|Davis Bros. online guide for general typewriter maintenance and repair|
|RULE 1: Maintain a positive attitude. Decide that you CAN do a great deal.|
|Introduction. Mechanical typewriters might be considered as machines that are simple in concept, but they are complicated in design and in construction. There are a number of certain basic things that any typewriter must do, and those who are not generally familiar with the operation of mechanical typewriters should work to become familiar with those things prior to attempting any work on any typewriter that is outside the limit of basic care and maintenance as recommended in the owner's manual for the machine.
A basic generic operations manual that will allow everyone to become familiar with the general operation of a typewriter is located on this website. Click here to view this operator manual. You should be familiar with all of the functions described in this manual before attempting work on any typewriter. There is also a section on this site which details various repairs on various machines conducted in real-time format. You can view that section by clicking here.
|Faults or problems and the need for repair. The largest number of complaints of a typewriter failure are actually problems that are a direct result of the typist. For example, it is easily possible on some machines, either new or old, to have the escapement skip, or to have letters pile on each other (or type bars jammed together at the print point) due to improper technique of the typist. Rhythm and steady even touch on the keys are a necessity for good, accurate and rapid typists, and while some machines will tolerate "bad typing" some will not. Be sure that the problem is NOT due to the operation of the machine. Also, many problems with impression (or print quality) are due to the ribbon being improperly installed, either in the ribbon vibrator or on the spools, or else with very dirty type face, or else even with a touch setting that is too heavy or too light for the operator. In some cases, a new ribbon will help these problems, but the other factors mentioned should be checked before deciding that a machine requires repair.
The actual placement of a typewriter can also lead to problems. The machine must be on a level surface so that the carriage does not move up-hill or down-hill in either direction. The desk or table must be extremely steady, so that operation of the machine does not cause the table and typewriter to move or vibrate. Finally, the machine must not be able to slide around on the surface. Non-level or shaking table surfaces can lead to many complaints, including the carriage (escapement) skipping one or more spaces, as well as others. If the work surface for a machine is suspected to be the problem, move it to a sturdy, level surface and attempt to reproduce the failure before considering the typewriter to be faulty.
Some people are experienced enough with various brands and models of typewriter to be able to quickly determine if a machine is operating properly. Most are not, these days, and it should be emphasized that the vast majority of problems which are complained of do NOT require any major disassembly of a typewriter. Proper lubrication is a key point, as is cleanliness of certain other points of a machine. Typewriters exist with a vast range of feel or "touch" to the keys, and to all operative portions including shifting and back-spacing, and it should be remembered that while extra lubrication can help loosen sticky mechanisms, on some machines these functions just "feel harder" and cannot be altered.
|Rule 2: Disassembly is NEVER the first step in any repair.|
|If we keep in mind the fact that the majority of simple fixes to typewriters commonly in use today do NOT require major disassembly, this second rule should be obvious; however, some people still attempt this. Always try to fix any failure with the absolute minimum amount of disassembly -- and ALWAYS make notes or photos of any part of subassembly prior to loosening the very first fastener.
Proper practice would dictate the availability of prepared drawings and procedures for any repair, which we all know is just not possible today. We have to "wing it" on many actual repairs, right down to fabricating parts for machines. This lack of original support in way of information and supplies means that we must be extremely careful not to ruin anything while disassembling it -- and MUST remember how to put it back! Use of gentle force in removal of parts and fasteners is also a must. A rounded off nut or bolt, or plowed out screw is useless and very likely stuck in place which will lead to drilling out and possibly tapping new threads. Never use brute force as a first option; never reach for a longer wrench first. Examine things carefully, ensuring that removal will not destroy the fastener.
|Rule 3: Always employ proper shop practice; be organized and be safe!|
|David Davis, my brother and partner in the Davis Typewriter Works site that shows us actually working on machines, has sent along some valuable pointers on this rule, and I've added a few things too:
First, make sure you have a clean, sturdy work surface on which to operate. It must be large enough not only for the typewriter itself but for any tools, parts, etc. or papers you'll need to have close by during the work. It must be strong and stable enough for any work planned which includes banging, prying, tipping over. It must be well lit -- and a very bright, movable shop light is also a good idea. We employ not only fluorescent overhead lights, but 'trouble lights' and a surgical light on a flexible arm, with floor stand. We also often supplement all of these with powerful flashlights.
