When I posted yesterday, I had just gotten my first 17×25 print out of my Epson 3800, and it looked great. I was stoked. I printed another.
Uh-oh. The print had little whitish horizontal marks in the black background at the top part of the image. The marks didn’t go clear across the page, but appeared in two widely-space sections. Their outlines were irregular. It looked like the print head was rubbing against the paper, and scraping off some of the ink.
I tried another print. Same problem. The irregular scraped areas were in the same general place, towards the top of the image, but they were differently shaped. I began to formulate a theory. The Harman FB AL paper is heavy, but floppy — much more flexible than matte-finish papers of similar weight. The fact that I was printing on 17×25 stock instead of my usual 17×22 meant that there was three inches more of heavy paper sticking up out of the back of the printer. Maybe the weight of that paper kept the paper lower in the printer from lying flat. That would explain why there were mo scrape marks on the lower part of the image. I pushed the printer back toward the wall so that it would hold up the paper as it fed into the printer. Better, but still not fixed. I went to bed.
This morning I considered my options. The first was to use the front-loading feature of the printer rather than the rear manual feed slot that I had been using. That would give a completely flat paper path, and might keep the paper from bucking up and into the print head. I checked the manual, and found that you couldn’t use front-loading for paper wider than 16.5 inches.
My next though was to trim the paper to 17×22 before printing. I was prepared to give up the look that came from printing on 17×25; I figured I’d just make the image smaller and higher on the page when I printed it from Lightroom. I made a test print. It looked fine. I tried another. The printer put the image waaay too high on the page, so that it was bleeding off the top. “Once is happenstance,” I said to myself, as I tossed the print into the round file. I printed another image.
The scrapes were back. Only in one place, not two, and not as bad as before, but definitely bad enough to ruin the print. I pulled up the 9800 manual and was looking for the section on how to change to Photo Black ink when the phone rang. It was Hunter Witherill. I whined at him at little, and he suggested that maybe the printer platen was set too low, even though I didn’t think the Harman paper was any thicker than Exhibition Fiber. I set the Platen Gap to “Wide”, and made a test print. It was fine. Not knowing whether I had just been lucky or whether Hunter’s suggestion had worked, I printed another image. Success. I felt good that the problem is solved, and stupid for not figuring it out myself.
I made a jig to trim the 17×25 paper down to 17×22, and printed the whole series. I did not try going back to 17×25, although I’m pretty sure I could have made it work. I’ve wasted enough time on this already.