Tuesday 20 September 2022
Sunday 18 September 2022
Charles got his typewriter on May 5, 1949, nine days before he turned six months old. It was given to his mother, then Princess Elizabeth, at the British Industries Fair at Olympia in London. The typewriter is an Empire Aristocrat with 18-carat gold key rings and typebars (which Gary’s doesn’t have). The Aristocrat was presented to the future Queen by a Mrs S.S. Elliott, secretary of the Office Appliances Trade Association. Future British Prime Minister Harold Wilson, as president of the Board of Trade, had welcomed the princess, her husband, mother and sister to the fair.
Mrs Elliott told Elizabeth, “We thought that perhaps Prince Charles
might begin to learn his alphabet from the keyboard.” “What a good idea,” replied Elizabeth.
The Empire Aristocrat was made by Bill Mawle’s company, British Typewriters, in West Bromwich. It was from this plant, originally established as George Salter’s Spring Works, that in 1878 the West Bromwich Albion football club emerged, out of the company’s cricket team. In 1935 Mawle, a World War I flying ace (and later Group Captain Mawle OBE DFC), was sales manager for the Imperial Typewriter Company in Leicester. He was sent to a trade show in Switzerland and there spotted a new slimline portable typewriter, later to become famous as the Hermes Baby. Mawle bought the British rights to the design for £3000 and returned to Britain to begin manufacturing at the then abandoned Sattler factory. Mawle’s company, later known as Empire Typewriters, was sold to the American typewriter concern L.C. Smith Corona in 1962.
Whenever I fix a typewriter, I offer the customer free after-service care. Yesterday, for the first time, that offer was taken up. Three years ago I had worked on a 70-year-old Royal HHP standard which had been bought for a Canberra woman by her mother-in-law, from the San Francisco Typewriter Exchange. Last week the owner contacted me to say the keys and typebars wouldn’t move. She wasn’t wrong. It would have taken a sledgehammer to get them operational.
The owner said she had no knowledge of anyone spraying
anything into the segment. But, from experience, that is exactly what had
happened. And the guilty item: WD-40! WD-40 is a water dispersant spray, not a
lubricant. WD-40 shouldn’t be allowed within a 100 miles of a typewriter, the keys
and typebars of which work through a combination of a multitude of gears, levers and
springs and good ol’ gravity. Allow WD-40 anywhere near those gears, lever connections
and springs, or the groves of the segment, and you’re asking for big, big
problems. WD-40 works like Lanolin, it congeals and clogs.
It took 24 hours of serious bubble bathing, relubricating and much
gentle manual persuasion to get the keys and typebars working properly again. Today’s
lesson? Never use WD-40 as a lubricant. And never, ever, use it on a typewriter.