I have a confession. I’ve been cheating on my iPad with a much older machine, the silver fox of writing tools – an old typewriter, a Remington Standard 10 to be exact, which I’ve nicknamed Remy. Remy Qwerty when he’s being fresh.
Here’s my artistic picture with Remy, the silver fox, and me.
Allow me to tell you the story of our humble beginnings…
For a long time, I’ve wanted an old-fashioned typewriter. I had one when I was in middle school and I loved the whole process – feeling your fingers touch the keys, the sound of the metal key slapping the page, and of course, the ring of the bell when you reach the end of the page’s margin. Sigh. Sadly, my mom threw away that typewriter when it no longer worked. Since then, I’ve been searching for another.
I found Remy in a very sad state (I’ve always been a sucker for hopeless causes). A few weeks ago, I went out antiquing with my parents. I know what you’re thinking, but it’s fun to stroll along aisles filled with junk until some long forgotten treasure catches your eye.
We were in an old farm-house, browsing antiques when my dad called me to the second floor. It was raining lightly and the owner of the antique store had opened the windows on the second floor to let a breeze filter into the stuffy house.
There, on a small table by the window (and getting rained on), was Remy. Originally on sale for $105, the price had been slashed to $40. My mouth dropped open. I slid my hands tentatively over the keys – some worked, some stuck – and looked back at my parents. They didn’t have to hear the next words out of my mouth to know I wanted to buy it (side note: terrible poker face). My mom, ever the bargain hunter, got the owner to drop another $5 from the sale and within 15 minutes we left with Remy, my wallet only $35 lighter.
You may not be able to see in the picture above, but Remy was in a sad state – dirty, extremely dusty, rusted, broken, and had several keys that would stick. Some people like to keep typewriters like this. But I wanted to clean him up, polish him, and most importantly – get him to work again. Otherwise, Remy would just be a fancy paperweight in my house…and I would only get to caress the keys instead of using them. So, I worked on Remy (in my parents’ garage over then next several days) in steps.
Step 1 – Research Remy and how to fix/restore old typewriters:
When I saw Remy, I knew he was old. But I had no idea that my silver fox was nearly platinum. With research, I learned that Remy was built somewhere between 1908-1914 (most likely 1908/1909). :)
Then, I dug through the internet treasure troves to figure out how to make my new baby shine.
Step 2 – Lots of elbow grease…as well as the use of an air compressor, car wax, aluminum polish, Qtips, oil, rags, and time.
I used an air compressor (it turns you on that I used a power tool, doesn’t it?) to get rid of the troves of dust and dirt that Remy had inside of him. I polished/cleaned him with aluminum polish and car wax. Then, gently removed finger grime and other grossness from his keys.
Then it was time for the oiling. So, at first I went in gingerly with a paintbrush to lube up Remy’s mechanical insides. My Dad saw and told me we were going to have to oil Remy up the way I butter and baste a Thanksgiving turkey (which is a lot). After this Remy’s keys no longer stuck, the backspace worked, the bell could ring, but the carriage wouldn’t move – ugh!
So, more internet research (yes lovelies, you can use the internet for more than porn and finding funny memes)…and with the help of a shoe lace, we finally got the carriage to move. Yay! I just fitted Remy with a new ribbon, and I’m glad to report that everything works!
Here’s what Remy looks like now:
On fixing and cleaning versus the full restoration (re-painting, etc)
Remy is an antique, and there seems to be two schools of thought on how to deal with antiques – 1) clean & fix when necessary, 2) bring it back to its former glory.
I could outfit him with new black paint on his body, redo the fine gold lettering on his body, or make his keys all one color…I’m sure he’d look brilliant if I did. But, I can’t.
Why? Because Remy is a survivor and his is old. His scars, scrapped space bar, and oddly colored keys give him character. More than that, all of these things show that he had a history, a life before I found him…and that should always be celebrated, in my opinion anyway. :)