Stained by dead inkjets – the life and times of a DIY printer

Refilling inkjet cartridges for an Epson Stylus Color 1160.

My first colour printer was a dot-matrix Star LC10 which I bought as soon as it came out in (I think) 1988. Attached to an Atari 520 ST, it was very noisy and rather ineffective, although better than no printer, and I persevered as far as I could optimising the print quality with a third party software utility.

Star LC 10 dot-matrix printer.

Sometime in the 1990s I bought a bubblejet printer for my Amiga 500 but I can’t remember the name of it now. It was very expensive and was quite good for the time.

Both the ST and Amiga were extremely frustrating machines to use for productivity as they seemed to promise much but didn’t really deliver. Eventually, I traded all that stuff in for an Apple Macintosh SE, which was a step back in one sense because its display was a tiny 512×342 pixels in one-bit monochrome, but at least it was a relatively stable platform and I could run ClarisWorks and PageMaker on it. The next printer I had was a monochrome Apple StyleWriter II, which was a rebadged Canon inkjet model, and was absolutely brilliant. Not quite laser-quality but a huge leap forward, and my return to colour printing, via a number of Mac trade-ins and upgrades, was with a Color StyleWriter 2500.

Apple Color StyleWriter 2500.

I’ve done a lot of printing with inkjet printers in the past. No, really, a lot. I printed thousands of pages on the StyleWriter 2500, made affordable by drilling and refilling the ink tanks.

These days we’re spoilt with a choice of stable platforms, and we have fantastically cheap and high-quality printers, great software and standardised file formats. Also, with a bit of research you can run inkjets cheaply enough for DIY publishing, despite the sharp practice by some printer manufacturers.

Although my StyleWriter is retired, I still refill cartridges for my Epson Stylus Color 1160 (see above), which has black and three-colour ink tanks, and is going strong after about 12 years (I think). It’s messy and fiddly but definitely worth the effort. I also have an Epson Stylus Photo RX585 all-in-one which is genuinely photo-quality, but quite expensive to run. I have just bought a continuous-ink-system (CIS) for it and I’l let you know how I get on with that.

I’m a big fan of inkjets (and all-in-ones), but they do have their drawbacks, and the biggest dissatisfaction for me is not being able to print with full bleed. However, I have just taken delivery of this not-so-little toy:

A Brother MFC-J6510DW A3 multi-function printer with duplex and edge-to-edge A3 printing! I got it for less than half the list price, and also some third-party ink cartridges. Untested as yet, but I’ll let you know about print quality and running costs.

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