As I prepared Quin’s Underwood 5 for its return to Modesto, I finished the last items on my to do list. I used a lot of penetrating oil on this typewriter, so I needed to flush out the sticky oil before it started attracting dirt. I flushed everything with liberal amounts of mineral spirits and then gave the typewriter a final blast of air to clear out the steel wool fragments and rusty grit.
I decided to re-do the feet. I worried that the rubber of the new feet would slowly sink down in height preventing free movement of the back space mechanism under the machine – it hangs low. I didn’t have any more test tube stoppers, so I added two rubber washers to each foot. I cut new bolts that go through the rubber feet, sealing the ends with a blob of Sugru. Not great looking, but the resulting feet are about 1″ tall. Next time I won’t cut my rubber stoppers down in height.
The last details: a final cleaning of the slugs, padding the spacebar with a little felt so that it doesn’t clatter so much, and giving the typewriter body a good wax with Renaissance wax. This Underwood 5 is pretty much ready to go back to Quin.
I tested Quin’s Underwood with a sweet little ditty from Tom Waits. I understand that he’s an Underwood 5 user:
Nobody does lost old-timey sentiment like Tom Waits. That sweet, plaintive matter-of-factness of the last line always kills me.
I may need to do additional shift slide bracket adjustment – I see a little color bleed on my “L”.
I can’t believe that I am doing this, but I am sending the Underwood back to Modesto with plastic ribbon spools. I know. It’s a perversion of the form. Quin’s Underwood came with old plastic spools that I discarded – had it really been functional in times recent enough for plastic spools? I wish that a large lot of old metal spools would show up on eBay, but I am not holding my breath.
Here are a few pictures taken before the return to Modesto.
I printed out the 1929 Underwood 3,4,5 user manual from Richard Polt’s typewriter manuals archive.
I wanted Quin to have an optimal typing experience, and that meant she needed a good typewriter pad. I would have ordered a very nice Jackalope pad from Richard Polt’s site, but he is not shipping until August because he is traveling. So: I went to the carpet store where they gave me an old carpet sample for free. It was large enough for two typewriter pads, so I cut it in half and sealed the edge with duct tape. I backed my pads with non-skid material and ta-da: I had two typewriter pads. One for me and one for Quin.
I made a vinyl typewriter cover out of a yard of 54″ wide translucent vinyl.
I did a rough fit on the machine and then straightened up my lines.
A haiku for you / pulled out my sewing machine / four seams and we’re done.
I am really glad I made a vinyl cover for the typewriter because I found out after the fact that Quin has three or four cats.
The Revenant: Return to Modesto
Sunday morning I bundled up the Underwood 5 and all its accessories: care and feeding sheet, user manual, vinyl cover, typewriter pad, and the old feet in a baggie. I drove out to Modesto where I met Quin in the same parking lot where it all began.
She was overcome with giddy happiness. She has never used a manual typewriter before, so I gave her a few tips and encouraged her to watch Richard Polt’s short video for typewriter beginners. Quin is a real natural:
Look at Quin go!
Quin made me a beautiful poster – she’s an art and biology double major. It says “Fairy Cogmother”. What a sweet thing! I will have to frame this and put it above my typewriters.
This may sound pushy after receiving such a nice gift, but I suggested to Quin that she include me as a character in her science fiction writing since I am full of PERSONALITY and CHARACTER. I gave Quin this idea for a character based on me: a space witch who has a mechanical crow as a familiar. Caw! Quin laughed and said of course.
As I drove westward home, I thought a lot about the old Underwood. What a wonderful experience. I may need to get one of my own, but it would have to be in ridiculously bad condition like Quin’s.
There was a hole in my heart, but a new little Underwood flew in from Idaho last week to my home for unwed Underwoods. Apparently there is an excess of Underwood 3 banks in the woods up north, and I happily brought this one into the fold and hope to rehabilitate it.
The Underwood three bank came with a bag of interesting pieces. A puzzle!
And then there is this crazy thing that I dragged home on Saturday, the haunted SCM Electra 210 from Moe’s shop:
The whole family enjoys watching this thing. I will give it a good blow-out and a degreasing and see where we’re at. It is very entertaining as it is though.
9 thoughts on “Recalled to Life”
Wow, such a fantastic job, and what a wonderful poster!
Quin is a delight. One of the most satisfying parts of this project was knowing that the Underwood would be going to a great home.
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Ah, another Smith-Corona electric! I have a Coronet Automatic 12, and have come to really like it, with its economical cloth ribbon and electric speediness.
They are fun! I spent way too much time playing with the Smith-Corona Electra this afternoon when I should have been attending to other pressing matters.
Excellent restoration – your documentation has inspired me to be more intrepid in my own repair attempts, thank you! Love your blog. ~Tom~
Thank you – so nice to hear.
Saw an Underwood this past weekend at a downtown shop and thought of you. Keys would not budge. Know you would be able to fix her up. No problemo.
Those old Underwoods are just so durable – if all the pieces are there, most can be brought back to life. I love, love the Underwood 5.
I plan on going back to take a pic and see the price. It was on the floor amongst a bunch of other antiques. If I lived closer I would bring it to you to work your magic. Amazed at all the typewriters you have restored.