Sholes Visible: the scary disassembly

by | Aug 22, 2012 | Sholes Visible | 15 comments

OK, I now know my Sholes Visible well enough that I could tell you right away where all (er, almost all) of these parts belong.

But even more disassembly is required! In order to get the machine as clean as possible, there’s no way to avoid taking the keyboard apart.

Each key lever needs to be pushed backwards and down, then forwards to disengage it.

Halfway there. Scary, isn’t it?

Almost done.

This is what key levers look like when they’re out of the typewriter. The L-shaped hooks on the right fit into holes in what I’ll call the “pullers,” which pull down and activate the typing mechanism. On the left, each lever has an adjustable screw that activates the escapement, and a spring that pulls the lever back into position when you type.

Yes, I’m taking notes!

Here’s how the levers look a few hours later, after a bath in Evapo-Rust (which softens the rusty-looking grease and removes any actual rust), wiping dry, and touching up with steel wool.

The keyless typewriter:

The central mechanism can now be lifted out. NO, I’m not going to disassemble it!

Notice the little holes at the bottom of the vertical “pullers,” where the L-shaped hooks on the type levers fit in.

Here’s what the typewriter looks like now.

This weird set of contraptions can now be removed. From left to right you’re looking at the ribbon vibrator, the guide for the “pullers,” rectangular wires that activate the ribbon vibrator, and a mechanism that triggers the escapement.

Now, apart from a few pieces of hardware, we are down to the cast iron frame. Once I’ve cleaned it, it will await the return of all those pieces — if I can remember where they go! (I told you, this stuff is scary.)


  1. Scott K

    I still for the life of me can't fathom how this works. But it is going to look amazing when you're done!

    And wow… You've really passed the point of no return here. Hope it pays off!

  2. Ton S.

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Ton S.

    It's just mind-boggling that you can actually put back Humpty Dumpty together again, what with the complexity of this machine and its parts. But you're Richard Wan Kenobi, the force is with you!

  4. deek

    Those older typewriter are a lot of fun. Documentation is key. I know I disassembled my Oliver 9 carriage, completely and I "thought" about documenting it. It would have saved me a good hour or so, as I had nothing but my thinking cap and trial and error to put it back together (no "extra" pieces at the end was a bonus). It can get really scary, even if you do have the breakdown documented with pictures and notes!

  5. Mark

    I don't fully understand how it works either… I have a general idea, but there is still some magic in there right? I suppose you don't want to take apart the main contraption because there is a risk some magic might spill out?

    But in all seriousness those key levers look much much better. I cannot wait to see this machine reassembled and of course we all want to see how it types!

  6. notagain

    We're through the looking glass now…
    Can't wait to see the finished product!

  7. Dwayne F.

    Wow, scary! The grease and rust removal makes a huge difference.

  8. Bill M

    Fantastic work Richard! I do not know if I would ever be brave enough to take one of those rare old machines apart. Do you take copious notes and digital photos of the before and during?

  9. J.A.

    Holy Moly! This is fascinating stuff ~ thanks for all the detailed pics.

  10. Ted

    Unbelievable work, my good man! You've gone way past the point where I would be far too unsure of my skill at getting the bits back together. We have faith in your Jedi skill at reassembly (:

  11. Mark

    I know what you mean of course, but it is funny to ask if he takes digital photos ;)

  12. schrijfmachine

    I also have to admit I still don't know how it works, but it looks interesting. I really hope you can get it together again, as I want to see it working. :)

  13. Ping

    What an endeavour! Some of those Sholes parts look like Brutalist sculptures. We're cheering you on!

  14. Clark

    Great posts and documentation. It's hard to see how it works with this much disassembly, but it makes sense to me after seeing the earlier posts. I know you can't wait to actually type on it.

  15. Fer Andrade

    The mechanism is amazing!. The key levers looks like new after evapo rust.


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