Introduction: How Do You Spell ZAQ2???
I don't know that ZAQ2 means anything, but if you wanted to use any of these particular keys on this typewriter you were out of luck, because the Z, A, Q, and 2 keys didn't work.
We didn't have much in the way of nice things when I was growing up, but we did have a really nice typewriter. It was a Royal KMM, and my mother took care of it like it was the finest thing in the world. When it wasn't being used, it sat underneath a cover she had made for it. This typewriter had been manufactured in the 1940's, but even though it had been around a while, it always looked and functioned like new. The Royal KMM model was the same typewriter model used by Pear Buck, Tennessee Williams, Rod Serling, and several other famous writers.
I don't know what ever became of that old typewriter (I think my Dad must have sold it in a garage sale), but for a long time I've kept my eye out for one. A few weeks ago I ran across this one at a flea market, and just had to take it home.
My flea market find had a few problems: (1) the A, Q, 2, and Z keys were frozen -- wouldn't move at all; (2) a link between the Z key key lever and typebar was missing; (3) the platen clutch wouldn't engage (meaning the platen wouldn't index when the carriage was returned); (4) someone had put some sort of shiny, oily liquid on the platen (to make it look shiny & oily looking, I suppose); (5) the ribbon was shot; (6) the bell didn't "ding,"; (7) in some places the paint was chipped off; (8) the margin release didn't work; and (9) the whole unit was filthy.
Other than that it was fine......
Step 1: What You Never Want to Do to a Typewriter
Before I begin, there's a couple of things to note. First, I'm not a typewriter expert. Typewriters are very complicated devices, and in no way, shape, or form do I consider myself an expert on them. I'm pretty good with mechanical things, but I'm certainly not a trained typewriter repairman.
Secondly, I should issue a word of caution. The one thing you never want to do to an old typewriter is fully disassemble it. Old desktop typewriters have somewhere around 3,000 - 3,500 individual parts, many of which look almost the same, but have subtle differences between them. The photo shown is of a more modern typewriter, which doesn't have nearly as many parts as these old one's, but it still has an impressive number.
The best way to destroy an old typewriter is to take it apart, because there is a very slim chance you will ever get it back into working condition. You only want to disassemble the parts that you absolutely have to in order to fix it. Seriously......
Step 2: Fixing the Non-indexing Platen
There is a clutch inside the platen on the left side of the machine (the left side as you're facing the machine). What happens with these old Royal's is that the clutch gets stuck in the disengaged position, which prevents the platen from indexing when the carriage return lever is pressed. To fix this problem requires that the platen be removed from the machine.
Remove the two set screws shown in Photo 2 first, then pull the handle knob until it comes out of the machine. It will have a short pushrod attached to it. Set this handle assembly aside.
Moving to the right side of the machine (Photo 3), there is a small cover at the end of the platen that needs to be flipped out toward the front of the machine (Photo 4). Underneath this cover are two small set screws. Remove them, then pull the handle to the right until the handle and the attached rod (that goes all the way through the length of the platen) are removed. Note that you don't want to take the right knob off the shaft, because you need it to pull the rod out.
Once the rod and the right hand knob are removed as a single unit, the platen can be lifted from the carriage. It may be a snug fit, but it should come out.
I didn't take photos of the removed platen, but once you get it out you will see the clutch on the left side. The clutch is simply a piece of metal with three legs, and on the legs are bushings. This unit is designed to move in and out of the three mating holes (each containing a spring) in the platen. Clean these legs, bushings, and holes and lightly lubricate them and the end of the platen's shaft with oil. Work this unit in and out until it moves freely. Then reinstall all the parts. The platen should now index correctly.
Oh yes, if someone has coated the platen with some sort of shiny, oily stuff, be sure to clean it off while the platen is out of the typewriter!
Step 3: Freeing the Stuck Keys
Photo 1 shows a bottom view of the typewriter. The keys are attached to key levers, which are attached to springs and connecting rods, and the connecting rods are attached to the typebars (which make the actual impression when you type). As you can see, this arrangement is fairly complex and crowded.
