John Lewis Mechanical
4805 Menaul Blvd NE Alb, NM 87110 - Phone: 505-884-0600 (M-W 9am-4pm MST) - Email:

John Lewis
Typewriter and mechanical antique repair is one field where you are not
put out to pasture when you reach a certain age. The down fall, no watch.
Whenever typewriter companies got the chance, they changed something in their machines. It was usually for two reasons, either they wanted to cut cost, or they wanted to improve the function of certain parts or mechanisms. I have an extensive inventory of old typewriters, of which many are kept so I can glean parts from, to repair customer's typewriters. It does not always happen, but it happens often enough. I will quote a price for a repair/restoration, and after I have the machine mechanically cleaned, I find that I have to replace a part, or use another exact make of machine, so I can compare it to my customer's machine, making sure that I am reassembling/adjusting a particular part correctly. And, true to form, my comparison machine is one that the manufacturer chose to save money on, and changed a part assembly. The machines that I find a great inconsistency on exact parts are,Underwood, Royal, L.C. Smith, Corona, Densmore, Smith Premier, and Hammond. I recently restored a Smith Premier #4 (understrike model), and it took three different like model 4's to find all of the correct parts to complete the repair. Most occupations have age limits on employees, but not typewriter technicians. The older they are the better. Since there are very few easily used, and understood, typewriter service manuals for vintage typewriters, it takes hard earned knowledge to to be able to properly chemically clean, repair, and adjust them. I have been repairing typewriters since 1966, and in this time I have not only honed my expertise in the repair of them, I have also amassed a huge inventory of vintage machines, both for extracting good parts for customers machines and also for resale. When I evaluate the typewriter service offered by many internet start-up typewriter service shops, I can easily gauge their knowledge of typewriter repair by how they discuss the process of how they clean and go about repairing them, and the lack of proper knowledge of parts they discuss. When they clean machines with the exterior covers still on, the paper lettering still under the glass keys and attached to the key lever, I know that they are not trained to properly care for a vintage machine that more than likely holds cherished memories for it's owner, especially if they mostly use brushes, compressed air, and Q-tips to do the work.
Below are the details of how I clean
and restore a Underwood Model 5
John Lewis John Lewis John Lewis John Lewis
(1)To properly chemically clean an Underwood 5 typewriter all exterior panels must be removed
along with all rubber, plastic, wood, keyrings and letters, and sound proofing material. You will notice, in my picture story,
that I have removed the key rings, glass key tops, and paper letters. If you do not have access to key ring removal pliers, do not pry them off.
Take it from the voice of experience, you will damage or ruin them, ruin the key letters, and break more than your share of the glass covers,
not to mention bending the key levers.Years ago I learned to use a length of garden hose to protect the keys from getting wet during cleaning.
Cut a length of hose that will be about 6 inches wider than the width of a row of typewriter keys. Slice the hose from one end to the other so it will slide over the keytops with a few inches sticking out on both ends. Do this for all four rows. This will keep the cleaning solutions from running into the key rings and contaminating the key letters. Just remember not to TIP the machine on it's back when you rinse it. For the larger keytops, and the ones that do not align with the four normal rows, cut off the fingers of a rubber glove and, using Tie Ties, seal the keys so that they stay dry during cleaning.
John Lewis John Lewis John Lewis John Lewis
John Lewis John Lewis John Lewis John Lewis
John Lewis John Lewis John Lewis John Lewis
(2)Once the parts have been removed, the machine needs to be properly air cleaned. This will minimize the excess dirt and foreign particles
from contaminating your cleaning solutions, which can be reused over and over before they need to be replaced/refreshed.
John Lewis John Lewis John Lewis John Lewis
(3)Once air cleaned, I place the machine inside of a high sided cleaning tank, (you can use a tub or tray, outside only)
where it can be sprayed with degreasing solution. At this time it is necessary to use a brush to aid in loosening and removing stubborn old hardened lubricants
and sludge that has become one with dirt, paper fibre, ribbon lint, coffee, cookies, and eraser particles.
John Lewis John Lewis John Lewis John Lewis
John Lewis John Lewis John Lewis John Lewis
(4)Now that the machine is free of it's collection of hard stuff, it is time to rinse off all of the cleaning solution.
This is also done in the same high sided sink that has a water spray nozzle. You can also use an outside water hose with a spray nozzle on it.
I first use hot water as it helps soften any remaining sticky or gummy sludge that was missed by the degreasing solution, and to remove the degreasing solution itself.
John Lewis John Lewis John Lewis
(5-8)The machine is now clean and hot, and it needs to be cooled down. If you do not know it, hot wet metal will rust very quickly,
much faster than metal that has been cooled with cold water.Now the machine is drippy wet and it will need to drain for a few minutes, but only until the bulk of the water has run off. Rust can still form if not dried quickly. The machine now needs to be power dried with compressed air, not just left out in the breeze all day. It is especially important to remove all of the moisture from the springs, being careful not to get the air nozzle very close to small springs. Also dry screw holes, and the segment where the typebars pivot.You will never get all of the moisture off, so it would be best if you can place the machine in front of a variable speed fan. This will force drying air into hard to reach and tight areas. I usually leave the fan on for a half hour or so, while I clean earlier removed parts. The machine should be 99% dry now.
John Lewis John Lewis John Lewis John Lewis
John Lewis John Lewis John Lewis John Lewis
John Lewis John Lewis John Lewis John Lewis
Lots and Lots of buffer and polish time
For new key letters, should your old ones be damaged, you can purchase nice clean sets on the net. Just make sure that the ones you purchase match the keys of your typewriter. It will save a lot of time if you do. When you get the sheet, copy it so you have a spare should you damage any during installation. The letters will need to be cut, or punched out of the key letter sheet. You can purchase a 1/2 inch leather punch from a leather supply store and can cut out the letters yourself with a little practice.
John Lewis John Lewis John Lewis John Lewis
John Lewis John Lewis John Lewis John Lewis