So last night I heat the dev up. I tried ld20 and arista. Indeed the hot plate controller was a bit wonky but I managed to keep it hot 95-105F ish. I tried fresh, seasoned, strong, weak...
Didn't help unfortunately. I decided to see if it was contact with the glass plate so I propped up the edges of the plate and slide a piece of MGWT under with minimal contact. Nope.....not that.j
So I just exposed a piece to the light source I was using. Still got the splotching.
I exposed it to room light for 1sec. Still there. Tried again to verify. yep.
I did it again but this time just let the paper sit in the dev without motion. Yep lookin the same.
Then I did it once more and very gently moved it around the top of the bath. same-same
I was hoping I was having this issue because of contact printing (maybe I still am). That the light is the 'wrong' kind. Anything special about enlarger lights?
I also thought maybe there are 'dregs' that aren't exactly visible on the bottom of the bath. Perhaps somehow they are developing out on the paper in the splotchy paper. I didn't see it last night but I have seen heavily exhausted developer have some 'stuff' in the troughs. Not really a precipitate but maybe concentrated heavier liquid.....
So I've really gone the extra mile here. I'm a stubborn one for sure. It worked well with prints I could take all the way to black and see the splotchiness grow enough to be uniform. However, that limits the snatch point and it has to be a pretty dark print. That will work for some prints but is very, very limiting.
'So use a different paper'
Well of course I'll have to after all my findings. The frustrating thing is how awesome the print looks if the splotches weren't there. It's rather easy to see when it's developing. The splotches usually look like they'll clear away but alas....
So if anyone lands on this thread with the same issue, sorry I wasn't able to track down the culprit.