Wednesday, October 17, 2012

On Being Cheap: Ribbons for Wrimos

Cheap ribbons I have known

I know that there are better sources for typewriter ribbons than my local office supply big-box store. Jay Respler has his share of business from around the Typosphere, and I've seen Baco Ribbon & Supply mentioned a few times. With my general budget-mindedness, though, I usually opt to roam the printer ribbon section at Staples. They sell 2-inch diameter plastic spools of 1/2-inch wide nylon "printer ribbon" that is meant for a dot-matrix printer. I figure that application is pretty close to that of a typewriter -- short impacts -- and for NaNoWriMo, I'm not as picky about quality.*

The above photo is the three different packaging variations I've seen over the years, from oldest on the left, to the current supply on the right. The common theme is that they are meant for a line of Okidata printers, in models 80, 82, 82A, 83, 83A, 92, 93, "and others." Also, evidently, the Xerox Phaser 3300.

The spools are nothing special, but the ribbons have the familiar grommet near the end to trip the typical portable reverse mechanism, and are drop-in replacements for many of my portables. The ribbon is all-black, and 12 yards long. They're fairly durable, and I've re-inked them with success.**

These are not the "Universal Typewriter Ribbons" which have the evil strip of flaky, useless "correcting" material on them. I avoid those like a pile of fresh rhino poo, as should you.

* I suspect the cheap ribbons are part of the reason why I have such issues with OCR, since they leave a fine dot pattern inside open letters that sometimes trips up the software. A larger issue for OCR, though, is my bad habit of backing up and over-typing my mistakes. No ribbon is going to fix that.

** Also, with ink. And WD-40. Unlike the delicate re-inking procedures I've seen other folks use, I just drip black ink into the wound-up ribbon, zap it with WD-40 to theoretically spread the ink around (it's a solvent of sorts, right?) and then let it all sit in a sealed plastic bad for a while. The end result is not bad, although sometimes you get bold blotches in your typing where you hit damp spots in the ribbon. Again, it's NaNoWriMo, so my tendency to care about this drops off noticeably.


Sheena said...

Office depot also carries these ribbons, about $8-10 each.

notagain said...

I buy the 6-pack bi-color calculator ribbons (for re-spooling) most of the time but have splurged on a special one from Jay a couple times as well.

Mark said...

I like these ribbons fine. If you clean your typeheads you won't get the dot thing inside your letters. You just have to clean them more often is all.

mpclemens said...

@notagain: I've found the adding-machine ribbons are inked pretty heavily and are physically shorter than these printer ribbons, but I've used them too, when I need a quick bi-color ribbon (usually just used as a photo prop.)

@Mark: that sounds like work! I should keep a kneaded eraser close by: that does wonders for lifting out typeface crud.

deek said...

I've memorized Okidata ML82 long ago.

I've used some calculator ribbons and agree, heavy ink.

I've also picked up clearanced printer cartridges like the "D" shaped ones for big Epson printers. As long as it's a half inch ribbon, it will work. Pop open the plastic cartridge and you can spool the ribbon yourself. Per yard, that is about the cheapest way to go.

Bill M said...

I've used ribbons from Staple's and Office Depot with out any problems. I do not use the ones with corrector garbage on them though.

L Casey said...

Here is where I buy my ribbons from:

Comes out to $3 a ribbon! They work great, with only one small problem; the spool is 2 1/8", not 2". You would think this wouldn't make a difference, but these spools will not fit most machines. No matter, I just wind them onto the existing spools and they work great.

Hope this helps!

Cameron said...

Your demonstration of the occasional uneven blotchy bold letters made me laugh!

I've managed to avoid buying any new ribbons for a year now, rejuvenating them with WD-40, but all good things do come to an end. Ink does eventually fade away.

I tried to apply fresh ink on a ribbon once with VERY MESSY results, so I think I'll try Ken's link!

Unknown said...

I myself have purchase the box with 6 calculator universal twin spool ribbon by PORELON at staple too! When the money is short I get these for my Remington Noiseless machines only. The print looks clean and clear.