I was leaving on vacation a couple weeks ago, but I couldn’t resist the siren call of a broken electric typewriter at Moe’s shop. While I supposed to be packing, I was instead fooling around with this misbehaving Smith-Corona Electra 210:
When the power was turned on, the typewriter mysteriously typed all by itself, hitting “5” repeatedly. “555” is not exactly the mark of the beast, but the typewriter was seemingly possessed:
I took off the bottom of the typewriter and blew out dust and etc from inside the machine:
You can see that the lever for “5” is partially engaged and I found the lever connections very gummy. I cleaned carefully with mineral spirits:
I flipped the machine over, plugged it back in, and turned the power on. No automatic “5” typing! I did some tentative pecking and all seemed well until I hit the “h” key and the typewriter went bananas with a repeating “h” key. I ended up turning it off, unplugging it, flipping it over, and cleaning it a few times as random keys would get stuck. Eventually everything was freed up and the typewriter was working like a charm.
This is such a pleasant machine to use, fairly quiet for an electric.
Joe Van Cleave recently posted a really good video comparing a Smith-Corona Galaxy 12 with the electric Smith-Corona Coronet Automatic 12:
I have enjoyed Joe’s typewriter video series very much.
I may end up buying the Electra 210 from Moe and donating it to The Shop at Flywheel Press. It could replace a wonderful but rather delicate electric Penncrest. That poor dear has sprung clevises (AKA “link springs”) that have sprung so many times that they can’t withstand the onslaught of kid fingers after re-attachment. The little kids have a tendency to push several keys all at once and *POP* goes the clevises.
This Penncrest should probably be an adult-only typewriter.
After I returned from vacation last week, I swung by The Shop at Flywheel Press to do typewriter tune-up. The typewriters there had been through several summer kids camps and had a few events in front of them.
I brought my tub of cleaning and repair materials and got most of the typewriters back on their feet. Minor ribbon issues and engaged carriage locks seem to be the most common problems.
That wide carriage Olympia SM3 came home with me since the space bar was unresponsive and the vertical text alignment very off.
I am amazed that repairs such as this duct-tape clevis repair on a SCM Galaxie have withstood the slings and arrows of kid camps.
Yay, duct tape!
9 thoughts on “Cleaning Becomes Electra”
What a weird symptom. Good job curing the illness!
I was lucky it was just a gummy dirt problem that responded to cleaning.
Nice job on the possessed electric! These machines do seem to have a certain appeal that the later electrics don’t, at least for me. I think it’s the style, and economy of cloth ribbons.
I feel comfortable with these type of electrics – their similarity to their manual counterparts puts me at ease. The typebars and ribbons are familiar friends.
I have yet to work on a Selectric, but that day will come.
Well, when you do work on a Selectric, I will be watching closely! I have one that I think I’ve diagnosed, but that’s as far as I’ve gotten. As for the SCM electrics, we had one growing up, one that I call “semi-electric” since it had an old fashioned line spacing lever rather than the big button on the right. A nice compromise, I think, and it was a workhorse. Electra 120, maybe?
I admire your courage in even attempting this fix, but maybe the thing to remember with the non-electronic machines is that they’re basically powered manual machines — many of the same mechanical connections, and as such, many of the same problems.
I brought the haunted Electra 210 home because it was just so fun to watch as it went through its possessed routine – I had to share it with the family. Fortunately it was an easy repair: cleaning.
Last summer I spotted a very similar Smith-Corona with a manual carriage return – an Electra 120:
One of these days, I will pick up a Selectric – here’s a funny post about a Selectric on Ted Munk’s site:
You always inspire me with your fixits! I have an SCM electric just like that in brown on which the “j” doesn’t work. Now I feel less fearful about opening it up. Joe’s comparison video got me to bring 2 electrics home recently. What a different world!
I have an SCM Electra 210 with elite type and a brown platen. Is the brown platen unusual? It seems very hard but types well with new ribbon. Everything is working except the tabs, which should work even when electric is turned off. There are many tabs set and the “Clear” will not clear any of them. When I hit the middle tab bar continually the carriage will move on to 5 or 6 tabs and stop. Have to use carriage release to move the carriage on. Cannot clear any tabs.
Hi Spike – I have seen one with a blue platen, but not brown:
Tabbing is manual and it may be the little pins are just gummed up. I would start by cleaning back in the tab rack. Here’s a good video on how to access the tab rack:
At about 8:55 in the video, Duane removes the back tab cover plate – you don’t have to remove the springs – it will tilt back for cleaning.