Let off some steam, Bennett (typewriter)

The Bennett Typewriter. Mean, unclean and... a little bit smelly, actually.

The Bennett Typewriter. Mean, unclean and… a little bit smelly, actually.

This typewriter reminds me of one very important fact in life: You should never be afraid to ask a question. When I first spotted this machine on Gumtree here in Australia, the seller was asking a whopping $25,000 for it. The price was so absurd that I snapped a photo from the Gumtree site and posted it up for discussion on the Facebook ‘Antique Typewriter Collectors‘ group, where there’s usually a vibrant discussion on unusual typewriter material that we find on the internet. However I thought I’d just flick an email to the then very unsuccessful seller, and ask him if he really meant for it to be listed at that price. The answer was ‘no’, and we both quickly realised that he’d had no interest due to the ridiculously high price listed. He had no idea what it really was worth so as such I managed to negotiate this machine out of his hands at a discount that would be jaw-dropping to anyone that saw the original price.

Cheap at 1000th of the price....

Cheap at 1000th of the price….  Don’t ask what I as doing looking at typewriters at 11:55 pm.

The Bennett is a strange machine really. Some people call it pocket sized, however I feel that if I shoved it down the front of my pants I’d be getting an awful lot of attention that I didn’t want. The line ‘Is that a typewriter in your pants, or are you just happy to see me’ comes to mind. But it is largely considered to be the smallest keyboard – if not the smallest full functioning ‘modern’ typewriter produced. And small it is, until you try typing on an iPhone screen. Then it seems positively huge. But next to a desktop typewriter, this guy is tiny.

Yeah, I dares ya to shove this in your pocket.

Yeah, I dares ya to shove this in your pocket.

The cover is a resin soaked canvas that is embossed to look like leather. It’s actually a very nice case to be frank, but not the most durable of designs. Fortunately this machine’s had survived without being compromised. I haven’t cleaned the cover or the machine as yet, as I’m a bit loathe to do so because I want to try and preserve as much of what is left of the decals as possible, and I’m trying to assess the best way to remove the oxide staining on the aluminium paper table without damaging that decal. All in time though. These restorations more often than not require patience more than persistence.

Getting inside this machine is easy. There’s two screws located at the side that come off with ease, which will then allow you to lift the keyboard off the top and allow you access to pretty much all of the mechanical parts of the machine.

Open wide, come inside!

Open wide, come inside!

As you can see it is a relatively simple mechanism. With each keypress force is applied to ta central rod that drives a gear that both pushes the type wheel forward, while driving a saw-like slider in turn turns a gear that rotates the type element.
Also when you press the key, the same metal tab that pushes the rod that powers the mechanism also slides into a set position that the stops the travel of saw-toothed slider  at a particular point, which in turn holds the type wheel at the desired letter. You will no doubt notice the tabs on the next photo.

Note the arms extending from the keys to the tabs? That's pretty much all there is to how this machine operates.

Note the arms extending from the keys to the tabs? That’s pretty much all there is to how this machine operates.

It’s all a very simple design, and it is also sadly crap to operate. I did after all classify this machine in one of the top 10 worse typewriters for touch in a previous post.

And that’s really it for the bennett. I have to say it’s pretty impressive. This is a machine that is over 100 years old, and it still damn well types. It was marketed at people that would only need a typewriter for casual usage – say, for writing cheques or producing professional looking invoices. Mind you, it’s a lot better than trying to type on an index typewriter.

But only just. It’s cute and fun, and kinda sexy actually. And it has a couple of odd quirks when you type, which I will demonstrate in this video:-

The advertising material selling this machine doesn’t try and play this machine as being as capable as a desktop…. oh wait, yes it does. They also blatantly lie when they say it has a standard keyboard. But I guess if you couldn’t look at the picture displayed next to this an figure out that the advertisers were full of bulldust, you probably deserved to be relieved of your $us18.

The Bennett Advertisement. Thanks Sticky Institute!

The Bennett Advertisement. Thanks Sticky Institute!

If you wish to know more about the Bennett typewriter, you should pop over to Greg’s ‘Anti-keychop’ page and have a bit of a look. His writeup on the Bennett can be found HERE.

Now…. Best take this machine to the workshop and get going on it. It types fine and has no problems getting into upper and lower case, but the platen is a bit slippery, and the machine still has a lot of dirt in it. I’m pretty sure this isn’t going to be the last you see of my Bennett.

P.S. 10 points for guessing the quote in the title for this blog post, which is a totally un related to this typewriter.  Now if you pardon me, I need to get this typewriter out of my pants. I can’t sit down with it there, and it’s really hurting.


22 thoughts on “Let off some steam, Bennett (typewriter)

    • Yeah, I have considered that option. While it would present the best looking machine, I feel that I’ve kind of cheated. I really want to preserve as much of the original machine as possible.


  1. Very entertaining post. I wonder whether Bennetts worked a bit better when they were fresh from the factory. I would assume so. They certainly were popular in their day.

    So you got it for $25??


  2. Is that quote anything to do with Thomas The Tank Engine – which is appropriate because the bennet looks like a child’s toy – admittedly a very mechanically sophisticated toy. 🙂


  3. No idea about the quote, but I do love the keyboard. You can see they have thought about it, especially in the demonstration. And there aren’t a lot of typewriters who tried this flattened design. As for being pocket sized, I guess you need to start wearing army pants! Even an iPad will fit your pockets then, and you can sit a bit more comfortable. 😉


  4. Funny, the wear pattern on the paper table label is almost exactly like mine. I love this machine, and it’s great to pull it out and show people as a novelty. I don’t think it uses half inch ribbon. I’m going to wind 7/16″ ribbon on it and see how that works….

    These are beautiful.

    Liked by 1 person

    • No, they are worth considerably more than $25. I cannot give you an exact amount, as they tend to fluctuate online, however the mean is around $au250. That said, people have asked far more for them and got it.


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