Author Topic: MX (not) compatible Disappointment with Smith Corona typewriter  (Read 1161 times)

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Offline fohat.digs

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Today I saw an interesting Smith Corona typewriter, and, force of habit, I pulled a key.

Wow! I thought I had hit the jackpot. Dolch-esque, thick doubleshots, spherical - I was very excited and bought it.

When I got home and tried them on a Cherry board, I realized that the cruciform opening was a bit larger and wider than the Cherry counterpart.

I would love to be able to use these keys. Any ideas? They are so nice I am tempted to add them to my project list and use a Dremel and epoxy to make them work.

Or, would anybody pay me a good price for them?
« Last Edit: Wed, 03 April 2013, 10:52:07 by fohat.digs »
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Offline Acetrak

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Re: MX (not) Disappointment with Smith Corona typewriter
« Reply #1 on: Mon, 01 April 2013, 14:56:37 »
Maybe try adding small amounts of sugru on each end of the + indent and use a spare stem to do test fitting? I think that should work but it will depend on how consistent and patient you are with this mod
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Offline baldgye

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Re: MX (not) Disappointment with Smith Corona typewriter
« Reply #2 on: Mon, 01 April 2013, 14:59:59 »
Maybe try adding small amounts of sugru on each end of the + indent and use a spare stem to do test fitting? I think that should work but it will depend on how consistent and patient you are with this mod

yeah was gona suggest something similar, though removing them again after might prove a bit of a problem..

Offline Acetrak

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Re: MX (not) Disappointment with Smith Corona typewriter
« Reply #3 on: Mon, 01 April 2013, 15:02:42 »
I was thinking of removing the stem before it cures all the way. So maybe use some lube to prevent unwanted adhering.
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Offline Soarer

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Re: MX (not) Disappointment with Smith Corona typewriter
« Reply #4 on: Mon, 01 April 2013, 15:55:24 »
How about some sort of stretchy plastic... glad wrap? PVC sheet? condoms?!

Offline fohat.digs

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Re: MX (not) Disappointment with Smith Corona typewriter
« Reply #5 on: Mon, 01 April 2013, 16:40:05 »
Maybe non-lubricated.

I will try a few membranes, that might work but they are significantly bigger.

No way I will glue the caps to the switches - if I really got serious I might cut some key stems and somehow affix them to the caps.
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Offline berserkfan

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Re: MX (not) Disappointment with Smith Corona typewriter
« Reply #6 on: Tue, 02 April 2013, 08:38:15 »
you've touched on a topic I have been wondering for a long time myself.

I really love these old style keycaps. doubleshot? There's something very solid and reassuring about them. Isn't that typewriter at least 30 years old?

What I want to know is: how do we get hold of similar keycaps nowadays? I want the same kind of lasting quality and will happily sell something to raise funds for keycaps I know will last decades.
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Offline Tarzan

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Re: MX (not) Disappointment with Smith Corona typewriter
« Reply #7 on: Tue, 02 April 2013, 20:19:24 »
You may not be able to make them work without significant Dremeling...  I bought some industrial keycaps thinking they'd work on Cherry stems, and they do fit on a switch just fine.  Problem is that they won't depress, the stem on the cap is too thick to fit inside the switch casing.  That appears to be the same problem with the caps you've found. 

Beautiful spherical caps, though...  Depending on what you paid for the typewriter, I'd be tempted to Dremel out the stem entirely and replace with a donor Cherry-compatible stem.  Kind of kludgy, and a ton of work, but you'd have something unique to show for it.

Offline Tarzan

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Re: MX (not) Disappointment with Smith Corona typewriter
« Reply #8 on: Tue, 02 April 2013, 20:34:55 »
You may not be able to make them work without significant Dremeling...  I bought some industrial keycaps thinking they'd work on Cherry stems, and they do fit on a switch just fine.  Problem is that they won't depress, the stem on the cap is too thick to fit inside the switch casing.  That appears to be the same problem with the caps you've found. 

