A confused Woodstock

by | Mar 17, 2017 | Woodstock | 17 comments

When I saw an early Woodstock on eBay, with a well-preserved decal, for a very low Buy It Now price—$25!—how could I resist?

The decals on these early machines have a lot of color and charm, including the eagle (?) that incorporates the letters WTCo for Woodstock Typewriter Company.

Later Woodstocks, such as this 1930 machine, switched to a simpler decal and an illustration of the head of Mercury.

When I checked the serial number on my new early Woodstock (located behind the right end of the front carriage rail), I was baffled to see this:

After I removed the carriage (which I do not recommend on these early machines, because getting it back on while keeping the ball bearings in place is a stressful experience), I noticed this number on the bottom of the carriage:

My guess is that DW55398 is the original serial number. It was then filed off from the body of the machine—but not completely—and the number 57722 was stamped imperfectly over it. Why?

The DW prefix stands for dead key, wide carriage, according to our serial number information. This is certainly a wide-carriage machine, with a platen length of 11 inches, but it does not have a dead key (used for typing accents and other punctuation marks). Maybe the typewriter was originally destined to have a foreign-language keyboard, but then someone at the factory thought better of it.

Both serial numbers should date from 1920.

There are many small differences between this early Woodstock and later ones. For instance, there is no stencil setting, and the ribbon control gives you many tiny increments between the upper and lower halves of the ribbon. This would actually be great if you’re using a one-color ribbon and want to squeeze the most ink possible out of it.

The escapement is also different. It feels a little stiffer to me than the later design, and is fairly loud and rattly when you return the carriage.

After extensive cleaning and polishing, the machine looks great.


  1. Bill M

    Congratulations! Great price on a great Woodstock.

  2. Scott K

    Fascinating machine. The spring on the escapement seems stretched. Could this be the cause of the louder operation?

  3. Richard P

    Good idea! I tried it—but no.

  4. Don Lampert

    I always love seeing the Woodstock typewriter featured, so thanks!
    My snappiest, and best typer of my many Woodstocks, is I believe, my earliest…..
    It has a serial number of RW 946. Rebuilt/wide carriage? It clearly says No.5 on the apron, and has an 11 inch platen like yours. It does not appear to be modernized at all, and indeed has a wooden space bar, and old looking pearlized finish key tops. Is it a rebuilt no 4, or 3? Where yours has a serial number on the bottom of the carriage, there is nothing. The RW946, does not show signs of having being ground down and restamped. It does have the noisy escapement with the spring in it. Who knows!?

  5. Richard P

    Hmm. Probably a rebuilt. The number is very low to be a normal serial number for a model 5.

  6. Vikram

    What a beauty!

  7. Anonymous

    That cleaned up beautifully. I love the look of the ribbon spools on pedestals. It would be fun to do a comparison of a Woodstock, an Underwood, an LC Smith and a Royal of similar age and condition – who would win?

  8. Richard P

    Yes, that would be interesting. My guess is that Royal would have a slight advantage in speed; Underwood in precision; and LC Smith in ease of shifting. Woodstock might come in a close second in all these areas.

  9. Unknown

    Hello, I just inherited a beautiful Woodstock typewriter. The serial number claims it to be a 5HN model, but it look different than others of the same model. I am currently trying to clean it and was curious as to the best tools for the task. I have mainly been using a soft nail file for the rust, warm soapy water, and plenty Q-tips.

  10. Richard P

    Sounds like a good start. Fine steel wool is also good on light rust, and generally for polishing nickel. Pledge on a soft white cotton rag is safe for cleaning paint (but may require many hours). You can find many more tips on my website, and my favorite tips are in my book, along with advice on repairs, etc. Enjoy!

  11. Russell

    What a lovely machine! Thank you for sharing. I am looking for some help with a Woodstock carriage that I just removed and lo and behold out popped 8 ball bearings.

    Can you give me some advice on where the ball bearings belong? And how to put the carriage back on? Or point me to a manual that describes the procedure?

    I looked at your great WWII maintenance manual, but the Woodstock descriptions there appear to be for a much later machine.

    Mine is serial number F95362, which I think dates it to 1922.

    I dis-assembled the carriage in order to get at the chromed rails which were rusty and pitted. I'm in the process of cleaning and rust removal.

    I'd sure appreciate some advice on how to get the carriage back on, and where those pesky ball bearings belong.

    All the best,

  12. Richard P

    It's been a few months and my memory is hazy. I mainly recall that it's hard! I do not have a written guide to the procedure, unfortunately. My Woodstock has a ball bearing holder, or a couple of them, that keeps the balls in place. You ought to have them too; the balls do not just roll around on their own. Even with the holder(s), it is tricky to get the carriage back in place without spilling the bearings. I think I had to try at least a dozen times. Essentially, you lay the typewriter on its back, get the back of the carriage into place first, and then pull the front of it down into place. Easier said than done. Good luck!

  13. Russell

    Hi Richard, thank you for the fast reply!

    I removed my carriage in such a way that I could not see where the bearings belong. So they just popped out. I'm trying to figure out where they belong.

    I have two thin holders with a gear in the middle of each.

    Eight ball bearings.

    I'm uncertain where to put the ball bearings.

    Divide them evenly between the channels? platen

    < and > are the grooved channels
    o are the ball bearings
    | are the holders

    So do I put two bearings on each > groove?

    What did you do?


  14. Richard P

    Again, I'm afraid I don't have a precise recollection, and naturally I can't dismantle my Woodstock in order to give precise advice. Assume that symmetry is correct, and make sure that the ball bearings are in positions where they won't fall out when the carriage is moved all the way to the left or the right.

  15. Russell

    Love this: "I can't dismantle my Woodstock in order to give precise advice". Made me laugh, thanks!

    I'm beating myself up for taking it apart from the top where I could not see what was going on. Then today I flushed two small screws down the drain…

    Another day, another lesson.

    I'll let you know how it goes.


  16. Unknown

    I know this is a while after any recent conversation on this section but I have a few questions. I recently recieved a Woodstock No. 5 (1921-1924 serial number) for my 15th birthday. I've had experience with typewriters before (An Adler, Contessa De Luxe) but this is different than the other. From my judgement, it's not in good condition at all. My main objective is to remove the carriage for 1. Cleaning and 2. Repair of the bell mechanism and the draw band/string. Does anyone have an idea on how to do that without having to completely disassemble it from the top? I've been fiddling with the screws and all but I don't go farther down the rabbit hole than I already have. Please reply soon… Thank you!

  17. Richard P

    I recommend downloading the 1945 Ames manual, which has lots of advice on Woodstocks. Removing the carriage is pretty easy: remove the 2 screws on each side of the front carriage rail; put the typewriter on its back; push the carriage out. The front carriage rail and the ball bearings will also come out. Unless you have a very early Woodstock, the bearings will be held in a retainer. Replacing the carriage just means doing these things in reverse, but it is a bit harder and may take several tries. Good luck.


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