Monday, December 2, 2013

Olivetti Studio 45 Line Spacing Issue

Olivetti Studio 45
Despite its plastic body, the Olivetti Studio 45 is a solid-sounding typewriter. The model was made from 1968 through 1972, a time when portable typewriters were at about their peak of development. They are a pleasure to use, and I like the simple lines of the body. The plastic case is also well-designed, holding the machine securely when closed. Just remember to fold back the return lever, and lock the carriage in its center position first.

I have purchased three of them from eBay, and all but one were usable as they arrived. That one had line-spacing issues. Operating the return lever would advance the platten three lines, whether set for zero, one, two, or three. Since I recently re-visited that issue when taking some photographs of the business end of the carriage for Nick Beland (Philosophothought), I thought I would share what I did to set things right.

The first step in accessing the line-space mechanism is to remove the left-hand knob. It unscrews by turning it CCW while holding the right-hand knob.

The pawl seen in the above photo just to the left of the screw threads on the knob shaft engages the ratchet gear on the knob assembly, and pushes it ahead one, two, or three lines worth when the carriage return lever is used. Or none, depending on the setting of the line space lever.

The line-spacing mechanism on a properly working Studio 45.

The above photo shows how the pawl rides on the edge of a cam. The position of the cam is changed depending on the setting of the line space setting lever. Here it is set for single line spacing. As the carriage return lever is operated, the pawl assembly is rotated CCW, pulled by that S-shaped wire linkage. The cam keeps the pawl from dropping into the ratchet until there is just enough rotation left to advance the platten one line. As the line space setting lever is moved forward to two or three lines, the cam is rotated CW, allowing the pawl to engage the ratchet sooner.

Whoops - the line-spacing pawl is out of place

The photo above shows a Studio 45 in trouble. It moves the platten three lines at a time, regardless of the line space setting, because the pawl is riding on the side of the cam, rather than the edge. You can see how the side of the cam has become polished by the out-of-place cam as the carriage return lever was operated by a frustrated typist.

It turned out that the fix was quite simple. The right-hand carriage knob had slipped a bit, allowing side-to-side play in the platten shaft. This play allowed the pawl assembly to move to the left (out) enough to allow the pawl to slip from its position on the cam. I had to disassemble and reassemble the thing several times before I realized why the pawl wouldn't stay in place. Once I realized the problem, the hardest part was finding the right size of allen wrench to tighten the two set screws on the right-hand knob.

A pretty Olivetti Studio 45 ready to go to work.


  1. I felt like a schoolkid again, when the teacher shows a problem for which you know the answer. I too had to fiddle with the same problem on a Studio 45 - disguises as an Underwood - and after a while also discovered that the answer was taking care of the horizontal play. Of course, that took waaaay longer than I'm willing to admit...

    This same mechanism seems to be used in every Olivetti machine from the '60s on, so this will also work on any kind of Lettera, plus the Studio 46. The only difference in design (and probably a way to prevent this very problem from happening) is that the newer machines (say, late-1980s or so) have the left knob so tightly secured you actually need a special wrench to pry them out (which I don't have...)

    1. Ha ha, Miguel! I, too, endured a long frustrated struggle. I was at the point of adding washers until just by happenstance I felt that horizontal play. But the struggle was worth that wonderful "Ah ha!" moment.

    2. I should have said that I was at the point of adding washers until i realized that it was the right hand knob slippage that caused the horizontal play. That's why it takes me so long to fix these things!

  2. Those moments of enlightenment are precious, like the sun coming out after a storm.

    It is interesting to see how these compare to the Studio 44 I'm more familiar with. Luckily, no line spacing issues with either of mine but they do like to be coddled a bit to coax the best out of them.