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Review on 2 custom made Parker 51s made by Ralph Prather


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#1 Nikolaos

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Posted 13 March 2010 - 16:25

Review on 2 custom made Parker 51s made by Ralph Prather: The Titanium and the Vespel

Background

Ever since I laid my eyes on the Prather Titanium 51 a few years ago I wanted to have one. My main interest is in vintage Japanese pens and with that in mind it remained on a wish list. I always enjoyed using my 51 flighter set and it was a Parker 51 that got me all interested in fountain pens.
Last year I attended my first ever pen show in Tilburg. It is small show but I was pretty excited, as it was my first ever pen show. My excitement turned out to be justified as I ran into a titanium 51 that a German seller has on his table. I was very surprised to see one of these pens there, and immediately asked the seller how much he wanted for it. I dashed out of the show to an ATM across the road and 5 minutes later the pen was mine!
Ralph kindly got in touch with me and informed me that my pen was #8 in a series of 22 pens made. He provided me with extra info, photos and answers to my questions
Several weeks later a pentracer had for sale a Prather 51 Vespel. I was seriously considering adding the pen to my collection. Ralph contacted me and shared info about the pen. It was just the extra little “push” I needed and a couple of weeks later my Titanium 51 had a Vespel sibling.

Design and finish

51 Titanium

The design of the pen is based on the timeless Double Jeweled Parker 51 pen.
The pen is machined from a solid bar of commercially pure titanium. The machining, fit and finish of the pen is absolutely gorgeous. The satin matte finish of the titanium is stunning and feels really nice when you hold the pen. Every part of the pen is meticulously made and fits perfectly in place. The pen feels very solid but it is not too heavy for an all-metal pen. The cap is a highly polished original sterling 51 cap that adds a lot of shine and acts as a great contrast to the satin finish of the titanium. It sort of becomes the jewelry part of what is an industrial looking pen.
The cap and blind cap both have aluminum jewels that look really great with the rest of the pen. I really like the solid brass filling rod that Ralph made for this pen.

this photo taken by Ralph
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another photo from Ralph showing all the components that make up the pen..pretty amazing
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51 Vespel

The design of the Vespel 51 is pretty much identical to the Titanium but it doesn’t have the brass ring that separates the blind cap from the barrel.
The material Ralph used to create this pen is called Vespel and is manufactured by Dupont. Vespel is a high performance polymer is mostly used in aerospace, semiconductor and transportation technology. It combines heat resistance, lubricity, dimensional stability, chemical resistance, and creep resistance, to be used in hostile and extreme environmental conditions. It is a very expensive material and Ralph explained to me that the rod he used to make this pen came from the same rod stock that NASA used to fabricate parts for the MARS ROVER. Yes this material has been on Mars!
The color of the Vespel pen is a bit debatable. The photos the seller provided made the pen look like it s a deep burgundy. When I received the pen the color was more like a milk chocolate. On some photos it appears dark red on others brown. Ralph sent me some Vespel shavings and when held in the sunlight they appear orange.
Some of the very cool touches on the pen are the vacumatic filling rod that is made out of Vespel just like the two jewels on the pen! The cap is hand hammered and I think complements the pen really well. I particularly like the way it catches light and reflects it in all kinds of directions.

Ralph's photo with info regarding the use of Vespel on the Mars Rover
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both pens together
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Nibs and filling system

Titanium
This one came with a very juicy stub BB nib. I prefer fine nibs so I switched it. Now it has the stub BB nib on again and I am really enjoying it . It really glides on paper and works really well even when you are writing at a faster pace.

Vespel
The Vespel has a smooth fine nib that performs just like any other 51 fine nib! No problems at all and always ready to go
Both pens have different pitch threads on the vac retaining collar from the Parker made 51 pens. Ralph has created a solid brass tool that he gives with his pens to allow owners to self-service their pens, certainly a very nice touch.

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Final thoughts

Needless to say that Ralph is a true gentleman. A few weeks he offered to service both of my pens free of charge just to make sure everything is in order. The pens he makes are works of art but actually meeting and interacting with him (even online) is an experience of its own.
It is one thing getting some really cool pens, but how often do we get to meet and interact with those responsible for creating them? My experience with these two pens and their maker has taken this hobby to a different plateau.
I am thrilled to have these two pens and they will remain in my collection for good.

photo taken by Ralph after servicing the pens

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Nikolaos

Edited by Nikolaos, 14 March 2010 - 10:27.


#2 bluemagister

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Posted 13 March 2010 - 16:34

Absolutely gorgeous!

#3 Ondina

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Posted 13 March 2010 - 17:10

Incredible pens. Cost is not mentioned, as it not often mentioned in art......

#4 jandrese

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Posted 13 March 2010 - 17:50

Really nice. I love the hammered cap.

#5 Dan Carmell

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Posted 13 March 2010 - 18:03

Wow, lovely pens, Nikolaos! I think that, as you said, the contrast of the matte titanium barrel and the shiny silver cap is amazing. And I am a total sucker for hammered silver caps! Just stunning pens and a very nice exposition in text and photo. Thanks very much!

Dan

#6 Glenn-SC

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Posted 13 March 2010 - 18:22

Beautiful!

So how much did the titanium cost?

#7 mana

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Posted 13 March 2010 - 18:51

Beautiful!

So how much did the titanium cost?

x2

Inquiring minds want to know... ;)
...now is the only thing that is real...

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#8 philm

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Posted 13 March 2010 - 19:00

Thank you for the review and photos. I have always wanted one of his pens. Someday........

