Typewriter Desks & IKEA

I finally discovered why my hands get tired typing on the Olympia SG-1 even though it appears to be in perfect condition and doesn’t have a carriage shift. The keyboard is half an inch to an inch taller than all the rest of my keyboards. And when you consider that modern computer keyboards are practically flat, that’s quite an incline!

The hideaway typewriter desk that my wife got me for Christmas, while undeniably cool, only really fits one of my typewriters. The carriages on the portables are level with the sides of the top of the desk and don’t really have freedom of movement. The SG-1 and the Hermes Ambassador are too big to fit on the typewriter shelf. Only the Royal KMM fits perfectly–the carriage sticks up a little above the level of the upper desk, and the base of the typewriter fits perfectly on the lower shelf. It’s a good thing that the KMM is one of my favorite typewriters to use.

deskBut, not being satisfied with only having one typewriter easily available to use, I was hoping to get another small desk to serve as a second typewriter desk. A friend of ours was making an IKEA run, so I decided to see what their options were. I found the Laiva for $17.99, which was unbeatable. After an evening spent with an allen wrench and wooden dowels, I had a surprisingly sturdy desk. It’s simple, but a perfect cheap typewriter desk. Highly recommended if all you need is something simple. It’s been a wonderful base to give the Olympia SM-3 the workout it’s deserved. Even though the carriage shift is wearing out my pinky.

11 responses to “ Typewriter Desks & IKEA ”

  1. Love your typing desk!

    I think I’m going to do the same.

    Just purchased an Olivetti Lettera 22. Should be here in the a few days. Can’t wait.

    I wanted to try to get a desk like the one William Faulkner used, but I can’t for the life of me find one anywhere.

    • Daryl Nash says:

      The IKEA desk is a surprisingly good typewriter desk. Hope you like it!
      Olivetti typewriters are one of the brands I haven’t tried, but they get rave reviews. They are generally good looking at the very least!
      What kind of desk did Faulkner use? The one image I could find on Google showed his Underwood portable on what looks like a pretty simple desk. Of course, those simple desks are often expensive antiques now…

      • Daryl, just purchased an Olympia SG-1. Should arrive Saturday. So excited!!!

        What’s the typing experience like for you with the SG-1?

        Hoping it’s easier to type on than my Olivetti Lettera 22. Not only do I have to press down hard in order for the letters to strike the page, but some letters turn out dark on the page, others seem light.

        I know it’s not the ribbon because that’s brand new.

        I’m concerned it might be my typing technique … I’ve been typing off of an end table. My hands and wrists are sore and I’ve been stiff for a few days.

        So, it’s clear I really need to buy that desk.

        Question: Regarding the Ikea desk you have pictured above, does it remain absolutely still while you’re typing? Also, would you say the Ikea table is the perfect height for typing on the Olympia SG-1?


        • Did you also get the chair from Ikea?

        • Daryl Nash says:

          Yep, the chair also came from IKEA.
          The desk is pretty stable. It didn’t move much when I tried the SG-1 on it, but the Hermes Ambassador causes it to shake a little bit. If the Lettera 22 is moving around when you type or carriage return, I recommend using the sticky kitchen drawer liners for a typewriter mat–it’s a cheap, effective solution.
          If you’ve never used a typewriter before, and you’re just used to typing on a computer, it takes a little getting used to. The first thing to practice is striking the keys rather than just pressing them. Use a quick sharp tap for each key strike rather than letting your finger follow through the entire arc of the key press. I’m not sure, but that could be the cause of the lightness of some of the letters on the page. Might also be causing your hand and wrist pain…
          At some point, you’ll need to clean off the elements on the typeface. I use a wire brush, but any stiff brush should do. Some people clean them after every time they type, but I’m not that meticulous. You’ll know they definitely need cleaning when your o’s and a’s start looking like solid black dots.
          A good adjustable height chair might be better for typing because you can make sure your hands are at the roughly 90 degree angle that’s most comfortable.
          Even though the SG-1 has the most useful features of any standard typewriter (except maybe the Hermes Ambassador), I’ve never been won over by it. My hands and wrists get tired typing on it after a short while. But don’t let me discourage you before you’ve even tried it! There are a lot of people on the internet who love them, and hopefully you will, too.

          • Thanks so much for your reply.

            Let me ask you this:

            I’m looking for a typewriter that will allow me to produce good, dark letters on the page with minimal effort.

            I saw you mentioned that you really love the Hermes Ambassador.

            Also just saw a YouTube video of a typing test of the Hermes Ambassador, and it seemed like it was typing dark letters Pretty easily.

            I have been reading reviews and then sort of torn between possibly a Royal and the Hermes.

            What do you think?

          • Daryl Nash says:

            Unfortunately, I don’t have an easy answer for you. A lot of it comes down to personal taste.
            Any typewriter in good repair should produce solid, dark type on the page. Based on what you’ve described, it sounds like practicing striking the keys may be the best fix for uneven type quality. Typing on a manual takes a little getting used to, and may take a little time to build up finger strength.
            In the broadest possible terms, I’d describe the feel of my different typewriters like this:
            The early Royals (#10, Arrow, and KMM) have a very sharp, firm feel, and a staccato rhythm like a machine gun.
            The Olympia portables (SM-3 & 9) have a solid but comfortable feel, and don’t require quite as much force as the Royals.
            My SG-1 is a similar feel to the portables, but the keyboard layout is angled more and isn’t quite as comfortable for me. (But many disagree! It’s often called the Cadillac of manual typewriters…)
            The Hermes portables have a softer, almost mushy touch. The Ambassador is more solid, like the Olympias, but a bit smoother.
            If you can put your hands on an Ambassador without breaking the bank, I highly recommend it. It and the Olympia SM-9 are the two manuals that are probably the easiest for me to type on for the longest.
            If you want the immediacy of typing, but don’t mind an electric, IBM Selectrics also have their charms…
            Good luck in your quest! That’s the same way I ended up with so many typewriters… I just had to try them all.

  2. Olympia SG-1 arrived today. This thing is a beast. What have I gotten myself into? I can’t use this in my apartment, the entire floor shakes. I can only imagine what the neighbors think. However…. it types like a dream.

    (Purchased it from Tom Kern out of Indiana. Phenomenally wrapped, supper speedy shipping, and excellent customer service.) Already, I am producing better, dark letters on the page with little effort.

    • Daryl Nash says:

      That’s great that it types so well for you!

      They are like tanks. I can’t believe it shakes your floor… hope you can find some way to stabilize it. My wife says that they’re very loud when she’s in the bedroom downstairs, although she said the portables were louder than the standards for some reason.

  3. My Olympia SM-3 arrived yesterday. It’s a powerhouse for a portable typewriter. But I just gave it a workout and then went to the SG-1, and wow, the SG-1’s performance is so much more robust. It’s more forgiving if you don’t strike the key hard enough, and dare I say it, it might me a tad quieter than the portable SM-3.

    • Daryl Nash says:

      Your good experience with the SG-1 has made me want to give mine another spin. It doesn’t type as smoothly as either of my two SM-3’s, but I wonder if it needs a better cleaning, or some oil. May have to look into that and experiment a little…

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