Wednesday, October 17, 2012

A week of reviews (Part Two): Kappel Fips

Just look at the size difference between the Kappel Fips and the Olympia Elite of what I believe to be the same era. The loss of width on the Kappel explains the insanely long carriage rail it has. Or, rather, what looks to be quite long when actually the machine is just thinner. A bit taller, though.


  1. That's an impressive machine. I like the way some of the numbers sweep below the line.

    I am surprised at it's total lack of features though, even for the depression. I thought the Royal Signet was a stripped out version, but it does have a margin, only one, but it has it, no bell, no tabulator, no one key, no zero key but a great italic all upper case font.

  2. Very cute and kinda mysterious machine. Thanks for the report!

  3. I've never had my hands on one of these; your coverage of the machine surely is the next best thing. It's a very interesting machine! Kind of in the same class as the Corona Junior, or the Royal Senior Signet or Royal Junior, isn't it? Thanks for this article.

  4. That's really cool! Never heard of this brand, thanks for profiling it so well.

  5. Ernst Martin in: Die Schreibmaschine, confirms your intuition by stating that the Kappel Fips was produced by Olympia.

  6. I wonder if it really was made by Olympia, now that I look at this article for the sixth time (or so.) Did any Olympias ever exhibit the construction feature of having fastener (screw) heads protruding through the sides of the machine like this? I think the original AEG Standard did, but I don't recall having seen any others. Not that we find that many AEG, Diplomat, pre-war Olympia or Kappel machines here in the US! So either Maschinenfabrik Kappel built this machine with license from Olympia in their works, or else AEG (Olympia) built it in its works to a modified design marketed only through Kappel. Is there a duplicate machine in existence with another brand name?

  7. Thomas Fuertig comes through once again! Here is the content of an email he sent me on this topic, after I asked him about it:

    "Kappel never made portables. When they decided to sell portables, they made a contract with Diamant and sold the Diamant 30 under Kappel brand. But soon after, Diamant stopped production, so Kappel made a contract with Olympia and sold Olympia portables under Kappel brand: Model 1, Progress, Simplex, Elite and Filia. Some of the machines got a newly shaped typebar cover, otherwise they were all identical to Olympia models.

    A bit difficult, because only the first version of Simplex carried the name "Kappel Privat", and Filia A and B became Fips 1 and 2. All other machines only were labeled "Kappel"."

    So that means that we need either the Olympia Filia A or B to match up with your Kappel Fips. I sure don't have one!

  8. And, that quick, here we go:

    Click the bottom right most photo of the grid to see my late friend Tilman's Olympia Filia. Bingo!

  9. In case it helps, here's that same site's page on Kappel:

    We never did get to every single German brand name and line on the ETP site. But we DID get most of Europe!

    1. Will, thank you so much for this wealth of information! I suppose I just didn't dig deep enough. I appreciate your looking into it, and I am very glad to hear the Kappel was in fact made by Olympia. You can tell the second you type on it!

      Looking at all of those pictures of Olympias now...I need more! All of the Olympias!

  10. This comment thread has been very amusing and informative. All the more reason to check back on interesting posts.

  11. You have a radar for unique typewriters, very interesting find. I must say, that Olympia Elite is handsome.

  12. @Bill- As much as I don't like Royal, I am very attracted to those Signet's. Not much can go wrong! And the typeface looks great.

    @Richard- When I took it out of the case, I honestly said "Damn...look how tiny and cute this thing is!"

    @Peter- I had never really heard of it either until the guy sent me the pictures of it. I love that it is made by Olympia, and it is just a neat machine.

    @Shordzi- I assumed it was manufactured by them the second I typed on it, and Robert Messenger's page near confirmed this belief...and now Will has, without a shadow of a doubt!

    @Will- Just want to thank you again for identifying this Kappel as Olympia made. I truly appreciate your effort, and for introducing me to that website!

    @Peter- I find myself checking back on interesting posts more and more often anymore. I just leave the tabs open, forget about them for a day or so and then check them out again and again!

    @Ton- Well, thanks Ton. Yes, I absolutely LOVE the Elite. Such a beautiful and amazing typewriter.