Beautiful spherical caps, though...  Depending on what you paid for the typewriter, I'd be tempted to Dremel out the stem entirely and replace with a donor Cherry-compatible stem.  Kind of kludgy, and a ton of work, but you'd have something unique to show for it.

Adding crappy phone pic to illustrate non-Cherry compatible key (blue) next to compatible one (white):

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Re: MX (not) Disappointment with Smith Corona typewriter
« Reply #9 on: Tue, 02 April 2013, 20:59:17 »
Beautiful spherical caps, though...  Depending on what you paid for the typewriter, I'd be tempted to Dremel out the stem entirely and replace with a donor Cherry-compatible stem.  Kind of kludgy, and a ton of work, but you'd have something unique to show for it.


Here is ripsters how to.. http://imgur.com/a/idnod


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Offline fohat.digs

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Re: MX (not) Disappointment with Smith Corona typewriter
« Reply #10 on: Tue, 02 April 2013, 21:28:46 »
I would do this in a heartbeat if it was 1 or 2 keys, maybe even 4, but all I have is the basic core set, and no way am I doing this for all of them, one by one.
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Offline berserkfan

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Re: MX (not) Disappointment with Smith Corona typewriter
« Reply #11 on: Wed, 03 April 2013, 09:23:33 »
can anyone give more details on these keycaps? I would dearly love to have equally lasting things.

the stuff I'm reading online says doubleshots are the best. But they're supposed to be abt, which are not lasting. I don't understand. If these old typewriters use ABT doubleshots, well after decades they are still not faded and shiny, so obviously ABT doubleshots are not like ABT???
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Offline fohat.digs

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Re: MX (not) compatible Disappointment with Smith Corona typewriter
« Reply #12 on: Wed, 03 April 2013, 11:01:56 »
Guys, I just don't see this working.

By my weak old eyeballs, it looks like the thickness of the bars in the Cherry cross-arms is about 1mm, and the cross itself is about 3.5mm wide.

In contrast, the bars in this are a good 1.5mm wide, and the whole thing is nearly 5mm across.

Last, it appears that the stem is intended to go deeper into the keycap, while the Cherry stem protrudes only a couple of mm.

If I did not have any other projects, and if I wasn't a Model F man anyway, I might happily go to the effort of excavating and re-building these things. But I may never get around to it.

These are really pretty caps, somewhat discolored (nothing that a good cleaning or Retro-brite wouldn't fix) but uniformly and not unpleasantly.

Somebody make me an offer on them, but I need the money so I can't just give them away.
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Offline Tarzan

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Re: MX (not) compatible Disappointment with Smith Corona typewriter
« Reply #13 on: Wed, 03 April 2013, 11:26:25 »
Guys, I just don't see this working.

By my weak old eyeballs, it looks like the thickness of the bars in the Cherry cross-arms is about 1mm, and the cross itself is about 3.5mm wide.

In contrast, the bars in this are a good 1.5mm wide, and the whole thing is nearly 5mm across.

Last, it appears that the stem is intended to go deeper into the keycap, while the Cherry stem protrudes only a couple of mm.

If I did not have any other projects, and if I wasn't a Model F man anyway, I might happily go to the effort of excavating and re-building these things. But I may never get around to it.

These are really pretty caps, somewhat discolored (nothing that a good cleaning or Retro-brite wouldn't fix) but uniformly and not unpleasantly.

Somebody make me an offer on them, but I need the money so I can't just give them away.

Must... resist... any... more... projects...   :-\

That said, if you don't get any offers on them by the weekend, PM me and I'll see what I can muster.  They look absolutely spiffy, it'd be a shame not to put them on a board somehow.  Ripster's guide looks simple enough to follow, although I'd have to find some spare Cherry switches to build the jig, some donor caps for the stems... Ack!

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Re: MX (not) Disappointment with Smith Corona typewriter
« Reply #14 on: Wed, 03 April 2013, 12:38:42 »
I would do this in a heartbeat if it was 1 or 2 keys, maybe even 4, but all I have is the basic core set, and no way am I doing this for all of them, one by one.

