Monday, January 24, 2011

The Problem

With as many typewriters as I have here in the classroom you can imagine that they get a fair amount of use. The machines are holding up quite well. It's the ribbons that are starting to wear out. Every period each typewriter is being used. They are primarily used for journaling which is a minimum of 20 lines each day. That means that each period the typewriters are used to write 260 lines of prose. Over the course of the day that would be 1300 lines of journals. On average each line is about 15 words long. In one day the typewriters are being used to write nearly 20,000 words. I would guess that the average English word is around 5 letters long. That is a total of 100,000 words per day (or 7700 key presses per machine per day). I have not changed the ribbon en masse, yet. We have been doing this about 4 months. If you do the math, each ribbon has been through a minimum of 677,600 impressions.

I need ribbon. Lots of ribbon. I really want to find a place where I could get it in bulk and wind my own spools. All of the spools in the machines are metal and can be reused. The trouble is finding a distributor. I think China is the answer. I sent an email to my uncle who is an importer and knows his way around business in China. With any luck I can find some inked ribbon.


  1. Greets... I think this company, Ames, will give pretty big quauntity discounts...

    you might want to also note you are a school and see if you get any other breaks on tax and such...


  2. Try asking Baco Ribbons ( -- not in China, in Missouri).

  3. Have you tried asking the company from whom your school buys stationery in bulk? (In Europe the prices from office supply stores, which deliver to businesses only, are incredible - about a buck a ribbon for the exact same stuff that is sold in the shops for $13.)

    You might be pleasantly surprised - ribbons are still being manufactured today, after all, and even if your school does not order them the company might have some leads as to where you could get some in bulk. Those stationers all know each other; I would imagine they could ask around on your behalf.

  4. That's a good idea, but surprisingly, state law mandates that school districts need to find the lowest cost bidder for supplies. This means that we are "blessed" to use Office Depot rather than the best independent office supply store in Phoenix; The Stockroom. Office Depot ribbons are much to expensive and this project is a little skunkworks in a small corner of campus. It's definitely fend for yourself. Who wants to buy typewriter ribbons when you can buy $90 toner cartridges?