Saturday 1 December 2012

Polytetrafluoroethlene n' that.

Greetings! And welcome to Filthy Labs.

Polytetrafluoroethlene is a compound that my spell-check seriously dislikes. So let's just abbreviate it to its more common name: Teflon.

You may recall a few weeks ago, I started using a 'dry' Teflon based lubricant on my Oliver 5 machine to see how well it worked. Meanwhile, I had on hand another Teflon based lubricant - a 'wet' lube that was packaged in a spray pack can.

The idea was that the TF2 Spray would be an effective substitute for the god-foresaken WD40 rubbish that some home typewriter renovators use to 'get their machines working again'.

When I say substitute, I mean - a product that potentially can directly replace the WD40 that already has been sprayed onto the typewriter. It also could potentially be a go-to can of product for the people that have may have been thinking about using this spray in the past.

Let me explain: In use, many of the Teflon lubricants - including this one, contain a compound that cleans out existing hardened oils. In testing, often the previous broken down oils and dirt have been seen being pushed out of the lubricated space.

This seems to be fine when talking about door hinges and other simple mechanical components that it has been tested on, but what about finer and tighter tolerance objects? As it stands - Teflon as a lubricant is designed for very tight tolerances. That, and that it is also designed to be used in very high impact areas. Hence its use in aircraft landing gear. Teflon's surface protection capacity and slipperiness, as well as its high resilience has been perfect for such applications.

Teflon molecule model. 

Is it good for typewriters? Well.... For the most part typewriters have been happy with most highly viscous oil.  My Oliver 5 seemed to like it, and dirty perished oil was observed being pushed out of all kinds of corners while in use. Another advantage of Teflon that is is lest prone to dust capture. 

But what about as a wet lubricant?

The Candidate: My Adler Gabriele 25

When I acquired this machine the then owner demonstrated it to me on a table on her back patio. As she pressed every key, the typebars became jammed into place about a centimeter or so above the rubber pad of the basket. "Oh, I'll just give it another spray of WD40" she said. I Groaned a "Oh, I'll sort that out, it's okay" but she was still pretty determined to grab the can. "NO"! I insisted "No it is okay".

I forked over a little too much money for such a sorry machine, and soon I was on my way.

I used degreaser to try and move the muck out of the segment, and I was about 85% successful. The machine was largely quite usable after that, but I put the machine into storage, and the residual WD40 quickly latched onto the type bars again. 6 months later it was again a slow and sticky machine. Not as bad as it was originally, but still far from ideal.

The Teflon lubricant will clear out the existing muck, and subsequently replace it with a much more effective lubricant for tight tolerance mechanical operation. Usability will improve, as will longevity of the machine.

Part 1: Spray strategically, operate, observe. Clean surfaces of over spray. Operate and observe. 

Part 2: Store typewriter as typcial post procedure, wait set periods, observe. Operate and observe. 

Potential Variables:
Differing weather conditions could affect the outcomes. Higher humidity in summer, as well as increased heat could potentially cause some level of a false positive. Estimate of potential level of variation is yet to be established. 


I still didn't simply like the idea of spraying this machine full of lubricant in the same way that I have heard and seen other would-be 'repairers' flood their machines with WD40. Instead I decided to use short, light and quick moving squirts across specific components and stuck locations. 

As this machine was already a victim of 'segment lubrication syndrome', (hereby known as SLS) I wasn't too worried about the normal warnings of 'don't oil the segment', and felt this was an ideal candidate to both test the lubricant, and its muck removal qualities. 

I didn't just spray randomly into the segment however. I only sprayed half of the segment - which left the other half as the control group. 

 TF2+ Dry, and the TF2 spray.

However, the control group contained a particularly sticky key. Q to be exact. And I decided to target the Q key with a tiny drop of the other Teflon lubricant I had been testing, the TF2+ Dry. The drop was administered with the usual syringe that I had been using for the substance. This immediately corrupted the control group,  but I continued with what was left of the control as a point of reference.

The spray was administered through the supplied thin red tube, to ensure that it could be focused closely on a specific area. 

With the typebars now lubricated, I started to manually work every key free from their 'SLS' bonds. I do this by manually grabbing each key, and rapidly shift it to the platen and back repeatedly and as quickly as possible. This method tends to clean out segments that had become jammed with dust or dirt quite effectively, and I was using for the same effect here - to 'push' the debris out of the segment with constant speedy and repeated movement. You can often feel the muck coming out of the segment as you do this. 

Before long the typewriter was up and flying again - in as much as one can say 'flying' with a Gabby.

The control group of the segment took a little work to get lose and moving again, but I managed to get it going. With exception of the Q key, I was able to eventually work all of them lose from their presently lazy operational state. 

The experimental group started to move almost immediately with little or no need to shift the keys around. All keys operated smoothly with individual operation. 

After half an hour of working the keys, both the control and subject groups operated relatively well. I then attempted 'typical' operation - i.e. quickly typing a document, and in typical typing operation both groups worked quickly and mostly smoothly. Some occasional laziness was observed in the control set, but it wasn't consistent and the typewriter was again highly usable. 

The Q key, which had been treated with Teflon dry operated flawlessly. 

Some over spray was wiped from the segment and type-bars, and as soon as I lifted the typewriter - I observed that underneath the machine pools of dirtied oil had formed. 

The smear on the left had formed after I had sat the typewriter back down post spraying along the 'comb' The drizzle of dirty dots to the right formed under the segment - beneath the experimental group. Other drops came from other lubricated locations.
 I had lubricated the carriage rails and the bearings with TF2+ Dry while I was servicing the machine. I'll experiment with the spray on the rails on another machine soon. I have a pre-dunk machine in mind I want to try it with.

