pumpkin-royal-hh

The Royal Happy Halloween (HH)

It’s October and here in the US that means Halloween. I’m not much for the scary, gory stuff, but I do like a cheerful jack-o-lantern or two. And I like all the candy that I steal from my daughter’s trick-or-treat bag.

My neighbor’s Pac-Man ghosts are pretty swell.

pacman

And now as the leaves have started to fall, Moe from Mozo’s gave me a call. A friend of Moe’s had a Royal HH that needed a look-see. I brought the HH home and took it out to the back patio to investigate.

1952 Royal HH
HHE-4815786

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By serial number this typewriter is from 1952 – the first year the Royal HH was manufactured. The serial number is under the carriage on the right side.  You can see it if you pull the carriage way, way over to the left:

royal-hh-serial-number

It wasn’t too bad: a little gummy, a little dirty on the inside. Its worst problem was that it was cursed with one of those awful black and white correctable ribbons. The horror!

correcting-ribbon

The first thing I did was cut that thing out. So much better:

mess

I blew the inside out carefully with my Datavac Duster:

duster

Despite being a nondescript muddy gray, this HH has wonderful style – the lines are very appealing.

I assembled my supplies for cleaning:

supplies

  • Old rags
  • Mineral spirits in a jar for scrubbing the slugs and segment
  • Soft Scrub for cleaning the platen
  • Goo Gone for cleaning the key tops
  • a stiff tooth brush for slug scrubbing
  • a paint brush for applying mineral spirits
  • Q-tips to cleaning sticky eraser crumbs and gunk
  • a bamboo skewer for getting into tight spots
  • a fresh ribbon to rewind onto the old spools

After draping the shell carefully with rags, I scrubbed the type slugs and segment with mineral spirits.  After a first cleaning pass, the typebars were all swinging easily.

I then wiped out the eraser crumbs, gunky fluff, and correcting tape dandruff with a lightly damp rag and Q-tips. I vigorously scrubbed the platen with Soft Scrub to remove embedded white of the correcting tape.

soft-scrub

The keytops had the frost often seen on Royals of this vintage. A lot of people call it mold or fungus, but I think it’s a chemical precipitate that affects plastics of the era. That sounds xtra-science-y.

key-tops

margic-margin

I wiped the key tops down with Goo Gone and the white coating came off.

keytops

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The old metal spools are the distinctive Royal style.  I wound new red and black ribbon onto the old spools and tested.

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Lovely! When I first started typing, the left margin was a little “soft”, returning irregularly to the left. I find that Royals often exhibit this behavior.  Fortunately, the erratic left margin seemed to work itself out with exercise.

The Royal HH has a “carriage control” knob.  Here is the description of carriage control from the Royal HH manual:

royal-hh-carriage-control

I played with it, turning it up and down and felt no difference. Perhaps the machine needed more cleaning to appreciate the subtleties of the control.

T. Munk posted recently about a similar feature on Royal portables of the early 50s.

Moving on, here’s a picture of Herb Caen, a well-known San Francisco columnist who swore by his “Loyal Royal”.

San Francisco Chronicle newspaper columnist Herb Caen in his office at 901 Mission Street in San Francisco May 1994. Photograph by Nancy Wong

San Francisco Chronicle newspaper columnist Herb Caen in his office at 901 Mission Street in San Francisco May 1994. Photograph by Nancy Wong (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

It’s hard to say whether the HH pictured above was his favorite – apparently he had four “Loyal Royals” including the Royal FP below.  Really, Herb, what a player!

"Loyal Royal," typewriter of Herb Caen, longstanding columnist of the San Francisco Chronicle, on display in the lobby of the Chronicle Building on 5th Street in San Francisco, CA

“Loyal Royal,” typewriter of Herb Caen, longstanding columnist of the San Francisco Chronicle, on display in the lobby of the Chronicle Building on 5th Street in San Francisco, CA. By Uyvsdi (Own work) [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

This HH is a serious typist’s typewriter.  It’s got a palm tabulator:

08

If this HH had had a dirtier shell, I would have pulled out the Scrubbing Bubbles and a tooth brush and cleaned the crinkle paint exterior.  However, the HH was pretty clean to start with.  I only needed to wipe down the outside with a damp cloth. Here she is, sitting pretty on my front bench.

royal-hh-2

I am going to call this model a Royal Happy Halloween from now on. I have heard tell that the Royal HH was named for Henry Hart who patented the Magic Margin for Royal in 1938. HH could also stand for Hello Handsome, Head Honcho, Heigh Ho, Hip Hop, Holy Hell, Happy Hunting and more.  Happy Halloween seems appropriate for this time of year.

pumpkin-royal-hh

I took the Royal HH back to Moe’s with care and feeding instructions. I am sure that the lady who owns it will now be able to hammer out The Great American Novel.  What a sweet machine.

