Parker 51 Thoughts

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Here I am, hanging out in the hospital dining room while Gordon has dialysis. I’m seated at a nice big table. It would be ideal for restoration work if I’d brought my tools and a handful of pens, but I suspect that the staff might not view that activity with approval.

If I can’t work at least I can write. I can’t really deal with specific pens here but perhaps some more general remarks might be acceptable.

I had a comment the other day about a post I had written on the subject of the Parker 51. Though the comment was just advice on the history of the pen, I read between the lines that the writer did not entirely approve of some of the things I had said about the Parker 51. Let me set the record straight. Though I am not a fan of the Parker 51, I fully recognize that it is one of the finest fountain pens ever made. Given the length of its production run and the immense number of pens made, it would be only a fool who did not recognise its worth and influence on the development of other fountain pens.

My objection to the Parker 51 and other covered-nib pens is purely personal. They don’t work well for me for several reasons. Unlike other types of nib, I have to consciously study the tip of the pen to ensure that I am holding it the right way. That might seem a very minor complaint but it has to be done every time I pick up the pen or resume writing after an interruption. Though you can find the occasional stub or oblique (particularly among Newhaven-made 51s), most covered-nib pens give no line variation. Therein, I think, lies some part of their present popularity; they suit writers who have grown up using ballpoints. Though I don’t entirely dismiss firm points with no line variation, they’re not my favourite type of pen. A little line variation enhances otherwise dull handwriting.

Finally, I don’t understand hiding beautifully crafted nibs away. A large part of my early attraction to fountain pens was just that: the sight of a gold nib gliding across the paper, perhaps flexing a little and laying the best line I could achieve.

So that’s the story. I’m not saying that the Parker 51 is faulty in any way. I’m just saying that it isn’t for me. We all have our preferences. I know at least one person who dislikes Conway Stewarts, despite their excellent nibs, attractive colours and huge range of models. Others actively dislike cartridge pens while some avoid lever- and button-fillers. That’s one of the things that is so wonderful about our hobby: the huge variety which provides something for all tastes.

Pens For Sale

I added a few pens to the sales site.

How Things Are.

It has been a long time since I wrote anything here. The reason for that is that my husband has been very ill, has gone through a couple of operations and is now on haemodialysis at a hospital 45 miles away from where we live. As he has to attend four times a week it means we are on the road rather a lot, and that’s not allowing for other medical appointments. We are trying to find a house near to the hospital that would be suitable for our needs. That’s taking up rather a lot of time as well.

I hope that once we are settled somewhere else I can get back to blogging and pen repair, both of which have had to be set aside during this difficult period. Goodness knows, there is at least as much to write about pens as I have already written.

Looking forward to getting back in touch with all of you and hoping that it won’t be too long.

Thanks, and a Brief Update

Many thanks for the well-wishes, comments, cards and notes both ‘snail mailed’ and emailed, regarding my husband’s hospitalisation.  You brightened our days!

He is home at last.  Recovery will be a matter of months, perhaps even a half-year.  He is determined, though, and that will stand him in good stead.  It’s grand to have him home.  My Assistant, Smartie, made the most enormous catly fuss over him when we came home.  It was a lovely welcome filled with trills, squirks, head-butts and demands for petting.

It may still be some time until I get back into the swing of fountain pen life.  We are adjusting to the new schedule of thrice-weekly haemodialysis and until we figure out how to reorganise our days and weeks, I may still be largely absent here for some time.  But I’m getting pens sent out within a few days of purchase, and will continue to do my best in terms of inquiries and correspondence.  Thanks to all for your patience and understanding.

A Brief Update

I’ve been a bit quiet of late, and while I don’t often share personal matters here, I wanted to let you know I will remain among the missing here a bit longer.

