Wednesday, July 16, 2008

It's good to be here

20080716 typecast
  • The before and after pictures
  • The cousins that got me so excited about 1950's Smith-Corona typers
  • I'm very pleased to see that the three links I had to reconnect or kludge are working great: the period, colon, and hyphen were all disconnected, and I realize now that I noticed no problems when typing this up. I feel like a real boy.

17 comments:

skyriter said...

This typewriter looks great. Can you briefly outline the steps you went through for this level of cleaning? What are your preferred tools that must be available?

mpclemens said...

Sure. I posted on the portable typewriters Yahoo group about it first, since it seems like a lot of the pictures I see of the colorful SC's show a grimy machine. Something about the paint just holds on to crud. Two big suggestions came out of that: using toothpaste on the case (applied with finger) and using dilute soft-scrub (a bleach-containing scouring liquid, good for scratchable surfaces.) In both cases, lots of towels or rags to wipe off the outside.

First task was to remove the panels for better access. This wasn't too hard, and I have a system now -- basically, all the screws for a particular piece go in a numbered film canister, and I note on paper where they went, e.g., "Can #1: Main body panel, silver underneath in back, black on top under carriage" or the like. I removed the small panel under the carriage in the back, the main body panel, the ribbon cover, and the plate behind the keys, in that order. The Silent-Super has a flip-back panel behind the platen that's attached to a spring and looked complex, so I left it alone. Panels by the knobs also stayed on, as well as the paper table.

With panels off, I started with the toothpaste technique, really getting it on there thick with my finger and rubbing around in circles. Let it stand for a bit, and then (gently!) wiped off with a damp cloth. For panels still on the machine, I used an old toothbrush to scrub around the parts, especially the knobs. Some paint came off when I wiped, but not a lot, and I think it was probably bonded to the sweat/smoke combo on outside (ugh) so I was not too sad to see it go.

Only a few really stubborn spots got the soft scrub treatment, applied with the toothbrush and worked gently into the paint, then wiped off. It's not a 100% perfect job, the paint is still dark in some areas near the space bar, but it's miles better than before.

Mechanical restoration required re-connecting two of the linkages where the bottom of the type-bars connect to the levers coming from the keys. This actually was easiest coming in from the top. There's a Y-shaped piece from the keys that snaps over the bars. One of the disconnected ones was missing a tiny metal pin, so I bent a ring of the thinnest paper clip I could find and got it in there. Tricky, with lots of sweat and swearing, but it seems to be holding.

Insides were seriously dusty, so lots of canned air and clean artist paintbrushes to de-crud the innards. Finally, I attacked all the moving parts with Ronsonol, which is a brand name for cigarette lighter fluid that contains naptha, a magic gunk-dissolving ingredient. This was my first experience using it -- I picked up some cheap foam paintbrushes from the same hardware store as the fluid, squirted the fluid into the sponge, and then dabbed at all the moving parts, taking care to keep away from painted areas. This really makes the type-bars shine! Also good for loosening the old ink on the typefaces. After the fluid evaporated, I gave all the joints a once-over with sewing machine oil.

Reverse the order putting the panels back on, put in a fresh ribbon, and off we go!

Hmm, not as brief as I'd hoped. Still, a very enjoyable project (that could be the lighter fluid fumes talking) and my fingers are itchy to try it again on something else... like that Remington... must... resist...

skyriter said...

Thanks. I have several machines in need of a good cleaning.

thetyper said...

I've had trouble finding a screwdriver that really feels like it fits the screws that need to be removed. On the 1942 Silent I did work on, I felt that I left the screws a little worse for the wear. Do you have any recommendations?

mpclemens said...

I used a set of Stanley "precision screwdrivers" for the machine, although they weren't always a great fit. I've heard that gunsmith's screwdrivers are best, since carpentry screwdriver blades are tapered, which probably led to the worse-for-wear screws. I don't have the cash for a nice set of gunsmith's 'drivers, though.

Strikethru said...

