For the best and latest presentation of my favorite techniques,
Chapter 4 of my book.
Meanwhile, here's a collection of tips I've discovered myself and
friends. (Thanks especially to Rob Bowker, Gregory Fischer, Paul
Dobias, Tim McCoy, Jared Mogensen, Jett Morton, Paul Musgrave, Lynn
Pierson, George Prytulak, Paul Ross, Matthieu Théorêt,
Lane Welch, and Peter Weil.)
Everybody, if you have more tips, send them
Before you do anything: Think about whether you're willing
to live with the consequences if you mess up. Try to make sure
your alterations are reversible, and don't do anything
to a truly rare machine other than gentle dusting and cleaning.
best way to get familiar with restoration techniques is to
experiment on an ordinary
typewriter first (how about a good old Underwood No. 5?).
Whenever possible, test all these techniques on a hidden surface
of the typewriter before you attack the main surfaces.
Typewriter Support, by Will Davis, provides further advice
operating, maintaining, and repairing a manual typewriter.
For more good ideas about restoration, check out
Names of some products below are linked to Google Products so you
compare prices online.
Initial cleanup and lubrication
Click here for a
illustrated guide to cleaning and lubrication from a 1977
These are happy hours for me, as I get to discover the various parts
and features of my new typewriter and I start to uncover the beauty
hidden under the filth. The paint on your typewriter may appear
and dull, but chances are that you are looking at decades' worth of
compacted dirt, grease, ink, sweat, and cigarette smoke. If you can
manage to remove that layer of crud, you may find
that the underlying paint job is still smooth
and can be made to gleam.
If you're unlucky, the crud will turn out to be a layer of
varnish applied at the factory, which has grown wrinkly and
brown with age; that can be hard to remove.
Of course, if you're lucky enough to find a typewriter that has been
kept in a case, this won't be an issue -- it will just need a little
In any case, you'll find the following items useful:
The following substances can help remove dirt and grease (often old
typewriters have been over-oiled at some point in the past, or even
dipped in a vat of oil, which in the long term turns into a sticky
that must be removed).
- Soft, clean, white cotton rags. You'll go through a
these. The gentlest approach (recommended at first) is to wipe
typewriter with a wet rag, or a rag dipped in water with a few
- Brushes: you can try toothbrushes, nail brushes,
firearms or dentures, and artist's paintbrushes. The bristles on
brushes can be trimmed to make them stiffer.
- Q-tips are nice for cleaning hard-to-reach areas.
(Synthetic-tipped alternative: Tipton's
swabs. One collector has written to me: "Instead of using
Q-Tips, you can also roll your own swabs using
wooden applicator sticks (6" long x 1/16" diameter) and cotton
Bamboo skewers work just as well, and they last for days/weeks.
roll of cotton batting will yield about a million swabs. As soon
swab is dirty, you pull it off and replace it. The most
thing is to use damp--not wet--swabs. You can achieve this by
a wet swab on a piece of blotting paper. By doing this, you
flooding the surface, and water won't seep into all the wrong
- For initial dust removal, the vacuum-cleaner hose
attachment kits sold in computer and
computer supply stores and catalogs
work very well. They are especially helpful in cleaning
- For more precise blasts of compressed air, buy a canister
intended for cleaning electronic equipment (these are available
at most office supply stores).
- You can also sic your leaf blower on your dusty old
or take it down to
the gas station and take advantage of their compressed air.
(Probably not a great idea for rare typewriters!)
- Meghan S. writes: "Hey, I found something a few months back
helped wonders for the initial dust-off when I acquired a new
-- dryer sheets! They collect dust as you wipe, moving it all to
spot, and generally the dust will stick to the sheet -- even
didn't know was there. Helps with thin layers of grease that
rags will just move around, too. And they're thin enough that
get into hard-to-reach spaces (just not the small pieces)."
How do you remove mold from a typewriter?
- Soft Scrub is a gentle liquid cleanser that is easily
To remove heavy dirt, try applying diluted Soft Scrub with a
and removing it with a rag, over and over and over. Careful:
will be scratched even by this cleanser. But my Caligraph
vigorous scrubbing with undiluted Soft Scrub!
