About this blog

This blog is about the daily activities in a busy typewriter shop. I want to share with you the many interesting people who come in here, the beautiful machines I get and most of all the great typewriter stories that people share with me!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Meet a Blickensderfer

     Let's start off with a nice story. A sailor, a priest and a duck walk into a typewriter shop and the duck- oops, wrong story. Thursday morning, minutes after I got into the shop, I noticed a man looking in my front window at the typewriter display in the bay window. After a few minutes, he came in and said he was getting his windshield replaced on his car a couple of doors down the street. He noticed the typewriters in the window and got excited  looking at  them. Then with a big smile on his face he says, "You'll never guess what my last name is" and he nods his head towards the machines in the front window. I had no idea what he was getting at and he says "Blickensderfer, yeah, that Blickensderfer." Now I'm excited and he says he was thrilled to see my Blick No.5 in the window and wanted to come in and introduce himself. He's a relative of George Blickensderfer, the inventor of the Blickensderfer typewriter. I'm a big Blick fan which I'll get into later. As he explains it , "On the family tree, I'm about half way down and over to the left." I wanted to hear a little family history, so I let him talk for a few minutes before I started asking questions. He said his relatives are spread all over the country. Most have a lot of pride in their family history and have Blickensderfer typewriters displayed in their homes. I'm sorry to say, his first name escapes me, but he confessed he's not as up on the family history as he should be. I say that I'm a Blick fan and show him a copy of a book that I really like , The Five-Pound Secretary. He has never seen this book, but has heard of the authors and thumbed through it, commenting on what a thorough history is in it . He writes down the info so he can pick it up soon. Then I show him some typewriter ads for the Blick from the early 1900's that are framed on the wall and he wants to know if he can borrow them to photocopy them. I say no problem and he'll come back soon to do that. I hope when he drops in again that I can get more information and pass it along.

     I knew very little about Blick machines until about six years ago when a customer came in with two Blick 7's he wanted repaired and a copy of The Five-Pound Secretary. I said up front that I wasn't really up on Blick repairs but I wanted to tackle the challenge. He said that's fine and wanted me to have the book and maybe I could use the information and drawings in the book to help with the repairs. This book was awesome! To any Blick fans out there, this book is everything you wanted to know. It made me appreciate that the Blickensderfer was light years ahead of its time. The innovations George came up with to make the worlds first portable typewriter make for interesting reading. I was able to use the drawings in the book to figure out how to solve two different mechanical problems on the Blick 7's. I was able to properly clean and repair both machines back to working condition and the owner was thrilled, as was I. Now I had the confidence to fix my own Blick 5's. I had two Blick No. 5's that I got from a reporter about fifteen years ago. The reporter said she had found them in an antique shop in Nova Scotia about twenty years earlier. In a possible interesting twist, I mentioned this story to my new Blickensderfer friend who said that his uncle used to vacation in Nova Scotia in the 1950's and 60's and wouldn't be funny if he had unloaded some machines there and maybe these (my two Blick's) belonged to a Blickensderfer. One of mine I gave to friends who collect and display antiques in their home. The other one that I kept is a earlier Blick 5 from 1895 and is in working condition. I recently rented it to a movie shoot for PBS. Its going to be in a movie about Helen Keller later this year. I was so happy when the producer returned the machine and said the typewriter performed so well and looked so good on film that they were going to show it several times in the movie. That will be fun watch out for later in the year.

     One more Blick thing. A woman called earlier in the week and said she's cleaning out her grandmothers house and she had five typewriters in her basement, where they have been for probably decades. Old Royals, Smith Corona's, Remington Standard and a Blickensderfer 8. As soon as I hear the words basement and years I immediately know the condition of the machines but I want that Blick 8 so bad I said come on down. You probably heard my primal groan when she brought the machines in on Saturday. All ruined and unusable.  Here's a picture of the Blick 8 to the right. If anyone out there would like to claim it as a possible restoration project, it's yours for the asking. I will happily box it up and pay the shipping charges to anywhere in the continental US. I hope there's a taker out there.


