Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Underwood 3 Bank: A Guide to Tuning (Pt.1)

The Underwood 3 Bank: A Guide to Tuning (Pt.1)

The Underwood 3 Bank, as it rolled off of the assembly line of the Underwood Typewriter Factory, was a beautiful machine. Assembled by hand, by skilled professionals who spent every waking moment ensuring these machines were precise and perfectly functional in every way. They tirelessly worked to bring a conglomeration of parts given to them in boxes and buckets into what can only be described as a work of art.
And then somewhere, sometime after it left their loving care, after these proud technicians brushed a tear off of their weary cheeks as they waved goodbye to the cartloads of boxed up gems, these machines were delivered into the hands of those for whom they were designed for.
And these people were not the professional or caring technicians that the Underwood 3 Bank was accustomed to. And so, over these great many years, the long decades of use and neglect, many of these machines have degraded. Some, hardly. Kept in their case since purchase, their paint keeps its lust and sheen, as its keys snap to action at the slightest press. But others, brought out of attics for children to play upon, left in the rain, and just generally mishandled, have lost some of their abilities. Lost, but not forgotten.
And so here a guide to help the initiate Underwood 3 Bank owner understand his machine, and some of its potential issues.
But take note: You make these corrections at your own peril. For by reading this, you have already acknowledged that you will not sue me for anything that could happen due to your following these instructions.
So Ha. And now, we begin.

Note: Always keep tabs of where you took parts from, and where you store them if you don't immediately put them back on the machine. Always take the precaution of separating and describing each part in detail on a notepad or such, and taking photographs so that in the event you forget where the piece went, you are in the clear.

Escapement Timing

I am quite sure there is a better term for this out there. I simply cannot remember it. But take note: If your machine does not, at the full press of the key, advance its carriage and you have already ensured that the carriage string is intact and has tension upon it via the clockwork motor, then this may be your problem, and it is easily rectifiable. If you simply desire to tune your machine to the point of almost perfect speed typing, then this too is where to look on this amazing machine. Push your carriage as far to the right as you can (within reason. Don't push it so hard it comes off the machine somehow. That would be impressive though.)
This will give you this view into the inner workings of the machine:

To the direct right of the clockwork motor (the circular device with the cord upon it for those of you who have never dealt with a typewriter before), you will find the escapement timing mechanism, as i now call it. Press a key, and release the key to notice how it functions. Now that you know where it is, and how it functions, turn to the back of the machine to tune it.
The screw you are looking for is the one almost dead center of the image. Ever so slightly hidden, and just to the right of the clockwork motors catching wheel (Which is also probably called something else). As you use the first picture as reference point for doing the change, slowly turn the screw either direction, to your desired point. Tightening it will make the machine activate the escapement earlier on the push of a key, but will then only release it once the key kits the same spot. On many machines just now being cared for after  years of neglect, the screw is too loose, and the escapement wont even function. You will simply have to tighten it until it again catches for a key press. Loosening it will, if its already tightened sufficiently, do the opposite. The escapement will not activate until the key essentially hits the platen, allowing for incredibly rapid typing. Each typist is different and will want a different speed, so tune it to your liking. Just remember to test a key every small turn to ensure your not going back and forth for an hour to find the sweet spot.

Taking off the Paper Plate

Should you desire to clean the interior of your machine, you may be aided in removing the platen and paper plate, so that you may get better access to the interior of the machine. To do so is really quite simply, yet initially took me an hour to figure out. In my defense, it wasn't the only thing i was trying to figure out at the time.
Step one is to remove the platen. On the far right side of the platen, before the nickel plated piece, you will find a small screw which holds the platen to the platen knob and rod. Unscrew this, careful not to let the screw come out of its socket, and pull the knob straight out. Then, re tighten the screw to ensure you don't lose it, and pull the platen carefully out of the machine. You now have nothing keeping the paper plate from being taken from the machine save for two small pins, on the underside of the carriage:

Above the escapement rail (piece with the many jagged teeth), and below the string, to the left, and immediately to the right of the steel colored piece which is holding the string, you will see in this incredibly bad picture a small rod. Using small pliers, carefully grab the pin and pull towards the machine, until the paper plate pops out on this side. Now, after moving the carriage to the other extreme of its rail, do the same on the pins doppelganger. The paper plate will now be off the machine, and you will have an almost unobstructed view of the interior of the machine.

Winding the Clockwork Motor:

On an Underwood 3 Bank, this task is so easy you'll slap yourself in the face. First, i will be lazy and re-use the first picture of this post:

The carriage is to the right, and you can easily get to the motor. 
Method One: If the motor is still wound a decent amount:
With careful hands pull on the string, until where the string connects is facing you. Now, as you ever so gently use a hand to continue rotating the motor in the same direction it just rotated as you pulled the string, keep the string towards the front of the machine, so that as the motor makes a revolution the string stays clear of the parts behind the motor which it WILL get caught on otherwise. Ensure that you do not lose your grip during this procedure, or you will end up crying from either cutting yourself, or having the string get tangled in said parts behind the motor. As the motor was already slightly wound, make a single rotation at a time. Then, holding the string taught, let go of the motor. Then, let the string wind itself around the motor as you slowly guide it. Now test the carraiges pace as you press keys. If it gets from 0 on the scale to 70 without becoming sluggish, congratulations. You've done it.
Method 2: If the motor is completely unwound:
This method is almost the same as the first, save for a few small things. First:

That escapement wheel (the one with the teeth) has a hook which holds it in place as the motor is wound. Ensure this hook is still there and not lost to time, and make sure that it is 100000% to the power of 9999 tightened. If it slips, your work will be for nothing. And it slips too easily on these models i find.
Once you've ensured the hook is in place, rotate the motor (when facing the front of the machine) clockwise, again keeping the string towards the front of the machine as you carefully wind the motor. Tune by following the previously mentioned method. (This assumes the string is not broken nor the motor-spring snapped. If either of these are the case, then may the typewriter god have mercy upon your soul. But please, never attempt to take the motor out of a portable machine. Bad things will happen.)

Ribbon Holder wont properly go up/down:

My Royal Model P has this issue. But alas that its not quite so easy to fix. Although your machine may have a different issue, the most common i find is that the piece that moves up and down with the ribbon:

Has been jarred either to the left or right. If the two sides don't appear to be exactly symmetrical, simply (and gently) bend it to the correct position, and test the action again. If the entire thing doesn't move, ensure the color selector is not set to the White, which is for stencil cutting i believe. You've no stencils to cut. Flip that switch to the right or left.

End Part One:

I do apologize for the lack of detailed photography. My camera decided to not focus during shooting. I hope this helps, stay tuned for the next installment, and please, please, please, don't sue me.

Words are Winged
June 19 2014


  1. Thanks for this. I have yet to find myself one of these, but the information is transferable, I believe, and I promise not to sue you! A great read too and looking forward to the next installment.

  2. This looks like a very valuable reference!

  3. I just stumbled upon these Underwood 3 bank posts. They are wonderful. I'm presently working on my first 3B. I think there is a bad tooth on the escapement gear.

    Thanks for the detailed posts -- They are great references.