The Duofold is a Senior, so it does somewhat loom over the "17". What I've written thus far makes the early "17" sound like a bit of a dud, and that's exactly opposite to the truth. Let's get on with the review.
Appearance & Design
Capped, there's nothing to be said against the "17"; a nice little Art Deco clip, trim lines, although somewhat conservative compared to a 45. With that odd point on display, those with expectations founded in either a traditional or hooded point will almost certainly be taken aback. After the initial gasp of shock, though, one realizes that it's not a deformity, just a different approach. It also gives a nice big lump of gold to look at, and there's hardly a known civilization than hasn't enjoyed that sort of spectacle. The shape of the point follows the contour of the section, which apart from the baffled expectations is pleasant to look upon. The contrast of the silvery clutch ring somewhat diminishes my score on this head, but it is otherwise a very presentable pen (8 of 10).
Construction & Quality
Here I have the first real issue with this pen. It is an issue which I have with the UK Duofolds as well; the cap is somewhat brittle. With the screw-cap Duofolds, this is a little less of a failing, but in the case of this pen, the slip-cap and the attendant pressures the clutch ring inflicts on the cap are serious issues. In common with the later "17"s and some Duofolds, there is an oddly-placed cap vent which cannot but help to dry out the pen in short order; it is under the clip's fletchings, and there is no inner cap to provide a seal. It may be relying on the relative nearness of sea level which England enjoys, but I in my continental interior semi-desert rate this as a design flaw. Cap aside, the rest of the pen seems relatively sturdy, and I can attest to the thickness of the section's walls. (6 of 10)
Weight & Dimensions
The modern fascination for giantism in pens would lead some to call this a small, light pen. In the terms of its own era, it is about average in both areas. The barrel is long enough for most users to write unposted, and with the cap posted it's of sufficient length for all but the most expansive paws. The cap posts very well, too, so writing is unfettered by fears of it dropping to the floor (a good thing, given my previous notes). Balance is good, posted or not, and there's not enough weight in pen or cap to cause trouble to those with unorthodox grips. 13.4cm long capped, 14.4cm posted, 12.5 cm uncapped. (9 of 10)
Nib & Performance
Ah, now we get into the interesting part of the review. That funny old point, which is marked as 14K (no continental indication, which suggests an extremely limited expectation of export sales). I have noted in the more common "17"s that there can be an unusual degree of give for a hooded point, and I have noted also a general tendency in British-made pens towards flex... which I think gives you a sense of what I'm about to reveal. It's not a wet noodle, but is it a very supple, flexible point. As I don't have several to chose from, I speculate only that there must have been options of firmness and flexibility when there were on the market. This one is flexible, smooth, damp and utterly delightful. It is also rather vulnerable to heavy handedness, as when I got this pen the point was slightly sprung and needed burnishing back to health; getting the point out was not the hardest pen repair I've done, but is was not loads of fun and I suggest against it unless driven. Hidden under the section is a mystery number: 7. It's not a date code, and I don't have at my command the point codes Duofolds had applied to them; perhaps a reader can leave a link. (10 of 10)
Filling System & Maintenance
The filler is Parker's nigh-eternal vinyl sac and press-bar; what we might in innocence call an Aerometric. As such, it is not particularly user-serviceable but it generally doesn't need it anyway. It only takes about 0.9ml onboard, sort of midway between a modern converter and a Parker cartridge; with the flex fully engaged, I don't expect that to last a great while, but with moderation it's certainly enough for a day's writing. The downfall of this sort of filler is the requirement to entirely dismantle the pen to work it, relative to most other self-fillers; it's reliable, but there's the reconstruction at the end of filling that costs points. (8 of 10)
Cost & Value
In its original release, the "17" was meant to be a popular pen. I've yet to see price lists which include it from this end of the run, but if it was indeed at the bottom of Parker's rankings, somewhere about the level of the 45, it would be a marvel of value for money. That brittleness of cap may be an age-related infirmity. I got this one for what I consider a very good price from eBay, but of course I did my own repairs. If you can lay hands on a restored one for anything under $45, I'd say snap it up, and even up to $60 it would be worth chasing. The points indicates my speculation on original cost rather than the current availablity. (8 of 10)
I can understand why Parker would switch to the less easily-damaged and material-hungry hooded points on this line, but if the general run of open points was anything like my exemplar the world is a poorer place for their discontinuation. I hope I don't start a run on these things, but I do highly recommend taking up one if it's found in anything near decent shape. (Final score, 49/60)
Edited by Ernst Bitterman, 01 May 2012 - 21:33.