Off the workbench: 1959 Olivetti Lettera 22

Leoben inspects the newly rebuilt Lettera 22 for fit & finish before browsing the new 100th Issue of ETCetera Magazine...

Contrary to what I originally thought when I got it with the parts L22, this case is in pretty good condition. The scary-looking water corrosion on the zippers cleaned up with PB Blaster rubbed sparingly on them, and the leather looks and feels more supple after getting some moisturizer. The zippers now work, and the whole case cleaned up rather nicely.

The screws that hold a Lettera 22 body casing onto its frame are only threaded a little past halfway up the screw. This means that you need fresh rubber gaskets in the mounting holes to make sure the case doesn't rattle around on the frame with the screws tightened down...

Like just about any L22, the original rubber bushings were flattened, rock hard and crumbling. I despaired of finding a match, but Ace Hardware had exactly what I needed. It's a bugger to stuff those bushings in the mounting holes (especially the front ones), but be persistent and forceful and it'll work. The casing fits like a silk glove now.

LPS 1, Bills magic wand for removing hardened White-Out from clear plastic card guides without fogging or damaging the guides. He also uses it in many situations that I use PB Blaster. Seems to be a very useful product, but the plastic cleaning feature is what makes me recommend it to the Typosphere. Stuffs pricey, tho. $18 a can at Ace. Note that there are other formulations: LPS 2, 3 and maybe 4, but it's LPS 1 that you want for plastic work.

Updated: December 23, 2012 — 1:42 pm


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  1. Good work. I never heard of LPS 1 before. Hope you and Leoben enjoy the mag!

    1. We are! Thank you very much! (:

  2. I had that bushing problem with mine as well, but only on the early L22 with round keys, not the later one. Nice fix, and great cat, looks like one of mine.

  3. I inherited a Lettera 22, all ok except carriage won’t stay static for typing, it rolls back until the bell dings and won’t hold it’s position. Can I do anything about this myself or does it need to go to repairer?

    1. I have a Lettera 32 that had that exact same problem, which was caused by the escapement pawl being slightly sticky. If you can get the bottom cover off of your L22 and turn it over, underneath the carriage directly in the rear center of the machine is a toothed gear and pawl which you can hit sparingly with a little spray LPS1 or PB Blaster (do not use WD-40 or 3-in-1 oil), which will free up that pawl and cause the carriage to work right again. It’s fairly easy to get at, but you have to get the bottom cover off to get at it.

      If you’re comfortable with that level of disassembly, you can fix it yourself (:

      1. Thanks for your help, we do have a typewriter mechanic here in the Channel Isles but I can’t seem to get hold of him, so I’ll give a try myself! I might have to get back to you if bits fly out of it..

  4. This was exactly what I needed to know to fix my Lettera 22. The type bars hit the cover, and the free turning of the ribbon spools was compromised – my hunch was that the whole cover had sagged down over the innards, and your article confirmed that there should be bushings at the fixation points. In my case these were completely – um – melted, like bits of old liquorice. Now it works better than ever!

    1. Excellent! Glad to hear another one is back in action – good work (:

  5. I just found my lettera 22 after a while in the shed, tried to give it a good clean but when i reassembled it, the keys kept stopping half way and would not make it all the way to the ribbon to make an inprint. Any ideas whats happened or what i might have done? it was fully functional before i cleaned it.

    1. Here’s four possibilities:

      1) carriage lock is engaged.
      2) linespace selector is set at “0”.
      3) ribbon vibrator is hanging up on something.
      4) ribbon reverse mechanism is stuck halfway through it’s switch from one direction to the other.

      good luck! (:

      1. Thanks for the quick reply man.

        1) carriage lock doesn’t seem to be on, as i can move it freely and it also moves if i manually push the typebars the rest of the way to the ribbon vibrator.

        2) linespace selector isn’t on 0.

        3) Ribbon Vibrator works fine when i push keys.

        4) i changed directions and made sure the ribbon changer was all the way to one side in both directions.

        But still nothing. Anything else off the top of your head?
        Thanks heaps already.

