It’s Labor Day holiday in the US, the day we celebrate the American worker and give Summer a long, wet, beery goodbye kiss and think back over all the fun we’ve had during the past three months. Tomorrow we’ll put away the white slacks and flip flops and get back to school and business.
It was in a nostalgic end-of-the-summer mood that I re-read some of my past typewriter blog posts, and I had to laugh at the tone. My typewriter repair posts can seem like self-congratulatory, unstoppable marches to victory. It’s never that way.
It is time to spread out the dirty laundry of my to-do list. Now that summer is over, I need to get serious. I really don’t know how this happened. I have somehow accumulated a collection of partially dismantled typewriters that desperately need help. Here they are, begging for my attention.
Paul the 1959 Royal FP
The good-natured, hard-working 1959 Royal FP is in terrific typing condition – it may skip for some people, but that’s their problem. I have removed some of the panels for sandblasting and powder coating. I ordered pink powder coat paint for the top cover, paper table and front panel – and then I lost my nerve. Did I truly want to pinkify a dignified old FP?
Ringo the 1913 Oliver 5
Everyone’s favorite – the sweet and unassuming 1913 Oliver 5 came as a matched set. Good Neighbor Brian has Ringo’s twin, but I kept Ringo because he’s in pretty bad condition with lots of rust. I took off his carriage and haven’t gone any further.
John the 1970 Hermes 3000
A complex bundle of ego with smartypants tendencies, the 1970 cursive Hermes 3000 suffered a catastrophic fall at Moe’s shop. The carriage was mashed into the body and now won’t move.
George the 1922 L. C. Smith & Bros. No. 8
The 1922 LC Smith & Bros 8 has been living in my garage for the past eight months. He seeks to rise above and to achieve a higher level of rust-free consciousness.
The Fifth Beatle: Underwood Portable
There’s also Pete from Idaho, a three-bank Underwood portable with a few pieces that need to find their proper place.
And then there’s the typewriters that need minor fixes:
You may ask why is there a Rheinmetall KsT in my fridge with a blob of Silly Putty on the shift lock key (this sentence sounds like typewriter-related Mad Libs). It’s a long story, but it doesn’t have a happy ending yet.
I think that I’ll start with the Hermes 3000. Come here, Sweetie:
11 thoughts on “I’m with the Band: Confessions of a Procrastinator”
Enjoy them all!
Pete is very cute.
Would it help to first mix up an adult beverage in that blender? Prolly not. But the sixth Beatle might approve!
Paul was never my favourite Beatle, until now. 🙂
yes. yes you do want to pink powdercoat that stately old FP (:
If I have a reverend’s blessing then I guess it’s not a sin to paint this FP…
I’m using the comments section to reach you since you do not have a “contact me” section. I have an Underwood Rhythm Touch that was given to me by a Manhattan writer and publisher, and found your blog by way of an inter tube search for a solution to a wonky slug that appears to have been repaired in the past; it would appear that I will have a solution to that problem by way of blow torch. But the real reason I wanted to contact you was to ask you about your typewriter cleaning regimen: What solvents you use and where, how you avoid getting mineral spirits or denatured alcohol on sensitive parts (paint and plastic for the former, lacquer finishes for the former), and where to lubricate or wax, and with what products you have found to be effective. I have some experience in refurbishing old junque, such as fans, turntables, woodworking equipment and the like, and would like to share some tricks that may be of interest to you and your readers. Perhaps your technique would be worthy of its own blog post? Thanks,
I am no expert – I tinker and blunder along and somehow manage to end up with functional typewriters. I have found that about 75% – 85% of the “broken” typewriters that I have come across are just victims of cat hair, dust, dirt, congealed grease, and rust.
My method is to first carefully blow out the machine with blasts of air to clear out dust and dirt. I do this is in a protected, semi-enclosed area in case there are loose parts , eg tiny springs. I then get the carriage moving smoothly with judicious application of PB B’laster (which I understand is mostly Naphtha) along the rails. The PB B’laster has a “creeping” action and can get into tight, rusty areas and really loosen things up. I’ll apply PB B’laster to any area that seems rusty and stiff. I have also used Liquid Wrench penetrant to good effect on rusted parts. The key is to apply the penetrant, let it sit overnight and then try to work the part.
If type bars are stiff and dirty, I’ll paint the segment with mineral spirits or denatured alcohol. I drape thick towels over all the painted surfaces because the formulation of denatured alcohol that I use will eat through paint instantly. I suspect that there is acetone in the formulation. I do love the denatured alcohol as a degreaser – it clears out chunky gunk like crazy and evaporates instantly, but it is lethal to painted surfaces. Mineral spirits is a little more forgiving, but the formulation I use takes longer to evaporate.
Anything that isn’t working quite right (ribbon vibrator, spooling mechanism, margins, line lock, levers) is cleaned and degreased as a first step. Sometimes that’s all that’s needed. The mechanisms can get gunky and fail to move smoothly.
After I have cleaned the mechanics and gotten the machine functional, I turn to cosmetics. I like Scrubbing Bubbles for crinkle paint and Soft Scrub for crusty flaking varnish/lacquer/shellac. I use Renaissance Wax for a final coat after a cleaning.
We are really fortunate that there is a wealth of typewriter repair and maintenance information online – Richard Polt’s Classic Typewriter site is a good place to start: http://site.xavier.edu/polt/typewriters/tw-restoration.html. Richard’s book, The Typewriter Revolution: A Typist’s Companion for the 21st Century is quite good and he has a section devoted to favorite techniques.
Thanks for the reply and for the good tips. I like the following as a non-sticky lubricant for small, non-heat generating moving parts. It’s micro bubbles of teflon in a volatile suspension, so you have to shake it up, but it dries quickly and leaves a completely dry non-cat-hair-attracting powdery-looking lubricating substance. I’d get the squeeze bottle with a little red tube tip rather than the aerosol.
For some delicate cleaning tasks around old paint and varnish, I like OR scrub brushes. Can’t use these with plastic-melting solvents though:
These are invaluable for working around small parts, though I wish they were single-ended rather than dangerous on both sides:
These are also useful:
Excellent plastic picks for cleaning dried grease and other grunge in places where you don’t want to scratch or mar a delicate surface:
Hope these help.
They look in pretty good shape for some old boys. Some of my typewriters look more like Mick and Keith.