The best manual typewriter of the 21st century

by | Aug 19, 2019 | Uncategorized | 17 comments


  1. Mr.E

    I have given thought to producing new typewriters though I have a different sort of machine in mind. I have thought about copying a Remington Standard No 2.

  2. [deleted]

    I've often thought that interchangeable type would be a great thing to have in a modern typewriter. Given the promising field of additive manufacturing, people could create and "print" (pun completely intended) their own type elements. I often fantasize about crossing a Hammond with a Royal Portable from the '30s.

  3. Richard P

    How about calling it … the Manhattan!

  4. Richard P

    That's an interesting possibility. I like the SCM system of interchangeable type slugs. One could equip the entire typebasket with such slugs, and it wouldn't be too much trouble to swap them.

  5. Paul Harker

    A material that I believe is perfect for many parts of a newly imagined typerwriter is carbon fiber. Tying back to your article, carbon fiber is the also the material of choice for the very best of modern bicycles.

  6. Bill M

    Plenty of good ideas there Richard. I'd add standard keys locations for things such as margin release, tab, tab set, tab clear, and back space. One thing I really like about the SCM portables such as the Galaxie and Classic-12 is the tab functions located like an office typewriter, or the palm tab like on a Royal HH. I forgot, a nice paper inserter like on many of the Brother JP3 machines or older Olympia (before they went to plastic)

  7. Mark

    This post is exciting and encouraging. As prices climb for vintage machines there becomes a stronger and stronger case for a good new machine.

  8. D.

    For me a TRUE typewriter is without digital i/o ports. A mechanical typewriter is an "instant printer" and works everywhere. An electric typewriter need current, so it is not an independent device. The modern "USB/digital app" typewriters are the worst one. If I need a digital device, I use my personal computer. But for creative and artistic project, a pure mechanic typewriter is the best.

  9. Joe V

    Great thoughts, Richard. I've had conversations with people on this very topic. While "additive manufacturing" might be appropriate for some parts, the issue of metallurgy and heat treatments, such as hardening, become critical with some applications, especially type bars and bearing races, parts that require high tensile strength and hardness without brittleness. There's a whole science behind metallurgy, so for some people to oversimplify the issue and say "we'll just 3D print it," they know not of what they speak. And for high volume manufacture, traditional machining might still be more economical over additive printing.

    As for a business model, for it to be a high-quality product it needs to be marketed as up-scale, no compromises. Think the Leica of typewriters. The typical typewriter aficionado doesn't want to hear this, but it isn't going to be in a modest person's budget, for it to be economically viable; it requires a high profit margin in order to be machined from high-quality components and assembled with expertise. I'd expect north of $1k. Some people in the typosphere balk at this, but I think that's the niche market to target. And you'd want to have some cross-licensing deal with a luxury luggage maker, for brass and leather, hand-tooled carrying cases. High-end, no compromises. Not for the faint of heart, or budget-minded. But a machine built to last a lifetime, worth every penny.

  10. Richard P

    I fully agree, on both points.

    $1000 isn't too much for a fine bike, nor for a fine typewriter. Both machines will last years and take you many places by amplifying your musclepower. The cost comes out to just pennies per mile … or page.

  11. MTCoalhopper

    Consider this: A carbon-fiber Blickensderfer that uses the "golf ball" type elements from an IBM Selectric. How much would that weigh? How compact would it be to carry? How cool would that look when you're out, typing in public?

  12. Robin Heilschild ????

    Regarding typewriters, I think there also are Nice & Neat 70's and 80's typewriters such as the Olympias SG 3 and SM 9, and the Olivetties Linea 98, Studio 46 and Lettera 32. :D

    The Olivetti Linea 98 and the Olympia SG 3 were the preferred choices of Mexican officers, repair workshops (which also sell typewriters) and typing courses in the late 20th Century's years (specially the Olympia SG 3). Actually, the Olympia SG 3 is still used in those places (and there still are lots of pieces to repair and refurbish them). xD

    On the other hand, there also are lots of available pieces to repair and refurbish the Olivetti Studio 44, 45 and 46, and the Olivetti Lettera 25, 31, 32 and 35 (that includes the Dora, Valentine and Italia 90 models). However, not all the models work well. Only the Spaniard and the Italian machines work well (I have an Olivetti Studio 46 made in Mexico, and despite I sent it to the repair workshop thrice, it still has performance flaws). Alas, the Olivetti Lettera "replicas" are still being made (maybe in China), and they are horrible. :(

