Ask The Desk Header

Robert asks:

As a writer, I recently purchased an electric typewriter for drafting content. What kind of supplies are appropriate for setting up a vintage typing desk: lamps, pens, paper, erasers, etc.?

(A still from All The President's Men via The Young Folks)
(A still from All The President’s Men via The Young Folks)

If what you are hoping to do is to create a classically vintage workspace, be sure to go through the Vintage posts for recommendations on classic items to add to your space. If you’re looking for specific items designed to function best (vintage or new) with a typewriter set-up, then here are a few recommendations.

  • Remember that the platen travels so you need to have adequate clearance around your typewriter. Don’t set your coffee cup down in the direct path of your typewriter platen or you’ll end up with a big mess (ask me how I know this).
(via Utrecht)
(via Utrecht)
  • A swing-arm or flexible lamp will be a great option to direct light where you need it. I use a Lite-Source Swing Arm Combination Lamp ($89) that is several decades old on my desk at work. It clamps to the edge of the table for stability and moves in all directions. It uses a fluorescent tube plus an incandescent bulb which can each be used alone or in combination for bright light. A less expensive alternative is the Adjustable Swing Arm Lamp ($15.99). Both designs are classic and would be aesthetically comparable to an electric typewriter.
  • For paper, standard 20lb paper from an office supply store should be fine. I would not get paper any heavier than 20lb (like standard black-and-white copier paper). If you’re looking for classic onion skin-style paper, carbon paper, or other classic style, check out Ebay. I put all kinds of paper in my typewriter but I try not to use any paper that’s too heavy. It will end up having a curl to it as a result of being wrapped around the platen.
(via National Gallery)
(via National Gallery)
  • As for erasers, you could try a typewriter eraser or liquid correction fluid but I think modern correction tape is far more effective, easy to use with no odor and no eraser flakes dropping into you typewriter, gumming up the works.
  • Pens are a matter of taste and preference. If you are using standard 20lb paper to type and want a tool to annotate changes and edits, a red or blue pen or pencil would be recommended. Fountain pens might bleed or feather on standard paper so I would say keeping a stash of pencils would be classic, in keeping with your typewriter. Maybe even a red/blue pencil or a mechanical pencil?

Harvest Thick Red/Blue

  • You might also want to consider a copy holder or other method for displaying a previous page while typing. For a vintage look, this one would be particularly nice.

Phil asks:

Looking to pickup a small ballpoint pen to go in my wife’s wristlet (Vera Bradley Pushlock). My thoughts were Monteverde Poquito or maybe Zebra SL-F1.  Gel is okay, but she prefers a no fuss tool above all else.

(via Jet Pens Blog)
(via Jet Pens Blog)

I confess that I don’t think I could pull together a better assortment of pocketable/purse-able pens than Jet Pens’ Mini Pens post. And I agree that the Monteverde Poquito Stylus would also be a great choice and it has the added bonus of the stylus at one end for digital devices. If your wife prefers ballpoint pens, she might also like the Kaweco Sport in the ballpoint model. It takes the Zebra 4C refills like the Zebra SL-F1. And, of course, you can’t go wrong with a classic Parker Jotter. Best of luck, Phil!

4 Comments on Ask The Desk: Typist’s Desk and Purse Pens

  1. Bought the Monteverde poquito pen it’s so cute and has a nice nib. It’s like the fountain pen version of a space pen-silver bullet shape. I think it will work great as an elegant evening bag pen. Can’t wait for an occasion!

  2. I own one of those bullet pens with a clip. It lives in my wallet, clipped along the inside fold, waiting to spring into service should I ever find myself somewhere without a pen. Well, as long as I have my wallet, I’ll never be without a pen. You get the idea. I have nothing nice to say about the pen. It’s a ballpoint–I hate ballpoints. It’s ugly and plain. The only redeeming quality is that it works, even after riding around under my butt for years. This post made me remember I have it, which made me think to test it. It writes just fine for a ballpoint. If you want small and indestructible this is your pen.

    • Thanks so much for the insight. I am never a fan of traditional ballpoints but I know other folks do. Pens should be a joy to use so it’s probably worth investigating something that is both functional and appealing.

  3. Thanks so much for the advice on equipping a typewriter desk. I particularly like the idea of using a clip on lamp; in fact, I’m using one now!

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