When I first started using Olivetti typewriters, I was drawn to their design. The modern shape. The colors. Their ads evoked a sense you were buying a work of art. Not only were they art, but writing on them was like art creating art. No wonder Olivetti used the word “studio,” as if a writer’s studio was contained in the shell of a typewriter. Even the aptly named Lettera series is a playful take on a familiar word. Poetic. That’s where it all begins, one letter at a time, making words, painting a picture, telling a story.
When I sit at an Olivetti, I feel like I’m tapping into a rich tradition of Italian artisans, where form is as important as function. But a great design only works if the typewriter is up to snuff. Sure, they’re nice to look at, but does it work every day, every letter, every page? With Olivetti, the answer is YES.
There’s a good reason the Studio 45’s predecessor, the 44 is near the top, only to be topped by the Lettera 32. My chief complaint with the 44 is that it doesn’t have the lightness of a Lettera. Which is OK, since it feels sturdy and reliable. The Studio 44 is no slip off your desk Slim Jim. Some prefer a beefier machine and for them the Lettera can feel flimsy. Olivetti even marketed the Studio 44 as a mix between the ease of a portable with the solid feel of an office standard. And they succeeded! But don’t be fooled, the big office standards, as I’ve noted in another post, are no slugs. There’s never a more demanding customer than an over-worked, under-paid secretary whose typing actually earns a living.
While the Studio 44 is a portable, if you’ve ever tried to tote one, they’re a lug. I must admit my curiosity for other Olivettis waned after putting the Studio 44 and the Lettera 32 in the Top Ten pantheon. There wasn’t much to improve, right? Boy, was I wrong. The Studio 45 hits the sweet spot between these two stalwarts.
The key tops on the Studio 45 are shaped like saddles, perfect for your digits to ride on. Whoever thought cupped tops were the right shape? Saddles, amigo, are the only way to ride. The Studio 44 is cuppy, while the Lettera 32 tops are flat. The saddle top keys of the Studio 45 perfectly matches the curvature of the finger. If the keys and bell are the notes of the page, the carriage return lever marks a repose in the composition. Again, Olivetti got it right with the Studio 45. It’s long, big and juts at the perfect angle for an easy catch. And once you catch it, the carriage is super smooth with just the right amount of weight and resistance. The Studio 44’s carriage always felt heavy, like you needed that giant paddle of a return lever to get it moving. And the Lettera 32 lever is small, easy to miss and the carriage is feather light that it feels like it might fly off the rails if you’re too frisky.
As for design, I love the cool blue and curves of the Studio 44 and the Lettera 32. While you can get the Studio 45 in blue, perhaps its boxier lines don’t inspire the same poster art advertisements. It’s a much quieter design. Elegant. Functional. The Studio 45 is the perfect blank canvas. If you’re looking for a reliable typewriter, I suspect a Studio 45 won’t let you down. Any off-the-shelf used one will probably be in fine shape. That’s a big reason why the Olympia SM9 sits at numero uno. Every one I’ve purchased has worked. No issues. No need for a gut rehab, nor spending more than you need to. In fact, I’d say the Studio 45 might even challenge the Olympia SM9 for top spot. It’s quieter, less mechanical sounding, softer, more muted, warmer. It should satisfy the writer who is looking for something a bit weightier than the Lettera 32, but still wants a responsive feel. It’s not as iconic, but hey, you’re getting a typewriter to write with not look at.
Get your fingers in the saddle of a Studio 45 and blaze a new trail.
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Daniel, Great to read a new and whimsical review of a vintage typewriter. I have always enjoyed you way with words – elevated and folksy at the same time. By the way, Joyce Jenkins at the Poetry Flash has an Olivetti Unerworrd 45 (slightly younger) that she go in college in the late 1970’s. Works great. We lug it to book festivals for people to spontaneous write a poem. We are blessed!
Thanks, Cat, We have Felix from South Korea to thank for giving me the nudge to write a new review!
Try also an Olivetti Lettera 35 (made in Spain), a very nice machine! However, my preferred Olivetti is the Lettera 22 (I have five of them!)
Great description that gives me fresh appreciation of this model. Thanks for this.
You do it proud. I own an 1971 Olympia SM9. It’s the best one I’ve ever owed. Back 15 years ago I bought an Olivetti. I loved that machine and even sold two fiction stories with it. But it had been abused and I was not able to fix it.
Another wonderful post. But, wait . . . I hunted down a Lettera 35, largely on the basis of one of your reviews (which, admittedly, extolled the virtues of the 35L, or I). Now you’ve got me thinking I need to get a Studio 45. Sheesh. Will it never end? (Probably not.) Keep up the great work!
I recently purchased a Studio 45. I also notice that the key tops are comfortable and noticeably different. It’s a machine that gets out of the way. It’s feel and its actual typing is much less precise than the Olivetti Underwood 21 (Studio 44) that I have. I find that with the touch control set to the firmest setting on the 45 that it somehow feels lighter, maybe because it causes the machine to feel snappier. It’s disappointing to me that parts of the 45 feel and sound cheap. It has a lot more character than my boring feeling (though perfectly functioning in every way) Olympia SM-3. I only made two adjustments to the machine. I formed the trip mechanism to trip sooner for key strikes, and I formed the space bar linkage to get it to space a little later. I was sometimes typing too fast and getting jammed bars and trying to space too quickly after the final letter of a word. The changes fixed the problem with my technique not matching the machine.
do you know where to get supplies for the studio 45- ribbon, etc?
I have an original one.