Saturday, April 11, 2015

Replacing an Underwood Rhythm Touch (SS) Platen

This arrived in todays mail

In order to use what arrived today I first had to start here and remove it about a week or so ago.  Remove the two screws holding the cover and remove the cover.

The right knob gets removed first by loosening the two set screws.

Loosen the left screw

Loosen the right screw

Use a small screwdriver to hold back the ratchet dog from the line feed ratchet gear.  You can do it with just your fingers if you are brave enough should it slip and you get pinched.

Hold the platen with one hand and twist the shaft using the knob with your other hand while pulling on the knob at the same time.  The black knob not the variable spacer push button.  As you pull you will need to let go of the plaen and release the feed with a screwdriver until the gear passes.  Twist and pull on the line feed knob to help get the shaft out.  Also hold on to the little lever or it will fall. If it falls onto the work bench it will be fine. If it falls on the floor it may decide to hide from view.

This is the little lever that releases the feed dog.

This is where the semi-circular end rides


Feed pressure rollers before removing to send off.  Also shown is the paper feed tray.  Note, every other metal section that fits under the paper tray has a rubber pad on it.

Last Saturday I took time to TRY my Oliver.  Also the Underwood skips when I bottom out the keys rather than properly press them.

The recovered platen

The recovered pressure rollers.  That is not a flat spot on the one small one.  It is a mark like a water mark.

The shaft and line feed are back together.  They go back to gether in reverse of taking them apart. 

The platen shaft has a flat for tightening the set screws against.  Align all the screws with the flat spot.

All finished in about 30 to 40 minutes including the time to take the photos.  After this photo was taken I rejuvenated the rollers on the paper bail and they are not so shiny any longer.

This is what the pressure rollers look like with the paper feed tray installed

This is what the paper feed rollers look like when the feed tray is removed.  The front rollers can be removed quite easily, but the larger ones under the paper tray take a bit if wiggling since they are spring loaded and fit quite tight.  All the rollers are easily removed by loosening the screws in the shaft collars. Note where and how the tiny rollers go on the front ones as they must be reassembled the same.

Not hollow ground, but quite useful around typewriters, especially loosening and tightening the right knob screws on this typewriter.
The two feed roller photos should be near the beginning.  I remembered to insert them too late.  Blogger is a pain to rearrange photos after insertion so they stay out of sequence.

I hope there is enough detail here to help anyone who wants to tackle an Underwood platen.  My 1941 M is the same as this 1947 SS.  I'm unsure how many others match.

Very highly recommended.


  1. If you do not mind me asking, how much did the entire order set you back?

    1. About $180. The small rollers are expensive. They cost more than the platen because they are more difficult to do. I checked several places including the place in FL that does hundreds of custom rollers for my employer and all were over $100 for the platen alone. Prices vary depending on the size of the platen and if they are doing more than one of the same roller that day. Prices include set-up costs which can be divided between platens if more than one is run on the same set-up.

      Then price alone was not my only factor for the project. The reputation of J.J. Short amongst the typospherians that have had platens recovered, and the high quality of their work.

      If this machine was not a really super typer I may have only done the platen or left the original on it.

  2. Beautiful platen! I have yet to try JJ Short but am thinking of asking them to redo my Alpina's platen.

  3. Yeah, it's the tiny pressure rollers that add up the cost. I've only done that on my '33 Remington, and those 8 rollers plus the platen recovering was around $200 at Ames before they went under. JJ Short's prices are actually a little cheaper than Ames' prices were. (:

  4. @ Richard, I was going to have Marc Pellacoeur do this one, but shipping was too much. I may have him do one of my European ones though.
    @Ted, About the time Ames went out of business was when I first got interested in having a platen recovered so I do not have any experience of my own with them. I thought JJ Short's prices were quite good.

  5. I'm glad it went back together OK!

  6. FYI: JJ Short just quoted $60 to re-cover a platen on a 50s Groma T (the original has a rip in it.) Turn around time is supposed to be about 2 weeks.

  7. Gosh it's a good thing you know what you're doing Bill, you lost me at 'this arrived in the post today' :) :)

    1. I just realized it looks like a pipe wrappen in bubble wrap.

      In all honesty the 1970 era platens are the easiest to replace; puch a button and lift.
      The next easiest is the Royal HH; lift a cover. press a lever and lift. Realigning for installation may not be straight forward the first time.
      Then these old Underwoods are quite easy once the trick is discovered, thanks to the The Historic Naval Ships Association.

    2. Interesting link Bill, thanks for that.

  8. @Grace, I just noticed I did not note which 170s typewriters. I meant to note SCM. Then I meant to type wrapped too.

    @Scott, Much the same as with the old platen, but much quieter. I planned a more detailed post on it today, but I've go too much going on and probably won't get to post for a few weeks.

  9. Took a photo just for you the other day Bill, show it on the blog very soon :)

  10. Hi Bill, did you see the first comment on my post today? Have you see the French movie 'Populaire' looks like it could be fun :)

    1. Grace,
      I saw the Underwood on your blog. I have not seen Populaire. It was not screened near here and I do not know that it is available on DVD.

    2. Thanks Bill, July could not possibly have been worse, life can be tragically random but I guess we have to re-group and carry on, thank goodness for family hey!

  11. Thanks for the walkthrough on this platen project. I've bookmarked this as a future reference!

  12. Hi Bill,

    I came across your blog via Richard's web site. I think for around $100, getting a new platen is great, given the dearth of platen repair shops today in most of the places. In SFO Bay Area, the shops are charging over $250 for platen replacement and of course they would actually send it out to have the platen repaired. Would you mind sharing with us the contact information (email/phone) for JJ Shorts?

    Thank you

  13. The young kangaroos are called joeys Bill, they get quite close but I still wouldn't touch one in case mum or dad were around :)