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18-12-2015 23:30:35  #1


Ribbon curious

Just curious guys. Are there different types and quality of ribbons? I've recently heard about carbon ribbons and I can't find much about them. How do I know weather I'm purchasing a quality ribbon? (I recently purchased one lately that seemed to dry out extremely fast and to me didn't seem that long.) This is why the sudden curiosity.

 

19-12-2015 17:59:10  #2


Re: Ribbon curious

Yes, there is a difference between ribbon types. Carbon ribbons are one-time use only, and were mostly only used on electric models, and even then, only on those that were set up for carbon ribbon. Standard mechanical typewriter ribbons were available cotton, nylon, and silk. And also in various levels of inking.

As for the ribbon that you stated didn't last long, was it of new manufacturer, or an unused vintage ribbon? And how long was not long? There are many mechanical variables when it comes to ribbon wear, but I've yet to use a ribbon - either new manufacture or NOS - that didn't last a long time. For example, I installed a new ribbon in my SG1 and it's still going strong after 120,000 words (400 pages at double line spacing with elite type), and I still have the middle section and bottom sections of the ribbon to use. Conservatively, I'd estimate that I'll get close to 400,000 words out of the one ribbon. 


Stay Safe! 
 

19-12-2015 21:02:38  #3


Re: Ribbon curious

Agree with you Uwe, that the carbon ribbons are only for machines that are intended for their use.

But, regarding ordinary nylon (and, i suppose, cotton ribbons) I have found through experience that it doesn't do any good to try using the "middle" or the "bottom" of the ribbons once the top has become weak. The ink migrates into the used portion of fabric, so, when the top part of the ribbon gets weak, the whole ribbon is weak.  Just my 2cents from having tried to flip ribbons to get extra life out of them (it doesn't work).

And I have no idea why the red ink in black/red ribbons doesn't migrate across the dividing line. I guess it's just one of life's little mysteries!


Bangin' around, this dirty old town, typin' for nickels and dimes...
 

20-12-2015 03:34:05  #4


Re: Ribbon curious

I've noticed many ribbons seem too wet at first. They make sloppy impressions on most typewriters and the closed letters fill in fast. I'm not sure if that's a necessary price of a long lasting ribbon, to come saturated with ink, or if this is just the cheap way to do it. Not all typewriters, interestingly. Some handle wet ribbons better than others.

I was going to join in with the OP that I've noticed some ribbons do dry out very fast, but it occurs to me the machine I noticed this on I had put a new ribbon on when I bought it two months ago and not touched it since. So maybe just the exposed section of the ribbon dried out because it had been in one position a long time. Holy Cow! Another PM - go type a few pages or at least advance the ribbon some on every typewriter I own! Or, if I just bought the machine for hoarding purposes, test it, then take the new ribbon out and use it elsewhere. Leaving a ribbon in a stored typewriter is like letting a stored watch run down its battery. 


"Damn the torpedoes! Four bells, Captain Drayton".
 

20-12-2015 08:50:44  #5


Re: Ribbon curious

treefaller wrote:

Agree with you Uwe, that the carbon ribbons are only for machines that are intended for their use.

.... snip ....

Right, but with one very neat exception, which was explored a couple years ago by Richard Polt. Good Luck Googling it....

It turns out that you can re-spool a carbon ribbon onto your regular spools (OK, you knew that part.) and use it in a regular typewriter that was not explicitly designed for carbon ribbons IF that typewriter advances the ribbon enough to pull the ribbon to a completely fresh  position with each keystroke. Most typewriters only advance the ribbon a little bit and the ink migration in the fabric still allows a good impression, but a carbon ribbon is completely used up at each strike so the advance must pull the ribbon enough to cover that.

I don't remember which typewriter Polt "certified" for this purpose; that's why we have Google. Have Fun!

 

20-12-2015 10:59:19  #6


Re: Ribbon curious

treefaller wrote:

regarding ordinary nylon (and, i suppose, cotton ribbons) I have found through experience that it doesn't do any good to try using the "middle" or the "bottom" of the ribbons once the top has become weak. The ink migrates into the used portion of fabric, so, when the top part of the ribbon gets weak, the whole ribbon is weak. Just my 2cents from having tried to flip ribbons to get extra life out of them (it doesn't work).