It's a mess, but I know where everything is.

      The shops looking a little messy but hopefully in a few weeks it will be back to normal. I keep tripping over machines on a daily basis.  

This big pile are all gifted machines for last two weeks

Abraham testing out the Splendid
       On Monday, Abraham paid a rare weekday visit to the shop. He had picked up some machines for me and I had some repairs for him. The Splendid has developed a skipping problem and it was being stubborn. I'd have him type on the machine and then I would adjust the escapement mechanism a bit, then he'd type some more and I'd adjust again until the skipping problem disappeared. But it didn't, so the Splendid has to stay so I can take my time and fix it for good. Check out the blur of Abraham's hands. He's one amazing typist.

     In the shop this week, people are starting to pick up repairs finally. I probably had  twenty pick ups this week and almost as many new repairs come in. I had a lot more service calls this week, which makes me happy. Sometime soon I want to write about some of the cool locations I go to on service calls. I go to many interesting place that most people never see. I had a handful of sales this week. Finding new homes are a Olympia SM3 in burgundy, a mid 1950's Royal Quiet de Luxe, a Olivetti L-32 W/French-Spanish keyboard, a Royal Century 2000 electric, and a IBM Personal Wheelwriter. 

     Here's a Hermes 8 Standard, which I have never seen before, was in for a cleaning and repair. It belongs to a ninety-two year old lady. Her daughter brought it in and was presenting it  to her on her birthday this weekend. Well, that's it for this week. Thanks for checking it out. Everyone have a great week.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

All Work and No Play

     Wow, I sure do get really busy after a little publicity. The repairs are flying in so fast, I'm officially buried. I'm working seven days a week right now and still falling further behind. It's a good problem to have but in a couple of weeks I'm going to crash. Stay tuned to witness the carnage. Just kidding. I'm trying to pace myself and not over commit myself to customers. It's fun seeing all the different kinds of typewriters coming in for repair. There are many different brands from all decades, usually in poor condition. Many are old family typewriters that sat in the basement for years until someone saw a television show on typewriters and thought it would be cool to use it again. Tons of people are calling up to sell or donate a machine to the cause. I'm getting lots of great machines in to recondition and sell later on. I forgot to take a picture of the shop to show you the piles of machines, so I'm writing myself a note to do that tomorrow. Abraham is making a surprise visit tomorrow. I will try to get a picture of him typing on the Splendid.
      Some of the machines I acquired this week to recondition and sell are, a Royal KMM, a Quiet de Luxe, Signet(1960's), a Royal Parade, Underwood four bank, Smith Corona Classis 12, Super Speed (grey crinkle finish), white Olympia SF in tough shape, a gorgeous pink SM7, IBM Personal Wheelwriter  and four Selectric 3's. Also a few more I can't remember. A customer gave me a Steno type machine from 1915 that her mother bought for Secretarial School. She wrote out a page detailing the machines history. It also came with instructions. I always wanted to know how those court reporters could type so fast on these machines. The book says that the speed record is 375 words per minute. That's got to be a blur of flying fingers.
     I'm attaching a link to view the TV story from two weeks ago.

Obsolete: Segment Four - Video - WCVB Boston

    Hope you enjoyed the story. Sorry for the lack of pictures this week. My head is literally spinning still. Next week I'll have extra pictures. Thanks for checking it out. Everyone have a wonderful week.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Happiness Is A Busy Shop

     Nothing like getting your mug plastered all over the TV to drum up a little business. Wow, what a fabulous, busy week. The phone rang off the hook all week, lots of people came in, lots of new repairs came through the door, by customers and by UPS. I sold a whole bunch of machines and supplies, including mailing ribbon orders all over the country. I hate to admit that I actually stressed out at a few points during the week. As any boss of a one man shop will say, you can't be in three places at the same time. There was a near disaster towards the end of the week when the phones went dead late Thursday afternoon and didn't come back on until late Friday afternoon. Talk about bad timing. I know I missed lots of calls. I just hope they call back. It was fun getting phone calls from strangers who saw the show and just wanted to wish me well. Many customers called, including some I hadn't seen in many years, to say how happy they were for me and hope that I stay in business for many more years. I'm still working on getting a DVD of the show to post. I hope to have it soon.

