A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again (Probably)

A few weeks ago I had the run of the house while my husband and  daughter were out of town, so I conducted a science experiment that involved dunking a very rusty typewriter in a citric acid bath.

The experiment wasn’t a failure, but my outcomes were different from my expectations – and that’s not a completely bad thing. This is an ABC Afterschool Special where everybody learns something from a challenging experience and grows a bit.

Following a 7th grade science fair outline, I describe my experimental process below:


I dunked a solidly rusted 1929 Royal 10 into a 10% citric acid solution in an effort to remove rust.  The goal was to either a) make the typewriter functional or b) render it a usable parts machine for another Royal 10 project I have. **SPOILER ALERT** While the citric acid solution effectively removed rust, it did not produce a functional typewriter.


I bought a 1929 Royal 10. It was completely rusted but intact with the exception of missing carriage ball bearings and pinions.  I thought, yeah, I can make that work.  The machine had apparently spent much time in a damp environment, as it was an immobile, solid block of rust.  It was so rusted, I couldn’t remove the ribbon spools.

Despite liberal application of penetrating lubricants, nothing was moving. I have worked with rusty machines before, and usually after a few days of lubricants and gentle urging, the machine will move.  This one didn’t. Not a thing moved.  I couldn’t even remove the screws or cover plates. I finally was able to remove the ribbon spools using some naval jelly, but it was a struggle. Those special Royal ribbon spools are expensive, so that’s a win.

Here it is on my work bench.  It doesn’t look bad in this picture, but it was so, so solid.


Solid. Solid as a rock.

Materials and Methods

I read an interesting forum post about a citric acid dunk for a rusted typewriter, and became intrigued. Maybe, maybe I could get this thing moving.

Here’s what I used:

  • Simple Green
  • Big plastic tub
  • A collection of brushes in different shapes and sizes
  • Plenty of rags
  • Drop cloth (old curtain)
  • 5 lb bag of citric acid powder
  • Water
  • Baking soda
  • Air compressor
  • PB Blaster

The very first thing I did was remove the carriage. I did not want to dunk the platen since it has a wooden core that would swell and split. I did a dry brush with my bottle brushes and brass bristle brushes to loosen junk that my lubricants loosened.  I then placed the typewriter in my huge plastic tub and blew out loose debris with my air compressor.

I then hauled the typewriter up to the upstairs bathroom to de-grease it prior to its citric acid bath.  Wrapping the keys in plastic wrap to keep them dry, I dunked the typewriter into a solution of Simple Green and water to de-grease the typewriter since it was full of lubricants.  Then I scrubbed the heck out of the typewriter.

This is something I have always dreamed about: scrubbing a dirty typewriter like a pig going to the state fair, but it was, in reality, really gross. The typewriter was slippery and awkward and left a nasty brownish ring in the tub. I felt a wave of irritated exhaustion wash over me, but I knew I had to complete the mission. After some therapeutic swearing,  I rinsed the typewriter and dragged all 30+ slippery pounds of it back downstairs to the garage. I was already so very tired.

I had bought a 5lb bag of 100% citric acid powder online (it was about $11.00).  I liked the idea of using something fairly safe (citric acid is used in canning and soap making). In my big plastic tub, I mixed up an approximate 10% solution by mixing the 5 lb bag of citric acid (about 2268 grams) and about 6 gallons of very hot water (about 22.7 kilograms). I converted everything to metric to make my calculations simpler. If my math is wrong here, let me know in the comments.

After I filled my tub, I gently lowered my typewriter into the solution.  The level was not high enough to completely submerge the typewriter; and I wanted the level to be just shy of the keys, so I filled buckets with clean water and placed them in the tub to raise the level of the solution.

Every couple hours I would check on the typewriter in the bath, giving it a good scrub and testing parts for movement. The typewriter soaked for a total of 36 hours. I then removed it from the bath, added fresh water and a box of baking soda to neutralize the acid.  I rinsed it off, blew out the water with the air compressor and sprayed the dry typewriter liberally with PB Blaster to prevent flash rust.


