M-m-m-my Corona: Draw String on the Loose and I Love TWDB

My Corona 4 seemed like a hopeless case.  I confess there was a weak moment when I was tempted to put her in a box and donate her to Words Are Winged – that fellow has a knack for dismantling, reassembling and documenting old typewriters.

Rusty, grimy, and jammed, the Corona 4 still had a winning personality and bedraggled charm, so I continued to work on her.

When I first got the Corona 4, the carriage was frozen in place – it did not move an inch.  I doused it in PB Blaster and let it sit overnight.  The next day, my husband manhandled the Corona, exerting enough force to move the carriage. It loosened up and the carriage began to slide grudgingly along its rails.

The Corona 4 had a scary whistling carriage screech that put the Edison talking doll to shame.

As you can see, I had a very sticky carriage and hitting the shift key left the carriage hanging in the air – I had to push the carriage down manually after I hit the shift key.

After I could move the carriage, I found the draw cord all tangled up under the carriage.  It must have come off at some point in life and the carriage rusted into place.


When I was finally able to move the carriage back and forth the draw cord with its hook slipped down to the pulley area.

In a maneuver I call the Reverse Munk, I re-attached the carriage draw string.

I first wound the draw string tight on the mainspring drum using the ratchet pawl to maintain tension.


I hooked the draw string temporarily onto the side of the carriage rail.

I then made a lasso out of fishing line and fed it with a bamboo skewer which I ran under the carriage from right to left to retrieve the draw cord.


I got my lasso to the left end of the carriage where the draw cord was hooked temporarily on the side of the machine so it wouldn’t slip down the hole near the pulley.


I attached the draw cord hook to my fishing line lasso and pulled it under the carriage from left to right and re-attached it to a likely screw under the carriage on the right side.


Though the draw string was re-attached with good tension, the carriage failed to move freely. Hmm. The carriage advanced with typing or hitting the space bar if I pulled HARD to the left as I typed. Based on this, I gathered that the escapement was OK, but perhaps something was rusty or gummy or…?

Typewriter Database to the Rescue

There was something strange about the ribbon vibrator – it was in a permanent “up” position and would not go down.  I went to Typewriter Database (TWDB) and compared my Corona’s ribbon vibrator position to all the Corona Fours at TWDB.  Yes, something was very fishy.  My ribbon vibrator did not look like other ribbon vibrators. So off came the ruler thing and the ribbon vibrator.

The ribbon vibrator itself was fine – the two pieces of it slid easily together.


However, a projection from the escapement assembly that moves the vibrator up and down was locked in place:


I flipped the machine over and examined the escapement mechanism. I opened up TWDB again and searched for a Corona 4 listing in the archive that included an under machine photo.  I found one and noted that there were subtle differences between my 1930 Corona 4 and the 1931 Corona 4 on TWDB.


My Corona seemed to have bent and out-of-position parts – right around the escapement rocker bracket assembly and connected pieces (thank you, TWDB for the Corona parts manual).

This piece – escapement rocker bracket assembly – was all bent to hell:


illustration from Smith-Corona Parts Book, TWDB

Carefully studying the TWDB Corona and using my best judgement and some lucky intuition, I bent part of the escapement rocker bracket assembly, trying to make my typewriter look like the Corona 4 at TWDB.


Long story short: that did it. Here she is, partially disassembled and no ribbon but gamely putting up with my two-fingered typing.

I would still like to get close up pictures of the underbelly of a functional circa 1930 Corona 4 since my fix was mostly just lucky guesswork. I have a request for photos at Typewriter Talk if you have a functional Corona 4 and have a moment to take some detail pictures of the underside of your Corona 4 typewriter.

There is work still to be done:

  • sort out the ribbon feed mechanism
  • fix the backspace
  • glue the space bar
  • make new key lever links for missing ones
  • address peeling paint
  • make a donation to TWDB

UPDATE: Rev. Munk kindly posted under machine photos of his Corona 4 (“El Diablo”) at TWDB.  It looks like I was lucky and popped things back into the right place.  I will be using Rev. Munk’s photos again as I try to unravel my problematic back space mystery.



The Hot Mess: Corona Four

While doing research on my Oliver No. 9’s problems, I came across an entertaining post about a Remington Travel-Riter DeLuxe by Robert Messenger. He described its ribbon vibrator and the spool capstans as “banjaxed”.  I thought to myself: I will add that word and all its imaginary variations to my vocabulary.

My Oliver No. 9 isn’t the only train wreck in the house. While undeniably sexy, our Corona Four is thoroughly banjaxed. She has lived hard, but has obviously had a grand old time. I have photographed her in all her magnificent banjaxment.  Here we go:

The Toll of Hard Living

  1. Frozen carriage.  I had hoped that it was just a case of the carriage lock being on, but I really don’t think so.
  2. Ribbon vibrator in permanent “up” position – gives her a bit of a surprised look
  3. Broken space bar
  4. Sunken keys with missing linkage
  5. Bent typebars
  6. Deceased ribbon
  7. Rust
  8. Generalized grime
Go home, Corona Four, you've had too much to drink.

Go home, Corona Four. You’ve had too much to drink.

Here’s some more pictures of her in alluring disarray:

I can clean her up – she has the potential for stunning looks.  However, I don’t want just a display specimen. I want the Corona Four working and earning her keep in my stable of machines.

I am going to take the Corona completely apart. After I finish the Oliver.

Small Is Beautiful: Corona 4

I think E. F. Schumacher would have agreed that typewriters are an “appropriate technology”.  He may even have approved of my latest acquisition – it’s actually a liberation.

This afternoon I found this sad little Corona wasting away in a junk shop down the street in my neighborhood. I hit it off with the shop’s owner, and he gave it to me for $12.  He was glad to see it go to a happy home. What a great guy!

Here is is, working on her tan in the Californian sun

Here she is, working on her tan in the Californian sun.  She already feels better.

Her serial number is: J2A03722 which means she’s from 1930. Many thanks to the Typewriter Database for the serial number information and all the beautiful pictures.

This Corona 4 is in terrible shape: extremely dirty (I thought she was all black, but she’s actually black with gold (!) panels now that I see her in the sunlight) and rusty. And frozen stiff too. Her carriage is stuck in a weird way. The draw cord is deceased, there are lost linkages – you get the picture.

All-in-all she is a wonderful project. Funnily enough, I was recently admiring Robert Messenger’s glorious blue and gold Corona. I never imagined that I would own anything like that. Dreams can come true.

My Oliver No. 9 is thisclose to being functional – she’s almost typing. I can’t talk about the Corona in front of her because I don’t want my Oliver to get sulky. As soon as the Oliver is typing, I’ll take care of the Corona.