Parker 51

Parker51aHere, the teal blue Parker 51 has a deep green color

It’s simple. It’s perfect. It’s a fountain pen. It’s the Parker 51. Much ink and many pixels have been spilled and typed in the name of this fine pen. Frankly, a vintage pen ignoramus like myself can’t add much to the discussion other than my own personal experience and thoughts so that is what you’ll get here. I bought this restored pen with a new sac on ebay from a seller I have had positive dealings with in the past. Compared with the prices I saw for 51s at the Philly and Long Island pen shows, the $120 I paid seemed fair. Considering it may now be one of my two or three favorite fountain pens, $120 seems all the more reasonable. As for the age of the pen, the “Made in USA” followed by  “9.”,the teal blue color and the “Parker” imprint on the cap band makes me think the pen originates from July to September of 1949. As such, the pen body is made from poly(methyl methacrylate), also known as Lucite. Remember plexiglass? Same stuff, just not clear like plexiglass.

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Let’s talk about the writing experience. Mine is a Parker 51 Aerometric with a fine nib and it seemed to me that a classic pen deserved a fairly classic/conservative ink so I loaded mine with Waterman Florida Blue. If I had some blue Parker Quink I would have used that instead. (By the way, how the hell do I not have blue Parker Quink in my collection?! Seriously, isn’t a bottle of Parker Quink essential for any serious pen nerd?) In a word, the writing experience is…fantastic. I L…O…V…E the way this pen writes. The nib is stiff enough to feel like it will tolerate plenty of use and abuse but also produces a fair amount of line variation. Maybe it’s because my handwriting is entirely utilitarian (on a good day), but line variation and ink shading are not big deals for me. Still, it is fun to work with a pen that you know can be an everyday workhorse and still give your writing some genuine character. I have noticed that, after a day of disuse, the 51 takes a couple inches of writing to get going (see the word “Parker” in the picture below – it’s a bit lighter than the rest of the text). Otherwise, I have not experienced any issues with skipping or other typical troublesome nib concerns. As for weight, balance and feel, all are nearly ideal. While the weight is ideal for my hand, I do find the Lucite material to be a touch slippery and the length of the pen to be a tad too long. Perhaps the purchase of a demi 51 is in my future to address the length concern but neither the minor issue of feel nor the less than minor issue of length will stop me from using this pen every chance I get.

Parker51kHere, the pen has more of a deep blue color

Parker51lRhodia White and Rhodia Yellow – As you might expect, the pen releases more ink onto the thirstier yellow paper

Of course, you can’t talk about a Parker 51 without mentioning the hooded nib. Personally, I love the whole design aesthetic of a hooded nib as the pen manufacturer is saying, “Hey, we’re not trying to be flashy here. We’re going to focus on making a workhorse pen.” Is the Parker 51 a tad bit boring? Yes. If you want sexy, go for a modern Visconti. If you want understated simplicity and a pen that only draws the attention of genuine pen freaks, then get yourself a well-maintained/refurbished Parker 51.

Parker51fWait, now we have a softer teal color going on here.

Rating and Conclusion
I cannot recommend this pen enough. It’s an absolute “Carry It” pen for me and I plan to do just that every day. Give my this Parker 51 with Waterman Florida Blue, two Energel-Xs (one blue or black for general writing and one in purple or green for grading) and a TWSBI Mini with whatever ink is matching my mood that week and I’m good to go for all occasions. One last comment – how about that color?! It’s blue, it’s green, it’s blue-green…Depending upon the light, this pen has a anything from a midnight blue color to a soft teal complexion – very cool. Anyway, here’s my bottom line: find a way to budget a Parker 51 for your collection and find a way to do it soon. You can’t have this one, but thankfully there are many more like it out there. But don’t wait because I’ll be looking for more 51s in the days, weeks, months and years to come and I’d hate for us to be bidding against each other. 🙂

Parker51CollageNow the damn thing looks almost black in some of these pictures!

 

Waterman Charleston

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The Waterman Charleston may be the fountain pen that started it all for me.  And by “all”, I mean the sickness that is pen collecting and the idea that spending more than $5 or $25 or $50 or…I better stop there…on a pen is an acceptable use of money.  I don’t remember exactly, but I think I’ve had my Charleston for nearly 10 years and I’m pretty sure I bought it at the now defunct Joon Pen in NYC.  The Charleston is definitely one of the first two or three nice fountain pens I bought.  In the years since buying it, my fountain pen purchase habits have ebbed and flowed, favorite pens have come and gone, but there is something a bit nostalgic for me when it comes to the Waterman Charleston.  Admittedly, it’s not my favorite pen.  In fact, it’s probably not even in the top 5 at this point; however, it was something of a gateway pen for me and for that, I’ll always appreciate it.

The MSRP on the Charleston is around $200 with a typical street price around $170.  At that price, there are other pens I favor but the Charleston does have a lot going for it.  First, the Art Deco style along with the black and silver finish make the Charleston one handsome pen.  The 18k gold, fine nib is a solid performer.  I would say it’s a quarter of a step behind the writing experience I get from my 14k gold medium-nib Sailor Sapporo.  Even though one is a fine nib and the other is a medium nib, there are definite similarities between the two pens with the Charleston offering just a bit more feedback than the Sapporo.  The posted length of the pen, about 17.5 cm, is nearly ideal for my hand but the weight, 25 grams, is a touch light for my preferences.  Hey, if you know of a pen that is around 16-18 cm long when posted with a weight of 30-35 grams, let me know.  The width of the pen is pretty spot on for me as well.

Charleston3

All-in-all, the specifications of the Waterman Charleston really should work for me and, for the most part, they do.  Having said that, the writing experience falls just a bit short of the feel I get from many of my other fountain pens.  Perhaps if I made myself write only with the Charleston for an extended period it would grow on me even more but I typically gravitate to other pens before too long.  Also, there is one little thing about the pen that causes some minor annoyance.  There is an ever so slight wiggle to the grip section.  It feels like the section is loose even though it’s fully screwed in.  I’m not sure where this very, very slight wiggle originates but it’s definitely there.  It seems I’m not the only one to notice it.

Rating
I really should love this pen.  The style, size and writing experience are all solid but the sum here is just a bit less than the parts.  Don’t get me wrong; the Waterman Charleston is a winner and you should definitely give it a full audition.  If I were forced to use only this pen for several weeks I’d be perfectly happy.  But, nobody’s forcing me so I don’t.  Overall, a weak “Carry It” or a very strong “Desk It” option for me.

Charleston2

Analogy
The Waterman Charleston is like the pizza from your second favorite pizza place.  The pizza is great.  You don’t mind giving the folks who run the joint your business and you can’t recall ever getting a bad pizza there.  That said, it’s still your second favorite pizza joint that you order from only when your first-choice joint is closed for vacation or if you just need a change of pace.

Weird.  I couldn’t find many other reviews of the Charleston.  If you did one or know of others, please let me know.
Best Fountain Pen

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