Sunday, 6 January 2013

What’s the secret: How do you put bearings back in?

It’s a job that many avoid, a job that many have heard about and a job that many don’t want to experience for themselves. But it’s a job that I’m going through.

When Robert Messenger is offering some spare part Hermes 3000s with the idea that they would be able to be put together to form one, decent, good nick, working one, how can you say no? That’s why I’ve got three of them, all in various states of disassembly.

The chassis that I’m constructing the final, resurrected typewriter from had a bit of an issue with the carriage. While it had all the bearings one had moved in its retainer and made a nasty scraping noise as you moved the carriage. The only option appeared to be taking the whole lot off and then putting it back together.

The whole lot has now come off and I have eight little bearings, two retainers, a carriage, and one frustrated self.

What is the secret/trick/black magic method for getting these things back in? Any advice, tips, etc. etc. etc. would be very much appreciated. And I’ll share the results of this – at present – painful procedure with the ever helpful Typosphere.

I’m most willing to post photographs if they would help you.


  1. My method is (a) praying that I don't need to do this, (b) if I do, swearing profusely, (c) succeeding on the 5,280th attempt.

  2. Jasper, let me tell you about my decent into madness - my falling into the pit of hell, that occurred as I attempted to put the bearings back into my Valentine.

    - a machine I revisited this weekend. Blog pending.

    Actually, I don't need to tell you. You can read my old blog on the subject.

  3. Three suggestions, any of which may prove not to be appropriate for the job at hand but all of which are worth having in your bag of tricks.

    1. Use a dollop of grease, as little as will do the job, to hold the ball(s) in place in their retainer(s) long enough to feed the assembly into where it should end up. I like white lithium grease because it is very free-running and doesn't congeal into a varnish, although it can still hold dust. One could also flush it out after assembly, if that seems like a good idea.

    2. Use a strongish magnet to hold ferrous pieces (as the balls and likely the retainers or tracks will be) together long enough to get them in place. The magnetic field is channeled surprising distances by the steel pieces. I realize that the magnetic field may be hopelessly disrupted by so much nearby steel in a typewriter; if it doesn't work for this job, maybe it will sometime in your future.

    3. Form a tube (or other appropriate shape) of very thin paper, designed to hold the pieces together until they are in place. Then withdraw it or tear it out, leaving the balls and retainers where they should be.

    Good Luck!
    == Michael Höhne

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