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29-6-2014 16:24:42  #1

Silver Reed Silverette

Hi, This is my first post on this site, (so far as I can recall; age is a bugger,) though I am a member of the Fountain Pen Network. I have only been using a typewriter for a few months, although I can touch type and use a keyboard at work on a daily basis. My wife (bless, she knows me well) saw an Olympia Traveller de Luxe in a charity shop in Ilkley, for £4 and bought it for me. It is marvelous and I am well and truly besotted.
To be fair, she doesn't have to know me that well: I wear my heart on my sleeve. I write at a 1900 roll-top desk, with a vintage fountain pen(s), seal my letters with sealing wax, use a slide rule or a cool 1970s calculator and make and receive calls on a 1970s Bakelite phone. I shave with a Gillette "butterfly" razor, with soap applied by a badger hair brush. There's a pattern here, I think. Anyway, now my letters are typed. 
A friend has a Silver Reed Silverette she wants to gift me. I haven't seen it yet, but I have seen pictures on ebay etc and it looks very pretty. Some questions about both machines, and generally, and some observations, and I look forward with interest to any replies:
-On my Olympia, the 8/' type bar tends to jam with the ones on either sides. I have cleaned all the bars and the letter-thingy (slug?) itself but it doesn't seem to make much difference. What else can I do?
-I type on a wooden desk, and the machine tends to drift. I have put a sheet of tanned leather underneath it, but it looks vaguely inappropriate. Can you recommend any non-slip typewriter mats or materials?
-My typing standard is fine for a (forgiving) computer, but not for an unforgiving typewriter. Can tippex paper strips still be had? I've looked without success in local shops and on ebay. Any other recommendations?
-I note a number of keys seem to be missing on a Silverette compared to my Olympia. There doesn't seem to be a number 1 for example. I guess that's because of lack of room and I'm supposed to use the "I" instead? Will I see anything else missing? Will I miss anything?
-There seems to be a funny key, second row up, bottom right on the Silverette : like a  full stop and a distorted capital D. What is this for?
-As a matter of interest, if these manual portables are so short of space why do they use fractions when they don't seem to need to? The Olympia has a 1/4 3/4 key, a 1/3 2/3 key, and a 1/2 sharing the % key. But no exclamation mark! I guess I am supposed to make this with a . and a ' which does work perfectly well on the page. Though see above for the ' on this machine!
-Does anyone have any experience with/comments on the Silverette? Apart from it's a really naff name. Is it a decent machine? Will I notice any quirky aspects? Is it good/bad at anything in particular?

I look forward very much to hearing from you.




30-6-2014 11:31:06  #2

Re: Silver Reed Silverette

I have a Silver Reed and used it without any problems at all for over 20 years and it's still going fine. Mine has a very fast typing action, I think it might be the fastest of my small collection. The full stop with the weird D, that's a bullet point! Use a lower case L for number 1. Lots of typewriters have this as a feature. My Remington Portable 2 doesn't have a zero either and I have to use upper case O!
But I'd say definitely go for a Silver Reed. It's nice to try out different makes and models if you can. You might find that the Siler Reed has a different typeface or size and it's nice to have the choice of a change sometimes.
Not sure why we have so many fractions on british typewriters, but I like the quirkyness of that.
For anti-slip on my table top I've been using a cheap doormat from Sainsbury's chopped in half, the kind like a bit of carpet with rubbery stuff underneath. This also acts as a sound dampener as well.
Very jealous of your writing desk by the way, I had a loan of one when I was 12 and very miffed to have to give it back 2 years later!


30-6-2014 11:56:43  #3

Re: Silver Reed Silverette

One reason for the popularity of fractions on British typewriters may have been due to currency. Halfpence survived into the 80s and even farthings were around for the first half of the century. Doesn't explain the 1/3 and 2/3, of course, but I think there is certain typographical beauty in using ½ rather than 1/2.


30-6-2014 15:27:15  #4

Re: Silver Reed Silverette

Thanks to you both for your comments. I agree there is something pleasing about the fractions: I like to use them, and they are much neater and more self-contained than a home-made one. You are right, of course, the peculier english duo-decimal system meant 1/2 and 1/4 were much more frequent anyway. I note the testimonial to the Silver Reed. I am looking forward to it very much. I'm told this one is bright blue. Sounds good.

I have managed to improve my 8/' slug. I saw some advice on the internet, and have cleaned it, and the neighbouring slugs,  with some meths on a toothbrush. It is much better now. Mind you, my toothbrush tastes awful.

I look forward to the Silverette. 

As a matter of interest, is there much everyday difference between full-size and portable manual machines? Obviously, bigger is heavier, but probably more stable; more keys; Is the performance more robust too? On Youtube demos they give an impression of weight and stability but they also seem quieter and easier? Am I imagining that? Presumably they are more reliable? If I had room, would a full-size make sense?


     Thread Starter

12-7-2014 23:59:43  #5

Re: Silver Reed Silverette

Hi Selous

Haven't been here for a while, things have been a little crazy as of late, it's the peak of my busy season, however, I'll try to give you a reasonable answer from my point of view. By the content of your post, I'm going to assume you are in England so I will write my post accordingly. Indeed, the Silver Reed travel typewriters are great little units for their era. The W.H. Smith Grey Fox was a Silver Reed as was the Boots PT-400 along with the Royal Signet from the 1970's. Speaking of the 1970's, do you remember what happened to the British currency in 1971? We went from £/s/d tp £•p or to the decimal system. The catch word of the year was "Decimalization" The •D key as I understand it is the decimal key so currence could be written correctly.

Over here in North America, the period or full stop has been used to devide dollars and cents for years, as in: draft beer $4.75 a glass. Prior to 1971 England, a bottle of wine for example would have sold for £5/10/6, (five pounds, ten shillings and sixpence). After 1971, that same price would have been written £5•52½p (five pounds, fifty two and a half new pence). The ½p piece was since discontinued around the time I left England and came to Canada.

 As for what I call the fine fractions (1/8, 3/8, 5/8 & 7/8), the closest I have ever come to any sort of explanation is so those who were interested, could use their typewriter to record the value of stocks and shares. When it comes to the 1/3 and 2/3 fractions, I've got nothing.

One totally random thought just entered my mind, in horse racing, the field was measured out in furlongs or 1/8 miles, who knows? Anyhow, all the best,


We humans go through many computers in our lives, but in their lives, typewriters go through many of us.
In that way, they’re like violins, like ancestral swords. So I use mine with honor and treat them with respect.
I try to leave them in better condition than I met them. I am not their first user, nor will I be their last.
Frederic S. Durbin. (Typewriter mania and the modern writer)

13-7-2014 16:44:31  #6

Re: Silver Reed Silverette

Tippex Strips cannot be bought any more, but there is an American equivalent which you can order online in the UK through Brian Rothwell's Ink Jet Store.  They are a bit expensive though !


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