2022 JOURNAL 

24 May 2022

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22 May  2022

Before & After : 1965 Adler Tippa

 This 1960s Adler Tippa was in terrible shape when I first found it. Even I doubted it could be restored and made fully functional again.

I started by completely dismantling the typewriter — replacing missing links and any rusted parts. Normally, I am against repainting typewriters and would never do so to any pre-1960s machine (I am a great believer that minor scuffs, dents and scratches are part of the typewriter’s own story and personality).  But even after it had been cleaned, this Tippa looked as if it had been submerged in mud for a century.  

I set about repainting both the case and shell. I was delighted  with the outcome and sold the typewriter to a young writer who — three years later — continues to use this marvellous little portable on a  daily basis. 

21 April  2022

17 April 2022

1949 Royal Quiet De Luxe (Henry Dreyfuss edition), complete with glass, tombstone keys. 

1939 Royal Arrow: “ …  a classic, no-frills typewriter.”

1932 Remington Portable #3: “… one of the most beautiful typewriters ever made.”

6 April 2022

The Smith-Corona Sterling 5AX-Series (1963). This is one of my favourite typewriters. I had three of them. I now only have two after selling the ‘baby blue’ model pictured above. 

Arguably the most attractive of my three 5AX machines, I decided to sell ‘baby blue’ because it is also the most distracting when writing (I would often find myself admiring the typewriter instead of writing!).  Plus, having three identical machines is an insane luxury— especially when I live in a studio apartment / workshop with 50 other typewriters in various stages of repair. 

 

25 February 2022

Newly restored: the 1966 Consul 232, made in Czechoslovakia. 

 

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.

Restored and ready — this Remington #1 Portable Typewriter was made in December 1924. These vintage, pre-WWII machines are in great demand again by a new generation of typewriter collectors;  and the finite supply means that prices for these typewriters continue to rise especially if they are in good working condition. 

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.

Top view of this newly restored 98-year-old portable typewriter. Despite its age, the Remington #1  still types beautifully. It is a ‘living’ antique but is not in the least bit fragile. 

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

Typewriter vertigo 

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 …

Twelve vintage typewriters — with a combined age of almost 1,000 years —  awaiting restoration in my workshop.

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 …

This once beautiful Brother De Luxe — made in 1974 in Nagoya, Japan — was blighted by rust, and its carry case covered in mould. 

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 …

The original plastic keys were so brittle they had to be replaced. 

I used the keys from a ‘deceased’ Royal Royalite and Hermes 3000 which were a perfect fit.

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 …

There is almost certainly a nail varnish colour that  matches your typewriter. 

Gently sand-down scratched areas to make smooth .

The  result should be seamless to the naked eye. 

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

Le Meridian Hotel in downtown Shanghai, fondly referred to as ‘the Batman building’. Photographed in 2014. When I first arrived in the city, it was one of my visual reference points – ensuring that I would not get lost when roaming Shanghai by day or night,

 

18 October 2021

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