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Thursday, 2 June 2011

Don't Cry For Me, Typewriter Vandals: One That Got Away!

(The Wordy Prelude to the Meaty Bit)
close to being keytop vandal fodder!
(The Meaty Bit)
Where all this is leading is here …
For some time I have been a member of the Antique Typewriter Collectors group on Facebook. Not sure how or when I joined, and was never quite sure what it was all about (which is quite un-typospherian). One thing I did notice, however – and I very seldom look at Facebook, just occasionally to see how Will Davis and Alan Seaver are getting on (plus a few other friends) – is that this group was pretty quiet.
Imagine my surprise, then, when yesterday morning I checked my emails to find the first seven of 15 messages with photographs of young women with typewriters (and some handsome, lonesome typewriters, too) from one Silvano Donadoni. Then I noticed a message from Robert Berkman, saying “Antique Typewriter Collectors has been upgraded to the new groups format, which makes it easier for members to connect and share.”
Well, that certainly started to liven things up a bit. But very soon after, what really set the cat among the pigeons was this very brave comment from a member of an Antique Typewriter Collectors group(to be on the safe side, no names, no pack drill; I am going to use numbers here, so as to protect the innocent, namely my good self)
Member 1 (attached photo below): if you find a vintage typewriter but it's in horrid condition, you can always pull the keys off and make jewelry
Whoa! In pretty short time the exchange went like this:
Member 2: key cutters are evil, nothing personal, but it is just wrong
Member 3: Evil evil people they are
Member 4: mmmmnnnnyeah...sorry.
Member 1(coming to their own defence): I'm not that bad. Some machines I come across are WAY beyond repair, and I feel sorry for them being tossed to the curb, so I salvage what keys I can. I won't dare take the keys off of a decent machine, which is why my typewriter collection keeps growing.
Member 5: If you find a vintage typewriter that's in horrid condition, please just send it to me instead.
Member 2 (again): well as someone with I suppose an above average mechanical skill with access to lots of tools and machines, I suppose not everyone can save every writer, still... I bet most poeple here would gladly find a way to fix one that was considered beyond hope by a key cutter. you can get fake keys on ebay for a few bucks, why ruin something irreplaceable ?
Member 4: It's just a place we can't go.
Member 3: You can repair anything on a Typer really....
Member 1: [O]k, from now on, I will post photos of any nasty machines that I come across (and don't want to keep for myself). Maybe someone here will want to tackle intense refurbishment.
Member 3: I will!
Member 5: Yeah! This new challenge/contest excites me
Member 6: (senior voice coming in at this stage?): take it from someone who has repaired typewriters for the last 35 years........YES some machines are beyond repiar...!!!!! I have a few hundred if you want to see them.... but with that said I will say that key cutters are much to quick to... decide when a machine is ready for the "knife". I have revived a number of machines that were deemed "past the point of no return" by key cutters who were looking for any reason they could find to declare the typewriter "too far gone". I'm sure [Member 1] is not one of these. She has some cool machines in her collection so cut her some slack and save your ire for the real offenders!!!!
Member 3: I swear this typewriter collectors group has never seen this much action for one post
Member 6: … Yeah, this thing was dead for a while. glad to see some action!!!!
Member 3: Every once in a while someone would post a picture or two...
Member 7 (someone we all know - in the typewriter collecting sense - and admire): The only problem with lopping off keys from truly unsalvageable typers is that it feeds the market. Less ethical keychoppers then seek to meet the demand by chopping perfectly good machines. This is why in my mind it is *never* okay to cut keys for jewelry. As well-intentioned and reasonable as it may be in some cases, it simply perpetuates the problem.
Member 8: Nice looking jewelry.
Member 1: thanks [Member 6] are right--people that don't appreciate antiques are too quick to chop up for parts...I have saved some machines from those folks.
Member 9 (another one of our very dear, sensible friends): One of the top tips for stimulating your community is to be irreverent and contentious. Could be you've done the cause a power of good just by breaking the taboo and using the 'C' word.
Member 9 (again): ‎...though you could draw a parallel with elephant ivory...?

And here I was worried I'd be drummed out of the typewriter collecting regiment for buying a USB typewriter for my birthday!
I was once on a couple of online typewriter forums, but found myself completely overwhelmed by the welter of messages I received each day (some might say the same thing about my blog!). Now that the dynamics of this Facebook group have suddenly changed, I'll have to wait and see. It may turn out to be very interesting ...

Just after I returned from Melbourne in February, I received a (typewritten!) letter from a local woman asking, basically, whether I’d be prepared to send her typewriters I had no further use for, so she could turn them into jewellery.
My mind turned to the little Royal portable that invited Melbournians, “I am typewriter … so type with me!” And they did, in their droves. And loved it. No further use for it? Perish the thought!


Richard P said...

The story of the Royal saved from near-death, and its adoration by the crowds at I Am Typewriter, nearly brought tears to my eyes. Really! Evidently Terry is an expert; I once put a carriage back on a Royal (an all-caps Signet) and the ball bearings nearly drove me insane.

I am looking forward to organizing a type-in, with public typewriters to attract the curious.

Sounds like a pretty civilized discussion of keychopping. People on both sides of the topic can get prickly about it.

Ted said...

That's a great story of a fine machine rescued from being turned into something worn around the wrist instead of it's true destiny of serving the fingers and mind of a writer! (:

I dream lo-tech said...

Very much appreciated this post, many thanks. I'm a new entrant in the typosphere but since I first chanced upon a typewriter-key trinket on eBay, I've been feeling a slight dis-ease about it.

Rob Bowker said...

Visiting the Facebook group, and joining in the thread you quoted, I got the oddest feeling - like when you bump into your neighbours on holiday. And star of the small screen Bill Wahl's there too! About the lucky Royal. It is the back-story - sometimes imagined, rarely documented but always there in the wear to the paint and the full stop impressions on the platen - that's entertaining. When you put story to a specific piece of (let's face it) very old-fashioned hardware - it is impossible not to engage with it or want to keep it safe. There's a lot written about the psychology of collecting but I think 'rescuing' old iron from neglect, misuse or worse is a perfectly reasonable occupation.