Mid-century Mid-sized Portable Slugfest

I had yet another of Tim’s dirty typewriters in the house for a clean up – a 1955 Royal QDL. This one wasn’t so bad, just cosmetically off-putting. It was gamely typing through greasy dust. The case is lined with green felt – it reminds me of a pool table. It’s a Minnesota Fats kind of typewriter. The typewriter looked like it had been smoking too much and indulging in Wite-Out.

Moe’s friend Tim is a retired newspaper reporter with a taste for typewriters.  He has some wonderful typewriters that I have cleaned up: a pretty gray Royal QDL, an adorable Royal Companion, a Smith-Corona Clipper, a very classy Remington 5 and now I have here this second dirty Royal, a 1955 Royal Quiet De Luxe:


I cleaned it up and it looked better though I just couldn’t completely remove the blob of Wite-Out on its cover.  It was typing great though.

I recently acquired a junker 1957 Smith-Corona Silent-Super and I thought: Hey! Perfect time for comparison typing! I can host a mid-century slugfest on my dining room table.

I know that there are 1950s Smith-Corona portable fans and 1950s portable Royal loyalists. I honestly didn’t know which category I fell into, hence the side-by-side comparison.

I also decided to throw a wildcard into the fight – a 1957 West German Torpedo 18a. These are all the mid-sized 1950s portables I have in the house presently. How I wish I had a 1950s Olympia to throw in! I haunt eBay now and then, looking for junker Olympias. I am looking for a really bad looking one.

This tournament is not completely serious or scientific: I have three individual machines before me with unknown histories of use and abuse. This would be a fair competition only if each typewriter had just rolled off the assembly line. As it is, each of them has about 60 years of living under her belt. At the end of this exercise, I won’t be able to say that I am won over by a particular brand – only that a particular machine on my dining room table is my favorite.

However. The Smith-Corona feels like the limited number of 1950s S-C portables that have come through my fingers.  The Royal feels like the limited number of Royal portables I have had the pleasure to type on. So there’s that.

The Contenders

A 1957 Smith-Corona Silent-Super:


A 1955 Royal Quiet De Luxe:


A 1957 Torpedo 18a:





Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so the Silent-Super wins me over with its lovely chunky curves. The Royal QDL’s utilitarian angles are all business while the Smith-Corona’s curves promise a bit of solid fun. The Torpedo is a beautiful machine, but for a 1957 typewriter, it seems a little “old school” compared to the Smith-Corona’s more modern lines. Silent-Super wins.


They are all about the same size:

  • Smith-Corona Silent-Super: 11.5″ width x 12.5″ depth x 4.75″ tall
  • Royal Quiet De Luxe: 11″ width x 11.5″ depth x 5.25″ tall
  • Torpedo 18a: 11″ width x 12.5 depth” x 5″ tall


  • Smith-Corona Silent-Super: 12 lbs
  • Royal Quiet De Luxe: 12 lbs
  • Torpedo 18a: 13 lbs


Basket shift for all three. I like that.


I am not a big fan of the Royal’s Magic Margins.  And I am lukewarm on any other gimmicky margin control. I love everything about my Remington Rand KMC except its KMC (keyboard margin control).

The Torpedo’s margin setting is under the paper table in back, not visible.

The Smith-Corona’s straightforward margin setting is PERFECT.  You set the margins right there in front and what you see is what you get.


Carriage Return

Smith-Corona’s carriage return is quiet and light as feather.  The Royal a little heavier and louder and Torpedo is heavy and LOUD.


I love the gentle tap-tap of the Smith-Corona.  It has a lovely muted quality.  The Royal is much louder and I don’t think it’s the platen.  The Royal’s typebars seem to accelerate as they approach the platen, giving it that snap in the touch and a powerful thwack. The Torpedo is louder than hell and I think it’s a hard platen. “SNACK SNACK SNACK,” it says.


Ear protection is a good idea


I love the feel of the Smith-Corona Silent-Super.  It’s got a controlled and comfy feel, like I’m typing on a well-cushioned couch.  It’s slow, but I don’t think very fast, so do I need to type that fast?