some great poetry will be written on this

     I had some fun sales this week I can tell you about. This first one is typical. A man comes in a few days ago and said his sixteen year old daughter wants an old manual typewriter to type her poetry on. Right away he says "I don't get it, she has a computer. What on earth does she want an old thing like that for". So I start to explain why the kids are connecting to typewriters and why it's a good thing. He nods his head and asks to see what I have. I show him some 1950's Smith Corona's and he says no, she likes older things, in black if you have it. Well, that's my cue to break out the nice stuff. I only had to show him one machine, a beautiful, shiny black Corona Standard in next to mint condition. Even the carrying case looked brand new. Before I even got a piece of paper in it he said, "That's the one. I think that  is exactly what she wants". We continued talking and I'm showing him more things around the shop and as he's leaving he says, "I think I'm starting to get it. These are beautiful machines and I'm glad she decided to get one". And that made my day right there.

pouvez-vous paler francais?

     Mid week an elderly gentleman from East Boston came in wanting to look at Olivetti L-32's. I had a few ready to go, so he's checking them out and typing away. He said he wants to replace his Brother electronic memory machine and wants to go old school. That's just what I like to hear. After about twenty minutes he asked if I had anything that could type in French. I didn't see that coming but I said I think so. I have a whole shelve of European keyboard machines. And there in the middle is a French keyboard Hermes 3000. And with the original instruction book in French. He checks out the keyboard and starts getting really excited. Rolls in the paper and starts typing and talking in French and finally says that he wants it. He's always wanted to type in French. So now he can!
      A very nice older lady came in on Friday looking to replace her Royal Royalite that she bought brand new back in the 1960's and could she trade it in towards another portable manual machine. It had to be small and lightweight and easy to use. I have a handful of lightweight machines around but she really liked the Olivetti Lettera 32. So the L-32 finds a happy home.
     An elderly couple in Maine bought a Remington Quiet-Riter via email correspondence. I shipped it up to them yesterday. During the one telephone conversation we had, he said they moved to Maine a year ago from Minnesota. I commented that the winters must be about the same here. He said last winter they were so disappointed because of the lack of snow but this winter has been thrilling. I guess Minnesotans love their snow. Come to think of it, most New Englanders do too. 
      I also sold an IBM Wheelwriter 10 to a local writer, several Olympia machines and still have a handful of sales in the pipeline. I got an extra large amount of repairs in the shop this week. That's what bogs me down the most. Repairs are very time consuming, especially old manuals that haven't been serviced in thirty or forty years. It always takes way longer to repair than you think. I had several machine shipped in from Philly, also western PA, Maine and Cape Cod. Saturday was the most fun day of the week for me. It starts off with a visit from my good friend Abraham. He brought in his two favorite machines. His Splendid 33, which I fixed on the fly for him. It had a skipping problem. And the Olympia Traveler, which he left for a thorough cleaning and tune-up. I fixed his machine on my front desk while we talked and also had a handful of customers come in for repair pick ups or drop offs. After an hour and a half he's off to the Atheneum to spread typewriter joy to the masses. I don't call him the Ambassador of Splendid for nothing. Another handful of repairs came in, even after hours because I worked later to catch up a little. It was a fitting end to a very busy, hectic but fun week.
     That's it for this week. Thanks for checking it out. Everyone have a wonderful weekend.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

