Saturday, 15 September 2012

So-called Typewriter Maintenance

Typewriters are “so pro man”, and “like really cool”, and everyone really wants one. Everyone being fellow 13/14 year olds that I go to school with. There are some cynical ones though: “Why don’t you just use a computer?” etc. etc., but most see the joys of a mechanical writing apparatus. When a friend of mine emailed me to say that he picked up a yellow Adler Tippa for $6 but lamented that some of the keys didn’t work and it was all a bit stiff, I automatically offered to help him out with a clean and an oil.

So brought about my day of so called typewriter maintenance.


Above you can see a Nakijima ALL, the ribbon cover and bottom off a Lettera 32, and the case of my friend’s Tippa.

I had typewriter casing all over the place. Screws were housed in all manner of containers, trying not to get them mixed up between machines. At the end of the day though, there was a washer that didn’t go back into anything. I stand by the story that it was in a machine when I took the bottom off, and wasn’t actually needed.

To be honest, most of my typewriter repair and servicing is based on a bit of knowledge, with additional advice from my father, and common sense. I haven’t seen the typewriter mechanic in his own environment, so I don’t really know “the ways”, but I have a bit of a crack, trying not to create any irreparable damage. The only really solid, in writing, thing I know is this: don’t try and fix the problem first, but figure out what caused it and fix that.

A fair bit of Singer sewing machine oil was used, and there was a bit of the old WD-40-on-the-ribbon-trick being done. Some Turtle Wax was used to rejuvenate, and inject some shine into plastic. My friend then left with this very fine typewriter, without sticking keys, and polished enough so you could see yourself in it.




Although I only typed on it to make sure it was working – the usual “quick brown fox” and “all good men” – I enjoyed this machine. For six dollars it was sure a bargain. It was made in Holland, and sports the dreaded Litton industries badge, but as it must have been before the Japanese days it was actually quite a nice machine, I’m glad it has gone to a good home.


  1. I would love to find one of those for $6! That was great of you to help a friend out. Good work on the Tippa!

  2. What a great looking typewriter. Nice work!

    I have often found myself in the same situation -- there is a tiny washer, or even a screw, lying around and I don't know where it belongs. I usually have to end up hoping that it didn't serve some crucial function.

  3. If everything works, you don't need that washer.

    I have found that repairing things is largely common sense. After watching others do it I realized I have a natural gift. If doing these repairs is easy for you then you must have it too. It isn't a rare gift, but it is something to be thankful for. That Tippa looks great by the way. I have two older Alder Tippas and they are fantastic.

    How many in your collection? It sounds like you have a lot more typewriters than I initially thought. Can't wait to gradually see all of them on your blog.

    1. Mark, I've got 19 in the collection at the moment, and hopefully they'll all get on the blog eventually. I can't speculate about having any gifts, but I'm more gentle than some, and patient. If I can thank anyone for it it's my father, who will remain calm and rational even if I have given hope with a typewriter. If there's anything that doesn't help a typewriter than it is brute force and a mindset that wants to get it working as quickly as possible.

    2. Patience is a gift too. And that last statement is certainly the truth.

      19 is a good collection. Sounds like you have some quality machines in there too. Keep it up.