        1. I’m afraid that’s as far as I can diagnose without handling the machine. Beyond that it’s a matter of working the mechanics by hand and following the action by eye to find what’s causing the binding. Keep at it, with mechanical typewriters it’s always just a case of patient observation of the workings in action that finds the trouble.

  6. What size/type of rubber gaskets did you buy to replace the broken down ones?

    1. don’t know. Just looked for ones that would fit.

  7. I own a Lettera 22 made for the German market with square grey keys. Like with Ann’s Lettera, the carriage doesn’t stay fixed until I strike a key. I’ve removed the back cover to peek inside and everything looks fine, but I’m not a typewriter mechanic. Any suggestions?

  8. Just found a Lettera 12 at a yard sale and it has the same symptoms : carriage won’t stay static for typing, it rolls back until the bell dings and won’t hold it’s position… unless I hit and hold one key, but when I release it, the carriage will roll back to the left… Sometimes it will stay still, somewhere in the middle but but won’t move when typing. I couldn’t find any detailed info about the Lettera 12 on the web.

  9. Ok, quick update : I removed the bottom plate on my Lettera 12 and started tweaking and tickling every moving part I could find and reach with my screwdriver… until I found the right one!
    It’s a rather large metal piece that looks kinda like a pawl, on the left side (when facing the Lettera’s bottom). I moved it and the carriage – which eventually got stuck during my previous tests – started moving along gently with the space bar. So my Lettera is now almost fully functional (Caps lock release is pretty slow and might need some lube… Ribbon cartridge keeps popping out every four or five words, which is pretty annoying…)

    1. Nice! Glad to hear you’ve got it fixed. Don’t know much about the Lettera 12 other than it uses a funky ribbon cartridge. (:

  10. Hi Thanks for tips. Just fixing up a salmon pink Letter 22, made in Glasgow circa 1960 (round keys, UK set). Fixed bushings with some rubber washers, stopped the bars hitting the cover. Mostly fine, just need to get a spot of oil on the main carriage escapement (if I can work out how to get to it) which is intermittently sticky. Some letters a little high, but not horribly so. Best regards from London.

  11. For the past few weeks, I’ve been desperately looking for a manual typewriter to replace my now missing SCM Galaxy 12, and so purchased a Lettera 22 off eBay. Needs some work (missing the cover, the bottom plate screws are absent, need to work on the carriage return), but it is now clean and the keys are freely moving again.
    Any idea on what size screws those are on the underside?
    Thanks for the tips,
    – Robert

    1. did you ever figure this out? I’ also missing one of the bottom plate screws on my lettera 22

  12. I’ve just bought a Lettera 22 on ebay. All good except the character spacing is out. It inconsistently puts spaces between letters and sometimes shadows letters?
    Any help greatly received!

  13. Getting grommets in snug fittings is eased by using soap.

  14. I just got a square-keyed Lettera 22 in the mail a guy just jammed into a priority box it would barely fit in. Of course, it was beaten to death, paint rubbed off corners and so forth. The front of the frame around the keys was bent 3/8 inch to the left, and the carriage won’t catch to type after returning. I’ll check into the pawl, but also there was a piece of material about an inch by four that fell out of the carriage area. It is brown felt on one side, looks to be molded to something round like the roller (the short way) on the back side, like it may have been glued. Any idea what that piece is and its purpose and installed location?

    1. I don’t have an L22 handy right now, but if you’re a Typewriter Hunter level member of the Typewriter Database, there’s a Lettera 22 service manual in the file area.

    2. It’s sound insulation from under the platen deck.

  15. Hi, thank you for your post. I was wondering it you would be Ble to give me some advice. I have a olivetti lettera 22 but the carriage is jammed. The carriage lock lever is in unlocked position and the set margin tabs are located on the opposite ends of the carriage. The draw string for the carrrage is also intact.
    I am not able to find any advice on what to do but I dont want to give up on this typewritter.
    please please help.
    Thank you

    1. Sounds like one or two of the little pins in the tabulator rack that are set and cleared by the tabsetter got knocked out farther than they’re supposed to be. That will freeze the carriage solid. Check the tabset pins in the rack behind the carriage and make sure they’re all properly inset and some aren’t way stuck out and impeding travel.

