The Mystery Machine

It was our anniversary, and my husband got me a funny card that pretty much sums it all up:


He was a dear and took the kids to Maker Faire for the afternoon and left me to my own devices.  I lay around the house eating bon-bons and cruising Craigslist and came to a San Francisco listing for a strange-to-me typewriter.  The seller wasn’t sure what kind of typewriter it was, and it had no indication of branding on it.

It was very mysterious: a portable with no badge, no decal, no logo. It looked German. I did an image search at Google for “german portable typewriter” and spotted similar machines. Ah ha. Rheinmetall KsT.

The typewriter looked kind of horrible in the dark Craigslist picture, and that perversely whetted my appetite. I snuck out of the house and headed for San Francisco.  I ended up in the vertical hills of the Excelsior District where even automatic transmissions flinch and the streets are as wide as goat paths.  I found the address of the seller, parked in the middle of the street and fretted. I worried that the seller might be a Craigslist killer who preyed on unsuspecting typewriter collectors. I guiltily regretted not mentioning to my family that I was out on a typewriter hunt.

As I approached it, the house was invisible among huge trees and bushes and a tall wooden fence.  I apprehensively lifted the huge rusty knocker on the gate and immediately it was opened by a golden child, maybe around 10 years old. She had been waiting for me. As she opened the gate, I caught a glimpse of a magical vista that’s only seen in Northern California: a cottage shaded by an enormous cypress at the base of a hill, rocky steps, wind chimes, a mossy deck with an old couch where a second beautiful child slept, Tibetan flags, a laundry basket full of stones.

I told the child that I was there for the typewriter and without a word she turned and made her way down to the cottage. When she returned with the typewriter, she asked me if I wanted the case. Sure. Back down the steps and back with the case.  I gave her the money which she took silently, and I thoughtfully loaded my car.  I never saw an adult. Was the child human? Did I just buy a typewriter from a hill spirit? Mysteries like this are all part of life’s rich pageant.

When I got home, I looked over my purchase.  It was so much better looking in person:


I hadn’t realized that the ribbon cover and  paper table were blue – in the Craigslist picture it had looked gray. The typewriter was very dirty, but appealing in its compact curves.

X Over It’s excellent post Post-war Rheinmetalls (1945-1962) is very informative.  This Rheinmetall is missing the super-classy Rheinmetall 3D badge on the front. If you look closely at the ribbon cover, you can see a shadow of where a sticker had been.  This is probably one of those KsT variants that had a Rheinmetall sticker rather than a 3D badge.


Per Robert Messenger, KsT stands for “Kleinschreibmaschine mit Tabulator” – or small typewriter with tabulator.

Serial number 564222 – stamped next to right ribbon spool.


I date it to about 1961 per the Typewriter Database

I found the carriage lock, released it, and tested the typewriter. The only thing wrong with it appeared to be a carriage release button that kept getting stuck – probably a gummy dirt problem.


Fur Ball

The typewriter appears to have been over-loved by a cat.  I imagine that some happy feline spent many a pleasant afternoon curled up in the type basket.

The Rheinmetall KsT user manual is a delight – it assumes a very competent and somewhat fearless operator. Here are instructions for removing the carriage and type bars (!):

click to view larger - Rheinmetall KsT User Manual, The Classic Typewriter Page manuals archive

click to view larger – Rheinmetall KsT User Manual, The Classic Typewriter Page manuals archive

Well, what are you going to do? I can’t resist a carriage like this and this is a general user manual after all, not a service manual. Check out X Over It’s very entertaining KsT video.




Ghost in the Machine Episode II: The Phantom Name Badge

I released the carriage locks on either side and jiggled the carriage free from the machine.  I used my air blower to clear out the layers of cat hair, dust and dander that coated the interior behind the segment.


The congealed grease had a thick layer of embedded eraser crumbs that I scrubbed out.

Hey what’s this? Oh!


I swear I am not planting these things for a good story!


