Saturday, October 27, 2012

A week of reviews (Part Eight)- Olympia Plana

A bit hard to tell from the picture, but that is a Bakelite (or just plastic?) segment.


Fully open. Notice the semi-circular latch moving away from the ribbon?

The very idea of two different sized ribbon dowels is perplexing, let alone the insert to accommodate them...



  1. Very interesting typewriter. A bakelite housing is different. I wonder if the key on the left is tab set/clear and the one on the right is back space and margin release.

    I hope the storm is a mild in PA as it was in FL, but I understand there are 2 major storms converging.

  2. It's a cool machine, to be sure. Seems to type nicely even if the feel and visibility aren't great (yet).

    The Express is another machine with a plastic segment. Bakelite, as I understand it, is just a particular kind of plastic.

    Keep safe when the storm hits.

  3. A well done review and pictorial! We have an Optima Plana coming up in the review schedule; comparison between the two will be most interesting.

  4. I'm glad this cleaned up well. My typewriter budget is blown due to as yet unrevealed machines, so I passed on this when it came up on ebay. I'm glad it has a good home. This is the second rarity in two weeks I have passed on that has shown up in the Typosphere! I'd say that I impressed with my self-restraint, but that would be a serious overstatement.

    It is hard to say exactly which plastic technology is utilized with this machine. In reading up on the Express that Richard mentioned, I found that the segment is made of the same BPA epoxy technology you would be accustomed to as a two component joint filler or grout. The body may be something else. Bakelite is a different resin system based on formaldehyde and is common in old radio bodies and electrical insulators. It is typically more brittle than epoxy based plastic.

  5. I love the colour of this machine. And it has my initials!

    I instantly want one now... Dammit!

    As it happens, I collect old telephones. What you can do, to test and see if it is bakelite, is to do what is often called the 'Simichrome test'. A lot of people use Simichrome to polish their phones, but if you use a bit on a cotton bud, and just hold it against your bakelite object, the formaldehyde will stain the bud brown.

  6. Love it! You really are a tracker of the unusual, Ken.

    Keep safe!

  7. That is one cool machine. I've never heard of it before. This is why I don't search typewriters on ebay. Are you becoming the Olympia Brand Ambassador? I will be interested in what you discover about those keys by the spacebar. Does either of them hold it down to lock the carriage or something?

  8. This Plana is so EMPHATICALLY MAROON!

    Thanks for posting all the characters of this typeface, which is very nice and clear.

    This typewriter looks surprisingly modern for its manufacture date; very sleek lines.

    I hope you get the ribbon vibrator to drop fully. It sounds like this machine is being awakened from a long sleep, and should smooth out with use. Great snag off eBay!

  9. @Bill- The one on the right functions as tab, and the one on the left sets margins...I think. It's all very confusing. Still can't figure it out, exactly.

    @Richard- Ah, yes, the Express. I have seen one or two of those. Very neat machines. I must say, I am liking the feel of this Bakelite.

    @Will- I will definitely be checking that post out. Could be very interesting to note the differences.

    @Dwayne- Well then, that worked out well for me, didn't it? Ha! I am just assuming Bakelite, of course, from what I have read about the machine.

    @Scott- Yes, I didn't even notice DOES have your initials! I may just have to try this method of testing for Bakelite at some point. Sounds neat.

    @Peter- This is WHY I scour eBay! I really hope to become something of an Olympia ambassador...anyone have some pre-war standards they could send my way? ;) And no, neither of the keys lock the carriage. I am still figuring it all out, but they all work with the margin/tab stops in the back somehow.

    @Cameron- Yes it is! Up until a few weeks ago, I had zero maroon typewriters...and now I have two! Fantastic! I have been using the Plana a bit more, and the vibrator is still sticking. I am sure I will get it working soon. I hope so, is getting nicer to use with each keystroke.

  10. Hi guys. I know I am half a year late, but I have some info. I have a pristine Plana in my possession, even with a manual (albeit a Czech one). What would you guys be interested in?

    @notagain: Yes, the keys by the spacebar lock the carriage AND set tabs. You can turn both them around for using the respective functions.