A Makeshift Paper Mache Cover for a Consul 232

Some time ago I pulled out my Rheinmetall to type up some stuff, and I said to myself,  “How sweet it is!” The typing was perfect. I love the way this thing rolls – serious surfin’ swagger.

Toss me the keys, Baby, and let’s blow this popsicle stand.

The typing was perfect until the ribbon stopped advancing mid-sentence. What!!

I took the ribbon cover off and peered around.  I tested typing and it was fine.

I replaced the ribbon cover and the ribbon stopped advancing.

I removed the ribbon cover and completed whatever it was I was typing and then took a closer look under the hood.  I was missing a rubber washer on one side.  The ribbon feed mechanism was binding intermittently in one direction.  Perhaps the lid sat too low.

There are so many topless typewriters out there.  I wonder how many were victims of ribbon feed problems that resolved with cover removal.  The lost ribbon covers now belong to the ages.

Ribbon feed problems could be due to a number of issues:

The ribbon cover that binds on the spooling mechanism (#4)—that is a thing.

Here is a BBC article from 2012 entitled “Five reasons to still use a typewriter” with images of not one but two Letteras without ribbon covers.  Did the BBC have problems finding photos of intact typewriters in their stock image archives?

I’ve seen topless typewriters owned by famous people: Leonard Cohen, Larry McMurtry, Woody Allen. Maybe they had spooling problems that resolved with cover removal.

Which brings me to the Consul 232 without a ribbon cover that I brought home from Herman’s.

It was a wee bit rusty. The roof fell in and the rain came down:

The Consul 232 User Manual (found at Richard Polt’s typewriter manual archive) has an image of of a woman with an umbrella—something this Consul could have used at some point.

The typewriter was made in Czechoslovakia:

According to Typewriter Database, you interpret a Consul serial number this way:

The first digit of serial number indicates the year of production (4 means 1964), followed by model number (2 or 3 digits), followed by the machine’s s/n of 6 digits

So: #7232467803 means that this is a 1967 Consul 232 with a serial number 467803.

It has interesting mechanics – at least to me, someone who sees a lot of Smith-Coronas and Royals and not too many Czech typewriters. Czech out these key lever pivot rods.   They were a little crunchy, but loosened up with PB B’laster.

I am currently contemplating swapping out a broken key lever on a Royal Safari, and it’s going to be a helluva job.  If the Safari were constructed like this Consul, I’d be happier.

Here are the Consul’s weird guts.  This is before cleaning—and it still typed just fine.

The Consul isn’t rattly and clattery but surprisingly solid despite its very light weight. This cleaned up nicely.

I decided to make a paper mache ribbon cover.  It’s a cute little thing, and it didn’t seem right to leave it without a cover.

I first cut out a rough template from paper that I transferred to foam board.   I made it large and cut it down, tested the size , cut it more, and then used hot glue gun to hold it all together.  I tested typing on it to make sure all the typebars sailed through to the platen. The foam board was a light but structurally strong base – good for my paper mache.

I made a flour and water paper mache mixture from 1 part flour to 5 parts water, cooked it on the stove to boiling for a few minutes and then let it cool. It was nice and smooth.

While that cooled, I threw in a new ribbon and typed out quotes on the Consul on imperfection, etc.

Yeah, whatever, Lady. I don’t know about that.



Right on.

Strong agree.

I am currently constructing my own paper mache wand with which to hit my head.

That’s me, Gary!

Oh yeah.

I cut small pieces of the typed quotes and dipped them in my flour/water mixture and paper mached the heck out of my foam board ribbon cover. I then painted it with dilute coffee so that the white paper was more of a cream to match the platen knobs and space bar.

I don’t know – the art here seems a little corny and obvious.  With the quotes all crammed together, they sound Hallmark-y without space to stand alone and breathe.  I decided to type out details of this Consul typewriter, and my daughter suggested including the URL of my blog. She knows I like a little self-promotion.

I futzed and futzed with the cover until I realized that it was never going to be perfect —but wasn’t that the point of this exercise? Have I learned nothing?

I christened this Consul the “makeSHIFT” —ha!


This scrappy patchwork paper mache ribbon cover makes me think of Dolly Parton’s “Coat of Many Colors”.  It’s on my playlist called “70s Weepies”.   I always get so choked up when I hear Dolly’s sweet, chipper little voice recount the lessons of making shift during her hardscrabble childhood in Tennessee.

I wonder if the other little Consuls at Typewriter Database will make fun of makeSHIFT and her scrappy little ribbon cover. No, they’re nice kids.

19 thoughts on “A Makeshift Paper Mache Cover for a Consul 232


    This is very cool, I love reading about your adventures and have learned a great deal from your posts. Thank you.


    • Thanks, Bill. Click on the photos for full resolution and you’ll see where it’s wonky. I want to keep tinkering with it, but I have to stop somewhere.


  2. Well, WOW! THAT turned out wonderfully. I admire your foam-core work. Most excellent solution.
    You presented this so satisfactorily–there was a problem, insight, history, craftiness, a solution, great quotes, interesting photos–I will be ruminating on this for awhile.
    Thank you and Well Done!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. John Cooper says:

    I’d never thought to determine a cause for the phenomenon of missing ribbon covers! I guess I thought it was just one of those things: loose things get lost. In any case, a papier-mâché ribbon cover is genius. What a fun solution!

    The binding problem is not only limited to metal one-piece ribbon covers. I have a Remington Model 5 with the original plastic covers that fit right over the ribbon spools, and although they appear to be in perfect shape, I have to take them off to type, usually balancing them neatly over their intended positions to avoid the grotesquerie of a typewriter with visible guts, like the poor cow at the dairy-science fair with a plastic window stitched into its side.


    • It’s just a working theory based on my observations – and you seem to have experienced a similar cover-related spooling issue. Let’s see what other members of the typosphere have to say.


  4. It’s Beautiful! 😀
    Consuls are fun, I think. I’ve typed on many but have only recently been given one to really dig into – a 1959 model 1511. To be square, Neither me nor Bill W at MTE nor the Facebook Typewriter Maintenance group has any idea how to even get the shell off it. It’s a puzzle, but what I can see underneath looks like a repairman’s dream – if only I could get at it! :/


      • heh, we thought of that. It seems apparent from the construction of the shell that the carriage has to come off, but neither of us found any obviously non-intricate way to do that. This will probably encourage me to dig up a Consul 1511 (or Speedwriter or Commodore whatever, or one of the 30-odd other names it was sold under) service manual more sooner than later.


  5. Mike Brown says:

    Mary, beautiful and clever. You give inspiration to even old mechanics like me. I wish I had your skill and talent. In the future I think I will forward all “topless” typewriters to you for your innovative solutions. Bravo!


  6. Greg L says:

    Really quite inspired, that is! Wonderful job. And your documentation here is a marvel. Thanks for sharing this. (This is Greg from Asheville. It was nice to meet you at Herman’s last month.)


  7. Marvellous solution, it looks so good! I often wondered too about all those topless typewriters. My first typewriter ( clattery silver reed) was also topless because my great uncle, who passed it on to me, got in a twist changing the ribbon and lost the ribbon cover. His solution was to go and buy another typewriter!


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