Come on, ring those bells…

underwood-bell1-2Drago’s margin bell is finally working 100% again (probably for the first time in decades, actually) – after examining every millimeter of the rather Rube Goldbergish margin bell system of my Underwood #5 and finding nothing specifically faulty. The problem in the end was probably one of design, as the flippy arm (#20 in illustration above) that powers the bell hammer is operated mainly by gravity to come back down and ring the bell after having been flipped by arm #24.

u5-bellIn Drago, it appeared that the gravity-assisted flippy action of lever #20 just wasn’t aggressive enough to cause the bell hammer to bounce hard enough against the bell to ring it clearly. My solution? Add a bit of spring-powered assist. Luckily, there’s a stopper bar attached to lever #20 about an inch ahead of the pivot point that makes for a handy mount point for a spring.

DSC01308The other end of the spring is mounted to bar #28. Choosing which spring to use is trial and error – too strong, and it causes the line lock to engage early (which should clue you into the baroque sensitivities of the entire margin bell/line lock system). This thin, loose-coil spring worked wonderfully to add just enough oomph to the return stroke of the bell hammer.

Yeah, I admit that the phrase "ring those bells" immediately reminds me of this Norwegian hottie from the late 70's...

Yeah, I admit that the phrase “ring those bells” immediately reminds me of this Norwegian hottie from the late 70’s…

Updated: November 2, 2015 — 10:42 am


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  1. I was thinking of “Ring My Bell” by Anita Ward.

    Love the GIF-ish exploded view of the bell mechanism. Now to add sound effects and you’d have a true multimedia experience.

    I was thinking about typewriter bells just yesterday, as I was fiddling with my Webster-Brother portable. It’s funny, looking back on it from today – an entire mechanism just to make a simple tone.

  2. A typewriter’s bell is such an important part of the machine for me. If it doesn’t ring, I feel robbed of an integral part of the experience. I’m glad you got the Underwood’s bell fixed.

    Your animated .gif is mesmerizing. I wish all typewriter manuals had animated .gifs.

    I was thinking of Anita Ward as well. I suppose that as a man of the cloth, you lean toward more wholesome fare like Evie rather than disco.

  3. The best “bell-ringing” song is “Birmingham School of Business School” by The Fall (the intro at least) :)

  4. The first typewriter I got to play with was an Underwood 5. I remember we could wiggle the left margin set mechanism (might have been the right), and it would ring the bell. Just a short up and down motion is all it took. As I recall, the left margin stop controlled the right margin, and the right margin stop controlled the left margin.

  5. I got a Royaluxe 450 and the bell does not work. So I opened the back cover and I noticed the part that hits the bell is actually missing. The thing is that I cannot find an image of how it looks like on the internet. So I have to figure out the dimensions and shape of it to make the bell work again. Obviously, the mechanism is way different than what is presented here. I had a portable Underwood, and that one is more straightforward when it comes to the bell mechanism.

  6. Thanks for the article. This is genius! I’m having an issue with the bell on mine right now and this gives me some places to look. Most appreciated.

  7. Me too. When I attacked the old #5 again I found the remains of a rubber band around the drop bar, which reminded me that the same idea had made its way to my head, flitting like a furtive night gaunt. But it didn’t stay long because I don’t remember if I even got things to work for a minute with this jury-rigging — this time I went with the old standby: the clapper is resting on the bell after the strike and muting it. By bending the stem just enough to leave a gap after the strike I was able to raise the volume just enough that a mindful typist would just be able to detect it about the din, on most lines. I never could find the little ramp we know must be there which twists the bar with raises the link to drop the clapper — I’ve no doubt left out five steps. My third idea was somehow to build this ramp up so the bar raised further before it dropped.

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