One weird trick for your Underwood

by | Sep 28, 2013 | Insurgency, One weird trick, Underwood | 20 comments

rn recently commented: “I’ve had some concerns about the bell ring/line stop mechanism on my 1917 Underwood 5. It’s a bit sluggish. Any advice?”

Yes. Try this one weird trick I recently discovered:

1) Gently push down on the margin stop as shown below, and hit the space bar to see whether the mechanism works well when you’re pushing down. If not, sorry, this weird trick won’t do the trick. But if pushing down helps, then proceed …

2) Tucked away behind the frame is a spring that’s supposed to do exactly what your finger was doing. Pull it out where you have access to it. (I’m using a spring hook in this picture.)

3) Use needlenose pliers to bend the tip of the spring a bit so it will push harder.

4) The spring now looks like this. Tuck it back behind the frame, so that the tip of the spring pushes against the frame.

Your Underwood should now work fine!

I hope others will try this and let me know how it works out.

PS: Today I typed up the essence of the Typewriter Insurgency Manifesto in a new format which I hope you’ll like. I’m making some postcards with this text that I’ll be handing out at Herman Price’s meeting next month. Feel free to share, retype, adapt, etc. Click for a large version.


  1. Peter

    Both items in this post will be of great help to me. Thanks!

    Will manifesto postcards be available to the diaspora at some point?

  2. Richard P

    Sure. I expect I'll have some left over after the meeting.

  3. notagain

    That's pretty cool, if i can get mine to move when I push the spacebar…

  4. TonysVision

    Thank you Richard! My 1929 Underwood is so new to me, and functions so well in many respects, that it has become my daily typer despite one mildly irritating issue. While the bell ringy thingy works fine, the carriage itself would get a bit sluggish toward the right margin. Your post got me to actually swing the machine around, and – what have we here? A handy knurled knob that can crank a bit more energy back into that tired spring.

    I think this discovery is a metaphor or something deeply philosophical regarding living with a problem when sometimes taking just one tiny step toward its solution … Well, anyhow, it's a great treat to be able to bang away all the way to the end of the line with this fine old typer.

  5. Scott K

    Definately something to keep in mind – if I ever come across an Underwood of some kind in the wild in Australia.

    I also like your 'weird trick' pastiche of those advertising banners I see all over the internet. Nice.

  6. Anonymous

    I love the Typewriter Insurgency Manifesto!

  7. Bill M

    Neat trick that I will keep in mind. I go to pick up my first huge full sized Underwood next Saturday.

  8. Ted

    Tried this on Drago with no luck ):

    Ahh well – the Manifesto is awesome, at least! :D

  9. rn

    Thanks, Richard. I'm gonna try this. Will let you know.

  10. rn

    Sadly, this trick didn't work on my beast. The carriage seems to hit a hump when the movement is supposed to ring the bell and won't advance past it without some serious banging on the spacebar. I tried loosening the side nuts on the rod on which the margin stops are attached. That didn't help either. Do you think I need more spring tension?

  11. Richard P

    Sorry to hear that the trick didn't work for you or for Ted.

    Try removing the scale by unscrewing the screws on left and right (don't lose the metal stop on the right that is connected to that screw). You can then clean off and lubricate the mechanism. I would also lubricate the ends of the rod on which the margin stops move, and make sure that the bell mechanism is clean. A bit more spring tension might help, yes, but don't overdo it.

  12. Ted

    Yep, I tried disassembling the whole works and clean/lubing it, but I think my problem lies not with the trip mechanism so much as it's somewhere in the bell itself or the springiness of the striker.

  13. Richard P

    The clapper may need to be bent a little. It's tricky, on many typewriters, to get the clapper to the point where it strikes the bell solidly but then immediately withdraws to let the bell resound.

  14. rn

    I took the whole typewriter apart and put it back together. This is the only mechanical issue it has. What kind of lube would you recommend?

  15. Richard P

    Hmm, I am not optimistic if you've already done so much work. Lube wouldn't hurt, but probably wouldn't help either. My go-to lubricant is PB B'laster. Also, there is a screw on the piece that hits the margin stop (not the stop itself) which is supposed to adjust something, but I have tried it with little success.

  16. Phil

    Gee, did this bring back memories. I learned to type on an Underwood No. 5 when I was a freshman in high school. I remember, you could push down on the right margin stop and it would rock on that rod, and ring the bell. I also remember cranking up the tension of the carriage spring. One thing I can't quite remember, what was the purpose of the red scale on the ruler? Was that to help center titles? Maybe hit space bar for each letter in the title, then read the number on the red scale to find out where to start typing the title?

  17. Bill M

    I've been searching for information on my Underwood No. 5 in preparation to have it more ready than it's present state for our Type-In. I tried this fix for the bell, but I think the spring may be broken or detached If it is not a scissors spring. If it is a scissors spring it may be broken. somewhere I have a copy of a repair manual for these old Underwoods. I could not get it to ring with the space bar, but I do have it working with the fix if I cock the left margin stop.

  18. Mike_y

    Anyone has some idea about how the bell mechanism on a Royaluxe 450 looks like? I have a missing part and the bell won't ring. It is the bit that triggers the bell, the one that moves the stem of the bell ringer.

  19. Richard P

    I'm afraid I don't know what it's supposed to look like.


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