Postscript

I got an email from Jenn at the Shop at Flywheel Press and she just got a new typewriter for the Shop. It had belonged to a friend who moved to Hawaii and couldn’t afford to bring the typewriter along, so she gave it to Jenn.  It wasn’t typing and Jenn thought maybe it had a carriage lock engaged. I went over to scope out the situation.

When I arrived at the Shop, Jenn was conducting a kids camp.  I could hear the happy tappity-tap of typewriters as I walked in.  Heart-warming!

shophh

Here’s the new girl. Really, another HH! I call this one a Royal Hardly Hawaiian (since it didn’t make it off the mainland).

After poking at it a minute or two, I determined that the margins had been set close together so the carriage couldn’t move.  Damn you and your mysterious hidden workings, Magic Margin!

I got the margins in order and strung a new ribbon on her, and soon she was typing away happily.  I’ll be back to give her a good clean and enter her into TWDB.

I strolled around the Shop and checked the other typewriters. One or two had ribbon issues which were soon remedied, but all were typing.  My cheesy fixes like the duct-tape clevis repair and the paperclip spool spindle ARE STILL FINE despite all the little kids hammering on these typewriters.

Looking good, ladies. Til next we meet.

shoptypers

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dsc05477

Pleasing Symmetry

The Olympia Robust had been on my mind ever since it first arrived at Moe’s shop. I took some photographs of it in situ for Typewriter Database:

left

Deer antler, tramp art, oil lamp, Jesus, stuffed pheasant…Olympia Robust.

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It bothered me to leave the typewriter at Moe’s shop. Not only was it at risk of getting damaged, but I worried it may be collected for weird reasons. The more I ruminated on it, the more convinced I became that the typewriter should not go to a private collector.

So I took it into protective custody and brought it to my place for the time being. Moe was relieved about that.  She was worried about it getting stepped on.

I am offering temporary shelter to the Olympia Robust – it can’t stay in my home too long.  I’m concerned that it might catch what the Praxis has.

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I went in search of a permanent home for the Robust.  The internet did not disappoint.  After a little digging, I found a Holocaust museum in Richmond, Virginia that was requesting donations of objects from the period.

vhm

What I liked about this museum:

  • extensive community education program
  • open 7 days a week
  • FREE admission
  • great Yelp reviews

I got in touch with Tim, the director of collections at the Virginia Holocaust Museum. He and the assistant curator agreed that the Olympia Robust would be a good addition to the collection for rotation into the exhibits.

As part of the museum’s collection, the Olympia Robust will be available to anyone who may want to examine it (typewriter types, history buffs, ordinary curious people).  Tim says that the museum is developing a searchable online archive of objects in their collection that the Robust will become a part of.

I’m flying out to the DC area in December and will take the Robust as carry-on luggage. Once in DC, I plan to drive the typewriter down to Richmond for the hand-off.

This turned out really well. This particular typewriter’s story has a pleasing narrative symmetry – or at least a very satisfying balance in beginning and end. While I don’t think inanimate objects can experience karmic retribution, the sprinkling of poetic justice and side of situational irony gives me a chuckle.  This typewriter, made in its past life for the SS, will now be used as a tool for education and as prevention against future atrocity. It really does make me laugh (righteously, of course).

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dsc05434

Difficult History: Olympia Robust

I have been wrassling this week with an Olivetti Praxis 48 that I have fixed once already. I bought it off of Craigslist last year, fixed it and gave it to the Arduino Kid (son of Roia who works at Mozo’s shop down the street)

Roia and Burger

Roia and Dog. This dog has one eye that pops like Marty Feldman’s.

