internet, macgyver, portable typewriters, skywriter, smith-corona, typosphere, typwwriter

How Modern Knitters Fix Old Tech

So I finally sat down with the steampunk-typewriter-to-be over the weekend. Can you believe, I’d actually forgotten about it? I couldn’t even remember what kind it was, other than a brown portable with green keys. Yeah, that’s really helpful when looking up information. It doesn’t help that nowhere on the machine or the case is the model name.

It’s a Skywriter, just for the record. From 1951, going by the serial number.

It’s mostly metal, with a plastic cover plate. This was sent to me by a very kind typospherian whose name I tragically cannot remember at the moment because when I deleted my Yahoo account, I also deleted all of his emails.

Yes. All of them.

Yes, I did sift through my inbox to see if there was anything important. I went back a couple of months, but this exchange took place in April and May, and it didn’t occur to me that I should go through EVERYTHING, and that older emails might still be relevant.

Why am I going on about this? Well, you see, the typewriter had a little snaffu in shipping. A couple things got bent, and a few snapped–namely the draw band. At first, it looked like the carriage was completely out, wouldn’t move at all and one piece was loose and crooked.

Eventually, the carriage started moving again. I was able to wriggle the loose piece back into place.

…And then the typewriter sat in it’s case in a corner of the living room for about three months.

When I finally got the urge to work on it, I sat down, opened the case, and had an “Oh, s$^&@” moment.

So I went to Twitter.

:headdesk: Just realized when I deleted my yahoo account, I also deleted the repair instructions for the skywriter.

 Damn, I love social media. Within minutes, @mpclemens and @anabstar had swooped in to the rescue.

Which is how I found myself replacing a draw band at midnight via tweet.

I had to improvise a little. And L.C. Smith and better be glad he’s dead because if he’d been around that evening I would have choked him to death with my broken draw band. Do you know how hard those things are to replace?

Somewhere in there, there is a tiny hole. It is not visible, however, even when I tightened the spring wheel as tight as I possibly could. Eventually, though, the old draw band could be removed.

This was followed quickly by an “Oh, shit,” moment when I realized that I’d removed the old draw band without having a replacement handy. Add to that the fact that pulling on the draw band was 75% of what was keeping the spring wheel in place, and my fingers were going numb from fighting the spring, and I quickly managed to stuff it back it by some stroke of luck.

Since I’d sat down to work on this on a whim, the extent of my preparation was to gather up some screwdrivers and a pair of tweezers. Since I’d forgotten about the broken draw band, I hadn’t bought any hemp or other replacement material in advance. But, I’d been wondering for a while about the merits of…alternative draw band materials. Would they work? Would they hold up? I’m also considering this for my spinning wheel, since the elastic band it came with keeps overstretching, and the hemp bands keep wearing out.

This is a ball of crochet cotton:

This is a tea light (yes, I know. Beeswax is better, but we didn’t have any and it was midnight. I’m going to pick some up this week, but I’m impatient).

This is about 14″ of slip knot chain coated in wax. It has a little bit of stretch and flexibility, and is roughly the same diameter as the original hemp band.\:

I won’t tell you what I said while I was rewinding the spring wheel and trying to get the end of the chain in there. It involved German, French, and Japanese, and none of it is printable here.

Eventually, I laid the knotted end over the diamond shaped opening pictured above, and jammed it in there with the tip of a flat head screwdriver. I’m pretty sure that isn’t the recommended method, but it worked.

At the other end, I had a little bit of the string before it started the chain. I was able to use that to thread through the hook at the other end and attach the draw band.

In the end, I was able to get it working again….sort of. I think I threaded the draw band through (under? around?) the carriage wrong because it stops about halfway across the page and I suspect that the drawband isn’t supposed to be visible out the back end of the machine. I suspect that it’s getting caught on the bell, and that is preventing further movement, but I haven’t finageled a tool yet that will fit in the tight space where I think it’s supposed to go. All of my wire is either too thick to fit there, or too thin to hold it’s shape, and it’s so close in there that I can’t thread whatever tool I try to use and see where it’s going at the same time.

I will fight with try fixing it again later this week.

4 thoughts on “How Modern Knitters Fix Old Tech”

  1. Skywriter? That sounds like Bill. Great bloke Bill. He's sent me parts to here in AustraliaNice work on the Yarn repair by the way. Yarn! Damn. I should show Ms Jane this. She always loves a good bit of yarn work.


  2. When I bought my Remington 5, I went through the same process, except I used some heavy, pre-waxed thread I had on hand from stitching leather. A few years of modest use later, and it still shows no signs of wear. So, yeah, a strong yarn with a bit of lubricative wax might work wonders for years.As for threading it in, try this: Get a bamboo skewer (a bundle of 'em is pretty cheap at Wal-Mart) and split the end with a razor blade to make a fork. Catch the end of your cord in that, and feed it straight in from the direction you want it to run. I've been replacing draw cords in a matter of minutes, that way.


  3. Congratulations on the yard draw band. Some sewing materials are quite strong.Attaching the draw band is not as difficult as it is confusing by the way S-C attaches it to the drum. I generally wind more than needed and then when it is threaded through the machine and the eyelet on the carriage I pull it to a good tension and tie it off and give it a test. There is usually enough left in case I need to pull more for more tension. I do hope you did it with the machine out of the housing or the task is very daunting.If you do not have a sufficient wire and have a thin crochet hook — use that. I have done that. It is hard to explain via print how the string get threaded through the carriage. I will try to get a detailed photo for you over the week end. MTCoalhopper's suggestion is good also. I think I paid 97 cents for a pack of those skewers for a bar b que a few weeks ago.I also have many of my repair photos on Photobucket, Flickr and Opera. There are different ones on different sites.


  4. The only plastic cover should be the logo that hides the paper propping up thingies (See I lack the technical jargon to use the correct names) on the rear top of the paper tray.


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