How Do You Spell ZAQ2???





Introduction: How Do You Spell ZAQ2???

About: I enjoy taking a pile of junk and making something unusual out of it. I like wheeled vehicles, and currently own two motorcycles, two electric bikes that I've built, and an electric scooter pushed by a soc...

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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    21 Discussions

    Hello. Any ideas on how I might free up the carriage? If that's the right term. The keys work, the space bar "works' but the carriage does not move, either left or right even when pressing either release lever. It stays dead center and there is about a half inch of play in it. I don't think there's a lock per se, but I also can't figure out what's keeping this KMM from moving. Otherwise it seems very clean and willing to type. Thank you.

    1 reply

    It could be a variety of things, but the first thing to check is to make sure the left and right margins aren't the problem. If they're both set toward the center, that's your problem.

    WD-40 tends to accumulate dirt and grime over time. I use gun oil on fine machinery as it cleans and lubricates at the same time while not viscous enough to attract dirt and gum up the mechanism.

    I scored a KMM at a Goodwill for only $24! I was ecstatic when I found it for such an amazing price with minimal damages. In fact, the only things I see wrong with it is that the Tab and Margin setters are a little rusted, the bell doesn't work, and obviously it needs a lot of cleaning. Thanks to you I can fix some of these problems, but I can't seem to figure out how to open the side panels, and I don't want to damage it. I have cleaned the outside with a distilled vinegar/distilled water mixture and Q-tips. Now from reading some of your other ibles I see you can use harsher chemicals. Any tips? Thanks for sharing!

    2 replies

    The side panels simply pop off. Use something with a thin blade (like a stiff putty knife) to pop them off.

    Hello, my grandfather had a KMM that I use to play with all the time when I was a kid. The typewriter was given to a historical foundation over 20 years ago. Long story short, my parents located it for me and got it back. It needs some work, but it's not in that bad of shape. I have no experience with this type of restoration, and I am wonder if you know of any resources I could use to educate myself. My onre concern is replacing the springs connected to the key levels; many are broken.

    Any advice would be greatly appreciated.


    Photo Aug 31, 8 15 11 PM.jpgPhoto Aug 31, 8 14 43 PM.jpg
    1 reply

    I really don't have any good resources on how to replace these springs. Since each model of typewriter can be a bit different, what I do is look at how the existing springs are mounted and just muddle through.

    So I came across a Royal KMM sitting in the dumpster of my apt. complex it appears to be in rather good shape. After having cleaned it up and piddled around with it, I seem to have fixed all the problems but one. The shift keys when pressed will fall to enable shift, but won't rise back up without a bit of help. I think this is because I only have one spring attached unlike your photo1 which has two, though when I raise the front up about 45° it will function properly. Am I right in thinking I just need some new springs or might this only be half the problem? If anybody could help me out it be much appreciated.

    1 reply

    Sounds like a return spring problem. You might also need some lubrication on the rods that guide the basket when it is shifted. The reason it works when the machine is tilted is because the lifting is now done at an angle instead of straight up.

    I bought a necklace at an art store...antique typewriter keys were soldered to a small loop of silver and attached to a black leather necklace. I bought my initial, of course.

    I love this post! I purchased a KMM with an 18 inch carriage as a Christmas gift for my 22 yo. daughter. Serial number suggests 1941. Before purchase I inspected the machine quite thoroughtly and determined it needed a few tweaks and major cleaning to get it into full operating condition. The hints you had here helped a lot. With the single exception of the "Tabular" key to automatically move to the next tab, everything works. It took about 24 hours of work in the secret lab.

    If anyone has any suggestions for getting the "Tabular" key to work, I'd appreciate hearing them. This is the largish rectangular key in the upper right of the keyboard, directly under the Tab Set key on the horizontal panel. The key presses down and springs back readily enough, but it doesn't seem to engage any release mechanism tht would allow the platen to slide to the next tab. The "Tab Set" key seems to work and the "Tab Clear" key also seems to work (the "Tab Clear" button seems to have increased resistance when "unsetting" a tab, so I'm sort of guessing it works).

    If anyone has any suggestions for a fix, I'd be quite grateful.

    Best regards, to all and happy holidays. Ed Horner

    1 reply

    Ed, I'm glad you got something out of this instructable. I haven't run into that particular problem on a Royal KMM, so I don't have any suggestions for you other than just trace the linkage and hopefully you can see what's amiss. Tab key functions seem to be a problem area on a lot of old typewriters -- I have run across similar problems on a couple of LC Smiths, and the problem was a tab bar that needed adjusting. On some LC Smiths the tab bar can get out of alignment when someone tips the machine over on it's back and allows the full weight of the typewriter rest on the tab bar. Most tab mechanisms seem to be very finicky on how they're adjusted -- at least on LC Smith typewriters. You might try removing the rear panel on your Royal and see if you have a similar problem. Thanks again for your comment, and good luck!

    Great writeup.
    I have a really nice Royal KMM but the carriage belt came loose. I tried to remove the Platen and after soem disassembly gave up. Your writeup is so good its going to give me the courage to tackle this again. Thanks again.

    Post anything about Typewriters - future generations will appreciate your work.


    1 reply

    Thanks for the kind words, Carl. I've never had to replace a carriage belt, but I've read that you can replace these belts with a lot of things -- shoelaces, heavy fishing line, etc. Good luck with your project!

    i have that typewriter, too. the thing's a beast. these things were seriously meant to last. mine could use a bit of cleaning, but otherwise perfect.

    1 reply

    I think with a minimal amount of reasonable care, these old typewriters can last several lifetimes. And yes, they are definitely a beast! Thanks for your comment.

    what a great instructable! I don't have one of these old typewriters (but I wish I did!). If I do get my hands on one, this is my go to guide!

    1 reply

    Thanks for the kind words! Old typewriters can be both fun and frustrating at the same time. There are a lot of old typewriters out there, but unfortunately most of them found their way to the dusty attic (or worse, the damp basement) decades ago. Thanks again!

    Actually, there are a zillion hits for zaq2 in search. Growing up we had an Underwood clunker and I think after the keys started getting stuck did my brother get an early model electric typewriter. I might have been in one of the last typing classes in junior high. The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog. We were all afraid of the consequences if we did not type fast enough to pass the class. We had to re-ink the ribbon a few times with stamp pad ink and taking the paper out to really erase mistakes and try to line up the paper again was an art. The invention of white-out and eraseable onion skin paper did help a lot when you were up late typing that book report for homework that you put off to the last moment.