After a couple hours of the citric acid soak, I was able to remove a spool cover plate.   The frozen mainspring began to move. Keys began to move.  I got very excited. And waited. I really wanted the escapement and tab mechanism to start moving. After 36 hours I gave up and removed the typewriter from the citric acid solution.

Look how fresh and clean that thing is.  This citric acid solution effectively removes rust.  However, the escapement and tabbing mechanism still don’t move.

But, I was now able to remove previously immobile screws and pins, and I started to slowly dismantle the typewriter for the parts I needed for its 1925 Royal 10 brother.

The extended soak had caused the paint was to soften and flake in places.   At least one spring disintegrated.

I ended up with about six gallons of left-over citric acid solution.  I don’t think all the hydrogen ions (?) were used up in the chemical reaction so the solution still works as a de-ruster.  I dunked some other rusty parts in the left-over solution and it removed rust.

This guy explains the chemical reaction (starting at about 7:30 in the video). To me, his wonderful voice adds credibility to his description of the chemical reaction.



My expectation was that the major mechanics of the typewriter would be freed after the citric acid dunk, and I would be able to make the typewriter functional.  That didn’t happen, but I ended up with a good source of Royal 10 parts.  Still, I was a bit disappointed. I will definitely use citric acid as a de-ruster (heck, I’ve got six gallons of it), but I probably won’t do the total dunk again.

Also, I shouldn’t have dunked it for 36 hours. The gentle acid slowly ate through paint and at least one small spring, and the extended soak didn’t improve the mobility of the escapement and the tabbing mechanism.

In addition, I learned these things:

  1. Like murder, dunking a 1920s standard typewriter is a dirty business and everyone and everything associated with it will be sullied.  And like murder, there were many dark-night-of-the-soul moments of “What have I done?”  I am very glad there were no witnesses to this. The  clean-up was interminable, but I left no evidence as to what had transpired.
  2.  1920s standard typewriters seem to gain hundreds of pounds in awkward, slippery weight during the dunking procedure.
  3. Rust never sleeps and flash rust is a real thing. You need to dry that thing after the dunk and grease it up all over.

I was fortunate in finally being able to remove screws and pieces from the formerly rusted typewriter.  This typewriter is slowly dying so that its brother, the 1925 Royal 10, might live.  Thus far, it has given up:

  • four good feet
  • two glass side windows
  • numerous screws
  • two carriage clamps
  • a key lever connector
  • a margin release button
  • platen (getting there – I need to address rusty set screws for removal first)

I was able to donate a right carriage knob to another typospherian in need of a Royal 10 knob.  If anyone needs a Royal 10 part, let me know.  I would like to use all parts of the buffalo.

What I really need to remove is the type bar guide so it may replace the broken guide on its 1925 Royal 10 brother.  After de-rusting,  I was able to finally take out its mounting screws, but the guide remains firmly in place.  Does anyone out there have experience removing a Royal 10 type bar guide? Do you just pry it off the pins? Is it secured in another hidden location?


Finding Your Fun

My verdict on the whole experience is that I thought this would be fun, and it wasn’t. It was a lot of gritty, filthy work and slippery heavy-lifting, and though I have a really good parts machine now, it didn’t result in a functional typewriter.

To work through my mild disappointment at this and to find my inner fun, I turned to the curative power of my club music playlist that’s packed with Kylie, J Lo, Robyn, Gaga and robots.  My secret shame is dance music, and this playlist transports me.  Some people meditate or do yoga or drink, but me, I listen to my Girls + Robots playlist.  When I listen to it, I am not eating a banana and doing laundry, I am out clubbing with my Party People. I am alive to the beat:

I really, really need to replace that broken type bar guide.

Seen this week in the neighborhood: a kindred spirit’s license plate


Make Mine Pink: Smith-Corona Super-Sweet

There was so much orange, gummy residue in this S-C Silent-Super that I got from Ebay a couple weeks ago. I think it was old WD-40. The escapement (and carriage rails, margins, shift lock, space bar) responded to a good cleaning with mineral spirits, but the typebars required a lot of work. I searched my mind, but I don’t think I have ever come across as sticky a typewriter as this one.  The typebars were gummy not only in the segment but at many other tight pivot points. Some keys were sticking in the sublever segment, and some were gummy at the clevis connections. Others (I think) were sticking in the key guide comb. I also had a couple type slugs that had little corrosion burrs that caused them to stick in the typebar guide.  I cleaned up the sides of the affected type slugs with some steel wool.

