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Parker 51 Vacumatic


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#1 Kaych

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Posted 09 November 2010 - 02:30

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First Impressions
7/10
When I first started with fountain pens I heard so much about the venerable Parker 51. All the talk about it made me think it would be the most beautiful pen, so I rushed to find pictures of this grail. I’ll admit, I was shocked when I first saw it. THIS THING is supposed to be considered the greatest fountain– let alone any - pen ever made? It didn’t even look like a fountain pen to my virgin eyes. I thought perhaps this was the P51 Ballpoint. Little did I know about the hooded nib. The simple styling makes it a pen you kind of have to get used to.

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Appearance and Design

10/10
While I originally didn’t really like the Parker 51’s styling, I am now in love with it. It truly is a product of the 40s and 50s. The pen is extremely clean and I would say almost minimalistic. Aside from the vertical lines on the cap, there are no patterns on this pen. And other than the clutch ring, clip, and jewel, no other features to note.

The pen comes in a variety of colors and finishes. The cap can either be lustraloy (a frosted finished), nickel plated (shiny), or gold filled. The body comes in black, brown, burgundy, blue, among others.

This is a conservative pen that I wouldn’t mind pulling out in any situation, whether formal, informal or a business setting. Perhaps the gold is a bit flashy, but it goes so well with the cordovan brown body that I am apt to forgive it. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves in this case though.

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Construction and Quality

9/10
Drop it, bang it, twirl it – you name it, this pen will hold up. While the same probably can’t be said for the gold plating (just dropped the cap accidentally on hardwood flooring, not a scratch), structurally, this pen can take a beating. Due to the smooth lines and lack of doodads stuck on you don’t have to fear chips or major cracks really, although there seem to be a large amounts of P51s with gouges (mine included)…

While early models were made from celluloid, Parker eventually switched to Lucite. As I said, it’s quite durable and has anti-shattering properties. Lucite is also a very light material. Overall, I would take it over precious resin any day. I don’t have to fear dropping it in my bag or placing it on a hard surface.

The reason why I deducted a point is because of the vacumatic filler system. It is (almost?) impossible to find an unrestored vac that will work. The rubber diaphragm generally needs replacing every 7-9 years. While I would’ve preferred an aerometric filler which last decades, I just couldn’t resist the looks of the this vac.

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Weight and Dimensions

10/10
This is light pen that is comfortable for even extended writing sessions. Whether capped or uncapped, balance is maintained (though that might depend on where you grip the pen). I would probably roughly compare the size to a Pelikan M600 although it is a bit thinner.

Length capped: 5.4 inches / 13.7 cm
Length uncapped: 5 inches / 12.7 cm
Length posted: 5.87 inches / 14.9 cm
Circumference: 1.6 inches / 4 cm (at cap band)

Nib and Performance
10/10
The 14k nib is smooth with just a touch of feedback – the kind of nib I like on my workhorses. The hooded nib also means you can leave it uncapped for a while and have it start back up as though you just put it down. This means it’s perfect for lectures with long gaps where you don’t write anything down, but still have to be ready at any moment when the prof says something crucial. I’ve found that generally all inks work well in this pen.

I’ve had no skipping issues at all. The optimum writing angle (at least for my nib) seems to be around the standard 35-50 degrees. If you are someone who writes vertically you will have a very scratchy experience.

The Parker 51 offers a comfortable writing experience though. Capped or uncapped, the pen is balanced and is extremely light. Even after a 3 hour lecture, my hands did not tire at all using this pen. The lack of threads is probably a welcome sight for those of you who grip at that point.

Filling System & Maintenance
6/10
This is where the Parker 51 Vac disappoints me. I’ve used both the aerometric and vacumatic fillers and while I prefer piston fillers, I would have to say the aerometric system is vastly superior to vacumatics. It is extremely difficult to clean out this pen. I would have to say it took me at least a good half hour to an hour to completely flush out this pen. Just when you think you got the last of the ink, color continues to seep out. I swear I am going to wear it out by continuously pumping it. Anyone have any suggestions? I’d love to think I’m doing it wrong.

Speaking of wearing out, as I mentioned earlier the diaphragm needs replacing every decade or so. It’s a shame, if I ever pass this pen on, I’d like to think my children wouldn’t have to go through the hassle of replacing the sac.

Another downfall of this system is that there is no ink view! This combined with the pumping action means you can never really tell how much ink you’ve actually filled up (despite what people say, the bubbles never really seem to stop).

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Cost and Value
10/10
Definitely an affordable way into the world of vintage and fountain pens in general. This one cost me $80 including shipping, but you can find one going for anywhere from ~$50 for a user-grade pen to hundreds of dollars for the rarer colours. With the older pens going on 70 years, the durability speaks for itself. This pen will probably outlive all of us. When I ask my friends how old they think my pen is, this guess about 10 years max, but little do they know the pen is probably as old as their grandparents!