The Royal is such a light and snappy typer.  I can type very fast on this one. Maybe too fast.  The Royal feels a little hyper – like it needs to simmer down now. It gets ahead of itself, and I get letter piling when it gets going too fast.


If I were a better typist, I would probably prefer the Royal.  Unfortunately, I am an inconsistent typist and make too many errors when I pick up speed.

The Torpedo tells me go faster, faster, FASTER – it has, objectively speaking, the best touch of the three, but it’s so loud I can’t type on it very long. I pull it out now and then and each time rediscover its fine, fine touch. It deserves a new platen.

Family Verdict

My husband liked the Royal much better than the Smith-Corona.  He is used to lightly tapping away on a computer keyboard. In fact, when he approached the first typewriter, he started hitting the margin release key as if it were an enter/return key.  It was hard for the him to switch modes.

He found the Royal much more responsive to his light touch, much better suited to his style than the Smith-Corona which he found resistant and slow.   Then he tried the Torpedo.  He loved that even more than the Royal.

My daughter weighed in on the typewriter evaluations. The Smith Corona was too stiff and made her hands feel numb.  She liked the snappiness and speed of the Royal, but the key tops were too small and too far apart, so she worried that her small fingers would slip in between the keys.  The Torpedo had a similar light and fast touch, but its keys were nice and chunky. My daughter’s verdict: the Torpedo was the winner.

My Final Conclusion

My favorite is the Silent-Super.  It’s not the fastest typewriter, but it feels good to me: I love its firm and comforting touch and its gentle sound. I grew up on manual typewriters – we had a big black Royal standard when I was a kid and I typed all my college papers on an aqua Kmart Deluxe 100.  I have a heavy, ponderous hand when I type, so I like typewriters that have a solid touch. The Silent-Super is not the fastest typewriter, but I don’t need to type very fast.  When I type letters, I tend to type slowly along thoughtful, meandering paths.  If I typed faster, I would not make any sense at all. I barely make sense as it is.

Also: this Silent-Super has survived against the odds. It was a greasy, rusty piece of jammed metal when it came to me, but it showed me that it had true grit. This Silent-Super has a spunky toughness and intestinal fortitude that allowed it to rise above its unfortunate circumstances and type ably against two formidable typewriters, the Royal QDL and the Torpedo 18a. You win, Silent-Super.

A Random Picture for Your Enjoyment


My son took this madonna and doggy picture recently, and I spotted it in his Flickr photostream.  It has nothing to do with typewriters, but it made me laugh out loud.

Tim’s Royals and Other Visitors

A couple weeks ago, Moe at my favorite junk shop asked me to take a look at her friend Tim’s typewriters.  Tim is a retired newspaper reporter who has a taste for fine old typewriters.


One typewriter was a 1950s Royal Quiet De Luxe that was very dirty.  It also had a broken drawband. There was a slightly-typed piece of paper in the platen.  Looks like Tim got through one line before the old drawband snapped.

There was a weird white residue on this QDL that I have seen before on typewriter keys.  My guess is that it’s a chemical precipitate that forms on 1950s plastic.  There is another 1950s Royal Quiet De Luxe at Typewriter Database with a very similar residue on its keys.


The other typewriter was a very dirty 1940 Royal Companion. It had a gummy and rusted segment, an unreliable ribbon vibrator, intermittent spooling and no bell. It looked very haggard.




I started with the Royal Quiet De Luxe because it seemed to have the fewest problems. I blew out the dust and cobwebs, cleaned with mineral spirits and PB B’laster and replaced the draw band (14 inches long) with my favorite bit of overkill, 80 lb fishing line:

80lb line - overkill

80lb line – suitable to landing one of the larger species of sportsfish – or replacing the drawband on an old typewriter.

Gosh, it cleaned up beautifully:


The white residue on the keys came right off with Goo Gone:



Look at those beautiful little decorative accents:


The 1940 Royal Companion was a bit worse for the wear of years. Fortunately the splatters across the shell cleaned up nicely with Scrubbing Bubbles.  I blew out the internal mechanics and cleaned the segment thoroughly with mineral spirits.  After getting the stuck keys moving, I set about trying to figure out why the ribbon vibrator, the ribbon color switcher, ribbon advance, bell and margin release weren’t working.  The machine was missing some springs from the bottom.  I saw some tell-tale holes in the frame and in pieces in the mechanics and did some detective work looking at fuzzy “bottom shots” of Companions on eBay.

