Bulk Order of Typewriter Ribbon from Baco Ribbon & Supply Co.

Having surpassed the 10 typewriter mark in my collection, I felt it was time to invest in some more serious typewriter ribbon for the “fleet”. There are some purveyors charging in the range of $10-20 for typewriter ribbon (and yes! people do still sell and buy typewriter ribbon!)  I’m pretty sure by buying from closer to the source that I could drop the price down significantly and potentially save the money toward repairs, new platens, or even other machines. 

Naturally the first stop was Richard Polt’s site, where he lists a handful of purveyors. I’ve heard good things in general about Baco both from Richard and Joe Van Cleave as well as others in the past few months, so I took the plunge and ordered a full reel of 660 yards of nylon black/red typewriter ribbon for $65. It should keep all my machines inked for quite a while. 

Given that the typical standard/universal spool will accommodate 16 yards, this should be 41.25 spools. This also brings the price down to a far more economical $1.60 per spool versus the much higher level others are charging, particularly since I generally self-wind my own ribbon onto original metal spools and don’t need the additional plastic waste. It also has the added benefit of supporting the efforts of Charlene Oesch until she decides to retire. 

If you’re in the market, here are the basic details to call and place an order (she specifically doesn’t have and doesn’t want a website), but she’s definitely still in business, carrying on in the tradition of her father since at least 1949:

Baco Ribbon & Supply Co.
Charlene Oesch

1521 Carman Road
Ballwin, MO  63021 United States

bacoribbon@sbcglobal.net
+1 (314) 835-9300
+1 (536) 394-5475 (fax)

 

Baco takes both credit card and PayPal and ships within about a day via USPS in the United States. 

Current offerings/pricing (subject to change):

  • 660 yards (full reel) of nylon ribbon in black or black/red for $65
  • 330 yards (half reel) of nylon ribbon in black or black/red for $45
  • 550 yards of silk ribbon in black or black/red for $220
  • 295 yards of cotton in black or black/red for $75

With some lead time, she can do other colors if necessary, though she typically doesn’t keep those in stock all the time according to our conversation today. She has the option to pretty easily do blue, green, and purple in single colored reels. 

I could be in for some blue/green or purple/green ribbon, which I imagine she could pull off if anyone wanted to go in on a reel or so to make it worth the time and effort to set it up. Let me know if you’re interested. Similarly if someone wanted to split an order for silk, I could be game for that too. 

Have you tried other manufacturers? Who is your favorite bulk ribbon supplier? 

Now I’m off to find some grommets and a custom pair of pliers for them…

1949 Smith-Corona Clipper Black Wooden Case Restoration

Two overlapping 4x6 inch index cards typed in blue ink which read: 
Smith-Corona 1949 Case On my lunch break today, I spent some time cleaning up the Black fabric-covered wooden carrying case for my most recent Smith-Corona typewriter acquisition. I started by wiping down the black fabric which was filthy, but otherwise in very serviceable condition. There are a few small cuts or small divots, but nothing painfully eye-catching. It took some elbow grease with mild detergent and a damp cloth, but it came out quite well. Next up came some work on the steel fittings which were showing sighs of pitting and rust. A bit of masking tape to protect the black fabric, and a bronze brush seemed to take care of the worst of it. Wiping things down with some Sparklean a brand of jewelry cleaner I have lying around seemed to polish things up nicely. I finished things up by quickly wiping down the interior. I also cleaned out the clever spring loaded hinges, and then gave all the solid metal fittings a light and very thin coat of machine oil. Thinking 1 was done and having the case back in order for at least the next decade, it dawned on me that the white splotch on the case exterior was probably some spilled liquid paper. I went at it with a touch of 91% isopropyl alcohol and then wiped it down with a moist cloth. It came off readily and doesn't seem to have damaged the exterior. Next up for the weekend is to clean out the sticky keys and provide any internal cleaning and oiling which may be required.

Some photos in the process of cleaning up the black wooden case of my 1949 Smith-Corona Clipper which are suggestive of methods one might attempt at restoring their own versions.

A sparkling shiny latch and polished steel fittings on a black fabric covered wooden typewriter case. The fabric is press onto the wood to make it appear as if it's black painted wood grain.
Near the right side of the handle you can see the white liquid paper spill on the case which cleaned up quickly.
A close up of the feet and hinge on a typewriter case showing how rusty and nasty the metal has become over time
All the metal fittings on this case were this bad and needed some attention.
A before and after comparison of a corroded, rusty hinge and feet on a typewriter case on the left, and cleaner and shinier fittings on the right hand side.
Before and After
A photo of a typewriter case featuring a cleaned hinge next to which is a piece of blue masking tape with a hole punched into it for cleaning a rusty hinge fitting. Next to the hinge are a metal single hole punch and a green plastic-handled bronze bristled brush.
Extreme abrasives like this brass bristle brush on a fabric covered wooden case will cause damage, so mask what you don’t want scrubbed clean..

Not factory perfect, but certainly acceptable for another 75 years of happy use.

A Small Brother Charger 11 Repair Surgery

I spent some time today doing surgery on my Brother Charger 11 Correction typewriter. It was quite relaxing to tinker around for a bit and appreciate the sparse, but clever and solid internals of this late model JP-1 machine that the serial number dates to January 1985. 

Wooden table with a blue towel on top of a portion. On top of that is the internal frame and components of a typewriter with the hood, bottom, and side piece of the machine sitting behind it. Strewn around it are a variety of screwdrivers and small tools as well as a can of compressed air.

