Follow the Stars, Venus and Mars

It was time to put the Olivetti Praxis 48 back together, so I returned the carriage to its shell, inserted the platen and did some testing.  Everything seemed functional except that the platen did not move to the next line on carriage return. Hmmm.

Houston, We Have a Problem

Perhaps the carriage return cord needed more tension? I shortened the carriage return cord to produce a bit more *zing*. That didn’t work. In a fit of pique, I ended up dousing everything in PB B’laster.

Doing things in a fit of pique is never a good idea. My carriage stopped returning.

The cork clutch mechanism for carriage return was so slippery from excess PB B’laster that it wasn’t gripping and the carriage was not returning. The carriage return clutch is a cork-faced disk that comes in contact with a spinning metal plate.  It was so oily, it couldn’t grab and my carriage couldn’t return. I could see the oil glistening, mocking me from the cork clutch.

I peeled off the carriage shell and was back at Square -1. Look at that greasy cork disc. I decided to take the return wheel off and clean the cork clutch.


The Reverend Mother always says, “When the Lord closes a door, somewhere he opens a window.” Yeah, and then the spring flies out.


The spring inside the carriage return wheel popped out as I was removing the wheel from the typewriter.  It scared the heck out of me. I have had experience with Slinky Monsters before, but gosh, darn it.

After some careful swearing, I cleaned the metal carriage return plate and cork clutch with denatured alcohol and scrubbed it dry. It was squeaky clean.

I wound up the spring and secured it in its little case and reattached it to the machine.


Relief: the carriage was once again returning after the cleaning. However, the platen still didn’t space to the next line on return.

I flushed all the greasy metal parts of the return wheel mechanism and clutch with denatured alcohol, and suddenly – it was spacing properly on return. Or pretty much.  I have some more degreasing to do, but it’s finally line spacing. I put the shell back on and did some typing for funzies:

Surprise, surprise: the ¼ and ½ key did not have ¼ and ½  slugs.  Instead, hitting the ½ key and shift ¼ key gave me this:


Oh, funny! Oh, you Space Age Olivetti and your sex symbols. You are a delight!

I feel some heavy Space Age nostalgia when I look at my Olivetti Praxis 48. I was a little kid at the time of the the first moon landing, and I remember a retro future that still hums to me with wondrous possibility. The Praxis 48 hums: I am the future.


The Praxis 48 is the sort of typewriter you’d want to typecast from when you retire to your living module on a long-haul nuclear-powered interplanetary spaceship during the 36 lonely months en route to Saturn.


While I am ruminating on the future that is and was and ever shall be, my practical Praxis types out her thoughts on her future:





8 thoughts on “Follow the Stars, Venus and Mars

  1. Tyler Anderson says:

    You’re not alone in having clockwork motors explode. Scared the living hell out of me. Part of the reason that anytime I work with anything that has a spring or tension applied to it, I wear safety goggles.

    Also of note, that Praxis seems like it was designed for space! Congratulations on another successful restoration!


  2. That’s one thing about electrics – there’s a handful of things that really do *not* like oils sprayed on them. Selectrics are that way too (and I know you’ll eventually haul one home) – a lot of mechanisms that look like they’d like lubrication really don’t, and that’s a whole new learning experience. 😀


    • That realization kind of blew my mind – that there are mechanics inside the machine that like a little friction. I made the mistake of approaching the Praxis as I would an early twentieth-century piece of cast iron. I know better now. I am ready for my Selectric.


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