The 103 Year Old Oliver Twins

Some time back, it was Two-Fer Tuesday, and I came into possession of a pair of Oliver No. 5 typewriters.  The seller was very glad that the Olivers were going to a loving home.

One was in incredibly good condition; it just needed a little cleaning.  The other was  dirty, rusty, and nonfunctional.


These came to me in the winter – a time for sweaters, scarves and Olivers.

Finding two Oliver No. 5 typewriters here in the wilds of California is unusual – their  geographic territory is much further east of here.  It appears that they are both from 1913.

One has serial number 285132:


The other one has serial number 342169:


The Oliver in pretty good shape has a little rust and gunk and types with persuasion. It has a metal cover and wooden base.

The other Oliver is non-functional, very rusty, corroded and dirty. It needs a clean up and a new drawband.  It should be fine.


They’re so cute. They’re holding hands.

So I had one for me and one to share. The rusty, nonfunctional Oliver is naturally more interesting to me, so I gave the one in better shape to Good Neighbor Brian.  Brian is such a great neighbor: he taught me how to repair enormous holes in lath and plaster walls, he showed up with a Sawzall when I was demoing my bathroom, he gave me a shop vac, and he’s helped me straighten out metal parts on my typewriters. He’s a Good Neighbor. He has always admired my Oliver No. 9 which shows he has Good Taste.

Brian’s new Oliver 5 has a base and a cover. No wonder it was in such good condition.  It was just a bit dusty and grimy.


I took off the carriage so Brian could blow it out with his air compressor (set on a very low setting to avoid disturbing possibly loose pieces)


I showed Brian how to take the carriage off and reattach it.  He’s a quick study:


I gave him some pointers on taking care while cleaning it.  This Oliver is in such good condition that a lightly damp rag and some Renaissance wax would be all it needed.  Brian sent me an email:



I can’t express the satisfaction involved with cleaning this beautiful typewriter.

-Good Neighbor Brian



Zen Master Brian said that it is important to clean unfamiliar and complex machinery.  The act of physically touching the machine while cleaning will help you to later use it safely and confidently. It is important to become one with the machine.


This is an old office chair that Brian is cleaning up.  He wants to use it at the desk where his Oliver No. 5 is to reside once it’s all cleaned up.  I told you he has Good Taste. And he likes junkers.

I bought 7/16″ inch cotton ribbon for the two Oliver No. 5s. I got one for Brian and one for me.  Oliver No. 5 typewriters don’t take ½” ribbon like an Oliver No. 9.  That size ribbon is too wide for the ribbon vibrator on an Oliver No. 5; it needs something just a hair smaller.  I bought these Oliver No. 5 ribbons from Tony Casillo of TTS Business Products on eBay.  I found an interesting article about Tony Casillo – he sounds like a right-on kind of guy.


Brian is still working on polishing his Oliver No. 5, but when he’s done, we’ll throw in the new ribbon and let ‘er rip.

8 thoughts on “The 103 Year Old Oliver Twins

  1. Tyler Anderson says:

    I find that those machines which I enjoy the most are those which I spent plenty of time restoring. It’s the ones that I simply wipe down and they’re ready to go that I never seem to bother keeping. Good Neighbor Brian sure seems like a nice guy, and I’m sure that Oliver is in the best of hands


  2. Same here, for some machines it does take some time for me to get up courage to start loosening screws. But it’s true; when you can repair something, then you genuinely start to own it.
    (Can by the way confirm that TTS also ships spools ‘n feet across the Atlantic 🙂


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