Jammed paper bail

Royal KMM: Broken Things and Fixes

A local lady heard through the grapevine that I liked to tinker with old typewriters.  K. had purchased a Royal KMM at a yard sale and was hoping to get it typing.  I was glad to take on the project since it would be a distraction from my Twitter horror scrolling and my hand-wringing over the broken state of the world. She brought it over a couple weekends ago, and here it is on my porch on arrival:

Royal KMM

1948 Royal KMM, serial number KMM-3577225

It was a rough, broken thing: twisted, rusty, dirty, and frozen.  Everything on the left side of the machine was bent and compressed: carriage return, paper bail, spool cup, line spacing mechanism.

Jammed paper bail

Paper bail jammed in there

It was so dirty. Just my type.

Royal KMM needs cleaning

I told K. that I would do my best, but the typewriter was severely traumatized.  Privately I thought to myself, these things are built like tanks, and it should be OK.  KMMs are so solid.  I think David McCullough is still typing books on his KMM.  We had one growing up, and my mom typed the family cookbook on our KMM:

recipe

Midcentury recipes are a window into a mysterious time.

Some people wouldn’t touch a typewriter like this: too broken, too rusty, too messed up.  To them, it’s a doorstop, a boat anchor, a parts machine. Me, I like them. I feel a moral obligation to fix these things.

After K. left, I wiped everything down with a dilute bleach solution (this is a pandemic after all). I took off the ribbon cover (nice explanatory video from Duane at Phoenix Typewriter). I then brought it out back and blew out the leaves and fur and greasy chunks with my air compressor.

I pried the paper bail out of the platen and straightened it using my patented Lady Gorilla™ maneuver.  Carefully I straightened the carriage return arm, the crushed ribbon spool cup, and the line spacing mechanism.  Once I got the carriage return lever clearing the ribbon spools, I set about cleaning the segment with mineral spirits.  Things began to loosen up and the KMM began to exhibit its legendary sprightliness.  The type guide had rusty burrs that caught the type so I did a little sanding.

Sanding type guide

The Magic Margins were not behaving themselves.  They are sensitive to dirt and congealed grease, so I carefully cleaned the Magic Margin mechanism.  The left margin improved with cleaning but the right was sliding all over the place and not catching.  On examination, I found the margin stop’s ears bent and it was failing to engage in the teeth of the margin rack.

bent margin stop

Bent margin stop

Fixing

All better.  Now I could set margins and they would hold.  Now is the time for my annual rant about Magic Margins:  they are not intuitive, notoriously finicky, and I don’t like them.

I began to address the last few bothersome issues.  The typewriter was missing screws here and there, and things were a bit loose.

Missing platen set screw

Missing platen set screw

Wobbly ribbon cover

Wobbly ribbon cover

I know just the place to get the proper machine screws:

Parts Royal 10

Parts Royal 10

Thank you, Old Friend.  You have given life to three other Royal 10s and now you help this KMM.

The shift was a bit low, so I made some adjustments (again, Duane from Phoenix Typewriter has a good video).

KMM shift misaligned

Good enough:

KMM shifted characters aligned

After a scrub down, I touched up the paint with some matte chalk paint I had on hand from a craft project and covered my repairs with some thick matte polyurethane for durability, brush stippling for texture.  Not perfect, but looks a lot better.

KMM

The last item that was bothering me was the faded keyboard legend. I am not a touch typist, and I was having problems testing since I need to know which keys I am striking.

faded key legend KMM

Richard Polt has a Royal key legend .pdf on his website which I could print out, but I wanted weathered, vintage replacements, and I had just the thing.  About a year ago, a kind lady at Herman’s gave me a box of Royal keys with nice, clear legends on them.

The tricky part is that I do not own key ring removal and replacement tools which easily remove and replace the key rings.  I am thinking about trading one of the kids for a set of those tools.

I used a pair of needle nose pliers to unbend each of the three key ring tabs that grasp the key top.  Then I carefully held the stem with pliers from the bottom while gently, gently twisted off the ring with pliers from the top.

One down and a bunch more to go.

I was perking along, happily replacing key tops when I managed to twist the letter “W” key top all the way off.  I was horrified, but grew philosophical.  I knew that I could get good results re-attaching the key top with J-B Weld epoxy and a little platform fashioned out of scrap metal.

JB Weld used to re-attach keytop

Time to put this KMM through its paces. Let’s fire up this old gal.

Blug. That new ribbon I ordered is very gloopy, and it looks like I need to clean the type a bit more.

Working on this banged up KMM gave me ample time to think my thoughts and ponder current and past events.  Here’s the loose change that rattled around in the dryer:

Typecast

Disruptive and disquieting, broad-based protests are incredibly powerful instruments of persuasion and change. Power’s reaction to protest is sometimes a damning tell, exposing loose rot propping up “institutions” we take for granted.  Like the women’s suffrage movement, Black Lives Matter is using protest to present evidence of broken systems and to demand change.

Frederick Douglass quote

There’s no easy fix, but there’s an opportunity and an obligation here to do better.

Royal KMM

A Royal Visitor

I temporarily fostered a Royal KMM from Moe’s shop – it cleaned up nicely. I blew out the insides, doused the internal mechanics with mineral spirits and repeated the blowout.  I then lubricated the sticky rails and the tab system with a little PB B’laster and scrubbed the outside with Scrubbing Bubbles.  Lastly, I threw a new ribbon in her.

What a charmer!  No wonder David McCullough loves his KMM so much.

