The Printype Saga: Chapter Six

To be honest, I would have been disappointed if my Oliver No. 9 from eBay had arrived in functional condition – it would have deprived me of many hours of pleasant tinkering.  I chose this Oliver primarily because she didn’t work.

However. It does break my heart a bit that she was dropped on her head sometime during her trip from the Midwest USA to California.  She arrived in a loosely-packed and damaged box with a bent right tower.

Fortunately, her cast iron hide saved her. At the base of the typebar towers are cast iron pillars that I hope protected her delicate insides from harm.

I have gotten the Oliver to a point where she is almost typing. Despite a repaired mainspring and new draw cord, her carriage is not advancing on typing. I have noted that her ribbon vibrator does not freely jump forward and back the way the ribbon vibrator in this video does.

However if I manually nudge the ribbon vibrator forward and back during typing, the carriage will advance.

I made a couple long-winded videos documenting my problem. Here’s my video of my partially disassembled Oliver that describes the problem:

Here’s another video showing the under side of the machine.

OK – that’s five minutes of your life that you will never get back, but maybe you can help me. There’s an audible click when I push the universal bar up (and when the ribbon vibrator moves back).  What is the source of that click?

For reference here are two pictures of the Oliver’s original condition on arrival. Remember: she was really bad.


BEFORE: The ribbon vibrator and escapement mechanism were dirty, rusted and frozen

There's a fair amount of rust underneath and parts that seems like they should move, don't move.

BEFORE: There was a fair amount of rust underneath and parts that seemed like they should move, didn’t move.

After cleaning and de-rusting, the escapement mechanism seem to be turning smoothly. The rusty spots under the machine are cleaned up, but I am not sure how much movement I should expect under there.

Here are my two questions for the Typosphere:

  1. What is the most likely cause of the stiff ribbon vibrator problem: obstruction by dirt / grime / rust or a piece of the mechanics interfering?
    1. Could something important have bent or jarred loose when she was dropped?
    2. If you think it’s a gunk problem, which product should I use to get things moving?  I have been using denatured alcohol and PB Blaster.
  2. Where should I look for a culprit if my ribbon vibrator is not moving freely?
    1. What is the likely source of that audible click heard when the universal bar moves up and when the ribbon vibrator is pulled back?

If you have any thoughts, please let me know in the comments. I am determined to sort this out with help from the typewriter community.

And finally: I know that this is probably some form of typewriter abuse and that somebody will call the Society for the Ethical Treatment of Typewriters on me, but I threw a ribbon in the old girl and typed out a message by nudging the ribbon vibrator with each character:


Those are some very bent typebars.

25 thoughts on “The Printype Saga: Chapter Six

  1. So here are a few possible points of interest to look at;
    That oval area you pointed out has a tendency to rust and stick, though most of its movement is actually from shifting the carriage forward or backwards. That piece should, upon pressing a key, go downwards smoothly and easily, then upon depressing it should go back up just as easy. That click might be you pushing it too far back up, as there is a point where the ribbon vibrator can keep going backwards when it should be stopped. Next, youll find a hook slightly more towards the front of the machine. youll see, from the bottom of the machine as you had it held, the two nuts which hold it in place. This hook is what causes each key and spacebar press to pull the segment with the oval piece down. If its loose, it would cause the issue you have where hitting keys does not actually cause the vibrator/escapement to go far enough. From the picture you have, those nuts look to be loose.
    I have the wonderful experience of having taken apart to every individual screw and nut and piece an Oliver 5, and the Oliver’s never really changed all that much. As of current, I am rebuilding an Oliver 11 in the same way. If the above does not help your issues, I would be happy to make a post about all the mechanizations of the Oliver as I piece the 11 back together.


      • Tyler – your observation was spot-on. I tightened the nut on the hook (“Space-Lever Nut”?) and found that my space bar began to respond. There’s a sweet spot – not too tight and not too loose – where my ribbon vibrator moves with full range when striking the space bar. Amazing. The carriage now advances when striking the space bar. I’ll post an update and maybe a video tomorrow. Thank you for this. Now I just need to address the lack of carriage advancement when striking the keys. Let me know if you have thoughts on that.


    • Thank you so much for these suggestions. I will be tinkering this evening and reading through your notes carefully. I may have follow-up questions.
      I recently read your Underwood 5 escapement restoration post. I love those kind of nuts & bolts & pictures posts. If you take photos of the Oliver 11 as you piece her back together, that would be a great read.