I brought the Praxis home last week with its jammed carriage:

img_5638

The Chewbacca mug mistook the Praxis for the Millennium Falcon and came over to see if he could recalibrate the hyperdrive motivator.

I removed some loose hinge pieces that were dangling inside, plugged it in and it worked.  For a couple minutes.  Then it was jammed again.

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And that led to:

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So I was sweating and swearing at this technological marvel when I got a phone call from Moe at Mozo’s.  She got some new typewriters including a really cool Olympia that I just had to check out.  So I walked over to the shop.

Lord.

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In pride of place next to the Tonka Winnebago

On the floor, Moe?  Really? With case open for stepping on?

And of course, it was One of Those.

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Moe didn’t know.  I pulled her over and showed her the SS key.

1943 Olympia Robust
serial number 470745

The typewriter is functional.  The carriage feels a little loose and the typed imprint on the right side is a little light, but it’s typing.

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The case is wooden, a faded blackish-green with a German instruction sheet pasted within it.

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The typewriter has a QWERTY keyboard and German characters.  My guess is that this was a US soldier’s war booty and that when he returned from overseas, he had the Y and Z placement switched.

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The “front panel slide” (“schieber im Frontblech”) is mysterious.  I can’t figure out what it’s supposed to do though it does obscure what has been typed. Would the slider have protected the delicate mechanics out in the field?

slider

A lot of people have mixed feelings about these SS rune WWII typewriters. There have been lively discussions in typewriter forums about the ethics of owning an SS rune typewriter.  I wish I could say something deep and meaningful about artifacts of difficult history, but I am coming up short.

I wish my father were still alive; I’d love to get his take on this typewriter.  Born in 1918 at the end of the first world war, he was a US Army serviceman during the second world war. He was an expert typist and bookkeeper, skills that did not go unnoticed by his superiors, and he diligently typed and kept the books through the war.  I imagine he would have studied this Olympia Robust with great interest.  It is the machine of his German SS counterpart, possibly a wartime clerk like himself, who used it to type up requisition forms for canned peaches – or status reports from death camps. We don’t know.

My father had a taste for the absurd and he framed his WWII service portrait in a WWI German commemorative frame he somehow came across.  It says around the frame: “Zur Erinnerung an die grosse Zeit – 1914-1915” (Memento of an Important Time, 1914-1915)

dsc05444

I feel my father would have regarded this typewriter as a reminder of how war is absurd and monstrous – and full of the workaday. It’s really hard to orchestrate organized, large-scale evil-doing without clerks and paper pushers. You need a good typewriter too.

We Americans like to think of ourselves as “the good guys” though we are not as morally superior as we’d like to think. US history has some very dark chapters, and that difficult history should make us a bit uncomfortable. That discomfort should prod us toward a better future.

This Olympia Robust typewriter is a piece of difficult history, an object from a dangerous time and place. I really wouldn’t want the Robust to go to someone who acquires it as a fetish – an object of dark magical power. I’m hoping that it will find a home with someone who appreciates the significance of its history in a matter-of-fact way and who will preserve it and share it as a reminder of a terrible time in the world. Cue Santayana: those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

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todoList2

I’m with the Band: Confessions of a Procrastinator

It’s Labor Day holiday in the US, the day we celebrate the American worker and give Summer a long, wet, beery goodbye kiss and think back over all the fun we’ve had during the past three months. Tomorrow we’ll put away the white slacks and flip flops and get back to school and business.

It was in a nostalgic end-of-the-summer mood that I re-read some of my past typewriter blog posts, and I had to laugh at the tone.  My typewriter repair posts can seem like self-congratulatory, unstoppable marches to victory. It’s never that way.

It is time to spread out the dirty laundry of my to-do list. Now that summer is over, I need to get serious. I really don’t know how this happened.  I have somehow accumulated a collection of partially dismantled typewriters that desperately need help. Here they are, begging for my attention.

beatles

Neglected while I was off gallivanting with the Boys of Summer

Paul the 1959 Royal FP

The good-natured, hard-working 1959 Royal FP is in terrific typing condition – it may skip for some people, but that’s their problem. I have removed some of the panels for sandblasting and powder coating. I ordered pink powder coat paint for the top cover, paper table and front panel – and then I lost my nerve. Did I truly want to pinkify a dignified old FP?

