Diversions: SCM Electra 120

I am friendly with a local gal who loves typewriters and writing. J. has a really nice collection of typers, and I have worked on a couple of them. She had had a beat-up Olivetti Lettera 22 I fixed up a couple years ago.  It eventually became a favorite typewriter for her.  She gave it to a friend and now misses it very much.

She contacted me because she had an SCM Electra 120 that was having issues.  She dropped it at my place, so I could take a look at it.

I always say that I am not an electric typewriter person, and then I handle one of these SCM electrics and fall in love with it.  They’re small, fairly lightweight, quiet, and nimble (when clean). The clear, consistent imprint is a wonder.  They are as close to a manual typewriter as you can get. Nothing weird or impenetrable in the guts: all simple, understandable Smith-Corona mechanics.

Joe Van Cleave made a fun video in which he compares his “electrified manual” Coronet with his manual Galaxie:

The Electra 120 is similar to Joe’s Coronet but has a manual carriage return which I prefer.  It’s one less thing to break in a complicated way.

I took the Electra out to my workbench and examined it. The symptom was a typebar stuck in the up position:

I was unable to get it to move. When the typewriter was plugged in, the typewriter hummed and remained stuck in place.

Before she brought it over, I had suggested that J. take off the bottom plate and clean the lever and sublever cams . These can get gummy and cause certain keys to stick.  Unfortunately, that didn’t help, so J. had to bring the typewriter over to my place.

The key was really stuck, so I flipped the typewriter over.  I saw something white behind the affected lever/sublever/cam.  Perhaps a blob of paint? J. teaches art, so that wasn’t out of the question.

I then noticed a small piece of plastic rattling around inside the guts that I was able to pick out with some needle nose pliers.

And the problem lever had a similar piece jammed behind it:

The white plastic piece behind the lever was really stuck.  I couldn’t get it out with dental tools, mini clamps, or tiny pliers.  The piece was wedged behind the cam, so I got a very narrow punch and tapped it out.

You may want to consider a $9.99 punch set from Harbor Freight. I use them a lot for typewriters and other things.

Those little pieces of plastic debris were the source of the problem.  They must have come from the broken casing clips:

I swabbed down the cams, sublevers, and levers underneath and and popped a clean ribbon in for testing.  Just beautiful!

The space bar felt a little gummy.  It became responsive after a thorough wipe down of pivot points with mineral spirits.

To give the typewriter a little exercise, I decided to type out a page on the machine for One Typed Page (OTP).  What a great site. Writers submit one typed page for posting.  Some posts are stories, some journal entries, some essays.  The thing they all have in common is that the content is short – e.g. “one typed page”.

I am trying to come up with ultra-short stories for OTP, and let me tell you: it’s so, so hard for me.  I come from a long line of long winded people. My father was a fantastic story teller. He had one story about throwing up in a hat on a city bus that he spun up into an hour-long monologue dense with description and layered with larger meaning.

I got a book of Hemingway short stories to train for OTP.  Most of Hemingway’s stories are only a couple pages long. I read one called “The Doctor and the Doctor’s Wife” and it took me half an hour to describe the plot and characters to my husband. The story is 2.5 pages long.  The CliffsNotes may be longer than the story.

I also read Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms as research for my Great American Historical Romance Novel which is set post-WWI.  I am using my teenage daughter’s marked-up school copy, and her notes are the funniest thing ever:

I highly recommend OTP for writers.  The ultra-short format is beating the hell out of me – in a good way. It’s excellent writing exercise for me. I want to boil down my thoughts to the essentials and get to the point. What I am writing isn’t particularly coherent, but I’ll get there.

Anyhoo, here’s a story I tried to write for One Typed Page, but it turned out to be about three pages long. I decided not to submit because I’ll be violating the spirit of OTP if I submit over-long pieces. The site is not called “Several Typed Pages”.

It was good exercise for the Electra anyway: