Tuesday, September 23, 2014

A quiz from the operating room

I took great satisfaction tonight in fixing a Royal Quiet De Luxe whose owner brought it all the way from Toledo to Cincinnati for medical attention. It wasn't easy to remove the faulty part and install a good one from my parts machine, but after some delicate manipulation, the Royal was working again.

Here's your technical quiz

What are these parts?
Which is the good one, and which is the bad one? 
And what problem did the typewriter have?

I'll confirm the answers in the comments section in about 24 hours.


  1. I'll guess that the bottom part is the replacement, as evidenced by the sharp protrusion on the right, that appears to be worn off on the top part. As to its function, my only guess is the shift lock mechanism, but that's a total SWAG.

  2. My QDL is more modern, so that exact part does not appear. I'd go with a guess: could it be the escapement that stops the carriage advance after each pressed key? And I'd also go with the bottom part being the replacement. This sharp tooth could be the one that connects with the pointy gear.

  3. The top one is shot. I can see that the piece off the end of the loose escapement dog on the far right hand side is missing. The bottom one would have to be the replacement, as it seems to have retained the several millimetres of metal that has gone missing. That said, there seems to be a significant change in the structure of the dog which appears concealed behind the fixed dog - which leads me to believe that there has been some distortion, possibly through high impact.

  4. They look like the space mechanism. I'm guessing that the top one is the bad one; the spring looks awful. Either the typewriter was skipping spaces, or not spacing at all.

  5. Congrats on the expert repair work! (:

  6. Wow, Richard. For those that don't know, this is a repair at the heart of the typewriter, it doesn't get much harder than this.

    These are the escapement pawl mechanism. The tooth from the pawl is broken off of the top specimen. This tooth engages with the escapement "star wheel" that is part of the escapement clockwork. This mechanism both stops the carriage from moving freely, and also provides the single-spacing/forward motion of the carriage when the space bar is pressed or any of the keys is depressed.
    The broken pawl tooth would result in a freely "flying" carriage, because the escapement would be functionally disabled by the broken part.

    Major kudos on the repair. I'd like to know your tips for restoring the carriage pinions & bearings!! I have a QDL that I did not quite restore fully, and one of the bearings will pop out if the carriage moves all the way to the right.

  7. Haha, excellent picture on top! That's what I call taking the guts out. For the technical part, w.o. from my side.

  8. Brian is right. I've tried digging into the spot where this part is on other Royals, and I've essentially pit it in the waste of time basket. The escapement on the royal portables is probably the hardest thing to get to.


  9. OK, good thinking, folks.

    Yes, these are escapements (more specifically called escapement plates or rockers), and the rocker at the top of the photo is missing the tip of its loose dog. As Brian says, the effect was that, with nothing to stop the turning of the starwheel, the carriage would freely fly to the left.

    In order to remove the rocker, you need to remove the back panel of the typewriter and then loosen one of the screws (escapement plate pivot screws) on which the rocker pivots, or rocks. Unhook the longer spring, and the rocker is then loose and can be extracted from the typewriter. I used a dental pick (very handy tool) in order to pull it out.

    Getting a good rocker into the typewriter is a matter of doing these things in reverse. It's tough to manipulate it into place, but the dental pick was again helpful, as was a spring hook.

    I am not "mechanically inclined"—I was never the kind of kid who wanted to take alarm clocks apart—so if I can learn this stuff, anyone can.

    Brian, I don't have any great tips for the carriage. I once removed the carriage on a Signet — essentially a stripped-down version of this same machine — and getting it back on, with the ball bearings in the right place, was a bit of a nightmare. Lots of trial and error.

    For registered Typewriter Hunters, I recommend D. E. Fox's "Typewriter Maintenance and Repair" on The Typewriter Database Library. This is a rare book from 1950; I scanned the Library of Congress's copy. It includes tips on various standards and portables, including Royal portables. Not always the easiest book to interpret, but it's better than nothing.


  10. Chances are, the tip of the escapement pawl (dog) was broken by a sudden blow to the carriage. That's why it's so imperative to release the escapement when shipping a typewriter.

    Good job!