royalFP

Ringo the 1913 Oliver 5

Everyone’s favorite – the sweet and unassuming 1913 Oliver 5 came as a matched set.  Good Neighbor Brian has Ringo’s twin, but I kept Ringo because he’s in pretty bad condition with lots of rust. I took off his carriage and haven’t gone any further.

oliver5

John the 1970 Hermes 3000

A complex bundle of ego with smartypants tendencies, the 1970 cursive Hermes 3000 suffered a catastrophic fall at Moe’s shop.  The carriage was mashed into the body and now won’t move.

hermes3000

George the 1922 L. C. Smith & Bros. No. 8

The 1922 LC Smith & Bros 8 has been living in my garage for the past eight months.  He seeks to rise above and to achieve a higher level of rust-free consciousness.

smithBro8

The Fifth Beatle: Underwood Portable

There’s also Pete from Idaho, a three-bank Underwood portable with a few pieces that need to find their proper place.

3bank

And then there’s the typewriters that need minor fixes:

fridge

You may ask why is there a Rheinmetall KsT in my fridge with a blob of Silly Putty on the shift lock key (this sentence sounds like typewriter-related Mad Libs).  It’s a long story, but it doesn’t have a happy ending yet.

I think that I’ll start with the Hermes 3000. Come here, Sweetie:

DSC04634

Blender impassively watches the countertop dissection of the Hermes 3000.

Farewell, Summer!

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underwood5

The Underwood Five

Sonny Boy was home briefly from college.

ivan

While home, he ran around town capturing the sere angst of our suburbia with my point-and-shoot.

In addition to creating great art, he generated lots of laundry and drank all the milk. The comedy in the household was a little more lowbrow than usual. It was into this environment that I brought home this stately Underwood No. 5, and it became the Underwear 5. This dignified old machine doesn’t deserve us, but that’s the current state of the world right now.

underwood5

I have been out of town a lot this summer and playing catch-up at work when I am home, so the typewriters have been neglected.  I got back from the road last week and stopped by Moe’s shop –  she always has something new and exciting to clean up.  I was not disappointed.

orangePeel

1917 Underwood 5
Serial # 995567-5

serial

This one needed some cleaning – some sticky keys and sticky functions (bell, line indexing, line lock) as well as the gummy, sliding crawl along the rails that I have come to associate with dirty Underwood 5s.

The decals are in superb condition despite the orange peel texture of the paint.  I don’t know what happened here. I don’t think this is a purposeful texture, but it seems very hard and resilient like an alligator’s skin.

decal

The service label is from the General Typewriter Company – I should call them:

serviceLabel

I just love these old Underwoods. I know they are common as all get out, but they are just so noble, so durable.  I’m looking for a really bad one to bring home, one similar to the Underwood from Modesto.

I cleaned up this Underwood 5, strategically applying PB B’laster in the sticky spots, flushing the segment with mineral spirits, scrubbing the slugs and giving the whole machine a good wipe down and coating of Renaissance wax.

While I was cleaning the typewriter outside one evening, a thin gray stray arrived to watch me.

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I haven’t met this cat before.  I gave it a little food, as we have a soft spot for strays.  It  turned out to be one of my neighbor’s cats – one with a taste for the adventure to be found in other people’s yards.

Back to the Underwood.

It has elite size text.  My poor old eyes prefer large, readable pica. It’s also easier to clean the slugs on a pica typewriter. The ribbon I threw in was very inky and seemed rather smudgy out of the box.

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It occurred to me that The Underwood Five would be a good band name. We take band names pretty seriously in our family.  When we come up with a good band name, we add it to the running list next to the grocery list.

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This is the track listing for the Underwood Five’s debut album, In for Repairs:

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All track titles found in a 1920 Underwood repair manual.

I brought the Underwood 5 to our neighborhood block party last Saturday night for some much-needed socialization. The Underwood had a beer or two with the neighbors and impressed the hell out of everybody. Of course I found my mark: Good Neighbor Brian. The guy already has an 1913 Oliver 5, and (as I knew he would) he fell in love with this Underwood.  I feel a mix of guilt and odd satisfaction in luring Brian to the Dark Side.

brian

Brian wanted to buy it, so he gave Moe the money for the typewriter and couldn’t resist another oddity at her shop: an old timey hand crank razor blade sharpener that flips the blade during sharpening:

razorSharpener

The sad, sweet days of summer’s end are here, and my son packed to go back to school. He wanted a typewriter to take back with him for college papers.  My son set his sights on my 1952 Smith Corona Skyriter, little Camper Van Pancake:

IMG_3469

I will miss this one and her metal roasting pan lid, but I know she’s going to a good home, packed carefully into my son’s carry-on suitcase.

