Fumio Yoshimura’s wooden typewriters

by | May 30, 2024 | Uncategorized | 5 comments

Yesterday’s post reminded me of Japanese-American sculptor Fumio Yoshimura and his wooden typewriters.


This sculpture from 1972 is called “Alger Hiss’ Woodstock Typewriter.” The depressed keys reflect some damage that has occurred since its creation.


This sculpture from 1973 represents a Corona No. 3 folding typewriter.

I’d be curious to know what readers think of these objects. My own view: they’re not great works of art, but they do create an interesting effect in which the material of a thing is incompatible with its purpose, and form as shape no longer fits form as function. This isn’t a new idea, but goes back at least to Meret Oppenheim’s fur-lined teacup. Typewriters are meant to be useful things, but when made unusable and put on display, they turn into artworks. That’s an idea that in its simplest form we owe to Marcel Duchamp. As for the woodworking skill on display here, it’s simply amazing! And no doubt, Yoshimura learned a lot about these typewriters in the process of creating these pieces.



  1. Anonymous

    I always file stuff like this as "Because I can" art. :D

  2. Joe V

    I wonder how many further steps it would take to fashion a functioning wooden typewriter, keeping in mind some of the earliest designs were of wood.

  3. Richard P

    Is any wood hard enough to create long, narrow, durable typebars?

  4. typewriter.works

    i pity the fool who has never drank tea from a fur lined teacup!

  5. typewriter.works

    the hardest wood in the world not owned by john holmes is an ironwood tree called australian buloke. it finishes well but is likely too hard to manipulate into a fully wooden 'writer.

    other contestants are schinopsis brasiliensis and schinopsis balansae, which are also spinal disorders (ha).

    many super hard woods are either endangered and/or difficult to find and cut.

    BUT! a company in maryland, InventWood, just released a product called MettleWood which they claim is 80% lighter and 50% stronger than steel (tensile strength 85,000 psi). it's real wood (poplar) that's had its lingin (wood's cellulose-binding "glue") removed. it renders the wood into a sponge-like consistency which can be compressed, giving it a 1200% increase in tensile strength.

    the company says it's cheaper to make than steel and is obviously sustainably sourced. it is also moisture and fire resistant (class A fire rating) and bugs don't abide so the "wood" won't get eaten up.

    InventWood has also developed "moldable" wood and a transparent wood made by "selectively" delingifying the original tree.

    pretty cool.


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