Ivy, or the Cursed Cursive

Olympia SM4 portable from 1959.

Olympia SM4 portable from 1959.

Ivy had a storied journey to get to me. I bought her on eBay for what I thought was a steal, then paid more to have her shipped to me than I did to bid. Such is the life of the international eBayer.

In the pictures posted in the listing she looked like she was in okay condition but would need some cleaning. The description noted that all keys were working, which is pretty important. There was a particular reason why I wanted this machine, so I bid and won.

Herein lies the beginning of Ivy’s tragedy. The typewriter was listed as coming with a carrying case, as many portables do. These carrying cases have latches on the bottom so you can secure the machine to it and it doesn’t shift around inside. Well, the seller put Ivy in the carrying case UPSIDE DOWN. Those latches, meant to prevent damage, instead scratched the everloving shit out of the top cover. Then it was shipped in a plain cardboard box with no packing paterials other than a couple crumpled up balls of newspaper. The box looked like it had been beaten with a bat. So needless to say, Ivy wasn’t in good shape when I opened the package. I could have cried when I saw her for the first time.

An example of the damage to the top cover. Sadness :(

An example of the damage to the top cover. Sadness 🙁

Once I got my ridiculously high shipping fees refunded, I set to seeing what I could do to actually fix it. The damage from the poor shipping was totally cosmetic, but I soon discovered I had bigger problems at hand. Namely, the machine itself. The keys were not all working. They were not all working at all. About a third of them stuck, and that’s why I have it disassembled in the first picture. Note the many bottles of toxic solvents and cleaning tools (and my Method soft scrub – you know, for the environment). I have been cleaning Ivy for TWO MONTHS. I think somewhere along the way this machine was dipped in oil, and it’s full of sludge. In fact when I cleaned the exterior, it proved to be a completely different colour from what the pictures in the eBay listing showed. It’s actually robin’s egg blue, not swampy greenish. But all that oil has completely gunked up the inside and it’s been a bitch to sort out. Every time it seems like I’ve got it working, the solvent evaporates and I’m back to square one. But I’m making progress. Some of the keys wouldn’t strike at all in the beginning, and now they all will, as long as I give it a shot of degreaser first. The problem is the degreaser dries out eventually and it’s back to sticking. But I will persevere, even if it means disassembling it completely and soaking it in a cleaning solution for a few days.

As a side note, want to know what’s actually really useful to clean out a typewriter, for those hard-to-reach places? Tampons. You’re welcome.

So why go to all this trouble for Ivy?

IMGP0933aI have a soft spot for cursive machines. They type beautifully, but they’re also hard to find and Olympia cursives usually go for a few hundred bucks. And I really, really love this typeset. I’m determined to make it work (and get a new ribbon, obviously).

Stay tuned for a hopefully victorious post featuring Ivy, fully restored. In the meantime, I need another box of Tampax because there’s still a lot of work to be done.

Want to learn more about my typewriters: Check them out here.


Face. Meet Keyboard.


Giant Cringe

1 Comment

  1. Poor Ivy! The machine is lucky that you chose to purchase it. Please keep us updated on her progress, and for the tampon tip. AND, I, too, love the Olympia cursive machines. I used one decades ago when I worked as a clerk steno for the city of Penticton.

Comments are closed.