The mineral spirits I buy in Virginia seems to be a more aggressive formulation than the gentle, forgiving mineral spirits I get in California.  I have to be very careful to keep these Virginia mineral spirits away from any painted surface.

After de-gumming the mechanics, I removed the Silent-Super’s tangled drawstring from its guts. I made the new drawstring from heavy duty waxed thread.  I didn’t have the little hook end for the drawstring, so I just made a knotted loop and tightened it down at the anchor point at the right end of the carriage.

I used the Robert Messenger method of drawstring attachment and pre-wound my mainspring before I attached my drawstring to the mainspring. However, I just saw a very interesting Phoenix Typewriter video that demonstrates a Smith-Corona mechanism that allows you to wind the mainspring after you attach the drawstring. You learn something new every day !

The tabbing mechanism was still halting and sluggish.  I wiped down all the pivots points I could see, but it was still slow on tabbing.  Fortunately I had Ted Munk’s Smith-Corona Floating Shift Typewriter Repair Bible. This repair manual is also available as a PDF download. After reading through the section on the tabulator, I found the buried spots I had neglected to clean with mineral spirits. After a good clean, tabbing was fast and smooth.

This service manual is also available in PDF format. I like the hard-copy books that I can paw through with my grimy hands.

The uppercase/lowercase alignment was a little off. The lowercase letters were printing a wee bit high.

I referred to Ted Munk’s post about making vertical alignment adjustments on segment shift typewriters.  Phoenix Typewriter also has a very good Youtube video on making the adjustments.

I used a 3/16″ nut driver to loosen the lowercase lock nut and turned the adjustment screw a bit with a teeny screwdriver.

Whoops!  Wrong way! It’s going up higher. Other way, other way.  That’s better.

I tightened down the lowercase lock nut and it’s all good.

Here’s a parts diagram for the Silent-Super that I snagged from a 1958 Silent- Super/Sterling/Clipper manual in Richard Polt’s typewriter manual archive:

I removed the platen to clean it and all the bits around it which were still very sticky and furry from congealed something-or-the-other.

Removing the platen is pretty easy on this type of Smith-Corona portable.  Joe Van Cleave has a good Youtube video describing the features of a S-C Silent.  At about 11:30 in the video, he demonstrates how to pop out the platen.

  • Lift the paper bail
  • Tilt back the tab cover
  • Pull out the variable line spacer on the left platen knob
  • Press the platen release latch forward
  • Lift platen out

I cleaned the gummy residue from the platen, rubber bail rollers and feed rollers with denatured alcohol.

Pinkie’s outer skin was still pretty rough.  She had lots of surface rust and bare metal.

I used diluted Scrubbing Bubbles to gently clean the pink paint.  I was worried that it would remove paint, so I tested in an unseen spot in the back.  It removed gray grunge but no pink paint.

Here’s a photo on my work bench after I had cleaned her backside.  The machine arrived from Ebay with a gray, grubby cast, but a careful cleaning slowly revealed her bright pink flesh.

Pinkie’s pink paint was very bright, but she had some major dings.   I primed bare metal spots, and I made up an acrylic paint mixture of various pinks for paint touch-up.  It was tricky because the pink was not uniform in color over the typewriter:  salmon here, coral there, dusty rose over there.

I made very conservative, respectful paint touch-ups. This Silent-Super is a Smith-Corona Super-Sweet:

Old Pinkie has lost a lot of her grungy, corrupt toy vibe.  However, I “kept it real” with this clean-up, so she still has her charming smattering of corroded freckles.

X Over It has a nice collection of Smith-Corona portable advertisements. Pinkie’s color is officially called “Coral Pink”. In 1957, Silent-Supers’ list price was $129.00. If you convert that to 2019 dollars, that’s about $1160.00. That sounds like a lot, but I know that I spent more on computers in the early 1990s that are now considered e-waste. Hello, 386/33 with a whole 4Mb of RAM!

