Eine Kleine SurfMetall

A couple weeks ago I ventured into the mist-shrouded hills of San Francisco where I bought a 1961 East German Rheinmetall KsT from a pair of hill sprites (or Houses of the Holy photo shoot extras). I continue to clean and tinker with the KsT. I got spools that fit on its three-pronged spindle and went to town typing.


I sure love the way this Rheinmetall KsT types.  Solid and classy with a nice snappy *snack* and a big, readable imprint. I am riding a wave of smooth class. I am very glad that it’s got a QWERTY keyboard.

I recently cleaned and re-ribboned a 1924 Corona 3, and I was not a fan of that particular machine.  Beautiful and strange though it was, typing on the Corona 3 was an alarming experience.  I felt as though I were in a Model T on a dirt road that might at any given moment break an axle and fly into a million pieces. And me with no seat belt. And the threat of a rigid steering column straight into the sternum.  What a rattly old ride that Corona 3 was. It typed just fine in a wobbly sort of way once it was de-gummed, but I was relieved to return it to its owner. I can’t believe I said that about a typewriter.


On the other hand, the Rheinmetall KsT is a delight to use.  It cleaned up so beautifully and types so competently.  I am discovering that I really love the mid-sized portables of the 1950s and 1960s. I also really like big heavy standards, no matter the age.

I removed the foil dealer’s sticker that was plastered on the typewriter’s forehead. I know that this sticker is a part of the typewriter’s history, but I couldn’t get over how bad it looked.  I also knew that it would compete with the cool Rheinmetall badge that would soon be re-attached to the ribbon cover.

I carefully pealed the foil dealer sticker from the side while I warmed the sticker’s adhesive underbelly with a  hair dryer.


Fortunately, I did not damage either the paint on the ribbon cover or the foil sticker which I relocated to the the interior side of the ribbon cover:


Quality and Origin

I think that I have made some headway into the mystery of the “S” in the triangle on the back of the Rheinmetall. A commenter on the last post, mentioned that he had seen similar markings on East German weapons and that set me off on a chase.


The S in a triangle appears to be a quality mark used in the GDR and the numerical information below it refers to the origin of the product.

“S” = “Sonderklasse für sehr gute Qualität (Special class for very good quality)”

“09” = The first two digits indicate the territorial base key of the district. 09 is the district of Erfurt where the Sömmerda factory was located.

“2552” = operating point / production facility, perhaps the Sömmerda Rheinmetall factory itself.

Vertical Alignment

The KsT had a few little issues that bothered me. One was that the vertical alignment was a bit off:


Weirdly, I don’t think this lower case “h” has a serif at the top of its stem.

Ted Munk has a couple really good posts on adjusting vertical type alignment on both basket shift and carriage shift typewriters.  Unfortunately, this carriage shift Rheinmetall doesn’t seem to have the adjustment points that his carriage shift machines have.

I had taken the platen knobs and side covers off for cleaning and de-gumming of the carriage release button. I noticed two interesting screws on either side of the platen that seem to limit shifting. I loosened the lock nuts and made small adjustments to see what would happen.


These lock nuts and adjustment screws are found on either side of the platen

Yeah, Baby!


After the fact, I found a West German Alpina service manual in the repair documents library at Typewriter Database. Funny how the schreibmaschine is typing “schreibmaschine”:



My Google Translate German is a little rusty, but I think it says: 01.0202 and 01.0209 of Fig. 1 are the adjustment points for upper and lower case letters. The West German Alpina appears to be very similar to my East German Rheinmetall – at least in terms of vertical text alignment.

Filling Key Depressions with Sugru

One thing that really bothered me was the empty “D” key.  It looked like a missing tooth.


I pulled out the Sugru:


And fixed that thing:


Missing Handle

The carrying case is in rough shape and the handle is missing.


I found this site that sells luggage handles – hmmm – great selection of handles!

B-bird Is the Word

This Rheinmetall KsT has a variant logo badge made of thin metal which is very different from the typical Rheinmetall logo. The badge had fallen off some time ago and had gotten lodged inside the machine.  I could see the ghostly outline of where the badge had been before it fell off.

I reapplied the Rheinmetall badge with its jaunty surfing font to the ribbon cover. I used Krazy Glue and that made me krazy nervous, but I think I positioned it in the right place.


Ah, SurfMetall – such laid-back swagger! I pay tribute to your überkoolness.


Let’s go surfin’ now…


Everybody’s learning how…


Come on and safari with me.

I leave you now with a little surfmetall:

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.