It was jammed inside the guts in a way that it did not interfere with the mechanics at all.  How many years had the name plate lain there, waiting for me?  I would never have seen the hidden name badge without removing the carriage.

I carefully pulled it out – a little bent piece of thin metal (not foil or paper) with dried adhesive on the back but no generally no worse for wear.


What a jaunty, surfer-style font. A German surf-metal band inspired by the Beach Boys would have this logo.

From the Teachings of Blender:


If your typewriter is missing a part, check inside the machine first.



I’ll need to re-secure the Rheinmetall badge somehow – I am considering Super Glue for permanent adhesion.

This typewriter didn’t have any spools when I bought it.  It needed three-hole spools, and all I had were four-hole ribbon spools.


I ordered some “Rheinmetall KsT” spools online.  Unfortunately they didn’t fit.  They were labeled Adler and the holes were too small for the spooling spindles. Drat!  I really wanted to test the typing on this thing.

Then I remembered something. I had seen a stray couple of typewriter spools at Moe’s recently.  They didn’t seem to belong to any typewriter and were just laying around near her typewriter collection.  I was dropping off a newly-cleaned Corona 3 at Moe’s shop that belongs to her friend Alan, so I investigated the orphaned spools. Hurray!  Three holes! Moe graciously gave them to me and they fit, they fit!

While I was at the shop, Moe told me that Mozo’s Antique Search and Rescue had been featured in the local paper last week. I am so fortunate to live near such a great place.


I am still cleaning the KsT, but it’s looking great after a preliminary wipe down.  I am going to cautiously remove the foil dealer’s sticker from the front with a hair dryer to loosen the adhesive.  I plan to re-locate it to inside the ribbon cover.  I just hate seeing it on this poor typewriter’s forehead.



What “S 09/2552” mean?  It’s on the back of the typewriter.  Could it refer to Sömmerda where the Rheinmetall factory was?


I still need to re-attach the newly found Rheinmetall badge and figure out a solution to my missing shift lock key top. I might make a silicone mold and use a thermoplastic like InstaMorph to create a key top. Stay tuned.


10 thoughts on “The Mystery Machine

  1. Great score from the hill elves, and what an awesome badge to find safely inside! Love that typestyle (:

    Wow, Moe is holding an old “novelty loupe” in the newspaper photo, haven’t seen one of those in years. Paper companies used to make them as giveaways to print shops to display (they’re about 20 times the size of an actual usable folding loupe).😀


  2. Very entertaining! I do love a good story about finding and exploring a typewriter (and a slightly exotic one at that).

    I’m pretty sure the symbol on the back of the typewriter has something to do with the socialist production system in East Germany. We should ask Bernie. 🙂


  3. Nick Merritt says:

    Great story — you may find if you were to return to that address that it doesn’t exist, a sort of “Brigadoon” in SF. A lovely little machine! And that Rheinmetall badge (amazing it was there!) is almost cartoony. Love it. I look forward to seeing how it looks when you’re done with it.

    I don’t know about the S in the triangle marking, but I think Richard is on the right track — Eastern bloc-made weapons were marked with different symbols to denote country of manufacture, and I think East German guns were marked with a 3 in a triangle. So this may be the same idea.


    • Thank you for pointing me in this direction. I found this page about German rifle manufacturing and according to this site, the letter S inside a triangle was an East German quality mark.

      Next to the triangle S in the image on this page, it says, “Zeichen der guten bis hervorragenden Qualitat, Suhl – DDR, 1951-1961” or “Sign of good to excellent quality, Suhl – DDR (Deutsche Demokratische Republik), 1951-1961”

      And I found a Wikipedia page on quality marks of the GDR:

      Which says in English translation:
      “At the bottom of the quality label made ​​numerical information relating to the origin of the product. There are several types of notation, a common variation is in the way “01/1452″. The first two digits indicate here the territorial base key of the district at (01 = Rostock), the following 4 digits are the operating point (1452 = VEB MTW).”


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