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I took my son to the airport Monday. Buh-bye, Skyriter. Buh-bye, Son. Make good choices. See you at Christmas.

wigPalace

Home is where the wigs are.

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IMG_5550

Weird Stuff

“There is no exquisite beauty… without some strangeness in the proportion.”

― Edgar Allan Poe

I have been on the road a lot this summer due to family obligations.  Last week, I was up and down the length of New Mexico visiting elderly relatives and taking in the strange and beautiful sights of the Land of Enchantment. I gave Joe VC a silent salute as I passed through Albuquerque.

White Sands, NM is a pretty weird place:

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You may be on the moon or in the middle of Antarctica.  It was 106°. It was beautiful.

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I spotted one typewriter in the wilds of New Mexico.  It was crouched in the corner of my cousin’s guestroom north of Santa Fe, ready to spring.  Like photos of Bigfoot, this one is a little blurry:

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In this photo, you can make out the markings: “Sears – The Electric 2”:

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Moe at Mozo’s asked me to drop in after I returned from New Mexico.  She had a beautiful little Royal P that she wanted me to admire. It’s a beauty from 1927 with serial number P37918. It types like a son of a gun.

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I took a moment to also admire a Barcelona-made Underwood-Olivetti Studio 44 that came in while I was gone. I think it’s from 1961 with serial number 332001. The Studio 44s at Typewriter Database with lower serial numbers seem to be labeled “Underwood-Olivetti” rather than “Olivetti-Underwood”. Funny, that.

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Next to the Studio 44 was a 1966 Fortune magazine with a little kid on the cover diligently hacking the mainframe:

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Moe also has a new Underwood 6 that is a bit messed up. The carriage gets stuck in strange ways.  It may be just dirty – maybe some tab interference too.  I will bring this one home in a couple weeks after I finish my travels for the summer.

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This Underwood 6 has a strange key:

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Does anyone know what  “DO” stands for?  The typewriter also has a degree symbol.

Roia from Mozo’s created an eerie tableau from a doll head while I was gone:

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Moe also proudly showed me some strange bird-headed acquisitions:

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Moe says that she can’t look at them too long because her heart fills to overflowing with their strangeness. She sneaks peeks at them now and then.  Apparently they are Jenny Lind figurines from the 1850s.  Jenny Lind was a famous opera singer known as the “Swedish Nightingale”.  Still weird.

And here’s another weird thing Moe showed off:

We did not leave Mozo’s empty-handed. My daughter brought home an Anglo concertina from Moe’s and has been making lots of noise with it:

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I can’t look at that concertina without thinking of Joan playing the accordion for her husband’s colleagues.

Lastly, I leave you with a random weird typewriter thing for the day. I saw this on Instagram while I was procrastinating and not doing work like I was supposed to.

 

I wouldn’t stand under that art installation. I did some quick Googling. This is called “Chor der Heuschrecken” (Chorus of the Locusts) by Rebecca Horn, 1991. I wonder if it is still on view in Hamburg.

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01

Oly Oly O!

The Shop at Flywheel Press has a beautiful wide carriage 1955 Olympia SM3 that has always fascinated me. A wonderful typewriter, it had extremely bad alignment issues, and I wondered: could I fix it?  I had cleaned it previously but shied away from trying to adjust the alignment.  On my last trip to The Shop, I noticed that its spacebar was intermittently unresponsive. I decided to bring the Olympia home and see if I could fix the alignment and the space bar.

olympiaAtShopFWP

Fortunately I had recently found Richard Polt’s “Tweaking Your Olympia SM” from the September 2011 issue of ETCetera, so I knew what to do about the space bar.