A Weather Shortened Work Week

     Boston got clobbered by that monster storm Tuesday and Wednesday resulting in a short week at the shop. Parking has become a major problem in and around the city. The worst I can remember since the Blizzard of '78. Even my house has become a casualty of the storm. Ice dams on the back of the house got so bad that water was coming down the walls and ceilings in every room along the back wall. That's the first time we ever had a problem like that and most of my neighbors said the same thing. So my entire weekend has been shovelling snow off the roof , then using a hammer and chisel to slowly (and painfully) chip away at the ice dam. After this post, I have to go back out and remove the last ten feet and I'll be done. Big lesson learned here.
     Since the shop was closed Tuesday and Wednesday, not a heck of a lot happened, but it was still an exciting week. On Monday I went on a service call to repair a machine of a elderly gentleman in the
Mission Hill section of Boston. John is in his mid eighties and a veteran of WWII. Every month he types a newsletter to his fellow veterans with news and updates on everyone. His Smith Corona Executive electric typewriter died and he was hoping it could be repaired. I stripped the machine on his kitchen table and showed him that the left motor bearing had broken apart, binding up the motor solid. I would have to take the machine back to the shop and rebuild the motor and clean and oil the machine, then it would be back to great running condition. This made him very happy because he said as soon as he gets the machine back he has to start the next newsletter. On Friday, I delivered he Smith Corona back to him and he was thrilled. It was an honor to be able to fix his machine so he could get back to doing his good deeds.
     All week long I had Friday night on my brain, the Chronicle television show. I'd been worrying about how it was going to come out. Everyone told me to chill, that it would be just fine. On Friday, Channel 5 ran promos all day long featuring me in the promos. People started calling the shop saying they just saw me on the TV. Come Friday night at 7:30, my wife, daughter and I cuddled on the couch all excited, not quite sure what to expect. The show was about things that will  be obsolete in the near future. They did a segment on the Post Office, bookstores, newspapers, payphones and the last segment on typewriters. All in all, they did a good job on the story and I didn't embarrass myself too badly. It was a good plug for the shop and will get many people thinking about typewriters. Saturday at work the phone rang off the hook for the whole time I was there. Ninety percent of the calls were people who saw the show. Many were old customers calling to congratulate me and wish me well. Many were new customers calling to bring in repairs, inquire about sales or try to sell me their old machines. Many people came in after seeing the show. I actually had a crowd in the store for most the morning. I love it when the shop is really busy, its a natural high. I hope it continues for a while. I should be able to get a DVD of the story from the station. If I can I will try to post it soon. The typewriter part was about five or six minutes long.
     On Saturday a nice man come in looking to purchase his first typewriter and was really excited about it. He looked to be in his mid-twenties and I think originally from the NYC area. He narrowed his choices down to two older classic machines and two more modern contemporary ones. He kept turning to me saying how exciting this was and how he liked something different about each machine. Making up his mind was going to be tough. I really thought he was going to leave with the burgundy Corona but he fooled me and picked the brown Olympia SM4. He said he went for quality and wanted a machine that would last with few problems. While he was in the shop deciding what machine he wanted, several customers would engage him, offering advice or encouragement. He left with a big smile saying how happy he was that he came in.
     I rented a bunch of old manual typewriters to Harvard again this past week. They were having a party or some kind of gathering and wanted the typewriters there because they were such a hit last time. I'm glad they are getting a kick out of them. Maybe it will inspire some people to pick one up.
     Lastly, I got a email from a girl in NYC  who works for a little Australian company called Polli. They just designed a typewriter necklace and wanted to know if I would mention them in a post. You can just click on the link and see the necklace if your interested. My blog was recommended by a friend who follows this blog.

     I'm expecting a humdinger of a week coming up. I'll tell you all about it next weekend. Thanks for checking it out. Everyone have a great week.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

T.V. Appearance Friday, Feb.4

     Just wanted to let everyone know that the Chronicle T.V. show I'll be part of is on Friday night at 7:30.
It's on WCVB Boston which is channel 5 in the Boston area. If you want to check out the web site they have a 18 second video preview. The WCVB web site is:  http://www.thebostonchannel.com/ . On the left side, click on Chronicle HD. The stories for the week on listed on the right side. I'm actually on  the 18 second promo. I've got my fingers crossed for a positve story. If you are able to watch it, let me know what you think or even more cool would be to post a comment on the shows web site. I told the reporter she was going to be surprised at the feedback she would get from this story.
Thanks everyone!