Monday, 12 May 2014

The Typewriter Collection No. 16 - Corona Four, circa 1925.


I've been after one of these babies for some time, now. I blame that blue-eyed blonde kid in "Atonement" (Dir: Joe Wright, 2007).
I love the 1920s Art Deco aesthetic of the Corona Four. I love the compact size of them. And, even though these were available in a bunch of colours, I preferred the sleek, black, Model T look of this one. It came up on eBay at a time when I wasn't looking to add to my collection. If anything, I'd been spending more time thinking about what to get rid of rather than what to add. But this one was at a cheaper price than what I'd seen them go for in recent years, so I tapped the "Buy It Now" tab. 

It arrived in its case that was missing its handle. No biggie. I opened it up and saw that the seller had crammed styrofoam packing into the type-basket. Spent some time fishing it out with my Swiss Army knife. Not just for Boy Scouts, folks. 
Fed a sheet of paper into the platen and cranked the knob. Machine made an awful scraping sound as the paper fed its way reluctantly through before appearing over the platen with some dirty black stains across the page. Yeah, I think this thing hadn't been used since that big gorilla took Fay Wray to the top of the Empire State. 
I started taking a closer look at this machine. And this is what I found;

Those little feed rollers were flat along one edge. Probably what was causing the paper to jam up. 'Spoonman' Bowker suggested I hunt around for replacements. Good idea. Made perfect sense. But since when did the words 'teeritz' and 'perfect sense' belong in the same sentence? 
And so, I cleared the dining table and got to work, with the help of Mr. Leatherman and Messrs. Johnson & Johnson. 
Two or so hours later;

 I had to remove the ruler contraption, or whatever it's called;

I figured it could use a clean anyway, and that's where I found another feed roller. This one was thinner than a pencil, but thicker than a toothpick. Oh yeah, and it was flattened along one edge too. That's what was causing the paper jamming. A scrape with a blade, some mild elbow grease with the Leatherman file and it looked about as round as it was ever gonna get. 
A little rub with some fine grit sandpaper and it was now feeding a sheet of paper through the way it did 89 years ago. Or close to it. Good enough for me.

I gave the whole thing a rub-down with some sewing machine oil. This thing now gleamed like a '21 Stutz Bearcat.

 Ribbon vibrator did what it should, after a cleanup;

Although, the ribbon has probably seen better days. Still, has a little life left in it. I think the serial number dates this one back to 1925, when my Dad was just a gleam in his Mother's eye;

Took me a fifth of bourbon to find the ribbon colour selector. The colour on it had faded like Jolson's career. Lucky I had a couple of Magic Markers and a reasonably steady hand...despite all the bourbon.

Here's the mug-shot profile. Definitely sleek.
Types pretty snappy now, but still a little rough, although the rubber feet are that in name only. Makes this a noisy one. Reminds me of the '28 Royal Portable that I got.

But the keyslugs and keytops are pretty clean;

I even gave the case hardware a light going over with the sandpaper. That old paint came away without a fight;

Now all I gotta do is make up a new handle for it. And I'm all out of belts. Actually, I could use a belt right about now. 

And I think this will be the last of the 1920s or 1930s models that I get. I've kinda' gotten used to a smoother typewriter in recent months and this one seems a little rough for long-term writing. Still, I think some new feet and a new ribbon should work wonders on it. And if I ever get some platens wrapped up to send to JJ Short, this one's rubber will get a makeover. 

Still, this Corona Four bleeds an atmosphere that's through the roof. Would make a nice display model.
Next to my Colt .45.
That is, if I had a Colt .45.
Okay, bub, I gotta run. Phone's ringing and I'm expecting a call from Clara Bow. Got a late supper date at a new place, The Stork Club, tonight.

Thanks for reading!


  1. That's a totally gorgeous machine. I've been looking for one of these myself for a while, but as my collection is now so over-blown, it is going to have to be some thing really special for me to jump at it.

    Nice photos too.

  2. Nice typewriter - and nice to see Dashiel Hammett get some limelight. He always came up with great titles... The Maltese Falcon, Red Harvest, The Glass Key ...

  3. @ Scott, yeah, this one popped up out of nowhere. I wasn't even scouring eBay for them. I hate it when that happens.

    @ writelephant, Hammett is in my top three favourite authors, across all genres. I think I've read everything he's written, with the exception of "Red Harvest" and some short stories. Actually, scratch that, they released the 'forgotten stories' a year or so ago, so it looks like there's a few more of his works to look forward to. Hammett's writing style was wonderful. Spare, dry, just-the-facts, it was pretty much the opposite to Chandler's style. Oh yeah, Chandler is my other favourite hard-boiled author. I know, I know, not very original, but after these two, there's Paul Cain, David Goodis and William P. McGivern. Definitely worth reading if you're into noir crime.

  4. Ahh yes, the old classic Corona 4. Fresh rubber will make a world of difference on that solid little snapper. Basically that sharp, brittle typing feel will change to a heavy/soft sounding touch that will make you very happy to have a Four. They are certainly one of the most attractive and pleasant machines to own once they're freshened up. (:

  5. Pleased to read you got your pinch rollers to grip. I think it was my old Underwood 3 bank that pushed me over the edge. I started whittling away at those flats and they just sort of disintegrated before my eyes. I ended up re-covering the spindles with rolled-on layers of latex cut from disposable surgical-type gloves. But beware - those Fours come in a great range of colours and that bug is easy to catch!

  6. @ Ted, yep, I think this one will get the platen replaced at some point. It's a nice little machine. Types well, but you can really feel the hardness of the rubber when the slugs hit the page.

    @ Rob, thanks for your initial suggestion. I was worried that the rubber would break away as I filed it, but it held up. I agree that the bug is easy to catch, but it think just this one will do me. Slippery slope, this typewriter business.

  7. Beautiful addition to your collection Teeritz!