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Sunday, 8 July 2012

Nakajima Model 800 Typewriter: The most surprising machine of ALL

The look of the Nakajima Model 800 typewriter never did a lot for me. I suspect that problem had a lot more to do with something quite superficial – the cheap and nasty labelling, which compounded a poor impression of plastic Nakajima machines - than with the typewriter itself.
If there is a reason why a company capable of producing such fine typewriters was also responsible for such tardy labelling, I suppose it could be that Nakajima made so many typewriters under so many different brand names, it made economic sense to cut costs on multiple labels.
The way it worked in Australia, for example, is that huge numbers of machines were shipped in by companies such as CFM Industries, with links to Japanese manufacturers. An indented space was left on the front of the ribbon cover and at the back of the machine for thin metal printed strips to be simply glued on. This applied to both Nakajima and Silver-Seiko typewriters, which would then be sold here under names such as Pinnock or Craftamatic. The Nakajima Model 550 is most familiar in cream and black and was sold here as a Pinnock.
The Nakajima ALL Model 800 was an improvement on the Model 550, granted, especially with its blue colour. But I have owned a few of these, and have never bothered to use them.
In desperation to find something different with which to typecast, I brought one upstairs from the storage area below the house. The omens weren’t good: The case was filthy dirty and holes had been punched or had worn through the plastic. The case looked as if it had been left for many years in a shed or some such unkempt place.
When I opened the case, however, much to my surprise I found a near-new looking typewriter. There was an even greater surprise in store for me, because this machine’s typing action is superb.
The mechanics of these early 1970s  typewriters were designed by Takemi Ikeda and Toshikatu Terashima in Sakaki and Tokushige Hasegawa in Tokyo for Nakajima ALL.
How well I remember when Will Davis, on his Portable Typewriter Reference Site, first made contact with Richard Amery and myself, taking a particular interest in the Japanese-made typewriters that are common in Australia.
Among the machines Will put on his site was just such a Nakajima ALL Model 800, owned by Richard. Will said that Richard had pointed out “this machine internally is identical to those marketed by Olympia as the Carina …” (The case, by the way, is also identical):
This model was made by Nakajima ALL when it was still producing typewriters – most of them for Litton Industries - in Sakaki, Nagano, north-west of Tokyo. Given how well I found this Model 800 to type, it’s somehow reassuring that Nakajima still distributes typewriters, though these days they are made in China and are not quite of the same quality. Nakajima also has a factory in Jakarta, Indonesia.
Nakajima ALL was established to make printing machines, by Nobuyoshi Nakajima at Azabu, Minato-ku, Tokyo, in April 1923. It began life as Nakajima Seisakausho and in 1931 was renamed All Lead Mishin Seisakusho, adding sewing machines to its line.
In August 1941 the factory was converted to make munitions for the Japanese navy and in 1945 the navy moved it to Sakaki-machi, Hanishina-gun, Nagano Prefecture.
One of two existing Nakajima plants in Sakaki
Responding to the success of Brother in marketing English language typewriters through department stores in the US, Nakajima started making portable typewriters in May, 1965.
In August 1968 it transferred the typewriter factory to Oaza-Kamigomyo, Sakaki-machi, Hanishina-gun, Nagano Prefecture.  Nakajima established an integrated production system for typewriters and its monthly production of typewriters exceeded 15,000 units.
The company was renamed and incorporated as the Nakajima All Precision Co Ltd in January 1976. By April, 1977 its expanded typewriter assembly line was churning out a monthly production of 50,000 units. This rose to 70,000 in November 1979 and 100,000 in April 1983.


Ken Coghlan said...

A very unimposing typer, there. Wow, 100,000 typewriters a month in 1983? What were they doing with them all?!

Awesome post. One thing I would really like to do is purchase a brand new typewriter. Of course, the amount it would cost is most definitely not worth it, but just the feeling of opening a new one, you know?

Bill M said...

No wonder the Nakajima typewriters where so cheap, 110k/month. I do not see any way there could have been as much precision and quality into them as the rest of the worked put into their fine machines.

I had a Nakajima Olumpia one time. After that experience I would rather have a Brother if I chose a Japanese machine.

It is interesting how they made such a large quantity of machines for so many brands though.

Bill M said...

oops. I forgot the word to before put.

notagain said...

I had an Olympia B12 (since given away) that impressed me the same way. Functioned perfectly and had nice features, but somehow I just didn't like using it - mainly the harsh sound. Very interesting post!

Anonymous said...

I just found a Nakajima Model 800 Typewriter, and would love to be using it but have never worked a typewriter. Do you know if there are any online manuals for it?
Kind regards!

Robert Messenger said...

Hi. I couldn't find a manual for the 800 here or on online, so I have scanned in two Nakajima manuals and posted them at the top of my blog. They should suffice to get you started.