Photo 2 shows the area where they key levers pivot when a key is pressed. The problem causing the A, Q, and 2 keys to not work on this particular typewriter was due to rust in this pivot. These three keys were right together (the three levers on the left in the photo), and I suspect someone had spilled a soft drink or coffee in this area.
To free these pivot points required a generous application of penetrating oil, and manually working the key levers with a pair of needle nose pliers. At first I could only get the levers to move about 1/8th of an inch, but after working with them and applying a bit more penetrating oil, the movement increased until it was smooth once again.
While I was at it, I applied a bit of the penetrating oil to all the other key lever pivots, just in case anything was lurking in them. You can see some of the gunk that got washed out of these pivots in Photo 2. Eventually I cleaned all this up, but for now the stuck keys were once again free.
Step 4: Making the Missing Link
The Z key had a different problem, and I'm pretty sure I know what happened.
The Z key was missing the metal connecting link that attached the Z key's key lever to its typebar. Since the Z key happened to be right next to the A, Q, and 2 keys, I suspect that when it quit working (due to gunk in the pivot), the owner probably pulled up very hard on the Z's typebar thinking they could free the key. Well, instead of freeing the key, they broke the connecting rod (which probably dropped through the bottom of the machine). So once I had the frozen pivot free, it still wouldn't type a Z because of the missing connecting rod.
Working from the top of the machine, I was able to measure exactly how long this connecting rod needed to be, and at what angle the ends would need to be bent. Using some stiff steel wire, I made the new connecting rod shown in Photo 1. Making this part was fairly easy; installing it took about 12 attempts!
The reason installing it was so difficult can be seen in Photo 2. The red arrow points to the newly installed connecting rod, and you can see where I have lifted up the three typebars next to it. That gave me only about 1/2 inch of space to work. Using needle nose pliers and surgical hemostats, I finally got this little part installed and the ends crimped so it wouldn't come out on its own.
Now the Z key worked once again!
Step 5: Ringing the Bell
Getting the bell to ring turned out to be easy. There is a small piece of weighted metal hanging down beneath the carriage (on the right hand side) that triggers the bell when the carriage moves to a certain spot. This "bell ringer" moves along with the right margin setting. The ringer is designed to hit the bell, then gravity brings it back to vertical. When the carriage is returned, it swings back the other way (which doesn't trigger the bell mechanism) to allow the carriage to pass the bell without ringing it.
The problem with the bell ringer was that it was stuck from decades of hardened oil and gunk. I cleaned this with WD-40, moved it back and forth about 20 times, and it now works as designed.
I really like the "ding" sound of an old typewriter's bell!
Step 6: Fixing the Margin Release
The margin release key is designed to let you temporarily go past the right hand margin. Photo 1 (taken from the rear of the machine) shows the margin stop (box noted on the left) and the margin release lever (box noted on the right). When you press the margin release key, the margin release lever should move rearward enough to let the margin stop pass so the carriage will continue to move (shown in Photo 2). On this typewriter the margin release lever didn't move far enough out of the way to let the stop pass.
I removed the right side panel (Photo 3) in hopes of finding some sort of a cam type of adjustment to remedy this, but there was none. What I did find, however, was a part of the linkage connecting the margin release key to the margin release lever had a dog-leg bend in it. You can see this in Photo 4. Using a pair of pliers, I adjusted this piece of linkage by bending it to slightly shorten it. After three attempts at adjustment, the margin release worked!
Step 7: Making It Pretty
After fixing the mechanical issues, the next step was to install a new ribbon, clean the case, polish the shiny parts, and cover up the chipped paint.
I scrubbed the case with a mild cleaner, used a rotary buffing tool on the brightwork, and polished the keys with a a mild metal polish.
To hide the chips in the paint, I used a black permanent marker. It is virtually impossible to match the paint on these old typewriters (even the black one's), and trying to get anything similar to the crinkled original paint would be beyond my expertise. Photo 1 shows the "after" condition, and Photo 2 shows what it looked like before I began.
Step 8: Finale
As I mentioned at the beginning, this is a Royal KMM typewriter, and from the serial number I found it was made in 1947. The Royal KMM typewriter was a model used by some pretty notable people, including Tennessee Williams, Pearl Buck, Rod Serling.......and my mother when I was growing up.
I think she would have liked this project.
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