    I don't know the American typewriters well enough, but I suggest taking the Olympia SG 3 and the Olivetti Linea 98 as basis for standard typewriters, the Olympia SM 9 and the Olivetti Studio 46 as basis for semi-portable typewriters, and the Hermes Baby and the Olivetti Lettera 35 for ultra-portable/portable typewriters. xD

    Once I was about to make a carrying case for my Olivetti Studio 46 with exactly your same ideas (exception: wheels), but taking as basis the carrying case of an Olivetti Lettera. I wanted to make it out of leather as leather is almost eternal. The only issue was finding a leather clothes-making workshop willing to make such a thing. :(

  13. Paul Harker

    I believe Joe is correct, especially with people having too high expectations of additive processes such as 3d printing, and as to what the resulting price of a quality machine would be. In contrast to 3d printing, a set of technologies that are much overlooked are laser and water-jet cutters. The 2d technology allows for high precision manufacture of 2d parts, which of course could be then formed into more complex shapes. I could easily envision parts such as type bars, key levers, and the like being made using these technologies.

    I have personally played a bit with creating "new" parts for old machines, and I could probably write pages on the design decisions, advantages, and compromises involving replicating form and function using different technologies.

    Overall, I believe the largest standing hurdle to creating a modern typewriter is the depth and breadth of affordable and usable machines from yesterday.

  14. Paul Harker

    Addendum: I also believe that a new machine needs to be indeed new; not a reissue of a classic. A machine incorporating all that has been learned over the years, taking the best ideas from many models and lines, incorporating new ideas and technologies, and coalescing them into an evolved typewriter that could only have been made today.

  15. Robin Heilschild ????

    Regarding bikes, I understand you. I have a steel-frame bike made in the year 2003, in Mexico (Mexican bike brands are the worst brands, as their components use neither inches nor centimeters and are cheesy, flimsy and bland, and the frames have random measures and are made out of heavy steel). I bought it in the year 2017, and it wasn't even able to move. But as time went forward, I was replacing the cheap and flimsy components with more durable and more expensive components from famous bike brands (only the rims, spokes, seat post, stem, headset, fork, fenders and one crank arm are made in Mexico, but at least I verified they were well made and not so flimsy this time).

    The replacement of the fork was a weird, curious case because I had to modify the new fork (it includes shock absorbers like the original piece, but it's made out of a lighter steel) with industrial machinery that is already obsolete in developed countries (mechanical lathes and milling machines are still used in Mexico as people don't trust nor know how to handle computerized technology like that, and computer-controlled lathes and milling machines are too expensive over here, and you have to get a diploma to learn how to operate such a modern machinery) because the original piece was discontinued. And since there's no rear shock absorber in my bike, I got a saddle with shock absorbers that actually are springs; the funniest part is when I run over speed bumpers and potholes (roadway glitches that are common in my country) or when I have to drive on dirt with lots of rocks and pebbles everywhere. :D

    I'm planning to update the whole transmission. I have 21 speeds only (freewheel system), and I need 30 (free hub system). Why? Driving in Mexico City, even for a bike, has some disadvantages: You must drive as fast as you can, and you need a lot of dexterity to avoid distracted car drivers and lots of obstacles that appear suddenly. A crankset with just 42 teeth on the biggest chainring and a cogset with just 14 teeth on the smallest cog make me to drive at 15 mph (30 km/h) as max speed (and it's exhausting). But if I update the whole transmission, I'll have a three-ring crankset with 50 teeth on the biggest chainring and a ten-cog cogset with 11 teeth on the smallest cog, which will let me to save effort and driving at 30 mph (45 km/h) at max speed. ;)

    Why don't I buy a new bike instead? Well, the stores sell you very basic bikes with 21 speeds only and shock absorbers in the fork only. If you want something more sophisticated, you must spend over $1500 USD's (over $30,000 MXN's) to get a Cannondale, a Trek or a Giant bike, and I can't afford such a thing. So, I prefer to invest just $450 USD's ($9000 MXN's) to update the transmission and get new paint. After all, my bike is able to go uphills, resist distances beyond 50 miles (80 km) and run downhills at 40-45 mph (60-70 km/h) like the good, expensive bikes despite its smaller wheels (24 inches of diameter, instead of 29). xD

    Alas, typewriters can't be improved that way. :(

  16. John Cooper

    Shinola, the Detroit-based manufacturer of modern bicycles and wristwatches that recall vintage items and have a good reputation for quality, might be a natural for this project. The trouble is that so many wheels will have to be reinvented, so to speak, since the machines that made the typewriters are themselves long gone.

  17. Richard P

    I actually had the same thought, and proposed the idea to Shinola a few years ago! They were polite in their reply. :)


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