Olivetti 21 *NAKED*, and appeal for help from the Typosphere…

Olivetti-Underwood Studio 21 without her clothes on...

It may sound like I’m pushing typewriter porn, but this post is really just an appeal for help. You see, I took the cover off of this Studio 21 to clean a small bit of gunk off of the escapement that was causing the tabulator function to not be able to zippily move from one tab stop to the next, and now I can’t seem to get the cover back on. ):

It came off easily enough. Unlike my Lettera 32, I didn’t even need to remove the carriage knobs – just unscrew the 4 frame screws that held the cover on, move the carriage all the way over to the left, and the cover came off easy as pie. The little bit of interior cleaning I needed to perform finished, I tried to put it back on the same way it came off, and for the life of me, it seems impossible to reverse the process. Patient examination reveals that taking off the platen knobs won’t help, either. It appears that I need to completely remove the carriage in order for the cover to go back on again, then I need to put the carriage back on afterwards.

Unfortunately, an evening of trying this and that proved to me that carriage removal on the Olivetti 21 isn’t quite the easy and obvious process that it is on the Hermes 3000. No obvious levers, and the only two obvious screws, when removed, did not seem to loosen anything, so I put them back in. I’m at a loss, and I now appeal to the smart folks of the Typosphere for help. Does anyone know how to safely remove the carriage on an Olivetti-Underwood Studio 21?

(or alternately, is there a way I’m not grokking of how to put the cover back on without removing the carriage? (:

EDIT: Gah, nevermind, I’m retarded. Turns out I set the margins too far in when I was testing with the cover off, and that kept me from being able to pull the carriage as far over to the left as it needed to be. Duh, problem solved. :P

Additional Edit: In answer to Michael Höhne’s question below, to fix the lethargic tab operation I examined (with the cover off) the linkages that the tab key engages and discovered that when you press the tab key, a part with a small felt-like pad on it comes to rest on the round rod that contains the tab set pins, just under the carriage when viewed from the rear:

the little felt pad that slows down the carriage when you engage the tab key

This pad is probably there to purposefully slow down the carriage, likely to keep you from bending or breaking the tab pins with too forceful an impact. On mine, this pad was a bit gummy, and the bottom of that tab pin rod was slightly grimy. I found that by pushing the lever that holds this pad completely removed the tab sluggishness, so I rubbed the top of the pad with a soft cloth to clean off the gumminess and then cleaned off the bottom of the rod where the pad touches with a cloth dabbed with a drop or 2 of 3-in-one oil. Once i’d gotten rid of the dirt, the tab function once again was responsive and quick. I think you’ll find that doing this also frees up the carriage enough that the “finger slipping off the return lever” problem will be alleviated.

I think the long key throw is probably an Olivetti thing, as both mine have long throws (this 21 and a ’64 Lettera 32). However, although I think the 32 has a bit ‘lighter’ action than the 21, neither seems excessively sluggish to me, so maybe a cleaning will help yours.

As far as the crossed X and E links, I hadn’t noticed that (but it probably is on mine too), and have no idea what design decision went into that. :D

Updated: October 25, 2018 — 11:03 pm


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  1. Rats! The one typewriter question I could answer for someone, and you figured it out before I could help.

    Well, as long as I’m here… I have the same Olivetti Underwood 21 as you with the same lethargic tab operation that you just fixed. What exactly did you clean?

    And two mechanical questions, to be then followed by a puzzle:
    1) On mine the carriage return lever has an unbelievably long throw, so much so that my finger often slides off the lever before I finish returning the carriage. Is this somehow normal? I don’t see anything obviously adjustable in the linkages, cam, etc.
    2) It feels to me that the keys have a long throw, too. This is my only Olivetti, so I can’t judge if that’s just the way they are, OTOH, I don’t expect the throw is adjustable anyway. Their sluggishness I attribute to congestion in the combs that I just haven’t cleaned out yet.

    … and the puzzle?
    In every other typewriter that I have noticed, the key-typebar linkages are neatly arrayed in order, but on this one the X and the E links cross each other (at the point right under the type at rest). Is yours like that? What’s that all about, anyway? Those are not characters whose position changes according to language, like the Y and Z of English and German keyboards (and those aren’t adjacent anyway). Did some engineer screw up? Is there a purpose to it that I don’t recognize? Now are you puzzled, too?

    Thanks for considering my questions,
    == Michael Höhne

  2. Well, Ted, I finally got to apply your fix for the sluggish tab function on my Ollivetti-Underwood 21 and it worked fine. Thanks! Interestingly, the pad on my seems to be cork instead of felt.

    Also uploaded a pic of that crossed linkage I mentioned. I will appreciate it if you get a chance to compare yours before you send it off to Ryan. Extra credit for developing a theory of the cause of it. Doesn’t make sense to me. Check out .

    I could see it if each slug is molded at a specific angle and thus has to go on a specific typebar, and then different keyboards need the keys tops in different places, it might be easier to cross linkages than to mold different slugs, as for qwerty and qwertz, etc. But the X and the E? And anyway for those other keyboards the links are farther apart than adjacent. Hmmm

    Have Fun!
    == Michael

  3. Hey, something stripped the link to the pic on Flicker. It’s at here. We’ll see if this stripping is real.

  4. Yep, mine is exactly the same way – just the X and E on the middle left of the typebasket. No similar crossing on the right side either. Baffling. Maybe Ryan will get curious and strip it down to discover some hidden reason. (:

  5. Embarrassingly straightforward cover removal advice. Thanks Ted!

    1. heh, you would laugh if you knew how many times I tried contorting that cover back on different ways and never even thought about the margin stops. I even took the platen knobs off. :P

  6. This thread is two and a half years old, but I’d like to see if anyone is still there. I recently bought an Olivetti-Underwood 21 on eBay. When it came the line spacer and carriage return lever was not advancing the spaces. It simply clicked on the notched wheel (no clicks on the zero, one click on the 1, two on the 2, and three on the 3–if you know what I’m trying to say) but didn’t roll the platen up for the next typing line. Is this something that I could, maybe fix on my own, or do I need to find a typewriter repair shop?

    1. Well, cheapest fix would be to twist the platen knobs to tighten them (if they are loose). In Olivettis I seem to remember that’s how you opened up the variable linespace function – by loosening one of the knobs. If you tighten it and it fixes it, then you’ve found the issue. Otherwise, try a repair shop if a little bit of poking around the insides isn’t your style. List of repair shops is linked to in the sidebar.

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