On the quality of Typewriter Ribbons

Good, cheap ribbon. I got like 6 of these at a paper store closeout table for 50 cents eash.

As you wind the ribbon onto your machine's original spools, take the time to install eyelets at the ends (a foot or so in) if your machine needs them to actuate the ribbon reverse mechanism.

This Swissa Junior has european-sized spool posts, which are slightly thicker than US-made typewriters, so the spools that came with it always need to be used. Sadly, they are plastic, so I will someday have to hunt down some metal spools in this size before the plastic ones break.

Happy Swissa! New Platen and Ribbon!

Ephemera of another dead and gone typewriter shop. This paper label came off of the back of the 1951 Smith-Corona Silent from last post.

The front-office desk of Bill Wahl at Mesa Typewriter Exchange. There is no computer anywhere in this office - instead, on the fold-out section if the desk is bolted an Olympia SG-1. The rest of the desk is covered in typewriters that are in for repair, but the SG1 is the one he types on. This Hermes Rocket is owned by someone who got too far into the "taking stuff apart" stage of a typewriter cleaning project without properly documenting where things went. (no, not me :D )

Updated: December 16, 2011 — 10:34 am


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  1. Thanks for the information on the ribbons. I wonder if the thin ones are Chinese? I have been re-inking mine using an ink pad. I have tried India ink and fountain pen ink and have not found much difference after I got the amount figured out after a few attempts of too much ink. Someone somewhere said WD-40 will work, but I am not too interested in putting oil on my ribbon(s) or paper.

  2. I’ve been using the DATAPRODUCTS #R3300 printer ribbons for Okidata ML80, ML82 and ML92 that I can find at my local Staples. It is $5.99 a ribbon and the ribbon already has eyelets and while the spools are plastic, they have fit every typewriter I have that uses a two inch spool.

    About a year ago, one out of every four was a bit light on the ink, but the past 6 months or so of new packaging, has proved to have very solid, all black ribbons.

    These get a thumbs up from me!

    1. excellent to know! I’ll have to try those out (:

    2. Through about 2020 Staples still carried Okidata ribbons in their stores. As of 2023, they no longer did, at least in the store I visit most often.

  3. I love using the GRC ribbons, and if I were you, I’d try to stay away from calculator ribbons. They are inked differently, I hear, and so I just stick to getting my ribbons from Jay Respler and Cambridge Typewriter. But, if it works, use it!

  4. I’m curious about the eyelets. Do they go inside the guide, i.e. on the ribbon side of the guide or on the outside the guide toward the vibrator to function properly in causing the ribbon to reverse.
    Thanks. I’m trying to find a ribbon for a Victor Adding Machine. Its a beauty. Brown bakelite with green keys. Works perfectly.

    1. inside, towards the ribbon spool. in fact, you should run the eyelet into the spool a few turns so your sure it doesn’t go outside the guide/reverse actuator lever. You don’t want that bit of metal to get jammed up in your ribbon vibrator.

      Also note, some machines like Olympias, do not use an eyelet to reverse the ribbon, and you shouldn’t use eyeletted ribbons in them.

  5. I own an Olympia SM-9, which I haven’t used in years. However, I used to write all my fiction on it, as it forced me to keep going through the draft. Also, typewriters seem to have some mojo to them when writing fiction (we need all the luck we can get!). I want to get the machine up and rolling, but I remember how pitifully weak the letters print on the ribbons I buy. Back in the 80s, I used to buy cotton ribbons at a typewriter store that no longer exists. Do any of you know where I can buy ribbons that create good bold print?

    1. Well, the calculator ribbons I find are very well-inked, probably because calculators don’t impact the platen as hard as typewriters do. I find these calc ribbons at thrift stores all the time. However, I do also get well-inked typewriter ribbons at my local typewriter shop – he stocks 3 different levels of ink saturated ribbons. I’ve never bought ribbons online, but I’ve heard good things about Baco ribbons, so you might try them.

  6. I found your blog searching for quality ribbond for a typewriter my 12 year old wanted for his birthday. An old smith corona from the 50’s EXACTLY like his grandma’s personal typewriter. In searching for a machine I saw many other fine specimens, and was wondering if any particular machines are less(or more) likely to have problems-if properly cared for

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