Crushes and Crushed Lettera

I have some messy hobbies that junk up the house, and one of them is amateur typewriter repair.  Some people garden or crochet, but I enjoy the sweet thrill of finding the fix that makes a broken typewriter sing again. I try not to collect typewriters, but a few have worked their way into my heart.

Recently I crushed hard on a local Royal Quiet De Luxe I saw on eBay. Though it was described as typing, it looked like it needed help.  It was kind of my beau ideal of typewriters: a type I wanted for some reason or another, in bad shape.  Though not in hand, I started imagining a future for us together.  The QDL would arrive in terrible condition, but with a gentle hand and warm heart, I would bring it back to life. Ah, the romance of typewriter repair!

Crushes are rooted in fantasy and projection, and I projected my need for a triumph narrative upon this forlorn object.

This eBay QDL looked like a beat-up twin to Joe Van Cleave’s Adobe Rose. I have admired Joe’s typewriter from afar: its beautiful cream and tanny-pink palette, the red accents, the tombstone keys, and the lovely typeface (Herald Elite?).

Joe Van Cleave's Adobe Rose Royal QDL

The eBay QDL attracted no bids. I contacted the seller about price and a local pick up, but never heard back. I was crushed – no QDL for me.

I am always looking for broken or dirty typewriters to tinker with for catch-and-release projects. I had a pretty good system in California. Moe from Mozo’s Antique Search and Rescue shop would call me when they got a typewriter in. I’d clean it up, make repairs, and get to play with it a bit before returning it to the shop. Moe’s shop closed and I moved to Virginia, and now I need to figure out a similar set-up here.

I am going to Herman’s in June, so I printed up business cards. Lots of people at Herman’s have business cards.  On mine, I forgot to include my name, and I am sure there’s a typo or two. I can barely read the print on it.

Myoldtypewriter.com business card

I have recently been haunting “typewriter parts repair” on eBay.  After my QDL disappointment, I searched for a nonfunctional typewriter, something small that would travel safely if packed well. I was torn between two non-working, older Lettera 22s. One Lettera in Pennsylvania  was described as “This does not work because the carriage does not move.”  That sounded pretty good, but maybe it was just an engaged carriage lock.

The other Lettera 22 in Las Vegas sounded more interesting.  It was described as “The typewriter is Not Working. the carriage doesn’t move, the tap and the space bar doesn’t work and all Keys stuck. Sold as is for repairs. No expertise on this old typewriter.”

In addition, close-ups of the Las Vegas Lettera’s type appeared to show a lovely typeface.

Olivetti Lettera 22 - Olivetti Victoria Elite typeface

And—and, the Las Vegas Lettera had both spools and spool nuts, something I couldn’t tell from the pictures of the Pennsylvania Lettera.

Olivetti Lettera 22 with original spools and spool nuts

I went ahead and did a “Buy It Now” and waited.  The typewriter arrived quickly from Las Vegas, very nicely packed. One nice addition: a set of tools in an Olivetti-branded case.

Olivetti Lettera 22 - aluminum brush case with Olivetti branding

I took the typewriter to the work bench and popped the hood:

Olivetti Lettera 22 on the work bench

True to its description, it had these problems:

  • the carriage was very jammed – sitting approximately at center but wiggling half a centimeter in either direction.
  • The space bar was meeting an obstruction
  • Tabbing was nonfunctional
  • Shifting was meeting an obstruction
  • The keys, though a little sticky, met the platen but did not advance the carriage

I went through the list of possible causes of the carriage jam:

  • Was the carriage lock on? No.
  • Were the margins set too close together? No.
  • Was the bottom cover plate squishing into the guts and impeding function? That was a real possibility. The feet were melted and flattened:

Olivetti Lettera 22 - melted foot

I took off the bottom plate.  Though the carriage was still jammed, it gave me a chance to look around at the guts.

  • Was a tab malfunction causing a carriage jam? Probably not. I cleared a few scattered tab stops on the tab tube with my hands and then tried the clear all the stops and move the carriage.  No luck.
  • Was the escapement function stuck and gummed up? It didn’t look like it.
  • Was there a stray chunk of something or a bent piece of metal that prevented the space bar and shift from moving? Hmmmm.

I examined the route of action from the space bar and shift and keys and spotted something that looked weird and made no sense in terms of function:

Olivetti Lettera 22 trip screw - incorrect position against tongue of universal bar

The trip screw was lodged underneath the little tongue from the universal bar, preventing the universal bar from moving.

I pulled out a dental tool and popped the trip screw back into it correct position to the side of the tongue.

Olivetti Lettera 22 trip screw - correct position against tongue of universal bar

Well, now.  That was it. The carriage was freed and the Lettera was typing. I downloaded the Olivetti Lettera 22 repair manual so that I could positively identify the parts involved. I am guessing this won’t be the last dysfunctional Lettera 22 that will come my way.

Olivetti Lettera 22 types again

Its main problem fixed, I went about doing my usual clean.  I blew out the dust bunnies with my air compressor. I do that in a plastic tub in case I blow out a loose part.

Olivetti Lettera 22 - using an air compressor to blow out dust

I scrubbed the type with a brash brush and mineral spirits.

