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Tricks for ReInking Printer Ribbons

Primarily about ReInking Printer Ribbons
Also see Re-Ink 026 Ribbons


  1. We have a number of narrow (? 1/4")and wide (line printer)ribbons that were in good working order (presumably well inked, lots of black stuff) that have dried to unusability in the intervening 40 years. Potentially, adding an appropriate amount of appropriate fluid - evenly - could restore these to service.

    E-mail below suggests that WD-40 might work to "fluidize" or carry the existing dried ink -

  2. Hopefully we will use one or more well inked ribbons until they do not have enough what ever to make good black marks on paper, but that the fabric is good enough to "re-ink" and enter useful service again.

  3. It is known that re-inking is an imperfect art - maybe so imperfect that a good course might be to completely de-ink a partly used old ribbon before trying to re-ink.
We are open to:
- re-inking suggestions
- suggestions how remove ink from unsuspecting volunteers who attempt to re-ink ;-))

Ed Thelen :-)) @

Current summary:

- folks have heard that WD-40 oil added to dried out ribbon might help
- Billy Pettit has evaporated Marvel Lubricating Oil onto printer ribbons.
- I worry that a rather even distribution of oil might be required
for good results?

Commercially available
GOOGLE    Lexmark 1403 3203 ribbon
1/Pkg 22.95    
   Nylon ribbon for Lexmark 1403/3203 printers, black, 6/box  
   [ black, 6/box ; 12 LBS ]        $426.64  

----------  026 keypunch ---------------
 IBM 026 Keypunch Compatible Ribbons
MC25   Relative: $9.00/ea
SKU: MC25 $54.00 USD/Unit (ofo 6)

Material from newsgroup
Most recent added here (top)

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Ed Thelen" 
To: "Stegeman, Henk HJ SITI-ITIBHW5" 
Cc: "Garner, Robert" < >; < >
Sent: Monday, February 14, 2005 3:10 PM
Subject: Re: WD-40 for ink ribbons.

> I think that the even depositing of the oil onto the
> fabric might be quite important to a nice even supply
> of good ink for printing.
> I worry (with out evidence) that applying oil or whatever
> to one place will tend to move  the now solid black stuff
> along with the oil as it goes to other places, leaving an
> area of more lightly blackened fabric.  I have no evidence,
> just a big worry.
> A possible solution for wide (say 35 cm) ribbons might be to:
>   - Find how many seconds a spray can sprays
>       (and assume that the spraying is relatively constant
>         during that time).
>   - Determine how much of a can of oil should
>      be applied to the printer ribbon
>   - Fgure a method of moving the printer ribbon from 
>       one roller to another roller in the appropriate number of seconds
>   - Figure a good distance from the spray can nozzle to the
>       moving ribbon for a relatively even distribution of the spray
>       onto the ribbon.
>     This may have to allow for some overspray not hitting the 
>        ribbon incase the part of the spray circle tangential to
>       the ribbon edge is excessive.
>   - Figure a good mechanism for mounting the source spool,
>       the take-up spool, relatively quick start and stop of the
>       ribbon, ...
> I hope I'm not over-engineering this, but it is easy to imagine
> quite a mess and/or very uneven results.
> Interesting project - 
> I will contact Ron Williams who has engineered and made a
> number of helpful things for this 1401 restoration project.
> Thanks much,
>     Ed Thelen
> ----- Original Message ----- 
> From: Stegeman, Henk HJ SITI-ITIBHW5 
> To: Ed Thelen 
> Sent: Monday, February 14, 2005 3:41 AM
> Subject: RE: WD-40 for ink ribbons.
> Is the pray-can WD-40 not a solution to the problem ?  
> Henk
>  -----Original Message-----
> From: Ed Thelen []
> Sent: 14 February 2005 11:45
> To: Stegeman, Henk HJ SITI-ITIBHW5
> Cc: Garner, Robert;
> Subject: Re: WD-40 for ink ribbons.
>  There is the minor problem of how to apply the oil
> relatively evenly over the fabric so that the ink
> remains relatively well in place, and is not swept
> along as in some chromatography demo  :-((
> Sounds like an interesting challenge,
>    Ideally each square cm of the fabric will 
> receive a milligram or so, relatively evenly.
> Nice trick.
> Ed Thelen

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Michael Black" 
Newsgroups: alt.folklore.computers
Sent: Saturday, February 12, 2005 8:41 AM
Subject: Re: Reinking printer ribbons, IBM 1403, 026 Keypunch

