Subligneous adventures

by | Sep 10, 2013 | Underwood, WordPlay | 16 comments

In my capacity as WordPlay’s “typewriter guy,” I recently restored an Underwood no. 5 for a Cincinnati police detective.

I thought it would be fun to take some pictures when her machine was in a 50% restored stage, so you could see the difference that elbow grease makes. If you want to see details, click to enlarge. If you are curious about techniques, ask away.

And here is the finished typewriter. Amazingly, its only mechanical problem was a failure to lift the ribbon sufficiently in the red position.

Now I’m ready to tackle the next Underwood. A customer has already said she wants it as soon as it’s restored. I’m starting to get very familiar with these guys. Removing the carriage for the cleaning routine is a one-minute job for me now …

Yep, nothing about an Underwood can surprise me anymore, I’ve seen it a——


It’s a mud wasps’ nest, cozily ensconced between the type levers. It was almost a shame to destroy it.

Moral: there’s always a surprise around the next corner in the world of typewriters!


  1. Ton S.

    I could tell that you are enjoying your job as WordPlay's typewriter doctor, happy for you.

    What a dramatic difference between the Before and After pics of the Underwood, congratulations. I've unearthed some really surprising stuff from typewriters myself but mud wasps' nest??? Whoa!

  2. Anonymous

    The before and after photos are amazing. How much time did it take to clean up that first machine? I see from the background that those cabinet drawers are already being put to use. At least for the time that the 2nd typewriter wasn't in use, it provided a safe haven for a few wasps! But it'll be good when it's cleaned up and used for the purposes for which it was built.

  3. Richard P

    It took about 6 hours.

    The drawer in the background does look a lot like the ones in my new cabinets, but I actually bought it as a separate item a couple of years ago.

    Thanks for commenting!

  4. notagain

    That's really cool. Doubly so because I'm stuck on one that briefly worked and now the key presses don't work the escapement – or rather it's stuck open? The piece in back is tilted.

  5. Robert Messenger

    Great job! On my way to the WordPlay Typewriter Service, can't wait.

  6. Scott K

    Nice work. I found a wasp's nest in a telephone that I was working on a little while back.

  7. Rob Bowker

    That lazy susan is a good idea – especially for a standard. All the fun of fixing and cleaning without any of the storage issues – perfect.

  8. Piotr Trumpiel

    Yet another amazing restoration. Impressive!

  9. Anonymous

    Nice to see a 50/50 picture. I tried to do that once, but I cannot clean that disciplined (yet).

    And a mud wasps nest! Amazing!

  10. Ted

    Fantastic job! I get the feeling that the old U5's get to be really comfortable to work with once you've taken a couple apart and put 'em back together again. The wasp nest must have been a surprise! :D

  11. Cameron

    Great restoration, Richard! Removing the carriage in only one minute is quite impressive.

    Your wasp nest reminds me of my Royal P, when I first opened the case, each corner of the lid was festooned with wasp nests. The typewriter had been given to me at the tiny town post office by a local resident, and I stupidly tried prying the old nests out right there at the counter. POW! One of them exploded all over the counter AND onto the floor.

    The postmaster brought out her broom and dustpan and said, "Thanks for making me WORK, Cameron!" So embarrassing.

  12. rn

    Nothing stops an Underwood 5.

    I've had some concerns about the bell ring/line stop mechanism on my 1917 Unerwood 5. It's a bit sluggish. Any advice?

  13. shordzi

    50/50 hurray! Just my type of routine.

  14. Unknown

    Richard what a great job! I wish my 1924 model could look that good!

  15. Coolkayaker1

    Impressive restoration, but one question lingers: did the detective not have his own supply of "elbow grease"?


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