Sholes Visible: removing the carriage

by | Jul 14, 2012 | Sholes Visible | 20 comments

Continuing adventures with Sholes Visible #4004 …

I had to remove the carriage in order to get good access to the mechanism. It’s not too hard — you unscrew a couple of big nuts and a few small screws, unwind the mainspring until there’s no tension, and remove the drawband from the carriage. Then the carriage lifts off. You can also separate the lower and upper parts of the carriage just by moving two levers aside.

Now the fascinating backside of the Sholes Visible mechanism comes clearly into view.

It’s an industrial work of art that reminds me both of Klimt and of “Metropolis.”

When you depress a key on the keyboard, one of these lasso-like pieces will move down. The little levers that protrude through the diagonal slots are connected to the horizontal rods/typebars (seen on my previous post). So when the “lasso” moves down, the rod will first be pushed toward the center, then pivoted so that the typebar goes up and hits the platen. When the parts are clean, this all happens very fast.


  1. Ton S.

    "Metropolis" was the first thing that came to my mind.
    Wow, that machine is just unbelievable.

  2. Anonymous

    Thank you so much for sharing with us! Maybe it's just me, but for some reason I have more admiration for complicated mechanical devices than electronic ones. Richard K/TX

  3. L Casey

    I love the mass of gears involved. Truly a work of art. You have given me a great idea…I now seek a lazy susan for typewriter repairs!

  4. notagain

    beautiful! Can't wait to see it operate. add in Rube Goldberg too.

  5. michaeliany

    i echo everyone else's sentiments – the mechanisms involved with the Sholes are a wonder to behold!

  6. Richard P

    Yeah, I spent several years without one and must have strained my back half a dozen times turning machines around!

  7. Anonymous

    I can finally mentally "see" how this works. The curved end of the rod that extends through the "lasso" is what rotates the horizontal shaft to cause the typebar to strike the platen.

    From examining your pictures, it appears there is only one SHIFT lever on this machine. It's on the left side of the keyboard and it's missing the keytop. Is there another shift on the right that I can't see?

    I also noticed from looking at the patents that Mr. Sholes stated it would be possible to have three or more characters on each typebar and the platen would just need an extra detent to align with it.

  8. Richard P

    Yes, you're right about how the mechanism works.

    There is a second shift key on the upper right corner of the keyboard. An unusual arrangement, but you can also find it on the Remington 2, I think. That's also where a shift lock lever is located.

  9. Scott K

    This is great. We're getting to look into this amazing machine, when most of us would rarely have the chance to even see one, let alone work with one.

  10. Anonymous

    Oh, I see now. Thank you. I would never have expected it there. I guess the little silver lever beside the CAP key is the shift lock.

    I just figured that key in the upper right was the backspace. Is there a backspace key or function?

  11. Richard P

    No, there's no backspacer. I hadn't thought about that until you mentioned it. By 1900 most typewriters had backspacers, so this is a defect. It seems to have been difficult to create backspacers, at least without infringing on others' patents; I've seen many different methods, and often they are cumbersome or don't work very well.

  12. Miguel Chávez

    Now that's really a unique, rare typewriter! I feel a lot of respect for the engineers who were able to create such beautifully complex mechanical devices and make them work. It's impressive!

    I see there's a lot of yellow metal in there (brass?) I'm curious, what kind of lubricant you'll use there? Some sort of lubricant for musical instruments, for example?

  13. Richard P

    The guide plate is brass or copper. The other parts are cast iron and steel, I think. Some of the steel is dirty and looks yellow.

    Probably, like most typewriters, the Sholes was designed to work with no lubrication except in a few key places such as the carriage rails. But I tried using a little PB Blaster on a couple of typebars and it helped. This is a very ight lubricant/penetrant.

  14. Anonymous

    While everyone else is impressed with the mechanics of this machine (sentiments which, of course, are well-deserved), I'm more impressed by the fact that you can work on something so obscure…then again, I'm mechanically inept.

  15. Richard P

    That's how I would have described myself too at one point. But eventually I got bolder about taking typewriters apart, and after some experience I have more confidence. These are macroscopic machines that use simple devices such as levers and springs that we all intuitively understand. With a little patience and care, I think most people can deal with most typewriter mechanisms.

  16. Anonymous

    You must have invested in good tools (e.g., not the cheap screwdrivers that come with a cheap piece of furniture one has to assemble oneself). Furthermore, you must have practiced on inexpensive machines to begin with, no? I just can't image experimenting on any machines I currently have. I'd have to find some $10 yard sale deal, or something like that, if I were going to start tearing things apart.

    But I see what you mean as far as simplicity if mechanics is concerned. It's just a matter of investing lots of time and patience to become proficient and confident in what you're doing, I guess.

  17. Richard P

    Right, you don't want to learn by taking apart a rare machine.

    I have two good but not deluxe magnetic screwdrivers that are very useful. Other useful tools include needlenose pliers and a dental pick.

  18. Bill M

    These old mechanisms are extremely fascinating. I have always marvelled at the intricacies of design in the old mechanical machines.


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