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05-4-2017 22:53:15  #1

How hard is too hard for a platen?

I know this is a very difficult question to answer over the internet but I really need to get some kind of idea even if it's not super accurate.

So here is the deal, as some of you may already know, I bought my very first typewriter this week. It's an Olivetti Lettera DL that I acquired for the modest sum of 50 CAD. So far I really like enjoy it. After buying it I read more and more online and realised that the ribbon wasn't the only thing that may need maintenance in a typewriter (other than the obvious oil on moving parts), but the platen too. The thing is though, I really don't know if I need to do anything to mine or not or if it is worth it in my situation. 

From what I can tell the rubber is rather stiff to the touch, but the strokes never pierce the paper other than the periods and commas giving a tiny bit of relief. The paper loads just fine too. So would it be worth it to invest something like 60-70 USD including shipping to get the platen redone as I don't have a lot of money to spend right now or do I only need to apply something like a rubber rejuvenator. If so I have to say that I am really clueless on how to remove the platen and put it back in afterwards. The only other kink with the typewriter is purely cosmetic; the top cover is a bit bent and sticks out a little on the right side.

Any and all input will be greatly appreciated!


05-4-2017 23:49:41  #2

Re: How hard is too hard for a platen?

Hi there.

If the print is fine, and your slugs are not piercing through the paper itself, you should be fine. What I would suggest is you use two pieces of paper rather than one. The second paper, called a backing sheet (although I think that terminology is actually used for specialized backing paper), performs pretty much the same function as a renewed platen would. 

I've had machines that really go through the paper, and if you use two sheets, it actually 'pierces' the first piece of paper into the second.
As long that's not happening to your paper, I wouldn't worry too much.

As for cleaning the platen itself, you could try some specialized platen cleaning material (called platenclene where I'm from) or rubbing alcohol.


06-4-2017 13:55:40  #3

Re: How hard is too hard for a platen?

3nding wrote:

How hard is too hard for a platen?

Technically a platen should be in the range of 88 - 92 on the Shore A hardness scale. If you don't own a Shore durometer there is no way to accurately assess the resiliency of a platen's rubber, and therefore its condition. Old service manuals will tell you that pushing the tip of a pencil into the platen will give you some idea as to its hardness, but it's really not a great test. Nor is going by the impression the machine's typeface makes in the paper. You can have a shot platen even though the slugs are not piercing paper or ribbon. 

If you can't properly test the platen, I would assume that it is too hard. The vast majority of the machines I buy have hard to extremely hard platens. Most are around 96 Shore A, but some as high as 100, which is essentially like smacking your slugs into concrete.

So what should you do? I would start with an honest assessment of how much typing you will be doing. If you're probably only going to type the odd letter once or twice a month with it, then having the platen resurfaced doesn't make a lot of sense. On the other hand, if you are about to write an eight hundred page novel on it, and it's going to be the only typewriter that you plan to use (or own), then there's an argument to be made for investing in the platen.

If you fall into the former category there are three things that you can do that will minimize the damage to your type slugs. First, but a can of rubber rejuvenator (search the forum, there are many threads about this subject) and give the platen a good cleaning. I have found that on average the rejuvenator will increase resiliency by 2 to 4 points (ie. it will bring a 95 Shore A down to a more acceptable 92). Rubbing alcohol is okay for cleaning the rubber, in particular if the paper is slipping, but it doesn't work as well as rubber rejuvenator. Second, always use a backing sheet. And third, buy and use a heavier weight paper. Typical cheap copy paper is usually around 20 lb., but if you read the packaging at your local office supply store you'll find that there are often several choices in 24 lb. paper, which is what I use. As a bonus, heavier paper is less prone to showing what you've typed on the opposite side when you turn the page over.

"To save time is to lengthen life."

07-4-2017 17:47:10  #4

Re: How hard is too hard for a platen?

To add to Uwe's post: I would suggest using a lightweight card stock as a backing sheet. I have found that various retailers in my local area, mostly car dealers, send me candidate backing sheet flyers almost monthly printed with their most recent sales promotions. Check those out since they come free in your mailbox. I have found that you want a card stock that is lightweight enough to roll around the platen without holding the paper bail out from the surface of the platen. This provides the greatest cushioning without the hassle of messing with multiple sheets of backing paper. Just your typing paper, and the card stock backing is easy to handle.

Bangin' around, this dirty old town, typin' for nickels and dimes...

07-4-2017 18:05:11  #5

Re: How hard is too hard for a platen?

Good point. I should have also mentioned that there is an existing thread or two in which we discussed various backing sheet materials at length. Using the forum's search function will dig up those threads that are worth a read.

"To save time is to lengthen life."

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