Pinkie gets along great with her blue S-C Sans-A-Tab brother. Maybe I can rent out my pink and blue Silent-Supers to people throwing gender reveal parties.  Typewriters seem safer than involving  alligators.

Blue Boy and Pinkie

I have a pretty collection of colorful Easter eggs sunning themselves on the bookshelf.

Sing it, Pinkie:


Old Pinkie the Smith-Corona Silent Super

In our dining room, we have a framed artifact from a simpler time.

This is Old Pinkie.  It started out as a Halloween costume and was worn every day for several months in 2005/2006.  Here is Old Pinkie in late December 2005.

It was about 50 degrees and foggy, so my daughter is wearing Old Pinkie and flip flops.  Contrary to the opinion of every grandmother out there, going coatless and wearing the same ballerina costume every day are not life or death situations.

We framed Old Pinkie because it serves as a reminder of the limits of power when faced with a wily, tenacious, and vocal adversary.

Welp, there’s a new Old Pinkie in town: a 1956 Smith-Corona Silent Super, serial number 5T 416581X.

Last week both my husband and my daughter were out of town, so I had the whole house to myself for a few days.

I conducted a science experiment in the garage. More about that in a future post.


I thought that having the run of the place was going to be a lot more fun than it was, but I was at loose ends without the customary structure to my days.  I binged-watched Russian Doll, finished off a bag of marshmallows for dinner, and trolled eBay.

I found an Art Nouveau beast at eBay that I really, really wanted, so I put it on my Christmas wish list.

Also on eBay, I found this SC Silent Super that I impulsively, guiltily bought. What a honey. This is my kind of typewriter: one that looks like it will involve many pleasant hours of tinkering and cleaning.

It’s seen some action.

It came with a “Holiday” case:

I had no idea you could remove the metal fastening frame from the case, but you just push the frame release lever to the right and lift it out.  This is going to make cleaning so much easier.

Here’s a Godfrey’s Fix-it Shop (Seattle, WA) price list from September 1969:

It looks like rotisserie repair was more lucrative than typewriter repair at that time.

The typewriter itself was impressively dirty, full of orange gunk and hair. Touching it left me sticky and hairy.

The drawstring was snapped and twisted around the mainspring.

None of the keys moved initially, but I got the letter T to type.  I pulled left on the carriage to see if the escapement would advance, but no go.

Underneath, all the dogs and rockers and wheels and springs and whatnot were paralyzed in orange congealed goo – perhaps this typewriter was the victim of WD40?

I did a quick wipe down with mineral spirits and manually worked the escapement  until it was springy and responsive. The carriage began to advance when I hammered the letter T.

This Old Pinkie is going to be just fine. I have another Silent Super to refer to if I run into problems:

To be continued.

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”).

High Quality Analog Leisure – The Return of the Olivetti Lettera

Last week I got a desperate “help needed” text message from J.  As you might recall from a previous post, J. is a typewriter enthusiast who lives in Northern Virginia.  She teaches 4th grade art and has begun integrating typewriters into her classroom.  I had fixed up a rusty Underwood-Olivetti Lettera 22 for her and she has been using it for journalling.  It has become her most favored typewriter because of its touch and light weight. Unfortunately, the drawstring snapped last week and she was devastated.

I have been out of touch with the typosphere for the last few months – busy with work and family and projects and the holidaze, and very distracted by all sorts of digital junk.  I gave up Twitter last week, and my brain is already clearing and functioning better.  I’m not much into Facebook or Instagram, but Twitter clicked with me.   It’s so good and so bad.  Though it fed my craving for constant news and smart unwholesome comedy (especially important in these anxious times), I had the uneasy feeling that my brain and soul were rotting. I was on the way to developing “internet brain”.  I need to think and process thoughts in chunks larger than a few characters, so I stopped visiting Twitter.

I’m generally kind of “meh” on minimalism,  but I recently listened to a podcast about digital minimalism and some of it makes sense. I’m a little turned off by judgy people and scolds, BUT when I really thought about it, I found that my compulsive digital habits were crowding out “high quality analog leisure activities” like typewriter fun and writing and deep thought.

J.’s distress signal about the Lettera’s broken drawstring came at the perfect time.