- Try Dentucreme: "yes, the toothpaste for dentures. It
mildly abrasive and extremely effective on surfaces that would
scratches. I use it on mother-of-pearl and other delicate
- Steve Maloney reports that "Gojo,"
is excellent for cleaning original lacquer black.
Bubbles is good for penetrating tiny crevices on wrinkle paint. Use a
get it down into the wrinkles. It does have a tendency to remove
paint, and can harm decals, so be careful.
- "For typewriters that have textured finishes, I would
using furniture polish. I have found that the best way to clean
without buffing down the textured finish is to use a
solution of baking soda and mild dishwashing detergent. I am
baking soda and conservative with the dishwashing detergent. The
detergent is mainly there for removing oils. You might be
dirt gets accumulated in these textured finishes." -- Paul
very good cleaner that works well with 'crackle lacquer'
Dow Scrubbing Bubbles. It is a water based foaming cleaner
out dirt and other grunge from the nooks and crannies in the
It also works well on smooth finishes, but is really good if you
trying to get down into the detail. It also is excellent
things as the oil cloth and simulated leather of portable
current product is made by Johnson, and is not as good in my
as the original Dow product, but it is still very good. I have
on car interiors such as headliners, and or musical instrument
as well as music amplifiers with Tolex covering. Using a
like an old tooth brush works well. It is then good, after
the last application, to use plain water to wipe down the
clean." --Tim McCoy
more aggressive product, but still water based, is “Krud
stuff will clean the grease off of an old engine, but not harm
paint. It, like the Scrubbing Bubbles, should be finished
water wipe down, until all traces of dirt are off. There
even more aggressive version called Krud Kutter Graffiti
not tried it, but it might be useful in a watered down form, but
it on something before using it on some collectable." --Tim
- "For postwar machines, use a cleaner designed for pots and
or even dish soap--it will cut through the grime and make any
typewriter a little less gray/dull." --Nick Bodemer
- Oil will improve the functioning of some parts, notably when
applied to the carriage rails.
Apply very sparingly, with the end of a pin or paper clip. Use a
high-grade oil. 3-in-1 Oil is an easily available option.
better choice is gun oil, such as Hoppe's
Oil, or a penetrant such as PB
- It's a bad idea to
put oil in the segment (the slotted piece that holds the
oil can get dirty and gummy after a while.
- It's a bad idea to use WD-40
on a typewriter. It is not a good lubricant for fine machinery
after a little time, it will get gummy and make things worse
- Gun cleaning solvents can be very useful. I have had good luck
Gun Scrubber. Other products I have heard about
gun cleaning spray, G-96, and Break Free.
Super Penetrant has worked very well for
me in removing old oil and lubricating mechanisms.
can remove old grease and free up parts. It also can restore
dark wrinkle paint, as it seeps into tiny crevices.
- Stronger products (use outdoors, and test inconspicuously on
decals and paint) include naphtha (lighter fluid) and carburetor
- "Also a good cleaner is equal parts of acetone, automatic
transmission fluid, kerosene, and mineral spirits. Be careful of
acetone, however. This is a standard firearms cleaning mixture
cleaning bores, etc. For really gunked up typewriters, it works
good." --Paul Ross
- Mineral spirits (e.g., Varsol
Solvent, available at paint stores) have been recommended
"Brush the mineral spirits on, using a natural-fiber brush which
is bonded onto the handle with metal, not plastic.
The machine should then be GENTLY blown out with an air
compressor. Then apply
a light lubrication to moving parts."
- "When performing cleaning and lubrication, I would recommend
up after degreasers and lighter oils with a heavier
oil. Also, oils used around chipped and delaminating coatings
to further delamination. For instance, for blowing out dusts,
grease buildup, and to leave behind a think layer of lubricant,
recommend using 'TV Tuner Cleaner,' and then follow up with a
oil." -- Paul Dobias
- "At 50 cents each, Southern
cleaning rags may be expensive (after all, they're going
get dirty quick), but they put out no lint, and they've been a
help." --Robert Neuwirth
- "Automatic transmission fluid, thinned 50% with kerosene, is
excellent rust preventive and general lubricant. Lots of
material in it, so it doesn't 'gum up' with time. As usual, in
apply sparingly." --Paul Ross
- Instead of lubricating with oil,
which can eventually collect dust and make the mechanism stick
you can try dry, powdered graphite. (This is not
for use on anything that has
aluminum, since graphite has a high galvanic difference to
pit and corrode it.)
