M-m-m-my Corona: Draw String on the Loose and I Love TWDB

My Corona 4 seemed like a hopeless case.  I confess there was a weak moment when I was tempted to put her in a box and donate her to Words Are Winged – that fellow has a knack for dismantling, reassembling and documenting old typewriters.

Rusty, grimy, and jammed, the Corona 4 still had a winning personality and bedraggled charm, so I continued to work on her.

When I first got the Corona 4, the carriage was frozen in place – it did not move an inch.  I doused it in PB Blaster and let it sit overnight.  The next day, my husband manhandled the Corona, exerting enough force to move the carriage. It loosened up and the carriage began to slide grudgingly along its rails.

The Corona 4 had a scary whistling carriage screech that put the Edison talking doll to shame.

As you can see, I had a very sticky carriage and hitting the shift key left the carriage hanging in the air – I had to push the carriage down manually after I hit the shift key.

After I could move the carriage, I found the draw cord all tangled up under the carriage.  It must have come off at some point in life and the carriage rusted into place.


When I was finally able to move the carriage back and forth the draw cord with its hook slipped down to the pulley area.

In a maneuver I call the Reverse Munk, I re-attached the carriage draw string.

I first wound the draw string tight on the mainspring drum using the ratchet pawl to maintain tension.


I hooked the draw string temporarily onto the side of the carriage rail.

I then made a lasso out of fishing line and fed it with a bamboo skewer which I ran under the carriage from right to left to retrieve the draw cord.


I got my lasso to the left end of the carriage where the draw cord was hooked temporarily on the side of the machine so it wouldn’t slip down the hole near the pulley.


I attached the draw cord hook to my fishing line lasso and pulled it under the carriage from left to right and re-attached it to a likely screw under the carriage on the right side.


Though the draw string was re-attached with good tension, the carriage failed to move freely. Hmm. The carriage advanced with typing or hitting the space bar if I pulled HARD to the left as I typed. Based on this, I gathered that the escapement was OK, but perhaps something was rusty or gummy or…?

Typewriter Database to the Rescue

There was something strange about the ribbon vibrator – it was in a permanent “up” position and would not go down.  I went to Typewriter Database (TWDB) and compared my Corona’s ribbon vibrator position to all the Corona Fours at TWDB.  Yes, something was very fishy.  My ribbon vibrator did not look like other ribbon vibrators. So off came the ruler thing and the ribbon vibrator.

The ribbon vibrator itself was fine – the two pieces of it slid easily together.


However, a projection from the escapement assembly that moves the vibrator up and down was locked in place:


I flipped the machine over and examined the escapement mechanism. I opened up TWDB again and searched for a Corona 4 listing in the archive that included an under machine photo.  I found one and noted that there were subtle differences between my 1930 Corona 4 and the 1931 Corona 4 on TWDB.


My Corona seemed to have bent and out-of-position parts – right around the escapement rocker bracket assembly and connected pieces (thank you, TWDB for the Corona parts manual).

This piece – escapement rocker bracket assembly – was all bent to hell:


illustration from Smith-Corona Parts Book, TWDB

Carefully studying the TWDB Corona and using my best judgement and some lucky intuition, I bent part of the escapement rocker bracket assembly, trying to make my typewriter look like the Corona 4 at TWDB.


Long story short: that did it. Here she is, partially disassembled and no ribbon but gamely putting up with my two-fingered typing.

I would still like to get close up pictures of the underbelly of a functional circa 1930 Corona 4 since my fix was mostly just lucky guesswork. I have a request for photos at Typewriter Talk if you have a functional Corona 4 and have a moment to take some detail pictures of the underside of your Corona 4 typewriter.

There is work still to be done:

  • sort out the ribbon feed mechanism
  • fix the backspace
  • glue the space bar
  • make new key lever links for missing ones
  • address peeling paint
  • make a donation to TWDB

UPDATE: Rev. Munk kindly posted under machine photos of his Corona 4 (“El Diablo”) at TWDB.  It looks like I was lucky and popped things back into the right place.  I will be using Rev. Munk’s photos again as I try to unravel my problematic back space mystery.



21 thoughts on “M-m-m-my Corona: Draw String on the Loose and I Love TWDB

  1. How superficial of me to assume that the only point of the photos on the TWDB was to ogle the pretty colours and shiny bits. I often get queries from my blog requesting close-ups of the oily bits. I suppose there are so many things to cover once you get the lid off.


    • The pretty pictures at TWDB first pulled me in and then I discovered the wealth of information and entertainment there. Going forward, I am going to make a point of uploading good detail photos of my typewriters’ guts when I create new galleries.


  2. Tyler Anderson says:

    Of the Corona 4’s, you managed to get the best looking one to fix up! The black and gold color scheme beats all the rest. I’ve no doubt in my mind that within a forttype, you’ll have this Corona back in tip top shape.


    • Miss Corona McDraggle, that dear lady. Though she types with admirable persistence, she has an ongoing ribbon feed problem that I haven’t been able to fix. After I read your comment, I brought her down from the shelf where she has been living and took a look at her ribbon feed. I think it may be just a loose spring. I may get the ribbon feed working yet.

      Here she is in all her be-draggled splendor:
      Corona McDraggle


      • Adam says:

        Beautiful. I started cleaning a 1927 Corona, yesterday. It (she?) has a few parts where the paint has been chipped. I’m wondering what would be the best way to touch those parts up.


      • In the past I have used black Sharpie permanent ink pen (has a slight bluish cast) and India ink (encre de Chine) for a semi-permanent touch-ups. For a more permanent solution, I have used Testors black enamel model paint in a pen applicator. It’s a very close match to old black paint.

        paint touch up solutions


  3. Jael P. says:

    Just now coming upon this post, and I have to ask: how did you manage to address the backspace issue (I have a Corona 4 with a non-functioning (disconnected?) backspace key)? Thanks for considering!


    • Hello Jael! That Corona 4 came to me at the beginning of my typewriter odyssey about seven years ago. I didn’t fix the backspace at the the time because I was so new to typewriters, so I pulled it down from its shelf this afternoon and took a look. Now with some time and experience under my belt, I think I can figure out the mystery of my nonfunctional backspace. I’ll do some investigating tonight.


      • Jael P. says:

        Wonderful! I await with bated breath. I’ve been breathing life back into the one I just came upon, and after finally solving the mystery of the indifferent escapement, I knew it was time to tackle that backspace key. My journey into this machine started at this post, so thank you for sharing your experiences with all of us!


      • Hi Jael! I figured out what was wrong with my Corona Four’s backspace: a little prong in the backspace mechanism had slipped out from its slot. Here is a picture taken from behind the typewriter with the carriage pulled all the way to the left:
        incorrect position
        I slipped the prong into its correct location and now backspace works:

        You may have some other problem with the backspace (eg a detached or missing spring or connector) but my problem was an easy fix.


      • Jael P. says:

        This certainly was the catalyst to discovery. I checked the same place on my Corona and found everything to be in the proper place. So I went ahead and began pulling at the mechanism with my hand until I saw where the path stopped. It is indeed a missing linkage that should be connecting this mechanism with the backspace lever. Once I can figure how long that piece should be, I can reproduce something to hopefully get things running again. Thank you for pointing me in the ‘write’ direction 😀 (I wish I could post pictures as well, as I would not have known to look where I eventually did [underneath the carriage on that same side, with the shift key pressed to maximize visibility].)


      • Yay! So glad that you could pin-point the problem. Perhaps you can fabricate a linkage out of a paper clip and get the backspace running again. Good luck!


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