a shelf in my bookcase and take it out from time to time, just to admire. In fact, looking at ABC typewriters seems to be the only thing they’re good for, so that worked out.



You see, when I received this machine, the box was rattling ominously. Something was amiss, and once I opened it, the carriage mechanism pretty much fell off in my hands in a hail of screws and washers. This, I did not attribute to careless shipping. I have seen many shipping accidents in my day and they did not involve screws that magically unloosened themselves.


Fortunately, I have another ABC - a series 4 in hammertone green, so I was able to study it and figure out where all the screws, springs, and miscellaneous metal bits had to be re-assembled on this ivory Series 3. Without the template to copy, I would have been up the creek on this machine for sure. It ended up well, more or less - I have determined that the paper finger on this machine is missing for good, after shaking it thoroughly to ensure that it was not just stuck in some crevice.


At the end of the day, this Series 3 is remarkably similar to my Series 4. There are small differences: this came in a soft leather-like case (which was shot, by the way), and so the best way to use it is with a typing pad of some sort. The protruding metal tabs on either side of the ribbon cover (which, fortunately, were redesigned in the Series 4) serve as a latch to take off the cover. The ribbon color selector is in the same discreet location, though, and the mechanism seems identical.


The logo, while large and not as subtle as the other version, is still very nice in person - three gold squares in different sizes superimposed by a large uppercase ABC. The gold is very pretty up close. The ivory paint finish is still glossy and remarkably well-preserved (considering the state in which the machine arrived). It makes a nice contrast to the hammer-tone green. This has a typeface of 11 characters per inch, hence slightly smaller than that of the Series 4. Here are the two "siblings":


Vanilla and Sage, I call them. Pretty though they may be, each has its own failings - Vanilla is missing a paper support, has some trouble writing in a straight line, and occasionally skips a letter. Sage, while clean and well-preserved, seems to have been well-used and thus has a worn escapement, which leads to margins that refuse to hold and make it virtually impossible to write a straight paragraph. Both of them have backspace problems... I believe it works intermittently on Sage and not at all on Vanilla.

After the cut, my ode/ rant to ABC typewriters, hastily composed on Vanilla:
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