This past weekend, I headed out to the woods where J. lives.  I brought my little repair kit with replacement drawstring, scissors, bamboo skewers, etc.

Ordinarily, a drawstring repair is very straightforward and takes about 10 minutes. Robert Messenger has a very good description of drawstring/drawband replacement.  However, J.’s Lettera had a frozen carriage as well.

After the drawstring had snapped, J. had continued to use the typewriter and typed almost another entire page by pulling the carriage to the left (she really does love this typewriter so much).  The carriage jammed after that.

My first thought was that the other broken end of the drawstring had migrated into the guts of the machine and was impeding the passage of the carriage.

I took the bottom cover off and looked around with a flashlight.  No drawstring remnants. I really wanted to remove the top shell, but with the carriage frozen, there was no way to access one of screws holding it on.

I took a closer look at the frozen carriage.  Let’s zoom in, shall we?

The type guide is sitting way outside the furthest left margin. A metal piece from the margin release mechanism was sitting outside the carriage.

I was able to get the piece from the margin release mechanism to scoot under the carriage a bit by depressing the margin release button, but once there, the carriage hit a wall and wouldn’t budge. It felt like a hard, metal barrier, not squishy like a drawstring remnant.

I regretfully I told J. I would have to bring the Lettera back to my home workshop and ponder this situation.

Back home I turned to the typosphere for guidance and was not disappointed.  I downloaded the Lettera 22 user manual from Richard Polt’s archive to refamiliarize myself with the Lettera’s unlabeled keys.  I don’t use a Lettera very often and the mysterious unlabeled keys always throw me.

I found a Ted Munk post about  a repaired Lettera 22.  In the comments, someone asked for advice about a jammed carriage, and Ted wisely suggested that she look at the pins on her tabulator rack as they could be impeding travel.

Ah yes! The Jammed Carriage Tabulator-Related Impedance Disorder.  I have seen this before in an LC Smith No. 5, a Smith-Corona Super Something, and an Olivetti Praxis 48.

I didn’t even visually examine the tab rack, I just went ahead and cleared all the tabs per the instructions in the Lettera 22 user manual:


Hurray! The carriage moved! I examined the tab rack with a flashlight and saw a few strands of drawstring – perhaps that was enough to lodge a tab pin in a bad situation. I cleaned all the stringy bits out.

Now that the carriage was moving, I removed the shell and looked for additional pieces of broken drawstring.  I didn’t see anything else, so I set about replacing the drawstring with some heavy duty waxed thread, about 13″ long.

My first attempt at threading the drawstring through the machine went badly.  It followed too high a path and interfered with the tabbing mechanism.  The correct path is lower so that it almost sits in the groove by the mainspring.

The Lettera was back to typing.  I tested and found that there was some letter piling with shifting.

I gave the mainspring another rotation in case it was a tension-related issue.  It seemed a little better, but not perfect.  The uppercase “Q” and the “+” character – both furthest out on the segment were piling with shifting.

I took the bottom plate off and lubricated the rails and tiny hole behind which the toothed escapement wheel hides.

I tested the shifted “Q” and “+” and all was well.  I replaced the bottom plate – and the letter piling problem returned for those two keys. I took the bottom plate off, and again all was well.

The Lettera 22 is a flatty, low-slung creature, so I guessed that the mechanics were rubbing against the bottom plate while in the shifted position. It’s a segment shift typewriter, so everything goes down on shift. The quarters are tight and clearances are small. I had some thin rubber washers, so I added them to the feet to prevent the bottom plate from being over-tightened and pressing into the mechanical guts.

Perfect. No more letter piling on shift.

I have a lot of affection for this beat-up specimen with its jaunty burping lid.  I am thrilled that it has become a most favored, beloved typewriter for someone.

Chewy says, “GGWWWRGHH” in deep appreciation.

J. was very excited to hear that the Lettera was back in typing condition. She rushed over after work to retrieve it. I do love it when things work out like this and weird little mysteries like jammed carriages are solved neatly.

