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Parker Vacumatic vs. Sheaffer Balance Vac-Fill


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18 replies to this topic

#1 goodguy

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Posted 30 April 2009 - 02:33

Parker Vacumatic vs. Sheaffer Balance Vac-Fill.
These are the regular and not the oversize models that cost an arm and a leg. They are simple pens, easy to acquire and not overly expensive but how classic these two pens are ?
These are real vintage icons and I use both for my daily writings.
Itís a ton of joy and satisfaction to use a pen that was designed so many years ago and is still in perfect working condition, takes ink and leaves a smooth wet line on the paper.
Both pens are worth around 80$-100$ and both pens were fully restored by Sean Gosse (SMG) who did a great on both pens.



Itís really funny to think I have all these fancy shmansy pens in my collection but these are the ones I use. For me itís an easy choice simply because they are common, reliable, not expensive and so darn classic.

These pens were made at a time that pens were not a statement but items that were suppose to work hard everyday by everyone and I love this attitude in the vintage pens.
The Balance was made when Parker Duofold was Parkerís top of the line pen. At that time the Balance was with a simple but proven lever filler but when Parker introduced the Vacumatic Sheaffer decided to add a filling mechanism on its Balance and so on 1935 it introduced the Vacuum Filler system.

So letís start.

Design

Isnít this a hard one, the Balance is the prototype of the MB 149 and many other pens, such a simple design but so classic and timeless kudos to Sheaffer that didnít make another Flat Top and designed this pen.
Parker Vac on the other hand looks a little less modern in its approach even though itís much more modern looking then the Duofold that it replaced.
I love the blind cap and the transparent ink chamber.

So who is winning in design ?

I must choose the Balance. There is something so classic in its design and so it wins this round



Balance 1
Vacumatic 0

Filling mechanism

Sheaffer had reliability issues with this filling mechanism back in the days but today due to new material pen techs like Binder, Ron Z and Sean Gosse can restore this pen and you can expect many years of joy from this pen.
This system doesnít use a sac and so the entire barrel is basically the tank and so even though the pen is not big it holds a lot of ink in it. To operate it you must unscrew the bottom and pull it out, a rod will come out and then you stick the nib in the ink bottle and then push the button hard fast, the pen will such the ink in and you got yourself a big ink reservoir in a rather small pen, very smart and elegant.



Parker Vacumatic is a much more complex filling mechanism. Well not to operate but in its internal parts but as far as I know is considered easier to fix then the Vacuum filler of Sheaffer.
To fill this pen you unscrew the blind cap stick the nib in ink and press the button 5-10 times this will fill the barrel and this system is also very good in holding a rather large amount of ink even though not as much as Sheaffer Vac-Fill.
So who wins ?
I really thought about this one for a long time and simply couldnít make up my mind so I have decided that itís a tie.

Balance 2
Vacumatic 1

Balance, ergonomic and comfort

Both pens are extremely light weight and rather small. The Vac is about 13.5mm capped and 12.5 uncapped.
The Balance on the other hand is 13mm capped and almost 11.5mm uncapped.
So for a guy like me with rather big hands the Parker is a bit more comfortable in the hand both due to its added length and wider barrel but donít think the Balance is no good. It makes you forget its smaller size and is great for use.
These pens are so light weight that there balance is not an issue but if you insist they are both very neutral with makes very pleasant writing experience. These pens are pens I would take with me for long session of writing because of all the benefits I mentioned above.
So the Vacumatic wins this part



Balance 2
Vacumatic 2


Nibs

Both nibs are 14K, rather stiff and of the same size.
I enjoy them both. They are both very wet but do feel a little different.
The Vac has a M nib and is equivalent to today F nibs it is very very smooth almost to a point of being too smooth. Never the less it has enough feedback to make this a very enjoyable write.
The Balance has a F nib and is much finer then modern F nibs. I would guess itís close to modern XF nib even though I am not sure as I never used an XF nib.
This nib is smooth even though not as smooth as the Vacumatics nib. It has a ton of feedback and is a great nib.
Again I have very hard time to choose which pen wins here but at the end I chose the Balance. Its nib is among my favorite nibs and even though it could be a wee bit smoother and less responsive it is still a very unique nib that I enjoy immensely so this feather touch nib wins but by a very, very small margin.



Balance 3
Vacumatic 2

Conclusion

By numbers the Balance wins and I must admit for now it is indeed my favorite of the two even though I love the Vacumatic and its hard not to ink it and use it often.
Two great pens, both oozing with fun, class and both highly recomended but at the end of the day to me the Vac-Fill Balance wins.

Edited by goodguy, 30 April 2009 - 11:42.

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#2 jar

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Posted 30 April 2009 - 03:31

Yup to both. Anyone who has not experienced a nice old Vac or the later Duofold and the Balance (though I do tend more towards the lever fills) still has a treat coming. They just make me laugh when I write with them.

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#3 jbn10161

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Posted 30 April 2009 - 03:32

After being uninterested in vintage pens, I have seen the light and am now on the way to purchasing my third. All three are gray striped celluloid, and two are vac-fills, so I found your article particularly interesting. Thanks for a great contribution.
JN

#4 georges zaslavsky

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Posted 30 April 2009 - 21:05

thanks for the interesting comparison
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

#5 Breck

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Posted 30 April 2009 - 22:26

Cool to see them considered side-by-side. Even though they share some similarities, there were very different design philosophies at work, clearly.

A question: What's the material of the "wire" of the Sheaffer plunger? Is it stainless steel? Is it vulnerable to iron gall inks?

Thanks for a cool comparison, goodguy.



#6 goodguy

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Posted 30 April 2009 - 22:37

QUOTE (Murderface @ Apr 30 2009, 10:26 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Cool to see them considered side-by-side. Even though they share some similarities, there were very different design philosophies at work, clearly.

A question: What's the material of the "wire" of the Sheaffer plunger? Is it stainless steel? Is it vulnerable to iron gall inks?

Thanks for a cool comparison, goodguy.

I believe its a stainless steel rod

As for the question if its vulnerable to iron gall inks, sadly I dont know.
Maybe someone else could answer that.

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#7 Brian

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Posted 30 April 2009 - 22:44

Very nice comparison among two giants in the vintage pen world. I love both pens but have limited my collection of Balances to lever fillers only because I like the simplicity and bullet proof nature of it. I love Vacumatics too and have learned how to work on them after a steep learning curve destroying more than one. I also like that they come out of the golden age of the 1930s and 1940s.

Thanks for a great review!

#8 1000km

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Posted 01 May 2009 - 00:26

Great review thumbup.gif
I am also enjoying the Vac-Fill Balance for all the same reasons - what an amazing pen!

#9 MYU

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Posted 01 May 2009 - 16:03

Thanks for the nice comparative review. Interesting opinion on these pens. Both filling systems have their advantages and disadvantages. While the Vac-Fill probably holds more ink, it tends to require maintenance more often. The Vacumatic is simpler to operate and with the improved diaphragms will go longer than the Vac-Fill before needing maintenance, but in my experience they don't take in as much ink.

Personally, I'd take a Vacumatic over the Vac-Fill. I just don't like that Sheaffer clip and the thin Sheaffer body. Parker's clip looks much more attractive to me and the thicker body feels better. Otherwise, I find the celluloid design in both rather attractive. Just my opinion... in essence, one can easily favor either one. smile.gif

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#10 ianmedium

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Posted 01 May 2009 - 16:22

Thanks so much goodguy, you echo my thoughts!

I am finding that I now use the Vacumatic more than any other pen I own (Yes including the wonderful Nakaya!).

I love the smooth flow of the nib, the nice wet line it lays down and, oh It is hard to put this into words but I will give it a go!

The way it is a pen! It is not a lifestyle or a marketing project, it is not something that is to give a sense of achivement or success, it is a writing tool and It does it's intended job with aplomb!

It is not only a work horse but also a thing of beauty and feels like it will still be giving stirling service long after my toes have curled up!

Edited by ianmedium, 01 May 2009 - 16:22.

All the best.
Ian



Mont Blanc Alfred Hitchcock, Mont Blanc 149, Montegrappa Historia Limited editon 410/1000, Sheaffer imperial 777, Prker 51 special, Parker Duofold senior special, Stipula Tuscany dreams piston with 1.1 italic 036/351, incoming: Stipula Tuscany dreams T-flex. Incoming: Parker 51 Vac

#11 diplomat

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Posted 01 May 2009 - 20:18

Thank you for a great comparison. You did a good job as always. I am also happy that the Sheaffy was the winner... I own several lever fill Balances but I never got the chance to try a Vac-fill.
It would be nice to find a fine restored specimen.

Ciao,

#12 goodguy

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Posted 01 May 2009 - 21:17

QUOTE (diplomat @ May 1 2009, 08:18 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Thank you for a great comparison. You did a good job as always. I am also happy that the Sheaffy was the winner... I own several lever fill Balances but I never got the chance to try a Vac-fill.
It would be nice to find a fine restored specimen.

Ciao,

Well one of the 3 techs can fix it for you.
Just get one of eBay and get it restored,I know you will not be sorry.
Respect to all

#13 georges zaslavsky

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Posted 02 May 2009 - 20:54

I am soon going to buy an oversize vac fill balance, I will see how well it compares towards my vac
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

#14 goodguy

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Posted 09 July 2009 - 15:38

QUOTE (georges zaslavsky @ May 2 2009, 04:54 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
I am soon going to buy an oversize vac fill balance, I will see how well it compares towards my vac

In the future I want to buy a Parker Vacumatic Oversize/maxima and compare it to the Balance OS


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#15 georges zaslavsky

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Posted 09 July 2009 - 19:24

QUOTE (goodguy @ Jul 9 2009, 03:38 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
QUOTE (georges zaslavsky @ May 2 2009, 04:54 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
I am soon going to buy an oversize vac fill balance, I will see how well it compares towards my vac

In the future I want to buy a Parker Vacumatic Oversize/maxima and compare it to the Balance OS

I have one very rare french made Vacumatic Oversize with the three bands cap, it is rare to see one. The nib on mine is much more flexier and smooth than my sheaffer oversize lifetime nib which is much more stiffer and less smooth to write.

Edited by georges zaslavsky, 09 July 2009 - 19:25.

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

#16 rochester21

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Posted 01 July 2013 - 12:48

Interesting review of two iconic pens. I wonder though if someone can accurately compare the nibs of these two very old pens, simply because one cannot tell how much use they have seen during their active life. After so many years, the nibs aren`t usually in their original state.  

In some ways, it`s amazing that such old objects can still be used today, just like any other pen.  This is an achievement in itself. 


Edited by rochester21, 01 July 2013 - 12:48.


#17 goodguy

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Posted 14 January 2014 - 17:50

 

In some ways, it`s amazing that such old objects can still be used today, just like any other pen.  This is an achievement in itself. 

Agreed but it really is a testemony to how well these pens were made almost 80 years ago.


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#18 Bernardo

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Posted 14 January 2014 - 19:56

Very nice review, thanks for posting and congrats on the pens!  :thumbup:



#19 breaker

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Posted 17 January 2014 - 16:35

nice review and pics!

thanks!


Cogito ergo sum






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