Top 10 Worst typewriters
After nearly 5 years of repairing and restoring typewriters, I can now confidently share with you the top 10 worst typewriters to work with when it comes to repairing, restoring, and final performance.
The list will include some typewriters that are literally banned from entering our workshop. Moreover, I will personally not bother investing in them even if in new condition.
After the success and interaction we got from our previous blog about the best typewriters for writers and novelists, I decided to prepare the list's bottom end. I still see some disastrously unreliable typewriters being sold for £££ and marketed as "Smooth to type on.” Besides, some are listed as one of the best typewriters.
The list will include typewriters from the 1920s up to the fragile toys of the 2020s and will exclude all collectable typewriters that are not mainly used for daily typing.
Without further ado, here come the historically worst typewriters:
10- Underwood Deluxe (Golden Touch or Tuxedo).
I wish I can avoid adding the underwood above, but I am not a fan of this specific model. I have seen many sold for top money and many good reviews, but I personally do not like them at all. I sold around three of the same models and each time, I end up with a typewriter that I won’t enjoy typing on.
There is something about the typing experience in general as it feels incomplete and missing the real typewriter action.
In the 1950s and 1960s, there are made but failed to compare to the mighty SM3 and SM4 by Olympia that conquered the market.
They tend to love rust and their mainframe is a pain to remove in order to have a proper clean.
The plastic keys are flat and can’t be close to “Golden Touch.”
Setting the Margins on the back is no practical and you can’t move the left margin past the middle of the carriage.
Finally, we highly recommend that you avoid it by all means unless you like an unusual serif typeface.
9- Smith Corona Corsair, Calypso, and Other Plastic Framed Models.
Ok, I have to admit that I can repair and adjust them, but is it worth the pain?
The plastic smith coronas, originally Smith Corona SkyRiter and the overrated Smith Corona Zephyr, are the worst to type on.
I just can’t enjoy typing on them, instead I feel like tapping on a toy.
They are always misaligned; reverse movement is too problematic. The paper feeding tends to need adjustment every now and then as the rubber rollers are built on one metal plate that needs to be dented to grip the paper and to do so, you will need patience and power to fiddle with a fragile typewriter.
Let’s just be clear, don’t pay for such a cheap design.
8- Blue Bird Typewriter
The Jinxed typewriter.
Yes, I hate buying it since we started our typewriter restoration and repair workshop in 2016.
The story started in 2017 when I bought a bluebird typewriter and it arrived damaged due to a badly packed box.
It was all dented from the front and when I inspected it for potential repair, the frame is so soft and it's impossible to re dent back to its original position.
After a month, I bought another one, just to get more experience on these and get to know the model.
Again, damaged in transit and all frames dented. Directly returned to its seller.
To spice things up, a client contacted us in 2019 for a repair. Thought that the item needed minor service, but previously “Restored & Reconditioned Typewriter,” she paid £400 for on Etsy from a “Reputed Seller” needed more than just a service. On the other hand, in reality, the typewriter arrived damaged due to bad packing for sure. After a few minutes of inspection, the typewriter is smelly, barely cleaned, and it had a mechanical issue other than the obvious dent on its frame. The Lady was reluctant to return to the “Reputed Seller” as he was defensive. She did not know that Etsy will not help the buyer after a certain number of days of delivery of the purchased item. She ended up trying some of our typewriters and buying a nicely restored typewriter from our stock.
Finally, in 2019, I was able to buy a Blue Bird, safely delivered in person, still did not impress me when it comes to its weak metal frame, dynamics, design, and dullness. Sold for around £150 to a dear client who loved the colour and not the machine itself, as he agreed that Blue Bird typewriters are not responsive.
I see many sells these for £400 and more when I personally won’t pay £50 for it and it's one of the banned typewriters on our shopping list. Never again.
7- LC Smith Corona 4 Typewriters
The LC Smith Corona 4 is on the top of my list of the overrated, but good-looking typewriters.
Yes, it is overrated, and every single aspect and is problematic.
You will probably see them on our website, we might sell them but we always mention that we don't really recommend them as heavy duty typing machines.
I can’t deny that it is one of the sexiest typewriters designed, but whenever it comes to repairing and restoring them, the loop of problems starts and never ends.
Out of 10 machines we repaired and restored, only one was up to our standards of proper typing machines.
Their metal keys tend to love losing colour, the mechanism is not flexible & doesn’t go with the flow of typing and you will end up adjusting more than typing.
Coloured Corona 4 typewriters are gorgeous, but do not be fooled with the retro colours.
To summarize, buy the looks, and do not bother to type on a Corona 4.
6- Princess 100, Princess 200, Princess 300 & Impex Maria.
The two toned princess 300 typewriters are good looking typing machines that have a slick design and it is considered flatter than various typewriters we have ever worked with.
But, issues will accumulate when it comes to certain parts and mechanism.
One of the main issues is the line spacing, that is squeezed to the frame inside the case without any specific space to explain for clients on how to insert inside the typewriter lid.
Another problem is the key that changes the colour selection. 80% of the princess typewriters we worked on has this mechanism fully scrambled and in need of a flush and adjustment. it is inconsistent and could stop and work again any time while using it.
The last annoying issue is its ribbon spools lid that fits nicely when it is less used and specially when two inner pins that grips the inner side of the lid are not broken or dented. Due to age, they tend to be easily broken or dented and that leaves your lid loose as its not easy to replicate these small parts.