I now return to the high quality leisure activity of slowly reading through all the Typosphere.net posts that I have missed in my distracted state over the past few months. Though not technically an analog activity, it’s close enough for me.  Now I am reading, and funnily enough, a post by Type the Clouds in January describes a digital addiction similar to mine.  Wow, I am a little late to the Cal Newport party because here’s another post about Digital Minimalism… and here’s another typospherian who is paring down digital habits…



Typewriter Jamboree at Herman’s

My brain is kind of pickled by pop culture and the internet, so in my failing state, I made this.  I apologize for acting like somebody’s mom who just discovered memes:

I had to do it; her look of knowing approval just kills me.

The big Typewriter Jamboree (AKA the 11th Annual Chestnut Ridge Typewriter Rendezvous hosted by Herman Price AKA Hermanpalooza) was last weekend. Before I set out for Herman’s on Friday, I packed up a couple donations for Wordplay Cincy: a real nice Olympia SM3 and a Lettera 22 with script typeface that I bought in North Platte, Nebraska. The Lettera was very sticky and had the gummy escapement problem that causes the carriage to slide willy-nilly, so I did quick clean.

I hit the road on a beautiful fall day and headed west out of DC.

Into the mountains I went:

I reached Morgantown, WV and then made my way to Herman’s where Friday arrivals were to congregate. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.

Good grief – the party was already rocking and rolling Friday afternoon.  Porta-Potties at the ready.

This is a beautiful Oliver 9 rehab in fire-engine red:

In the evening I headed out into Morgantown proper which is a nice little college town with a very happening nightlife:

I saw a manhole with my favorite exasperation exclamation.  It is frequently heard coming from me, bent over a typewriter:

Saturday dawned chilly and gray.  The rain started.

It got muddy. Like Woodstock, but with less LSD.

Fortunately we had a huge tent for presentations and vats of hot coffee (courtesy of Mrs. Price who deserves a medal for Extreme Hostessing Skills)

Herman formally welcomed us with jokes. He is very funny – his comedic timing is pro-level.

And then came the presentations: Typewriter First Aid using the gun technique which I ate up.  It was so good – I picked up a bunch of good ideas.

The Brumfield clan brought a slew of typewriters – many from the  Magdalinski Collection of South Bend , IN.  Brian B’s presentation on the incredible work his family did in saving many of the typewriters in the collection was riveting.

I didn’t know much about Royal electrics, but I came away with a new appreciation of them after Ian B’s presentation.  Some of these pictured are extremely rare.

There was a typewriter beauty contest:

Number 88, the Pittsburgh won:

A lot of people came with business cards. I’ll have to make up some for myself.

I talked typewriters with people all day Saturday until I was hoarse. I picked up so many excellent tips on typewriter repair and cleaning. It was a novel feeling, talking typewriters with people equally passionate about the crazy things. There were so many typospherian rock stars in the flesh at the gathering – I felt a bit shy. I was thisclose to asking for pictures with them, but I chickened out.

Saturday evening, mid-sentence in a discussion about Smith Corona 5 series, I felt the abrupt onset of overwhelming exhaustion.  A career introvert, the day had got the best of me and I cratered.  I slunk back to the silence of my hotel room to recover and work through the conversations of the day.

I had to leave early Sunday morning, so I missed the speed typing contest.  However, other attendees posted pictures of the Jamboree on the Facebook Antique Typewriter’s Collectors group page.

Resolutions for next year at Herman’s

  • Plan better so that I can stay for Sunday’s events
  • Talk to all the people I didn’t get a chance to pester this year
  • Get pictures with people
  • Bring business cards with contact information
  • Encourage Herman to open his swimming pool (just kidding!)

Early Sunday I returned to the DC area – a light early snow blanketed the mountains.

I came back with three delightful junkers that were essentially freebies: two Royal 10s and a LC Smith No. 8, all with “issues”.

Thank you, Mr. E and Darcy!

The L.C. Smith No. 8 is a pretty early one, serial number 278424-8.  It’s a 1916 which would make it the earliest No. 8 at TWDB.

Side note:  Typewriter Database Version Epsilon is looking pretty snazzy! It’s so nice to have the mobile and desktop versions united.

The L.C. Smith was rusted solid – boat anchor/doorstop condition.  I blew out the crud and doused it with PB Blaster penetrant and left it to reek quietly in the garage while I unpacked.