Olivetti Lettera 22 - scrubbing type with mineral spirits and a brass bristle brush

This Lettera has a pleasant blue and red ribbon – though a little faded,  I think I’ll keep it. It has that pretty typeface – I think it’s Olivetti Elite Victoria:

Olivetti Lettera 22 - typeface is Olivetti Elite Victoria

I found that I couldn’t test the Lettera 22 without its feet in place.  Because it’s so low slung, its belly rubbed on the table, and things like margins and tabs malfunctioned.  This particular Lettera might have gotten crushed (how else to explain the weird wedged position of the trip screw?) so it may be sitting very low. I think someone sat on it.

Two of the original feet had melted and I had to pick them off the bottom plate.

Olivetti Lettera 22 - melted and disintegrating feet

I made two new feet by gluing together three rubber washers of varying size:

Olivetti Lettera 22 - replacement feet made from rubber washers of various sizes

Note that the largest washer has a larger hole that the screw head can fit through. I made it this way so that the foot screw is counter-sunk into the new foot like this:

Olivetti Lettera 22 - screw is counter-sunk in rubber foot

I replaced the case / frame grommets as well since the originals had melted into tarry nothingness.

I cleaned the grungy zippered case with Scrubbing Bubbles and it came out looking pretty nice:

Olivetti Lettera 22 - cleaned nylon zippered case with Scrubbing Bubbles

We are all done here.  Now that her carriage is free, this little bird is flying over to WordPlay Cincy.  Before she wings it, she typed out a list of crushes for me:

crushes

 

 

21 thoughts on “Crushes and Crushed Lettera

  1. Nice work on the Lettera 22.

    I’ve got one just like that, and repaired one about a month ago with the same trip screw and lever problem. I’ve seen that problem before, and sometimes at a local sale nets me a free typewriter. The tab dislocation problem generally will allow some carriage motion, the trip mechanism generally will lock everything.

    The typeface is one of my favorites.

    I admire your resourcefulness at finding substitutes like in making your own feet.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wow! I thought the trip screw problem was a unique situation. It’s good to know that I may run across it again. Such an easy fix for what seemed to be a hopeless condition.

      Like

      • heh, you’ll very often see the same exact problems on Olivettis. they are delicately balanced and easily knocked out of order. You’re just gathering a list of all the usual suspect problems you can check through. They’re usually easily fixed, though, unless a part actually breaks (return lever pot metal post is the *worst!*).

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      • I am becoming familiar with Lettera 22 problems: sliding carriage due to dirty escapement, tab-related carriage jam, and now the trip screw-related carriage jam. I do kind of love them all the same despite being fiddly little things.

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    • Thanks, Joe. I have been seeing a lot of dysfunctional Lettera 22s lately, and I’m slowly becoming more familiar with their little quirks and problem areas.

      Like

  2. Rock Harris says:

    Sweet.
    One of the things I love is when you get the ephemera with the machines. Makes it so much better…..

    One of the reasons I love my Valentine so much (besides the fact IT’S A VALENTINE!) is because I got the brush and manual with it.

    Good going. That’s a pretty machine.

    Like

    • Strong agree. I love the fun little extras that come with some of my typewriters. The Olivetti design for the brush case is just so darn classy and timeless.

      Like

  3. John Cooper says:

    Really nice work. You describe your repairs in such common-sense terms that the mechanically impaired can follow along.

    I now know why you passed a beautiful old Lettera 22 on to me–because it works great! Thanks again. I hope you find your Adobe Rose soon.

    P.S. As soon as you get that brush case working well, I’ll take it. 😉

    Like

  4. Perry Jennings says:

    I love those black round keys. And the typeface really is nice, esp. the numerals.

    I often make new feet from rubber bumpers. They are cheap and come in a large variety of shapes and sizes.

    Good deals on fixer-uppers can be found at shopgoodwill.com, but don’t expect much description. Shipping charges are often very reasonable.

    Like

    • I will look into rubber bumpers for feet – that’s a great tip!

      I have been tempted by shopgoodwill.com typewriters in the past, but the descriptions are pretty vague. I will take the plunge one of these days.

      Like

  5. Nick Merritt says:

    Love the Stephen Maturin reference! Maybe it’s time for me to read all those books again. He probably would favor a Lettera 22, come to think of it.

    Like

    • I was horrified when I saw you lugging that Lettera 22 up to the speed typing contest at Herman’s and somewhat gratified when you actually won 1st place with it.

      Like

  6. joevc says:

    By the way, I recently received an email from David, the gentleman who gave me Adobe Rose, and he was excited to see I used her to do the final typing of my Cold Hard Type story. He’s in Santa Fe only part of the year; we hope to organize a Type-In there.

    Like

    • I got volumes I and II of Cold Hard Type and look forward to reading through all the stories. Richard Polt and Fred Durbin were both at Herman’s Spring Typewriter Jubilee in West Virginia and I had my copies signed by these two there. Also at Herman’s: Kansas Typewriter (Alison D.) brought a car load of typewriters and among them: Adobe Rose’s twin sister. I cried tears of joy. She is now mine and I have named her “Adobe Rose East”.
      Adobe Rose East

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