The Sorta-Portable Century 10 Typewriter

A recent family vacation meant that I was parted from my typewriters for two weeks. I missed them a lot and thought about them every day.

I happily dove back into it upon my return.  I alternate working on the L.C. Smith 8 and the Century 10.  I’ll get stuck on one machine and move over to the other and switch back and forth.

I initially cleaned the Century 10 with a damp rag to get the dust off, and it immediately looked much better.  It is such a petite little beast – a cute 17 lb package.   Although it feels like it has a cast iron frame, it may actually be made of pressed steel like its cousin the Remington Junior.

The old grease formed a protective skin over the entire machine, shielding it from rust – a happy situation.  In my limited experience, I’ve found solidified grease and heavy grime are much easier to deal with than rust and corrosion.

The sunken shift key


When the typewriter arrived, I noticed the shift key was sunken and nonfunctional.  I followed the connection up and found a loose lever but I couldn’t figure out what it was supposed to attach to.  I went to Typewriter Database and studied the Century 10 there and noted that the connector should be positioned vertically straight up and down. With this information, I found the spot to re-attach and all was well – the shift key works now. I love TWDB for the wealth of information in its images.


Shifting is old-timey high tech: a three bank keyboard with segment shift. The basket shifts down for uppercase letters and up for figures. It actually feels very light and snappy when typing and I can maintain a good pace. I can type a lot faster on the Century 10 than on my Oliver (I know that’s not saying much).

Loose spring

There was a loose spring directly underneath the machine – I re-attached it to a likely hook.  I believe the spring helps the ribbon vibrator return to a resting position while typing.


Ribbon Spool Mysteries

Tolstoy once said “All happy ribbon feed mechanisms are alike; each unhappy ribbon feed mechanism is unhappy in its own way”  or something along those lines.  Since I gravitate toward the junkier end of the spectrum in my typewriter collecting, I have run into a fair number of unhappy ribbon feed mechanisms. In each case, I will eventually figure it out and think to myself, “Finally. Now I understand ribbon feed mechanisms!” Unfortunately, that’s never the final word.  Every feed mechanism that I have had to deal with is different from the last.

I removed the old dried ribbon from the weirdly tilted ribbon spools – and then noticed the spools weren’t rotating properly. The ribbon feed direction is controlled by a switch on the left base of the machine.  Once switched, the ribbon spool would rotate a few turns and then the ribbon driving gear would work its way out of the ribbon spool shaft pinion and all would stop.

There isn’t a whole lot of documentation on Old Weirdy. As a not-very-popular and briefly manufactured machine (1919-1924), it came and went and took its user, parts and repair manuals with it.  Its closest cousin, the Remington Junior, has a rear-mounted ribbon spool system set up. I used a Remington Standard Model 12 diagram from the D. E. Fox Typewriter Repair Manual, 1950, TWDB Documents Library for reference as its ribbon feed is quite similar to the Century 10’s.

I had problems just getting the spools off the machine.  I removed the top and front plates to get a better look.


You can see the LC Smith 8 lurking below the workbench, waiting its turn.

There is a metal piece in the center of the spool shaft called a Snap Catch that needs to be tilted to the side of the shaft to remove the ribbon spools.


Snap catch

Once off I noticed that the right and left spooling mechanisms were different.  The right spool is marked “Right” and the left spool is marked “Removable”.* There is a drop weight on each spool shaft which is part of the feed reverse system.  The drop weight flops freely on the right and is firmly attached on the left.


Right side, floppy metal drop weight


left side drop weight is firmly held in place.


Remington Standard Model 12, D.E. Fox Typewriter Repair Manual, 1950, page 112. TWDB Documents Library.  I found this diagram of the Remington spool system very similar to the Century 10 mechanism.

Figure II in the diagram above shows how the ribbon reverse is triggered once the ribbon fills the left spool and runs out on the right causing the weight to drop.

I found was that if I manually held the floppy weight on the right, the ribbon spools rotate properly. I put a temporary bread tie to hold the floppy weight for testing and found that the ribbon feed works great. I *think* I understand this system now. Once a ribbon is on the machine, it will hold the drop weight against the core of the spool and allow for proper feed.

I am glad that I found the Remington 12 diagram in D.E. Fox. I love TWDB for the wealth of information in its documents archive.


