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Picture of Restoring a 1926 typewriter case
The typewriter is a Corona made in 1926.  I came across it in a yard sale and, having no real use for an old typewriter, I bought it anyway!  Actually, I spent many years using a typewriter, but gladly made the switch when computers and printers came along.  Still, I have fond memories of old manual typewriters.

The only thing wrong with the typewriter was that someone installed one of the ribbon spools upside down (so the typewriter wouldn't automatically reverse the ribbon when it came to the end of the spool).  I wound a new ribbon onto the spool, installed it correctly, and the typing machine worked fine.

The case for this portable typewriter was another matter, however, so the rebuilding of the case is what I'll focus on in this Instructable.
 
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Step 1: Evaluate the condition of the case

Picture of Evaluate the condition of the case
This typewriter's case had many problems, the most obvious being the fabric covering was beginning to disintegrate.  I really couldn't tell what this fabric was made of, but it appeared to be some sort of woven cloth that had a thin coating on the outside.  The fabric was very thin, and was rotted and worn in many places.

The fabric on the inside of the case was still in good shape, so I decided to leave the original as it was.

Because the black finish of the fabric on the outside of the case was powdery and flaking off, attempting to repair and re-glue the original fabric was not an option.  So, I decided to rip off all the old fabric and attempt to recover the case with something that looked like the original.

Step 2: Remove the hardware

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Before ripping off the fabric, first I had to remove all the hardware, and that turned into quite a task.

Most of the hardware on this case was held on by split rivets -- the kind of rivets that spread as they are inserted into the wood core of the case.  To remove these I used a pair of wire cutters to pry the rivets loose, and occasionally a rivet would come out with a chunk of the wood case attached.  When this happened, I would fill the damaged wood with wood filler, and sand it back down after it was dry.

A few of the rivets were traditional mushroom style rivets.  Where I found these, I ground off the back of the rivet and punched it out using a small punch and hammer.

Step 3: Peel off the old cover

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Once the hardware was removed, I ripped off the old fabric.

With the fabric removed I found that several joints in the wooden case had become loose over the years, so I re-glued everything that was loose.

Once the case was structurally sound, I lightly sanded it to smooth out any dried glue that had held the fabric.

Step 4: Install new fabric

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Then it was off to the fabric store, with a sample of the old fabric in my hand.  My first thought was to recover the case in a thin black vinyl, but none of the vinyl looked anything like the original fabric.  With the original fabric you could see the weave pattern of the cloth.  What I finally settled on was a tightly woven nylon (the clerk at the store said it was the same nylon used to make parachute pants).  Even though this fabric had no coating like the original, it looked almost identical. 

I also picked up some spray adhesive for gluing the fabric to the wood case.

Step 5: Re-install the hardware

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Recovering the case turned out to be relatively easy.  I cut the cloth oversize for the top part of the case, glued it to the top, then the front and back, and down about 1 inch on the sides.  I then made separate side panels and glued them on.  This was essentially the same process used by the original manufacturer.  The lower half of the case was done the same way.

After the glue had dried, I then reinstalled the original hardware (after cleaning it  with metal polish).  Since I couldn't use the original split rivets, I used wood screws to reattach the hardware.

The final step will be to re-dye the handle black, which I will do as soon as I replenish my bottle of black leather dye.

This project was much easier than I thought it would be when I started.  The only difficult part was removing the hardware, but once that was done the rest was no different than hanging wallpaper!

And now, should the power go out, I can use this ancient typewriter to send out my email.  Oh wait, I guess you can't do that with an old typewriter.  Well, I guess you could by sending it in an envelope with a stamp on it!
Lotus142 years ago
Very nice. I have an old portable typewriter that looks different, but the case is almost identical. I was looking at doing a cleanup, but what I really need to do is replace the handle.
where did you find the rivets you used?
knife141 (author)  Lotus142 years ago
I buy rivets from Tandy Leathercraft, but you can probably find them at most large craft stores that have a leatherworking section.
c-biscuit3 years ago
How did you re attach the hardware? Did you use rivets?

C
knife141 (author)  c-biscuit3 years ago
I used both rivets and machine screws & nuts.
Winged Fist3 years ago
Beautiful restoration job... When someone finds this in 100 years, they'll think they found 185 year old typewriter case like new!;-)
knife141 (author)  Winged Fist3 years ago
Thanks! Hopefully when they find it it will be in better shape than it was when I found it!