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01-9-2019 14:57:33  #1

Repair or restore?

Recently, Joe Van Cleave said in one of his video's: "There's a FINITE number of typewriters (...)". I've never thought about typewriters that way, and Joe is right of course: every machine is precious.

How do we handle this? 

Let's say you have two Lettera 32's, both in reasonable condition but with problems. Do you build one perfect Lettera from both machines? Or do you restore both Lettera's to working condition? In other words, is it wise to have few fully restored typewriters and a lot of spare parts? Or is it better to have a lot of typewriters that just work?

The answer is off course personal and depends on your relation with typewriters; are you more of a collector or a user? But if we look beyond personal preference, and think about Joe's words, what is the best approach? Assuming we al want to preserve our typewriters, and what they mean to us, for the future?

I would love to learn your opinion about this.

Kind regards,



01-9-2019 16:25:05  #2

Re: Repair or restore?

Although I don't disagree with JVC, I would guess that there are probably hundreds of typewriters out in the wild for every collector/user around today. Except for a few rare types, I'm not worried about running out of typewriters for some time. 

That said, I would say that building perfect machines would be the way to go for collectors. For users, lots of machines that may not be perfect but work would be the way to go.


01-9-2019 17:15:12  #3

Re: Repair or restore?

Being relatively new to collecting and renovating, this is something I've pondered on, notably when I needed some spare parts for an Underwood 5 I was bringing up to working standard. Despite the number of Underwood 5's out there, I just couldn't source the parts I wanted (not at fair prices). I reluctantly bought a machine for spares but still feel bad that this is one less Underwood in the world. I guess this scenario is inevitable but there ought to be a way of at least making best use of such 'spares' machines, across the renovation world. The creation of some form of spares database would of course be a logistical challenge!
Ian J


01-9-2019 17:43:31  #4

Re: Repair or restore?

I repair whenever its possible, even fabricate or adapt ersatz parts if I'm desperate, but to date I've have never demoted a typewriter to a parts donor status. Too often I've found so-called parts machines are ones that could themselves have been repaired.

And how much use does a parts machine really have? There might be a few items on it that could be in frequent demand, but once they're used up the vast majority of the typewriter is still there. Odds are if it has those good parts that are commonly broken it could be more easily repaired.

I have a few machines that require parts, and I'll wait on repairing them until a solution that doesn't require scavenging another typewriter presents itself. At the rate 3D metal printing is advancing it shouldn't be that long before it becomes very cost effective to reproduce one-off parts for those typewriters.

Stay Safe! 

02-9-2019 02:58:39  #5

Re: Repair or restore?

I admire and fully support your principle and exhausted all other options before reluctantly going down the donor route. I needed a missing platen knob (and a glass key top, but ended up fabricating one). I appreciate that typewriter businesses need to make a living but couldn't justify spending the asking price of £45 when Underwoods requiring renovation (standard models) regularly fail to sell on eBay in the UK for £10. Who knows whether they then end up dumped, after failing to sell.
I found a rough looking Underwood, which came as part of a job lot of six typewriters for a winning bid of £27. Along with the platen knob, it has also provided a metal ribbon spool and backspace pawl, so far, but could easily be put back into service if I subsequently find another platen knob. I'm hoping that my donor purchase incidentally 'saved' 4 serviceable machines: Royal KMM, Olivetti M44, Olympia 8 and SG1. The very rusty Remington 10 that came with them will be a 'winter project', when I've bought a bucket of rust treatment....


02-9-2019 11:15:59  #6

Re: Repair or restore?

You've hit on one of the issues facing us at the moment, Ian. Replacement parts tend to cost as much, if not more, than entire machines. If you are like me, and don't overspend on typewriters, it almost never makes sense to buy individual parts - the exception being if you have a truly rare machine (most aren't despite how often that word is tossed about, even by collectors) and it's highly unlikely that you'll ever come across another example.

It's worth pointing out that although there are a "finite" number of typewriters, there are still tens upon tens of millions of them in the world. Sometimes, when you live in a large urban center like I do, it can feel like the supply is endless when you look at all the local ads and visit antique markets, and that impression probably makes it easier for some people to chop up perfectly good typewriters and repurpose their parts for junk jewellery. 

I don't see these situations changing any time soon, at least not until typewriters actually become a rare commodity. And that's something that is highly unlikely to happen in my lifetime.

Stay Safe! 

14-9-2019 13:47:14  #7

Re: Repair or restore?

One of the good things nowadays is that most people seems to value typewriters.
I often see desktop computers, monitors and printers thrown away, never a typewriter.

Thanks for your thoughts about the matter, it helps managing my (too) fast growing collection.

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