Simulating a full spool with a bread tie.

*I am starting to get the uncomfortable feeling that perhaps my understanding of what is “right” and what is “left” is mistaken. My left and right spools may be reversed as the ribbon feed is still at times a little balky. I may be confused by whether I should be thinking in terms of my right and left side or the machine’s right and left side.

Noisy carriage return

Click click click click clickclickclickclickclick. Time for a Polt Silencer™? This is pretty bad, right?  Not normal?  I can’t see the escapement to get a feel for what’s going on without taking this thing apart more. I am hesitant to do that.


The letter “I” had a bent typebar connector that caused it to collide with its neighbor.  I can’t imagine how that would have happened except maybe a spear in the guts – but there it is.


I gently tapped from the right side with a thin pick to get the connector back into position – my smallest punch was too large for the small space. The connector popped back into position after a few gentle taps. It may have been an unorthodox way to approach the situation, but it straightened out nicely and the letter “I” and its neighbor key are now working.


All better.

Now that the Century 10 is fairly clean and I have given her a light coating of Renaissance Wax, I took some photos:

I regret that this Century 10 is missing the paper table with the large “Century” decal.  I double checked with the eBay seller who said that the typewriter was part of building clean-out in an old part of St. Louis, MO and it did not have a paper table when they got it.

Google image searches for the American Writing Machine Co. Century 10 typewriter pull up a handful of results.  What’s very curious is that one of those few hits is of a typewriter in Spain also missing its paper table. The Powerhouse Museum’s Remington Junior on Robert Messenger’s blog is also missing its paper table.  Maybe these three typewriters can start a support group: Typewriters without Tables. Is there something about the way their paper tables were secured that made them so apt to go missing?

And here are a few seconds of me typing away happily on Old Weirdy:


13 thoughts on “The Sorta-Portable Century 10 Typewriter

  1. Tyler Anderson says:

    I swear that all the desktop 3 bank machines I’ve ever seen around my own area have been missing their paper tables as well. Maybe there’s a curse upon them? Regardless, you’ve done outstanding work so far! Keep it up!


    • Could be a curse.

      I think my Century 10’s paper table is lying in a pile of junk in an old building in old St. Louis. Maybe someone is using it as a dustpan.


  2. Excellent job! I love how you “make it work” using similar but not quite exact information. A true mark of the Macguyver (:

    .. and now people will know how to deal with a Century 10 vibrator!


    • I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: Typewriter Database is an invaluable source of information. Thank you for all you do in maintaining TWDB. I would be lost without its images and documents.


      • Heh, four years ago, we were all pretty lost. There was basically no way for a casual collector to accurately date most common American machines, as the TWDB as it existed up until then was compiled from mostly European secondary sources, which got most of the American brands various shades of wrong. You can see something of the result of this on my first attempt at building a web page for my collection:
        *all* the dates except the Hermes and the Olivetti are wrong. /:

        Around 2010, I stumbled upon my town’s last typewriter shop:

        and soon uncovered age lists in Bill Wahl’s shop, which I discovered were better. I attempted to contact Dirk Schumann, who had put together the original site in the 90’s, to get copies of these lists to him, and had no luck. Asking around the community just got me, “no, we haven’t seen him around in a few years”. So, because I have something of a terrier nature when it comes to fixing things, I kind of had little choice but to fix it. In Sept 2011:

        and since then, it’s kind of like the whole rest of the typewriter deal – you start by thinking, “oh, this is neat, maybe I should try a hit”, and soon you’re mainlining 80 year old iron. The history is just such a neat, but very fragmented puzzle, where a lot of the pieces are hidden in closets and boxes that everyone’s forgotten – I like to solve puzzles.😀


      • The TWDB couldn’t have fallen into more capable hands. It’s a project that calls for a hybrid librarian/detective/typewriter junkie and you seem to fit the bill.


  3. nombre7 says:

    *I* live in St. Louis. If I come upon it, I’ll send it your way….😀 (Like that’ll happen, but I do troll all the malls for interesting specimens.)

    I have a Stoewer-Elite typewriter I got from an auction here, and the spools are canted even more than on this Century. I need to get pics up on the TWDB. I love it because it’s so different.

    You give me hope that I’ll start in on the maintenance on my machines, but I have so many….. Good going; you’re an inspiration.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s