Sunday, 20 March 2011

Olympia SM3 Manual Typewriter

For my 50th post here at Stationery Traffic, I have decided to post a few pictures of my Olympia SM3 manual typewriter, in grey crinkle-paint finish with chrome trim. This is the one I bought for three quid from the local Lion's Christmas Fair in December 2010, and which has already served me well for a couple of projects. I have been using it to type some notes on 3x5 index cards, and have found that I can get eight or nine lines of text on each card before I run out of paper.

I guess this machine was built in the 1950s. It was certainly made for the UK market, as you can see from the GBP symbol on the 5 key. Interestingly, the keyboard has no symbol for the numbers one or zero, but it does have a few fractions, particularly fractions denominated in eighths (1/8, 3/8, 5/8, 7/8).

This machine is most definitely Used. There are various ink ribbon stains here and there, but the mechanism works quite well despite a tendency to jump forward by one space when I use the shift key. (I attribute this to user error, not a mechanical fault.) I have wondered a few times who may have owned this machine before me: perhaps an author or script-writer, or some other professional who used it for correspondance. Maybe it belonged to a student who wrote their dissertation on it, or a copy typist. I'll never know, of course.

Here's the detailed photo of the Tipp-Ex stain on the front; it's been partially filled in with ball-point pen. I thought about removing it, and started to pick it off with a fingernail, but I decided to leave it where it is, as a battle-scar on this old warhorse. It looks like a bird dropping!

Above is a closer pic of the dealer's/repairer's decal. I had assumed that Clough's Typewriters had disappeared from the Swindon business community, but I googled the name all the same. I was surprised and delighted to see that - apparently, as I have been unable to travel to Swindon to check - it's still in business. They've still got the same telephone number, though with an extra digit added at some time in the last 30 years. (Most urban telephone numbers in the UK have been six digits since the 1980s.)

Before I sign off, here's a picture of the carry-case it was supplied in. It's very sturdy and covered in two-tone grey leatherette with white piping, which wouldn't be out of place inside a Ford Anglia, though I suppose a VW Beetle would be more apt. And it's still got the key.

I'd love to take the SM3 back to Clough's for a service some time, though a more pressing need right now is to replace the ribbon....


  1. Congratulations on the 50th post.

  2. I love the care you show for your typewriter! Hard to believe there were once keyboards without one and zero keys.

    You should definitely make the trek to Swindon to get a tune-up for your baby--even if they can't tell you anything specific, I bet you would love to see the shop where it came from and the people who care for these old marvels.

  3. A few big office typewriters had zeroes but I don't remember ever seeing one with a numeral one.
    The fractions are interesting. Before decimal currency and the gradual move to metric measurements only scientists and mathematicians used decimals. Fractions were much more common than they are now. This keyboard has all the fractions in eighths since 2/8 is 1/4, 4/8 is 1/2 and 6/8 is 3/4.
    Hat sizes went in eighths - I wonder if there's a connection.

  4. I think you might actually have an SM5: the clues are that the case is different than the typical SM3 (though that could have been swapped) and the margins set in the back of the machine, not on the top like an SM3. Here's a shot of one of my SM3's in a case so you can compare the difference.

    In the end, though, it doesn't matter what model you have: they're excellent machines -- even battle-scarred! -- and are happiest when being used. Glad to hear yours is getting a workout.

    1. I just got an SM4 with exactly the same case as the one pictured above. I think a look at the serial number could tell us which model it is (SM2 or SM5).

  5. Thanks for the info, Mike. I only ~think~ that it's a SM3 from comparing it with pictures on the internet, as there's no information on the typewriter itself to tell me. Therefore I am prepared to accept that I am wrong...:-)

  6. The original Clough typewriter shop has recently undergone extensive refurbishment, turning it into a house. I pass this shop every day to go to work and have recently noticed that once the Clough's sign was removed, the original cafe sign was unveiled, which is believed to date back to at least the 1920's! The place has been sitting empty for quite a few years now, and there are no notices showing a new address, so one can only assume that they have closed for buissiness, sorry :'(

  7. Great blog post! I too own an Olympia SM3 model and I've been trying to find out what era it was made in for ages! It is a beautiful model, so easy to use and your typical kinda typewriter. I recently bought a Klein Adler, model 2 (portable typewriter) with an amazing history to it, but it still doesn't feel as genuine as the good ole olympia.

  8. Just acquired a white SM3, German made. Am in love with it. Nice to see someone else appreciating these beautiful machines!