Introduction: How to Change a Typewriter Ribbon

I have been using a typewriter for a little over a year now however, I can still remember the difficulty of having to change my typewriter ribbon for the first time. When I saw that this website didn't have a walkthrough that would help someone change their typewriter's ribbon, I decided that I would make one. Feel free to comment any of your questions and I will be happy to help. The typewriter used for this demonstration is an Olympia DeLuxe.

Step 1: Materials

There aren't too many materials that you need to actually change your ribbon. In fact, all you really need is a typewriter and a new ribbon. I got my ribbon replacement on Amazon from this link:

Some things that can be helpful but are not needed are latex gloves and a sewing pin. The ribbon is after all saturated with ink and therefore can get on your hands easily. A pair of latex gloves will keep your hands clear of ink. The pin can be used to poke the ribbon back into the ribbon vibrator.

Step 2: Open the Cover

To be able to access the area where the typewriter ribbon is you need to open the hinged cover that is protecting it. Not all typewriters have this cover and therefore you can skip this step. To lift the cover, grab it from the inside as shown above and firmly pull up. Make sure that the carriage release lever is out of the way before you attempt to open the cover as doing so may damage your typewriter. If you're unsure how to correct this check the final image as it contains a short description to help you out.

Step 3: Removing Ribbon Spools From Typewriter

Now that the cover is open and you can fully access the ribbon we can begin disassembling it. The first thing that you are going to do is to push the clip that rests on the ribbon out of the way as it prevents the spool from being lifted. From there you are going to pull up on the spool until it comes off of the driver pin to which it is attached. When finished, you can lay the spool on top of the typebars as I did. Repeat this step with the other spool.

Step 4: Prep Ribbon to Be Removed From Ribbon Vibrator

Before you are able to completely remove your old ribbon from your typewriter there are a few more steps that we must do in order to make the process easier. The first thing that we are going to do is to change the color to red using the color toggle lever. The reason we do this is that the ribbon vibrator will rise higher than normal when it is set on red which will make it easier to remove the ribbon. The next step is to hit the shift lock key which will raise the entire carriage giving you even more room to work with when removing the ribbon.

Step 5: Removing the Ribbon

Now we are finally ready to remove the ribbon. To do so you need to pull out some of the ribbon from between the type guide arms. Then you will be able to pull the ribbon through the gaps of both sides of the ribbon vibrator. When this step is completed the ribbon will be completely disassembled from the typewriter and may be discarded. If you feel as though it is still very difficult to get your hands in the areas needed to remove the ribbon you can hit one of your typewriter keys which will cause the ribbon vibrator to jump up. Hold it in this extended position with one of your hands and you will have about an inch more of space to work with.

Step 6: Attaching New Ribbon Spools to Driver Pins

Now that you finally removed the old typewriter ribbon it is time that we start to put the new one on. To do so ensure that your ribbon is oriented as mine is in the first image with the black line of ink above the red ink. From there we are essentially going to perform the steps from step 3 in reverse. Lay one of the spools on top of the typebars while you hold the other in one of your hands. Push the clip that lies on the ribbon out so that you can slide the spool's central hole on the driver pin. Release the clip and confirm that it falls on the ribbon without hitting the plastic/metal parts of the spool. Then we are going to grab the ribbon and place it in between the guide as shown in the images above. Repeat these steps with the other spool and when you have completed this your typewriter should look like the final image.

Step 7: Attach New Ribbon to Ribbon Vibrator

This is probably the trickiest part of the whole process so don't get frustrated if it takes you a few tries to get it completed. You're going to want to get the ribbon vibrator raised into its highest position because the first thing you are going to do is to tuck the ribbon behind it. If you forget to tuck the ribbon behind the vibrator and just attach it at the front of it the ribbon will catch on the type guide and bunch up while you're typing. Once the ribbon is tucked behind the ribbon vibrator you're going to want to pull it through the gaps of the vibrator similarily to how we removed it. Repeat to both sides of the ribbon vibrator until your typewriter looks like mine in the final image. Now is also a good time to ensure that your spools are being fed correctly. Type a few letters and observe the direction that your ribbon spools spin. Once you determine which of them is the feeding spool and which is the receiving spool you can wind the receiving spool until the ribbon becomes taught.

Step 8: Finishing Touches

Now while the new ribbon may be fully attached to your typewriter there are still a few things that we need to take care of. The first thing that we need to do is to push the cover back down so that it protects the ribbon. Make sure that it is pushed down completely otherwise your carriage release lever will rub against it. Then make sure that your set your color toggle switch back to black and then release the shift lock key. In order to ensure that everything is working perfectly run a piece of paper through it and type some letters. Don't be worried if your letters look very thick or smudgy as this is due to the new ribbon and will subside as the ribbon begins to dry over time. Good luck and I hope this helps!