Saturday, July 16, 2011

The proper care and feeding of your Olivetti Lettera 22

Today, there was a bit of a typewriter mystery at the flea market. I came across the case for an Olivetti Lettera DL/ 33 - you know, one of those fancy silver-and-black Letteras that I have coveted for ages. The case was like that of your average Lettera 32, just with silver instead of blue. So, thinking the typewriter could not be far, I combed the seller's stall hunting for it, and... zilch. I actually asked him, what was in this case? But he seemed to have no idea that it had originally been made to contain anything, and he giggled something fierce and said, "Money! And we're keeping it! Hahaha!" Sigh.

I bought the case anyway, as I have a Lettera 22 exactly like the one Algebra Girl up there is holding, and we discarded the case some time back when it started to fall apart. (That, by the way, is from a postcard that J's mum sent to us more than two years ago. Absolutely prescient.)

This reminded me that I've been shirking my ephemera posting duties lately, so here is an instruction manual for the Hispano Olivetti Pluma 22, a typewriter we acquired at the end of last summer and has been already featured on the blog.

A soft paintbrush is the recommended tool for cleaning off dust.

The proper way to lift off the ribbon cover (oops, I suppose prying it off from the sides was a rather daft idea...).

Of course it makes perfect sense to clean the typebars with a rag underneath to collect debris... why didn't I think of it?


Cleaning each typebar with a soft cloth. Gilding the lily a bit here, aren't we.

How to disassemble it - you may need to be a tad more assertive with your screwdriver probing, though.

The brush makes another appearance, cleaning underneath the keyboard. Although I have found original brushes once or twice with typewriters I bought, I've kept them more for historical purposes than for actual use. Any old paintbrush will work for cleaning... although the cheaper ones tend to lose their bristles if you are too vigorous.

The final touch - polishing with a soft cloth and a bit of alcohol. No, this won't strip off the paint and make you a shiny Silver Surfer, sadly. For that, you'll need a considerable bit more elbow grease!


  1. Wow, great. I like the character-Lady and the picture with the tissue under the typebars. Smart idea. I'll use it to clean types, from now on.

  2. Olivetti certainly produced some stylish documentation! I have always have difficulty getting a cloth arranged below the type heads as neatly as that. Useful, too, for absorbing any solvents used for a 'deep clean' to budge congealed ink and ribbon fluff. Not a problem on early Remington Portables :-)

  3. The Olivetti ads are SO fantastic, aren't they? Wish they would all be resurrected as posters.


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