Diamonds and Rust: Royal 10 Times Two

Ah, Spring. I think it was Tennyson who wrote, “In the Spring a young woman’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of typewriters in the garage.”

It’s been a cold, snowy winter here, and I have avoided my garage workshop. I read with great interest Bill M’s post about warming his garage.  I’m thinking about getting an infrared heater – maybe I should set up some kind of contraption like this?  In any case, it’s finally getting warmer, and I thought I’d check into the two 192X Royal 10s out there.

Last June, Mr. E of Just Typewriters posted about a typewriter safari that he went on. I have a taste for junkers, so of course this one caught my eye:

Mr. E kindly picked it up for me and made delivery of this distressed Royal at Herman’s in October. He threw in a Royal parts machine for good measure. Thank you, Mr. E!

Here’s the back of my truck after Herman’s in October: two Royal 10s and an LC Smith:

The three amigos. The LC Smith is still a work in progress.

The Royal 10 that I was hoping to salvage seemed to be complete with the exception of the carriage rail ball bearings and pinions. The serial number is X-1268844. This is a 1929 Royal 10.

The parts machine was in a state of partial disassembly with a few missing parts. It had been sprayed all over with spray paint, creating a lumpy coat. Its serial number is X-854333. This is a 1925 Royal 10.

I have a printed copy of Ted Munk’s Manual Typewriter Repair Bible which includes the 1946 OAMI Service and Adjustment Manual. You can get it in PDF format as well, but I like using the printed version in the garage. It’s coil-bound, so it lays flat. I can get it all dirty if I want. I read through the Royal carriage removal instructions so that I could retrieve the ball bearings from the parts machine.

It is no picnic, but if you follow the instructions carefully, it can be done.

Here’s what I was looking for: the ball bearings and pinions for the carriage rail.

Feeling confident after the first carriage removal, I removed the carriage on the second Royal. I scrubbed the interior the frozen Royal with a brass bristle brush, blew it out with the air compressor, doctored the mechanics with penetrant, and let it sit. It was a solid block of rust. Even the bell clapper was tightly rusted.

I left it to sit for a couple days, intermittently trying to move pieces and re-applying penetrant. Everything that should move was rusted into a solid block: mainspring, escapement, tab mechanism, ribbon drive, universal bar, segment. I began to despair. I then read a post at Typewriter Talk about rescuing a rusty machine using a citric acid bath. I was intrigued. I avoid water and dunk cleaning generally, but what had I to lose? This typewriter was so rusty I couldn’t even unscrew parts. If I could remove some of the rust, it would ease disassembly and allow it to become a useful parts machine at the very, very least.

I started watching videos about citric acid rust removal. I honestly could watch this kind of stuff all day. Here’s a guy who used citric acid to resurrect an antique clamp:

Citric acid is very cheap, but before I went out and bought a 5 lb bag, I did a test with some 98% citric acid that I got in the canning department. I tried it on the very rusty frame that goes around the glass side panel. I would have removed the glass, but it was so rusty, I worried that the rusty tabs would snap off.

You’re supposed to degrease the part first – I washed it off with Simple Green but you could use mineral spirits. You make your 10% citric acid solution by putting the citric acid powder into very hot water in a plastic container – not metal. Then, you put the rusty item into the 10% citric acid solution. I let it sit overnight.

Afterwards you’re supposed to neutralize the acid with a soak in a baking soda bath, rinse, dry completely, and then spray with light oil to prevent flash rust. It’s hard to tell from this picture because the piece still has dark gray tarnish, but an overnight citric acid bath removed all the rust.

My New Plan

I’m going to try to resuscitate the frozen 1929 Royal using a dunk-style citric acid bath. In the meantime, I plan to put the 1925 “parts” machine together and make it completely functional. It will need a few parts that I can salvage from the 1929 Royal: good feet, glass panels, a decent platen, spools, type guide, carriage clamps.

I replaced the carriage on the 1925 Royal. I put a couple blobs of lithium grease on the bottom rail to hold the pinions and bearings in place while I wrassled with the carriage. I consulted the service manual for placement. My orange arrows indicate where I think the diagram shows ball bearings and pinions.

I really didn’t want the pinions and bearings wandering all over the place while I fussed with the carriage and the grease blobs helped a lot. In the event that the bearings did get loose, I wanted to be able to quickly spot them, so I worked on an old beige curtain that I threw on the garage floor.

