Wednesday, February 2, 2011

It's a Typewriter Month Miracle!

The Maroon Olympia is fixed! The problem was in the carriage release which was not releasing properly when the escapement advanced. It was as simple as removing an errant piece of metal that had jammed up the machinery. I am much happier now it is working properly.

I promised a blow-by-blow account of the process, but I forgot my camera was there. I did catch a few informative images that might help others in their own restorations.

I know that I promised wanted to use a water bath and dry the machine in the oven. I was a little apprehensive about the process, so I used penetrating oil instead. It was still a very dunk-like job.

A towel is the most important thing to
have in all the universe.
It was a nice, warm, and sunny day. It made the machine warm to the touch and aided in making the penetrating oil run nicely. I wanted to have a way for the oil to drip off the frame freely. I had an old metal screen and placed it over a trashcan. In the bottom of the can I had a pan collecting the oil that dripped off. The larger can was tall enough that I didn't have to stoop and bend. I placed the typewriter on top of this screen and applied the oil all over the place. After a few minutes elapsed, the machine was noticeably cleaner. I used an old toothbrush to scrub some of the tougher parts. There was a ton of junk in the bowels of this typewriter. All sorts of gunk grime, goo, and eraser dust worked loose and ran out the bottom of the frame into the drip pan.
Shiny and new.
The only negative would be the distinctive smell of the penetrating oil. I have no doubt that the smell will dissipate over the coming days and months. I was really surprised with how well everything cleaned up. It looks like a new machine on the inside.

Sticky platen.
I thought that belt dressing would be a good way to make the platen a little more rubbery. Standing it on end I lightly sprayed the auto belt conditioner. After a reasonable time elapsed the platen was sticky and gooey. I must have added too much or this product just isn't suitable for platens. I tried rinsing the sticky layer off with some water, but it wouldn't come off. I then tried some rubbing alcohol. A thin layer of grime and rubber came off revealing slightly softer rubber below. I took some wet/dry sandpaper and gave it a good scrub. After the treatment it was noticeably better.

I cleaned the body panels with some warm water and All (free and clear) laundry detergent. Laundry detergent has a bluing agent that give everything a little glow. I like it. I used a soft toothbrush to get in the crackle paint. After the panels were dry I went over them with Pledge. Pledge was a suggestion from Richard Polt's web site and it worked really well. The body has a nice lustre. There is still the scratch from where the carriage return lever scratched the body, but it just ads to the uniqueness of the machine.

Take a look at an after and before. 

Nice and new (After)                                   Dirty, unloved. (Before)
 Overall, the project was a success and I learned a great deal about typewriter cleaning. Primarily, I need to take my time. I think rushing this job would really ruin it.


  1. "It was a nice, warm, and sunny day."


    Despite being jealous of your weather, very nice play-by-play of the cleaning. I have always swore to having a can of Liquid Wrench in one hand and some canned air in the other is going to fix 90% of the typewriter problems I come across!

  2. Nice work, Ryan. I am so glad you got it working and cleaned up. I've said this approximately 3,723 times before but, even though there are many great typewriters out there, I feel there is nothing like a nice SM-3. Nothing.

  3. You know, going along with the title of this post, it would make sense that throughout this month, each of us should carry a metal typewriter spool in our pocket or bag.

    Now, I'm not suggesting any sort of feats of strength contest, but the spool is certainly transportable and holds the essence of ITAM...

  4. congratulations on getting that Olympia cleaned up. makes me long for that SM3 i shall be getting in a month's time. i am probably somewhat of a Typewriter Month miracle myself. it's because i got my first couple (or three, counting the SM3 arriving) typewriters just before Feb started, discovered typosphere and opened a blog for it too! :-D who would have thought your typewriter magic will reach to here, when I'm halfway around the globe from most of you! Happy ITAM all!

  5. Dear Typewriter Friend,
    To clean your machines in the future may I suggest that you get a large container, fill it up with a few liters of Shellite and then add about 250ml of light oil. next remove as much of the cover plates and platen&feed rollers as you can. Get your Air Compressor and blow all the excess rubber dust etc away. then use a paint brush about one inch wide to wash the machine until you a satisfied
    with the results. Next, use your compressor to blow off the excess fluid and allow the machine to dry. You will be pleased with the results. Before replacing the covers etc apply some nice grease to heavy moving parts, ie. the segment and carriage tracks Light oil on any other parts you may think need it. Polish any plexiglass with Brasso and rub down the platen and feed-rollers with Metho. Keep Metho away from the Plexiglass otherwise you will destroy them. After all this you may reassemble. Good Luck. Please contact me if you need any further help. regards, John

  6. Thank you for your outstanding post. It is really helpful to me. Best air compressor reviews