1923 Underwood 3-Bank Portable


Produced from 1919 to 1929, this machine was in direct response to the Corona 3, which is responsible for beginning the Portable Typewriter market.  The remarkable design of this Underwood came from the genius of Lee Burridge, who’s brother submitted the patents shortly after his death.
This typewriter was around the same size and weight as the Corona 3, yet eliminated the need for prior setup.
Part of what makes this machine so small is the absence of several usual pieces, such as the left platen knob, right shift key, fourth key bank, bail rollers, and tab.  Later models of this machine began to include more of these features as the market progressed, but from 1919 to the mid 1920s, this was the usual.
The machine I have is from 1923, and weighs 8.5 pounds.  It does not have the right CAPS key, but it does have the comb slot, so the change was in progress.  This machine came to me in very good mechanical condition, though it had been dropped on the left side, and sustained some minor damage.  A few springs were missing, the vibrator isn’t working, and the platen wasn’t turning, but all in all, most of the issues were either cosmetic or congealed oil.
Top screw removes it from base


The machine can be removed from the base via the two screws behind the front feet.  The typewriter then pulls forward and lifts out.  After doing this, I had to clean out all the old eraser crumbs and bits of dust.  The clogged typebars were cleaned with some Mineral Spirits.  I see a lot of people using Rubbing Alcohol, which may work, but it contains water which rusts metal.  Another thing I see people do, is use WD40.  That stuff is bad for typewriters, so instead, I used actual Typewriter oil which can be found in old toolkit’s in long forgotten attics.  If you don’t have an adventurous spirit, an attic, or your afraid of spiders, gunslick and gun oil work just as well.  Dry lubricants tend to work best as they don’t attract dust, but oils can be used as long as the machine is constantly maintained.
After all of that, I polished the paint and decals, replaced the platen set screw, adjusted some stuff here and there, and replaced the ribbon which to my dismay was installed upside down.  I hate it when people do that.  The red belongs on the bottom, and the spool should wind in the direction that the spoke turns.  The vibrator works alright now, it was a little bent, but when typing on red, some of the letters will randomly come out in a bold black. Still working on that.

Other than that, much was just basic maintenance.  Still needs a bit of work, but it types!  It also has these nifty little fold out paper rests.  Very cool, very snappy little machine.

Underwood portable typewriter  


1923 Underwood Typewriter 

1923 Underwood Standard Portable Typewriter Photograph  

Typewriter repair information


Royal Typewriter Underwood Typewriter
Size comparison to "full function" portable.


It's been a bit since I've posted this page, and I've decided to adjust the issue with the red ribbon vibrator setting.  There is a post on the leaver that raises and lowers the vibrator.  This post fits into a bracket which moves as keys are hit.  Bending this post to the left or to the right will get the vibrator to go higher or lower.

Right side of carriage 

the adjusted red type

this note was written on my Royal Portable

and a final nice photo :)

Second update, wanted to discuss removing the paper table.  No screws come out!  Instead, there are two pins on either side that you pull out.  Grasp the end with pliers and pull towards the center of the machine. 

Second, adjusting the escapement, or the point at which the keystroke trips it, is done with this screw. 


  1. We recently came across the same model typewriter. Our platen doesn’t turn but is is otherwise functional but dirty. It appears to be missing a set screw the allow the platen to function properly. Any ideal on where to find a replacement?

    1. Mine was missing the set screw as well. I have a large surplus of random screws laying around, so I was able to find one that fit. It was a standard screw, but it did the job. If you live near a hardware store that sells set screws, I would recommend taking your platen there and testing some out.

  2. I also just came across this same model. I am having issues with the keys sticking though.. Any advice?

    1. Yes, you’ll want to soak the segment in some white mineral spirits and work it into the slots with a stiff brush. Then work the keys back and forth until they loosen up. They can also get stuck inside the type guide, and you can usually use your fingers to gently bend them away. Don’t use products with water, and don’t use WD40. Hope this helps!


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