Magic rust and lead Removing Cloths do a good job rubbing
grime, rust, and discoloration off typebars and other naked
pieces. Leaves a bit of a greasy feel, so you have to rub down
plain cloth after you're done". --Robert Neuwirth
- "Iosso Gunbrite is good at taking off serious surface rust
without destroying chromed surfaces, though you have to rub like
crazy." --Robert Neuwirth
- Platen cleaning: after an initial wiping with water and Soft
several brands of rubber/plastic restorer can remove more dirt.
more on platens, see the next section. "Rubber rejuvenators"
platens, but not
rejuvenate the rubber. In my experience, the stuff is also good
dissolving old grease, such as grease stuck in the slots of a
Rubber Cleaner Conditioner is a heavy-duty solvent that cleans
If you can find a dauber
(like the type used for liquid shoe polish) spread a thin
type and let it work for about a minute or two, then wipe off
For the platen, if the platen can be
removed, put some Fedron on a rag and wipe the rubber off. It
removes dirt, ink, and rust marks. Fedron is harsh: be sure to
away from paint, decals, and all delicate
parts and materials (such as string and plastic).
Use in a well-ventilated area: it stinks!
- "That moldy smell" is a common problem, especially with
allergic to mold, it can be a real health hazard. Yes, the smell
caused primarily by mold, combined with decades of dust and
smoke. Mold won't grow on metal, but it will grow on typewriter
and on fabric-covered cases. Take your typewriter out of its
blow the lint and dust out of it (a compressed air canister for
cleaning computer and stereo equipment is handy here). Throw
ribbon. Look carefully for any surfaces that may have mold on
typebars usually rest on fabric or felt; some typewriters also
felt elsewhere, to deaden the noise).
Clean and polish the machine using the materials I list on this
The cases can be
cleaned with harsher materials, such as Scrubbing Bubbles,
mold control, Lysol,
window cleaner, or
ammonia. Mr. Clean's Eraser Pads have also been recommended to
this purpose. Then let everything dry thoroughly, preferably in
Store typewriters and cases in dry environments with moderate
You may have to clean the cases again every 6 months or so.
Panella writes: "I've found that the musty smell from the old
leatherette cases can be removed by first wiping down with a
disinfectant wipe. I use Clorox disinfecting wipes. Then I
apply Old English lemon oil furniture polish inside and out. The
leatherette just soaks it up and it seems to take care of the
odor with no residue. These old cases are so dry that the lemon
disappears almost immediately."
- Paul Musgrave writes: "Sometimes, the smell of an old
quite pleasant and should be left as is for the sake of
Other times, an old typewriter has been left in a basement where
nasty, eye-scorching fungus has staked its claim on the dormant
machine. This is particularly true of higher-end portables
felt soundproofing) that have been left in their wood-shell
cases in a
damp environment. Some examples are the Smith Corona
"My first experience with a nasty, moldy typewriter was with a
Corona Super. I went so far as to remove the felt, but
I wasn't quite able to get the soundproofing to really work
that. I switched tactics after that experience. My
with a Smith Corona Silent (Speedline). It is a beautiful
the musty smell was strong enough to fill the room. This
Concrobium Mold Control. It is sold in spray bottles at
(among other retailers). I took the shell off the Silent,
sprayed the Concrobium on the felt (it leaves a foggy glaze on
parts, so I highly recommend being precise in spraying...even
the nozzle directly against the felt and slowly injecting the
into the felt). After letting it soak into the felt for a
I sopped up the excess in a paper towel and let the pieces air
Sure enough, the Concrobium killed whatever mold and spores
the felt and took the edge off the smell. I've tried the
technique with a SC Skyriter with success. From what I
Concrobium leaves an anti-fungal and anti-microbial film
wherever it is
applied to kill whatever fungi is on it and prevent it from
Since the felt in a typewriter is almost always hidden and used
for sound deadening, I can't imagine the film would be a
been nearly a year since I treated my Silent, and I've not had
"In most cases, the wooden carrying case often absorbs the musty
This was true in the case of my Silent. I was able to
(inside and out) using the techniques I learned on your webpage,
helped somewhat. To kill the rest of the smell, I took
tobacco (cheap stuff from the drug store will work, as long as
smells pleasant), wrapped about a silver dollar's worth up in a
filter, tied it into a bundle using a trash bag tie, and set it
typewriter case. After a few weeks, the slight remains of
typewriter smell blends with the smell of the fresh pipe tobacco
the typewriter smells quite divine. I normally wouldn't
tobacco use to anybody, but in this case it was put to a really
Improving paint, metal, and rubber
The typical deep-black color of an early typewriter consists of
which is quite difficult to restore. Enamel paint was introduced
in the 1920s.
