The Printype Saga: Chapter Six

To be honest, I would have been disappointed if my Oliver No. 9 from eBay had arrived in functional condition – it would have deprived me of many hours of pleasant tinkering.  I chose this Oliver primarily because she didn’t work.

However. It does break my heart a bit that she was dropped on her head sometime during her trip from the Midwest USA to California.  She arrived in a loosely-packed and damaged box with a bent right tower.

Fortunately, her cast iron hide saved her. At the base of the typebar towers are cast iron pillars that I hope protected her delicate insides from harm.

I have gotten the Oliver to a point where she is almost typing. Despite a repaired mainspring and new draw cord, her carriage is not advancing on typing. I have noted that her ribbon vibrator does not freely jump forward and back the way the ribbon vibrator in this video does.

However if I manually nudge the ribbon vibrator forward and back during typing, the carriage will advance.

I made a couple long-winded videos documenting my problem. Here’s my video of my partially disassembled Oliver that describes the problem:

Here’s another video showing the under side of the machine.

OK – that’s five minutes of your life that you will never get back, but maybe you can help me. There’s an audible click when I push the universal bar up (and when the ribbon vibrator moves back).  What is the source of that click?

For reference here are two pictures of the Oliver’s original condition on arrival. Remember: she was really bad.


BEFORE: The ribbon vibrator and escapement mechanism were dirty, rusted and frozen

There's a fair amount of rust underneath and parts that seems like they should move, don't move.

BEFORE: There was a fair amount of rust underneath and parts that seemed like they should move, didn’t move.

After cleaning and de-rusting, the escapement mechanism seem to be turning smoothly. The rusty spots under the machine are cleaned up, but I am not sure how much movement I should expect under there.

Here are my two questions for the Typosphere:

  1. What is the most likely cause of the stiff ribbon vibrator problem: obstruction by dirt / grime / rust or a piece of the mechanics interfering?
    1. Could something important have bent or jarred loose when she was dropped?
    2. If you think it’s a gunk problem, which product should I use to get things moving?  I have been using denatured alcohol and PB Blaster.
  2. Where should I look for a culprit if my ribbon vibrator is not moving freely?
    1. What is the likely source of that audible click heard when the universal bar moves up and when the ribbon vibrator is pulled back?

If you have any thoughts, please let me know in the comments. I am determined to sort this out with help from the typewriter community.

And finally: I know that this is probably some form of typewriter abuse and that somebody will call the Society for the Ethical Treatment of Typewriters on me, but I threw a ribbon in the old girl and typed out a message by nudging the ribbon vibrator with each character:


Those are some very bent typebars.

Making a Carriage Draw Cord Hook & Reattaching the Cord to the Mainspring of an Oliver

My Oliver is a little miracle of Chicago engineering.  It has a very clever draw band and carriage set up that works like this: a small hook attaches to the end of the draw band / draw cord.  During routine carriage removal, this hook catches mid-machine on a little two-prong fork so that the draw cord doesn’t fly loose from the mainspring and cause the mainspring to lose tension.

I love being able to remove the Oliver carriage so easily – I’m able to brush out toast crumbs and candy wrappers easily from beneath the carriage. Many thanks to Martin Rice for his video on how to remove the Oliver carriage. Now that my Oliver’s carriage rails are de-rusted and lubricated with PB Blaster, the carriage slides easily along the rails and off.

My mainspring was fixed, and it was time to hook up the draw cord. First I had to address my Oliver’s missing draw cord hook.

Martin Rice has a good video that discusses the Oliver carriage draw cord hooks he’s made.

Tony Mindling has a close-up of a classy hook he fashioned from brass stock.

I started with a picture hanging hook like this:


It was lightweight enough for me to bend easily.

Below is the carriage draw cord hook I made from the picture hanging hook. It’s not pretty, very misshapen actually.  As my mother would have said, “That hook is from hunger!”


It works though.  It’s about 3/4″ in height – just tall enough to catch the carriage as it rolls by on the carriage rails.

I will probably make another one since this hook is a bit embarrassing; however, I was just so excited to watch the hook, the carriage and grabber fork all in action together that I eased up on my quality standards.

I made a drawband / carriage string / carriage return cord out of 80 lb fishing line I had on hand from my previous drawband repair. For the Oliver, it’s about 13 inches long. It has a nice big knot at one end and a loop at the other


The loop went around my homemade hook. I will re-fashion my hook with a hole so that the cord is better secured to the hook, but this works for now. It looks bad, I know.


Then it was time to reattach the draw cord to the Oliver’s mainspring. The idea behind carriage advancement while typing is that wound tension from the mainspring pulls the carriage along from right to left via the draw cord. So: when you reattach the draw cord you have to maintain good tension on the mainspring at all times

First I wound my spring barrel carefully 3.5 turns counter-clockwise,


Hand model winds the spring counter-clockwise

I then poked the end with the big knot into the hole with slot in the side of the spring barrel, being careful not to lose tension.


I used tweezers to poke the knot into the hole and pulled it to the right so that it caught in the slot next to the hole.


I then wound the fishing line counter-clockwise onto the barrel being careful not to lose tension on the spring inside.

I then passed the fishing line through the little pigtail on the two-pronged grabber fork and secured the hook to the fork in the center of the machine.


Here I come with the hook, Little Two-Prong Fork.

Here it is secured to the fork and pigtail:

Through the pigtail and hooked onto the fork

Through the pigtail and hooked onto the fork

Remember: you have to maintain 3.5 rotation tension on the spring at all times and keep your cord at the level of the spring barrel; otherwise, it will slip and unwind.

Let’s try it out.  Here comes the carriage flying down the rails:


The hook catches the carriage for a ride on the rails.  You can see the serial number in the foreground.

Perfect height! The hook catches onto the carriage as it rolls by down the rails.

Made it to the end of the rails

The end of the line

Made it to the end and holding up fine. I really admire the Oliver’s cleverly simple system.

This reminds me of a train riding down the rails and picking up mail:


Oliver Typewriter Mainspring Repair: AKA Insane Slinky Nightmare

Spring is sprung.

The mainspring on our new Oliver No. 9 was broken.  This is (unfortunately) the least of her problems.

How did I know her mainspring was broken? Because when I tried to wind the mainspring, it just gave a sad little snapping sigh and lost tension.

Thanks to a great post by Tony Mindling documenting his repair of an Oliver No. 9 mainspring, I knew all was not lost.

One thing that makes a mainspring repair on my Oliver doable is accessibility. The little spring barrel is sitting right out there on the back of the machine. The mainspring on my Remington Rand KMC was tucked into its inner recesses. I am glad that I didn’t have to fix that one.

Tony had mentioned in his post that I need to remove the back carriage rail to remove the main spring.  Fortunately I had a rusty little wrench that took care of the bolts that held the rear carriage rail. I had to treat the bolts with PB Blaster as they were frozen and rusty – like just about everything else on the machine.

The bolts were hard to access as they were under the rail - good thing I had that little wrench.

The rear carriage rail bolts were hard to access as they were under the rail – good thing I had that little wrench.


Back carriage rail is off – just need to remove the center screw on the spring barrel


Hand model pops off the spring barrel

From what I’ve been reading, you have to be very careful operating on the mainspring as the very sharp spring may leap out and injure you. I opened up the spring barrel VERY slowly and found what I thought would be there: a broken mainspring.


Ok – I just need to re-attach the end of the spring to the slot in the center spindle.  First, I wanted to replicate the broken end which was straight for the slot and with a little curve at the end.  I started fiddling around with needle nose pliers and a screwdriver and then – ZIIIIING – all heck broke loose as the spring escaped from the case.


Fortunately, I wasn’t injured – that spring is very sharp. I carefully rewound it back into its case and it managed to get tangled and twistedin on itself like a crazy Slinky. I had to unwind it and rewind it a couple times. It did NOT want to go back to its case. I bent it to my will with a steady stream of curse words.

I am being a bit melodramatic – it really wasn’t that bad.  It just would have been easier and safer if the spring had stayed in the spring barrel.

I placed the barrel back onto the machine, feeding the flattened end of the spring into the slot on the  spindle. I screwed everything back together and tested the  spring. It wound beautifully and then – SNAP – I had a broken mainspring again.

Sighing, I unscrewed everything and opened the spring barrel. Yup, snapped.


And then I thought about it. Which way am I supposed wind the mainspring? I had wound it clockwise. Could I have stressed the spring to the breaking point by winding the wrong way? Why, yes I could.

I went to YouTube to check out Martin Rice’s video on Oliver draw band repair. And he wound his mainspring counter-clockwise. OK then.

I carefully replaced the mainspring, inserting the flattened end into the center spindle slot.


I put the lid back on, wound it carefully COUNTER-CLOCKWISE. It worked beautifully. *ZZZZZIP* Lots of life in it and no breaking. It sounds beautiful, full of life and power. I live for these small victories.

Frozen Rust: Oliver Clean Up

I woke up with a start in the morning thinking, “I have GOT to get some Evapo-Rust.”

While the majority of my Remington Rand KMC’s problems were caused by greasy gunk and easily corrected with strategically applied denatured alcohol, this Oliver is a whole nuther kettle of fish. The Oliver seems to be frozen in rust and corrosion and dust. The space bar and keys and ribbon vibrator are stiff stiff stiff. The under belly has large crusty patches of rust. Most troubling: the escapement and starwheel (I think those are the terms) were frozen solid.

The denatured alcohol cut through the greasy clumpy gunk on my Remington Rand beautifully, but I needed something that would remove crusty rusted areas and penetrate the seized-up problem areas.

I am inspired by Richard Polt’s amazing restoration of a Sholes Visible and he used Evapo-Rust  for the rusty stuff.  I went off to the auto supply store and picked up some super fine #0000 grade steel wool, Evapo-Rust and a can of PB Blaster penetrating catalyst.


