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Sunday 18 September 2022

WD-40 and Typewriters: Never the Twain Should Meet

Whenever I fix a typewriter, I offer the customer free after-service care. Yesterday, for the first time, that offer was taken up. Three years ago I had worked on a 70-year-old Royal HHP standard which had been bought for a Canberra woman by her mother-in-law, from the San Francisco Typewriter Exchange. Last week the owner contacted me to say the keys and typebars wouldn’t move. She wasn’t wrong. It would have taken a sledgehammer to get them operational.

The owner said she had no knowledge of anyone spraying anything into the segment. But, from experience, that is exactly what had happened. And the guilty item: WD-40! WD-40 is a water dispersant spray, not a lubricant. WD-40 shouldn’t be allowed within a 100 miles of a typewriter, the keys and typebars of which work through a combination of a multitude of gears, levers and springs and good ol’ gravity. Allow WD-40 anywhere near those gears, lever connections and springs, or the groves of the segment, and you’re asking for big, big problems. WD-40 works like Lanolin, it congeals and clogs.

It took 24 hours of serious bubble bathing, relubricating and much gentle manual persuasion to get the keys and typebars working properly again. Today’s lesson? Never use WD-40 as a lubricant. And never, ever, use it on a typewriter.


rino breebaart said...

I endorse this post 100%.

Richard P said...

I've become agnostic on this point, although I don't use WD-40 for lubrication just in case. There are professional repairmen who do regularly use the stuff. I think the key is to make sure it doesn't get mixed with dust and then sit there to congeal. It can be used, then flushed out with plenty of mineral spirits. Or — maybe — it can be left to dry, if one is absolutely sure that it's pure and not dirty. As I said, I avoid it myself.

Robert Messenger said...

Thank you Rino and Richard for your responses.
After I'd "bubble bathed" the segment a couple of times, a distinctly blue-black large mess dripped out, looking almost as if it was oil. What it actually was remains a mystery, but I still lean heavily toward WD-40. I don't think I've ever encountered a situation in which the keys and typebars were so rigid - they just wouldn't budge. The owner went to lengths to try and find out who had put something into the segment,and what it was,without success.