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WHEN YOU ARE KEEN TO BUY, BE SURE TO KEEP A SHARP EYE! a little ditty about 3 Olivettis.
Updated: 4 days ago
There are so many fine, some petty and yet supremely important details to consider when looking to use an object for an extended amount of time. Especially when hoping to grow comfortable and form a closer connection with whatever object it is you are wanting to work with. It could be video equipment, a camera (film or digital), a pair of shears, gardening gloves or a typewriter, all of which have many specific differences from one another (obviously) and from model to model and different time and place of manufacturing. After even just a few short years of working my way through the photographic world, I have had the great opportunity to use so many film cameras I love, but only a few have really stood the test of time when it comes to feel, ease of use and my desire to use them time and time again. In this article I will be going through a few specifics of three typewriters in the same family and how those differences have made it clear which one(s) I will use again, and the one I will probably be letting go of. These machines are the Olivetti Lettera 22, the Olivetti Lettera 32 and the Olivetti Studio 44!
The three I will be talking about in this article.
If you have ever used any or all of these typewriters, you probably know these details and probably have some opinions of your own too! I hope this is a fun read and you maybe see the points I am trying to make. I think Olivetti has made some of, if not the BEST typers of all time, and these 3 are no acceptation, but these differences set them apart from each other in a special way. Picking a lifelong tick tack companion is fun and also tricky, not settling is very important too, feel it out, use your best judgment. I will start with the Lettera 22, it was the first one I picked up and I now own 4 Lettera 22’s and one Ollivetti Scribe, which is just a rebranded 22. This machine is one of my favorites to work on as well, granted I haven’t done the most in-depth repairs, what I have done has been very nice. If you want to know more about the work, I have done there is another article on my blog titled ‘Typewriter trials #2’ where you can follow that process!
The feeling of the keys on the 22 is decent. They have a bit of a snap to them and the feeling of the type bar hitting the platen is fine. There is a sturdy feeling to the way it types, yet there is a slight give at the end of each key press. In my other article I mention that there is cork or something at the back end of the strikers and this in turn gives a soft landing to the pressure from the user. Some articles and forums I have come across have people mentioning the “muddy” feeling of typing on the 22, I believe this comes from that cork padding. Having the opportunity to have 5 of these typewriters, I can confidently say that they all have a very similar feel to one another, even though 3 of the 5 come from different factories around the world. All in all, the word that comes to mind when I think of the typing experience is ‘Lean’ and why that is is the feeling of having to lean into each letter, each motion and watch them leave their mark on the stark white of every page written. The shape of the 22 is very nice, small, rounded, open feeling, and with enough heft. I have some models with square keys and some with the older round keys. The shape of the round keys feels better to me, the landing and resting there is nice. My favorite thing about the 22 is its accessibility. How easy it is to fall into a comfy pattern while typing, how easy it is to get at all the necessary parts when it need an adjustment. I do wish that like a lot of older standards that the platens were a bit easier to remove/swap out….but I digress. I highly recommend the Olivetti Lettera 22 to any one, not just people who are travelling writers wanting to tote their machine with them, but anyone who wants a reliable machine they can set and use or bring on to the porch or anything really. It is well worth it.
Here we have all my Lettera 22's
The Lettera 32 is a very different beast than both the others. The shape of the keys ( [ ] ) isn’t the most comfortable for me. The Olivetti 22’s that I have with square keys feel similar in their awkwardness. There is a bizarre feeling to using the square keys, even with those indents; there is something lacking. I like the bowl shape of the 22’s made in Glasgow, early models in general and the Studio 44. There is a quick finding and a comfy fit in typing with the sleek bowls to aim for. The square keys of the 32 along with the lack of kick from either direction, pressure lacking or pressure needed when pressing the keys….those things give me a feeling of discomfort and I quickly felt that it wasn’t right. For someone who likes a soft soft touch, I would recommend the Lettera 32. The size, weight and functionality are absolute redeeming qualities of the 32. So quickly let us summarize, key shape and the light touch typing action are big downsides. The word that comes to mind when using the 32 is ‘questioning’. The lack of feel and finding make me question my accuracy and that questioning takes away from the over all experience and enjoyment.
