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12-3-2013 17:03:43  #1

How fragile are decals?

I've got a few fairly old machines that have what I assume are applied decals on top of their paint work. They aren't in the greatest shape, and I'm concerned to wear them any further. Is it okay to wipe the paintwork down, that is clean it with some type of cleaner, or will I ruin the decals.

I've also considered repainting a machine or two, but I'm not sure how to deal with the decal issue. They're original, and for the most part aesthetically pleasing, so I'd hate to lose them just because I wanted to freshen up the paint.

Suggestions anyone?


12-3-2013 21:46:35  #2

Re: How fragile are decals?

If you want to keep the decals, I would advise proceeding with caution. I salvaged a 40s Underwood Universal from a shed last year. It pretty much looked like a 'goner'... caked in dirt, stuck keys, no ribbon, feet missing. A big, beautiful moth crawled out of the housing when I brought it inside and started hitting the keys (said moth was set free again outside). Anyways I spent alot of time servicing the machine, replacing the ribbon, finding new feet. I must have spent a good eight hours with rags and Qtips cleaning it up. The colour of the housing turned from brown to grey. I was kind of stuck when I got to cleaning around the decals. They were detailed and complex to clean around -- I started with a wet Qtip but the front decal started to disintegrate quickly around the edges. I wanted the housing colour to be consistent ie. I didn't want to leave a brown 'cloud' around the decals, so I made a decision to clean away and sacrifice the front decal (before I started cleaning I took some closeup photos 'for the record'). The decal left a bit of a 'ghost', but otherwise I think I did the right thing for THIS machine, in the end. The typewriter ended up looking quite presentable, and I have left it on display. If the machine had much collectable value I think I would have preserved the decal; actually I don't think I would have done any heavy cleaning at all. So my advice would be to consider the machine (make, model and vintage) and make a conscious decision to either be content with it 'as is', or be willing to accept that any alteration you make to the machine may affect its value or aesthetics. Now, having provided that long story, I'll mention that I did see somewhere (while surfing the typosphere) that someone had a number of replica decals for sale, but as I recall they were limited to 2 or 3 models. But that leaves open the possibility that others might be found.......

"Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of the typewriter."

12-3-2013 23:04:28  #3

Re: How fragile are decals?

So the conundrum is to either destroy the decal and have a clean typer, or preserve the decal and have a  dirty machine. I have to say that I'm surprised that yours only came off with a bit of gentle wiping with a Q-Tip.

I've see a few replacement decals too, and I guess that would be the obvious route to take if whoever is selling them has the ones you need, but otherwise?

I guess when they used to build typewriters back in the '20s and '30s it would have been considered a bizarre extravagance to clear coat the paint and decal to protect the finish of both.

     Thread Starter

06-4-2013 14:52:44  #4

Re: How fragile are decals?

Does anyone know what decals from the 20s and 30s are actually made of? I've tried Googling, with no success so far.

Also, I'd assumed that all old typers had a layer of paint, then the decal, then a layer of varnish; the latter providing protection for the decal. Is that right?


06-4-2013 21:21:46  #5

Re: How fragile are decals?

I would always advise to try to keep original paint and decals but, for those machines where you have to repaint or put on new decals, here are a lot of available new decals for typewriters.

There is also someone selling decals on ebay for things other than typewriters (might have some though) from Peru and they are high quality.  Here's an Oliver decal set.  I wonder if this is from the same person.

Two years ago I sent some photos of a Magnavox radio speaker decal to the Peru guy I'm pretty sure it was and the decals are here.  (He was pretty specific in the good quality of photos and details he was looking for- top notch).


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