Jammed and Gooey Olympia SM7

A couple weeks ago I stopped in at The Shop at Flywheel Press, a community arts space where I have been doing volunteer typewriter maintenance.  I felt like a public health doctor making wellness rounds.  The girls were in relatively good shape given that they had just been through a couple kid camps and a few evening events at The Shop – no V.D. However, just about every single one of them had a ribbon malfunction.

I got the ribbons hooked up again and tested each of the machines. A SCM portable had what looked like candy bar or brown glue jammed in the key lever comb. I had to scrub it out with a brass bristle brush so that the key levers could move again. That was about the worst of it except for the poor electric Pennecrest.  The kids tend to hit a bunch of keys all at once on the electric and *POP* goes the clevis. Four were detached.  I’ll need to come back on another day and straighten them out.



Looking good, ladies!  Til next we meet. I am pleased that the typewriters are all working hard and earning their keep.

Samantha who works Wednesdays at The Shop had brought in a typewriter for me to look at.  It belonged to a friend who had bought it on Etsy.  It worked great for a while and then it didn’t.

It was a 1964 Olympia SM7 – sweet!


The carriage was jammed and the source was immediately visible:


The drawband had somehow slipped off the mainspring drum and was all wrapped up in the mechanics under the carriage.


I had to cut the old draw band out from the machine – it very tangled under the carriage.  It was about 16 inches long.


I pulled out my fishing line and made a new drawstring.


I used the tried-and-true bamboo skewer method to feed the draw string under the carriage from right to the mainspring on the left side of the machine.


Once I got the new string over to the mainspring, I had an issue. Most mainspring drums have convenient slots or hooking areas where the draw band can be secured.  Not this Olympia. In order to get the new draw string on, I’d need to straighten this little pin in the mainspring drum so that I could slip a new drawstring under it. The pin was tight against the spring even with the spring completely wound and compressed, so I couldn’t just slip the new draw string under it. I had to pull the remnants of the old drawband out with tweezers. There was no space for slipping the new drawstring.


The little metal pin was extremely tough – it was either Valyrian steel or mithril – extremely strong despite looking like paper clip material. I tried and tried but could not unbend it while the mainspring drum was in the machine.

Though I didn’t want to do it, I had to take the mainspring drum out to work on that pin.  I took the back cover off and loosened this nut that holds the mainspring in back.  I used a 9/32″ wrench:



Once I had the mainspring drum out I was able to get a good grip and pop the little pin out.


Once the pin was out I remounted the mainspring in the typewriter and wound the mainspring four times.  I had my husband hold the mainspring while I carefully re-inserted the pin with the drawstring into the drum. I then bent the pin down to secure the attachment and all was well.


Stubborn Brown Goo & Recurrent Stickiness

With the new draw string, the typewriter was ready to go.  It was extremely gummy – the segment needed a really good cleaning. I really like how the machine is almost completely exposed when the front cover is popped off:


It wasn’t so easy to clean. The typebar gumminess was very stubborn.  It required repeated applications of mineral spirits and denatured alcohol and naphtha.  The two outer keys “+/=” and  “!/¾” were the worst.  I’d get them freed up and swinging easily and the next morning they would be sticky again. Over and over. Lather, rinse, repeat.

There were gooey, toffee-colored blobs on the typebar rest and up the typebars. I scrubbed and picked it off with degreaser. I have seen this brown goo in pictures of other 1960s Olympias. Like this one on Reddit and this one at Typewriter Talk or this one at TWDB. It must be some kind of brown congealed oil or maybe residue from the old rubber or glue from the typebar rest. I think it crept into the segment.


I had persistent gumminess in the two outer keys of the segment despite repeated cleaning with mineral spirits, denatured alcohol, pure naphtha, and PB B’laster.  I finally got the gumminess to recede with repeated applications of carb cleaner followed by PTFE.


New additions to my private Superfund site: carb cleaner and dry lube PTFE spray

I haven’t encountered recurrent, recalcitrant typebar gumminess before.  Usually, I clean a typewriter’s segment and it stays clean.

I read another blog post about stubborn typebar gumminess in an SM7. My experience was almost identical – brown gooeyness and problems concentrated on the keys of the outer segment. The author was able to clear up the gumminess with industry-grade ZEP, a degreaser.

I got the typebars swinging freely with cleaning and then – oh my goodness – the NOISE – what was going on?? There was a hideous clanging when I typed! DANG – DANG – DANG. It sounded like the Anvil Chorus.

It was the rock hard rubber typebar rest.  I laid some felt on it and that deadened the sound. So much better. Samantha’s friend can decide whether she wants to glue the felt down and make it a permanent feature (or replace the hard rubber rest altogether) .


