Wednesday, April 26, 2017

A Bit of T.L.C.


There was a pile of typewriters still sitting on my workshop bench from Sunday's Type-In, most needing to be stored away but several needing to be looked at: both Smith-Corona 5 series machines, especially the Silent-Super, purchased late last year from what I've described previously as a "hippie." Both machines performed fine during the Type-In, but since I'd last attempted to service them, I've acquired the Smith-Corona Floating Shift Typewriter Repair Bible, published by Rev. Ted Munk. I figure this would make for a good opportunity to revisit the somewhat intermittent escapement issues with that machine, and see what effect a good service manual would have upon my tinkering experience; while also serving somewhat as a mini-review of the book itself.

The book is divided into various sections, from the earliest Floating Shift models up to the Series 5. It did take a bit of flipping around to find where the sections begin and end, as they don't have clearly marked dividers; I plan on installing some tabs to the pages for that purpose. Once I found the Series 5 adjustment section I started at the space bar alignment procedure and worked my way through the escapement to the touch adjustments, using as my test subject the somewhat troublesome Silent-Super mentioned previously. It has been performing much better than when I'd first acquired it, due to the "service" I'd performed previously, but I didn't know exactly what I did to make it better. Now with the service manual, hopefully I'd find out, along with any further improvements to be had.

The space bar itself was well-centered in the frame of the machine, with no hanging up or rubbing, but the trip point of the space bar linkage upon the escapement was a bit too close to where the space bar stops at its rubber bumpers; the adjustment was to reform (bend) a linkage arm, to permit the escapement to trip earlier.

Next was checking the escapement pivot arm for freedom. You lock the carriage in the stored position, which also disables the rack gear from the escapement, then disconnect the spring on the pivot arm. It should freely pivot with no binding. I found it necessary to loosen the pivot points a bit, made with a precision open-end wrench and small screw driver; I'm still needing to acquire some gun-smith drivers for this purpose (or, more ideally, a legacy set of typewriter tools - as rare as hen's teeth). Now that the pivot arm was moving freely, I reconnected the spring.

Next was checking the freedom of rotation of the escapement star wheel itself, which is again checked with the carriage locked and the pivot arm manually moved out of the way. Here too I found it necessary to loosen the star wheel shaft nut a bit, to provide freer rotation.

Next was to check when the escapement is tripped as letters are typed. This is done by slowly moving a type bar toward the platen and noting at what position the type slug is relative to the type guide when the escapement trips. It should trip when the slugs are adjacent to the tip ends of the type guide. I found it necessary to reform a linkage to adjust the trip point.

The rest of the escapement-related checks were in good order, which encouraged me.

Subsequent testing on several sheets of paper with random nonsense typing showed marked improvement, with virtually no skipping or piling up of letters. But I did see another section in the adjustment manual about the touch selector, so decided to take a look and see if any improvements could be had there. It turned out that there was some unevenness of touch tension between the left and right sides of the keyboard, which was easily adjusted via the two screws on the touch spring lock bar. Once they were balanced from left-to-right, I then loosened both evenly about a quarter turn, making the overall touch of the machine a bit lighter, something I like in good portable machines.

None of these adjustments could have been made without the service manual, and the nagging escapement issues this machine had been experiencing I feel are resolved. There was not just one adjustment that fixed the problem, but a whole series of adjustments. The manual proved absolutely invaluable.

Once emboldened by my success thus far, I proceeded to the much trickier task of realigning the type slugs for even imprinting. This took me far longer than I'd anticipated, mainly because I lack the special tools designed for precision bending of the type bars. But I can say that, finally, the type imprint is much better aligned vertically, while the upper case imprints are clearer than before. I found that subtle misalignments would still deliver good lower case imprint, but with the type slug hitting one side of the type guide slot it would cause a smearing of the upper case imprint.

I feel this machine is finally in a condition where I'd be comfortable with anyone using it. And credit is entirely due to Ted Munk for making these resources available to the layperson typewriter community.
After servicing the Silent-Super, I proceeded to tackle the much less troublesome Silent version, and I didn't find too many issues to speak of, other than the escapement trip point was a bit too far toward the type guide, so it had to be backed off a bit; just the opposite of the previous machine.

I haven't gone through every area of these typewriters with this book, since I haven't been experiencing other issues. But I can rest assured that, if need be, I have the technical resources to tackle virtually any problem.

Another item of interest in the adjustment section was doing custom adjustments to compensate for individual user's typing styles, specifically what they call "Follow -Through, Hang-on Typists" and "Speedy Galloping Typists." Some of these adjustments involve reforming parts, while others involve measuring tolerances of clearance between neighboring parts and, if necessary, machining parts or ordering replacements.

Aside from the adjustment section, I found it interesting in the section on model features that various platens were once available for these machines, including extra hard platens intended to be used for stencils or thick sheets of carbons; and also slotted platens of various sizes for typing on smaller cards. It makes me wonder, when I read about someone's super hard platen, that perhaps they have one of those purposely-made extra-hard platens.

Any person owning one of these Floating Shift models owes it to themselves to get this manual, because these service adjustments are written with the technician in mind, using down-to-earth language that is rarely found in tech manuals of today's era. I especially love the way that terminology in the text is underlined, then the underline is connected to a call out arrow that points to the exact part in the associated diagram on the same page, making it easy to locate the part being described.

Keeping these machines running into the future is going to be much easier with this factory-supplied service literature available to anyone. What we still need, however, is a supply of replacement parts, currently only found from donor machines too far gone to fix. Perhaps some machine shop will rise to the challenge and start fabricating these rare and unique items. But until then, we need to keep these machines in good working order with a bit of tender loving care. Thanks, Reverend Ted! Yesterday I couldn't spell technician; today I are one!

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Blogger Ted said...

Excellent! I'm glad you enjoyed and found good use of the info. :D
There is in fact hope regarding new manufacturing of parts. Lots of enthusiasts are experimenting with 3D printing, casting and machining to produce needed high-mortality parts (the Facebook groups are buzzing pretty hard about this lately and stuff is happening). Although it is not quite launched yet, there are two fairly major projects in the planning stages that I'm aware of that would provide centralized organization of these efforts. I would expect to see at least one of them launch later in the year, if all goes well. Quite exciting. (:

11:08 AM  
Blogger Doug H. said...

Excellent! One of Reverend Munk's book's is presently on its way to me. I look forward to it!

11:15 AM  
Blogger TomR said...

Great info, most helpful, thanks Joe!

Being an amateur typewriter repairman (as most of us are), the critical first step for me in any repair is correctly diagnosing the cause of the problem. If I start forming, bending, unscrewing, unhooking or otherwise molesting innocent parts, I am just as likely to make things worse as I am to make them better. I have several machines I have successfully transitioned from "sort of works" to "doesn't work at all" status using this method.

2:25 PM  
Blogger Richard P said...

I have this book but haven't used it yet. Good to know that it was so helpful!

3:43 PM  

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