Ink and Ribbon

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Revision as of 18:42, 22 May 2023 by Cerafuki (talk | contribs)

An integral part of typewriters' ability to print characters is applying ink to the paper itself. Typewriters commonly use ink ribbons to achieve this, although some early machines will use ink rollers or pads. This article will describe ink and ribbon mechanisms, how they work, and what ribbons or ink supplies you need to replace the ones in your typewriter based on model.


The vast majority of typewriters use one of two standard spool types: DIN2103 and US Universal. Although both of these spools fit the same half-inch width ribbon, they have slightly different dimensions: DIN2103 has a wider hole in the centre and will fit European typewriters built for European market sale, whereas US Universal fits machines built for the American market. The vast majority of typewriters bought in the United States will have take US Universal spools. I NEED TO PUT A PIC HERE AND WILL DO THAT...EVENTUALLY

Certain brands and models use special spools or inking methods as well. A few common examples are listed below:

Machine Spool Type Notes
Remington Portables 1-5 Proprietary, Remington Portable Remington portable spools are smaller than conventional spools and take standard half-inch ribbon.
Woodstock Proprietary spoked spools. Example
Royal Standard Proprietary spools with ribbon reverse tabs on bottom. Example
Halda Portable Proprietary spools with ribbon reverse tabs on bottom. Example
Oliver Wooden spool cores. All models before No. 9 are designed to use 7/16th-inch ribbon but will take half-inch ribbon. Example
Remington, Smith Premier, and other Upstrike Typewriters Use 1 3/4 inch ribbon. Spools are usually built into the machine body or difficult to remove. Example
Hammond Uses wooden spool cores or proprietary spools. Designed for 7/16th inch ribbon. Example
Williams, Sun, and Blickensderfer Use ink pads. Example

Types of Ribbon

Ribbons come in three main materials: silk, cotton, and nylon. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages.

Silk ribbon is made of thin silk and is the thinnest of the ribbon types. Silk ribbons are generally lauded for having the crispest print due to their thinner fabric and thus improved impact of the slugs as a result; however, it is also the most expensive. Most manufacturers do not offer silk ribbon in many colors, as well.

Cotton ribbon is the thickest of the ribbon types. Cotton ribbons are generally quite ink-heavy and many users prefer them on older machines with harder platens, as their nature allows even hard platens to produce good impressions. However, they can be blurry, especially on machines with smaller (12CPI [Elite] or smaller) typefaces.

Nylon ribbon is the cheapest and most common ribbon. Lying somewhere between silk and cotton ribbon, nylon is a good middle ground and is often available in an increased number of colors -- many manufacturers offer them in shades of pink, green, blue, and other colors. Nylon does suffer from longevity issues, however -- it is more vulnerable to being punched through on hard platens.

What Ribbon Should I Buy, and where?

That question is ultimately dependent on the typewriter used. Generally, well-maintained typewriters will prefer a silk ribbon; if there is one machine that you intend to use to write pages upon every day, it is often worth paying the extra couple dollars for a silk ribbon. However, nylon and cotton ribbons are by no means poor choices. Cotton ribbon is especially good with [Noiseless] machines and any typewriter with a harder platen.

Many places still produce and sell typewriter ribbon.

Some of the wiki editors' preferences are Ribbons Unlimited and Baco Ribbon Supply. We are not affiliated with any of these sellers in any way; it's just what we've used. Baco Supply sells bulk reels of ribbon and is contactable via email or phone number. WILL UPDATE with info

Other Methods of Inking

As so many typewriters use standard half-inch ribbon, it is easier to list the exceptions rather than the rules. Unfortunately, this list is not exhaustive.