Gasp! Has Richard P become a keychopper??
No, not exactly—just a keyswapper.
The machine on the right is a hopeless ca. 1930 Underwood portable parts machine. On the left is my Underwood Electric (click the "Underwood Electric" tag at the end of this post to see previous posts about it). The electric came with depressingly unattractive gray plastic keys, and part of my restoration/modification project is to give it classic keys with glass tops and chrome rings.
The classic Underwood keys fit snugly on this '50s electric.
The underside of each is a "stem" that tapers down to a narrow slot that grips the key lever.
How tight does it grip? Extremely. But I developed a removal technique that works most of the time:
Grasp the lever tightly with one pliers, just under the key:
Then use another pliers to pry off the key. Don't grip the key, but simply use the pliers as leverage. I am using a pliers with a curved tip that is ideal for this purpose:
Does this always work? No. In some cases the key levers snapped before the keys popped off. Then it's very difficult to remove the keys. I managed to get two of the ones below separated from the lever stubs, but others will have to be taken to the physics shop on campus where I'll use a vise to grip the stubs while I pry off the keys (I hope).
My hands are sore and I have uttered many four-letter words, but I think this will all be worthwhile.