My husband is currently in hospital due to peritonitis.  For four and a half years we have done peritoneal dialysis at home (we’d never heard of it either, before my husband’s kidneys failed and we were told about his options), but his bout of peritonitis has infected the peritoneal catheter which was his dialysis access.  So this week it had to be removed before things got even worse.  It also required a “permacath” insertion – it’s sort of like a chest line, giving direct access for haemodialysis.  The surgeon was busy with my husband this week!

It means a big change in our lives, as we switch from daily home peritoneal dialysis to haemodialysis done three times a week in the renal unit.  It was not a change we wished for, but here we are.

There are a lot of challenges to overcome, but I won’t bore you with the details.  Suffice to say that for the foreseeable future I will be making the 140 mile round trip daily to go and be with my husband as he recovers from peritonitis, surgery, and respiratory problems (ongoing as well as surgery-related).  I apologise for delays in responding to correspondence or comments here in the blog.  I don’t generally get home until 10:30pm or later, and by the time I’ve taken care of various things in the house (myself included) along with comforting my very anxious Assistant, it is well into the wee hours and all I can do is have a brief sleep before starting over again.

Unfortunately this means that the blog and fountain pen work have to be put on hold for now.  I will be a bit slower with sending out sold pens as well, though I will do my best not to have long delays.

We will eventually settle into a routine, but my husband has quite a way to go to get well enough to be able to come home.  Right now he’s in the ICU being well looked after by some excellent nurses, for which I am very glad.

As for me, it’s midnight and I’ve got some dishes to do.  There may be a cat at the window again, looking for some reassurance, too.  As a fountain pen assistant Smartie is rubbish but she can be an affectionate wee creature when she feels like it.  Seeing as how she and her need for daily insulin shots are the only reason I come home each night rather than staying in hospital accommodation, it’s a good thing she does show me a little catly love before shooting out the door to her beloved Outside!

The Parker Slimfold

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Here’s a pen that deserves more attention than it gets: the Parker Slimfold. It’s a slender pen as the name suggests but it isn’t especially short at 12.6 cm. I’ve heard it said of this pen – and indeed of all the English Duofold series of the 50s and 60s – that it is dull. I think that may be because, as they say, familiarity breeds contempt. These pens are similar in shape to (for instance) the Platinum 3776 or the Sailor 1911 and whatever else may be said about those pens nobody is suggesting that their primary characteristic is dullness!
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The Slimfold has a lot of other things going in its favour. It has the usual Parker attention to detail, most obviously in the cap band and clip. The Aerometric filling system is rightly renowned and the nib, though quite small in keeping with the rest of the pen, is superb.
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It’s a delight to write with, gliding across the paper with enough feedback to keep it from being slippery. It’s a favourite of mine.
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Slimfolds have survived well if they have not been abused. This version was in production from 1962 to 1971 so the youngest it could be is a middle-aged 45. The gold plating remains good throughout, the plastic takes a splendid shine and the barrel imprint is still crisp and clear.
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Please excuse the dust in these photographs. I must have been a very bad person in a former life to deserve all the dust that invades my photos. I’ll polish the pen until it’s sparkling, set it down for a second and suddenly it’s matted with dust and cat hair. I am cursed.

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Mabie Todd & Bard Sterling Silver Eyedropper

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This is a Mabie Todd & Bard sterling silver eyedropper from the early years of the 20th century. The presence of the word “Bard” indicates that it was made before 1907 and it can be narrowed down a little further as we will see.
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The pen is no longer quite original as some alterations were made at a later date which make it more practical in use. The original “over-and-under” feed was replaced with a ladder feed and the upper part of the early feed was trimmed, as you can see.
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Dr Harnett, Margate, was the owner of the the pen. Perhaps it was a very opulent gift on retirement. I hunted him down and found that in 1901 he was mentioned in the list of gifts given to the happy couple at a wedding in Margate. He gave them a silver butter dish, which I’m sure they treasured. He was the Resident Surgeon at the Royal Sea Bathing Hospital and it is recorded that he died in 1905, so the pen must date to that year or those preceding.

For the rest, I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.

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