Handyman sets out to save them from extinction

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Kirk Jackson explains why using a manual typewriter is almost like playing a piano, and how it inspires him.

Nashville Tennessean

Nearly four years ago, longtime collector Kirk Jackson happened across a dusty, old manual typewriter in an antiques shop — and that turned into a full-blown obsession

He’s only 42, but handyman Kirk Jackson has always been an old-school guy who loves old stuff.

He collects old oil lamps and old coins. He fixes and preserves old furniture and old machines. He uses roller and hand brushes instead of spray guns to paint houses. He keeps his broken-down 1980 Jeep parked next to his work shed because he likes to look at it.

So it was natural four years ago that he was drawn to an old, dirty case in the Dead People’s Things antique store in Goodlettsville during a shopping trip.

Handyman Kirk Jackson keeps most of his 220 manual typewriters in this work shed about 100 yards behind his Goodlettsville home. (Photo: Larry McCormack / The Tennessean)

Jackson hoped it was an old record player, but when he opened the case, a filthy 1954 Remington manual typewriter was inside. The keys still worked though.

“It was intrigue at first sight,” he said.

Jackson got the store owner to come down from $50 to $35 on the price. He brought home his new-old typewriter, blew away dust and dirt with an air compressor, tapped out some sentences and made a bunch of typing mistakes. 

After a few paragraphs, something clicked for Jackson.

He started buying manual typewriters. He taught himself how to repair them. He scoured the internet for parts, and he joined online groups of manual typewriter enthusiasts and collectors.

He started selling some typewriters that he has cleaned up and fixed. He started repairing other people’s typewriters. He launched his Nashville Typewriter company and Instagram page.

He has more than 220 manual typewriters scattered all over his house and in his work shed.

“I can’t deny there’s an obsession with it. There absolutely is,” he said, shrugging. “I’m not apologetic for it.”

Jackson said he has fallen in love with the purity of writing on a manual typewriter. No autocorrect. No internet notifications or other distractions popping up on a laptop screen. No news alerts.

Just you, your typewriter, your ideas and the music that’s made with the clacking of the keys.

“It’s a very visceral and passionate experience for me,” he said. “It puts me in a different place than any other writing.” 

Jackson now feels he has a duty to preserve the manual typewriter so others can feel that same connection to writing. 

“I don’t want these things to die, man. They’re not making these things anymore. It’s a beautiful part of our history.”

After some initial hesitation —  the machines seemed to be taking over their house —  Jackson’s wife and teen son are on board.

“Kirk is not some guy who collects dusty old typewriters much like one collects stamps or toenail clippings,” said his wife, Kimberly, a food industry executive.

“He has a heart of gold and a vision. … He has a gift he wants to share with the world, and the typewriter happens to be his instrument of choice, no different than a pianist or guitarist or any artist, really.” 

To that end, Jackson said he tries to keep prices low. To clean and restore old typewriters, Jackson charges $75 to $100, and an additional $25 an hour if the job’s complicated.

The most expensive typewriter he restored and sold for $535 is a 1952 Olympia SM3 that types in cursive.

He sometimes gives away typewriters or fixes them for others for free.

“It’s a passion thing,” his wife said. “It’s more to help somebody than it is about making a sale or getting paid to do it. For him, it’s more about love and to help other people get a functioning typewriter.”

Do you know someone else with a passion project? Reach Brad Schmitt at [email protected] or 615-259-8384 or on Twitter @bradschmitt.

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