Re-inking printer ribbons

Warner Losh imp at
Sun Dec 13 12:37:47 CST 2015

On Sun, Dec 13, 2015 at 10:28 AM, Jules Richardson <
jules.richardson99 at> wrote:

> Has anyone had any luck re-inking printer ribbons?
> I spent a few minutes looking at this Vic 1525 printer that I got the
> other day - turned out that the carriage was just gummed up and there was a
> blown fuse in the PSU section (probably related to the former problem).
> Of course the ribbon is completely dried out. I'd originally intended for
> the printer to be a static "Hey, that looks neat" item, but looking at it
> briefly, it's a good example of how to make a printer as cheaply as
> possible, so I'm wondering if there's a way of breathing life back into the
> ribbon so that it can print again in all it's noisy, glacially-slow glory
> :-)
> I don't care if it's not as black as an original ribbon would have been -
> it just might be nice if it was able to print something legible.

One trick we used back in the day (I used it on my LA50 and also the
decwriter at school someone misdirected a print job to) was to spray a bit
of WD-40 into the ribbon spool. This got the ink moving around and helped
to re moisturize it when  it was dried out. I don't know how universal this
trick was, or even if there were horrible side effects. I was a teenager it
it let me reuse the LA50 ribbon one more time. Not sure how I rewound it,
or if I sprayed the ink onto the spooled up ribbon, or as I rewound it
backwards. I had a lot more time than money in those days. I do remember
doing this a couple of times, and once using too much and having greasy
print outs.

Is the VIC 1525 a dot-matrix printer? Is the ribbon the cloth type that you
have a hard time seeing the stuff just printed (as opposed to the mylar +
ink where you clearly see what was typed in IBM Selectric Typewriters)?
There's a chance this might work. Your mileage may vary. This trick worked
once, maybe twice on fresh ribbons back in the day. I see from google that
it works on old ribbons too (but those posts were from 10-15 years ago,
don't know what another decade or two does to the drying process). I'd
approach this hint with caution and some common sense and weigh he harm to
your new toy against darker print. If it is printing fine, but the printing
is super light, this might help. You can give a quick blast of WD-40 on the
'about to be used' side to see if it will help. You'll see some dark print
that fades away again as the ribbon goes by if the trick worked.

Good luck!


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