J. is a local typewriter enthusiast who brings me problem typewriters from time to time. She doesn’t just admire her lovelies on a shelf, she works them hard, typing daily. Her Olympia SM3 below is beloved. Not only does it look truly scrumptious with that box-o-chocolates keyboard, it types like an Olympia—that is to say, like a mechanical dream.
This Olympia, however, has a problem. The carriage won’t move.
J. is a very resourceful gal and has figured out a work-around. She engages the caps lock to free the carriage and types in ALL CAPS. She loves this typewriter so much, she will type in ALL CAPS if need be.
When J. told me about this situation and her solution, I thought to myself: sounds like the notorious Olympia Bad Rubber Washer/Spacer/Bushing Problem.
So, let’s take a look. All four rubber washers that pad between the machine guts and the outer casing were mashed into disintegrating blobs of tarry goo. Once the rubber flattens, the machine guts sink and the carriage starts rubbing or grinding or stalling on the casing. Engaging caps lock raises the carriage and allows it to move freely. Unfortunately, few people other than J. will want to type in ALL CAPS.
It looks like someone added modern washers on the outside of the case when the inside rubber disintegrated and the screws got looser and looser.
Typospherians have documented this very common situation with Olympia SMs. It is a well known problem with a “One Weird Trick” solution. When I see this condition, I think about a ten-year-old blog post at clickthing which I am sure has helped many, many Olympia SM owners over the years.
Duane at Phoenix Typewriter has a good video that details the fix on Brownie’s twin sister:
Though I had bought some rubber washers at the local hardware store, I decided to use the extra washers that I found on the exterior of the case. The washers are about 1/8″ thick and looked brand new. I am guesstimating that the outer diameter of these washers is about 1/2″ to 5/8″ and the inner diameter is 3/16″ to 1/4″.
The old washers, melted and compressed, glued the machine to its casing, so I had to pry the frame from the case with a screw driver and pick out the old rubber.
I took clickthing’s advice and swapped out the four rubber washers one at a time so that I didn’t need to futz with lining up the holes on all four washers and screws at the same time. Here is a new washer going in:
That looks very good—1/8″ or somewhat thicker seems to be a good size:
I tested, and all was well. I was able to type in lowercase, and there was no carriage scraping or stalling on the casing.
Gosh, this Olympia is so nice. Why don’t I own an Olympia SM3/4 portable? They come to me, and I always let them go. I used to complain that the carriage shift was too heavy for my delicate lady paws. Heck, if J. can type in ALL CAPS for the love of an Olympia, I can suffer the occasional carriage shift. Therefore, be it resolved: the next Olympia SM3/4 I run across, I’m going to keep for a little while.
While I was working in the garage, I heard the sound of a siren. I opened the garage door and peeked out. The sound became a hot shriek. There’s something funny going on out there.
Calm down, Olympia. No need to shout. I fixed your washers!
Those are members of Brood X, an enormous group of periodical cicadas. Here in the eastern US, they crawl out of their holes every 17 years to eat, mate, and have babies—all while making an insane racket. They are numerous and noisy, but harmless.
I’m actually happy to see them. I saw them last in 1987 and have been eagerly anticipating their 2021 arrival. Far from feeling like a biblical plague, they are a comforting reminder that ancient cycles continue despite global pandemics, human dumbassery, and whatnot.
I am a 15-month cicada, slowly coming out of my shell now that I have gotten my second dose of the Pfizer vaccine. Like many around me, I’m crawling out of the pandemic hole and looking about hopefully. This summer, I’ll see many friends and family for the first time in a while. My son arrives from California next week for a long visit. I haven’t seen him in-person since Christmas 2019.
Walking around the neighborhood, I see a lot of masks on the ground, a trashy human version of molted cicada husks. I have been taking pictures of them because I don’t want to forget what the last year has been like. We humans are so flighty and forgetful. I don’t want this experience to fade into the mists of time with nothing learned.