Her gumminess banished, the KMM is as giddy and spry as a new colt that’s found its legs.

02typeface

The only problem is that the line lock fails to engage at the end of the line.  The space bar locks up nicely, but the typebars continue to strike at the end of the line.

margin

I think the line lock issue is somewhere in here. I cleaned and lubricated around the Line Lock Lever and Center Stop (see arrow), but that did not seem to fix the problem. I didn’t have time to skin the machine since I needed to get the typewriter back to Moe’s shop so she can try to sell it.  If it sits longer, I’ll bring it home again and remove the cover plates, so I can get a better look at what’s going on inside.

And oh yes, and there’s that Royal left margin issue I keep running into – so quirky.

leftMargin

The erratic left margin seems to have worked itself out with lots of typing, so I think there’s a disuse/gumminess factor involved.  Almost every Royal I’ve worked on seems to have an erratic left margin issue, at least initially.

Despite my earlier reservations, the Royal KMM and my Remington KMC got along great. They hit it off immediately.  Well, they have a lot in common: both are heavier than hell, both have charcoal crinkle paint, both are superb mechanical typewriters. They have almost identical footprints though the Remington is slightly taller.  The Royal is four pounds heavier than the Remington. I can’t say which is the better typewriter because I am loyal to my Remington KMC which is such a solid, good old-fashioned thumper.

Make sure you read Richard Polt’s post on a KMC vs. KMM showdown. It’s entertaining and chock-full of informed observations.

Mother and Child Reunion

I brought my little 1939 Royal Aristocrat out to meet the big KMM.

motherChild01 motherChild02

After the photo shoot, I took the KMM back to Moe’s shop.  I made sure to send the KMM off with care and feeding instructions.

IMG_5107

The typewriter drew immediate interest. I think I almost talked a guy into buying it when I dropped it off. I’m a pretty smooth talker.  It’s amazing what a little cleaning and a new ribbon will do for a typewriter’s self-esteem.

This KMM would be a good typewriter for a serious writer. Solid but fun for the fingers and gentle on the hands. I typed and typed several pages of nonsense (hunt-n-peck) as I worked out the erratic left margin issue – and my hands didn’t tire at all. I could see a serious person sitting down at her writing desk and generating 5-10 pages of good writing each day on this machine.

Several internet sources say that Joan Didion used/uses a Royal KMM.  There is this photo of Joan Didion with what appears to be a KMG – but perhaps it is a pale KMM. She did use a Royal KMsomething, so I leave you with a favorite quote:

slouching

Another Foster Royal

I have been a bit under the weather since the holidays – some kind of feverish fluey-kablooey, but I stirred myself when a comment came in from my last blog post.  The commenter told me that someone had put Baby Blue on eBay. Not only that, Baby Blue sold!

sold

As soon as I was able to pull myself out of bed, I headed over to Moe’s shop to get the whole story. After her clean up, Moe had sold Baby Blue almost immediately for a good price to a friendly fellow dealer, and he had promptly listed and sold the typewriter on eBay. Baby Blue is pretty sweet, and I am glad that my efforts fed the chain. I hope her new owner will love and cherish Baby Blue in the way she deserves.

Golden Gone Girl

Sadly, the golden Olympia Monica was gone by the time I got back to Moe’s shop.  I had wanted to take detailed photos of her for the Typewriter Database.  I fully expected to find the Monica curled up on Moe’s couch in a zipped jumpsuit and smoking a Virginia Slims, but no. A regular shopper at Moe’s had scooped her up almost immediately. This buyer is apparently interested in All Things Orange, and he had found the Monica entrancing.  Moe and I both agreed that the Monica was not orange and not yellow but a color Moe dubbed “Marigold”.

She was formidable in her golden glamour. I want to install her in a beach house in Malibu.

Formidable in her golden glamour, the Monica should be installed in a beach house in Malibu.

While I was at Moe’s shop I asked her if I could clean up her Royal KMM that has been wasting away in the shop since before Thanksgiving. I love fostering typewriters because I get to poke around in something new without threat of excessive typewriter accumulation at home.

The KMM is very dirty with a sluggish carriage and dry ribbon.

10

When typing, there is considerable letter piling because of the sluggish carriage.

IMG_5082

But there is so much potential under all the gummy dust. It’s just like David McCullough’s typewriter! I cherish the greenish-blue keys.

I admit that I was nervous about bringing the Royal KMM home because I have a Remington KMC in the house. Who can forget Richard Polt’s KMC vs KMM shoot-out of 2013? By bringing the KMM home, there was marked potential for a catfight.

I slipped the Royal KMM in the door as quietly as possible, but the Remington KMC saw us together. Oh well, here we go.

Suspicious minds: the Remington KMC pretends to nonchalantly leaf through a zine while she chekcs out the competition

Suspicious minds: the Remington KMC pretends to nonchalantly leaf through a zine while she checks out the competition

First off, I weighed the KMM for Magic Margin’s KMM weight survey.

1940 Royal KMM
Serial number KMM-2590373
weight: 36.5lbs

Woofie! So heavy.  The Remington KMC is a relatively petite 32.5 lbs.

This KMM is very dusty and feels pretty gummy.  My plan is to blow out the insides, clean up the internal mechanics with mineral spirits, repeat the blowout, lubricate the rails, scrub the outside with Scrubbing Bubbles, and throw a new ribbon in her before sending her back to Moe’s shop. With a little pampering, the KMM is going to be swell.