> The old way was to add a drop or two of oil to each ribbon, and let
> it sit in a sealed bag.  I've seen it suggested for Teletype ribbons,
> typewriter ribbons, and dot-matrix printer ribbons.  I've even done it
> for the latter, and yes it did work.
> Your case isn't even about re-inking, it just needs activating.
>   Michael

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Chuck Sterling" 
Newsgroups: alt.folklore.computers
Sent: Sunday, February 13, 2005 7:15 AM
Subject: Re: Reinking printer ribbons, IBM 1403, 026 Keypunch

> Here's a link...

(In Russian, looks like re-inking a narrow ribbon.)

> I had one of these, maybe a cheaper model, about twenty years ago. No 
> idea where it is, but I think it is no longer in my possession. Seems 
> like it was bought from a company called "Computer Friends", which name 
> still exists but reincarnated as a graphics company. IIRC, you had to 
> have a custom mounting bracket for each kind of ribbon with which you 
> used it. The only one I had was for the C.Itoh 8510 variety; by the time 
> I replaced that old workhorse ribbons were cheap enough not to matter.
> FWIW I did not find it listed on eBay. This is the sort of thing that 
> winds up in a box in the garage for future generations to puzzle over...
> Chuck Sterling

Jay Maynard ( writes:
> On 2005-02-12, Ed Thelen  wrote:
>>   Do you know a technique for reinking fabric ribbons,
>>   or someone who does it successfully?  or ...
> I remember hearing that soaking a dry ribbon in WD-40 will rejuvenate it.

I was going to specifically mention WD-40 in my previous post, it works, 
I've done it.  I can't remember what kind of oil they suggested in the old

You don't need to "soak" it.  Spray a tiny bit, and let it spread through
the ribbon. Maybe this would have to be done a few times, in different
locations.  With dot-matrix ribbons, I'd give it a short shot, and then 
advance the ribbon some, and give it another short shot.  It spreads 
through the layers.


 In message , 
>Ed Thelen  wrote:
>> Question:
>>   Do you know a technique for reinking fabric ribbons,
>>   or someone who does it successfully?  or ...
>I'd start with a reinker of the sort that was popular in the 1980s.
I re-inked fabric ribbons for my dot matrix printers. The result was 
quite adequate. The main problem was that the ink did not become 
sufficiently evenly distributed. Leaving it to percolate through the 
folds of ribbons inside the case helped quite a lot. Maybe a preliminary 
soaking with a slightly diluted ink (though with what?) would help with 
distribution of a further application of full strength ink. With further 
use, the ribbons developed holes, so I guess I used them enough to say 
that the process was successful.

One word of warning - I used a power drill to circulate the ribbons in 
order to persuade the ink to spread, but I found it easy to allow it to 
run too fast and to wreck the plastic spools. But I guess mainframe kit 
is made of sterner stuff.
Michael J Kingston - Researching Family History

Billy Pettit has evaporated Marvel Lubricating Oil onto printer ribbons.

I met you yesterday at the museum.  We discussed dried out ribbons.  
The oil I used was Marvel Lubricating Oil.  It has some volatiles in it.  
I haven't seen it in years, though I think there is a newer version at OSH.
[Also available searching the web.]
What I used to do was get a long bottle like you store spaghetti in.  
I would put oil in the bottom with a little stand to hold the ribbon 
above the oil with out touching it.  The ribbon stays on the spool. 
 The jar is tightly sealed with a cap.  For a long ribbon like the 1403, 
you need a second  take up reel.  Start the ribbon on the take up reel. 
 Every day or two wrap a couple more feet on the take up reel.  
And flip it upside down when you do this.  Add oil as needed.
When done, seal the ribbon in a baggie.
You can speed the process up by slightly heating the jar so the 
volatiles are more agressive.  Use the sun for heating, not a stove.
It's worked for me on a couple of bad ribbons.  Does leave an oil 
stain on the first few sheets printed.
Better was to use some re-inking compound.  At one time you could 
buy it in small bottles from ribbon manufacturers.  I haven't had any in many years.
There is a large group of typewriter collectors.  I'm going to get a message 
to them and see if they have any other ideas.  I know they have been having 
some success in importing ribbons from India.  
They may have contact with a manufacturer who still makes ribbons.
Billy Pettit