Breathing Life into Vintage Typewriters: A Ribbon Replacement Journey

Breathing Life into Vintage Typewriters: A Ribbon Replacement Journey

By Ru Fuller

Reposted with permission. The original post can be read on Ru’s blog.

Today was a day of accidental discoveries, curiosity, and unforeseen maintenance for Maya, my 1961 Underwood 18 manual typewriter.

The Fading Ink Dilemma

I noticed earlier today that the ink was starting to fade a little when I was typing this morning (also the fact that I had to backspace and double type more than a few letters and words that didn’t show up as well because they looked faded). I took the type cover off, removed the ribbon, and attempted to replace the original ribbon spool with a Universal ribbon spool and… that didn’t go over so well!

Ribbon Reversal: When Maya Met Her Match

I learned this lesson the hard way: The Universal ribbon doesn’t fit Maya.

Most typewriters can use Universal ribbons but some, like Maya, have to use other ribbons because of how they are manufactured.

So I removed the Universal ribbon and then had to figure out how to get the original back on. It was… a process that ended with a well-tuned, clean typewriter and my fingers stained black and red from the ribbon’s ink!

Figure 1. Original ribbon in a 1961 Underwood 18 manual typewriter

Mastering Maya’s Ribbon: Embracing the Art of Maintenance

To make sure I know how to install the ribbon again—and I will install a fresh ribbon; I bought 2 fresh replacement ribbons from ZenTypewriters this afternoon—I wrote a technical document on “how to install ribbons” for future reference.

Figure 2. How to Install Ribbon in 1961 Underwood 18

Installing Maya’s ribbon was a process of trial and error, even after searching online for a user manual or YouTube tutorial. But now I know and thanks to the manual, I won’t have to stress out about it anymore (though I will have to wash my hands repeatedly to remove the ink stains)! It’s just part of the maintenance process, and I’m glad to do it.

From Trial and Error to Typewriter Mastery

Maya, my trusty 1961 Underwood 18 manual typewriter, took me on an unexpected journey today, one filled with accidental discoveries, ink-stained fingers, and a newfound appreciation for the intricacies of typewriter maintenance. I learned a valuable lesson the hard way: the so-called “Universal” ribbon wasn’t so universal after all.

And though the journey was a trial-and-error adventure, it’s a vital part of the typewriter maintenance process I now embrace wholeheartedly. Here’s to Maya, the enduring beauty of manual typewriters, and the endless curiosity that fuels our literary endeavors!

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