Articles, Blog

IBM Selectric II typewriter repairs

IBM Selectric II typewriter repairs


Hello folks, this is my beautiful IBM Selectric
II, not any Selectric, the Selectric with the correcting button right here. Otherwise
known as the Golfball typewriter. The original Selectric I was unveiled in 1961, and it was
a true revolution. It achieved like 80% market penetration. The
Selectric II is 1971, the Selectric II with
correcting button is 1973. It is entirely mechanical, there is no electronics
in it at all. 2000 mechanical parts and a million adjusments.
The guy that invented this must have been friend with the guy that invented the helicopter,
it’s a completely un-intuitive design that shouldn’t work, but it does, works very well.
So, a little work on that one, the tab doesn’t work, the carriage return is sluggish, my
beloved correcting button is not working, and my head is a little bit out of alignment.
So we’ll take a peek inside and try to fix it.
Now taking this apart is a piece of cake if you do it in the right order. First, you need
to put the carriage in the middle. Then open this up, this goes forward, this goes backward.
Two thumbs on these levers. Don’t forget to take that piece out and also to flip those
levers up. And inside, there are two levers, push them forward. One, two. And if I didn’t
mess up that should do it. There is one more lever inside here that you pull forward. That
allows you to raise the machine, slide it forward, flip it up, and voila, you are ready
to work on your IBM Selectric. So how does this magnificent beast work. It
does print by controlling the spin and the tilt of the ball. There are two bands here,
one here, one there. And if I pull on them, I can see the ball turning a bit here. And
the other one does the tilt. Mine is cocked to the side, so I have to figure out which
arm moves this. And is attached to this guy over here, and there is a turnbuckle. So it
should be fairly easy to adjust. By the way, this thing is of mind-boggling
complexity. Here is a summary adjustment manual, and these are all the adjustments that you
can go through. And there are pages upon pages upon pages of this thing. It’s a 100 pages.
That’s just the concise form. And then you look at the mechanism and it just keeps going
and going. The guy that invented this was completely crazy.
So now I just have to work on my sticky tab key, the return is not that good either, it
sticks. It’s working again, that is fine. That was
the toughest one to repair, the sluggish carriage return. It turns out it’s these guys over
here that have to be adjusted properly first. There should be no oil on that one, because
it grabs the shaft that powers the carriage return. Of course it was bathed with grease,
so I cleaned it up. And this guy, you have to adjust. That’s the torque limiter, and
you have to pull this tail here back a little bit, to extend the spring and increase the force.
I made real progress here, the whole thing prints. And I can go back and erase things.
My auto-correct works again. It seems to work plenty fine.

19 comments

What a coincidence, I just inherited my parent's original selectric typewriter. Unfortunately it was seized and I was not able to get it to unstick. Its on the shelf now but I'll probably have to recycle it.

very informative,  I'm working on mine and having similar problems.  in your video you referenced a adjustment manual could you give me a link to it as I have not been able to find it

@CuriousMarc
Do you know how to fix a Smith Corona SL 105 typewriter ? I bought one and tested it, the words are not producing on paper and fades. I think the hammer strikes too hard on the ribbon ink cassette. The carriage mechanism works, but the words being put on paper; nope.

You will get better print if you move the copy control lever to position "A". you had your finger on this lever @ 5:32 , it's the lever next to the 10/12. This will also improve the correction lift-off, machine looked to be leaving a substantial shadow when you did a correction lift off on the video, you can also try fresh/different ribbons for better results.

See how the Selectric II typing mechanism works at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bRCNenhcvpwAnd the whiffletree mechanical digital-to-analog converter that the Selectric uses at https://youtu.be/G_SC7oWL78A

I went to the IBM schools for selectrics back in the day and worked on these for many years. There are around 800 inter-related adjustments in a selectric 2. If you don't know what you are doing you will have it so out of adjustment in a matter of seconds, you can never get it back. A broken band or main drive belt is a nightmare to repair even when you are good at it. Trust me when I say, "Do yourself a favor and save your sanity, give these machines to a museum and get a computer and a good printer."

Given this is entirely mechanical, where does the energy come from to move the carriage across the page sequentially when the space bar is held down?

Given this is entirely mechanical, where does the energy come from to move the carriage across the page sequentially when the space bar is held down?

I just bought ine ans when i pkug it in , it does not turn on …well the carriage clicks to the left side but then nothing 🙁

Reading the comments here I see there are several others who have repaired these machines. I worked for IBM way back in 1979 for a few years repairing these machines. It was without a doubt a path of initiation to learn to fix these mechanical works of wonder. I went to IBM training center in Southfield, Mich. Any others gone there? It was a 6 month intensive course with timed repairs. We had to both diagnose and change a key spring in 17 seconds to pass the exam.

Gorgeous machine! I wish I could ahve a machine with typeball.
I have a Royaluxe 450 mechanical typewriter and the bell mechanism has a missing part. It is the part that moves the other part that hits the bell. I have no idea how it should look like and I cannot figure out how it would move when the carriage moves back, I could improvize something so that it would hit the bell, but it would get stuck when the carriage returns. Does anyone have any idea where I can find a photo of the bell mechanism of this particular typewriter?

I was waiting for you to type in "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy" over and over again (The Shining reference). Hahahaha

I am thinking about buying a Selectric III. I found one close by being sold by a typewriter repair shop for a good price, in good, working and cosmetic condition.

********************
@ Phoenix Typewriter, we still work on these everyday. From basic repairs to complete reconditioning
********************

Hi Marc, Great Video! At 4:20 in the video, you show the typewriter with its main shaft top cover removed. How do I remove that top cover?

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *