I hauled the machine outside to the back patio for cleaning – a good idea since it was filthy and greasy and dusty.
I removed the snap-off top plate and took a good look at the type hammers / type bars. I saw dust and goo and animal hair, but nothing bent or broken.
First off, I used a small air compressor to blow out the dust.
While the air compressor cleared out the larger debris, most of the dust remained because it was embedded in grime and goo and oil. I put a bunch of clean paper towels under my work surface and then poured a little denatured alcohol into a cup. With a little brush, I painted inside all around the levers and type hammers / type bars.
The dirtiest spots were the slots in the “smile” – they were filled with sticky goo.
I then used an old toothbrush to scrub around.
While I scrubbed, I gently struck the movable keys to loosen them up. They began to move more easily and black gunk dripped out from underneath. For the frozen keys, I was able to very gently lift them up out of the goo with my finger tips. Fortunately I didn’t have any bent hammers, just very dirty ones.
With its neighbor hammers lifted, I gently pry up a frozen key and loosen it from the goo. Check out the rust. This typewriter has lived a hard life.
After a lot of painting and scrubbing and working the hammers / type bars up and down, the keys began to move freely, hitting the platen easily and returning to their home reliably.
Make sure your work table is protected with a cloth or paper towels. Be careful to not get denatured alcohol on the outside of your typewriter – it could ruin the finish!
Here are videos that I found invaluable to my cleaning efforts:
We tried to fixed the stuck margins (we had about two inches of space between the left and right margins) by hitting the Margin Release key and then the Set and Clear keys.
WRONG WRONG WRONG.
All we were actually doing was setting tabs.
The margins were still stuck, the left margin way over in the center of the page.
However, once I knew that I was dealing with a Remington Rand KMC, I was able to find information on adjusting the margins. Sometime in the past, our typewriter had a traumatic event involving its left KMC key. Someone had replaced the missing key with a blank piece of painted wood.
The mystery key on the left side of the keyboard is identified as the left KMC key (Keyboard Margin Control key)
It was a mystery key until I identified that blank wooden key as the left KMC key – the key that controls the left margin.
By holding down the left KMC key and the carriage release lever, I was able to move beyond the left margin and set the left margin where I wanted it. Same thing on the right using the right KMC key – and ta-da: useful margins!
This is the right side twin of the mystery key – “KMC” clearly printed on it. Keyboard Margin Control.
My neighbor was getting rid of an old, broken typewriter that he had picked up at a garage sale. My daughter spyed it lying derelict on the curb as we were walking home from school. She begged me to let her bring it home and I reluctantly agreed. Despite the fact that we don’t need any more broken machines in our home, the simple mechanical beauty of the typewriter spoke to me and we hauled it inside. It weighed a ton – probably 25 lbs or more. Initially skeptical, my husband joined our fascinated investigation of the old thing.
On inspection, it was worse than it looked. It seemed irrevocably broken.
Major problems with our curbside rescue:
- Broken carriage drawband – my husband noticed some threads hanging from a broken strap under the right side of the carriage. The remainder of the torn drawband was still wound on the mainspring on the left side of the carriage. This resulted in the carriage not advancing when the keys or space bar were struck. Update: read about the fix.
The suspicious stray threads hanging from under the carriage
- Frozen and stuck keys – the internal workings of the typewriter were a gloppy mess of oily dust. Almost all the keys were very sticky, failing to hit the platen roller or failing to return after being struck. A few of the keys were completely frozen, stiff and unmoving. Update: I cleaned them and got them moving again.
- Stuck margins – left margin was stuck near the center of the page and I couldn’t seem to adjust either the right or left margins. Update: I learned about KMC and how it works.
- Completely dried out typewriter ribbon – it was very crackly and dry. Update: I replaced the ribbon with 1/2″ nylon ribbon from the office supply store.
- Bell doesn’t ding as you near the end of the line. Update: I fixed the bell!
- Missing T key – the bare stem was rusty and sharp – could be painful typing “the”. Update: Swapped a key.
- Dirty type hammers – many of the letters were filled with gunk. Update: cleaned them up and now the type is much crisper.
It has been many years since I have used a manual typewriter. Growing up, we had an old Royal, probably circa 1940 on which I typed out many high school papers. I did not experience electric typewriters until I hit college.
My husband, daughter and I poked at the old typewriter, re-familiarizing ourselves with basic operations. Thanks to the internet, we found lots of general information on manual typewriter operation and soon we were able to identify many of the part names and functions.
Even in its broken state, we had a lot of fun with the typewriter. We manually pulled left on the carriage to make it advance and typed out faint messages with the keys that worked:
The P and the O worked very well so we typed out “POOP” a lot.