I found some motley springs.  I don’t know for sure if that’s where they go, but everything seems to work better with them:


That’s a ballpoint pen spring for the bell – looks terrible, but it works.


The margin release was trickier.  It wasn’t pulling the center stop back far enough to clear the margin stop, so hitting the margin release key was doing nothing.  I bent a little wire connector inside the typewriter to make it shorter.  I got the idea from Knife141’s solution. That guy. Gets. It. Done.

That seemed to do the trick:


The Champion is a teeny little thing, very lightweight. It cleaned up beautifully. In person, it is just adorable, a teeny little huggable package, slightly smaller than a Royal QDL.


01 03

A commenter on my blog recently pointed out that I seemed to be running a “revolving door” operation.  I know that it looks unseemly with strange typewriters coming in and out of my house regularly, but I assure you: I am a respectable suburban housewife, married, mother of two.  There is nothing illegal going on in my home.  I am just helping needy typewriters.


These two from The Shop at Flywheel Press stayed for a short time.  The electric Penncrest Concord PCR 12 (a Smith-Corona made for JC Penny department stores) had four sprung clevis linkages.  I found reattaching clevis linkages on this electric so much more difficult than on a manual Smith-Corona because the key arms don’t move without being initiated by an electric key strike. But!  I managed to reattach them and the Penncrest types again:


I found this drawing in the documents library at Typewriter Database:



Service Manual, Smith-Corona “5 and 6 Series” Machines – 1963 Details adjustment and inspection of all Smith-Corona 5 and 6 Series Floating Shift portables. From the collection of Bill Wahl, scanned and PDF by T. Munk.

Ha! That’s what I have been dealing with for the past few weeks: S-C linkages.  The authors of the manual call that typebar linkage a typebar link spring.  I will continue to call it a clevis because it sounds vaguely anatomical.


Such a FUN typewriter – but pretty noisy.

The Royal 10 is a real honey.  It was a victim of congealed gunk.  The ribbon vibrator was stuck in the up position, the line lock failed to disengage, spooling was intermittent, margin release stuck. It was just really dirty. The stiff and frozen parts responded to strategic application of PB B’laster and manually moving the parts with my hands.  I bought a new Royal 10 style ribbon from Amazon and got down to typing:


WOW!  This Royal 10 reminds me of the Foster Royal KHM that visited me briefly.  It must be that “accelerating type-bar action“.  This typewriter seems to type all by itself. In fact, I walked out of the room and came back to find the Royal 10 typing a letter to the editor of the local paper rejoicing in the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment.  That Royal 10 is a right-on kind of typewriter.

The machine appears to have been re-painted at some point: the top, front plate and paper table are a matte crinkle paint while the sides are glossy black.  The decal in front of the type basket is missing and decal on the paper table looks newer than a 1920 decal:


Still a very handsome machine and a very springy 96 year old typer.


I bought the Royal-style ribbon spools on Amazon.


Two Royals and Birthday Lemonade

I went into Mozo’s about a week and half ago to check out Moe’s latest find: a 1970 Hermes 3000 with script typeface – mint condition:




1970 Hermes 3000
Serial number: 7059922


It had the original manual as well as an original brush:


Not only that, it had the original warranty card:


I felt like I should have completed the warranty and mailed it in.

There was also a receipt for a draw band repair. It cost $8.50 to get a draw band repaired in 1973:


My question: how does a draw band snap in just three years of use?  Hermes was obviously not using 80lb fishing line for its draw bands.

I congratulated Moe on her find and told her that while I wasn’t in the market for a mint condition script Hermes 3000, she would certainly find a happy buyer.

Typewriters in need

Moe asked me if I was interested in cleaning up a couple typewriters for her friend Tim.  Tim is a retired newspaper reporter with a fondness for typewriters. He had two portable Royals that needed care. Both were very dirty, one with a broken draw band, one with a lot of rust and a cemented segment. I told Moe that I was up for the job.


