Thursday, June 21, 2012

Is there a doctor in the house?

What began as fun is now a frustrating ordeal. The exhaustive search for a suitable screwdriver set is an exercise in futility. As of now, I am not even at a crossroads; instead, i have not left the parking spot. Endless research ends in pros but also these red flag cons that halt any further committment.
Why even go through such frustration?
Well, these vintage typewriters are exactly that - vintage. Most are long forgotten and left in that bygone era. Purchasing one is not enough effort to consider it rescued. These machines are in various degrees of poor shape. Some need just a thorough cleaning - that's easy! I bought my cleaning supplies weeks ago. Others need reconditioning - heck, im prepared for that as well. But still there are some that need surgery.
And a surgeon needs the proper instruments before starting the operation.
I suppose the main trouble is that there really isnt quite a consensus on what screwdrivers to use.
The issue is that no one ever made typewriter screwdrivers.
The conventional wisdom is to use gunsmith screwdrivers.
So there my search began - going through brands, manufactured in the USA but now in China so get German but be careful because some of those are now being made in China too, and different sets and bits, handles and materials.
The top set is the Brownell's Magna-tip gunsmith screwdriver super set. They run about $130. They're right for the job because they are hollow-ground tip so they fit the screw perfectly so you don't "bugger" up those precious 100 year old screwheads. Another feature is they are magnetic so they fit more securely.
I asked some typewriter veterans and many actually said they dont know what brand they use.
I called up Bill Wahl from Mesa Typewriter Exchange and he doesnt know exactly what he uses, only that theyre old and he inherits them from dead customers and that he only uses about 4 different screwdrivers.
I talked to Ruben Flores of US Office Machines who had the same story, minus the dead customers.
I also had an email conversation with Tom Furrier of Cambridge Typewriter
who said that gunsmith screwdrivers are overkill. He said he actually uses Craftsman from over a decade ago. Additionally, he finds a jewelers/watchmaking set useful as well.
In the yahoo typewriter forum, some typewriter collectors who do their own repair wrote to use Wiha or Chapman or Klein or Grace.
I looked at all those and they are nice but it does seem like overkill sometimes because of the 10 screwdrivers in the set, 6-8 are slotted/flathead screwdrivers of varying sizes.
Additionally, there are concerns about quality. Those brands rest on the laurels of their reputations once forged long ago and rightfully earned, although now those same reputations recede as the tide because they have sacrificed that made in the USA or Germany quality for the bottom line, or perhaps its because the new world economy demands those concessions in order to survive. The game has changed.
I actually added a set into my amazon shopping cart but in the end i decided it was premature. I determined that if i spent that $20 on this beginner set, well that $ could actually go towards a much better set. The logic cant be argued against.
At the same time, one has to allow oneself a learning curve. And the best place to begin is the beginning with a set that matches your abilities. And wallet.
Sleep on it, you might say. Well, i've been sleeping on it for about 2 weeks now. There are no sufficient answers in dreams. And it has started to bother my sleep as i obsess about finding the right set and making the right choice and the best decision...
Perhaps this has more to do with than just screwdrivers.


  1. Most of my screwy jobs can be done with two screwdrivers: a medium one and a little one. Both have nice plastic grips, and magnetized tips. I think I got them at Home Depot. The magnetic tip is very handy when you need to hold a screw steady or retrieve it from the innards of a machine. Another tool I use often is needlenose pliers.

  2. I've been thinking the same at you, about surgery. As a matter of fact, I bought a $5 Underwood No. 5 to act as a cadaver while I mess around and try to figure out how those meticulous insides fit together. I cleaned her up beyond recognition and sat down to begin the incisions when I realized I was ill prepared for the work. It's been nearly two months, and I've done nothing more. I'll be interested in hearing what you decide and how the tools work out for you. In the mean time, I'll be here picking over the details and trying to work something out.