Backstory: The lovely Ari is setting up an epistolary role-playing game. We know some people who aren't local who we love gaming with, but having a sit-down or LARP is really hard with remote people... so Ari decided to fix this. She's creating and soon will be running a game where the method of communication is letters.
As you might imagine, the game is being set in a time period where this makes sense. In this game, it's 100 years ago -- so it's currently 1912 in-game. I will be playing a surveyor working for the Department of the Interior, helping to catalog and survey parts of the US that will go on to be named National Parks.
At any rate, I'm always excited about projects, so I decided to have some fun for the game. I acquired an Underwood No. 5 typewriter, which started being manufactured around 1900. My particular model was actually made in 1929, but it's close enough. Only cost about $200 on eBay, which I figure is reasonable for this kind of thing. Of course, it was $200 because there were "a few issues" -- but I wagered I could fix them.
The main problems when I got it: the B key sticks and you have to reach in and pull down the striker (hammer? what's it called?), and the ribbon feed system doesn't work.
Today I put in a solid few hours of tearing down, cleaning, and investigating. I determined how to fix the B key (clean some parts, adjust the tension spring), and that works. The ribbon feed mechanism was a lot harder, though, but in the end I conquered it.
It turns out the left side of the typewriter had gotten some rust damage. Luckily it was minor enough that I could basically unstick the parts with some brute force (lots of very patient tapping with a screwdriver, basically), and then lots of cleaning with my gun cleaning solution, rags, etc. Then LOTS of exercising the joints to make sure everything would work.
I succeeded though, and the typewriter works! The ribbon feeds, the hammers all strike, everything is aligned well enough for my purposes. It's a really amazing feeling to use an old typewriter -- it makes such a satisfying sound.