Anyway the old printer had to be retired due to slightly overenthusiastic percussive maintenance by me. Epson have also retired this model (possibly due to it not using enough ink for their liking) so off to ebay I went. Got one for £10.50 and it promtly arrived. I knew I was taking a bit of a chance on an ebay machine, especially when it arrived in a box that had obviously contained its new replacement. I figured the seller having given-up on the old one for some reason other than aesthetics.
I set up the machine and soon discovered why the previous owner had got rid of it. It had serious paper handling issues. It couldn't grab a sheet of paper from the tray. However.... once I cleaned the pile of dust out of the tray I had it working just fine. Ran a couple of cleaning cycles and adjusted the print head alignment and it's all working really well..
All I need to do now is pull the waste ink tube out of the back and plug that into a second external tank and I'm back in business. I know you shouldn't really have to do all these modifications to a printer to get it to work economically but I do like the feeling of getting one over on Epson. I've suspect they'll be looking to design printers now so it's harder or impossible to add external tanks. The blotting pad and ink-dump counter is designed to give a finite life span to the printer and the chipped cartridges were an attempt to tie the consumer into buying the official (ludicrously expensive) cartridges. £60 for an official set is just bonkers! If I went down that road my running cost per year would be at least £180... probably nearer to £240.
I'll keep my old one for spares and may even get a few more from ebay as they are going to get harder to find in future. Looking forward to the time when I have a workshop and I'll be stripping down an Epson R200 to fit my own design of tank inside (riveted brass I think) strip off all the plastic and replace with mahogany and brass. Copper tubes for the waste ink.