New Shoes for the Champion
Fitting new feet can improve the feeling on the desk and keep things from sliding around. Feet with these push-through flanges can be a little headache though.
Replacement Typewriter Feet
Typewriters tend to last a long time. While dust can clog up the operation, a good cleaning and fresh ribbons are usually all that most machines really need to get to a usable state. They owe this general durability to their metal construction and the fact that they’re usually kept away from the elements.
Despite this general durability, there are a few pieces which really need to be made from less inherently stable materials, such as rubber feet or the platen. When folks can get away with it, they’ll try to squeeze every breath out of these rubber parts, sometimes typing on diamond-hard platens and on feet that are brittle as glass.
This 1935 Underwood Champion is a real gem, however it seems it hasn’t gotten new shoes in ages. I don’t believe these are the original feet which it came with, but they can’t be too new as they’re simply crumbling under the machine. Time for a new pair!
I happened to get this set from the folks at myTypewriter.com for $35, which is swell for properly molded feet as opposed to the 3D printed ones - those can work in a pinch, but they just don’t tend to grip the writing surfaces as well and seem to slide around a bit.
The first step here was removing the old feet - it seems that the hardware for the rear feet is still present, which is very helpful! In the front feet, these seem to have already had the post and flange dissolve - perhaps when a previous owner went to remove the machine from the case? Either way, it seems they were attached with some rubber cement. It’s not ideal but it did seem to hold up the machine alright, even if the feet slid around a little on the desk. On the rear feet they’re held in place by a pair of original shouldered screws, but the slots on these were very small and shallow, so make sure to test your fit on these before applying torque.
The flanges on these feet can be a real hassle to get through the cutouts for the front, as they have a lot of overhang. A couple tricks helped make this more manageable. Firstly, a medium sized screwdriver that doesn’t have sharp edges can be quite handy as far as tools go.
For the technique, start with the machine on the back panel, fold up the two sides of the flange like a rubber taco and seat the bottom edge of the foot, pressing it up into the cutout. Keep pressure on the bottom of the foot and use the screwdriver to push the flange edges through the cutout until the whole foot is mostly flat against the bottom.
Now, the top of the flange will probably be caught in the hole and won’t have passed through. You can put a finger on the side where the flange has already gone through and pull the rest of it through by pulling on the edges. Rotating the foot while holding your finger on that edge was another trick I found useful.
As for the back feet, we need to modify them by removing the post and overhang. To do this I started with a fresh-ish blade in a razor knife. Over a cut-safe surface I cut part of the way through on each side, then rotated it 90 degrees to get the next. Once perforated this way, it was easy to make a relatively clean cut around the rest of the foot. Installing it again was very straightforward as the only concern was whether or not the bits were small enough for the shallow slot. Thankfully the rubber only compresses a little bit on the shouldered screw, so it really doesn’t require much torque to tighten all the way.
With that, we’re done cobbling things together on this Champion and it’s very stable on the bench again. Replacing feet on most typewriters is usually an even more straightforward affair, but this style has given me trouble in the past, so I figured it would make a good candidate for documenting the process.