The Shop at Flywheel Press has a beautiful wide carriage 1955 Olympia SM3 that has always fascinated me. A wonderful typewriter, it had extremely bad alignment issues, and I wondered: could I fix it? I had cleaned it previously but shied away from trying to adjust the alignment. On my last trip to The Shop, I noticed that its spacebar was intermittently unresponsive. I decided to bring the Olympia home and see if I could fix the alignment and the space bar.
Fortunately I had recently found Richard Polt’s “Tweaking Your Olympia SM” from the September 2011 issue of ETCetera, so I knew what to do about the space bar.
I flipped the machine on its back and using two pairs of needlenose pliers, “formed” the little “L” shaped piece, squeezing it to make a tighter angle. I tested. The spacebar was much more responsive.
So the next problem was the terrible alignment – as you can see, the upper and lowercase letters were misaligned and the lowercase descenders were faint:
I did some research first, and fortunately alignment fixes are well documented:
- Ted Munk’s Adjusting Vertical Typeface Alignment (Carriage-Shift Typewriters)
- Tony Mindling’s Olympia SM5 Adjustments
- Rob Bowker’s lowercase alignment fix on an Olympia SM4
I saw the four adjustments screws (two on either side) that Ted Munk mentioned, but the lowercase adjustment screws were buried deep within the machine. I would definitely need to remove the cover plates to get at the lowercase adjustment screws.
I read through Tony Mindling’s fix and Rob Bowker’s post, and thought that maybe I didn’t need to remove the typewriter from its shell. Adjustment screws under the carriage at either end were easily accessible:
I took off the end plates on my wide carriage Olympia so that I could nudge the rails further apart after loosening the “Rob Bowker screw”. In theory, increasing the distance between the rails will cause the carriage to sit lower – and that will allow the slugs to hit the platen at the correct angle and that will result in better printed text. Right?
This is where is all gets a little foggy for me. I can’t remember exactly what I did and didn’t do. I kept getting interrupted in the middle of this project and lost track of my changes. I know I loosened the “Rob Bowker screw” and nudged the carriage rails further apart. I *think* I loosened the lowercase adjustment plate and slid it backwards and forwards and tested various positions.
In any case, the upper/lowercase alignment was still way out of kilter and the descenders were still very faded.
I decided to peel off the cover plates to see if I could access the lowercase adjustment screws.
It wasn’t bad – the ribbon cover pops right off and after removing the front and back plates, the typewriter lifted out of the main shell.
I found the lowercase adjustment screws directly under the ribbon spools. Fortunately I was able to get a ¼” wrench in the side to loosened the lock nuts on either side.
And then I experimented with tightening and loosening the adjustment screws. I wasn’t getting anywhere. Printed text was still misaligned and had faded descenders.
I went back to the carriage rails. Hmm. I loosened the lowercase(?) slide plate screws on each side and moved the plates forward so that they looked like Tony Mindling’s pictures.
They started like this:
And they ended up like this:
I tested. Finally.
The descenders were finally nice and dark. Alignment of upper and lowercase letters was still screwy, but this time the lowercase letters were too high.
I went back to the lowercase adjustment screws under the ribbon spools on both sides and gradually brought the lowercase letters into alignment.
It was time to put the Olympia back in its shell. I don’t like to leave typewriters dismantled, as I worry that I may forget how to put things back together. I take detailed photos in the dismantling process, but still, I like to move quickly while it’s all fresh.
The rubber bushing between the typewriter and the shell were disintegrating. It was a matter of time before they went completely and caused problems. Here’s a detailed post on bushing replacement from Clickthing.
When I returned the Olympia to its shell, I peeled out the gooey remnants and slipped in new rubber washers.
All the plates back on, I did a little test typing.
What the #$@&%*! ??? What happened to my uppercase alignment???
I put the typewriter in shift-lock and tested typing – and it got stuck in shifted position. I couldn’t unlock shifting. I flipped the machine over and found the culprit. My brand new bushing on the front left was blocking the shift and shift lock levers:
I carefully sawed off the interfering rubber edge – the shift levers were free. I did some testing:
Not perfectly perfect, but so much better than it was before.
In conclusion: I have nicely aligned text that is uniformly dark. I am still not quite sure how I got to this point, but I never would have been able to do this without helpful typospherian blogs. If I have incorrectly identified adjustment areas, let me know.
As I am a child of the Pacific Northwest, Olympia typewriters always remind me of Olympia Beer, made with the naturally pure artesian brewing water of Tumwater, Washington.
Olympia Beer had a nice jingle back in the day that went something like this:
This is possibly one of the gentlest and sweetest beer commercials ever made. Why don’t they make beer commercials like this anymore? Bonus: it features Teri Garr:
I can’t resist sharing another beer commercial from my childhood – this one made by Olympia’s Northwest competitor, Rainier. It features the soundtrack of my soggy Oregonian upbringing: windshield wipers.