Get an Old Typewriter to Work Again

I recently purchased a typewriter for 35$ at a local auction. I knew absolutely nothing about typewriters before this and the only thing I could be sure of is that it was old. The front plate had fading lettering that said “Remington Noiseless” and says “Rebuilt at Remington Noiseless Factory” on the back. Most typewriters can be dated by their serial numbers. As you can see, this typewriter’s serial number reads “XR210135”. All Remington typewriters with serial numbers beginning with “XR” can be dated to 1934 beginning with number XR200001. I found this information here: Typewriter Database

Most of the keys stuck when I pressed them down or didn’t return after being pressed. However, this is normal for typewriters that haven’t been used for a long time. If your typewriter is in good condition, I do not recommend taking it apart. These machines were built to last, and most of the inner mechanics will most likely be intact.

I began by cleaning off the decades of dust and grime by using a brake cleaner. The brake cleaner worked well for this purpose because it removed old grime without leaving a residue while evaporating quickly, simply leaving the mechanics clean. I avoided spraying the cleaner into the upper platen area and directed it to the typekeys and inner mechanics.

After thoroughly cleaning, I still found that the typekeys were sticky and slow to return to their resting position. At this point, I considered using a lubricant. After some research, I found that whether or not to use a lubricant on depends on the typewriter. It turns out that most portable machines wont require ANY lubricant at all. Typewriter aficionados simply recommend pressing the keys multiple times to loosen them up. I found that this method worked for most of the keys. However, there were still a few that were terribly stuck. I thus decided that a lubricant was needed. I read several blogs that recommended using WD-40 to loosen up the keys. However, it turns out that WD-40 isn’t actually a good lubricant. The keys may work well initially, but it evaporates quickly, leaving a sticky residue that welcomes dust and will cause the keys and typebars to to stick again.  I resolved to purchase a lubricant similar to sewing machine oil since the mechanics are similer to typewriters. I used a few drops of 3-IN-1 (a little goes a long way) and after repeatedly pressing the keys, it was typing like new again.


What’s your experience with older typewriters? Leave a comment below!




One thought on “Get an Old Typewriter to Work Again

  1. Howdy from Wyoming! Found your blog via the tag “typewriter” on WP, which happens to one that’s entering in my reader app’s watchlist.

    I run a Smith Corona Silent of mid-20th century vintage here. Also have a Remington Rand of similar age. Picked them up for a few bucks at local auctions. The missus has a Galaxie II she uses on occasion.

    If you haven’t yet read Richard Polt’s book Typewriter Revolution, I highly recommend it.


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