  16. Eduardo Citrinblum

    Hi there,

    I’m in a similar situation and had a quick question. My L22 is not up and running smoothly except for a missing lock lever, which is not that important. But the problem I have is that the rubber feet don’t hold the machine even with a rubber and felt pad underneath. It’s too light and the feet don’t have any friction left in them. I’m unable to find any reference online for replacement options for the feet on an old 22. Any tips?

    Thanks in advance!
    Eduardo, Los Angeles

    1. hand-carve some from a block of rubber? (:

  17. I believe the spring behind the left platen know (clutch side) is off or broken. But I don’t know how to get the knob off. It loosens by unscrewing, but still doesn’t come off. Anyone done this?

  18. I have a near-mint Lettera 22 with two issues:

    (1) It’s impossible to remove the ribbon cover from the machine using the method in the instructions – pulling from the front centre of the ribbon cover. It refuses to budge more than a couple of millimetres. I don’t want to put too much strain on the cover as it’s an aluminium casting and it could snap. I have a Lettera 32 with a v similar cover mechanism that releases easily.

    (2). This is the same issue that other people have described. The carriage won’t stay static for typing when you use the carriage return. It travels back to the end position until the bell dings. Sometimes if a key is depressed it arrests the carriage travel and then the machine types perfectly …. until the next carriage return.

    Any help you can give would be much appreciated!

    1. 1) gotta try harder or look for what’s obstructing it.
      2) when the carriage is extended, reach under the carriage and find a toothed rack under there, fiddle with that until it unjams. if it’s not that, then you have a problem with the escapement, which you’ll need to diagnose and fix internally.

      1. Both issues sorted now and typing perfectly so many thanks for the advice. The ribbon cover prob was to do with the 2 small springs that locate it. Don’t think the ribbon cover had ever been removed and the springs were super-tight. I stretched them slightly and now the ribbon cover locates securely but you don’t have to be a gorilla to remove it.

  19. Hello Sir;

    Felicitations and Salutations One and All:

    Where can I find a carriage main spring for a Lettera 32 and a Sears Courier (a Lettera 22, maybe).

    Thank you, and thank you for your website,


    1. Try Facebook’s Antique Typewriter Maintenance Group.

  20. Please upgrade my account to hunter status.

    Account name: NeilBallantyne

    Thank you.

    1. Welcome Typewriter Hunter! (:

  21. Excellent advice/web site for all of us typewriter lovers! Can I ask a question?
    I have a Lettera 22 that was working fine. Put it away for a couple of weeks and now the ribbon advance (left side) isn!t working
    like it should. Right side pulls and releases as it shoudl when the grommet trips it.. Left side rewinds fine but when the “fork” is positioned to let “takeup setting” the he ribbon itself trips the reverse back ad forth before the grommet gets there. Without a ribbon, both sides seem fine in forward and reverse modes. HELP! Any advice greatly appreciated, and keep up the much appreciated work!

    1. Sounds like the ribbon drive needs some cleaning. If it’s gummed up, the tension on the ribbon will be so high it’ll trip the reverse.

  22. Hi, I have an Olivetti Lettera 22, that seems to have an issue. Whenever I type, the carriage wil stop moving midway, and when I try to type to advance the carriage, it is futile. When pressing the carriage release, it gets almost stuck near the middle, and I have to except force to get it to move.

    Any advice e would be appreciated.

    1. check that the tab pins haven’t come loose and backed out to the point that they interfere with the carriage. That’s something that happens a lot.

      1. No pins seem to have come loose, it seems to be an issue with this part:

        1. I think that’s on an eccentric adjustment, which you can adjust. Gotta take the shell off.

  23. No pins seem to have come loose, it seems to be an issue with this part:

  24. How would I go about doing an eccentric adjustment?

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