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Monday, 25 June 2018

Makeover for an Underwood 5 Typewriter

I've never had much luck when it comes to owning a working Underwood 5 in good condition. I've been on the look-out for one forever. So when I was contacted last week by a Canberran asking me to give his daughter's Underwood 5 a makeover, I jumped at the chance. This chap had done his research and had hunted for a full year to find a 100-year-old Underwood 5 in good nick to give his daughter for her 21st birthday. He eventually found one in Florida, US, and shipped it into Australia at great expense. It arrived in very good shape, as can be seen from the bottom image, but it had some minor problems and wasn't working properly - plus it had the to-be-expected paint chips and worn-off paint here and there, and a fair bit of century old dirt and some corrosion. I worked on the Underwood 5 on the weekend and am very pleased with the result. One typeslug was sticking (solidly) at the printing point, but it was merely a spot of rust on the side of the slug that was causing that problem. The carriage had a habit of slowing down about two-thirds to three-quarters of the way across the escapement rack, causing it to pause, skip and eventually stop moving. Of course, the margin and tab sets were almost unmoveable. A thorough clean out of the mechanics, a relube and a blow out with the air-compressor has got the typewriter working like new. Also, I happened to find in my shed an old Underwood bichrome ribbon on its original metal spool, wrapped in aging tin foil and tissue but still usable. This, coupled with cleaned out typeslugs, gives a nice clear print. I'd put the pleasing end result down as much to elbow grease as anything else. 


Bill M said...

Great work on the No. 5 Robert.
I can't begin to guess the high cost of shipping such a beast from Florida to Australia.

John Cooper said...

I agree--great work! It's interesting that you had to look so hard for an Underwood No. 5, since in my part of the world (west coast U.S.) it's got to be one of the most common typewriters I see on offer.

Nick Merritt said...

Yes, very common here in Connecticut (but then, they were made about a mile from where I type this!). But they made many many, as you know. I guess Underwood did not have a factory in Australia?

I agree that the cost of shipping must have been quite high -- glad it arrived in good shape.

Ted said...

Nice work! I didn't know the U5 was rare in Oz. (:

Tomás said...

Good work Robert.

I have read each one of your restoration posts with a mix of fascination and envy. I only have restaured one typewriter in my life (and it was in wood shape, so i only cleaned it little and put it on service)

I would like to undertake more complex restorations but i have a doubt: redoing the external aspect completely (strip old painting, re-paint and new decals) is an acceptable practice by collectors? I have been reading a lot about art restoration and i have not clear idea of what is a good restoration and what can be consider a "falsification" when we are talking about these machines (as well as sewing machines, etc) I think the the ideal item for a collector is a all-original perfect shape machine, but this does not exist , so What is better: an all-original but with problems (aesthetic or mechanical) or a full restored but with not original parts and painting?

Sorry, but i¡m not writting any kind of criticism (I'm in love with your work) I only want to learn from the masters

Best regards