I keep trying to fix my typewriter

Originally published at: http://boingboing.net/2017/05/12/i-keep-trying-to-fix-my-typewr.html


These guys might be able to help you out:


1 Like

I’m pretty sure the guys in Berkeley will have me covered. Good to know there is still someone in Portland who can fix them too.

1 Like

The problem with cleaning a complex fine tolerance machine with compressed air is that the top layer of dust on the oil just gets driven in, making the oil gunkier and more likely to bind instead of lubricating. I run into this problem a fair amount, since I too use old tools as long as they still work, and I have a large powerful compressor (currently dead, but I ordered the new piston this morning).

If the shop is even minimally competent, I doubt you’ll regret having it professionally cleaned while you still can. Tell them to give it their top-of-the-line full treatment, no shortcuts! Maybe they’ll sink the core into an ultrasonic oil bath, or something equally extreme. :slight_smile:


I enjoyed hearing the guy in the video say ‘You should not need lubrication if it is properly tuned.’ I’m tempted to go after it with isopropyl alcohol like he did but I think at this point I may be better off just letting pros do it.

The advance is unreliable and I have to really watch the guides to be sure it moved forward a space after a letterstrike, or hit space after each letter to manually advance. It’ll work for a few letters, then stop, then start. Pretty sure a spring is weak and at certain tensions as it moves across the page things work different?

1 Like

you have it at a place in berkeley already? cool! if not? try these guys in Los Altos, they have restored 2 of mine


Try Typeset Antiques… but don’t ask about the IBM Selectric 251


I didn’t have enough obsessive-compulsive stress in my life so I recently started the restoration of a '46 Smith-Corona Silent; it’s been a bittersweet puzzle to say the least. Consequently, if you’re looking to do some preventative maintenance between trips to the repair shop I’d highly recommend the following literature:

Even if they don’t have your specific manual I can guarantee you’ll learn a LOT about the bits and bobs common to most typewriters. Best of luck, if all else fails you can tweet Tom Hanks for tips.


Thank the maker! This oil bath is going to feel so good. I’ve got such a bad case of dust contamination, I can barely move!


next time you see an exploded view will you think of all those
so called letters


I don’t know enough about the specific mechanism to say, but a coiled spring can get clumps of gummidgy in the casing that will make it behave that way, with different force at different points in the unwind. For leaf springs, that situation is rare, generally they either do or don’t do, there is no try.


Hey Jason,
You may want to pick up one of Ted Munk’s repair manuals. I love the way it walks you through diagnosis/repair and points you to causes you may not have considered. http://www.lulu.com/shop/theodore-munk/the-manual-typewriter-repair-bible/paperback/product-23045770.html

1 Like

That is wonderful. Thank you.

I just acquired a Royal Quiet DeLuxe portable as a present for a relative. It’s the same model that the sportswriter is using in 42, and Hemingway’s favorite. I hope I don’t have to mess with repairing it too much.

There’s a family business in Petaluma that’s been repairing typewriters since the 50s. Not closer than Berkeley, but you won’t have to cross any bridges.

At current count, I have in my possession two Signature typewriters, both portable, but one smaller than the other and in its own zip-up leatherette case, while the other is in like a suitcase, both from the early-mid 1970s; a Smith-Corona portable in a hardshell case; a Brother AX-250 “electronic” typewriter; and a Royal upright that looks like it was used to kill Paul Sheldon and then cleaned up.

I have no idea how well/if any of them work.

The Monkey Wards typewriters are in the garage, and I just don’t feel like taking their photos right now.

I hope they can make it run like new.

Last typewriter I fixed was on the playa in 2015, when the guy who made the Blunderwood Portable giant typewriter saw me wearing my Typewriter Repairmen underwater robotics team shirt, and asked if I could fix one of the 1927 Underwood portable typewriters he found on Ebay.

Fortunately, I had brought my jukebox repair toolkit that year. Yes, I was able to fix it.


My father sold Brother typewriters and I still have one that I took to college, but when I have to type something my goto is a little Olympia portable. I wish my father had sold IBM Selectrics instead!

(One recurring thing that drove me nuts in Hidden Figures was people not knowing what “IBM” was. Even though the Selectric was new in 1961, when the movie was supposed to take place, selectrics are on many desks in the movie, and IBM had been an important typewriter company since the war. Nobody at Langley back in the day would have wondered what an “IBM” was, but the question gets asked at least twice in the movie. The second time I threw something at the screen.)


I see those initials and think…“THINK” signs:


And wasn’t it a profitable investment to have in one’s stock portfolio back then?