  13. Ken - fantastic profile of this German machine. I really think the Germans made the most consistently good typewriters out there and my collection features more German than anything else.
    Stupendous reporting on the kappel!
    I want to type on it! Perhaps oneday if I ever find myself in your neck of the woods

    1. This is not to be argumentative or to be a buzz killer, so please don't take it that way. This is the voice of experience here! I would like to submit to all of the newer collectors out there the fact that the Germans made some good typewriters, but they also made some absolutely average ones and some absolute bombs as well. There's nothing inherent in "German engineering" that means a better machine -- for example, I've found probably 99% of the Smith-Corona Super 5 series machines that I've ever run across in the field were fully operable. I cannot say nearly the same thing for Olympias on the whole.

      There is some precedent actually inside the typewriter industry that spread the concept that German typewriters were better - it stems from the time period that Royal began heavily importing machines made in Holland and Japan under its own name during the Litton era. Royal dealers became increasingly dismayed with the products and customer feedback. I personally have known two different typewriter dealers in this area who dealt Royal machines for many years (one of them, the late George Baker, from 1932 onwards) who switched to having Olympia dealerships at roughly the same time because of exactly this reason. Of course, Olympia had launched its full sales and dealership program at that time and was really pushing.

      Now, here's the thing -- both told me they did that because at the time there was no finer typewriter that they could sell widely in the US than the Olympia standard and portable line. However, BOTH of them told me that they considered the finest typewriter ever made, of any make model or age, to be the Royal Standard No. 10. Think of how old that machine is when comparing to switching to Olympia dealership from Royal dealership in the mid-late 1960's.

      And remember - the beef that both men stated with Royal was the junky small portables. Both felt that the Royal standard machines were still good. And both spoke highly of many other brands and models of US made typewriters, both in terms of their ability to sell them when obtained in trade and of the ability to repair various makes.

      In the final analysis, it might be appropriate to indicate that Olympia's design and manufacture standards had not dropped as far as Royal was willing to tolerate with its "outsourced" units at the time that these (and many other dealers) made the switch. It is not to say that there is anything inherent in German schooling, manufacturing practice, engineering design approach or any other facet that might lead German engineering overall to be considered as superior.

      I believe it was General Guderian -- you'd have to check me on that -- who said that he would rather have had thousands of reliable, fully operable and mobile US made Sherman tanks than the tricky, tempermental and overweight German made tanks (like the Tiger and Panther.) Similarly, German made diesel locomotives, when imported to the United States and employed in the same service to which we subjected our locomotives daily, failed absolutely miserably. When the wider range of engineering is examined beyond that of typewriter engineering, many more intricate and nuanced realities are found which do indicate different approaches, but absolutely do not give a guaranteed outcome one way or another. I will tell you this from personal work experience -- no one in the nuclear energy business will ever tell you that the Germans are better than we are at anything either generally or in particular.

    2. Continued.. It's perfectly safe to say that most Olympia branded machines are excellent typewriters.. but then again, Olympia did EXACTLY the same thing as Royal did, just years and years later, when it applied its name to what we generally call the "IMC-Rover" series of machines under its "Olympiette" badge. There were also Nakajimas carrying that Olympiette name as well. At that point, it would have been easy for a dealer to decide that Olivetti offered better manual typewriters overall and switch to Olivetti exactly as the Royal dealers I knew switched to Olympia.

      Please understand that I'm not trying to downplay the quality of Olympia machines. I own a number of them myself, and pushed for a long time for various Portable Typewriter Forum members to set up a complete delineation of all the model numbers and variants because I thought it was necessary for typists and collectors. (That was seven or eight years ago.. maybe more.) The Olympia machines are well designed, well made and are top rank compared with any machines from any time period. What we should all be very careful to do is to avoid thinking that one nation's engineering is better than another's for some reason.

      Remember this -- when there was an open competition in Paris in 1922 for typewriters and typing speed, the record was won by a man who picked a machine he'd never seen until that exposition. What won? Not a German made machine, and not a Royal or an L.C. Smith. The competition was won with a Woodstock No. 5.

      Not trying to be Captain Bringdowner here. Just food for thought!

    3. @Michael- You are welcome to come over and we will type away...whenever you find yourself in PA!

      @Will- I appreciate the insight! You make some good points, although it does not discount my love for Olympia; which I am certain was not the intent. I am sure Germany had their fair share of terrible typers, just like anyone else. I have, lately, been purchasing more German typewriters than others as most I have tried are quite nice and I absolutely love near all of the designs. So many beautiful machines! Thanks for taking the time to go in depth about all of this. I cannot claim to be an expert (yet) and anything that helps along that road is always welcome.