Shaking Things Up With A Royal KMG (ca. 1949)

Our neighbors down the street were moving out from a house they’d been in for 35 years. Apparently the wife had been holding onto her parents’ typewriters over the years and finally decided to get rid of this one, leaving it in a box by the roadside. My awesome spouse spied the treasure and I hauled it up the hill.

I’ve had exactly one typewriter of my own, a Brother electric daisy wheel typewriter. I eventually graduated to a Panasonic word processor (also daisy wheel) in college and finally to a PC in grad school. The convenience of word processing on a PC or Mac is undeniable, but the distractions are there as well. I’d forgotten the simplicity of the typewriter.

This Royal KMG (based on the serial number, this would’ve been manufactured in 1949) is a hoss of a machine, but it’s 100 percent manual, so there’s no worrying about power outages or memory issues or general electronic fuckery. I’ll never have to reboot it!

The keys were pretty sticky so I took to the internet, found Duane from Phoenix Typewriter on YouTube, and began dousing the innards with mineral spirits and working the keys until they moved freely. I also replaced the drawband with a bit of cloth ribbon from Joanne Fabric, rewound the spring, and got the carriage operating correctly.

The manual typewriter experience is fascinating. It’s taken a few reps to get used to the pressure needed to get a crisp transfer of ink from the ribbon, but in the end, it’s just typing. And there’s the satisfying snap of the slug striking the platen. Did I mention the lack of distraction?

I think maybe the most pleasant aspect is the ingenuity of the machine, all the levers and springs and settings. It’s not a beautiful machine, per se, but it there’s something elegant about its function and the obvious amount of thought that went into every aspect.

With regard to the creative process itself, I like the time typing affords for developing thoughts and ideas. I can only type so fast o the Royal as compared to my laptop where I can go pretty fast and correct mistakes on the fly. With the manual typewriter, I have to be more deliberate to minimize mistakes and therefore have more time to collect my thoughts and let them breathe a little more.

So far, I have $22 into this thing, which, for what it does is pretty amazing. The “f” key keeps sticking so I’ll need to hit the segment with mineral spirits again and clean up the type bar guide as I think there’s some gunk there that’s contributing to the issue. No big deal though!

Anyway, this has been a fun way to come at my writing from a different angle with a different tool. We’ll see how long the stoke lasts, but at the moment, it’s fun and has proven useful for outlining my next novel. My intent is to outline until my story and characters come to life, rather than writing the novel three or four times to get to that point. Also, my intent is to do the first full draft on the typewriter and not worry about typos and such. My hope is that between the extensive outlining and the manual typing, I’ll be able to come away with a super solid first draft.

Time shall tell.

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