A Traveller’s Companion – Two Of A Kind (part 1)

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Okay. With the rough stuff off my chest, I want to write about an great addition to my collection that I acquired last year.

Well, actually… two great additions. But more about that in a minute.

It’s a machine that I’d been on the lookout for, for some time. And I have JP Huard and Mark Peterson to blame. They both spoke so highly of these machines and their special cases that I felt I desperately nwanted to get my hands on one. After a bit of wrangling I eventually did. On German ebay.

Meet the Underwood Champion and Field Desk.

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There’s something about the Germans. They seem to really look after their machines. This typewriter came to me in near new condition. You certainly wouldn’t turn your nose up at it if you saw it in the show room. The mechanism is in flawless condition, and it types wonderfully. With the exception of the ink being dry in the ribbon, I couldn’t fault this machine. It even came with the case’s keys!


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The machine was in such great condition, the legs were stiff and hard to operate as they had barely been broken in. How does this happen? It is a machine that is made for writing out and about almost anywhere the writer would have chosen, and it yet it shows so little of its long history. Astonishing for a machine that would have to be in excess of 60 years old.

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The desk folds into a small section that is part of the underside of the case. In total it adds about an inch an a half over-all to the height of the case, but also adds about 2 kilograms to the gross weight.  This subsequently tips the whole typewriter and case to around 9kg – around the weight of an Olympia SM3 and case.

Add some paper and some stationary and you’re starting to get some serious muscle building potential going every time you lift it.

All you need is a second one to cary on the other arm.

…. speaking of which…

When I bid for this machine on German ebay, I didn’t actually expect to win it. Or more accurately, I forgot how much I bid as an initial bid, and then walked away and convinced myself I wouldn’t win. Compounding this was the 10 day auction time.

Foolishly, I saw another machine pop up on Etsy. Negotiated postage and clicked buy. It was one of those times when two of a kind magically appear online – a bit like what happened when I scored the two fairly rare Orbis machines about a year and a bit ago. When you see such machines, hedge your bets and go for both. And again, I won both.

The Etsy unit was a little more weathered however, and while it is in operable condition, it was no where near as cosmetically beautiful as the german Champion.

Meet the Underwood Universal and Field Desk.

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Don’t let its dull looks fool you. This machine is nice to look at and is as stable as they you get. However it was missing a plastic foot on one leg – which was rectified by manufacturing a quick replacement with some Plastimake.

A big thanks to Natalie Tan for giving me a vat of Plastimake when she came to the Brisbane Type-in in 2014. Thanks a heap!

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It feels like you’re typing on a regular desk the unit is that strong. Unlike the Corona 3 tripod (how many other people get to make that comparison!) the Underwood’s base is wide, and has a centre of gravity that appears above the typewriter. Most camera tripods could only dream of this kind of stability.

And yet it folds away so neatly.


Viola! Every home should have one.

If you look closely at the last photo, you may see that the Underwood logo is etched into the handle on the case.

My understanding is that these cases were made by a third party, and was not an original Underwood item. Since I bought these typewriters I have seen a Royal QDL with an identical base. It appears that the manufacturer uses the top part of the original typewriter case and manufactures a unit that they bolt onto the base of the typewriter, which replaces the bottom section of the case.

The weight of the typewriter puts it into luggable territory, and would have been great in an era of bus and train travel. The moment I got hold of these machines I imagined myself travelling across Australia on The Overland and The Ghan and writing about my travels. I often used to travel from Melbourne to Adelaide overnight by train, and these typewriters brought back memories of sitting on train platforms in the middle of no-where at night, with the only sounds the buzzing of the fluro lights, and the occasional drone of a car’s tiers as it drove along the highway in the distance. Peaceful.

I miss those days. I’m feeling restless. I need to get on the road. Maybe that’s why I’m feeling so down and angry of late. I’ve been stationary for too long.


21 thoughts on “A Traveller’s Companion – Two Of A Kind (part 1)

  1. Ha! I am in a lucky position to be able to compare Corona 3’s tripod to a case with almost identical design (the legs are tubular and telescopic and the mounts are a little bit different) that you show here but containing Corona Speedline.


    • Hey Piotr. I actually have a Corona 3 tripod as well. One day I’ll photograph the two systems side by side and make a comparison. Great little machines aren’t they! And a Corona Speedline? This I’d love to see!


      • Yes – I understood from your post that you have a C3POd ;). I do love Corona 3s – I somehow have three (sic!) of them. First because I really wanted one in great condition, second because it was a bargain in very good condition and the third one in pretty god condition – because it had a tripod…
        Accidentally I have 3 Speedlines and 3 Flattops too – what is with Corona and number 3 really??? Oh well – probably like the Romans used to say: omne trinum perfectum…

        I will drag that case out and take some photos soon.


  2. And you photographed it in the right environment! What station is that?

    Thanks, Scott, for the visual & typer-logical inspiration.


  3. First, I would like to mention that as an insane Fox fan, I absolutely love your main header photo. Second, you have some of the most amazing luck in getting these things. I was already blown away by the fact you snagged that Corona tripod back when you did, but now you snag not one but two Underwood field-cases? I haven’t even seen a mirage of one for sale yet! Congratulations on your wonderful finds!


  4. Great pictures! Amazing equipment, the bee’s knees in their time. (And actually, perhaps still…)

    Am in awe, you’re en route to being the typewriter-tripod expert 🙂 The glossy Underwood looks especially stylish. (German keyboard?)


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