28 July 2022
Smith-Corona Silent-Super 5T (1954)
It took me several weeks to restore this 1954 Smith-Corona Silent-Super to full working condition, but it was worth every second. The Silent-Super is an absolute joy to write with. For me, it is right up there with the very best — and a permanent fixture in my top five typewriters for writers.
Yes, we can argue over style and portability and prettiness, but I defy anyone to name a better, more reliable, manual typewriter for packhorse writing.
22 May 2022
Before & After : 1965 Adler Tippa
21 April 2022
17 April 2022
6 April 2022
25 February 2022
21 February 2022
The great typewriter renaissance
I rescue, repair and restore typewriters; and for the longest time there was zero interest in these beautiful writing machines. Once or twice a month, I would receive letters from nostalgia junkies and octogenarian poets enquiring about typewriters and typewriter parts. It was all very niche. On the whole, people were not in the least bit interested in typewriters.
And then about two years ago, something wonderful happened: people began to buy my typewriters again. Not just mature people, hippy poets and Hemingway wannabes. These were ordinary people, young people, who wanted to write something real and tangible, not merely input words that were saved into the ‘electronic ether’. They wanted something that reflected their individual personality and spirit; they were tired of their smart phones, tablets and computers, complete with software which all but promised to write their letters, theses and books for them.They wanted to wrestle back control of the writing process. They wanted back their identities. In short, they wanted creative liberation.
I do not think it is a coincidence that the renewed interest in typewriters in Hong Kong occurred at the same time as political awareness started to take a firm hold among the young people of this dynamic city. Along with the desire for greater political and social freedoms came a renewed interest in independent thought and creativity.
3 February 2022
Perched high above the streets of Hong Kong, this newly restored two-tone Princess 300 — made in West Germany in 1963 — is a beautiful ultra-portable that types cleanly, smoothly and with absolute ease. For this photograph, I secured the typewriter to the narrow balcony and ensured that 75% of the machine was hanging over the terrace — as opposed to the street below.
1 February 2022
The challenge of restoring typewriters in Hong Kong
I rescue, repair and restore typewriters in Hong Kong. It has become something of an obsession. I live in a cozy studio apartment, which has now become overrun by orphaned typewriters, all in need of some serious work to bring them back to a fully operational life …
There are a surprisingly large number of typewriters still in Hong Kong, but the vast majority are in terrible shape — a result of the high humidity, compounded by the salt air from the South China Sea, rising pollution levels, monsoon rains, and occasional ‘black’ rain.
Most typewriters are stored in dark and damp warehouses or deep in cupboards — often for decades at a time, so when they come to me the typewriters are suffering from mould and oxidisation. I attach a photo of a Brother De Luxe that had been discarded with the trash. This is typical of the typewriters I find here …
In most cases, oxidisation is — thankfully — just surface rust. But other things are beyond repair: the plastic keys were so brittle that they simply crumbled as I attempted to gently clean them.
One unexpected surprise: the typewriter carry case, which was filthy but largely intact, contained wonderful provenance: the user guide, receipt and type test. After cleaning and repairing, I started work on the keys. I have a large collection of keys gleaned from typewriters that were beyond salvation. And from these I selected dark-green Royal Royalite and Hermes 3000 keys, both of which were a perfect fit for the Brother key stalks …
Disguising scratched enamel or lacquer is usually the last job I do when restoring typewriters. I use nail varnish to paint over scratches on metallic typewriter shells. There are a vast range of nail varnish colours available and I was able to find an exact match for the sky-blue lacquer of the Brother De Luxe. I very carefully apply a thin layer of lacquer using a tiny, soft-hair calligraphy brush. After allowing it to dry, I use fine grit paper and sand smooth the area; then apply the nail varnish again ... wet sandpaper ... varnish ... repeat until perfect …
In addition to the repairs shown above, I also resurfaced the platen, made some new rubber feet, and repaired the carry case. The typewriter looked beyond salvation when I first found it but, with time, patience and a little imagination, even the most hopeless typewriter can be restored to a thing of beauty.
11 November 2021
Adler Gabriele 25 (1975)
It took me several weeks to clean, restore and repair this unique typewriter – which had spent at least a decade sitting in a dark, humid Kowloon warehouse.
The Adler Gabriele 25 is one of my top ten portable typewriters. It is durable and easy to maintain (I have restored half a dozen over the past two years and have yet to meet one that I did not like!).
In many ways, the Gabriele 25 is an outlier – an old-fashioned typewriter that does not get the recognition it deserves.The chunky keys are steeply banked and a joy to those who use a typewriter for several hours at a time. Purists will sniffily point out the plastic top cover, but who cares? It types near-perfect text and, while it might not be as “cool” as the Olivetti Lettera 32, or as “sexy” as the scarlet Valentine it is, in my humble opinion, a superior typewriter to both.
Unfortunately, this particular model is not for sale, already reserved for a client in Toronto. However I am in the process of restoring another Gabriele 25 which should be complete by late December 2021. You can view my spec sheet (typed using the Gabriele 25) and more photos of the typewriter here.
10 November 2021
The times they are a-changin’
The first page of the fire-damaged script for Alfred Hitchcock’s seminal movie, PSYCHO. The script was written on an Olympia SG1 typewriter by screenwriter Joseph Stefano in 1960. The trend these days is for scripts with bare-bones narrative, and an emphasis on dialogue and action. So to read this beautifully typed first page with zero dialogue was a joy.
9 November 2021
Finally, almost unbelievably, I found a pair of size-12 DMs in Hong Kong! Men’s shoe sizes here rarely go above 9 or 10. But a brand new pair of size-12 Doctor Marten’s is almost unheard of. Not only that but, due to lack of demand for oversized shoes here, I got them at half price. O, lucky man!
Growing up in the 1970s, I always wanted a pair of Doctor Marten’s. Unfortunately, at that time in the UK, Doctor Marten’s were associated with skinheads, football hooligans, and the National Front. Thankfully, times have changed and I can now wear the famous air-cushioned ‘bouncing soles’ without being branded as a thug.
24 September 2021
Ten years ago, I wrote a film script – “One Crowded Hour” – a love story set in Hong Kong as a new and deadly virus hits the city. I recently revisited the script. It was okay for a first draft. Too much dialogue, but a good and still relevant story. At the time, I presented the script to several people I knew in the Hong Kong film industry. They loved it, but was told repeatedly that it would be impossible to make in Hong Kong as the story was ‘politically sensitive’ and too critical of the Chinese government. So I put the script in a drawer and forgot about it. Cleaning up my files as I prepare to move, I discovered the script. Here is the first page …
21 October 2021
“I believe that your future is governed entirely by the choices you make throughout your life. And every choice made – from the smallest to the most profound – reduces the number of paths until, inevitably, you find yourself on one road and you must go where it leads. The problem is, you never know how many paths remain and no one tells you when you are on the final, choice-less highway.” — from the novel, Night Garden Of The Asylum.
19 October 2021
18 October 2021
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