Refelting an Olympia SM3

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.)

Left Hinge

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.

Front Panel Screws

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.

Frame Screws

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,


Lessons Learned from Olympia Disassembly

Well, guys n gals, I learned something very important today during the disassembly of the ’56 SM3.

I didn’t go very far in terms of disassembly — just took off the case. But that small amount brought to light something my ’58 does not have that I thought was  standard on nearly all typewriters, especially those of this caliber and maker. Can you guess what it is?

You won’t believe it.

My ’58 is missing all of the interior felt except that on the lid!


I know, right? That explains why the ’56 is so much quieter in one way. I’ll look at the carriage once I get the felt issue fixed. I’m kinda glad it is missing it because now I can do a much more thorough job without the hassle of removing the old stuff.

Anyway, just figured I’d share my shock.


Olympia SM3 ’56 & ’58: A Comparison

I’ve owned a SM3 for a bit of time now and upon realizing I really do enjoy them, I made the decision to purchase a second one for parts — just in case, ya know? When it arrived, there were a few things I immediately noticed that were different that made me wonder if these two machines would actually be compatible for part swaps.


The ’56 has a serial number (#915798) that places it late that year — literally 8503 less than the max number given on Typewriter Database. I’ve noticed over a dozen changes made within less than a 2 year period. Some of these changes are very startling while others are more subtle. The overall mechanism design remains the same — as far as I can tell. Some of the parts can easily be swapped over, but some of them are questionable.

One thing I have to point out immediately before we even get started is that none of these changes adds or removes a feature the previous or successor possesses. Most of these changes seem to be them going, “Oh, well, duh. Do this instead. Same effect.” The typewriter market was very volatile in terms of development and they were always being pushed to change things. This is a very visual reminder of that.

Per usual, I’ll try to illustrate with as many photos as I can. Some of the terminology may be wrong, so I plan on adding arrows and circles so y’all know what I’m talking about! (I really should just sit down and memorize all the proper names for these things…)

Let’s get to it.

1) The materials are different. The ’56 uses metals in some areas that appear Parkerized while the ’58 doesn’t. This could be a design choice exclusively due to color.

2) Maker’s plate on the back is formatted differently with the ’58 having a more “professional” and easier to read layout. Notice also that on the ’56, “Made in Germany” is used rather than “Made in Western Germany” and that the New York address is slightly modified.

3) Ruler on top is made differently and is thinner on the ’56. The ’56, though thinner width wise, is thicker and gives the appearance of being folded steel.

4) The paper support on the ’58 is numbered while the ’56 has cut-outs with a red square to indicate which selection is being made.

5) The ’56’s paper presser is hinged at the back.

6) Page release on the ’56 causes the paper presser to move out of the way.

7) The paper presser sits flush against the platen — the ’58 hovers just above it. And it also appears to sit closer to the ribbon.

8) The metal flap has elongated posts on the ’56 while on the ’58, they are cut to be mostly flush.

9) Page guide is triangular on the ’56 rather than arched/circular.

10) Ribbon guide on the ’56 has rubber padding. My guess is to ease its fall. The design is different between the two with the ’58 having broader tabs.

11) Arrow is absent on the ’58’s touch control.

12) The M.R., Shift Lock, Tab and Backspace keys are thinner on the ’56.

13) The tab key sits higher on the ’58. Though this may be due to the increased size, the height difference is noticeable and could cause issues for those used to one or the other.

The next few points could be explained by one of two things: either my ’58 needs to be tuned up or the ’56 needs to be tuned up.

14) The ’56 is noticeably quieter. This can be explained by a) this is how it is supposed to be or b) there is so much grime and gunk that it is forcing it to be quiet.

15) Spacing on the ’56 produces a lower frequency ‘thud’ with less metallic undertones. The ’58 doesn’t necessarily rattle, but the metallic is certainly an overtone and overall the frequency is higher.

16) Key presses on the ’58 are noticeably louder.

One thing I did notice is that the ’56 does need a tune up (mild sticking on moving the carriage to the left and the 3/4 key sticks). New ribbon is obvious but the top parts of letter is barely imprinting. Working on this typewriter will give me a better chance to learn how these work so I can work on the ’58 more safely.

Hope y’all find this useful!

Until later, be safe and enjoy y’all’s day,