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.
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?
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.
oops. I forgot the word to before put.
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!
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?
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.
I just picked up 1 of these units in as new condition with its 6 page manual in the case for $25 at a secondhand shop..just needs a new ribbon. Thanks for the info on this typewriter.
Nakajima got the manufacturing of typewriters down to a fine art. The quality is unsurpassed and the reliability is pretty near perfect. This can be all attributed to those designers mentioned. I am not surprised when the figure of 100,000 per month is mentioned. As you all know many of the leading brand names went to Nakajima for their stock. The same machine just different names on the front. When I visited the Brother factory to see how they made typewriters they told me after the inspection tour was finished on how they divided up the machines into the different categories. For instance, if you ordered export quality, then a young lady at the end of the production line would open every tenth box and checked the machines out. If you just wanted, say home market quality, then she would check every 20th box. This will explain how our different readers come up with something like "Nakajima is better that the Olympia Carina". It is exactly the same machine, all the parts are interchangeable and so, only the covers differ. It is down to the quality control or the lack of it as to what sort of machine you will finish up with. You would, no doubt, have seen photos of production lines in the Remington or Olivetti factories where there would be a small army of people doing a final inspection. If you look closely you would also see that the checkers had assorted tools on their benches, even aligning tools, thus making sure that the machines were perfect when they left the factory. When I worked for Remington in South Melbourne, there even were two or three guys checking machines before the salesman delivered. One day, after we acquired a new General Manager, this checking process was discontinued because, he said, "if there is anything wrong, we will send out a technician and just treat it as a service call". This went down rather badly because at that time the quality coming off the factory floor was appalling. The equipment used in the factory to say, make a segment, used cutting blades to make the typebar slots, and had to have the blades changed on a frequent basis in order to ensure a close fit, eliminating side play which would cause poor alignment. The trouble was that the operator of this segment cutting machine would have had to stop his machine and change the blade and as he would have been on piece-work, getting a bonus if he could meet a specific target, so there was no way he was going to stop production, quality control was someone elses problem!
What do you know about the ALL 520? It looks similar to the cream and black cased one you wrote about. The only label on it is ALL 520 against the blue and red stripe sticker and the black plastic case with "Portable" by the handle. Regards, Jaye
Post a Comment