Typewriters also have many metal parts which are susceptible to rust
discoloration. The shiny metal parts of older typewriters are
some newer machines have chrome-plated parts.
- Rust removal should be attempted by the gentlest method
first. In order from gentlest to roughest, I recommend: Mother's
& Aluminum Polish (available at auto supply stores);
steel wool (try to avoid getting the steel filings
into the mechanism); superfine
sandpaper; rougher steel wool; a synthetic scrubbing pad; a
rotary tool (such as a Dremel) with a wire brush attachment (I
recommend the cup-shaped brush; wear eye protection, as bits of
will fly off); a rotary tool with a cratex attachment (rubber
impregnated with a tough material). The cratex attachments do a
job of removing rust, but they will leave a mark; use them for
heavy rust removal, then finish with a wire brush to smooth out
is an excellent product if you need to remove rust from the
of a machine, or if you want to de-rust individual parts without
the methods above. You immerse things in this product and only
disappears. It is nontoxic and reusable. In order to immerse a
typewriter, you will need 5 gallons (it can be diluted a bit
if necessary). Remove the body panels and platen. If there are
paint and decals, protect them with a good coat of wax, as the
Evapo-Rust can harm them. After
soaking in Evapo-Rust for up to 24 hours, things can be rinsed
water. Then dry them immediately with a hair dryer or other
(With some parts you may not mind having a residue of Evapo-Rust
them, which will protect against future rust, so there is no
rinse.) The Evapo-Rust may leave a dull or dark residue on
which can easily be polished clean. You may also get acceptable
by spraying Evapo-Rust repeatedly for about an hour, instead of
immersing the machine.
- "For minor rust removal, try using an electric eraser (also
'architect's eraser'). Koh-I-Noor and
Staedtler both make fairly inexpensive models with a variety of
refills. The gray, ink erasers are the most aggressive. The
white refills are especially good for removing light surface
oxide layers (practice on a tarnished penny!)."
- Here's a really easy way to touch up small spots of black
(which is by far the most common color on early typewriters):
a permanent black marker. This is easy to apply, lies flat on
surface, and can make a big difference. Despite the term
it is also easier to remove than paint.
- What if you want or need to use real paint? Touch-up paint
cars, which is sold in tiny bottles in auto shops, can be handy
It dries to a glossy finish and is not thick or clumpy, as long
shaken enough in advance. But take a good look at your
in the sunlight after this paint has dried -- you may find that
really as black as the original paint.
- "The paint pen to use is Uni-Paint medium line PX-20 (or fine
line if you
prefer) Opaque Oil Base marker. You can order them at
in just about any color of the rainbow.They only take a day or
get." -- Robert Nelson
- "For coatings touch up, ensure that surfaces are free of
exposed substrate materials with an abrasive pad, and recoat
The 'anchor tooth' from abrading will ensure adhesion, but your
probably won't be higher than a simple visually detected surface
polishes come in many shades, so you should be able to get your
Also, they have a tendency to set up a little thicker than some
automotive paints, which adds to the depth and luster of the
simulate the multiple layer effect of lacquers." -- Paul Dobias
Gone" can remove unwanted paint that
has been added by a previous owner, revealing the original paint
and decals below. It also removes Wite-Out.
