The Hall Typewriter

The Case

Click the Hall graphic to return to the Hall index page.

This website was never intended as a place for woodwork. But sometimes, it can just not be avoided. At some point we'll all run into a Hammond with a bad board, or a Blick with a damaged case. Same here. The original mahogany case that came with this Hall missed the top panel.

The challenge here was not how to fix it. Any book about restoring antique furniture will explain what you have to do. The problem here was finding the right piece of wood to do it with...

The experience I had in my search for a 19th century piece of mahogany was so wonderful, that in stead of telling you about how to saw and sand and nail and glue, I'll tell you how I ran into this mahogany panel on one sunny Saturday morning. I set out with the remainders of the case in a shopping bag, a copy of the Hall manual and a couple of pictures of what the machine should look like.
I tried a several antique shops with restoration workshops, but the owners didn't even want to look. They do have samples of antique wood, but keep it for their own restoration jobs and refuse to sell this stuff.
Finally, I ended up in a very small shop, with a great old fashioned workshop behind it, full of hand tools and full of pieces of wood. I explained to the lady in the shop that I needed a piece of mahogany and she gave me the same look.
"I don't think he'll be willing to sell you that, even if he has it," she said and went on to repeat the same story. Antique wood is rare, so only if I would let them do the restoration, would he be willing to provide the wood.
I showed her the case, and a picture of the Hall, and at that point she got interested. She'd never seen one before, wanted to know how old it was, and how rare and she started giving me tips on where to find the wood.
"Yeah, well," I said, "I may end up having to buy a new piece, but that would show, wouldn't it."
"No, you shouldn't do that,"she said. "Hang on. I'll ask."
She went to the back to talk to her husband (the restoration genius) and came back.
"He's coming. Don't take that as a good sign yet, but he's curious."
I displayed the case on a table, put the picture of the Hall next to it and waited. And there he was. He looked at it, looked at the pictures and was instantly enthousiastic. What a nice machine! How old is it? I've never seen one. He looked at the case and said: "Is it English?"
'No, American," I said.
"But the wood is English mahogany. No question."
He walked back into the workshop and started pulling pieces of wood from a rack. He came back in with a piece of dark mahogany and put it on top of the case.
"That's it," he said. "That's amazing. Did you know that there are 35 different kinds of mahogany? And this matches perfectly, even the color. It's even the same age. Late 19th Century. And it's 8 millimeters, just like the case. It was made for it."
I asked: "Does that mean you're also willing to sell it to me?"
"Sure," he said. "You're not going to find this in another million years. Give me 35 guilders (17 dollars)."
Next he started giving me tips on how to attach it and taking me around some of his mahogany furniture to let me feel how it should feel when I'm done.
Finally he gave me the piece of wood and said:`" There's just one condition."
"What's that?"
"When you're done, I want you to come back and show me this thing. I'd love to see it when it's ready."
Promise! I went home, sawed the piece to size and nailed and glued it onto the sides. After sanding it into a perfect fit and waxing it, it looks like this.