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Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Finishing the Smith-Corona 88 Restoration Job

I'm afraid I got sidetracked a week ago and didn't complete the series of posts on the restoration of the Smith-Corona Model 88 standard manual typewriter. By the way, Alan Seaver has a PDF of a manual for this model here.
If only owners would read and follow this section of the manual, massive restoration jobs such as this one might not be necessary.
I notice the manual shows how the machine can be fitted for a carbon ribbon. Of course, it's always handy to have a manual like this available when reassembling a typewriter - especially if you've temporarily forgotten what goes where!
Among the comments on the previous post in this series were some very pertinent questions from Donald Lampert, who asked, "Was it worth it, as a practical typing unit - is it a quality typer, and how does it 'feel'? Awaiting the final chapter - does it live happily ever after, or should it have been given a quiet burial?"
1. It was a costly exercise, well over $100 to restore. So no, it wasn't really worth it. It is a practical typing unit and a quality typer which feels great to use. But I doubt I will get a lot of use out of it. I'm primarily a portable man. Nonetheless, I just hate to see any typewriter looking the way this one did.
2. Happy ever after? Well, it's looking pretty happy with itself at the moment, having been brought back to life. Who wouldn't be happy to be revived, to be restored to as-new? I simply couldn't bring myself to envisage a quiet burial, even when it was in the shocking state it arrived here in. I felt positive it could be made to look great again. But what now? I don't know, maybe some nice person will come along and give it a good home, where it will get plenty of use. It's a heavy working machine, after all. Then again, maybe not ...
Another comment asked about the keytops. "It seems common for them to get hazed over, as if it's mildew." Yes, very true! But this is the easy part. Start with a spray of light lubricant, hold one hand over the typebars to keep them down and firmly rub all the tops. Repeat until the keytops start to sparkle again. Where the haze remains, use a small dab of a light, non-scratching cleaning cream, then quickly spray with the lube again and wipe off. Remember to clean the cream off the edges and underneath the keytops. If removing liquid paper or the like, use Shellite so as not to leave a smear. Finally, rub the keytops with a tiny amount of oil or Silicone lube.
On to the "reintegration" ...
The final day of the project started with the clean-up jobs on things I had taken off the typewriter while I went through the process of getting rid of the inner mess - the deeply encrusted rust, the filth, the leaves, twigs, spider's webs and wasp nests. Having primed and repainted the parts, it was time to address the corrosion on the ends of the platen and the bird faeces and liquid paper on the platen rubber. The metal between the platen knobs and the platen always seems to attract rust and muck. The knobs often get drops of liquid paper on them. This is the opportunity to get rid of it all.
A small pad of fine-fibre steelwool dipped in Meths is good for getting the platen nice and smooth and clean.
Before reassembly, the parts that are hard to get at when the mask is back on should be given one last polish up and lube. This is especially so with the typebasket - it's all very well for a typewriter to outwardly look as if it's in great nick, but the machine is useless if the typebars remain covered in rust and are gunked up. All the keys should be thoroughly tested to ensure they are all working smoothly. It's amazing what crap can get down inside the slots on the segment. Remember to run a wire brush over the slugs themselves. A liquid like Shellite cleans and quickly dries, so it won't make the typebars stick. 
At the same time as attending to the typebasket, check the linkages between the key levers and the gearing under the segment, as well as the gearing connections. It is usually the top typebars on each side and the exposed levers and gearing (at the sides of the typebasket) which cop most of the corrosion. But with the mask off, remember to turn the typewriter on its back and clean and lube the exposed underneath rods and linkages too. 
With the platen and the parts that cover the margin rack and magic margin mechanism off the machine, it is opportune to make sure this whole normally enclosed area is thoroughly clean. It's a prime catchment area for massive amounts of dirt and gunk. Use brushes and cotton buds dipped in spirits to get down into small, narrow areas to clean them up. At the same time, clean up the feed rollers and their tray. Tool cleaner and compressed air spray cans are handy.
There was a shift key missing from my machine. I gently removed the inner core of the keytop, which remained on the lever. I had spare keytops from the removed tabulation mechanism, but the slots on the inner cores needed to be widened and lengthened in order for them to fit on to the larger shift key lever. Once I had done that, I glued the core back into the keytop and used a dab of Vaseline to ease the keytop back on to the lever.
The reassembly starts with the paper plate, guides and gauges, the top back cover and the carriage end pieces. I then work down the back end before starting on the side panels. When putting the side panels back on, put the machine on its back to ensure the tabs on the bottom of the panels slot correctly under the back sections and the boots.
With this machine, the side "chrome" trimmings were missing but the holes for them remained. So I used pin stripping from a car detailing shop to cover the holes, cutting it in such a way as to create an angled rather than straight end. The pin stripping can also be used across the bottom back section to join up with the side panels.
With the side panels back in, it was time to start on the front sections. Ribbon direction and colour selector switches have to be properly reattached once the frontispiece is replaced, ensuring they work as they should. One thing to watch for is that the spacebar grips fit under the front section properly, so that the spacebar sits down and the grips bounce off the front section as they should. It's all too easy to forget them!
Happy restoring!


texbodemer said...

It looks beautiful! Congratulations! I love a good restoration/revival--and this one takes the cake!

Donald Lampert said...

Thanks, Robert for addressing my questions. so it's kind of a personal thing, as to the ultimate value, I'd say. Maybe not worth $100., but certainly a value to we, your blog readers, and while you wouldn't want to do this daily, I enjoy this kind of thing every once in a while. Is preserving our past, and recycling, worth it?? I think so

Tom Hitt said...

Thanks for your fantastic photos and your attention to details in your descriptions. These posts are a huge help with any maintenance on ANY machine. Why are the Aussies the best TW collectors? Well, I guess I don't really have to know, but I'm sure glad ya'll are out there. ~TH~