  2. On the carriage advancement per the strike of a key, you can subdivide the issues possible areas. First is what can be easily seen underneath the body of the machine; the universal bar, as you pointed out. Since it is in a fixed position on its fulcrum, there are but a few issues which can affect it. These are, towit; The large spring which pushes the bar back upwards after a keystroke may have too much tension applied upon it. This may not be the case depending on if, when you forced the bar back up and heard the click, the bar was moving into its natural rest position. If the bar was being forced beyond its rest position, then this might be the issue. Second, on the universal bar about halfway towards the front of the machine there will be some little pincers of a sort, designed to at the keystroke advance the ribbon. These have a tendency to rust and might be the source of the click you hear, though doubtful as I believe I can see them moving in your video. Third is the spring plate on the same structure as the large spring. This spring plate is both a stop to the universal bars downward movement, and help in pushing it back up at the full stroke. Check to see that this is not interfered with or too far up. The final thing which could affect the universal bar part of the issue is the oval area itself, if there is perhaps too much friction from rust or the small square piece inside the oval itself is missing for some reason. The rust would not truly effect the keystroke much, however, I am simply listing it as a possible area to look. If all these things check out, as I believe they most probably will, your issue lies with the escapement mechanism itself in the deep heart of the machine. I will take a look at that sometime today and post another list of possible issues.


    • Thank you for your help with this so far – I’ll look into each of your suggestions a little later today. I’ll be posting a short video as well showing 1. carriage advancement when the space bar is struck 2. lack of carriage advancement and ribbon vibrator behavior when regular keys are struck 3. Under the machine view of mechanics during space bar striking and during regular key striking.


    • Addendum: Your escapement mechanism is more than likely fully functional. If your spacebar is working and does properly advance the carriage and lift the ribbon vibrator, then the issues stems from something below the inverted T bar (oval piece). That should help narrow down the issue even more.


  3. Steven says:

    I uncover an Oliver #5 in the attic on an old Victorian house. 1903. I love working on this old machine. I have fixed the broken main spring and A broken draw cord . I do not know how to remove the rock hard rollers and platen. Any help you could offer would be a great help. This old Typerwriters has been in my family house since the 1950 and the original owner left the Typerwriter in the attic , along with 100s of old books and desks and items from the turn of the century. Took me 50 some years to realize how cool this old stuff is and how much fun it is to bring back a part of history. Thanks for ant help on this project. Steven


    • Olivers are wonderful old typewriters – great story of how it came into your possession.

      In order to remove the platen, you’ll need to remove the carriage (which I assume you’ve done since you have repaired the draw cord and mainspring) but here is a short video just in case:

      I have not removed the platen or feed rollers from an Oliver, and I understand that it’s a little fiddly. I have run into problems with rusted and corroded screws on the platen that I don’t want to strip. There is a Yahoo Typewriters Group thread that discusses the details here that you may find helpful:


  4. My old # 5 is now sitting in the hallway of its old home. We type our daily thoughts as we pass by it . Every few days , a new paper goes in and our daily dairy of life is recorded on this old Oliver. My wife was a doubting Deb at first but now I see her enteries along with others of my family. It’s a very cool way of recording life’s moments . I have since purchased tooooo many Oliver’s . Some that need nothing and most that need a lot of TLC. Or junk ! I have read all of your post on Olivers and have asked a few questions that I see you have already answered in other post . Sorry for my poor memory. Thank you for taking your time to have this site for those of us who love manual typewriters, especially Oliver’s. Steven


  5. I have just finished taking apart the escapement of an Oliver #5 and after putting it back together I found that I am having the exact same problem with the ribbon vibrator and the carriage advancement. Your post may help me get it back into working order.


  6. I hope you have tried the Oliver in the hallway idea. It’s interesting the things people type . It’s a great way to keep a running journal of life. I have a problem I hope you can help. I purchased a nice Oliver #7 but two type slugs are missing from the machine. Is this a fixable issue. I have a couple of parts machines but wasn’t sure how to fix this problem. Thanks. Steven


    • I haven’t had to deal with missing slugs (yet), but it sounds like a soldering situation. From what I have read, you’ll have to heat the solder on the donor machine slugs to remove them. I *think* you would use a mini blow torch for that. I am not sure what type of solder you would use to attach the slugs to the #7. I found this interesting thread at the Typewriter Group at Yahoo that discusses using epoxy to attach a slug:
      I personally would lean toward soldering so that I could fine-tune placement.


  7. Steven says:

    Sorry I took so long getting back to you on this issue. Yes I had to heat up the slugs from a donor machine and then solder them to my working machine. I used a mini kitchen ” blow torch ” used to carmalize sugar on deserts. Once I removed the type slug I just resolder the borrowed typeslug to the working machine. It was a little tricky getting everything lined up but the ” Key” does have a slot which the type slugs fits into and that serves as a guide. .

    Love you read your post on these old typewriters. I took a #3 almost completely apart and cleaned every place I could get to. Turns out The keys are copper plated and are beautiful once you get all the crud off. These Olivers must have been quite the sight back in the day with their nickel plated pieces, copper plated keys, beautiful paint and cool decals.

