House Call

A little over a week ago, I went down to The Shop at Flywheel Press to drop off the cleaned-up Underwood Jewell and to work on typewriters that needed maintenance before the big Love on the Run Valentine’s Day event.


I brought along a little repair kit with tools, mineral spirits and new ribbons. The ten or so typewriters at the Shop were in “sort of” functional condition. There were a lot of sticky keys. There were some unresponsive keys due to popped linkages. Many of the typewriters needed new ribbons. I brought red and black ribbons that I order in bulk from Oregon.


The Underwood Jewell is back in the harness

There was a SCM Galaxie that was missing a couple key tops. I made some temporary key tops for it so that fingers wouldn’t get stabbed during the Love on the Run event. I used synthetic cork – natural cork was a bit too crumbly.

I cut to the right size and shape with an utility knife:



I bet you can’t tell which two are replacements 🙂

These were temporary for the Valentine’s event. I bought some SCM key tops on eBay and swapped them out. They are a little yellow, but they look better than the cork.


Does anyone need a replacement SCM-style key top?  I have lots left over, so let me know.


The Curse of the Clevis

I believe that the y-shaped linkage that attaches to the individual typebars is called a clevis.  I had seen snapped clevises before on a SCM Galaxie with a cemented segment at Moe’s shop. A couple linkages had popped off because the typebars were immobilized in the segment, possible victims of WD-40 syndrome. Once the typebars were freed with cleaning, I was able to re-attach the linkage (with some difficulty).

This is what I am calling a clevis linkage:


This is how a clevis linkage should attach to a typebar:


Four out of the five Smith-Corona typewriters at the Shop had one or more snapped typebar linkages. I worked on a Pennecrest Concord (a re-badged S-C), two SCM Galaxies, and a Smith-Corona Sterling. I got most of them re-attached before the Love on the Run event.

This Reddit thread has some good advice for re-attachment of popped linkages: take a small, thin screwdriver and insert it into the “Y” of the clevis.  Turn the screwdriver to open the “Y” and move the linkage into position near the hole at the base of the typebar. Get the linkage into position and then rotate your screwdriver so that the “Y’ flattens and the linkage snaps to the typebar. I found it easiest to work from beneath the typewriter for linkages at the bottom of the segment( e.g. “G”) and from above for linkages nearer the top (e.g. “A”)

The Case of the Cloven Clevis

After I re-attached the snapped linkages, I saw that the “M” key on a SCM Galaxie had a broken clevis – it was missing half of the “Y”. What to do?


I think a thin piece of metal and some duct tape are in order. Stay with me here.


I cut the stainless tie strapping to a piece about an inch long.  Using a nail, I punched a hole in the end.


I then attached it to the broken clevis with duct tape.


This is probably the worst looking repair of my short career, but it’s working and the letter “M” types again.  It will get a full workout from kids at camps and classes, so we will see how this holds out over time.

The Love on the Run event at Flywheel Press was a great success:

My daughter and I stopped in at the event. There was a pleasantly diverse crowd of old and young – little tiny kids, college-types, parental-types, retired folks.  It was so gratifying to walk in and see someone typing out love notes on the Underwood Jewell.

My daughter found herself attracted to a script Olivetti Lettera 32.  She typed out a love letter in Cat language:



Type-in at the Block Party

I was out of town in July and missed the Berkeley type-in – I was so disappointed.  I decided that I would have my own type-in of sorts at my neighborhood block party.

Every year my street has an end-of-summer party.  Traditionally, we block off the ends of the street, and the neighbors come out with chairs and barbecues.  Someone rents a jumpy house, and the kids ride their bikes and scooters up and down in the middle of the street.  It’s a nice neighborly gathering.  It’s sort of like our version of Burning Man but with less dust and less nudity.

I decided to pull out six of my most reliable typewriters and set them up for hands-on fun. Participating this year: 1965 Olympia SG3, 1948 Remington Rand KMC, 1952 SC Skyriter, 1952 Olivetti Lexikon 80, 1957 Torpedo 18a, and 1921 LC Smith No. 8.

Pictures from the Playa:

It starts: the SG3’s gravitational force pulled these two neighbors into orbit:


They are powerless to resist

The LC Smith No. 8 was a surprise hit. I brought it out half-dismantled to display the inner workings. People loved the feel of the machine’s ball bearings at all frictional points. It was a favorite of many of the the typists.


Looking under the hood:


A suitable pastime for young ladies of gentle breeding:


Typing through adversity – the broken arm is not slowing her down:


I believe the children are our future:



The kids gave all the typewriters a lot of love.


The Lexikon 80 never looked or felt better:


A neighbor showed me the image on her business card (she’s a Twitter / social media consultant)


She got her calling cards at Felix Doolittle – beautiful stationery there.

At the beginning of the block party, I set up the typewriters, retreated and observed. If I saw easy prey, I would go over and talk typewriters until my victims edged away nervously. Seriously though, people seemed to want to talk typewriters – typewriters from childhood, high school typing class, Wite-Out, Mom’s Selectric, desktop publishing with a typewriter and scissors – it all came out in a pent-up rush.

Typewriters are perfect for a community event like this: they’re fun to use, they’re interesting to look at and they tap deep wells of nostalgia and start conversations. I am glad that I brought them out and will do it again next year. Typewriters really do build community.