- Many early typewriters are decorated with pinstripes -- often
these are thin parallel lines of blue and yellow. Beugler offers
for precision pinstriping with paint.
Other pinstriping supplies are available from Finesse
Pinstriping. You can also find pinstriping decals at many
hobby shops, or order them from The Antique Phonograph Supply
Route 23, Box 123,
Davenport Center, NY 13751-0123, phone 607-278-6218.
- Bits of gold may be missing from the decals or lettering.
One amateurish solution is to touch them up with a fine-point
gold marker. This is easily scratched off, but for the beginner
probably a virtue. The metallic marker really can improve the
of your typewriter if it's used wisely.
- Replacement decals for many antique typewriters are offered by
Paul Robert. Visit
his Etsy shop here. A longer list of his decals is here.
- It's possible to get nickel parts replated. You may want
to consult a professional (such as Rayco Metal Finishing),
a home replating kit is made by
320 Thornton Road,
Lithia Springs, GA 30057. Phone
The kit is available at
Zak Jewelry Tools,
55 West 47th Street,
New York, NY,
- Rubber feet on antique typewriters are often damaged or
Bob Aubert offers new replacements made of black Buna N
rubber, which is far more durable than the original composite
The feet are sold in sets for the following typewriters:
Columbia/Barlock Models 1- 20; Hammond 1 - 12, and the
Multiplex; Harris/Rex Visible 4; LC Smith 1 - 8; Oliver 1 - 11;
Premier 1 - 10; Remington Standard 10; Royal Flatbed 1 - 5;
10; Underwood 1 - 5; Wellington 2 & 3; Williams 1 - 6, Yost
1 - 4,
and some portables. Prices vary from $7.50 to $35.00 per
(postpaid) depending on size and whether or not the mounting
is included. He does not have any tapered square of
feet. There are two different sizes of stepped bumpers
They will work any typewriter with 1/2" or 5/8" mounting
If you require a different stem diameter, these feet can be
fit. For more info, Bob's e-mail address is email@example.com or
him at (856) 461-7080.
- You can also visit your local hardware store in search of
parts that will work as feet. Sometimes a rubber stopper will be
(tip: squeeze the big end in first, not the small end).
Andy McWilliams writes that this item worked perfectly to
feet on a Remington portable #5 (and they will probably work on
27/32 x 9/32 inch slip joint washers, Home Depot stock number
made by Danco Co., Concordville, PA 19331. Ryan Long had luck
his own Remington portable #5 with "Replacement Aqua-Seal
'American Standard,'" size: fits 2k-2h and 2c, made by Danco for
repair. They fit into place and lock with an O-Ring.
- Slices of wine corks can make easy replacements for feet, if
don't feel you need rubber.
- Another possibility is refurbishing the old rubber feet. Carl
Strange recommends "a product called Plasti
which is usually
thought of as a coating for hand tools; it gives new life (and
bulk, to say nothing of a rubbery grip) to emaciated typewriter
can costs about $8. I used it on a 1941 Underwood Champion and
old Underwood 11 with very satisfactory results."
- Replacement leather handle straps (for cases) can be cut from
used leather belts. Nice replacement leather handles are also
at some music stores, as they are used on instrument cases.
- Feed rollers
are often hardened or have developed
"flats" from being pressed against the platen for decades.
Théorêt reports that removing the old rubber and replacing
it with shrink
tubing can be the solution. "For the back rollers, I used
layers of tubing, shrunk and cut to attain a great look. The
rollers took only 4 layers. I used a smaller diameter tube that
loosened with my pliers, so that the shrunk result would be
- Bob Aubert suggests using rubber hose for cars to recover
your feed rollers. "I've done it this way at least a
hundred times and it works! Simply take your old rollers to a
place, ask to see their hose stock, pick something that is close
will be just fine. Shop for a brand that is smooth on the
it roughly to size, slip it on, put the shaft into an electric
and trim the excess off with a razor while it's turning. It will
like it was done in the Remington factory!"
