underwood FIVE

by | May 17, 2014 | Underwood | 21 comments

The right-hand carriage release lever has an interesting paddle shape. Next to it, notice the vestigial remnant of a little hook/handle found on all Underwood frames, back to the model no. 1.

The ribbon covers slide away to reveal the ribbons:

This ribbon mechanism is essentially the one used on noiseless portables and later Remingtons:

The front panel easily pops off. Note that the bell is now on the right; for decades it was located on the left.

Here you can glimpse two plastic gears. The one deep inside the typewriter is part of the tabulator brake, and is a little cracked. The closer one connects to a ball chain, an unusual thing to find in a typewriter.
Underwood family reunion (older models)


  1. Phil

    Nice, clean looking machine. I don't think I have ever seen this model before. Before WWII, almost every office had an Underwood 5, but after the war, you saw more Royals and Remingtons. Your review of Underwoods through the years, raises one nagging question. Over on the left, above the top left key, there was a small, nickle plated shaft, with a slighly rounded face, but no i.d. which protruded from the vertical panel behind the keys. Was this a margin release? I grew up on an old (1930?) No.5 and remember this button, but not what it did. I know it moved less than 1/4" and took very little effort.

  2. Ton S.

    Cool donation, how very generous of Gerald.

  3. Richard P

    It has something to do with the margin, but I forget which one, and I think it often doesn't work right. I think it's a margin release that's supposed to give you an extra few spaces after the right margin.

  4. Bill M

    Very nice donation. I am a bit suprised at the plastic gears for such a hefty looking machine. If plastic did not dry and crack it would be fine, but I find so many nice things (not typewriters generally) that are unuseable only because of a cracked plastic gear. Powdered metal is nearly as bad too.

  5. gee

    Just wanted to add this cost me $5.00 (well $4.95)… I just like the ideal of a Underwood 5 for 5.

  6. Richard P

    You are a master of finding typewriters for less than the cost of a ribbon! Thanks again.

  7. Rob Bowker

    That's a generous gift and I hope it goes down well at WordPlay. Just guessing, the shipping was more than the machine's price, right?

  8. gee

    I just look at shipping as my way of keeping the U.S. Post office solvent… my father worked for the U.S. Postal Service 42 years and shipping a typewriter is just giving back.

  9. Bryan

    What a great donation!

  10. Scott K

    I've seen that ball chain in underwoods before. Sadly the plastic mount is likely to be increasingly fragile. I'd keep it away from direct sun as much as you could.

  11. Scott K

    And Gee is such a great guy!

  12. Anonymous

    How about that. I'm going to be featuring my Touchmaster Five in tomorrow's typecast! Haha. One thing I can't figure out is the grey lever on the left side of the keyboard. Is that how you take off the front panel?

  13. Richard P

    It's the key tension adjuster.

    To remove the front panel, pull up from the front and then wiggle a bit; it will come out pretty easily.

  14. Typewriter King

    The chain on the platic gear is on a shaft that is driven by something even stranger: The escapement wheel! This is the only make of typewriter I have ever seen designed like that–first used on the Golden Touch machines in 1958, Underwood used it successfully until Olivetti built the last Underwood sometime in the 1960s.

  15. John Schop

    Hi! I just found one of these next to a dumpster, in pretty good condition. I'm trying to date it, but can't find the serial number. Do you know where it's located?

  16. Richard P

    Hi, take a look at the seventh photo of the typewriter in this blog post and you'll see the serial number near the bottom of the photo. I hope it's in the same location on your machine.

  17. John Schop

    Thanks! Got it, it's a 1962!

  18. paola

    Hi there! My typewriter has 8 digits in the serial number is this normal? I would like to know what date it is. By the way it is an Underwood touch master 5

  19. Mary-opal Owen

    Hi:) I’m sitting in front of my touchmaster five, holding a draw band in my hand. My curious young children got to this thing while I was cooking dinner. I have no idea where this thing is supposed to connect. I am a complete newbie to typewriters. I found it at Goodwill and brought it home to help my preschooler learn her letters. Now, I’ve caught the bug, and I want to get it working properly. Can anyone help me figure out how to reattach the draw band? It’s intact still.

  20. Richard P

    Hi! On the bottom of the right end of the carriage, there is a wide toothed strip of metal. About an inch from the end, there's a small protrusion; one end of the drawband hooks onto it. Remove the back panel of the typewriter by pulling the top of the panel straight back. The other end of the drawband hooks onto a protrusion on the mainspring (you have to turn the end of the drawband 90º to get it onto the protrusion). Now tighten the spring: loosen a pawl that prevents the motion of a gear-like screw in the center of the mainspring (visible as you're looking at the spring from the back); now use a screwdriver to turn that screw and tighten the spring enough that it will pull the carriage all the way across.

    Hope this helps!


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