A Typewriter Service Tech's Review on the LEGO Typewriter
Nobody asked for this, yet I shall deliver nonetheless. Lego announced their new set, the Lego Typewriter, last month. It first became available for sale July 1st, and as a typewriter service technician by profession, it was not a set I could pass up. I placed an order on their website early on July 1st, and patiently waited a mere 5 days until it arrived. Honestly, I didn't have the time to be playing with Legos, but it was a procrastination temptation I couldn't resist.
The set itself was much larger than I anticipated, and it included a very large instruction manual (which I will address later), plus a booklet of a letter by Thomas Kristensen, the current Lego head, printed in over 40 languages. That was a cool touch. The sand green colored exterior was also a lovely touch. A unique retro-looking color that seems to harken back to a handful of actual typewriter models I feel this relates to a lot--mainly the Royal Signet of the Great Depression.
In fact, most of the machine seemed to draw from Royal, and perhaps a few elements from mid-century Smith Coronas too, like the carriage return leaver shape, platen knobs, and type guide. Despite its classic design, this is the newest machine I have ever laid hands on, manufactured in 2021, certainly newer then the 2019/20 Royal Classic.
The typewriter itself is advertised as functioning, which it does, if you typed Morse Code. Each key is pressable, but only actuates a single type bar. The typing space only consists of about 25-30 characters per line, not very generous, but not altogether underwhelming. As far as weight, it is a featherlight. It certainly fits into the lightweight ultraportable category of machines for that alone. Also placing it among the ultraportables is its three bank construction, however it lacks a numerical keyset, as well as a figure key for access to punctuation. That may come as a drawback to some users. In addition to that, it appears the shift keys, backspace, and even spacebar are merely decretive elements. No doubt cost saving methods in addition to the lack of a margin system, line spacing, or even a bell. I won't hold that against the integrity of the machine though, seeing as those same features were commonly lacking on machines during the Great Depression.
The key action of the machine can only be described as spongey. It has a very short throw, much like the Underwood 3 banks of the late 1910s and early 1920s, and an action like a Lettera 22. The rebound is very slow, so don't expect to set any typing land speed records with this machine. The lack of a usable spacebar is also an unusual detriment, and feels more blocked off than anything. Though it is not uncommon for ultraportables to have some of these very same issues.
Construction wise, the machine is entirely made from plastic. No joke, there is hardly a dot of metal save for some springs deep inside. Despite this, the machine itself feels decently rigid, and not overtly delicate, yet care should be taken when handling. Service-wise, with the machine being so new, there shouldn't really be any issues with finding resources or replacement parts.
The machine does ship with a ribbon, but it seems the user once again gets cheated, as it is all together far under the standard length of 12 yards, sitting at just over 7 inches. Normally that wouldn't be a massive headache, but the one that shipped with mine was completely dry, and as I talk to others who have purchased the Lego Typewriter, theirs seem to all be dry too. Nothing that can't be replaced, but it should be mentioned that Lego either forgot to ink them, or stored them horrendously. At the end of the day, the ribbon really doesn't matter since the ring and cylinder alignment is so bad, the type slug doesn't actually strike the platen. Though I can't really say it has a poor type impression if it never imprints to begin with, now can I?
And finally, I think I should mention the shipping. I have never ever encountered shipping this bad on a typewriter ever. It was fast, but at what cost? The entire machine arrived to me in PIECES. Not a single part was joined with another, over 2000 parts all in disarray. It seems that Lego's shipping methods are inherently and knowingly flawed, as they have seen fit to include a lengthy booklet on how to reassemble the machine should it get damaged in shipping. At the end of the day, or three days, the machine came together alright. So with the specs out of the way, let's talk mechanics.
The key leaver construction is very odd. They are situated on a row of three bearing rods in a staggered pattern, rather than along a single bearing rod all in a row, with curves at the end to accommodate key pitch. In fact, the entire pitch of the layout is solely determined by the placement of the key levers. This causes some discrepancy with the evenness of each key press, but it is nothing too noticeable. I did want to point out the rubber bumper bits on each lever that acts sort of like a Universal Bar Spring (UBS not to be confused with USB). The idea is ingenious in its space saving capacity, but not so much in the realm of mechanical tolerance. But hey, it works. "Good enough" is the story of my life.