When I first ran across the Turboplaten, it was featured in a chromed Smith-Corona portable on an eBay auction by a seller known as WriterTypes. While most viewers were dazzled by the chrome body, and it was mesmerizing, I looked past the obvious and focussed on what really made this typewriter shine — the platen. Platens, regardless of the body’s color, are standard issue black. It’s rubber. It comes in black. To put a black platen on such a work of art, however, would have been like smearing a mustache on the Mona Lisa. Chroming metal has been around for decades, so it wasn’t a big stretch to see a chromed typewriter. But to see a matching silver platen was the real innovation. It made the typewriter whole and in a way transformed it into something modern. Not only was it art, but with a new platen, it was ready to write.
What is it about shiny objects that activates the possessive impulse? Ever since primal man first unearthed a gold nugget, we’ve been drawn to all things glittery. Even more so if it’s scarce. Knowing our weakness, WriterTypes set his trap via auction, since there’s nothing like a bidding frenzy to drive the price even higher. To make sure I didn’t give in to the chrome mania, I abstained from martinis on the evening the auction ended, made chamomile tea and went to bed early. The funny thing, it wasn’t the typewriter I coveted, but the platen!
With no disrespect to the chrome, having my face reflected back to me while I wrote seemed like an evil distraction. And if you haven’t caught the vibe of Typewriter Review, I tend to view the typewriter as tool rather than collectible. To spiff them up beyond a good cleaning seems to put form over function. And having a barnyard full of them makes it a job keeping track of the herd, rather than your job as writer, which is to hit the trail with one good mount and go on a journey. Or since it is Star Wars season, find your Millennium Falcon, stick with her, explore the galaxy seeking riches, while getting into a few tight spots, fighting your way out with cunning, or blaster if need be, but always on the move, driving your own story.
Like any good smuggler’s ship, it might look beat up on the outside, but under the hood it’s retro-fitted with the latest tech. And for this, I am happy to report the Turboplaten is now available for stand-alone purchase. Perhaps you have a stable of typewriters because they all lack the one essential component that’ll allow you to escape the space port.
So who is the genius behind the Turboplaten and the chromed typewriters? While most eBay sellers hide behind a username, Dean Jones wants you to know you’re dealing with a person. Not out of vanity, but the firm belief in the old school practice of looking someone in the eye, shaking their hand and standing behind your word. Jones is so sure of his creations, that he offers a no questions asked, full money back guarantee, including shipping!
Putting new rubber on platen cores is nothing new. But the Turboplaten is no ordinary rubber. It’s made of polyvinyl chloride, or PVC. The beauty of PVC is that it can be hardened to produce what we commonly see in plumbing pipes, or with a few tweaks to the formula made into clothing. The sweet soft spot between these two applications is what Jones uses as the base for the Turboplaten. It starts out as clear tubing and when he sheathes the platen core, whatever color he paints the core shines through.
Why use PVC over traditional rubber? Besides infusing it with color, Jones claims PVC will outlast rubber, which tends to harden with age. By upgrading to the Turboplaten, you’ll not only get a lifetime of use, but the writer who inherits your machine will benefit. That’s right, it’s your duty as a sworn member of the typewriter underground to perpetuate humanity through writing. Future generations depend on you! Now we just need to find someone to invent the Turbo Ribbon of Never Ending Ink.
All futures aside, how does it perform right now? Before conducting the test, I sent Jones a picture of my 1947 Smith-Corona Sterling. Jones suggested turquoise would go handsomely with the black curves. My hidebound traditionalist self reluctantly took a back seat to the prospect of a writing revitalization. Perhaps a bit of color in the landscape was all that was needed. Besides, when you roll the paper in, it’ll be mostly covered. So that was it, we settled up on PayPal for a hundred dollars and Jones got to work.
Fortunately for me, platen removal on my Smith-Corona Sterling was easy. A couple screws and a spring. The Sterling is the base model. If you have the Silent or Super Duper Silent, platen removal is just a lever away, no tools required. Perhaps the design engineers at Smith-Corona foresaw a future where only a handful of typewriter techs remained and maintenance fell into the hands of klutzy writers. That’s what I love about the Americanos, unfussy, simple, open and easy to maintain. Need to remove a platen from an Olympia? Good luck and may the force be with you.
If platen removal stokes panic, send your typewriter to Jones and for an extra hundred dollars, he’ll perform the entire operation, plus give your typewriter a refresh. Jones told me he has a dunk tank for a chemical wash, and is prepared to take on the grimiest jobs. Not only do you get a new platen, but a like new typewriter. However, as we all know, shipping typewriters can be a perilous journey. If you’re skittish about shipping, or lack the supplies, I highly recommend finding your local FedEx Office. For around twenty-three dollars, they’ll pack it for you with what’s called the fragile service, which includes a sturdy box and all the bubble.
When the Turboplaten arrived, I had been expecting a solid band of turquoise, but was rewarded with something more unique. According to Jones, the process isn’t perfect and the handcrafting sometimes produces unexpected coloration. If I wasn’t happy, he’d be glad to redo at no charge. I embraced the imperfection and installed it pronto.
Jones told me he named it the Turboplaten due to what he believed was a quicker return action of the typebar. The Turboplaten, he claims, is firmer than rubber, and when the slug slams the platen it rebounds with turbo speed. My unscientific test with a thumbnail bears some of this out. It’s supple, yet not soft, with enough grip between paper and feed rollers. The Turboplaten provides the dampening needed to produce a strong imprint. Does it rebound quicker than rubber? To be honest, I couldn’t fathom the difference. Is that measure important? Maybe if you’re under intense competitive pressure for the world speed record, then perhaps not. Does it turbo charge your writing in other ways? Absolutely. Having a new platen in your machine softens the experience and eliminates the annoying smacking sound you get on those aged, rock hard platens. Not only does it sound bad, those reverberations are bad for the type slugs. Rubber or PVC, take your choice. But in the modern world of custom skins and colors, the Turboplaten is a great way to personalize your typewriter, while getting the benefits of a platen refresh.
Jones offers the standalone Turboplaten for a hundred dollars, plus shipping, via eBay. You send him your platen, he’ll strip off the old rubber and sheath it with a Turboplaten. If you want to send your typewriter for a total refresh, select 2 Turboplatens for two hundred dollars. You won’t be getting 2 platens, it’s the only way he can charge for the extra service. After placing your order, he’ll contact you to confirm platen color and other details. If you’re feeling particularly plucky, he’ll even offer to repaint the typewriter body for a bit extra.
Visit Dean’s store Writertypes.