Overall, Princess typewriters are known to love accumulating dust and grease in its tight segment that makes it hard to clean, and its return belt is exposed and can be seen with your naked eye which makes it vulnerable.
5- Groma Kolibri Typewriter
I wouldn't say I like it and I do not even have a picture to share.
I’m not too fond of anything about it.
Will be featured in my later article about the overrated typewriters.
Worst line spacing, lazy carriage, problematic, expensive to get parts, and issues go on and on.
Out of two I previously worked on, the two did not work well and had multiple issues that led me to lose hope in this typewriter model.
Therefore, if you are looking for a display typewriter, take a Groma Kolibri.
4- Antares Typewriter
I do not remember any positive experience from the Antares typewriters.
Light and unreliable line spacing.
One bump and it is damaged. Typing on it is extremely dull and pointless.
Links and metal parts inside are built with bad quality material, so you will end up with lots of issues if you heavily type.
One of the typewriters that I will not buy even if not used before.
3- lilliput Typewriter
Who counts these toys as typewriters?
Unfortunately, many people end up buying these for their children and go devastated with the low quality.
These are made to be toys and not usable. They are not even repairable as they are made of tins.
For your children, check our list of typewriters suitable for kids.
2- French Rooy Typewriter
Pardon me, but Rooy would have easily topped the list with no competition if the next worst typewriters were not awfully bad.
We’ve had two Rooy typewriters in our workshop since we started. One desk Rooy and one of these non-sense flat, cheap typewriters.
The Desk typewriter is a cheap copy of underwood 5 typewriters that seems to have been inspired by the design 99% of the time, and the mainframe feels like it will collapse when holding it. Is it made of clay???
Now, moving to the flattest typewriter ever, Rooy that I personally fully dismantled and put back, in the hope I can type on it. It was surprisingly very disappointing to type on. Key arms are flat, the angle is so hard to get a perfect strike. Very thin platen and the ribbon movement is very problematic.
You can add it to your collection, but it's one of those machines that I will not accept to put on my workbench.
1- We R Memory Keepers, ROYAL Epoch, Chums 11 & Any Typewriter Manufactured After 1995.
Two words define these above models, rip-off and typewriter scam.
Yes, I struggle to describe and review these models, but from one experience shared by one of my close clients, I ended up not being able to accept calling them typewriters and I can only describe them as a waste of money.
The above typewriters are badly built with plastic frames and the mechanism will collapse after a short period as the arms are weak. Moreover, the whole mechanical action is not as flexible and responsive as you type.
A kind friend and client asked me to repair an amazon purchase that her daughter could not use for more than one paper. In addition, due to lack of time and information, she did not know that she has the right to return and kept the typewriter as a display in her daughter’s room.
Display? It's not even good-looking.
I had the chance to check it and these are the worst as after I have typed on thousands of typewriters, I directly noticed that these are not well manufactured and cheap quality copies of the magical typewriters we all know.
When I got contacted by an amazon typewriter supplier, the second alarm offered me 180 of these typewriters to fix and repair for them to resell. Out of curiosity, I was able to get him to admit that these are all returns and items that have been sent back from unhappy clients on amazon and other platforms. That is only the UK; I could imagine the amount of scammed clients worldwide.
The worst part is when you see one of these typewriters being reviewed as a great typewriter and another added to a list of best typewriters. Are you serious??? Whoever reviewed them for sure never used a vintage typewriter!
Finally, let's admit that not all of you will agree with me, but I am open to debate the typewriters' positions above on the list.
I’ve just purchased a SMC Corsair for £20. Should I be worried? It’s my first typewriter and has not arrived yet. I was excited now not so…
I have a ‘63 & a ’59 BlueBird that are excellent -reliable, responsive, well built-with precise, evenly distributed ink & great typeface. Of course, they are the export model of Torpedo 18b, which I noticed wasn"t on your “worst” list. I purchased mine from sellers in the UK, and had zero problems with shipping. Perhaps the ones you dealt with were later models of inferior mfg? Or earlier ones? I agree you about most of the machines on this list, excdept for the BlueBird Delulxes of the late 50’s , early 60’s. Maybe I got lucky?!
Very enjoyable read. I have a few off your “worst” list, including a Rooy and a 2013 Royal Scrittore. The Rooy has its charms, and as a history piece it is fascinating.
But my ‘41 Royal Arrow is the giant-killer: excellent action, crisp key-snaps and firm impressions on the page. I have surely written thousands of pages on her and, except for a drawband repair, she’s as sturdy as when she was built, over 80 years ago.
Now I’m gonna find your “Top 10” list. Thanks!
I have acquired an Olympia ESW 103 Electric Typewriter need a Manual for it. If you know anything about them, like what ribbon they take, correction tape they use, please send me this information. Thanks.
Thank you, Mr Walid, for a most informative and entertaining article. As my first ‘serious’ purchase for my collection was the appalling Smith-Corona Calypso – gone now – I’m relieved to have plumped for a Brother Deluxe rather than waiting to find a Groma Kolibri. As we can’t actually go to a shop to try before buyng, every aspiring typist/writer should read your blog which will save them a lot of unnecessary expense and heartache.
100% right, those modern machines are just rubbish. Reviewers must be paid or something? Now that I will have a restored Imperial Good Companion typewriter that will last me a lifetime. And they look perfect and type amazing!