Given the stellar reputation of the Parker 51, I never hesitated once with this purchase. I knew I would be getting more than my money’s worth.

Conclusion

9/10
There is a reason why there are so many Parker 51s on sale even nearly 70 years after they were first introduced. They are sturdy pens that do everything a pen should: write well. They are also stylish at the same time, with a specimen on display at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. I would not hesitate at all to recommend this pen to anyone regardless of budget. A good condition Parker 51 could be had for $50 shipped. Though I would suggest an aerometric filler for those who are just looking for a hassle free pen. So if you are looking to buy vintage (or not) pick up one these immediately! With the craftsmanship, you wouldn’t even be able to tell this pen is from WWII!

These pens will never let you down and certainly live up to its slogan, the world’s most wanted pen.

Edited by Kaych, 09 November 2010 - 03:14.

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#2 esterbex

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Posted 09 November 2010 - 02:59

:notworthy1: P51's are my second acquired addiction....right after Esties.....
God is seldom early, never late, and always on time. ~~Larry Brown

#3 shaqin93

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Posted 09 November 2010 - 03:10

A very nice review. Thanks.

#4 PenFisher

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Posted 09 November 2010 - 04:03

Thanks for a very nice and spot on review, plus the wonderful pictures of your pen. I also share your like for the Cordovan Brown with gold wash clutch ring and gold cap -- very elegant.

#5 freewheelingvagabond

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Posted 09 November 2010 - 06:17

Great photos! :thumbup:

I don't know, but I think aerometric 51s are sometime a little 'boring' compared to the vacumatic 51s.
These are great pens.

#6 jandrese

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Posted 09 November 2010 - 13:46

Great review and thanks for the very nicely composed and lighted photos. You inspired me to go and pick out one of my dozen or so 51s and fill it!

#7 bhbarto

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Posted 09 November 2010 - 20:14

Thank your for a great review. I own a Parker Vacumatic and as well as a Parker "51" Aerometric, your review makes me want to get a nice user grade "51" Vacumatic.

Pens Currently in Rotation:

Parker “51” Special (M) - Private Reserve Chocolat

Pilot Custom Heritage 91 (M) - Diamine Salamander

Pilot Metropolitan (M) - Rohrer and Klingner Blu Mare


#8 Kaych

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Posted 10 November 2010 - 01:24

Thanks for the comments guys! Nice to know I inspired you to ink up this great pen. It's quite interesting that such a simple pen could be so regal and dignified. I mean, even the Queen uses a 51!

Great photos! :thumbup:

I don't know, but I think aerometric 51s are sometime a little 'boring' compared to the vacumatic 51s.
These are great pens.


Nah, nothing is more boring than leaning over the sink waiting to see if the water is clear yet.

Thank your for a great review. I own a Parker Vacumatic and as well as a Parker "51" Aerometric, your review makes me want to get a nice user grade "51" Vacumatic.


I think you missed my section on the filling system. :roflmho: It definitely is a different experience though. I'm going to assume that vacs hold more ink though. Feel free to correct me though.
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#9 Pippin60

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Posted 10 November 2010 - 01:45

Beautiful pen, I have a similar one thats and aeromatic filler, needs a little nib work but I do love my 51's

The difference between the almost right word & the right word is really a large matter--it's the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.
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#10 anaximander

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Posted 10 November 2010 - 03:41

You might take a look at a vintage Aurora 88. It looks like a P51, but has an ink window and a piston filling mechanism.

#11 Glenn-SC

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Posted 10 November 2010 - 08:28

Good review and great photos.

Thanks

#12 carlosjaviercontreras

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Posted 10 November 2010 - 15:34

Nice and easy to read review, wonderful photos. Not my kind of pen... till I read this. :eureka:

Thanks!
Mi blog "Mis Plumas Fuente" contiene evaluaciones en lengua Castellana, muestras de escritura y fotografías originales de las plumas en mi colección.

Visítenos en http://misplumasfuente.wordpress.com/

#13 Ispriluc

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Posted 10 November 2010 - 16:57

I would have to say it took me at least a good half hour to an hour to completely flush out this pen. Just when you think you got the last of the ink, color continues to seep out. I swear I am going to wear it out by continuously pumping it. Anyone have any suggestions?



This may help.
http://www.fountainp...ner-centrifuge/
Parker 51 Vacumatic 0.7 stub by Mike Masuyama - Pelikan 4001 brilliant black
Parker 51 Special 0.7 stub by Richard Binder - Diamine Oxblood
TWSBI 540 M - J. Herbin Lierre Sauvage
Parker Vacumatic USA 1947 azure/ 1946 medium nib
Parker Vacumatic Canada 1952 burgundy/ 1956 xf-f springy nib

#14 gary

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Posted 10 November 2010 - 20:52

Just when I thought 51s had been talked to death you did a nice review, with excellent photos and spot-on commentary.
Well done,
gary

#15 bhbarto

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Posted 10 November 2010 - 21:40


I would have to say it took me at least a good half hour to an hour to completely flush out this pen. Just when you think you got the last of the ink, color continues to seep out. I swear I am going to wear it out by continuously pumping it. Anyone have any suggestions?



