Monday, 17 December 2012

This SM-4 gets a new lease on life



I was asked by one of my teachers if I wouldn’t mind having a look at a typewriter for him. The word has got around school fairly quickly that I’m the one to see if it is anything to do with typewriters. I said I’d be happy to.

A few days later he comes in with a large wooden case. Lifting the lid revealed the typewriter to be an Olympia SM-4; even though I thought it was an SM-3. I took the typewriter home with me.

As things tend to do at the end of the year, it got quite insane. Homework sprung out from nowhere, and what I thought was going to be a nice easy, cruising sort of week, became a week from hell. So, the weekend after school finished was the first chance that I had to get to work on this fine machine.

And what a fine machine it was! There was nothing really wrong with it, that’s the real testament to its quality. After however many years of sitting in a shed nothing went “bang” or “pop”, and it was cosmetically really great, too. The keys were just all gummed up, and the platen needed the ‘ole brake fluid treatment. A bit of a lube up and away she went, flying like the clappers, like she’d never been put away for twenty-odd years.

The teacher who enlisted my help with this machine is, I can tell, very proud of it. He didn’t hesitate to tell me that it was from a time when everything was built to last. He realised that with a bit of care there are no worries that this machine will still be typing in a hundred year’s time.

The typewriter itself is destined to be a Christmas present from the teacher to his son. His son’s a script writer and, as far as I know, is going to type up some story board notes and rough ideas with it. It’s always good to see a typewriter going to a good home. None of this key-chopping barbarism, no “put it on a shelf and don’t use it, it’s old” sort of ideals; no, just good old fashioned use – what this quality machine was meant for, it was meant to make quality writing.




  1. These are excellent machines. I have to say, I was astonished as to how good my Olympia was, when I got my SM3.

    1. I have the SM-9 myself, and I can't ever think of anything else to say other than that it is as close to typewriter perfection that I've ever experienced. And the brief type test that I gave this SM-4 shows that it is also in the same league of damn near perfection.

  2. What a beautiful classic. Good to know that it's being passed on within the family and is destined for good use. And it's also good to know that you are being respected and trusted as the typewriter expert in your school.

    1. There really is nothing like a family heirloom typewriter.
      I did have to correct someone the other day: they said something about how I was becoming the resident typewriter technician, I suggested that "bush mechanic" was more an apt term.

  3. I never fancied Olympias, but after an encounter of the third kind with an SM9 and the recent finding of an SM4 in pristine condition, I am a convert.
    One thing about the SM4: in my view the one drawback is that the machine has got carriage shift. On my SM4, it takes a lot of force in your little finger to uphold the capital letters (remember that in German they are quite frequent, as we still capitalize nouns).
    You must tell me more about this platen treatment. Unknown in these quarters.

    1. The SM-9 is what converted me, too. The SF was a little harsh, I thought, but with the snappy-ness of an SM-9 there was no looking back.
      This SM-4's carriage shift was quite springy and I didn't find it an issue at all, not like the SF, but any German homework by that stage was well and truly over, and I wasn't having to use capitals throughout sentences.
      The platen treatment is one that Richard Polt has talked about where if your platen is a little hard you can give it some more life my applying brake fluid to it, letting it soak in for up to an hour, and wiping it off. I was skeptical at first, but it really did work for me in this case.