Well, Ripster's how-to showed him doing multiple keycaps at once using a wooden jig.
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Offline Tarzan

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Re: MX (not) Disappointment with Smith Corona typewriter
« Reply #15 on: Wed, 03 April 2013, 12:44:31 »
I would do this in a heartbeat if it was 1 or 2 keys, maybe even 4, but all I have is the basic core set, and no way am I doing this for all of them, one by one.

Well, Ripster's how-to showed him doing multiple keycaps at once using a wooden jig.

I read the OP's post as referring to the work required to do 50-odd keys in total.  The jig shown in Ripster's guide would help, but the task of drilling/routering out all the typewriter caps, cutting down the donor caps, etc. is still pretty daunting.  For me, at least.  If I'd done this before it might be old hat, but learning the new skills to do this project could be time-consuming.  Plus, if you screw up a single key, you're unlikely to get spares. 

Offline Krogenar

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Re: MX (not) Disappointment with Smith Corona typewriter
« Reply #16 on: Wed, 03 April 2013, 13:31:06 »
I would do this in a heartbeat if it was 1 or 2 keys, maybe even 4, but all I have is the basic core set, and no way am I doing this for all of them, one by one.

Well, Ripster's how-to showed him doing multiple keycaps at once using a wooden jig.

I read the OP's post as referring to the work required to do 50-odd keys in total.  The jig shown in Ripster's guide would help, but the task of drilling/routering out all the typewriter caps, cutting down the donor caps, etc. is still pretty daunting.  For me, at least.  If I'd done this before it might be old hat, but learning the new skills to do this project could be time-consuming.  Plus, if you screw up a single key, you're unlikely to get spares.

That's a very good point; one mistake and your set is history.
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Offline fohat.digs

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Re: MX (not) compatible Disappointment with Smith Corona typewriter
« Reply #17 on: Wed, 03 April 2013, 14:10:10 »
The keys are pretty thick. As long as you didn't actually crack the outer shell, you could ream out the insides more than once to re-install the socket.

There is one on ebay right now for $12 + $27 if somebody figured out how to do this, a lot less than a set of Dolch keys.

*      *      *      *      *

OK, so I pulled all the key caps and tossed the typewriter. The keys are for sale.

Since the stems are connected to the problem (pun) I cracked it open and dumped them out, too. They are long and plastic, and attached to a T-shaped assembly at the bottom. They will be included.

I only made one mistake, not fatal, I broke off one stem in the Backspace key (there are 2) and it will not be too hard to clean out with a small Dremel. I am leaving it in, since "whoever" may be doing something else anyway, and there are plenty of extra stems.

You will have several non-useable parts to practice on and perfect your technique.
« Last Edit: Thu, 04 April 2013, 14:45:51 by fohat.digs »
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Offline Photoelectric

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Re: MX (not) compatible Disappointment with Smith Corona typewriter
« Reply #18 on: Fri, 28 June 2013, 10:51:15 »
Old topic, but I was looking as Id just found this typewriter in my local goodwill store as well in excellent unyellowed condition.  But I guess I won't be getting it now, having read about compatibility issues :( 

To clarify, is it the Cherry switch stem that's too small for these keycap cross-openings, or is the keycap stem too wide somehow or too long?
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Offline Tarzan

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Re: MX (not) compatible Disappointment with Smith Corona typewriter
« Reply #19 on: Fri, 28 June 2013, 11:03:14 »
Old topic, but I was looking as Id just found this typewriter in my local goodwill store as well in excellent unyellowed condition.  But I guess I won't be getting it now, having read about compatibility issues :( 

To clarify, is it the Cherry switch stem that's too small for these keycap cross-openings, or is the keycap stem too wide somehow or too long?

Cherry switch stem is too small, plus the outer diameter of the SC stems is too large. 

