Saturday, June 26, 2010

Here is the Champion, My Friends

A mini photo-essay on how I spent my day with an Underwood Champion...

First order of business was to brush out the case, douse it liberally in Lysol, and set it in the sun to ge-funk-ify. Then came lots of Quality Time wrestling the old foot-screws off so I could shell the machine. The two front feet were long gone, and the back were badly crumbling. Finally got them off after heavy application of Liquid Wrench and Salty Language, so I could perform the much-vaunted dip-and-dunk cleaning. Here's the Champion doing a little naked sunbathing in the back yard*:

Dipped, Dunked, and Drying

* That should excite the spam-bots, no?

As the guts dried, I turned my attention to the shell, rubbing it down with "Mother's Caranuba Wax Cleaner" from the auto section. Recommended on the Portable Typewriters Group, and I can see why: what a shine! The felt was in sorry disrepair, so I raided my wife's fabric bins and found remnants from an old Clifford costume. Red on black is very classy, n'est pas?

I felt that, did you?

Now dried, I spent some time squirting down the works with lighter fluid to degrease the worst spots -- the ribbon vibrator is still a tad gummy -- and check for overall cleanness. I gotta say: I'm a Dip and Dunk Believer now. As long as the machine can dry properly, it's amazing the grime it dislodged.

It took a while to get the shell back on: it's tricky, and there's lots of sticky-out parts to contend with (technical term) but the halves were rejoined at last:

Waxed and lovely

And oh, what an improvement! Here it is, right before I cleaned up my stuff and came in for dinner:

Underwood Champion, c1938

Still on the to-do list: new feet that fit better, a stubborn screw on the back panel that doesn't want to go back in, deciphering the workings of the ribbon reverse lever, maybe repairing and reattaching the alignment guard to the paper table. But the Big Stuff is done, and I think the Underwood is better for it.

Not that I didn't take a little time out to play: can you tell which one is mine?

The Garden Gallery


Julia Eff said...

Oh my stars. I want. I want SO MUCH. @____@ why are mine never that shiny??

Anonymous said...

Lovely job, lovely typewriter. Can I send both of mine to you so you can make them pretty? Pleeeaaase?

I really want your Underwood. Lordy it's pretty. Nice job! I'm getting myself some of that wax when I have some money!

mpclemens said...

@Julia, this one was pretty sad when I saw it. Very dirty and dusty and cobwebby all over. The cleaner worked wonders for the shell and the keytops.

@Rad-tastic: you'll need to clear that with my lovely wife. She was a little wary of me bringing this one home! The good news is that these things are built to last, and a little polish makes a big difference.

Anonymous said...

Ha, where's your wife? What's her number? I'm good at persuading.

and using threats....

Anonymous said...

Man, what cleanup job. Nice work.

Olivander said...

Daaaaaang! That's sharp!

I've been leery of performing dip-n-dunk on machines of this vintage, for fear the keys' paper substrate would warp and cause the lettering to curl. But I see that there were no apparent ill effects.

mpclemens said...

@Olivander: no paper keys on this machine: those are plastic tops with the metal rings. A hybrid between the older and newer styles, I suppose.

I wouldn't dip a paper-key machine, or at least would be very careful which parts get submerged.

Olivander said...

The plastic lettertops are very thin. Underneath is a wafer of paper or cardboard. I have a couple of keyboards in the identical style where one or two plastic tops have worked out of the ring and begun to peel up, revealing the paper-ish material underneath. I suppose if the ring were still clamped down tight enough it wouldn't allow the substrate to warp in the first place.

Duffy Moon said...

Excellent work, Mike.

Haven't done this on anything since the (now coral-painted) Royal HH. I have a few more that could use it.

mpclemens said...

@Olivander: there's paper under there?

Ah... whoops.

Well, I guess we'll see what happens, won't we. I thought they were just plastic tops, clamped on to generic metal keylevers, as a precursor to the all-plastic keys to follow.

MissManda said...

Oh that is beautiful! It makes the idea of doing that to my Underwood very tempting..the poor girl needs some help and badly