Looking for a new manual typewriter that will last...
July 29, 2011 2:48 PM   Subscribe

I want to buy a manual typewriter, that I will not have trouble finding paper/ink/ribbons for...

Preferably not a ridiculous color, and preferably one which has a decent typeface, not super modern
posted by sawyerrrr to Writing & Language (11 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
If I recall correctly, there is only one model of manual typewriter for which ribbons are still being produced. Unfortunately, I can't recall the model and my Google-Fu is weak.

This doesn't mean that it's impossible to find ink for other models, but it will be harder (and they'll likely cost more), since there is a limited supply.

Hopefully, someone will be able to list the model I'm thinking of and help you out more than I've been able to.
posted by asnider at 3:00 PM on July 29, 2011

IBM Selectric II...ribbons still available on amazon...easily interchangeable typeballs for various fonts...my mother had one of these and it was a workhorse of a machine...
posted by sexyrobot at 3:04 PM on July 29, 2011

oh, and IIRC, it was the most mass-produced of all typewriters, ever...if you're gonna find parts and service for any machine, it's going to be this one
posted by sexyrobot at 3:06 PM on July 29, 2011

It seems that Canon Typestar IR 50 ribbons are easy to find. As far as the actual typewriter, that I can't see for sale. I had a Typestar 6 way back, and even then it was part word processor. If you want a really old totally manual typewriter I'm guessing you'd have to re-ink your ribbon by hand, if such a thing is even possible.
posted by Splunge at 3:06 PM on July 29, 2011

or did you mean manual as in 'not electric'?...in which case, never mind...you're going to have trouble...i did, however work on a decorating project recently that involved a wall of antique typewriters...ebay, PITA hand-inking of ribbons, and if possible, buy a backup as parts/service are now fully obsolete...
posted by sexyrobot at 3:10 PM on July 29, 2011

Folks, the OP is asking about a manual machine, not Selectrics, or anything with a motor between their keyboard and the paper.

Eh, about 95% of manual machines can use a universal 1/2" width ribbon, on two spools, and they're not hard to find, as manual machines are still useful for filling in multi-part carbonless forms. Some machines, particularly those with 10 pt or larger type, need wider ribbons, like a 7/8" width ribbon, and some single color machines use only 5/16"" single color ribbons.

I have a 47 year old Remington 333, that I used in high school and college from 1965 to 1969, and on which I typed my application for degree from the university at which I eventually graduated, 35 years later, in 2004. The application for degree, from that large university, with lots of up to date, online technology courses, was a 3 part carbonless form, that no laser printer could complete... I still write letters on it, and have only had its platen re-rubbered once. Occasional type cleanings with a brush and some rubbing alcohol, and a few drops of oil here and there, have kept it, otherwise, in tip top typing shape. It happily uses 1/2 inch, two color, two spool universal ribbons.

Remingtons are tough, reliable manual machines, and a joy on which to bang away deathless prose.
posted by paulsc at 3:28 PM on July 29, 2011 [8 favorites]

A year ago I had good luck finding a universal ribbon on ebay. No hand-inking required, and worked great.
posted by jessicapierce at 4:12 PM on July 29, 2011

I actually just typed up 5 sets of liner notes for my MeFiswap CD mixes on a lovely old Smith Corona Sterling.

This is what the font looks like - it's definitely old-style. There's no "1" key, no exclamation point, or a lot of other modern punctuation. It's a lot of fun to use - much slower than a computer keyboard, obviously, and I had to adjust my thinking to make sure I was spelling words correctly. It is a portable, though - if you're looking for something heavier-duty, you might want a true desk typewriter.
posted by god hates math at 4:20 PM on July 29, 2011 [3 favorites]

I was in a spot recently with my Underwood portable, couldn't find something that fit, so I just unspooled a new ribbon and wound it onto the old spool. Ain't no thing.

Are you in Northern California? Either way, this is an interesting Wired article about the last generation of typewriter repairmen.
posted by danny the boy at 4:47 PM on July 29, 2011

It depends a lot on where you live. If there are lots of artsy/eccentric types in your area (think NYC, San Francisco, Portland, etc.) then there should almost certainly be a hole-in-the-wall typewriter shop somewhere. Go in and ask them what stuff they are still able to stock/repair/replace easily and buy based on that, since that place is likely to be your only hook-up.

I live in northern California and owned a manual typewriter for several years, and there was a local shop which supplied me with (relatively) cheap ribbons, and also did cleanings and repairs when I needed them.
posted by Qongqothwane at 4:56 PM on July 29, 2011

I have an old Royal from the early mid 20th Century and can still get ribbons for it from Royal.
posted by kuppajava at 8:32 AM on July 30, 2011

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