3 weeks later.

The Gabby 25 was packed back up and stored in a dry, but relatively cool room for about three weeks. It was positioned horizontally (flat, not on its tail). The room was closed off from air conditiong for most of this time, and the room on some occasions reached a temperature in the low thirties (centigrade - around 86 to 95F).


The experimental group moved smoothly and immediately upon depression of the keys, while many of the keys in the control group felt as though they were locked down. An lightly audible 'snap' could be heard as the keys freed up, and soon they returned to operation smoothly despite their initial stiff function. During this initial phase, these stiff keys made a noticeably lighter impression on the page.

The Q key observed no locking, and operated perfectly. 

4 of the control group typebars positioned closest to the experimental group moved perfectly without fail. This could potentially indicate over spray, but it could also indicate substance travel - i.e. the lubrication moved along the segment through bearings or across surfaces. 

Keys surrounding the Q key also observed no locking and stiffness. As the Q key was supplied with smaller and more controlled application of lubrication that dried quickly, this suggests substance travel. 

The '9' key was part of the original experimental group. However, it appeared to be lazy during operation. A tiny dab of TF2+ dry was added to the underside of the type bar around where the bearing was located while the type bar was pressed against the platen. When the key was released, the '9' key snapped back to rest, without any laziness observable. 

It is possible that the 9 key hadn't been 'worked in' as much. But there is no observation that supports this - other than its probable lack of inclusion while conducting the 'quick brown fox' test.

The segment did not appear to be wet with oil. 

After a few minutes of typing, the typewriter operated beautifully in most regards. The experimental segment worked near perfectly, with the only flaw being the 9 key.

The TF2+ Dry had done a wonderful job on the rails, and it operated observably smoother and quieter. It had even improved over the initial 'working in' of the lubricant, where the carriage at the time had also showed a marked improvement in operation. The TF2+ dry seems to work better post drying.

The typewriter has now been closed up and returned to storage - pending a 3 month review. Previously the type bars had returned to their locked and stiffened state after a 3 month period of no use. Observations will be made to see if the new lubricant has improved this.

Effective application of TF2 spray and TF2+ Dry lubricants.

Both lubricants need to be applied carefully. This is my advice for applying them:

TF2 spray.
Always use the supplied red tube. Spray pointedly and as lightly as possible, while moving across the surface of where you wish to spray. This lubricant is 'wet', so it potentially will catch dust despite teflon based lubricants being more inclined not to. After spraying operate your typewriter immediately and give it a good workout. Afterwards, wipe over the sprayed areas with a paper towel to collect up the heaviest surface over-spray.

The spray is quite effective as a lubricant, and has shown that it can clean out muck from all kinds of spaces. But don't expect it to get into everything. A spray approach often will allow you to miss areas completely. It's like planting a garden. Just because it is outside, don't always assume your plants are in a good spot to catch the sun.

TF2+ Dry.
Use a syringe and needle for application. Application can also be done with a brush or a toothpick, but these are less controlled. I've been using an 18G drawing up needle, but a finer 19g or 21g sharp needle might be the best way to go if you need a lot of control. In wet form this lubricant moves into gaps and spaces, but don't assume that it will clean out the muck - make sure you clean up most locations properly before trying to use this, otherwise it may not flow to where it is needed.

It dries quite quickly, so give the machinery a bit of an operation to make sure the lubricant travels into spaces effectively. The lubricant properly takes a bit of time to truly dry, so don't be surprised to find operation improves further over time.

As the "Dry" version doesn't stay sticky, it is far less prone to be taken up by dust and form a glue. So this could well be the better substance to use on segments - if you find your segment is not responding well after being more effectively cleaned. Personally, I feel the 'Dry' version is the better substance to use to deal with SLS, but it requires a more pinpoint focus, while the spray seems to be highly effective with less effort.

And yes. That photo up top is me.


  1. Excellent report! I need to find some of that stuff and try it out on Abi's Adler Tippa, which I've had some difficulty freeing up. It could also be useful for the carriage of my Underwood #5, which has been de-rusted, but is still squeaky and less than fully responsive..

  2. An admirably scientific approach. Thanks!

    I was inspired by your earlier post on Teflon lubricants to try some myself, in my own semi-scientific, impatient way. I applied Du Pont Teflon dry wax lubricant to my dream team. (The Du Pont product is easily available in the US; TF2 is harder to get.) It had very good effects, most notably on my Hermes 2000, which was gummed up in the segment, probably with WD-40.

    I just tested the Hermes again right now. Some keys were initially stuck in the rest position, but they came loose when I pushed and then they worked fine. It could probably use another application of Teflon lubricant. I have mostly been applying the lubricant with a Q-Tip, but I put it directly onto the segment from the bottle. I like your precision syringe approach, I should do that.

    I also ordered another product, mostly because of the name: Remington Rem-DriLube spray-on lubricant with Teflon. I found this harder to control; a lot wants to come out, and it leaves a white, waxy residue. No harm done, but it requires some cleanup.

  3. Great post Scott. Thank you for the detailed report.

    I have used a different brand of Teflon lube and have found it to give amazing results. I too only apply the lube to the area needing it and not wholeheartedly to the entire mechanical workings of the machine. I think my Adler J4 was the first machine I used Teflon on and to this day it is perhaps my fastest and maybe best typer. I know that the carriage return is the lightest, fastest, smoothest and frictionless of all my machines.

  4. Outstanding work! Seems like Polytetrafluorethylene is now certified for typospherical use.

  5. A meticulous experiment! It must take a great deal of restraint not to work the teflon lubricant over the all the relevant parts of the machine, and instead wait it out.