Don't tell your typewriter about the state of the economy in 2008 or any other bad news, and wreck his positive outlook... I've kept mine in the dark and they seem to type the better for it.

mpclemens said...

Uh oh... I left it at home with CNN on.

I wonder how to cure a depressed typewriter?

Strikethru said...

Well, one upside... typewriters don't run on gasoline!

mpclemens said...

That's a large part of their appeal for me, that they're totally user-powered. I can't even bring myself to get excited about the many electrics I see in shops, even from good brands like Smith-Corona. I like being able to grasp -- mentally and physically -- all the workings of the manuals.

Monda said...

As much as I love playing around with other machines, I always return to the Smith Coronas. God love 'em.

Yours is STUNNING. I'm eaten up with typewriter envy. And it talks! None of mine do that.I have a couple that openly laugh at me, though.

mpclemens said...

Monda! You're alive! :-)

I think I'm starting to develop a brand affinity, although I may have to sample (i.e., acquire) a few more machines to make sure. I'm torn between Smith-Coronas and Olympias, both of which seem to be the epitome of engineering in their respective motherlands. SC's are solidly-built with a nod towards styling (LOVE the stripes) and are dependable work-horse typers. The parallel-key action isn't noticeable until you use a machine that does not have it, and then you realize "Ah, that's what the fuss is about."

Olympias just thumb their space-bars at flashy looks, but you can feel the precision when you type on them. The sensation is like using a sharp, smooth pair of scissors. You can sense the parts working, but the typing is so effortless, especially compared to the solid nature of the machines.

Oliver said...

Mike, you did an awesome job cleaning up that machine! I wish mine looked so good! I found the group discussion to be very informative; I'll have to set about giving some of my dingier machines a proper clean.

Since everyone seems to have their own methods, I've often wished that there were some sort of centralized repository for cleaning and restoration techniques. A typewiki, if you will.

mpclemens said...

Hmmm, that's a good idea, though I'd probably leave it in the hands of yourself, Richard Polt, or Will to "own" such a thing. It wouldn't be too difficult to get such a thing going through Wikia.com which has the advantage of being free.

Duffy Moon said...

I need help, Mike. Really bad.
I apparently just bought a typewriter that looks just like yours. I did one of those ridiculously low bids on ebay and just found out that no one else bid.

Likely this is because the listing mentioned that "the letters type on top of each other" which I take to mean the carriage isn't moving. Could be the seller ain't that bright and had the carriage locked, or the drawband is broke, or something more sinister. I seem to remember you having to replace the cord on one of your Smith-Coronas (or do I have you confused with someone else?). I'll know more about the problem when I pick up the machine, but I'm just giving you fore-warning so that you're not concerned when I e-mail you in a panic.

mpclemens said...

Hrm, sounds like a drawband, just because that's supposedly such a common thing to break. I suppose it could be the carriage lock, although it's easy to defeat on my machine just by pushing the carriage a little bit to the side -- the "lock" really just centers the carriage and fastens it there for fastening into the case.

None of my typers have needed a band replacement yet. The band for the Silent-Super looks like it's tucked up under the tabulator mechanism, but could be accessed without disassembly (as designed.) I'm sure that the Usual Sources can help with this (ie, the portable typewriters group.)

It's a great machine, and worth fixing up. I've been trying my hand at fiction (ulp!) and have been banging out 10-15 pages a night on it, with nary a complaint from my hands. The mechanisms just get smoother the more I use them.

Duffy Moon said...

D'oh! Picked it up yesterday, and it's indeed the drawband. As in, there is no drawband.

Any chance I could get you to snap a pic or two of your Super's underside, in the area of the wheel/drawband? (You can insert your preferred typewriter amateur porn joke here) I may try to do this one myself, if I can get a good look at how it's *supposed* to be.

mpclemens said...

I can supply pictures, but you'll need to provide your own chicka chicka wow wow soundtrack. I'll send you an email when they're posted.

I'm so excited to finally be able to use this in context...

You can do it, Duffy Moon!