Good quality tools are a MUST. Poorly made tools can bend, twist, break, slip or otherwise fail, leading often to hurt fingers and extra damage to the machine. Investing in good tools is something that usually only needs to be done once, and this will repay you time and again. As we know from our work already done on typewriters, even a set of basic tools is quite helpful, but the purchase of a set of small precision tools should be considered as well. This would include small screwdrivers and various pliers (needle nose, straight short, bent nose) especially if advanced disassembly is being considered.
Next, protect your EYES. We cannot stress enough the importance of proper eye protection. This can be either safety goggles or else actual glasses whether prescription or not -- but 'actual glasses' MUST be safety rated or else they must be covered by goggles. Small springs are so often involved that their tendency to release or break and eject dictates eye protection in very many cases. Watch what you're working on, and if there is any indication whatsoever that the operation might cause a part to release, put 'em on. Better yet, just wear 'em all the time if you want to be SAFE.
Proper shop practice dictates that parts removed should be labeled. This is CRITICAL if one attemtps to disassemble more than one machine at a time. Large parts can be labeled with commonly available tags with string ties, or pieces of masking tape with description written in. Small parts should be put in small containers or zip-lock type bags WITH THE LABEL FOR THE PARTS STORED INSIDE THE CONTAINER SO IT CANNOT COME OFF OR BE MOVED. Putting an index card inside the container or bag is a good idea; they're large enough to allow you to write not only the part description but any notes about placement, orientation or connecting parts or fasteners -- or the exact tool you used to get it off, and thus will need to put it back on. You can also find these VERY handy if you had to come up with an especially tricky method for removal. There's nothing to say that hands-on type work can't include lots of mental work and lots of writing!
If you aren't willing to do all the things above, you'll likely run into trouble!
|Let's move on to actual work operations.|
|By this point, you've already read all of the material above and visited the links contained therein. You have ruled out the following possible and COMMON causes for complaint that we'll call the BIG TEN problems:
1. Ribbon not properly installed
2. Ribbon not proper type (either ribbon itself or spools)
3. Ribbon color selector not in STENCIL position
4. Machine on shaky work surface leading to skipping spaces
5. Typist not using proper touch leading to skipping or piling of letters
6. Machine not level leading to carriage movement problems
7. Margin sets not in proper position or carriage locked with locking device leading to idea that carriage is stuck or jammed
8. Machine doesn't have proper clearance for key lever travel, caused by use of some padding material below machine for quiet
9. Operator not familiar with certain peculiarities of an individual machine
10. Machine not free of foreign matter or packing material following shipping, and/or not free of erasure desposits and crumbs
These BIG TEN points are today the most common causes for complaint that DON'T require any major effort to fix. Number 9 on the list is important to pay attention to; some machines include operative features that are NOT like the vast majority of other machines. For example, the Woodstock Standard ignores the placement of margin stops when the carriage is moved with the carriage release levers -- and it also ignores the right-side margin stop when the space bar is used. Somebody familiar with a more common machine finding this to be the case with a Woodstock might think there were something wrong, but this is the way the machine was designed. Also, very many portables have carriage locks of one kind or another, and on some Remington machines it is operated through use of both a lever and the right-side platen knob. These points of operation might lead to complaint of failure (and often do) if the typist isn't familiar with the exact machine in front of him/her. Make sure you have ruled out specific operational factors before launching into a repair job! Make sure the BIG TEN easy to fix problems above haven't again gotten in the way!
By this point, you should also have consulted THREE online resources, all on this site. Will's Typewriter Annex will give information on general maintenance and upkeep and proper ribbon installation; you can also find links there to obtain ribbons and manuals for many kinds of machines. Our Online Typewriter Manual gives instruction useful for the operation of ANY typewriter. Finally, our site Davis Typewriter Works shows actual work in progress, and gives an indication of what heavy disassembly and repair looks like.
Consultation of the first two links above is important if one considers the BIG TEN causes for complaint. We can't tell you how many things we've seen that are NOT really failures but are things caused by improper installation of ribbons, or else by improper operation or improper placement of a machine.
NOW, let's move on (on the next page) to some actual common SIMPLE problems and their fixes.
|We have consulted several typewriter repair manuals, many owners' manuals and are employing many years of actual mechanical repair experience in a number of fields for the construction of this guide. Actual typing experience with hundreds of kinds of machines is also employed.|