I set up my card table outside – just reading the ingredients of the PB Blaster can was enough to put me into liver failure. The Evapo-Rust is billed as “biodegradable and non-toxic”. I didn’t notice any fumes. The PB Blaster on the other hand was pretty fumey.

I wrapped an Evapo-Rust saturated paper towel around a rusty crusty section and covered it with Cling Wrap to protect it from evaporation.


I then carefully dabbed PB Blaster throughout the moving and should-be-moving parts, concentrating on the frozen escapement and starwheel and ribbon vibrator area. I was very careful not to get any PB Blaster on painted areas. It’s a pretty powerful solvent.

I think H. R. Giger must have owned an Oliver at some point.

I think H. R. Giger must have owned an Oliver at some point.

I left the Evapo-Rust and PB Blaster to do their magic and went inside to clean up the top plate of the Oliver.

I used Soft Scrub (another Richard Polt recommendation) to clean carefully around the decals.  I used Q-tips, old undershirt rags and my finger tips to carefully apply the soft scrub.





Flip side of the top plate - before cleaning

Sorry, this isn’t the after – this is the flip side of the top plate – before cleaning.  Looks like Batman’s mask.

The flip side of the top plate was a marvel – virgin paint shining and undulating. This little Oliver was quite a looker back in the day.  The picture above shows the flip side before cleaning – just a little dust.

After cleaning. It still is dirty - more brown gunk coming off on the t-shirt. I will need to do a second pass.

After cleaning. It doesn’t gleam the way the back side does, but it’s pretty clean.

It is still dirty after cleaning – more brown gunk coming off on the t-shirt. I will need to do more passes.

I have lots of fun automotive polishing supplies. Way down the line, I want to carefully experiment with different products. But first, I want to make this machine functional.

I checked on the typewriter outside and yay! I could get the starwheel and escapement to rotate.

I spent the evening picking through the Oliver, cleaning up dirt and polishing off rust. I threw the bell and the carriage band hook grabber thing with the pigtail into an Evapo-Rust bath for the night.

Evapo-Rust bath overnight

Evapo-Rust bath overnight

I took the machine outside to the porch and liberally applied PB Blaster to the machine guts (I think that’s the technical term) and went to bed.

I have got to get a better work lamp.

I have got to get a better work lamp.

The Oliver Has Landed – Hard

A package showed up today.  It was marked “Fragile” and had some mysterious puncture wounds.


Hurray!  It’s our long-awaited little Oliver!


Veiled beauty

I dragged her out to the back patio and gave her a good look.


She is magnificent. I am not worthy.

She was filthy – I could see families of dust bunnies in the cracks, so I took off the front plate.



Fortunately we have a convenient hand-held air compressor with lots of attachments. It’s cheaper in the long run than canned compressed air.


I removed the carriage as well (thanks to a very helpful Martin Rice video).  The carriage was very sticky and hung up on areas of rust, but I was able to gently wiggle it free from the body.

I blew the dust and debris out from the body. I then carefully wiped down the body with warm water and little dish soap.

Inventory of Ills

The Oliver looks fairly complete, but has a few issues:

  1. Missing draw band. This is not a big  problem; I can replace that thanks to another Martin Rice video about Oliver draw band replacement.
  2. Missing draw band hook. I can probably fabricate a hook as Tony Mindling did with his Oliver.
  3. Sticky keys. These should respond to gentle cleaning
  4. Lots of rust. I may need to make a run to the auto parts store for some Evapo-Rust.  I have some naval jelly, so I’ll try that first. I just need to be careful around the paint.
  5. Broken mainspring.  I had hoped this wouldn’t be the case, but I am unable to wind the mainspring without it giving a sad little snap and losing tension. Fortunately, Tony Mindling had a mainspring problem with his Oliver that he was able to fix. I will refer to his post.
  6. Bent right tower. At some point in her travels west, this Oliver landed hard on her right tower. She arrived today with alarmingly little packing, so she suffered a bit on her trip. The type bars seem OK, but the right U shape band is bent as is the pencil holder. I’m unable to fully retract the pencil holder and keys are hitting the tower band.  I am going to remove the U shaped band and do some careful bending of the band and the pencil holder.
  7. Frozen carriage. This seems unrelated to the draw band. It may be a rust issue. I hope.

The right tower is bent – it’s a bit shorter than the left. The pencil holder can’t return to its upright position.

There's a fair amount of rust underneath and parts that seems like they should move, don't move.

There’s a fair amount of rust underneath and parts that seems like they should move, don’t move. That oval loop in the center is completely crusted over. I feel like it should be moving freely.

Despite all her flaws, I spent a very enjoyable afternoon cleaning and tinkering with our new Oliver. She is very special, what you might call a “terrible beauty”.  Our new Oliver No. 9 is quite a beauty, but, boy, is she in terrible shape. I think that I am up to the task.