- You may also be able to recover feed rollers with latex
sold by length in some hardware stores.
- Another solution worth trying is pencil grips.
- Black electrical tape may also work, and for this method you
don't need to remove the feed rollers from their housing (which
sometimes difficult). Just cut and scrape off the old rubber and
the tape, stretching fairly tightly and making it as long as it
to be to reproduce the original diameter. Put it on in such a
the normal direction of rotation will tend to keep flattening
end of the tape.
The platen is the printing surface of a typewriter -- normally, a
rubber-covered cylinder. The rubber on an old platen may get hard
slick, so that it doesn't grip
paper properly and the type hits it with a harsh, loud impact. What
- Vigorous scrubbing
with Soft Scrub will remove the dirty and slick exterior layer
rubber, and improve the grip.
- You can also try roughening the platen by scrubbing it with
sandpaper, but I like the results of Soft Scrub better.
- Brake fluid (DOT 3) reacts chemically with rubber and breaks
down. It will soften rubber unacceptably when exposed to it for
long term. A little exposure, however, can add a little
grip to the outermost layer of a platen. You can wipe a thin
fluid on with a paper towel, leave it on for about an hour, then
off any residue.
Avoid skin and eye contact. Allow several hours of drying
after this procedure, because at first the platen exterior will
and should not be handled or used.
- Use one or two sheets of backing paper for cushioning if your
platen is hard.
- Up until April 2012, the Ames Supply Co. of Illinois provided
platen recovering service. In
May 2012 they announced they were going out of business after
- In Germany, platens
be recovered by Eveline
Büromaschinen or P.
- In Italy, contact Domenico
- In the Netherlands, AKB
Longs will recover platens.
- In Switzerland, Typ Gummi TGW
will do the job.
- In the USA, J.J.
recently (2012) gotten into the platen recovering business and
to fill the need. Write to Peter at firstname.lastname@example.org to
quote, providing the following information: the inside diameter
rubber tube or the outside diameter of the wooden or metal core
the rubber; the current outside diameter of the platen; and the
of the rubber. "For multiple platens in the same size
will offer discounted pricing for qtys of 2-5 and 6+."
- Robert E. De Barth Co.
will also recover platens. "We recover all platen cores with new
compound and high speed grind the surface to conform to original
specifications. The cost for this procedure is US $ 95.00 plus
13.00 S&H in the continental USA. Turn around is usually one
days. We accept Phone Checks, Money Orders, International Money
Bank Transfers, personal, and business checks. We will also ship
for an additional US $ 20.00 continental USA only. If you remit
check, please draw and send payment to: Robert E. De Barth, 1337
Broad Street, Lansdale, PA 19446 USA. If you decide to use a
Check, please call 215-855-6851 Tuesday through Saturday 9:00AM
4:00PM Eastern Time for information. We will ship your order
receive your payment. Shipments to Canada are billed an
additional US $
4.00 handling fee per shipment. International orders are subject
VAT, import and customs duties, or other fees in country of
payable in the country of destination by the customer. S&H
of the continental USA is US $ 16.95. For larger orders, please
with complete shipping address and order information for total
- West Coast Platen, http://www.platen.com/,
had some spare platens in stock as of June 2012. You may e-mail
- Rino Breebart has
on his blog how he recovered a Hermes platen using a
bicycle inner tube. For a diameter and smoothness matching the
specifications, you probably want to get a professionally
platen, but this is an interesting possibility.
- I have used colored shrink tubing to give a platen a new
and a new color (purple!). Like using a bicycle tube, this is
most professional and precise solution, but it is at least fun.
need tubing that is big enough to fit easily over the platen.
heat it over a gas stove burner, turning frequently and rolling
platen on a counter every so often to smooth out the wrinkles.
5-10 minutes the tubing will fit tightly onto the platen.
Here's the sensuous phase. Loving applications and re-applications
polishing agents will leave your typewriter looking glossy, fresh
grateful. You'll be amazed at the difference!