 ​I can't speak about your experiences, but mine have been the exact opposite. I've completely worn out the top section (black/blue vibrator setting) of ribbons, and yet when I switched to the middle (yellow) or bottom (red)sections the print quality was like new again, and it lasted just as long as the top section did. My most recent experience with this was with a typewriter that I bought last week. I have no idea how old the ribbon installed in the machine is, but it was so weak that it barely left an impression on the page; however, after noting that the bottom half appeared to be unused, and I had flipped the spools over, I've been able to fill a dozen or so pages - so far - of dark type. 

Ink 'migration' is a nice theory, but I've yet to see it actually work in practice, and certainly not with ribbons that are under constant or heavy use. In fact, the only successful example of a 'migration' effect I've heard of is with ribbons that are rejuvenated with an additive like glycol, and even then that process takes days in a completely sealed atmosphere before it's done. 

Also worth pointing out is that the ribbon material takes quite a beating from all of those slug strikes, and can become very worn by the time the ink is no longer sufficient to create a satisfactory impression. And in the more extreme cases of aging and hardening platens, after a few hundred pages the ribbon can begin to tear apart, and consequently not work as well for suspending ink. 

Finally, there's the advice of typewriter manufacturers that directly contradicts your opinion. The owner's manual that came with a machine that has a four position vibrator selector states this: "When using a single colour ribbon, first set the ribbon selector on blue. When the ribbon becomes worn, shift the selector to yellow to use the centre section of the ribbon. When this section becomes worn it is advisable to turn the ribbon upside down and set the selector back on blue, thereby making full use of all three sections of the ribbon.

In my experience, not only does flipping ribbons work, it works really well. 


Stay Safe! 
 

20-12-2015 14:28:24  #7


Re: Ribbon curious

treefaller wrote:

The ink migrates into the used portion of fabric, so, when the top part of the ribbon gets weak, the whole ribbon is weak. Just my 2cents from having tried to flip ribbons to get extra life out of them (it doesn't work).

Uwe, There's actually another one of those countless wartime typewriter videos floating around that supports treefaller's experience (can be found somewhere around... here: http://typewriter.boardhost.com/viewtopic.php?pid=11018#p11018 ).  I thought it was a bit odd too that the ink would migrate to the top, but then again, why would they lie in a short movie like that? And if that is the case, then why, like you said, would manufacturers have a middle setting for ribbons? The plot continues to thicken...


A high schooler with a lot of typewriters. That's pretty much about it.
 

20-12-2015 19:03:58  #8


Re: Ribbon curious

ztyper wrote:

...There's actually another one of those countless wartime typewriter videos floating around that supports treefaller's experience (can be found somewhere around... here: http://typewriter.boardhost.com/viewtopic.php?pid=11018#p11018 ).  I thought it was a bit odd too that the ink would migrate to the top, but then again, why would they lie in a short movie like that? And if that is the case, then why, like you said, would manufacturers have a middle setting for ribbons? The plot continues to thicken...

They would not seem to have a reason to lie (Don't worry, these radioactive typewriters tested at Los Alamos are completely safe to use!) but its JUST possible they were repeating some unexamined folklore. 

I thought at first the mechanism would be diffusion (molecules move around in a static medium), but now I'm pretty sure the explanation - if real - would be capillary action (molecules move in bulk as a liquid in narrow channels). There is no issue with raising liquid a short distance by this effect, so going against gravity does not make it implausible. This does require actual wet, liquid ink. Some new ribbons DO look wet, so if they were used heavily before they had a chance to dry out some it's plausible the ink would have a chance to move around by capillary action. I have also noticed that some ribbons which do not look wet make nice black impressions. If we guess ribbons like this have a thicker ink consistency, like a semi-solid or sludge, then the ink is not going to be doing much migrating by capillary action. It's probably easier to ink a ribbon with liquid ink then with sludgy ink, so I guess cheaper ribbons tend to be wetter, while the thicker inking is better quality - less messy and produces neater output.

P.S. If you want an example of the military stubbornly clinging to theories not in accord with the facts, check out the story of submarine torpedoes used in WWII in the Pacific. And that was something directly affecting combat, not office work! Imagine how long bad theories about typewriter ribbons could survive.


"Damn the torpedoes! Four bells, Captain Drayton".
 

21-12-2015 00:33:17  #9


Re: Ribbon curious

This has turned out to be a very interesting topic. I am always learning so much from you guys. Thanks for your comments and your expertise.

     Thread Starter
 

21-12-2015 04:57:11  #10


Re: Ribbon curious

Just a thought.  That wartime film would have been talking about cotton ribbons since that was the most popular material then.  Most modern ribbons are nylon.  Maybe there is a difference in how the ink travels (or doesn't) depending on the material.

 

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