The one remaining issue is that the tabulator is very slow and gummy.  I have cleaned and lubed and cleaned and lubed all the obvious parts, but I can’t seem to get the typewriter to roll smoothly to tab stops. It looks like the tab brake engages and stops everything.  I’m a little concerned that the sluggish tabulator is the reason why the original drawband jumped the drum. It is possible that a dirty or broken tab brake stopped the drum and the drawband slipped off.  That’s one possibility.

Another typospherian successfully repaired the tab brake system. I should probably take the tab brake out and investigate, but since this typewriter doesn’t belong to me, I will let sleeping dogs lie for the time being. If Samantha’s friend wants me to investigate further, I will.  However, she may find tab functionality superfluous. At this point she has an otherwise perfectly wonderful typewriter.

I returned the SM7 to Samantha at The Shop with care and feeding instructions as well as a little jar of denatured alcohol.  A couple of the typebars get sticky with sitting and a little dab of denatured alcohol frees them up for a typing session.





Wiiiiiiide carriage. It makes the carriage shift challenging:


16 thoughts on “Jammed and Gooey Olympia SM7

  1. A lot of these procedures sound familiar! Except for having to take the mainspring off in order to install your fishing line. I’ve been fortunate enough not to face this situation … yet.


    • This was, bar none, the most challenging drawband repair I’ve done. Usually a drawband repair is a quick and straightforward fix, but the anchoring on the drum in this situation really threw me. Perhaps Olympia technicians had a special tool for manipulating the the pin and anchoring the drawband.


      • I think you levelled up on that one. The SM7 is a magnificent machine, but having studied mine, I would not want to work on it. The adjustment points are in very difficult places, and it does seem to require or at least reward the use of specialized tools in a way that seems somewhat arrogant to me. Reminds me a bit of Apple gear. /:

        Liked by 1 person

      • Since I gravitate towards typewriters on the junkier end of the spectrum, I have replaced about nine or ten drawbands. This was the most challenging for me. I kept asking myself: why did they make this so hard?

        When I was trying to figure this out, I found a 1955 Olympia SM service manual at Machines of Loving Grace . Check out the section on broken mainsprings and torn draw bands – am I reading this right? I understand that a broken mainspring can get kind of involved, but replacing a drawstring?
        Olympia SM service manual

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Nick Merritt says:

    I always look forward to new postings from you — and this one was of special interest, since I would like an SM-7 myself. Your repair of the draw strap was most impressive — better you than I!

    I have encountered that same sort of brown goo on a wide carriage SM-9 that I got a few months ago. The backs of the type slugs were practically welded to the typebar rest, and would re-stick each time they dropped back onto the rest. I had to clean the stuff off the slugs and the typebar rest. Naphtha, applied liberally, and my fingernails seemed to do the trick finally. Is this unique to Olympias, I wonder? If so, what the heck is it? Whatever it is, there is still a small amount on the platen and one feed roller. I haven’t been as successful removing it there.


    • I’m pretty sure that with the proper tools and knowledge, I wouldn’t have had to remove the mainspring drum to do my drawband fix, but I just didn’t see another way.

      About that brown goo – it might be congealed grease or oil that was used on 1960s Olympias. My experience is quite limited, but I haven’t seen that thick toffee-like substance on other typewriters besides Olympias. The goo was very stubborn and the stickiness recurrent. This typewriter might have benefited from a soak in an ultrasonic tank full of degreaser/solvent.


  3. Removing any mainspring has my heart in my mouth, so well done for sticking at it. Usually, if there’s a bit that doesn’t yield to gentle persuasion (like your drawband pin) then it isn’t supposed to be bent after fitting. I wonder if there was a special hook fitted to the spring end of the drawband which clipped onto the pin and stayed on under tension… but popped off when the string broke? Either way, keep up the great work. Nice pics too.


    • The original drawband (the one I replaced) was tucked under the pin on the mainspring drum and the drawband end was held fast by tension from the mainspring pressing the band against the pin. There was no convenient hook or clip – though I felt like it should have had one. I am going to examine the drawband anchoring on all 1960s Olympias from here on out.


  4. Tyler A. says:

    It always seems like it’s the typebar rest that causes 75% of a machines noise. And I know how ridiculous some machines can be with their gummed up segments; I’ve a royal thats been flushed 4 times and still refuses to get clear. Keep up the good work at The Shop!


    • That recurrent gumminess was something I hadn’t experienced before. It seemed to respond to carb cleaner, but even so, I worry that the stickiness will recur at some point. I wish I had the presence of mind to try Goo Gone on the sticky keys. That was one thing I didn’t try.


  5. What a save! I haven’t seen this gumminess issue on my Olympias – maybe I just got lucky.

    Love all the detail about the repairs here, though. Your posts really are a good resource and I learn so much every time. The folks you work with are lucky to have you – as are we virtual compatriots!


Leave a Reply

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

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com 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