Garage Band

The  marathon of holiday events that stretch from Thanksgiving to New Year’s is pounding along, and I am gamely holding my own.  Others may drop out from exhaustion; but I am a solid long-distance runner, and I will win this holiday season.  To that end, I hosted a Holiday Typewriter Open House.

My husband and I like to host a holiday open house at some point in December for family, friends and neighbors.  We’re shy types, but we like people.  Hosting an open house is a shy person’s social dodge: you know most everybody you invite and they know you and your peculiarities. If you’re feeling shy, you don’t have to talk to anybody because you’re “busy” doing party maintenance. You wind up the event and then watch it play out in the safety and comfort of your own home.

When I heard there was a DC-area typewriter meet up in Sterling, VA the same day as our holiday party, I was disappointed that I couldn’t attend the Sterling event. But then I thought, huh, what if—what if I invite the typewriter people over to our open house in Arlington after the Sterling typewriter meet up?  I’ll set a lure with food and drink and tables of typewriters in the garage and see what I can catch. That sounded good to me and my husband, and it was a done deal.  Many thanks to Jonathan Typewriter Posey who publicized both December 14th events on our group’s Facebook page.

In preparation for the open house, I cleaned and organized the garage – no small feat.

I put down some old area rugs to help with sound absorption—typewriters can kick up quite a racket and the garage is a hard, echo-y space.

I borrowed a few tables from neighbors, made some typewriter pads from rug scraps and rug pads, and started to set out my collection of 13 former junkers.

I had intended to ready the collection in the days before the open house, but the path to hell…etc. As I was setting out typewriters the night before the party, the issues of my former junkers began to rear their ugly heads.  These machines don’t get as much exercise as they should, so beyond cold and sticky keys, there were weird behaviors to contend with.

The SCM Coronet Electric needed de-gummifcation of a few keys since it was doing that thing where keys strike over and over and over again.

I popped off the bottom plate, washed the sublever pivot areas with mineral spirits and all was good.

The rebuilt Regal/ Royal 10 was good to go except for the line lock not engaging. It needed a good wipe down of the line lock mechanism underneath so that it rocked cleanly, and all was good.

Next was a Royal KHM that Mr. E sold me at some point.  It was very dirty, but typing like the proverbial champ except that it needed a heavy, “hot” touch to prevent letter piling of certain characters.  It responded to cleaning of the segment and a good workout.

This blue Silent-Super was more problematic.  It was blowing past its left margin on carriage return.  As you may recall, this typewriter has a traumatic past, having been banged around a bit. I think the left margin stop needs to be “formed” some, but I couldn’t fix it enough to reliably catch.  Lesson learned: start testing your typewriters long before a type-in.

My Voss De Luxe was only able to type in red. The ribbon vibrator was catching on a cracked plastic card guide. Oy. Couldn’t fix that on short notice.

And the carriage release button on the Rheinmetall KsT was sticking and not responding to cleaning. Yikes – that’s one of my favorites!

And last but not least, I wanted to have my new Underwood 5 running for the party. I picked it up at Herman’s in October when it was in pretty rough condition.

I did some preliminary cleaning and replaced the platen and feed rollers with polyolefin heat shrink tubing.  It is typing pretty well, but not perfectly. The front feed rollers need another layer of heat shrink for paper to feed well.

The rest of my typewriters were solid and dependable: the pink Silent-Super, Adobe Rose East the Royal QDL, a Torpedo 18a, a Consul 232, a Royal Signet, and a Hermes 3000.

I hung a sign over the front door, turned on the lights and got ready for the guests.

photo credit: Glenn Gravatt

The first to arrive were the typewriter people who had attended the event in Sterling, VA. Then the neighbors and friends came in and then finally the extended family started drifting in.

photo credit: John Askey

photo credit: Glenn Gravatt

A typospherian from Pennsylvania, John A. brought an Oliver 9 with with a detached drawstring and broken mainspring.  He kindly left it with me to play with.  The Oliver has lovely decals and all the bits that often seem to get lost on Olivers: the spool caps, the wooden spool cores, even the little metal drawstring hook.

Favorite moments of the evening:

  • The arrival of the typospherians carrying their typewriters—like the entrance of a conquering army.
  • My husband patiently untangling a few typebars and reassuring a distressed neighbor who thought she had broken the typewriter.
  • A young grandson typing on his great-grandmother’s Regal/Royal 10 that I had repaired. It had been used in the great-grandmother’s shop in Winchester back in the day.
  • My 88 year old father-in-law rattling off his ocho apellidos vascos after meeting a local typewriter enthusiast with Spanish roots.

Many. many thanks to Glenn Gravatt and John Askey for taking pictures and proving that this thing really happened.  I lost track of my phone and my head and didn’t take a single photo!

It was not so much a “worlds collide” evening  as a pleasant meshing of the things I love: family and friends and typewriters and food and funny stuff.  We are doing this again—for sure.

The typer hosters. Photo credit: Glenn Gravatt

12 thoughts on “Garage Band

  1. Congratulations on your fine event! Those are some nice looking typewriters. I find almost every time I pull machines not used for a while I need to do something to get them up to as near 100% as possible.
    BTW: Springs on Olivers can usually be reformed and repaired.

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    • It was fun! I will definitely do something similar again.

      About that Oliver: I took apart the mainspring drum last night and found a broken spring. I slipped a new spring end into the slotted drum spindle, wound it up, re-attached the drawstring and away we went! Will post about that.

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      • Trenton says:

        I haven’t yet had to deal with a broken spring. Some springs seem to be in an enclosure that does not appear amenable to access. I have thought that if I encounter a broken spring I might try a replacement from a clock parts supply place. Seems to be a robust market for clock making and repair. If the spring is broken near the end just use the remainder with hopefully nominal difference in the resulting spring k-factor. I would also worry about having to drill a new hole as springs are made of hardened steel. Electric discharge drilling is an idea, but I’m not set up for it. I’m glad it worked out for you.

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      • I have come across a couple Olivers with broken mainsprings. They were pretty easy fixes: take apart the mainspring drum, slip an intact end of the broken spring into the slotted spindle of the drum, seal it back up, and you’re in business. Duane Jensen form Phoenix Typewriter has a very good video on repairing a broken Oliver mainspring:

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  2. Hooray! Fun event! Many machines tinkered into happiness (:
    Yep, I know the feeling of pulling machines out for a typing session, and then getting lost in the fiddling with the small issues that set in with storage. I usually consider it bonus fun, but I can see where that would be problematic in the hours before a big gathering. 😀

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    • I should have done a thorough testing of each of them the week before – lesson learned! I should develop a checklist of functions that I can run through before events like this since I will likely host again.

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  3. Rose H says:

    Mary, Happy Holidays to you from Colorado! Been lurking for a long time, finally saying hey from one female (Gen X) typospherian to another. I have a small armada of machines ready for me to work on, and learn from in the new year. Also tools and solvents and rags and books and things! I may hit you up with a question here and there. Anyway, thanks for being awesome.

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    • Ahoy there, matey! Good to hear from you and good luck with the tinkering. Fortunately there are lots of online resources if you get stuck – and don’t hesitate to drop me a line.

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