Manual typewriter -- where from, and what brand?
April 24, 2008 1:36 AM   Subscribe

Want to buy a manual (not electric) typewriter in the UK. What brand and where from? Not interested in vintage -- should be working and practical.
posted by long haired lover from liverpool to Shopping (11 answers total)
Not sure about brand (although I had a Smith Corona for many years that was a real workhorse) but Ebay could be good, especially if sort by "nearest first" and can go collect it to save shipping.
posted by ceri richard at 2:27 AM on April 24, 2008

Maybe call these guys in west sussex.
posted by BrotherCaine at 2:30 AM on April 24, 2008

For some reason I seem to remember that you're based in Wales - if so, SET used to have (still have?) a showroom opposite Cardiff Castle where you could buy new and reconditioned typewriters. Haven't been there for many years so would be a good idea to ring them first.
posted by ceri richard at 2:53 AM on April 24, 2008

The market for typewriters, especially manual typewriters, has dropped off to the point that you may need to buy something vintage to get any sort of quality. That's no harm, though... a nicely restored vintage machine should be (literally) as good as new.
posted by LastOfHisKind at 5:10 AM on April 24, 2008

Any idea where from, LastOf? Perhaps because of scarcity, they go for quite high prices on eBay, and I understand that some suffer from "stick key syndrome" that makes them unusable. I'll bet that quite a few on eBay have that issue.
posted by humblepigeon at 5:51 AM on April 24, 2008

Best answer: There is at least one company, Olivetti (based in Italy), that still manufactures manual typewriters. I found them for sale online [Google Shopping link] but I don't think any of those stores are UK-based.
posted by camcgee at 8:44 AM on April 24, 2008 [1 favorite]

Someone in Liverpool is selling a used Olivetti, but that ad is from Jan., so who knows if it's still available.
posted by camcgee at 8:46 AM on April 24, 2008

Best answer: Following the lead given by camcgee, and courtesy of some extensive Googling, I found this site, offering some Olivetti and Silver Reed models. They ain't cheap, though -- probably close to £100 inc VAT + postage.

If anybody else is interested, just hit Google searching for Olivetti and Silver Reed typewriters in the UK. These seem to be the brands.

I'm not sure I'm serious about getting one bearing in mind the prices, but if I get around to it I think I'll just contact the US retailers camcgee found and see if they ship to the UK. Even after import tax and delivery, it'll still be cheaper.
posted by long haired lover from liverpool at 9:23 AM on April 24, 2008

Response by poster: Also, this site.
posted by long haired lover from liverpool at 9:26 AM on April 24, 2008

LHLfL - I've been using an Olivetti Lettera 32 since 2004, when I bought it in a second hand shop for 50p. I think my model was built in 1968, but the design goes back to 1963 I believe. It was intended to be a portable typewriter, and indeed I've taken mine abroad; it may be a little heavy, but any decent typewriter will be. Lots of metal, and when you're banging away at the keys you want it to stay put on the desk. This model is built to last, and such a friendly shade of turquoise. In fact, I'm sure I've seen a post on the Blue about the Olivetti before - they're a design classic and highly desirable, literary-journo chic.

Using it has really changed the way I compose a sentence - you can't just write delete write delete get it right eventually let's hope - you must think in advance what you want to say. It makes writing more physical, and in that, more valuable. When working on a big project the typewriter almost forces you to get to the end of a draft. You can't get trapped in endless rewrites like you can on a computer. It's a reverse technology hack. By all means type a draft up onto the computer to edit further; but to get that first draft done, the typewriter wins out.

So indeed, the Olivetti Lettera 32 comes specifically recommended. Ribbons seem to last a long time (much better value for money than the ever-shrinking print cartridge) and are still available from some Stationers/online. Try asking at charity shops, they'll sometimes have typewriters in the back room because they believe no one wants them, especially models from the 60s or 70s. If you do find one, and it's cheap, buy it. It took me a few weeks to master my Olivetti, after initially thinking it was broken. Check for stuck keys by all means, but just go plunge and have fun!
posted by einekleine at 10:46 AM on April 24, 2008 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks einekleine. That's the exact reason I'm going to try a typewriter. To get into contact with the page, rather than what's on screen. I'd write by hand but my handwriting is dreadful. I also like the idea of using zero electricity.

In the end I found a good deal on eBay -- a boxed Imperial typewriter, never used. Bearing in mind Imperial went out of business in 1974, this is perhaps an antique. I really hope it comes with a ribbon because it may be a nightmare finding one. Nobody seems to have heard of this particular model.

I think eBay is the way to go if you want to buy a typewriter. Just be careful not to get involved in bidding on classic typewriters that are desired by those who collect these things, and who inflate the price. For example, the Imperial model I bought came after Imperial was bought-out, so is considered a past-the-prime mass-market effort.
posted by long haired lover from liverpool at 12:46 AM on April 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

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