'Much bigger than expected': Saskatoon typewriter repairman's hobby in high demand
SASKATOON -- At 10-years-old a young Thom Cholowski acquired his first typewriter with the intent to repair the machine.
Unaware of the specialized tools and equipment needed, he admits the typewriter "didn't stand a chance."
Fast forward 30 years and Cholowski is now getting calls from across Canada as word spread quickly that he was scooping up typewriters wherever he could, repairing and restoring them.
"I do have a wait list. I do receive calls daily and inquiries from all over the world … People looking for specific machines or from people that want machines restored," Cholowski said.
"This is a part time that's quickly becoming something much bigger than I expected."
He has amassed more than 200 typewriters between the ones he keeps at his Saskatoon home and those he's working on for clients.
Depending on the machine it takes him anywhere between three to eight hours to take apart and examine 2,500 parts on the typewriter, and put it back together. If he needs a spare part, he's got his own shop where he can craft anything he needs.
"I have a machine shop where I can fabricate new parts and pieces, I have donor machines but everything comes apart and then rebuilt from the inside out," he said.
Typewriter repair and restoration may no longer make it on the college curriculum, but as Cholowski has witnessed, his self-taught trade is in high demand. It's a trade the owners of Soul Paper in Riversdale appreciated when Cholowski helped them with a couple of restorations for their business.
"They're steel, plated, they last forever and Thom knows that and that's why he restores them," said Alexsandor Pozsonyi.
"There are only a few guys in the world that have the affinity and love for these machines."
Of his personal collection Cholowski found a 1934 Canadian Pacific Underwood, a telegrapher's typewriter. He said he found it in an antique shop in Regina five minutes before closing time.
"Every train station in Canada had one of these and that's the only one I've ever seen," he said.
He said because the older typewriters were built solid and to last, most people who owned a typewriter didn't throw them away, rather typewriters were stowed away.
"Now they're not in working condition and they need a day at the spa but there's still a lot out there and there's still a lot more to be found."