This may help.
http://www.fountainp...ner-centrifuge/


I think Parker vac fillers require one to choose one color ink and use that ink continuously. However, probably that was not much of a problem when the things were made 60-70 years ago. Think Quink black, Quink blue, or Quink blue-black. If you were really adventurous you could mix your own batch of Quink blue-blue-black-black or whatever.

Edited by bhbarto, 10 November 2010 - 21:41.

Pens Currently in Rotation:

Parker “51” Special (M) - Private Reserve Chocolat

Pilot Custom Heritage 91 (M) - Diamine Salamander

Pilot Metropolitan (M) - Rohrer and Klingner Blu Mare


#16 jonas0304

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Posted 11 November 2010 - 02:58

Good review, thanks for share

#17 Falcon user

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Posted 15 November 2010 - 21:56

Very nice

#18 breaker

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Posted 23 November 2010 - 18:02

nice review and very nice pics
Cogito ergo sum

#19 Bill Smith

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Posted 23 November 2010 - 20:38

Wow! The photography is amazing with this review and I'm a huge fan of the Parker 51 both aerometric and Vac. Like you, when I got my first one, I was underwhelmed with 51's appearance. Over time the pen grew on me and I now have 17 of them:). I find 51s get the heaviest use in my collection.
"Life moves pretty fast, if you do not stop and look around once and a while you might just miss it."
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What's on Bill Smith's brain

#20 penrivers

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Posted 23 November 2010 - 21:01

I think that the subtle never mentioned reason ( I have two years in FPN ) for many of us choosing the vacumatic system over the aerometric is that in the late you have to shake it horizontaly while squizing for filling, and with the other system you only have to push the buton vertically with confort and security.
I fill and empty the pen to know more or less in drops the quantity of ink I got in the last fill.You have to push the button 5 or 6 times in order to get the pen full. Thanks a lot for the quality and information in your review.
Greetings.

#21 pelman

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Posted 25 November 2010 - 12:39

I have got a "51" vacumatic on the way (though not as beautiful as yours). I can't wait to try it. Thanks for the review.

#22 mstone

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Posted 25 November 2010 - 21:03

I think that the subtle never mentioned reason ( I have two years in FPN ) for many of us choosing the vacumatic system over the aerometric is that in the late you have to shake it horizontaly while squizing for filling,

? I don't think I've ever shaken my aero 51.

#23 penrivers

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Posted 25 November 2010 - 23:53


I think that the subtle never mentioned reason ( I have two years in FPN ) for many of us choosing the vacumatic system over the aerometric is that in the late you have to shake it horizontaly while squizing for filling,

? I don't think I've ever shaken my aero 51.

Oh, my bad english, I wish to said....what?..well, I have to move horizontaly my thumb finger against the body
of the aereometric mechanism, shaken imperceptibly the barrel in an horizontal line, no equilibrium,you can move the bottle and spread the ink, a person with Parkinson illnes will find dificult this system. Instead in the button system the filling is so easy. And it hapens generally more or less wit every aereometric squizing filling fountain pen system in the world. Definitelly I dont like it. Greetings.

Edited by penrivers, 26 November 2010 - 03:39.


#24 Kaych

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Posted 28 November 2010 - 21:01

Wow! The photography is amazing with this review and I'm a huge fan of the Parker 51 both aerometric and Vac. Like you, when I got my first one, I was underwhelmed with 51's appearance. Over time the pen grew on me and I now have 17 of them:). I find 51s get the heaviest use in my collection.


Thanks! I think the 51 is just one of those pens where simplicity wins out. We are so used to seeing flashy pens, that the minimalism of the 51 seems to pale in comparison. But once we get used to the look we find that simple is sometimes better.

Oh, my bad english, I wish to said....what?..well, I have to move horizontaly my thumb finger against the body
of the aereometric mechanism, shaken imperceptibly the barrel in an horizontal line, no equilibrium,you can move the bottle and spread the ink, a person with Parkinson illnes will find dificult this system. Instead in the button system the filling is so easy. And it hapens generally more or less wit every aereometric squizing filling fountain pen system in the world. Definitelly I dont like it. Greetings.