I managed to clean out a lot of white somewhat sticky cruft, ostensibly from the correction ribbon this machine once had. I initially thought it would all blow out quickly with canned air, but it really needed some careful work with my typewriter brush and some Q-tips. The spots on the still supple rubber platen and rollers came off pretty quickly with some rubbing alcohol.

I quickly found the re-connected the spring that was preventing the margin release from working properly.  I then tracked down the issue I was seeing with the vibrator assembly. It turns out someone had worked on this before and neglected to replace two small screws and nuts to hold the assembly down to the frame and at the appropriate distance from the platen. Without them it just sort of floats around between the basket and the platen. I’ll have to pick up a pair of them at the hardware store to be able to reattach it and then adjust it to the proper distance from the platen. Hopefully the rest of that assembly will operate properly once attached, particularly the bichrome lever which seems somewhat flimsy.

View of the bottom of a Brother Charger 11 with the bottom plate removed. One can see the metal escapement above which a screwdriver is pointing at two empty holes where screws and nuts ought to be to hold the ribbon vibrator assembly in place.

Beyond this the only outstanding thing I see, besides adding a new ribbon, is that the end of the backspace assembly isn’t attached to anything. It ends in a small question mark-like but very sturdy hook which I presume would have attached to either a spring or a metal wire, but I’m going to need to consult either another machine or find a service manual which details what the assembly is supposed to look like. If anyone has a helpful photo of the bottom of their Charger 11 from that hook to the escapement assembly, that would be most helpful. 

View from the back of an upside down typewriter. In the front is a small copper colored bell  and moving toward the back we see a small question mark-esque hook peeking out from between two plates on the frame of the typewriter. Something should be attached to it to actuate the backspace key.

The last couple of tweaks should have this back in perfectly serviced operating order. Its almost as clean and new as when it rolled off the assembly line 39 years and 4 months ago.

I received this machine on March 12th and just realized that I never really took any photos of it or played around with it at the time in part because that’s the day my car’s engine died. I’ll see what I can do to finish this up soon, so that I can do a proper acquisition post and include some photos of the exterior as well as a proper typeface sample.

Replied to Share with us what is happening in your ZK this week. May 3, 2024 (Zettelkasten Forum)
Swimming with Ideas. This is yet another opportunity to share with your friends what you are working on.
In the past year, I’ve re-acquired an old manual typewriter from my youth and begun using it again for first drafts of some writing work as well as some notes. In the past few months I’ve added a few new (to me) machines to the collection and have been continuing to use them in my reading and note taking practices to see what changes, if any, the modality brings to my daily practice versus computer and/or handwriting.

Richard Polt (see below) has some interesting things to say about getting the writing out without worrying about editing or deleting when using a typewriter which makes for some interesting changes in my process.

Currently reading:

  • Kaiser, J. Systematic Indexing. The Card System Series 2. London: Sir Isaac Pitman & Sons, Ltd., 1911. http://archive.org/details/systematicindexi00kaisuoft.
  • Polt, Richard. The Typewriter Revolution: A Typist’s Companion for the 21st Century. 1st ed. Woodstock, VT: Countryman Press, 2015.
  • Mattei, Clara E. The Capital Order: How Economists Invented Austerity and Paved the Way to Fascism. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2022. https://press.uchicago.edu/ucp/books/book/chicago/C/bo181707138.html.
  • Zakaria, Fareed. Age of Revolutions: Progress and Backlash from 1600 to the Present. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2024.
A wooden library card catalog on which sits a 1949 Royal Quiet De Luxe Typewriter next to a crystal old fashioned glass and a fifth of Glenmorangie in a scotch bottle. To one side is a blue vase with small pink roses.

I’ve seen many references comparing the use of typewriters in an overstimulating technology space to the slow food movement. Since one regularly pairs wine with their meals, it only seems right to extend the typewriter analogy to liquor as well. Today, I’m pairing this smooth 10 year single malt Glenmorangie Scotch with the 1949 Royal Quiet De Luxe.

Surely Hemingway would approve?

Type-o-sphere, what are you pairing with your typewriter today?

Typewritten index card in green elite type repeating the words of the paragraphs above.

Replied to Want to run a typewriter shop? by Richard PoltRichard Polt (writingball.blogspot.com)
This is Tom Furrier, owner of the beloved Cambridge Typewriter  in Arlington, Massachusetts. Tom is ready to retire, and he'd like to find someone who wants to take over his small, busy shop.
I’m terribly tempted by this and even have a planned trip to Boston in June. Sadly, I don’t think my wife would approve the career change or the move from Los Angeles…
Listened to The Informed Life: Episode 139 Chris Aldrich on Cybernetic Communications by Jorge ArangoJorge Arango from The Informed Life

Chris Aldrich has the most multi-disciplinary resume I’ve ever seen, with a background that includes biomedics, electrical engineering, entertainment, genetics, theoretical mathematics, and more. Chris describes himself as a modern-day cybernetician, and in this conversation we discuss cybernetics and communications, differences between oral and literary cultures, and indigenous traditions and mnemonics, among many other things.

Show notes and audio transcript available at The Informed Life: Episode 139

A while back, I recorded an episode of The Informed Life with Jorge Arango, and it’s just been released. We had hoped to cover a couple of specific topics, but just as we hit record, our topic agenda took a left turn into some of my recent interests in intellectual history.

Jorge has a great little show which he’s been doing for quite a while. If you’re not already subscribed, take a moment to see what he’s offering in the broad space of tools for thought. I’ve been a long time subscriber and was happy to chat with Jorge directly.