The Smith-Corona Sans-A-Tab

I have been working this past week on the Smith-Corona that was a freebie from Moe.  Once it was typing, I began to address its cosmetic issues – which were many. Happily, just cleaning it with Scrubbing Bubbles made a huge improvement.

One thing that really bothered me was that the machine was missing its back top cover plate.  Not only did that look bad, but the delicate mechanics were exposed and vulnerable to damage and dirt.


The blender carefully backs away from the greasy hunk of metal I’ve brought home

So I bought a top back cover for a S-C Silent on eBay and hoped that it would fit my typewriter which I guessed was a S-C Silent-Super. It arrived quickly, beautifully packed. Five stars to the eBay seller.


And it looked to be an almost perfect fit.


I was unsure as to how to anchor the top cover to the machine, so I needed to do a little research.

Fortunately for the typewriter, Moe’s shop had two comparison typewriters in stock: a Smith-Corona Silent and a Smith-Corona Silent-Super.


I compared the anchoring mechanism for the back plate on each machine and took a lot of pictures.  What I came away with was this: if I wanted to use the Silent top cover that I got from eBay, I would have to remove the tab setting/clearing mechanism from my Silent-Super.  I was OK with that because (to me) protecting the delicate insides that were  exposed is more important than a functioning tabulator.


So I removed the tab setting/clearing pieces and carefully filed them away.  Perhaps some day I will restore the tab function, but for now this typewriter is a Smith-Corona Sans-A-Tab.

I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do about the mismatch in color – blue machine with a brown top cover.  I have seen typewriters that have been decoupaged like this one and I thought maybe the brown top cover plate could be a candidate for fabric decoupaging.  Perhaps I could cover the brown top plate with the tartan of my clan, MacEchevarria.


However, I was shot down by both my husband and my daughter who were emphatic that I try to match the powder blue of the main machine. They were right.  I couldn’t find the right plaid anyway.

So after carefully washing and degreasing the top cover,  I pulled out left-over house paint and sponged on a thin primer coat over the brown of the Silent cover plate.


I then mixed up a batch of flat paint (gray acrylic house paint plus tiny bits of blue, yellow and black acrylic craft paint) and came up with a blue that was fairly close to the original Alpine Blue.


I sponged the paint on because I didn’t want brush marks and I wanted to preserved the pebbly crinkle texture.

After two thin coats, I was getting close to Alpine Blue – it needed just a little more black in the paint to make it just a shade grayer:


The resulting color match is not perfect, but very close in color.  There are big dings in the front that I have touched up.  I didn’t sand beforehand because I get the feeling there is plenty of lead in this 1950s typewriter paint.  I just painted over the chipped areas with multiple coats and tried to get the surface as level as possible.

I now introduce the lovely Miss S-C Sans-A-Tab:





With so many chips and dings, this typewriter is a candidate for a complete sandblast and powder coating. However, I don’t think I’ll go that route.  I am currently embracing her imperfections – they are part of her very interesting history.

So Deliciously Low, So Horribly Dirty

One old film that I enjoy more with repeated viewings is 1938’s Pygmalion. It’s the much funnier, smarter predecessor to My Fair Lady. A phonetics professor Henry Higgins makes a bet that he can take a bedraggled Cockney flowergirl, clean her up, train her in proper speech, and pass her off as a duchess. This S-C Silent-Super reminds me of that draggle-tail guttersnipe, Eliza Doolittle.

I’ll be honest: broken, dirty machines like this Smith-Corona are irresistible to me. I take a Higgins-like interest in them: I clean and rehabilitate them, hoping to pass them off as duchesses.

When I saw this S-C Silent-Super in the portico of St. Paul’s, er, in front of Moe’s junk shop, I knew that I had a wonderful project on my hands.


Here’s Wendy Hiller killing it as Eliza Doolittle in 1938’s Pygmalion. Sorry, no typewriters in this film.


13 thoughts on “The Smith-Corona Sans-A-Tab

    • Thank you! The machine is such a pretty powder blue. I am generally not a pink typewriter fan, but the S-C 5-series “Coral” pink is pretty awesome as well.


  1. Nick Merritt says:

    Bravo, Mary! I am also impressed that you got those two tab buttons on the right side properly bent back into alignment (though they’re inoperative now, of course). Very nice work.


  2. I can’t say enough good things about this project. Bravo! I especially like the use of sponges for applying the paint. I have a brown S-C Super from the same era and it’s a fantastic typer.


    • I am lucky that this was a Smith-Corona 5 series machine – very common here in the US. I had my pick on eBay of not one but two top cover plates for a S-C 5 series typewriter. Finding a back plate for a Torpedo 30 might be more challenging.


  3. What a fantastic transformation! She sure is a beaut now. And a lucky lady to now live with you.

    Moe’s shop has to be a version of heaven on earth. For typewriter fans, anyway.🙂


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