A photographer/collector who likes analog cameras and the images film produces, while also enjoying

A photographer/collector who likes analog cameras and the images film produces, while also enjoying
A photographer/collector who likes analog cameras and the images film produces, while also enjoying the latest digital.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Vintage Typewriter Color Touch Up

Thought I would share what I have found is the best method, to touch up small blemishes in the finish of old typewriters.  I clean and lubricate the typewriter and it looks great.  Many times however there is a place or two, here and there on the exterior surface that shows primer or bare metal.  This often occurs in those spots where the typewriter has rubbed against other items in storage or transfer.  Sometimes even though the typewriter comes with a case, it will have been placed into its case improperly, or with another loose item and cause some paint to rub away.

I am driven to “touch up” these bad spots.  My wife says such spots give the typewriter character.  It just plain bugs me however.  This lead me to experiment with how best to cover these blemishes.  My goal is to reduce the dramatic difference in appearance between the body color and the rub or damage spot.  The closer the better.  This is not an attempt to totally refinish the typewriter.

I have found that often such areas are in a spot on the typewriter where if repainted, will not receive constant rubbing during use.  The Areas of a typewriter that are worn down because of use tend to just remove the “crinkle” or sheen from the typewriter, but not the color.  Therefore such spots do not look as annoying to me.

I began by first deciding what type of paint to use.  Because I am dealing with areas of the typewriter that do not take constant abuse, I have more leeway of choice.  After experimenting with several types of paint, including automotive paint, I settled on enamel model paint.  It has the advantage of coming ins very small bottles, and there is a large variety of colors.  There are several brands and each is slightly different in color.  Even when bottles from different manufacturers are labeled as the same color (Gloss Black, Flat Black, etc.).

The delicate part of color selection involves matching the color of the typewriter in the store, against a color only seen through the small glass bottle.  You need a good eye.  I would choose what I thought was the closest color match, and even then still buy two or three bottles that were either side of what I thought was the closest match.  I do sometimes find that when I get home and experiment, a shade that I did not at the store think was close, did in fact turn out to be the best.

I also buy a bottle of clear flat.  Sometimes the closest color match is not available in a flat, plus this is the only way to ensure the final color when applied, ended up looking truly flat.  For crinkle paint typewriters anyway, flat is the only way to match colors and not have the repaired spot stand out under light reflection.

After obtaining what I believed to be the closest colors, the next step before I ever touched the typewriter, is to apply several samples of each color onto a piece of good white photographic printer paper.  Not only do I apply samples of the colors out of the bottle, but I also make some of the samples darker by adding a small amount of black paint to the as purchased color.  All in an attempt to get as close to the original as possible.  I also create some samples with a dose of the clear flat paint (After the base coat had dried thoroughly).  I end up with 5 to 10 sample spots on the sheet of photographic printer paper, each just slightly different in shade or dullness to compare.  The paper is pliable enough that I can curve the paper so that the line of color samples shows against the typewriter surface.  This allows for a good comparison of color, shade, and flatness to the specific typewriter.

When the best match is determined, I apply a very small amount of that specific mixture to an out of the way spot on the body.  Often just where the body color wraps under the typewriter and would not be seen.  I always have a paper towel and a damp rag available so that after applying the color and can immediately tell it does not match and sometimes can quickly wipe off the new paint spot.

Applying paint to old typewriter colors, often results in the typewriters original paint becoming very soft.  So do not try wiping paint off if you have applied very much paint or if it has been on the machine for more than an instant or two.  Trying to do so could result in wiping more of the original finish off also.  Even if the original finish is not removed, this sometimes causes the original paint to lose its crinkle.  So in final application I only apply to the area needing painting, not a larger area surrounding the bad spot.

Also before application of the final paint onto the damaged spot on the typewriter, I clean off the area.  I do this with Birchwood Casey Gun Scrubber.  This is a gun cleaning product that totally remove grease, oil, and wax.  Do not overdo a good thing however on the paint.  I spray onto a clean rag and quickly apply to the area to be painted.

I did not realize I was going to post this so I did took only a single pre-repair image.  I am sorry for the quality of that image, as it was captured with my cell phone.  Here are two examples of paint touch ups I have recently completed.  Remember, I am not trying to “fix” dented or gouged spots with this repair.  Only to cover the bad spot with as close to the same color as possible.

The first three images are of a Royal Quiet Deluxe.  This one a 1941 model in brown finish.  The first image of this typewriter shows the bad spot as I was just starting to apply the repair paint.  The second and third are of the dried and finish result.  The paint I ended up using on this repair was straight out of the bottle.  Model Master Italian Dark Brown enamel.

 The second typewriter is a black 1946 Royal Quiet Deluxe.  I did not think to take any before images.  I can only say that the spot in question was not as bad, but in the same location as the first, worn through the crinkle and black outer paint.  Showing through had been an area of shiny gloss black.  It was very annoying to an otherwise excellent finish on the typewriter.  The paint I ended up using on this repair was also straight out of the bottle.    This paint was also flat out of the bottle.  Testor's Flat Black enamel.

 The above has worked for me.  Please take what I have said with a grain of salt and proceed at your own risk.

More to come………………….

Model Paint: Paint obtained in hobby stores and regularly used when building models.


  1. Impressive work! I have a black paint marker on hand to touch up the finish on glossy black typewriters (it works wonders!) and a white paint marker to use on glossy white/cream paint (don't get to use it often, but the time does arise), but never attempted anything aside from that before.

    1. Thanks for the feedback! I have a history of repairing other small items and this approach has worked in the past. Have not had much experience yet with smooth finish typewriters. Hope to have at opportunity.


    2. What brand of paint marker do you use??

    3. Hi Megan! Not sure I understand what you mean by paint marker. I assume you mean paint maker. The two brands & colors are in the post. They are:
      Model Master Italian Dark Brown enamel
      Testor's Flat Black enamel

  2. Very nice work, thanks for showing us.