Picture of Renewing an old typewriter platen
I enjoy rebuilding old typewriters.  I like the challenge of taking something that is 50-100 years old and giving it new life.  One of the challenges in rebuilding an old typewriter is that you can't just log onto the internet and order new parts, since the typewriter industry pretty much died when pc's came on the scene.  So, you either have to cannibalize parts from another old machine, or make them yourself.

One part that you can pretty much never find is a replacement platen.  The rubber on a lot of these old machines dries out and hardens over time, and can develop cracks such as the one in the photo.  This typewriter was made by Remington in 1895, and is one of my current projects.

I won't delve into the details of all the work that has gone into this project -- instead I will focus on how I renewed this old cracked platen.

Step 1: Remove and measure the platen

Picture of Remove and measure the platen
Removing the platen on this old machine was relatively easy.  I removed the knobs on each end, flipped the carriage up (it is an old up-strike machine), and carefully removed the platen assembly.  The first photo shows the platen after removing the knobs and the second photo shows the carriage after the platen came free.

The next step involved carefully measuring the diameter of the platen.  I picked a spot where the rubber was still intact and used a caliper to measure  the diameter.
Very industrious
Very nice. I'd love to see a group of instructables tied together to fix the common issues with old or abandoned typewriters. Including a way to reink the ribbons. I'm sure there is a way but havent looked it up.

I use stamp ink. It works a treat. The trick is just to not put too much on.

knife141 (author)  shizumadrive2 years ago
I've read about people re-inking ribbons using stamp pad ink, but I've never tried it myself. Most ribbons are still available on the internet. Since I rebuild a lot of typewriters, I buy universal ribbons in bulk (a dozen at a time). If a universal ribbon spool doesn't fit a particular machine, I rewind the new ribbon onto the old spool. If the old spool is missing and a universal spool doesn't fit, I make/modify a spool to fit it. Thank you for your comment.
jackzylkin1 year ago

This is a fantastic instructable -- great job! Do you have a link for where to buy the heat-shrink tubing?

PecanCorner2 years ago
This is brilliant. I can't think of any reason for this not to work effectively for at least 50 years. Thank you for helping keep these great machines alive!
knife141 (author)  PecanCorner2 years ago
Thanks for the kind words. The built-up cover feels strong and solid with just enough "give" to it. I think it's going to hold up judt fine. I've used heat shrink tubing to reline pinch rollers and feed rollers before, but this is the first time I've used it on a platen.

I would be curious to see the process you went through to repair the pinch or feed rollers. I have a 1919 Underwood that belonged to my great grandmother. These rollers have hardened and stuck to the platen. I think the platen can be smoothed out, but the rollers under the feed are beyond basic smoothing and would require this sort of buildup. I am considering sanding them down and trying some shrink material like you mention in this Instructable.

orrinson62 years ago
VERY cool!
micah1_82 years ago
I wonder if plastidip would work as well.
ironsmiter2 years ago
consider building up with inner tube material, and heat-shrinking over that?
Should restore the 'bounce' a bit better than straight heat shrink layers.

Nice work keeping old-iron alive.

Alternatively, try shopping with the enemy!
I've got a small collection of rubber coated rollers out of computer printers that are close to that diameter.
Match the diameter, and width, and what's left is transferring the gear to your new printerplanten.

knife141 (author)  ironsmiter2 years ago
I thought the same thing about inner tube material until I looked at one. It had a very pronounced seam that I was afraid would distort the heat shrink material (and leave a horizontal line). Using a printer roller (assuming one the right size) might work, however I think it would be quite a challenge to transfer the platen clutch to the inside of one. Thanks for the comment!
AH! didn't know there was a clutch in there.
You probably have the easier technique with the shrink tubing.

The inner tube ridges CAN be sanded down, when the tube is inflated, or stretched tight(turn inside out when done, to remove possible ridges INSIDE also, so you get a really smooth tube). IF you decide to TRY it one of these days, I would actually recommend cutting the rubber into long strips, and spiral winding onto the drum. This way, if your knife is sharp, and your cuts straight, you can cut the ridges out entirely, and the butted joints should be smooth and invisible once the outer layer of shrink tubing is on.

Again, great job keeping old iron alive(and helping others do the same).
grandmaof132 years ago
Your instructable is interesting and informative. I also checked out your one on repairing an old typewriter. Very good instructions. I plan to have my husband look at it. I picked up an Oliver number 3 at an auction for $5.
. The case looks pretty good. The keys are really dirty and stuck. Hoping my husband can use your work to do some good on this one. Thanks for the instructions.
knife141 (author)  grandmaof132 years ago
Congratulations on picking up an old Oliver at an excellent price. Just remind your spouse that patience, lots of penetrating oil, and plenty of rags will be helpful in getting the keys unstuck. When I work on one that is frozen up really bad, I will often apply penetrating oil every day for a week before attempting to get the typebars to move. Good luck, and thanks for the comment!
Another alternative is to use the manufacturers who make rollers for the printing industry...it's been awhile since I've been in the trade but it used to be fairly cheap.
Mihsin2 years ago
I like your authentic taste.
Best regards
knife141 (author)  Mihsin2 years ago
Thank you!
RosyRivet2 years ago
Very clever!
And a lovely machine.
knife141 (author)  RosyRivet2 years ago
Thank you for your comment.
snayl2 years ago
Wow, brilliant solution! You are still The Man!
knife141 (author)  snayl2 years ago
Thanks! Don't know if I'm still The Man or not, but I sure have dirty fingernails!
rimar20002 years ago
Excellent recycling/repairing work.
knife141 (author)  rimar20002 years ago
Thsnks, Osvaldo. I've enjoyed this project.
Danielk2 years ago
Beautiful work!
knife141 (author)  Danielk2 years ago
Thank you!!