Typewriters are noisy. They kinda are by default. Manufacturers heard the pleas long ago and started to take some measures. Some were effective, others… not so much. Some makers even developed “quiet” or “noiseless” typewriters with specific mechanisms that slow down the typehead just before it hits the platen so the cack! isn’t nearly as pronounced. Royal Quiet Deluxe, Smith Corona Silent, and Remington Noiseless are a few examples.
However, if a typewriter doesn’t have this fancy — and surprisingly effective yet complex — mechanism, makers did other things. They installed rubber spacers between the case and the frame so there was a vibration dampener for starters. But one of the things that was almost always done was felting.
Felt is used quite a bit through out typewriters — especially those from the 1940s and earlier. Many typewriters used felt as a typebar/head rest since it cushioned its fall and it was also quiet when it fell back. (It was also cheap!) The main purpose of felt, however, was as a noise absorber.
If you look inside a typewriter, you’ll see it along the sides of the case. Most often with typewriters that have lids on hinges, the entire bottom of the lid will be covered in felt. Normally felting was a default thing to do for typewriters. However it seems that some don’t have it.
My ’58 SM3 is a good example.
You see, in the process of playing with its ’56 cousin, I realized that the ’58, upon inspection, lacked every bit of felt normally present except for the layer under the lid and a small squarish bit at the back of the case. I was shocked to say the least but I also knew immediately this needed to be fixed. It’s a pretty easy fix, really. Just run to your local craft store and find whatever color felt you want that has adhesive on its back. You’ll just need 1 9″ x 12″ sheet of it. Seriously cheap fix, huh?
First we gotta take the lid off since we need to take the typewriter’s frame out of the case. On an SM3, you just push on the left hinge’s tab with your index finger and push the lid out with your thumb. (Make sure that the carriage is all the way to the left so the bell has dinged.)
It should give easily. With that post out, the right-side one simply slips out. Once that’s out of the way, there are two little screws that need to be undone so that the facing panel can be removed.
These screws are tiny so please, for the sake of your sanity and the sanctity of your beautiful and loved typewriter, please please please put them in a bowl or a magnetic saucer! The screws should come undone with relatively little force. These machines were put together by hand and it shows: all the screws are tightened just to the point where they don’t move and just a smidge more to make sure they don’t budge.
With that out of the way, center the carriage then set the typewriter on its back so the underside is showing to you. There are four screws that need to be undone here.
As a habit — I suggest those getting into repair or restoration to do the same thing — I always put the screws I take out in the order they go back in or the shape they were arranged. (You just never know if they’re actually sized for that one hole!) With those out, carefully set the typewriter down on its feet. Cradling the platen knobs in the crook between your index and thumb, you can lift up the entire mechanism up and out. It does take a bit of wiggling, but with easing it will come out easily.
There is a panel at the back with screws that looks like it can be undone. You may want to try that route, if you wish, but I chose to do it this way because the screws on my ’58 are thoroughly painted over! Now, set that awesome example of Germany engineering aside.
You should have the case and the front panel all on their own now. As you can see… well, all you can see if one bit of felt at the back of the case on the ’58! The rest could be a representation of a polar bear in a snow storm.
Go get your preferred cutting, measuring and marking tools. Since I’m a quilter (yes, I’m a quilter), I grabbed what came instinctually.
It’s a bit odd how I work, but it works. I first cut out the front panel’s felt. Measure the panel then mark that on the adhesive’s backing.
Cut that out, pull the backing off and stick it on! There is a small notch on one side. This allows the ribbon color selector to move freely. Be sure to cut that bit out so it can do its job.
The rest of the typewriter I measured out all at once then marked it on the back, drawing the cutting lines.
Once you cut those out, just carefully apply them to the places where they need to go.
I know what you’re thinking: That is a ton of felt. Yes, it is. Classically speaking — especially if you open up another SM3 — there are just strips of felt and not massive blocks. There were a few reasons for this, I imagine. Dust and penny pinching are two I can think of. But this typewriter is almost always covered when not in use and certainly not in an environment that has lots of dust.
And that’s that! The interior is now fully felted and the mechanism can just be slid back in. I told you it was easy! Good job! 😀
Now, there is one more step. This is very, very important. So you mustn’t forget to do it.
Ready to write it down and commit it to memory?
Go enjoy your typewriter!
Until later, be safe and enjoy y’all’s day,