Phil

#9 jorgerp1

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Posted 13 March 2010 - 19:07

Wonderful pens :puddle: :puddle: :puddle:

#10 markc

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Posted 13 March 2010 - 20:02

WOW!!!!! :puddle::puddle::puddle::puddle::puddle:


Those are Gorgeous!

darn you for making me lust after more pens.. :)

May I ask the price? Are they available to us plebes? :notworthy1:
Science is a way of skeptically interrogating the universe with a fine understanding of human fallibility.
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#11 Nikolaos

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Posted 13 March 2010 - 20:56

Hi everyone,

Thanks a lot for your great comments.

I didn't want to talk about the prices of these awesome pens as they are truly unique pieces and adding monetary values will not do them justice. However, since you guys insist i have to tell you that i paid a fraction of the list prices. I paid 280 euro at the Tilburg pen show for the Titanium one, and $450 for the Vespel.

The list prices for these pens are $890 for the titanium and $750 for the Vespel. http://www.pratherpe...Custom 51s.html

#12 markiv

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Posted 13 March 2010 - 21:00

Wow! Now that's a great combination of art and functionality.
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#13 georges zaslavsky

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Posted 13 March 2010 - 23:14

I am not into 51s but I must say that those are stunners :thumbup:

Edited by georges zaslavsky, 13 March 2010 - 23:17.

Pens are like watches , once you start a collection, you can hardly go back. And pens like all fine luxury items do improve with time
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#14 Glenn-SC

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Posted 14 March 2010 - 01:51

I paid 280 euro at the Tilburg pen show for the Titanium one, and $450 for the Vespel.

Thief!!

Are you not ashamed of yourself?


I am sooooo jealous! :notworthy1:

I paid a lot more than that for mine ...


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Edited by Glenn-SC, 14 March 2010 - 01:52.


#15 TWRDO

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Posted 14 March 2010 - 03:29

:puddle: I didn't have a grail pen until now. Wow.
Music, verily, is the mediator between intellectual and sensuous life, the one incorporeal entrance into the high world of knowledge which comprehends mankind but which mankind cannot comprehend. -Ludwig van Beethoven

#16 Nikolaos

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Posted 14 March 2010 - 10:25

Wow, lovely pens, Nikolaos! I think that, as you said, the contrast of the matte titanium barrel and the shiny silver cap is amazing. And I am a total sucker for hammered silver caps! Just stunning pens and a very nice exposition in text and photo. Thanks very much!

Dan



Thank you Dan,

it is pretty difficult to decide which one of the two is my favorite. I find myself using the Titanium more as i really enjoy the heft and how solid it feels, but then again the hammered cap and warmth of the vespel along with thoughts of space exploration.....hmmm decisions...decisions!

Nikolaos

#17 Nikolaos

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Posted 14 March 2010 - 10:30

I paid 280 euro at the Tilburg pen show for the Titanium one, and $450 for the Vespel.

Thief!!

Are you not ashamed of yourself?


I am sooooo jealous! :notworthy1:

I paid a lot more than that for mine ...


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Very nice pen you got there Glenn. I know i was super lucky to get both pens at such great prices. In general, luck seems to be on my side when it comes to pens :happyberet:

#18 Glenn-SC

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Posted 14 March 2010 - 11:17

I know i was super lucky to get both pens at such great prices. In general, luck seems to be on my side when it comes to pens :happyberet:

The ONLY way you can redeem yourself is to buy another titanium version at the same price for me! :thumbup:

#19 shaqin93

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Posted 14 March 2010 - 14:05

That Vespel stuff sounds pretty cool!

#20 kv3x

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Posted 14 March 2010 - 21:34

Wow! Those are really unique and quite stunning. Thanks for sharing! :thumbup:
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#21 professionaldilettante

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Posted 14 March 2010 - 22:09

"It is a very expensive material and Ralph explained to me that the rod he used to make this pen came from the same rod stock that NASA used to fabricate parts for the MARS ROVER. Yes this material has been on Mars! "

Correction, Part of that stock is now residing on Mars. The rover is still there, and I doubt that will ever come back, not even with Nasa's help. If he found someway to get to Mars and back to get that piece to make his pen, I'd be more interested in how he got there. I love the pen though, but the only application that I ever see titanium being practical is in situations with high mechanical stressors. A pen will never experiance that.
Titanium is a relativly soft metal, mars rather easily. Now if it were a ceramic, or tungsten carbide, THAT would be great. Think... a pen impervious to usage signs,scratches, or dents. It would look as shiny 1000 years as it did the day you bought it. That would be wonderful, but also heavy as heck.
The heart has its reasons which reason knows nothing of.
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#22 amble63

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Posted 15 March 2010 - 02:01

oh.my.god. What AMAZING pens. And I had a look at the ones on the Prather website. I'm in love. Better start rolling my pennies.
Colour is its own reward - N. Finn

#23 777

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Posted 08 September 2010 - 12:11

That Titanium "51" in grey... Posted Image the ultimate "51"... I must have one! MUST!

Need a pen repaired or a nib re-ground? I'd love to help you out.


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#24 revbyrd1

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Posted 15 September 2010 - 01:16

These are beautiful writing instruments.
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#25 Nikolaos

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Posted 15 September 2010 - 11:12

Yeap! They are really nice pens and both with me in the office today

Nikolaos

#26 breaker

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Posted 02 October 2010 - 16:46

very nice pens
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#27 Samovar

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Posted 03 October 2010 - 00:55

Thanks for sharing, the titanium P51 is a pen to lust after.
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#28 choen

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Posted 03 October 2010 - 01:48

Phwoar!