I flipped the machine on its back and using two pairs of needlenose pliers, “formed” the little “L” shaped piece, squeezing it to make a tighter angle. I tested.  The spacebar was much more responsive.

spaceBarAdjustment

So the next problem was the terrible alignment – as you can see, the upper and lowercase letters were misaligned and the lowercase descenders were faint:

OlympiaAlignmentProblem

I did some research first, and fortunately alignment fixes are well documented:

I saw the four adjustments screws (two on either side) that Ted Munk mentioned, but the lowercase adjustment screws were buried deep within the machine.  I would definitely need to remove the cover plates to get at the lowercase adjustment screws.

I read through Tony Mindling’s fix and Rob Bowker’s post, and thought that maybe I didn’t need to remove the typewriter from its shell.  Adjustment screws under the carriage at either end were easily accessible:

adjustmentAreas

I took off the end plates on my wide carriage Olympia so that I could nudge the rails further apart after loosening the “Rob Bowker screw”. In theory, increasing the distance between the rails will cause the carriage to sit lower – and that will allow the slugs to hit the platen at the correct angle and that will result in better printed text.  Right?

carriageRailEndCap

This is where is all gets a little foggy for me.  I can’t remember exactly what I did and didn’t do. I kept getting interrupted in the middle of this project and lost track of my changes. I know I loosened the “Rob Bowker screw” and nudged the carriage rails further apart. I *think* I loosened the lowercase adjustment plate and slid it backwards and forwards and tested various positions.

In any case, the upper/lowercase alignment was still way out of kilter and the descenders were still very faded.

I decided to peel off the cover plates to see if I could access the lowercase adjustment screws.

olympiaCoverPlates

It wasn’t bad – the ribbon cover pops right off and after removing the front and back plates, the typewriter lifted out of the main shell.

I found the lowercase adjustment screws directly under the ribbon spools.  Fortunately I was able to get a ¼” wrench in the side to loosened the lock nuts on either side.

screws2

And then I experimented with tightening and loosening the adjustment screws.  I wasn’t getting anywhere. Printed text was still misaligned and had faded descenders.

I went back to the carriage rails.  Hmm.  I loosened the lowercase(?) slide plate screws on each side and moved the plates forward so that they looked like Tony Mindling’s pictures.

They started like this:

slidePlate

And they ended up like this:

slidePlate2

I tested. Finally.

alignmentIssue2

The descenders were finally nice and dark. Alignment of upper and lowercase letters was still screwy, but this time the lowercase letters were too high.

I went back to the lowercase adjustment screws under the ribbon spools on both sides and gradually brought the lowercase letters into alignment.

adjustmentscrews2

alignedText

It was time to put the Olympia back in its shell.  I don’t like to leave typewriters dismantled, as I worry that I may forget how to put things back together. I take detailed photos in the dismantling process, but still, I like to move quickly while it’s all fresh.

The rubber bushing between the typewriter and the shell were disintegrating. It was a matter of time before they went completely and caused problems. Here’s a detailed post on bushing replacement from Clickthing.

olympiabushingwasher

When I returned the Olympia to its shell, I peeled out the gooey remnants and slipped in new rubber washers.

All the plates back on, I did a little test typing.

alignmentIssue

What the  #$@&%*! ??? What happened to my uppercase alignment???

I put the typewriter in shift-lock and tested typing – and it got stuck in shifted position.  I couldn’t unlock shifting.  I flipped the machine over and found the culprit. My brand new bushing on the front left was blocking the shift and shift lock levers:

washerInterferingWithShift

I carefully sawed off the interfering rubber edge – the shift levers were free.  I did some testing:

test

Not perfectly perfect, but so much better than it was before.

In conclusion: I have nicely aligned text that is uniformly dark.  I am still not quite sure how I got to this point, but I never would have been able to do this without helpful typospherian blogs. If I have incorrectly identified adjustment areas, let me know.

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As I am a child of the Pacific Northwest, Olympia typewriters always remind me of Olympia Beer, made with the naturally pure artesian brewing water of Tumwater, Washington.

Olympia Beer had a nice jingle back in the day that went something like this:

oly

This is possibly one of the gentlest and sweetest beer commercials ever made. Why don’t they make beer commercials like this anymore? Bonus: it features Teri Garr:

I can’t resist sharing another beer commercial from my childhood – this one made by Olympia’s Northwest competitor, Rainier. It features the soundtrack of my soggy Oregonian upbringing: windshield wipers.

 

 

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