- For a safe, effective finish used by museums, I recommend
Renaissance brand microcrystalline wax. It can be found on eBay and at various
buff the wax with clean cotton cloth.
- A good alternative is a commercial blend of microcrystalline
in paste form, such as Johnson's "Klear" or "AeroWax."
Cleaner Wax (available in auto supply stores)
Other car finishes, such as Turtle Wax, can also work
- Wax can be removed with a cloth dampened in mineral
spirits (such as Varsol and Stoddard Solvent).
Use in a well-ventilated area.
- Pledge is an easily available polish that I have
used as a
and polishing agent. Spray it on a clean rag, wipe the part
thoroughly with the rag, repeat until the rag doesn't look
However, I have been warned that overuse of Pledge can leave a
residue. It also
contains silicone, which may be impossible to remove later; do
spray it on the mechanism, and do not use Pledge on a rare
claims that it contains no silicone. Nick Bodemer reports, "For
typewriters, I use Old English Lemon Furniture Polish--it works
well, and does not remove decals (even on a 1930s Royal)."
- I've also heard that Fantastick works well as a
- Elaine Golladay suggests Klasse
in One Acrylic Protectant. Note that this car polish will
a strong and shiny acrylic layer on the typewriter.
& Aluminum Polish (available at
auto supply stores) is an excellent cleaner and
polish for metal parts both large and small.
On machines with a lot of aluminum (such as the Blick 6
or Hammond Folding) this stuff can work a miraculous
- Other metal polishes
include Flyt (available at gun shops) and Simichrome
(which has been
highly recommended to me for aluminum -- ask at auto supply
Click here for a
illustrated guide to simple repairs from a 1977 Reader's
Web version of Clarence LeRoy Jones' Typewriter
Mechanical Training Manual, published by the U.S. War
manuals can be found on my manuals page.
Manual typewriters operate on relatively simple principles, and
you can usually fix a problem using patient investigation
and some screwdrivers. But don't underestimate the need to keep
track of all the parts you remove! You can easily find yourself
with a pile of parts that you can't fit together again.
Check Online Typewriter Support, by Will Davis, for
advice on operating, maintaining, and repairing a manual typewriter.
As for typewriter repair shops, visit my
of them here.
- You may want to invest in a set of gunsmith's screwdrivers.
in boxed sets with up to 58 interchangeable bits, as well as
ultrathin sets. This allows you to find a perfect fit for every
slotted screwhead, so damage is less likely to occur. (Note that
screws tend to have much narrower slots than modern ones.)
"The best source for these screwdrivers is Brownell's, Inc., 200
Front Street, Montezuma, Iowa 50171; tel. 515-623-5401;
fax 515-623-3896. Check out their 'Magna-Tip Super-Sets.' You'll
wonder how you managed without them. About $82.00, but they'll
- Magnetic screwdrivers are helpful for holding on to
- Sears sells very useful sets of Craftsman tools meant for
repairing computers and other electronic equipment.
The tools are hard steel, many have fine tips, and an ample
of screwdrivers is included.
- Dental picks are helpful as a means
of reaching and manipulating interior areas.
- A common problem is a broken carriage pull string or pull
The basic principle is simple: attach a new cord to the barrel
(containing the mainspring) and one end of the carriage. The
normally does not have to be wound up while you are doing this;
be tightened later. But this is all easier said than done, and
repair can be frustrating. The method will vary based on the
typewriter. You may want to use or create a long, thin wire with
at the end which can be pushed under the carriage and used to
- Fishing line can be a helpful replacement for
carriage pull strings. Rob Bowker writes, "In the absence of
string I have at
one time used baler twine, but more poetically I have used
'cat-gut' - a nice organic replacement. A 1950s, warped and
tennis racket was the donor."
- Flat shoelaces can replace carriage pull straps.
- Sometimes the mainspring itself is broken. Usually one end of
has snapped off. Open up the barrel to take a look. You can
make a new hole in the end of the spring using a Dremel wheel,
reattach the spring to the barrel.