If I understand correctly, the fact that you have to press the aerometric filler horizontally with your thumb makes it harder to keep it stable especially for people with diseases like Parkinson's. I never really thought about things like that. It wold be interesting to find out which filler is better for people with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome or repetitive strain injuries, especially since FPs are recommended with people with those conditions.
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#25 georges zaslavsky

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Posted 01 December 2010 - 18:24

:thumbup: I am not usually a fan of p51 but this is one is an exception. Enjoy your pen
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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#26 tonysingh

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Posted 02 December 2010 - 21:33

Lovely review.

#27 cooltouch

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Posted 03 December 2010 - 08:50

Nice review. I own several Vacumatics, including an earlier version of the subject pen (Cordovan brown, gold-filled cap, but older style clip with blue diamond and no "Parker" on the cap band), and this question of emptying the pen's reservoir came up years ago in a forum that I no longer recall back when I was actively collecting. One respondent explained that to drain a Vacumatic, you depress the plunger very slowly and it will empty the reservoir. I tried this, and wow. It worked. Now, if you're talking about getting every last trace of ink out of the pen, then it doesn't matter what type of fill system is being used -- it takes many flushes before you'll get a clear discharge from the pen's reservoir -- or at least that's been my experience.

Anyway, give it a try and see if you don't get a goodly volume of ink being expelled from your pen just be slowly depressing the plunger.

Edited by cooltouch, 03 December 2010 - 10:47.

Michael

#28 Kaych

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Posted 03 December 2010 - 18:58

Nice review. I own several Vacumatics, including an earlier version of the subject pen (Cordovan brown, gold-filled cap, but older style clip with blue diamond and no "Parker" on the cap band), and this question of emptying the pen's reservoir came up years ago in a forum that I no longer recall back when I was actively collecting. One respondent explained that to drain a Vacumatic, you depress the plunger very slowly and it will empty the reservoir. I tried this, and wow. It worked. Now, if you're talking about getting every last trace of ink out of the pen, then it doesn't matter what type of fill system is being used -- it takes many flushes before you'll get a clear discharge from the pen's reservoir -- or at least that's been my experience.

Anyway, give it a try and see if you don't get a goodly volume of ink being expelled from your pen just be slowly depressing the plunger.


Next time I change inks I'll definitely give this a try. Thanks for the tip. :thumbup:
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#29 kathleen

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Posted 03 December 2010 - 20:30

Just two days ago I visited my favorite dusty shop, filled with secondhand goods; I found two burgundy colored Parker "51" pens. Each priced $30. I examined each carefully and thought I should give the Parker "51" a try. So many in the FPN love Parker.
Two to choose from, I bought the one with the lustraloy cap, the other pen having a shiny chrome cap with some scratches was not as attractive.

Each pen had a "squeeze" filling mechanism with pliable ink sac.
This week I also received a Black Esterbrook Deluxe, in near mint condition with a #2668 nib, won on ebay for 22.90 + shipping.
Which pen do I prefer?
Hands down my Esterbrook! The ink flow is much better in my Esterbrook, I have flushed and flushed the Parker and with the same ink it is a much drier writer. I prefer the look of my Esties, liking the fully visible nib, as opposed to the hooded nib on the Parker. I can not even tell what nib designation the Parker has, it feels like a medium - fine nib. My Esterbrook has interchangeable nibs and an easily replaced sac. My Esterbrook with a minimum of care will outlast my lifetime and perhaps that of my children.
For like $ I will continue my love affair with the Esties. The classic Parker "51" caught my eye, but we shall enjoy only a fling, my heart belongs to Esterbrook. Esterbrook was my father's pen of choice, I should never have strayed.
Added note: Parker definitely produces quality pens. While I seldom use a ballpoint, since rediscovering the joy of flowing ink from a fountain pen, whenever I must use a ballpoint, I think there is none so fine as the Parker T-Ball Jotter with regular or gel ink refill.
Photo: Parker "51" and Esterbrook Deluxe Similar in looks, Parker has distinctive arrow clip, Esterbrook has dressy black ring and jet black jewel on cap and barrel.

Edited by kathleen, 03 December 2010 - 21:18.

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#30 cooltouch

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Posted 03 December 2010 - 21:09

Hey Kathleen, I agree with your choice of ballpoint pens. The T-Ball Jotter has been a favorite of mine since I was in grade school in the 60s. But if I have to use a ball pen, I prefer roller ball because they feel more like fountain pens.

About your Parker 51 -- I have owned several, and my experience has been that some can be dry writers while others will produce a good, wet line. So, it may be your pen could use a nib/feed adjustment or a good and thorough cleaning. Actually, my favorite hooded nib Parker in terms of writing quality is a "lowly" 21. I find the 21 aerometric to be just as fine a pen as the more expensive 51s.

I can relate to your passion for Esterbrooks -- I own a couple myself (and have owned quite a few in the past), and I enjoy mine. But I don't have a high level of loyalty for any one brand. Not when I have Sheaffers and Pelikans and Parkers, etc., that write just as well, if not better.
Michael