I love before and after typewriter photography. I may have a fetish for decay—if I know that it’s a temporary state. Here I indulge in what I call “Beforn”, a form of ruin porn:


That’s a dead spider by the spool


Aahh – it speaks to me…”help meeee…”


White residue on the keys. Baby Blue had the same stuff. It’s probably some chemical precipitate from the 1950s plastic of the keys.

Bad News and the Philosopher Queen

Moe called me the next day while I was working on Tim’s Royals.  Bad news.  The Hermes 3000 got dropped.  Could I come in and take a look?  Of course.

It didn’t look too bad:



DSC03722 DSC03723

Moe was philosophical about the Hermes.  She said: “I don’t get upset about that sort of thing.  Why should I?”

Indeed, she’s right. Why should you?


Philosopher Queen Moe, her bevy of beauties, and a stable of stallions

When Life Gives You a Broken Hermes, Make Lemonade

Moe asked me if I could do anything to get it typing again.  The carriage was mashed into the body and not moving.  The plastic carriage housing was shattered and the cool margin indicator was pulled out. Blurg.

Then I had an idea.  My birthday was this past weekend.


I had my husband buy the mashed Hermes for my birthday (because nothing says “Happy-Birthday-Darling” like a broken typewriter).  Now I will be able to dismantle and investigate the complex mechanisms slowly and methodically at my own pace and not worry that I may never get it back together and working.  At this point, it’s an interesting parts machine, but who knows? Perhaps it will type again.

Here are the ladies of Mozo’s. Roia (mother of the Arduino Kid) is posing with the LC Smith and Moe is posing with the Parisian wrestlers:


I think this poster of turn-of-the-century Parisian wrestlers could look great framed and hung in the bathroom:


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!


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.


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


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.



Special Love: My Baby Blue

While I was out of town at the holiday wintering grounds with my herd, Moe from my favorite junk shop called and left a message: could I please come to her shop and take a look at a typewriter?

When I got back into town, I dropped by Moe’s. She had sweet little baby blue Royal Quiet De Luxe that a lady wanted to buy for her daughter, but it was all “jammed”.

The carriage lock was engaged.  I unlocked it and all was well.


I remember when this typewriter had come in – before Thanksgiving it was. The carriage lock was engaged then, and I unlocked it so that people could test typing on it. I guess someone locked it again.

The typewriter was very dirty and needed a new ribbon, so I asked Moe if I could bring it home and clean it up.  Of course, yes.


The serial number is AB3175632 which would make this a 1956 Royal QDL.


I brought the typewriter home and looked it over.  I washed the outside down with soapy water and used my new favorite dollar-store degreaser on tough grimy areas, LA’s Totally Awesome.


The blender photobombs AGAIN

The key tops had a resistant gray and white film that took a lot of scrubbing with green ScotchBrite to remove. I was careful around the printed letters.


The machine had chunks of greasy lint hanging from its insides. I first blew out the machine with compressed air and then doused all the internal mechanics with mineral spirits and then blew wet, dirty chunks out with more compressed air. I don’t usually use mineral spirits, but I wanted to use something that wouldn’t evaporate quickly.

While I scrubbed the type, I noticed that the typeface was something a little different. I couldn’t wait to throw a new ribbon in and see what printed out.

What typeface is this? Herald Pica?


I fell in love a little with this Royal portable. The machine seemed just keen to please and was so pleasurable to type on.



After the clean up, I took the Royal QDL back to Moe’s. Moe’s shop was its usual jumble of fascinating objects perched in precarious positions. There was a new arrival, a golden Olympia Monica, hanging out on a couch in the shop.

The Monica was beautiful shade of yellow/gold.  I took a closer look:


Someone will sit on it if you leave it here, Moe.

It worked great. German keyboard. The label says that was made in the United Kingdom:


Hmm. The serial number is 5693315. I will go back and take some more (less blurry) pictures and add it to the TWDB.


I poked around in the Olympia for bit, but then it was time to leave. It was with a reluctant heart that I left the baby blue QDL at Moe’s, but I was grateful for the experience of it. I had scrubbed the carry case and attached care and feeding instructions.

Goodbye, Baby Blue.


Time for a sing-along: