Restoration of the Brother XL1010 Typewriter

My latest restoration project was the first time I had a Made in Portugal typewriter in my ‘shop’.

Typewriter Brother XL1010 repair

This machine is a Brother XL1010 made in Algueirão, Mem Martins, a suburb of Lisbon where the Messa company had its factory. In the ’70s, Messa was building typewriters for several different brands and while the Japanese Brother was moving its production to other products — that were technologically more advanced — they outsourced this low-end machines to other companies so they could complete their lineup of typewriters.

This machine looks exactly like the Messa 2000S This Brother XL1010 was also the smaller brother of the 3 different models, the XL1012 and the XL1016 — the two last digits indicating the width of the platen. I would like also to think that the XL was an attempt to refer to Lisbon as this city acronym is usually LX. Maybe a bit of Japanese humor?

Typewriter Diagnosis

This typewriter presented a few problems, most of them due to the lack of use:

— A couple of stiff keys that were easy to fix with cleaning with WD-40 and some machine oil — the Y and ! keys getting stuck every time they were pressed. They were rubbing the left guide just before hitting the paper and got stuck. A misalignment quickly fixed it by gentle pressure.

— The margin release key bar was not connected. For some reason, the stop ring in the connector was missing. This was easily fixed with a new stop.

After removing the back cover, I found that the vibration reduction foam had disappeared from the joints and it added another task: to find a replacement.

The remaining disassembling of the external panels is straightforward — Three screws on each side panel, with the middle one also serving as a fitting spring for the top cover. In the back there’s a middle brown service panel that comes out easily — you can remove it either before the side panels or after you remove the side panels — and that is just fixed with a spring mechanism.

There was also a small misalignment of the vertical shift. This is controlled by two side screws on either side of the typewriter under the carriage — move the carriage to the other side when working with them. These screws and bolts are fragile. Loosen the bolt first before trying to turn the screw or you’ll break the screw.

After disassembling, I proceeded to clean and identify the repairs that the typewriter needed.

Cleaning of the typewriter was done with WD40, and although many disagree with its use, I just feel it is very useful to unstick this old machines. If something is starting to get stiff, a bit of WD40 will loosen it and you’ll quickly feel the typewriter coming back to life. After you should clean all excess and you can use sewing oil to lubricate the moving joints.

For the typebars that were misaligned and were getting stuck, force them with your hands. Apply a little pressure and try to see if they keep getting stuck. Work your way applying more strength and testing. Don’t rush. Use your hands to feel the applied force instead of using tools. Start light and increase the force applied to the typebar. This only takes a few seconds to do but if you overdo it you can break them and then there’s no easy repair anymore.

the full photo set of the restoration is on my flickrAfter everything is fixed you just need to close it in the reverse order. The Machine is so simple that you won’t find any problems with it. But if you try this on your own, always take photos of all the process. They will be helpful when you are lost.


The Brother XL1010 is an odd typewriter. It is spartan like it was designed out of a soviet block country. Everything is there just to do its function, not to please the user. The Olivetti typewriters on the other hand were designed to please the user. The joyful of the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s is very clear on the Italian machines. This Brother is the opposite. It works, it is industrial, it is NO FUN, all work, and it is loud and clunky — the carriage shift is incomprehensible in a machine of the mid-’70s that isn’t a ultra-portable.If you want a ‘typer’ this can be an interesting typewriter. It is very easy to open and clean and it is easy to service too. But all this comes at a price. All is rough. You work the machine like a you’re driving a pre-WWII car — double clutch included. But there are positives — otherwise you wouldn’t be searching for one to buy — the font is nice and the keys are well designed. That alone is probably the selling point of the machine. Ergonomically they are great, even if they don’t have key levers on par with the ergonomic top — a mechanism that kept the keys level during depression would be great, but that would remove the simplicity of the machine.

In the end, this typewriter is a very interesting machine and it is cheaper than other models although their production run was short. If you are looking for a reliable machine that can type way without problems this is a great catch.

Price for the Brother XL1010 — 40€

  • It includes a new typewriter ribbon (not the one used in the above photo because that was almost dry as you can see from the typing test)
  • It includes the typewriter’s case (see flickr photos for more details)
  • Shipping not included in price.

If you are interested you can contact me at

Why I’ve put typewriters into my writing routine

There was a time when the typewriter ruled the earth and the dinosaurs were roaming into oblivion.

Olivettii Lettera 22 typewriter and Olivettii Lettera 37 typewriter

But that was a time when the typewriter liberated writing. It was the easiest and most direct way to put down on paper a structured text that could be given to anyone without being ashamed of the handwriting.

Yes, typewriters limited the typography available to the user, and all they had was monospaced fonts. But they allowed people to register their thoughts in unprecedented ways. They become a tool to organise the mind. The typewriter as a writing instrument became the tool of writers and journalists as much as the fountain pen or the pencil and pad of paper.

Test your writing speed at typeracerIn some cases, this was taken to extremes. Jack Kerouac used a typewriter to draft ‘On the road’ and was known to write at speeds in excess of 100 words per minute—I myself type on computers around 60wpm and find speeds over this to be very difficult in the typewriter—and did it on a scroll roll of continuous paper See picturesduring a three-week stay at a friends’ house.

— Are typewriters dead?

I don’t think so, I’ve managed to acquire a few typewriters recently see pictures on my Flickr account. Two of them are those beautiful Olivetti from the post-WW2 period when the Italian company hired many architects to design their products. They work flawlessly and provide you with a writing tool that makes it easy to draft documents without worrying with editing.

The biggest problem I feel I have when typing directly into the computer is that I’m constantly being distracted by email, by social networks or by some new kitten video from my someone in the virtual extended list of online ‘friends’.

Even when I use focusing tools I use Isolator on the Mac, I end up distracted by the editing possibilities of the tool. You pause for a moment and immediately you start thinking that you could edit the previous paragraph in some way. This editing task is a deterrent to the writing flow. That’s probably why so many participants of the Nanowrimo competition use typewriters. In this way, they don’t stop their thoughts to edit text. They just punch the keys and put their ideas down on paper. Editing is for later. Going back to Kerouac, when he wrote ‘On the road’ he even didn’t use paragraphs breaks Or used them sparsely to save time while going through the 36 meters of the paper.

— So you use typewriters?

I mainly use them as a note taking tool, the same way I use a notebook and a pen. I always have a typewriter on my working desk near my computer and I load a new clean sheet of paper every morning where I just put the date. When I’m reading something—a paper or a book, or even a website that I need to reference—I just make a small note—usually two or three lines of text—and move on doing what I have to do. In this way at the end of the day I collected a lot of notes that are already ‘printed’. I can reread them and organise them better in this way. I don’t need to fight my handwriting and if I want I can give it to someone and be confident they will understand the notes.

— Should you use a typewriter?

Probably no. If you have one, don’t use it, send it to me.