    Would love to see one restored back like that. Thanks. Steve


  8. David says:

    Hello. I have recently acquired a Royal Deluxe Portable, A model from eBay. A lovely example of the art and in pretty clean working condition. The problem I’m having with it is occasionally the carriage will not move after the spacebar or a key is struck. I have been googling it and discovered the word “escapement”. Further review brought me to your blog\website. Although already clean I have done the denatured alchol\toothbrush\compressed air thing, then a few carefully q’tipped drops of 3-in-one oil. No joy. I see your writing mentions PB Blaster and Carburetor cleaner and I have used both many times when I used to work on cars. I am ready to blast this puppy with carb cleaner then follow up with the PB Blaster. I know that aerosol cleaners and lubricants also contain propellants that may make things worse. May I ask you to comment on these products as regards typewriter repair? Any others? Especially long term after application. I apologize for intruding on this thread in this manner but I could not find any links to contact you, or anyone, with a question. I would appreciate anything you could share that might help me with on this. David. PS: Amazing blog…I had to make myself quit reading and move on.


    • I have a Superfund site of cleaners and solvents – my brother calls me “Chemical Mary”. I have found that my favorites are denatured alcohol, mineral spirits, and PB Blaster. I have used carb cleaner before, most memorably when I was faced with a thick toffee-like substance that covered the segment of an Olympia SM7:

      The solvents can be treacherous to work with – a little splash of denatured alcohol will eat through a beautiful paint job in seconds. Mineral spirits are a little more forgiving, but you still need to be careful that they’re only used on the internal mechanics.

      One product that you want to avoid is WD-40. Most typospherians agree that while it can free up stiff parts, it leaves a residue that can turn to cement later.

      Regarding your skipping problem, it may be that the mechanics are still a bit gummy, and you may need to clean your escapement and carriage rack again. Check your escapement and rack for broken teeth too.

      Royals do have a reputation for skipping. The Filthy Platen has a funny post on the matter:
      Read the comments too – many chime in on their experiences.

      I use the “Staccato Hot Keys” method of typing, but I have observed other typists who use a pressing, massage-like typing technique. I had a Royal FP some time ago that would skip if I used a pressing/massage typing technique:

      The Davis brothers have an entertaining video on typing technique:

      I hope this helps. Those little Royal portables are just precious – beautiful to look at. I hope that you can get her into beautiful typing condition.


      • David says:

        Hi Mary. Thank you for getting back to me. Well, I tried the PB Blaster on it the other day and by golly I believe it might just have worked. I have tested it several times and it seems to be working ok. At the same time I realize that my little Royal knows when I am watching and when I am not, so we will have to see. One quick thing (ok, two) — while i did the spraying outside I brought my little gem into the basement for the night in order that it might absorb this new experience. Next day the entire downstairs wreaked of PBB, Yikes! Never had that problem when working on stuck head bolts…but that is a story for another day. Aired everything out (on a very cold day, unfortunately) and now I am out of the doghouse as it were. But my little Royal still kinda stinks. So thing two is do I try to clean the PBB off now that its on, or like Otis, do I just let it soak and evaporate over time? Thanks!


      • Ah, the aroma of PB Blaster! I walk around in a haze of it – some ladies prefer Chanel No. 5, but PB Blaster is my signature scent 🙂
        I would just let the typewriter air out in a covered area like a porch or a garage – it will take a week or so for it to dissipate. I just sniffed a typewriter that I worked on a couple months ago – no PB Blaster – though a little musty smelling from the felt insulation.

        I am really glad to hear that cleaning and lubrication with PB Blaster helped clear out the skipping. Years of disuse can lead to a very gummy typewriter.


  9. I don’t know how I missed all of your posts on the Oliver, but I did. Perhaps it was too close to my move from FL to MI. In any case I am learning a LOT since I found these. I presently have 5 Olivers to get working. My first No. 5 and No. 9 work ok, but not all that great. I have 3 on the to be repaired pile in my shop. I’ve yet to work on an Oliver. I hope to get to work on at least one for our next Type-IN in July, 2019.


    • I love those little green guys! My son is caring for the Oliver 9 I left in California and I am tempted to get an east coast Oliver.

      These posts about the Oliver 9 from 2015 were written when I was pretty new to dysfunctional typewriters. I was kind of a ding-dong newbie at the time and made the mistake of drenching the Oliver in Evapo-rust and not rinsing the mechanics afterwards. The Evapo-rust left a sticky residue that complicated the whole situation. If I had just stuck to mineral spirits and PB Blaster it would have been a much less fraught experience.

      If you can get one of your Olivers typing well, it will be a smash hit at your type-in in July.


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