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:
- Someone bought it sometime in the mid-50s and used it faithfully for several years.
- When they last used it (maybe about 1970), the carriage was centered using the centering lever and the machine was returned to its case.
- Thirty years passed and the oil inside the mainspring congealed and solidified.
- 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.
- A tinkerer trying to figure out what’s wrong removes the easiest-to-remove piece: the back cover, exposing the tab rack.
- 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
- 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.
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.