Typewriter, Uncategorized

Restoring a Remington Standard 2 Typewriter…from 1886

On a pleasant summer’s day in 2016, a Remington Standard 2 typewriter from 1886 was found amidst rubble, dirt, bird droppings and creaking ‘silence’ of a barn in southeastern Ontario, Canada.  Restoring it would turn out to take a year…but holding something in my hands that once conveyed Victorian-era words of persons long since passed on, made me feel I was reverently shaking hands with history.

The sights, sounds, and smells (yes, smells) of the typewriter have always beckoned interest.  Arguably, a writer’s first draft never flows better – a pleasant (re)discovery for many writers in the digital era.   Yet, beyond even that, there is something further to the wide appeal of this great machine that calls to so many.  I’ll leave discerning whatever that is to you.

I am not a believer in the casual DIY restoration for machines.  I have done many restorations of typewriters, and I have always tried to use correct techniques advocated in the service manuals, and blueprints of those bygone eras, in tandem with approaches observed and discussed with research experts, and a (semi)retired typewriter repairman friend.  Tackling the restoration of what otherwise might have been dismissed as a ruined metal hulk, is something I take seriously, and joyously.  Sometimes, however, you just have to figure things out for yourself – and this 131 year old piece of  industrial revolution machinery would prove to require some…well, frankly, ‘MacGyver-ing’ to restore.

Rem 2 Outside Main Left Angle Lrg

The Process…

The first thing I usually do when restoring a typewriter is identify delicate, about-to-break or fall off parts, before proceeding with the coarse debris and dust removal.  This of course is not a casual process, as I need be cautious to not dislodge loose parts, springs, or antique fasteners.

Once I have air dusted, I usually take a series of high-resolution photos of every conceivable angle outside in natural light.  This particularly true if I am planning a disassembly in order to clean, repair, and (if necessary) replace broken parts.  Typewriters are notoriously complex machines with many (many, many) intricate, unique and often minuscule, proprietary parts.  So, it is an absolute certainty, that I will be referencing those same photos later in re-assembly.  They are more often than Continue reading


Typewriters… Just for Hipsters? Or Is It Something More?

I recently saw an advertisement for a typewriter on Kijiji… unkind, and mean spirited, though it was, it was nonetheless well-written.  Basically, it accused any prospective buyer of this poster’s rogue typewriter, emerging from the recesses of yesteryear, clothed in a blanket of rust-like charm, of being a hipster.

It suggested that all reasons for buying such a unit were ego-driven in nature, a slap in the face of today’s progressive technologies, and were symbolic of a holding onto yesterday for the sake of kitsch value.  Now, I am uncertain of what circle of friends this poster keeps, nor why he could not see the bitter irony of his own diatribe’s ego-driven angst… all I knew was that it was not really about typewriters.

Psychology 101 aside, why go to the lengths to write a venomous pitch to an audience you disparage? Perhaps, it is not to that target audience that this poster was really speaking.  Regardless, the ad is still up.

I discovered typewriters this year.  I cannot explain their appeal.  For it is really (ultimately) not about them.  They, like anything in life that draws us in, are mirrors for something inside of us that we are opening up to – that we are getting in touch with. A typewriter is a vehicle for being present with that.  It is a vehicle for an interactive experience of self, unencumbered by the multi-focus demands of digital media.

I am not opposed to digital media, nor technology as a whole. But I don’t wish to view it as a lifestyle. Rather, I feel it is a tool.  Much like a painter’s brush.  However, if I become more focused on the myriad forms of brushes and their like, I may be missing the point that I am supposed to actually be painting with it…at some point. Don’t get me wrong, I am grateful for the digital brush.  But that is as far is it needs to go.

As a writer, typewriters demand a whole new level of attention and presence, as a vehicle of one’s expression.  I interact with the beautiful ole machine in ways that the digital domain does not afford.  I still use ‘things digital’. I am clearly using it now. It is useful…as a tool.  But artfully expressing my writing using digital media will always be fleeting, at best.  It is like a loud guy at a networking function, constantly seeking my attention (even if he can tell me where the drinks and best hors d’oeuvres are).

I don’t know if I will produce something that will ever be considered a piece of art on a typewriter… but writing on a typewriter… is art in itself. There’s something in the discovery of self when I type on a beautiful, manual machine. At least when I type on a typewriter – as a physical extension of my very self – I know it’s listening, unconditionally. And I know I am writing, without condition.