I carefully replaced the carriage following the instructions in the service manual. The carriage purred on the greasy ball bearings. Nice! I wiped the excess grease off the bottom rail and re-attached the carriage clamps and the drawband. I put the platen back together and threw in a new ribbon.

Well, I’ll be damned. The 1925 Royal 10 is still mad:

The Joan Baez original is truly great stuff. For the curious, the Judas Priest cover is a worthy tribute to the original, converting a very personal story of a failed relationship to Epic Metal Anthem.

The letter alignment is more than pleasantly wonky, probably because the type guide is broken and missing one half. I’ll swap it out and see how the printed letters line up. Some of the type bars may need a little bending (“forming”).

25 thoughts on “Diamonds and Rust: Royal 10 Times Two

  1. joevc says:

    Nice progress! There’s something about that wonky type that’s intriguing. Like you need at least one machine in your collection like that, for those special poems.


  2. Mr. E says:

    The parts machine 10 is very worn out to the point where the wire linkages are stretched out causing the keyboard to sit uneven. This along with the very poor nickel plate and the broken type guide that is frozen on there along with 14 year old me’s crappy spray paint job are why it became a parts machine. Judas Priest is one of my favorite bands by the way.


    • Thank you so much for throwing in the parts machine. It’s a fun project and typing pretty well now. The type guide is tough to get off – it must be secured from the back as well. I’d really like to get both Royal 10s typing again…maybe that will happen once I conquer the rust on the frozen one.


  3. Good work on getting your Royal 10 working. Mine got pushed way down the repair schedule since I started it last year, and it only needs a good cleaning!

    I’ve got to give a citric acid bath a try on my next rust removal job. It certainly is much cheaper than my usual Evpo-Rust (even from Harbor Freight).

    FYI Olivetti Lettera 22 & 32 type bar guides are very tough to remove too. They are pinned. I’ve yet to come across an easy to remove one.


    • The citric acid is a little slower, but it seems to get the job done. I’ll make sure to document my citric acid bath experience. It may be just a wash – figuratively and literally.

      I am having a heck of a time removing the type guide from both Royals. Though I was able to easily remove the obvious front screws, the type guide doesn’t budge. I see rusty pins. I am also wondering whether they are secured from the back as well…


    • I have been slowly working up to this. Fortunately the Royal standard didn’t change much over 20 years, so the 1946 service manual instructions for carriage removal/replacement were perfect for the 192x Royals.


      • Yeah, TBH – the only real innovation in typewriter technology happened between like 1890-1920, then again between 1974-1987. other than those periods, companies were just swapping shells on the same engine. (:


      • The electronic typers mainly. Integrated circuits changed everything in the industry and created whole new industries. I count electronic daisywheels as a successful innovation – kept the industry alive for another decade and a half. I also count the baby thermal wedgies and that crazy 4-color pen plotter typewriter craze that lasted all of 1986. They were really slapping the spaghetti on the walls by that point.


  4. kpandorastar says:

    Hi! I met a 1917 model of this machine at an antique shop today. The proprietor had found a piece of it that looks a little like a key; I looked at the manual for the machine and it appears to have something to do with the paper table, but I can’t tell from the diagram how it connects. Do you know what I’m talking about, and if you do, can I persuade you to post a photo of it on your machine?


  5. John Jones says:

    Did you ever remove the type guides? They are very tight even without rust. In gunsmithing restoration we like to use heat. Not red hot, just enough to wake it up. You don’t want to change the harness so no dunking in water. This is especially true removing old barrels and tight pins.


    • I never did – I kept teetering on the edge of stripping the screw heads, so I stepped away from my attempts. But I did not try heat -perhaps heating the screw with the tip of a soldering iron with help ease the screw out.


      • John Jones says:

        That method could also be just enough heat to get penetrating oil down in the threads too. Main thing is use hollow ground screwdriver with a good handle. 6 in 1 screwdrivers come in handy


      • I’m really glad that you reminded me of that broken Royal type guide. I sometimes end projects with loose ends that I forget about. I’m going to try some heat application and penetrating oil this evening and see if I can get the type guide off. I have hollow ground screwdriver bits, but I really should invest in a quality set of gunsmithing screwdrivers.


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