- Rob Blickensderfer (email@example.com)
for various antique typewriters, such as Hammond ribbon spool
Blickensderfer paper supports and release bails, and cranks for
Smith Premier brush cleaner. Very reasonably priced.
- Jim Donahue (770-714-0556, firstname.lastname@example.org)
runs "Oliverservices," with many parts for Olivers as well as
products to service them: ribbons, touch-up paint, stainless
cable, replated parts, etc. Visit
his eBay store here.
- David Randall shows us how to make new ribbon covers for a
Remington noiseless portable on
blog as well as how to make new
So now you're ready to do some actual typing with your machine!
Even if you're not going to use it for everyday correspondence,
it's nice to know that it's functioning and "alive" once again.
You need to deal with a few issues such as inking,
clean type, and alignment.
- Ribbons for most typewriters can sometimes still be
your nearest office supply shop. The standard width is half
an inch, and you'll find that this will work on almost all
typewriters made after 1920 or so. If your typewriter can type
in two colors (and most can), buy a black-and-red ribbon: it
For suggestions on ribbon sources, see my
- Odd-size ribbons: try ribbons made for computer printers,
printing calculators, time clocks, and cash registers.
- How to re-ink a ribbon: "Once a ribbon has run out of ink, and
the typewriter has wound it all up onto one spool, remove the
from the typewriter. Get a bottle of STAMP-PAD INK, the same
the ribbon (this works best with single-colour ribbons). Keeping
ribbon wound up onto one spool, coat the outermost part of the
with stamp-pad ink, and allow it to saturate through to the
layers of ribbon, wound around the spool. You should really only
to do this rather sparingly. No more than 2-3 drops here and
the ink soak into the ribbon, and then rethread the whole thing
into the typewriter. It'll run like new :) A bottle of stamp-pad
like $5, and one little bottle will last you for many
Stamp-pad ink is ideal, because like typewriter ink, it doesn't
dry out in open air, so that means the ribbon won't dry out
but will stay moist...well...until it runs out of ink again!"
- It may be worthwhile to treat a ribbon that still has
ink, but has dried out, by spraying it with WD-40. Lay it out
yard / meter by meter and spray lightly and quickly. (Reminder:
do not use WD-40 to
- Ink rollers for Blickensderfers and other ink-roller
can be procured at a good office supply shop. Buy rollers made
printing calculators. You'll have to cut them out of their
housing, and the price is a little steep ($3 or $4 for one
the original Blickensderfer price was 25 cents a dozen!).
Your fingers will get filthy. But it'll all be worthwhile when
you see what nice work your old typewheel machine can do.
- Hammonds originally came with a rubberized cloth impression
strip that came
between the hammer and the paper. It is usually missing or
it is necessary in order to get good typing.
Paul Robert recommends:
"If there is a bicycle shop in your area, go there and buy one
narrow rubber protection strips that go around the wheel to
inner tube from being punctured by the spokes. Cut off a piece
shorter than the full length of the carriage, punch two holes on
and you have the perfect impression strip."
- Ink pads for machines like the Williams: I want to look into
this, but haven't done research yet. Don't replace an ink pad
you really want to use the machine,
as in the long run the chemicals in the ink can
corrode the type! A piece of black felt cut to the right size
- To make sure your types will print clearly, you'll probably
need to clean out the crevices of letters like "e" and "s." Use
of a pin. Be
gentle, so you won't harm the type.
- For heavy-duty type cleaning, try Fedron (see above
under "Initial Cleanup") or denatured alcohol (don't get it on
- Old products such as Star Type Cleaner were intended to fit
the type and lift out some ink. For a modern replacement,
Théorêt reports: "the Staedtler
eraser is malleable enough and lifts the old caked ink
charm." Elaine Hadden Golladay recommends Dap
BlueStik (a reusable adhesive putty).
- Alignment may be a big problem in an old typewriter.
The typebars may stick at the printing point, because they're
far to the right or left. The Oliver may produce especially
work because of the nature of its typebars. The only solution is
the typebars back into position, using guesswork and
and care. If you're lucky, you can find some specialized tools
gently bending typebars; otherwise, try needle-nosed pliers.