I've tried drilling out the existing stem to take a donor stem from a Cherry cap, that worked okay but the alignment is all over the place (I need a better glue-up jig, plus a drill press!).  Next step is to try removing all the stem from the SC caps and using Ripster's method of gluing in a Cherry stem and a flat section of the cap.  Plus, I'm going to try setting up a better system for holding the caps while cementing in the donor bits.

Lot of work, and so far I don't have much to show for it.  But if you've found a typewriter with caps in decent condition, might be worth a try.  One thing to bear in mind is the typewriter keys are all the same profile, they don't differ by row as Cherry caps do.  I'm planning on using them on a TG3 keyboard, which uses a similar profile.

Offline Photoelectric

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Re: MX (not) compatible Disappointment with Smith Corona typewriter
« Reply #20 on: Fri, 28 June 2013, 11:06:24 »
Ok, so disregarding the larger opening for the Cherry cross-stems (say, I could stack a few layers of teflon tape over Cherry switches), I'd still have to shorten the SC keycap stems and make their outer diameter narrower?
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Offline Tarzan

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Re: MX (not) compatible Disappointment with Smith Corona typewriter
« Reply #21 on: Fri, 28 June 2013, 11:16:15 »
Ok, so disregarding the larger opening for the Cherry cross-stems (say, I could stack a few layers of teflon tape over Cherry switches), I'd still have to shorten the SC keycap stems and make their outer diameter narrower?

You could get away with the stock stem length, but by the time you cut away enough of the stem outer diameter to make it work with a Cherry switch, there'd be nothing left.  They use quite a large stem.

Offline Photoelectric

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Re: MX (not) compatible Disappointment with Smith Corona typewriter
« Reply #22 on: Fri, 28 June 2013, 11:18:47 »
Aha, I see.  Thanks :)
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Offline fohat.digs

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Re: MX (not) compatible Disappointment with Smith Corona typewriter
« Reply #23 on: Sat, 29 June 2013, 09:05:11 »
Ok, so disregarding the larger opening for the Cherry cross-stems (say, I could stack a few layers of teflon tape over Cherry switches), I'd still have to shorten the SC keycap stems and make their outer diameter narrower?

You could get away with the stock stem length, but by the time you cut away enough of the stem outer diameter to make it work with a Cherry switch, there'd be nothing left.  They use quite a large stem.

I think I remember sending you the stems, too.

Have you thought about using them also, and having very tall assemblies, and/or recessing the switch box plate to a much lower level?
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Offline Tarzan

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Re: MX (not) compatible Disappointment with Smith Corona typewriter
« Reply #24 on: Sat, 29 June 2013, 20:03:40 »
I think I remember sending you the stems, too.

Have you thought about using them also, and having very tall assemblies, and/or recessing the switch box plate to a much lower level?

I managed to make them fit Cherry switches just fine, but getting the glued-in stems aligned properly is a task I haven't succeeded at.

26891-0
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I was going to take some pics of the caps installed on the TG3 keyboard, but they looked so crappy I got depressed and stopped taking pictures.   :'(

Okay, you can see one on the keyboard behind the vise.
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Re: MX (not) compatible Disappointment with Smith Corona typewriter
« Reply #25 on: Sat, 29 June 2013, 20:13:30 »
What we need for these and many other jobs is threaded rod the diameter of a standard stem with the Cherry MX + running through the centre. That way we could just cut a piece off and screw it into any keycap. Put me down for about 10 metres of it once someone finds a way to extrude and thread it accurately.
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Offline Tarzan

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Re: MX (not) compatible Disappointment with Smith Corona typewriter
« Reply #26 on: Sat, 29 June 2013, 20:25:12 »
I think I need a drill press with a clamp, so I can drill holes at the same angles every time.  Doing it by hand, even a small variance in the angle translates to a pretty ugly mis-alignment once the new stem is glued in. 

Back to the drawing board...

Offline nourathar

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Re: MX (not) compatible Disappointment with Smith Corona typewriter
« Reply #27 on: Thu, 04 July 2013, 18:58:08 »
those keycaps are gorgeous indeed !