The One Where Megan Pretends to be Bob Dylan and Fixes Up a Typewriter

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So, back in my first year of university, way, way back in 2011, I bought a secondhand typewriter off of eBay. I can't remember how much it was, somewhere between £30-£75. I had a student loan, I didn't care how much anything was. (This way of thinking isn't serving me well now these loans are actually something I need to pay off.) Flash-forward to now, I finally decided it was the time to fix this baby up as a fun little project to end the year. Something I thought would take me through until December actually only took me a week thanks to the pretty good condition this was in, the speediness of eBay deliveries, and, honestly, how much fun the whole pursuit was.

The typewriter I own is, I believe, a 1964 Royal Safari, but it's hard to be completely sure as the decal has come off of the front. Thanks to some PDFs of the original manual I found online I've been able to narrow it down, and the 1964 model is the closest fit. It's a portable typewriter which means it comes in a very clunky carry case that I keep stowed on a shelf for storage, and it's very similar to a model Bob Dylan used so 'swoon' indeed. Obviously the glorious blue colour was a selling point for me and fortunately it's quite a hardy design so worries about using the right cleaning materials were minimal.

1. Ribbon

The first thing I really wanted to get sorted out was replacing the ribbon so I could actually, you know, type with this thing. The one it arrived with was a simple black ink, but after reading the manual I could see that this did originally come with a half-black/half-red ribbon, meaning you could type in two colours (there's a lever on the side of the machine that changes this alignment for you, so reloading the ribbon isn't necessary when you want to switch between the two colours). Pretty fancy. It was pretty easy to find this ribbon on eBay for a really good price, and loading it into the typewriter didn't take much hassle. My only recommendation to people doing this would be to wear gloves because the ink is really transferable and I made the mistake of doing all of this on a white coffee table with bare hands. An inky massacre.

2. Cleaning

Once I had the ribbon loaded, I tested every key to see which were sticking. I think it's pretty typical for typewriters to jam after several uses as they oil they use to lubricate the arms (arms? What is the correct terminology here?) gathers dust and all sorts of gross stuff and everything gets gummed together. As I said before, this is a pretty hardy machine so I used, god forbid, nail varnish remover on cotton swabs to get between the arms and clear things out. I certainly wasn't taking any photos of this part of the process as the entire table was covered in disgusting, blackened, gunky buds. This was a very glamorous project. The rest of the typewriter I wiped over with a damp cloth, I gave the actual keys themselves a bit of a scrub to remove fingerprints (sounds far more NCIS than I expected: CHECK FOR PRINTS, DUCKIE), and the cleaning job was pretty much done.

3. Learning the ropes

Everything up and running, it was time to actually sit and read this PDF manual I found online. I cannot praise the internet as a 'thing' enough for making these things readily available (and Nick at http://royaltypewriters.blogspot.com). This typewriter was a particularly confusing one to get my head around as it has the ability to set your margins for you, and even write in columns. There's about six keys for either of those bloody functions so it took a fair bit of practice, but now I feel like a pro. And I will also never use columns.

4. Looking ahead

As you can see from the photos, I'm currently only using my typewriter for the very, very important job of writing lists. After a little practice I'm hoping to start using it on slightly heftier projects, maybe with some short stories or letters for my friends. The actual process of writing with this typewriter is hugely satisfying and the fact I cleaned it up myself even more so. It's taking a lot of strength to not buy another typewriter to do up as I think I'd like the challenge of something a little older that needs a bit more care. Time to Google what typewriter Ginsberg used...

M x

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