Does anyone use a typewriter for cards?

Hello everyone,
I’ve been working to get my 1939 Royal typewriter up and running smoothly and I think we are in good shape! I would love to type postcards for fun, for practice and because it may make my message easier to read for non-English speaking folks.
Does anyone use a typewriter for their cards? What can I do to minimize damage to the cards since they are thicker than typing paper?

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Not sure there’s a lot you could do to protect the cards other than perhaps use cards that are thicker maybe to stop the type press embedding on the back of the picture & making it visible on the picture on the front of the card.

I get a lot of my cards made through Zazzle & they have 2 options for thickness of cards:
17.5 pt thickness / 120 lb weight with a matt finish or
12.5 pt thickness / 110 lb weight with a semi-gloss finish.

I suspect the thicker one would show the type less on the front, but I’m not sure how well it would manage going through the roller. The thinner would might show the type more on the front, but would go through the roller easier.

Have fun experimenting - I’m sure there’s someone in the handmade postcard crew that may have more suggestions though as I bet someone has already used this method of writing on postcards.

Here’s some links I found that might be useful:

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??? :open_mouth:

I was going to suggest the exact opposite :sweat_smile:

In fact I sometimes did use a typewriter for writing postcards - some decades ago - so I know for a fact that it can be done. I don’t really remember what kind of cards I used for this - but I don’t think that thick postcards are a good idea, and neither those standard glossy ones with flood coating. I’d imagine the coating will crack and the card will look damaged. And the thicker the card, the more difficult it will be to bend it through the typewriter - and once you’ve managed, it won’t easily return to its former shape…

I would use cards that are flexible enough to bend, and in order to avoid the letters leaving press / print signs on the picture side I would place another sheet of paper underneath.

Probably you will just have to experiment a bit to find out how to do it best. I would love to swap one of your experimental cards then. I will send one using my hand carved stamp prints in return if you like (or anything else fitting your profile).

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This is my worry, that modern cards are on a thicker card stock and will look creased and not want to lay flat. I’m going to look through my stash and see if I have any older ones that are thinner and not glossy. Thank you!

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That sounds lovely :slight_smile: Let me play around for a few days and see if I can get this to work.

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I write a lot with typewriters and mainly use small travel typewriters. However, portable typewriters usually are not suitable for writing postcards. I have a large office typewriter especially for this. The difference: office typewriters have cylinders with a much larger diameter. This means that postcards do not bend so quickly and run through the cylinder more easily.
In principle, less stiff postcards with a lower paper grammage are better suited for writing on with typewriters.
If you like to exchange a typewritten postcard just let me know.

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For those who might try a typewriter:
With a vintage machine you’re probably using the traditional cloth ribbon. But the more modern ones might take those “film” ribbons for much sharper imprint. Besides being single use only, the imprint tends to flake off. That was a problem from my typewriter days. The smoother paper stock of postcards would probably be a disaster with film ribbons.

Both of my typewriters are vintage portable models. This is absolutely my worry, that the cylinder is going to crinkle them badly. I’m going to sort out my thin cards tonight and have a go. Would love to exchange a card once I figure this out.

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Mine are both vintage ('39 and a 1950’s something) with cloth ribbon. What you pointed out is very interesting, was it the electric models that had these? I’ve not heard of that type of ribbon.

@cottontailfarm
Hi Tammy,

Yes I use all my 7 old typewriter to write a lot of my cards but I don’t type on the cards themselves, I type on a piece of paper and glue that on the card and I type the address on address labels and stick then on the card aswell.
Problem solved :wink:

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Yes, I’ve only seen it with electric typewriters like those big IBM ones every office seemed to have in the 1970’s. I’ve had two Smith Corona electrics and a Brother electric back in college and they also took film ribbons. They made cloth ribbons for them too, if you could find them. I also had a Smith Corona and an Olivetti manual and those only had cloth ribbon. Film ribbon is carbon coated plastic and the key strike leaves a perfectly sharp image. Downside is that the carbon could flake off the paper, and especially envelopes, which was why I wouldn’t use them. If you have any business correspondence from the 70’s and 80’s it was probably done with film ribbon for a more “professional” look. I believe there was also a multi use film ribbon for some models which gave a duller impression but more permanent.

Maybe you’ve seen it on those crime shows, where detectives retrieve a film ribbon from an electric typewriter and can read every word of some damning correspondence. Being single use, the impression left on the ribbon is clearly readable. Surprising a lot of users never noticed (by all the real cases solved by taking the ribbon out and reading it!). I heard it can be done to some extent with cloth ribbon too depending on the number of passes.

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Oh my goodness. This is a *close my eyes and smack my forehead WHY DIDN’T I THINK OF THIS? * moment. I was so hung up on putting an actual card through the machine that this never occured to me. This is exactly how to solve my problem. Thank you.

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This is so interesting. I’ve been on a collector site on Facebook for a year now and literally no one has talked about these ribbons! How is that possible. I was so focused on getting my machines working that fhe possibility that there are different ribbons took a back seat to the typewriters.
As an aside: My sister is big into crime shows and I love to send her “ransom note” postcards with letters clipped from magazines. I will pass on this fun fact: want to commit a crime? Don’t use this kinds of typewriter ribbon :slight_smile:

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The wily Lieutenant Columbo (from the T.V. series) used the telltale typewriter ribbon method to solve a case, as I remember.

Fun thread! My suggestion was a bit pricier. I send postcards from my cat, who can’t hold a pen ( no opposable thumb.) We use 8x10 labels and cut the message down. But he writes to the same thing to multiple classes so I think glued paper would be more practical for you. Purrs from Gulliver the cat for typing!

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Another fun fact: forensics can trace a typewritten page back to the specific machine it was typed on. Each brand and model has its own characteristics, and even each individual machine of the same brand and model will differ enough that an expert can trace it to that one machine only.
I guess ribbon is such a mundane thing we tend to forget it’s there until it runs out! I only looked into it when I noticed that the envelopes I typed with film ribbon sometimes did not survive the trip through the mail. I believe they made truly permanent film ribbons for the high end IBM electric models, but not for the consumer level electric Smith Coronas I had. I had to find cloth ribbons for them and they were hard to find as I guess the public had fallen for the supposed better quality of film ribbon. Correctable film ribbon was the worst for permanence and I think there was something about not typing any legal documents with them. It seemed like a miracle when I was still in school. I got a Brother electric with the self correct feature. Instant correction just by backspacing. Needless to say I soon learned it was a disaster with labels and envelopes. This was before the Internet. I could only get cloth ribbons for that machine by special order from an office supply place and that took some driving around to find someplace that did special orders.

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You’re very welcome :blush:

I use label paper to type on,then peel and stick. Since anything glued to a postcard is in danger of being torn by postal handling, I’ve started taping over anything glued on (like the postcard ID number and the address) with clear packing tape out to the edges of the back of the card. I saw this done a few times to postcards I’ve received, and it does seem to keep them tidy and whole.

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Letters could be erased if you used film ribbon, some electric typewriters were equiped with erasing ribbon and sometimes some memory, so you could simply hit the delete button and the letter would disappear. Cloth ribbon was “permanent”, i.e. you could see if the letters were deleted, so legal documents and so on could only be made using cloth ribbon.