I bought that old Epson Stylus Pro 7880 printer (on the left in the photo above) in 2014. It was salvaged from a Walmart photo service center, along with dozens of others, from Walmarts up and down the east coast.
In 2014, I was just learning how to print digital photos using Piezography®, Jon Cone’s system of specialized inks, paper, and software known as Piezography®. I had converted a 17″ wide Epson 3880, but I hadn’t yet even considered printing negatives for platinum/palladium printing because I didn’t know anything about alternative processes and I hadn’t built my darkroom yet. I was at the beginning of a very long journey.
I purchased the 7880, after reading Jon’s recommendation for that model on the Inkjet Mall website. Jon wrote that you could often find them for free, but I wasn’t that lucky. But, there it was on eBay, offered by a photo lab liquidator who was preparing to ship a lot of them to China. He was selling off a few on eBay and rather than miss my chance, I bought one sight unseen.
I met the seller at a creepy old railroad warehouse in central Connecticut. Inside, was an army of used printers stacked up like corpses. I picked one with the fewest dents. The cigar smoking seller/liquidator eerily just watched me unbolt it from the rolling steel base.
Reluctantly, the old guy lifted one end and helped to squeeze all 130lbs. of it into the back seat of my Saab 9-5 with the seat folded down. If I had known how much work lay ahead, I might not have forked over the $800 for it so quickly.
I found an Epson service technician’s manual detailing procedures for replacing parts and calibrating the printer. Over the next six weeks, I replaced just about every component I could: the print head, the boxing unit, the motherboard, the ink pump and valves, the ink delivery tubes, and much more. By the time I finished, I’d spent about $2,000 on parts and close to a hundred hours working on it.
I knew every inch of the 7880 but I was constantly struggling to keep it printing reliably. So I started looking for an alternative.
Five years later, I spotted another 7880, fully refurbished, for sale on eBay. I sent the seller a message with questions about the machine and never heard back from the guy. More than two months later, he responded saying that the unit I inquired about was sold, but he had another that he had not listed on eBay.
The seller claimed, to my astonishment, that it was brand new, in the original packing, sitting in his Miami warehouse already on a pallet and ready-to-ship. I found it hard to believe, but, I contacted him immediately and bought it by credit card over the phone. If it was a scam, I could always get Visa refund my payment.
Well, obviously, it turned out to be the real thing: a ten year old unsold Epson printer was soon on the road. That’s the unit in the photo’s foreground before I unpacked it.
Happily, I inhaled the decade old air trapped in the box when I freed it from the styrofoam packing blocks. The printer was in pristine condition and shipped with a full set of Epson inks. Using ten year old ink would be a sure way to clog the print head. Of course, I threw the Epson ink carts away and, instead, primed the print head with a fresh set of eight Cone Color inks.
Here’s a photo of the new (yet, old) color printer next to the one converted to black and white Piezography®. Between them, I am able to print black and white or color on matte and baryta fine art papers, transfer film, primed canvas, and of course, digital negative film.