A couple weeks ago I stopped in at The Shop at Flywheel Press, a community arts space where I have been doing volunteer typewriter maintenance. I felt like a public health doctor making wellness rounds. The girls were in relatively good shape given that they had just been through a couple kid camps and a few evening events at The Shop – no V.D. However, just about every single one of them had a ribbon malfunction.
I got the ribbons hooked up again and tested each of the machines. A SCM portable had what looked like candy bar or brown glue jammed in the key lever comb. I had to scrub it out with a brass bristle brush so that the key levers could move again. That was about the worst of it except for the poor electric Pennecrest. The kids tend to hit a bunch of keys all at once on the electric and *POP* goes the clevis. Four were detached. I’ll need to come back on another day and straighten them out.
Looking good, ladies! Til next we meet. I am pleased that the typewriters are all working hard and earning their keep.
Samantha who works Wednesdays at The Shop had brought in a typewriter for me to look at. It belonged to a friend who had bought it on Etsy. It worked great for a while and then it didn’t.
It was a 1964 Olympia SM7 – sweet!
The carriage was jammed and the source was immediately visible:
The drawband had somehow slipped off the mainspring drum and was all wrapped up in the mechanics under the carriage.
I had to cut the old draw band out from the machine – it very tangled under the carriage. It was about 16 inches long.
I pulled out my fishing line and made a new drawstring.
I used the tried-and-true bamboo skewer method to feed the draw string under the carriage from right to the mainspring on the left side of the machine.
Once I got the new string over to the mainspring, I had an issue. Most mainspring drums have convenient slots or hooking areas where the draw band can be secured. Not this Olympia. In order to get the new draw string on, I’d need to straighten this little pin in the mainspring drum so that I could slip a new drawstring under it. The pin was tight against the spring even with the spring completely wound and compressed, so I couldn’t just slip the new draw string under it. I had to pull the remnants of the old drawband out with tweezers. There was no space for slipping the new drawstring.
The little metal pin was extremely tough – it was either Valyrian steel or mithril – extremely strong despite looking like paper clip material. I tried and tried but could not unbend it while the mainspring drum was in the machine.
Though I didn’t want to do it, I had to take the mainspring drum out to work on that pin. I took the back cover off and loosened this nut that holds the mainspring in back. I used a 9/32″ wrench:
Once I had the mainspring drum out I was able to get a good grip and pop the little pin out.
Once the pin was out I remounted the mainspring in the typewriter and wound the mainspring four times. I had my husband hold the mainspring while I carefully re-inserted the pin with the drawstring into the drum. I then bent the pin down to secure the attachment and all was well.
Stubborn Brown Goo & Recurrent Stickiness
With the new draw string, the typewriter was ready to go. It was extremely gummy – the segment needed a really good cleaning. I really like how the machine is almost completely exposed when the front cover is popped off:
It wasn’t so easy to clean. The typebar gumminess was very stubborn. It required repeated applications of mineral spirits and denatured alcohol and naphtha. The two outer keys “+/=” and “!/¾” were the worst. I’d get them freed up and swinging easily and the next morning they would be sticky again. Over and over. Lather, rinse, repeat.
There were gooey, toffee-colored blobs on the typebar rest and up the typebars. I scrubbed and picked it off with degreaser. I have seen this brown goo in pictures of other 1960s Olympias. Like this one on Reddit and this one at Typewriter Talk or this one at TWDB. It must be some kind of brown congealed oil or maybe residue from the old rubber or glue from the typebar rest. I think it crept into the segment.
I had persistent gumminess in the two outer keys of the segment despite repeated cleaning with mineral spirits, denatured alcohol, pure naphtha, and PB B’laster. I finally got the gumminess to recede with repeated applications of carb cleaner followed by PTFE.
I haven’t encountered recurrent, recalcitrant typebar gumminess before. Usually, I clean a typewriter’s segment and it stays clean.
I read another blog post about stubborn typebar gumminess in an SM7. My experience was almost identical – brown gooeyness and problems concentrated on the keys of the outer segment. The author was able to clear up the gumminess with industry-grade ZEP, a degreaser.
I got the typebars swinging freely with cleaning and then – oh my goodness – the NOISE – what was going on?? There was a hideous clanging when I typed! DANG – DANG – DANG. It sounded like the Anvil Chorus.
It was the rock hard rubber typebar rest. I laid some felt on it and that deadened the sound. So much better. Samantha’s friend can decide whether she wants to glue the felt down and make it a permanent feature (or replace the hard rubber rest altogether) .
The one remaining issue is that the tabulator is very slow and gummy. I have cleaned and lubed and cleaned and lubed all the obvious parts, but I can’t seem to get the typewriter to roll smoothly to tab stops. It looks like the tab brake engages and stops everything. I’m a little concerned that the sluggish tabulator is the reason why the original drawband jumped the drum. It is possible that a dirty or broken tab brake stopped the drum and the drawband slipped off. That’s one possibility.
Another typospherian successfully repaired the tab brake system. I should probably take the tab brake out and investigate, but since this typewriter doesn’t belong to me, I will let sleeping dogs lie for the time being. If Samantha’s friend wants me to investigate further, I will. However, she may find tab functionality superfluous. At this point she has an otherwise perfectly wonderful typewriter.
I returned the SM7 to Samantha at The Shop with care and feeding instructions as well as a little jar of denatured alcohol. A couple of the typebars get sticky with sitting and a little dab of denatured alcohol frees them up for a typing session.
Wiiiiiiide carriage. It makes the carriage shift challenging: