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09-5-2020 13:53:32  #1

Carriage return lever doesn't move the platen

I'm probably using the wrong terms here, but whenever I finish typing a sentence on my Smith Corona Sterling and use the carriage return lever, the paper moves horizontally but is not rotated to type on the next line. I checked the spacing lever and flipped it upside down. It needs a good deep clean, but I don't think that's a major factor.
I can tell that the little thing directly connected to the carriage return lever is catching on the first gear, but the gear is simply not moving. Is the gear being blocked by something or is it not catching onto something else?
I will provide photos on request, since I am so new to typewriters I simply don't know what to take a photo of.


09-5-2020 22:38:35  #2

Re: Carriage return lever doesn't move the platen

Hi Vernit

First things first, welcome to the forum and the world of typewriters. I'm sure we'll be able to help you sort out your problem, just need a little more information so we know what we're dealing with here. Do you know now roughly how old your SC Sterling is? Smith-Corona had a few different line advance mechanisms through the production years of the Sterling. If you can find the serial number, that would be a great help. The serial number is stamped on the frame, just in front of a ribbon spool. The early models had the serial number on the right side while the later models had it on the left, see pictures.

I realize the second picture is the serial number of a Smith-Corona Clipper, but the Sterling of the same era had the S/N in the same location. All the best,



11-5-2020 12:07:50  #3

Re: Carriage return lever doesn't move the platen

So happy that someone took time out of their busy lives to help me. Replying to your questions: the machine was from around the 50s. The serial number is positioned on the left, if that helps. It reads, 5AX 242636.
Once again, thanks for the help.

     Thread Starter

11-5-2020 22:42:34  #4

Re: Carriage return lever doesn't move the platen

Hi Again Vernit

The serial number dates your machine to 1963 or possibly very early 1964, just a few years after Smith-Corona became Smith-Corona-Marchand (SCM). Here are a few suggestions and a few questions to see if we can get to the root of your problem.

Q-1. Can you turn the platen with the right platen knob? Yes / No.
Q-2. Can you turn the platen with the left platen knob? Yes / No.

If no to both, we likely have a deeper problem. Pull the line finder release button out from center of the left platen knob.

This will release the drive from the platen and the platen should turn freely. If the platen still won't turn, pull the paper release lever forward to disengage the feed rollers (I've seen feed rollers get stuck to the platen before).

If the platen still won't turn, you'll have to lift the platen out of the carriage, we'll get to that in the next post if necessary.

If the platen does turn with the line finder release pulled out, disengage the platen indexing detent by pulling this little lever forward.

The platen drive should now rotate freely. If it doesn't, we'll have to dig a little deeper. Please let us know what you find,



12-5-2020 14:36:07  #5

Re: Carriage return lever doesn't move the platen

Thanks Sky. Turning the platen knobs and messing with all the levers was the first thing I tried. I can turn the platen just fine, its only that the carriage return lever doesn't move the platen. Horizontally - yes, turning the paper - no. I guess I'm supposed to manually turn the knobs each time I start a new line? 

     Thread Starter

12-5-2020 16:27:37  #6

Re: Carriage return lever doesn't move the platen

Is the carriage return lever pivoting about 15 or so degrees when you pull on it to move the carriage? Looking at the machine as if to type, hold the right side of the carriage steady and push the carriage return lever as if you are moving it to type another line. It should move easily and this is what should be engaging the platen gear to turn it. If the carriage return lever doesn't pivot, that's probably where your problem is. 

If you rotate the platen when the line finder release button is pushed IN to the left hand platen knob, does the toothed wheel move? If not, you will have to remove the platen and have it repaired. Could be that little spring in there which wraps around the core of the platen and releases it for the line finder. Unfortunately, removing the platen from the Sterling is a couple more steps complicated than the Silent or the Silent Super, those have a really quick system to disengage the whole platen for cleaning. It allows access to the rollers underneath as well. The Sterling needs to have a few screws removed here and there, as well as the carriage side plates and the knobs themselves. If it does rotate, and you feel the notches, then that side of the carriage probably needs a very good cleaning. This is one of the places in the typewriter that usually has polymerized lube which has turned very hard, binding everything up. My 1949 SC Silent was like this when it arrived. Most of the machine was very sluggish. It just needed a very good cleaning. A SC Skyriter which just arrived is even worse. Typebars move like I am filming them at 1000 frames/second, all slow motion. It would probably not hurt to move the carriage all the way left, hang that side over a bucket and just flush it with mineral spirits or naptha. 
I have a Super 5 series Sterling which I need to clean so I can help you work through this side-by side if necessary. I need more distractions from completing my thesis.
Phil Forrest


12-5-2020 23:44:29  #7

Re: Carriage return lever doesn't move the platen

Hi Vernit and Phil

Looks like Phil and I are thinking along the exact same line about holding the carriage with your right hand and applying pressure to the line space (return) lever to see if the lever will move or is it actually stuck. Just behind the line advance lever, there is a small chrome lever with the numbers 1, 2 and 3 beside it, this is the line space selector lever.

With the carriage held securely and the line selector lever in the 1 position, the end of the line advance lever should move about 1½" or 15º just as Phil says. Set the line selector to 2 and the carriage lever should move about 2" and at 3 should move about 2½".

Line advance lever in home position,

and fully deflected to the right with the line space selector set at 3.

Phil, a thought crossed my mind as I was taking these pictures, could Vernit's problem be something as simple as a broken or disconnected line advance lever return spring?

Vernit, take a close look at the front underside of the left end of the carriage, do you see a spring as in this picture?

Hopefully, with Phil and I tag teaming your problem, we should be able to get somewhere. All the best,



13-5-2020 21:26:47  #8

Re: Carriage return lever doesn't move the platen

Hello. Looking at the carriage return lever, it doesn't travel as far as it does in Sky's picture, and flicking the line space selector does nothing. That little hook connecting to the gear supposed to turn the platen just gets stuck. All springs are there. Going to try the wash soon - will get back to two helpful people on the internet.

     Thread Starter

14-5-2020 00:51:30  #9

Re: Carriage return lever doesn't move the platen

Good luck. Try not to get much solvent on the paint. That paint of the super 5 series is really strong but I've seen crinkle paint hold stains for a long time.
Phil Forrest


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