When I came back, I gently tried to move the carriage.  It moved with crusty squeaks.  With patience and petroleum-based penetrants, I gently freed the stiffened parts.   Using my hands and a soft touch, I delicately tried to move the rust-frozen parts that should move: typebars, ribbon vibrator, universal bar, sublevers, carriage return, back space.  I got the letter “T” moving.  The slug met the platen, there was a ba-dump as the escapement did its thing, and the typewriter moved a space.

Here’s the “T” and space bar working it:


Now that I am sure that the LC Smith can type, I want to clean it thoroughly.  I wish I could do the kind of work that Words Are Winged does – he’s amazing. I may do a careful Evapo-rust/cleaning dunk if I can get the keys and platen off.  The platen is soldered on (!) Someone lost the screw and decide to affix the sliding platen holder with a blob of solder. Oh well.  Onward.


*Postscript to Anne ’88: drop me a line at the email address below so I can come pick up your typewriters.

Adios, Summer

We formally put Summer to bed more than a month ago. Though it remained hotter than Hades for a good long time after, they closed the pools and everybody had to Get Serious.

I experienced a severe summertime hangover and really had problems Getting Serious.  The familiar rhythms of work and school have resumed, but I am stuck in summer. It may be that my Typewriters Across America Experience was too rushed and I haven’t had time to process everything I saw and felt.

I started doing some work for a new company and in the course of new employee orientation, something in the employee handbook jumped out and caught my eye:

This means the party is officially over.

I had a few days in California in August before I had to return to the east coast.  I played with my new 1956 Alpina, but ran out of time cleaning it up. It looks like a chunky 1950s robot.

Birth of the Superchunk 3000 by Botticelli

It was very dirty:

Even so, I put some paper in her and did a short typing comparison with the new Adler J3 and the Olympia SM3:

Both my son and I did comparison typing.  The Alpina (even in its grunky state) was a very close competitor to the almost brand new Adler.  The Olympia is wonderful (also almost brand new), but both of us didn’t like its heavy carriage shift.

The Alpina uses a partial carriage shift (skeleton shift). Will Davis describes it this way:

One notable feature of Alpina machines is that, while they employ carriage shift, only the platen actually moves when the shift keys are depressed. This makes shifting rather easy considering the size and weight of these machines — these are among the very biggest and heaviest portables in the post-1958 enlarged overall size.

Will Davis, Alpina portable typewriters

He is right.  The shift is light, but the Alpina is incredibly heavy.  I wish I had put it on the scale.

Its lovely clamshell case is arresting.

The case looks like it’s metal, but it’s actually very thin, fragile 1950s plastic.  It has a couple small cracks at the hinges:

I understand that this type of Alpina case is fairly rare.  I imagine not many of its fragile kind survived the years, hauling superchunk Alpinas.

One interesting thing about this Alpina is that it has two serial numbers: one riveted to inside body (#73969) and one under the carriage on the left (#75330).

I took a few more pictures for Typewriter Database and then l lovingly kissed the Alpina goodbye.  I’ll see her again in December/January.

I flew home to Virginia in August with two typewriters as carry-ons.  I’ll be taking them to Herman Price’s Typewriter Jamboree for someone who expressed an interest in them. The Lettera 22 fit perfectly into my laptop backpack.

And the Olympia SM3 fit inside a rolling carry-on.

I have taken typewriters through airports in the past and have been disappointed that I have never had them examined by TSA. This time though, I was waved to the side for further inspection.  I guess one typewriter is fine, but two or more trigger the Typewriter Smuggler Alarm.

I was very satisfied with TSA agent’s sincere surprise when he opened my luggage and saw typewriters. He loved the Olympia (who wouldn’t?)

“Oh wow!” he said.  “That’s really cool. Does it work? Really?? It’s worth like a $1000.00, right?”

It is worth that.

Met with genuine approval by the TSA agent, we were waved through and the typewriters made it safely to Virginia.

Now that I am back in the old routine, I have been thinking  a lot about a tweet that I saw at the end of the summer.  The Alpina typed it out for me.  I think about it frequently in the shower. It’s a perfect way to start each day.