The Slippery Smith-Corona Something

Last weekend I had a variety-pack of fun that involved a junior high school musical, a Kentucky Derby hat project, and Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones.  It was jammed-packed with excitement, but I still made time to work on this broken beauty that was sitting on my kitchen counter dripping oil:


This is the FREE typewriter that Moe gave me last week.  A hauler found it in a house that he was cleaning out.  He drenched it with oil but couldn’t get it to work.  He was going to throw it out, but Moe stopped him.

I am not sure what kind of Smith-Corona I have here.  It’s either a S-C Super or a S-C Silent-Super.  It’s missing the paper table/ top back panel with its identifying label, so it’s hard to say. I think it’s a S-C Silent- Super.  It looks like the Silent-Supers at Typewriter Database and it has an “X” at the end of its serial number like many Silent-Supers: 5T 477968X.  From its serial number, I believe that it’s a 1957 Smith-Corona Something.

When I first brought it home, the machine was as slippery as a greased pig.   The machine was so oily and slippy, I couldn’t safely handle it – it was sliding all over the place. Also, just touching it kind of grossed me out.

I wiped it down with a rag to get the worst of it off and considered its major issue: the carriage was jammed exactly in the midway point of the platen and not budging.  I assumed initially that there was a carriage lock engaged, but no.

The Name of My Song: Tab Rack Carriage Jam

A couple of typewriters that I have worked on had jammed carriages that were related to interference from the tab system:

And I think I can add this Smith-Corona Something to the list.  Here’s the back before intervention:


Ted Munk pointed out in a comment that the tab rack looked strange. Examining it more closely, I saw that the tabs were interfering with carriage travel, so I gently bent the tab setting/clearing assembly back with my fingers:


And the carriage began to move. I could hear the tab setter/clearer mechanism rubbing against the tabs, so I bent it back a little more.

The tab set and clear keys were twisted and mangled:


I straightened the keys out a bit and got the tab setting and clearing mechanism to respond to them, but they are still not reliably setting and clearing tabs. I might not be able to fix the tab system.  Fortunately, a working tabulator is not mission-critical to a typewriter.

I decided to get a replacement cover for the top back to protect the tab system and prevent it from getting bent inward again. I bought this – I hope it fits!


The draw string was all tangled up inside the mainspring drum.


I tried to turn the drum gently to free it but it was all gummed up. A firmer hand was required, and I was finally able to turn the drum and free the intact draw string.  I then manually wound the drum several times to free it from its gumminess. Boing, boing, boing.  Springing easily back now. Make sure to read T. Munk’s post Replace the carriage string in your 1950’s Smith-Corona Silent!

As soon as the draw string was re-attached, the typewriter started belting out Doris Day:


Line Lock Revelation

One thing that was really bothering me was that the line lock was not reliably engaging at the end of the line so that letters were piling up on top of each other at the end.  I have seen other typewriters with this problem and it always baffles me.

I determined that on this Smith-Corona there wasn’t enough tension in the mainspring to pull the carriage at the end of the line with enough force to engage the line lock.  I wound the mainspring another couple more times and the line lock began to engage properly.  My mind is blown! I will carefully tuck this bit of new information away.

Of course there were the requisite detached S-C clevises (spring links) that needed to be re-attached to their typebars:


Here’s what I think happened to this typewriter:

  1. Someone bought it sometime in the mid-50s and used it faithfully for several years.
  2. When they last used it (maybe about 1970), the carriage was centered using the centering lever and the machine was returned to its case.
  3. Thirty years passed and the oil inside the mainspring congealed and solidified.
  4. Around 2000, someone takes the typewriter out of its case and attempts to move the carriage.  The draw string slips off the immobile mainspring drum and wraps itself around the inside of the drum.
  5. A tinkerer trying to figure out what’s wrong removes the easiest-to-remove piece: the back cover, exposing the tab rack.
  6. Fruitless tinkering yields no results.  The back cover is lost and the typewriter is sent to the garage where it collects greasy dirt and begins to rust. It’s leaned on its back and the tab rack and tab setter are bent inward
  7. A hauler finds it while clearing out a house, drenches it in oil, passes it onto Moe who gives it to me for FREE.

I have made a pass with Scrubbing Bubbles and the grime and grease have receded. The beautiful Alpine Blue is beginning to sparkle.


ZetiX says these machine have a “Flintstone-esque chunkiness” which is a spot-on description. This is a Wilma or a Betty.

I have a lot of acrylic paint left over from house projects, so I am planning to mix up a batch of blue acrylic paint to match the Alpine Blue.  After carefully cleaning and priming of the chipped areas, I am going to do cautious touch-ups with the acrylic flat paint.

20 thoughts on “The Slippery Smith-Corona Something

  1. Tyler Anderson says:

    Woah. I would have thought you insane if you told me it was blue at the onset; that dirt gave a perfect “grey” impression.


    • I just love this thing – such a nice quiet little typer. I have a soft spot for the Smith Corona experience. This one will become a permanent fixture in the house.


  2. Great work, Mary. I had a chance to buy one of these Silent Supers last year, same color, but it was overpriced and had the previous owner’s SSN etched into the ribbon cover next to the Smith-Corona logo.

    I have a non-Super Silent model (with preset tabs, not keyset like yours), ugly brown color, but it’s one of the finest typers in my collection. I hope you enjoy this one.



    • Cosmetically, it’s in rough shape, but I love the way it types. I was going to send it back to Moe’s shop, but I enjoy typing on it so much that it will stay with me.


  3. Well – since that comment on Tony’s blog I did have a chance to have a few of them in my hands and I very much like their look and feel. This one would be Betty I guess – having the movie in mind – for the ability to live through some tough times, getting up after a few knocks and still be charming and beautiful (with a little help of the typewriter angel – as Mr. Polt says🙂 ).


  4. I love the way your Silent-Super project is turning out. The Alpine Blue looks beautiful with the white keys. I had a similar spring drum problem with a S-S and read in the “Service Manual, Smith-Corona 5 and 6 Series Machines – 1963” on the TWDB that the drum tension should be 28-30 oz. The early 60’s Smith-Coronas are much like your 1956. I need to match some paint on a S-S that I am working on too. I had not thought of acrylic but that would be much easier to mix and deal with than flat enamel. Please be sure to post some more pictures as she finishes her spa treatment!


  5. Glad you were able to get this working! I started playing around with my late grandmother’s Smith-Corona Silent-Super today. Everything seems to be in good working order…except the keys don’t want to strike, but I think they’re just sticky with grease and dust, I already got the “t” working with just dry Q-tips. Guess one of these days I’ll have to take it outside and get some denatured alcohol on it.


    • I find denatured alcohol very effective for freeing gummy keys. I just paint the segment with denatured alcohol where the typebars pivot and then work the keys over and over. Just be careful with the denatured alcohol – it eats through paint on contact, so drape all painted surfaces carefully. Mineral spirits are also good for cleaning the segment and are a little more forgiving.


      • Well, I think I have both on hand from an on-going desk refinishing project, so I should be able give it a go as soon as I get some free time I’ll give it a go! Thanks for all the info!


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