Brick House

I have been on the road a lot this winter and when I got back in town, I trekked over to Mozo’s.  Moe had a typewriter with problems that needed attention.

underwood

This one had been sitting in Moe’s shop since the summer.  A lady had bought it recently and she wondered if I could get it to work. The big piece of tape over the “erwoo” of the decal really bothered me. The decal was in terrible shape, but the tape made it worse.

I never get tired of these old Underwoods – built like a brick house.  They’re heavy-duty beauties.  This typewriter was an Underwood 6, very similar to the Underwood 5s that I have worked on.

The problem with this Underwood was that the carriage tipped from side to side and would get stuck in strange and screechy positions.  Perhaps a loose or missing screw or two?

I brought the Underwood home and introduced it to Blender on my kitchen counter work bench.

I played around with it and discovered what was stopping the carriage.

arm

That little arm with a hole in it was hitting the frame.

Thank heavens for Typewriter Database and the detail photography that members submit.  John M.’s Underwood 6 had a closeup of the area where the little arm hung and I was able to figure out the little arm fit into a screw pin on the side.

twdb

The carriage was very loose and appeared not to be seated properly.  I wiggled it bit from side to side and the whole darn thing popped up and out.  Well, hell. I didn’t mean to do that, but there you are.

carriageoff

Note Blender’s barely concealed schadenfreude.

The upside was that with the carriage removed, I could clean the internal mechanics carefully and examine the pin area.

cleaning

There are two springy arms on either side of the carriage that I was having problems understanding.

springarm

Fortunately, I remembered a YouTube video of a guy tearing apart an old Underwood, so I got a bowl of cereal and sat down to watch.

Some members of our community may be horrified by the joyful abandon with which Dusty Guy dismantles this typewriter. However, his video series on the Underwood is full of useful details. After watching this video, I understood the springy arms and how the carriage sits on them.

Once everything was cleaned up inside, I attempted to get the carriage back on. I had to temporarily take out the motion blocks on both sides so that I could get the carriage back in and seated properly.

motionblocks

I had to dismantle the right carriage release to get the little arm back in the pin screw.

armrepair

After the little arm was re-secured with the pin screw, the carriage did not wobble like it had.

I threw in a test ribbon and took a deep breath.

Yes, it was typing. But weirdly. Looks like bichrome mixing colors and…all caps.

allcaps

I haven’t had personal experience with one of these telegraph typewriters.  Here is an interesting article on the Cambridge Typewriters blog about an Underwood #3 telegraph typewriter.  I read ETCetera magazine’s June 2013 article by Peter Weil, “Ephemera” about typewriters and telegraphs. He writes:

The term “mill’ is used to describe a typewriter that is used to create typed messages for the purpose of entering the message into a telegraph system or to convert a message received telegraphically into a typed hard copy message.

typeslugs

02

The typewriter has a degree character as well as a “Do” character.  A commenter on my blog said:

‘Do’ is short for ditto, now most often represented by a double-quote. Used most often in columns of dates that repeat.

Also of note, Mark. P’s Western Union Underwood has this date, “Aug 18, 1903”, stamped into the typebar rest – and so does mine:

1903

And there is a Reddit poster who noted the same thing on his Underwood 5 Mill.

Do all old Underwoods have “Aug 18 1903” stamped at the end of the typebar rest – or just these telegraph typewriters?

Well, what a neat surprise.

surprise

I took the Underwood 6 back to Moe’s shop with care and feeding directions attached.

img_6186

Moe asked me to work on an Underwood 5 she just got, but I told her that there was another typewriter I needed to work on before I could start the Underwood 5.

You see, I did a service check at The Shop at Flywheel Press last week.  They were having their annual Valentine’s Day Love on the Run community event the next day where they bring out typewriters for people to write love letters on.  All the typewriters needed to be in tip-top shape for the event. I went through each, re-threading ribbons, unlatching carriage locks and disabling stencil settings.  They were all in very good shape despite constant use at kid camps.

theshop

Jenn at the shop showed me a new acquisition that she had found in a garage.  Oh my goodness.

selectric

It powers on but doesn’t type.  I wonder if everything is there.

selectricinterior

I have always wanted to try my hand at a Selectric, and now this has fallen out of the sky. Charmed life. Now that I am finished with the Underwood 6 mill typewriter, I am going to play with this Selectric a little. I hope I can get it to run a bit.

Valentine’s Day was yesterday, so I leave you with a tender love song from the Underwood 6:

brickhouse

 

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9 thoughts on “Brick House

  1. Bill M says:

    Congratulations on the successful repair of such a fine typewriter! I like the typeface on the old W.U. Underwood Mills better than that of the ones made for the U.S.N. The W.U. does not have the serif D, partial script R or curley C.

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  2. The selectric is a lot like the one I have. The parts f Reese up when they sit for a while. I was able to get mine working with some cleaning and a little oil on the pulleys on the sides for the belts. After a week the plastic covering the belt under the ribbon broke off, brittle from age, and I haven’t been able to fix it. Good luck.

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  3. gonna need an 88-character (selectric I or II) typeball. You need service docs? email me and I’ll shoot you a good troubleshooting guide and some other service docs for this 72. (:

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    • I am off to eBay to find a typeball. I may drop you a line requesting those documents. I found a vintage Selectric training video on Youtube that Brian B. posted – it looks like 2 hours and 50 minutes of good information.

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  4. The date you referenced from my machine is not unique to mills, but present on all of these older Underwood, if you look at the page you linked I thought I said that. At first I was really excited because I want to know how old my mill is (Western Union serials are not the same as Underwood ones) but alas it’s not that interesting of a date.
    This is a very cool machine. I wonder what it was used for, whether it was military, or for a telegraph company, or something totally different.

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  5. Great public service you’ve been doing!

    It must have been neat to discover that this was a mill. I have never seen the Do character, and wouldn’t have known what it meant.

    The part that you and the guy in the video removed is called the skeleton. The carriage is the entire unit that moves horizontally. The Underwood and some other machines, like the Woodstock, have “skeleton shift” mechanisms.

    The standard way to remove the Underwood carriage is to remove the front scale first. Then unhook the drawband, and the carriage is ready to wiggle off.

    Good luck with the Selectric. That is a whole cosmos I have not explored.

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