A heart transplant?

by | Feb 7, 2018 | Underwood | 6 comments

Previously on Rescuing Twentieth-Century Writing Iron, I cleaned up this 1940 Underwood, but found that it had a fatal flaw in its carriage.

Well, it occurred to me that I could replace the entire carriage, and I was pretty sure I had the right parts machine. I could attach the old paper table and maybe some other parts onto the new carriage, so this machine with sentimental family value would retain its appearance.

The typewriter’s owner authorized me to give it a try.

On a basement shelf was this parts machine with a carriage ready to go!

But no. There was no way it would fit.

I determined that my parts machine was a Model SS (1946-1953). The machine I needed to fix was a Model S (1940-1946). Yes, as it turns out, it makes a big difference. I won’t go into the technical details here, but will just say that despite the basic similarities among Underwood models, there was a real evolution. (Here you can find my review of 53 years of Underwoods.)

Well, then I got the bright idea of checking my garage. Yes, there are more writing machines hanging out in there. Bingo! A Model S, just about 1000 serial numbers away from my patient.

Here are the donor (left) and the recipient awaiting a carriage transplant.

Here’s the donor carriage:

Cork feed rollers! This is very unusual. I imagine they were replaced sometime during World War II, when materials like rubber were often reserved for the military. I’ve seen several cork platens on British wartime typewriters.

But what’s this under the paper table?

We have another broken carriage frame!!

I’m starting to think that the cast iron on the Model S carriage was too thin or too brittle.

Fortunately, this break is in a less crucial place than the break in the recipient machine’s carriage. I’m trying to heal it with J-B Weld and an extra little metal piece to reinforce the frame.

By tonight, the J-B should have cured enough for me to proceed. Stay tuned for Part 3 …


  1. Unknown

    Has anyone tried getting their carriage frame brazed back together? I've had other cast iron items repaired that way with good luck so far.

  2. Richard P

    Thanks. It can be done, but not by me — I don't have the skill or equipment.

  3. Ted

    Go Go Go! :D

  4. Unknown

    Oh my gosh! What a saga!

  5. Bill M

    Good work Richard. JB Weld is quite strong and will probably get the carriage working. The idea of brazing is ok, but all my experimenting with cast iron (as well as several blacksmith mentors I worked with on cast iron) is anything but successful.

  6. Words are Winged

    Interesting how both machines were so close in SN and both had cracks/breakage. Assuming it's not just coincidence, that particular run of machines may have gotten a bad batch of metal from the foundry.

    With such a simple crack, I can rest assured that you'll have the clients machine back up and running in no time, ready to belt out college thesis after college thesis.


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