Ohhhh onto the Studio 44, what a great and solid machine. Receiving this typer in the mail from the Netherlands was very nerve wracking. I wasn’t sure it would get to me safely, and even if it did I wasn’t sure I would like using it. Since unboxing, cleaning, and setting this heavy tan chunk on my desk, it has been my go to typewriter. The Feeling of typing on the 44 is so nice. At first I felt like I had to strike at the keys with a bit more pressure than some others and I was unsure about using it too much, but after only a page, it hit me; this is the one for me! Once I had blasted through my initial deterred state I hit a stride and realized what I had read was true, the Studio seems to have a kind of accelerated typing mechanism. The faster and smoother you type, once you get into a rhythm, it feels like you’re flying. The word that comes to mind when I write with the Studio is ‘YES!’ No other typewriter I own elicits this feeling. This would be the best option for someone who is a stay at home writer, even one who writes a lot. My idea is to hold onto my 22’s and the studio and sell off the 32. Now onto my biggest reason for either liking or disliking each of these typewriters; this is the main point that got me to want to write this article in the first place; this section will be a bit shorter, you’ll see why.
The process of deep cleaning and adding a washer to the line space/carriage advance lever on the lettera 32 took about 2 days on and off between working my coffee job. The thing was filthy although it typed and mostly worked smoothly. The carriage was a bit gummed up, the ribbon vibrator and the ribbon feed direction tabs were a bit slow, but the carriage is better now and the vibrator is free and clear. I started to type a little bit on it after all the work was done and wow did I immediately notice how tiny and almost non existent the space bar is on this thing! I’ve looked all over for anyone else out there in the WWW. Who has experienced this same feeling, but I couldn’t find a single one. In comparison to the studio 44 the space bar on the 32 is almost half the size. Sure that makes sense, a semi-portable compared to a semi-standard…but even the lettera 22 has a bigger, more normal sized space bar compared to the 32 even though its a smaller machine. What’s up with that!? My thumb is usually the weight that I let just fall in between words, hammer to nail, to land steady on the space bar, and this 32 just has no landing.
Here we have the Lettera 32 keyboard....just look at that spaghetti noodle of a space bar!
I hope you can see the difference...I can surely feel it.
Here we have the Studio 44...look at all that fine thumb real estate!
It is smaller in width than a bic pen. It has a slight curve to it and for some reason my thumb tends to hit almost any of the last row of letters before it finds the space and by then the weight and destination of my thumbs journey are lost. I can’t say I am sure that I would or wouldn’t, but I do wonder what the likelihood of me getting used to this would be and how long that would take….would that make this worth keeping? I kind of doubt it, I feel like it makes more sense to stick with the machine(s) I already know and love and not push myself in a direction of discovery that would just lead me to use those ones less and less.
Those are the only three things that would make or break most typewriters for me, and the Lettera 32, sadly has been pied in the face with all of them. Key shapes…WHAP! Type action….WHAP! Space bar size. WHAP!
I know the 32 is a very loved machine, and I can see why, its lovely, light, simple yet more than capable, but to that I say, have you tried the Studio 44? That is the butter to my bread, the soup to my salad, the light switch to the end of my day. It’s got all I need and nothing more. If you are an explorer in the world of typewriters, I say go out and find yourself a tested (unless you don’t mind spending time learning and fixing ‘em up) Olivetti typewriter, manual or electric and see what you may have been missing. I am so happy I did, they are well worth the time and experience. My hat will forever be off to Marcello Nizzoli for designing these three typewriters and 2 others I really hope to use someday! The Lexikon 80 and the Diaspron 82 are aesthetically impressive. He really made glorious work and history within the realm of masterfully designed machines, I am just in awe whenever I am sitting in front of one. I hope to do something half as magnificent in my lifetime.
Thank you Marcello.
Until next time, thanks for reading!