Grill Your Platen

The platen on my Remington Portable no.1 was pitted and hard and not very good. I tried scrubbing it with Cif kitchen cleaner, which worked a little bit in making the rubber more grippy, but the typing was LOUD. So I sent off for some heat-shrink tubing. This stuff was 35mm diameter unshrunk, and about £3.50 f0r half a metre, enough for two platens. Or a mistake and a retry. My platen was a slim 26mm in diameter after my scrubbing – I didn’t measure it before the scrub but the difference was unlikely to be measureable with the calipers I have anyway. I spent about 15 minutes this morning with a hairdryer on full-blast with a test-strip of the tubing on a rolling pin – to absolutely no effect whatsoever. Not having a heat-gun, and not wanting to buy one specially for this job, I put the electric grill on my oven on high and shoved the rolling pin under. Bingo! Shrunk before my very eyes. The rubber, not the rolling pin. Almost in a fever of excitement (really) I prepared the platen – ie, take it out of the machine, and shove it inside the tubing. The shrinking process was really quite simple, but you need to have a pair of oven gloves. I shrank the line-space end first because I had not taken off the metal whatsit doodah – no need, because it all comes out very easily. I lined up the end of the tubing with about a centimetre spare on the end, and turned the platen under the grill. I expect you could barbecue your platen as well. There was almost no smell of shrinking tubing. In fact the smell was less than that you get with cooking Fimo modelling clay. Excellent. Still, I had the windows open anyway.

half-way through the grilling, shrinking nicely. At this point, I trimmed the tubing with about an inch spare.
Half-way through the grilling, and shrinking nicely. At this point, I trimmed the tubing with about an inch spare.

After trimming with a Stanley knife, I put the platen on a baking tray and gently rolled the platen on that under the heat, taking it out every 30 seconds or so to check the progress. There was a moment of dodgy-looking unevenness going on in the centre of the platen, but it all smoothed out. Like magic!

The spare tubing, the test on the rolling pin (I took it off again) and the result before trimming.
The spare tubing, the test on the rolling pin (I took it off again) and the result before trimming.

Getting the platen back in is pretty easy. The new diameter of the platen is 27.1mm or so. I thought it might end up being more, but no.

Line up your metal bits -  my typewriter vocab is very limited.
Line up your metal bits.
With carriage all the way to the left it is much much easier to...
With carriage all the way to the left it is much much easier to…
wriggle it back in place. There is no cylinder scale on this machine, if there was, I'd have taken it off before removing the platen.
wriggle it back in place. There is no cylinder scale on this machine, if there was, I’d have taken it off before removing the platen.
rod goes back in with a little bit of lining up. push all the way in, then tug gently to ensure it is all the way, before screwing the knob back on.
rod goes back in with a little bit of lining up. push all the way in, then tug gently to ensure it is all the way, before screwing the knob back on.
New platen (sort of).
New platen (sort of).
Trying it out. It works. Let's dance, snoopy!
Trying it out. It works. Let’s dance, Snoopy!

Right, it’s not perfect. One of the problems with this machine is the lack of cylinder scale and paper fingers. But by ‘eck, this little typewriter is looking and feeling and typing so much better than it was a week ago. An extremely satisfying little renovation project. I also touched up the chipped paint with model-maker’s enamel and a tiny brush. Put some Sugru on the broken paper release lever to save my fingers from nasty cuts, and also fitted in a tiny bit of felt to realign the Q typebar:

Hanging too low, no cushioning.
Hanging too low, no cushioning. I’m not sure there ever was!
A small bit of black self-adhesive felt rolled and poked into the space next to the old felt where the type-bars rest in the up position did the trick. I jammed in a bit of water-based pva to keep it in there.
A small bit of black self-adhesive felt rolled and poked into the space next to the old felt where the type-bars rest in the up position did the trick. I jammed in a bit of water-based pva to keep it in there.

Ok, so that’s it, I think I’m just about there with this typewriter. The typing is noticeably less noisy now with the new platen covering, and I am not fearful for the typebars on that hard surface. The only slightly peeving thing is that the punctuation marks still puncture a bit. Too much. But you can’t have it all!

New little bit of felt on the end there.
New little bit of felt on the end there.

12 thoughts on “Grill Your Platen

  1. Wow – great information! Thank you for posting this. I have a couple of rock-hard platens that might benefit from a refresh. What brand of heat-shrink tubing did you use?

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    1. It was a “general purpose commercial grade polyolefin heat shrink, with a 2:1 shrink rate” I got it off eBay, and I don’t think it has a specific trade name! There are lots of different sizes and colours, and you can buy it in various lengths.

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      1. Great – thank you for the details. Another question: does the shrink-fit tubing adhere to the rubber of the original platen or can it be easily peeled off if it doesn’t work out?

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      2. I got the non-adhesive kind, as I thought I might need to peel it off if it all went horribly wrong! I’m not sure about easy to peel, because of the tightness of the shrink, but possible with patience🙂

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  2. Great post, as always! I appreciate you providing dimensions and great detail of your work: when I muster the courage to attempt a task like this, I will be able to refer back. Keep on keepin’ on🙂

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    1. Having a platen that is easy to get off is a great help with a project like this, and I recommend the Remington portable 1 for its simple platen design if you fancy practicing. And they are cute machines too.

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  3. Seriously impressive. I’m so lazy that I’ll just pad the typing with extra sheets of paper if I need to but on those machines I have with a platen that yields just a bit, I can see the appeal of trying this.

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  4. Well done! I’ve tried this a few times and have gotten acceptable results. The tubing is softer than the original rubber, so it’s less durable, but it’s so affordable. And you can get it in colors (such as purple for my Purple Prose Producer).

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