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Parker Duofold Centennial


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#1 richardandtracy

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Posted 03 December 2009 - 13:19

 

 

This is a review of the Parker Duofold Centennial fountain pen. There are a number of reviews of the Centennial, but none of this particular colour or nib. As there are reviews that state much of the size and that sort of thing, I'll concentrate on filling in the gaps and being rather more subjective than I usually am. The photo below was taken by a friend:

ParkerDuofoldsmallv3.jpg

 

 

The pen being reviewed has the glorious Pearl and Black colour scheme and the Broad Italic nib (number 95) is fitted. I shall wax excessively lyrical about the material and compare the nib with the two Italic nibs I have, namely the Parker 51 Aero with a Cursive Italic nib and the Lamy Vista with a 1.5mm Italic nib.

 

 

First off, when, where, how & why.

 

The why is simple. I have loved the colour ever since I first saw it on Parker's website a couple of years ago. I saw the material at LWES2008 and was certain that it was for me. Then, on seeing both the International & Centennial at LWES2009 I decided that the latter was the size for me. This is unusual, as I normally go for smaller diameter pens - I find the P51 is a bit fat. However, the Centennial size felt better when actually trying it out. So, I finally decided in October that the pen I wanted was the Centennial, it had only taken me a couple of years to decide on a dream pen, and I had no expectation of getting one for years. However, strange things happen.

 

 

I have been doing a lot of overtime recently. Funny, in the middle of a recession and the company I work for is so busy we are all crashing into the 48hr/week EU Working Time Directive limit. Anyway, Tracy & I have shared the overtime money between us for 'Luxuries we wouldn't otherwise get'. A Duofold certainly comes under the 'Luxury' heading.

 

 

After considerable research, I came to the conclusion that getting the pen from JML was the most cost effective solution. The retail price in the UK is hard to get hold of, but I suspect it's £329 (the highest published figure I've seen). Taking into account JML's postage fees etc, I got mine for a fraction under £175. This is more than the headline figure would have been from the US, but import taxes would have made it higher in the end.

 

Now, the advantage of getting JML to supply the pen was that he was able to swap the medium nib for the broad italic I wanted without me having to send it to France under Parker's 'Nib Exchange' system. That was definitely what I wanted, so when JML was able to get the pen to me in 2 weeks, I was in heaven.

 

 

First Impressions

 

The package from France was huge. Approximately 1ft x 8" square (300 x 200 x 200mm). All for one pen?!? Wow!

 

I opened the box to find a huge white card slip case, in which a burgundy leatherette box nestled. Inside that was the modern style grey Parker steel cored leatherette clam case. Once this was opened, there lay my new pen.

 

ParkerDuofoldPicture1.jpg

 

 

Umm. Not exactly huge, is it?

 

Just the same size as any other pen.

 

So why the enormous packaging?

 

OK, I'll quit griping.

 

 

The look of the pen is everything I hoped for. The Pearl & Black acrylic is just glorious. It has a fantastic depth to it, and it shimmers as the pen is rotated. This is the first commercial pen I've owned with the effect & it's superb. I have made kit pens that do the same, one or two blanks [pearlised cobalt and black] are even more effective than this material, but that's by-the-by. The whole pen is finished to a gorgeous, deep, high quality gloss - exactly the same finish I have achieved on 67 pens this year myself, so it's not hard to do. Oh, that sounds a bit catty doesn't it? That wasn't the intention, but I'm trying to show that this type of material is capable of taking a high gloss without much effort, so why doesn't it appear on all such pens? The Conway Stewart's made from similar material do not seem to have quite such a beautiful depth of finish - and I have used the same blue/white stripe material as CS use in their CS100 myself on some pens and have got a spectacular finish. I'll stop. I don't want to denigrate CS, just partially explain why I didn't go for one.

 

 

The feel of the material is warm and hard, but not slippery. It doesn't feel soft like injection moulded plastics, nor does it have the tactile, skin-like feel of BHR. The material inspires confidence that it'll be here in 100 years.

 

 

The threads between the cap and barrel are beautifully cut into the plastic, so accurately that the threads throw glossy reflections when the angle is correct. That's masterful machining on a thread.

 

 

The cap has two cap rings. The cap body and cap lip are separately machined, and the cap rings slipped on the machined spigot of the cap lip. I have included a diagram of the cap below, to show the 8 separate parts of the cap and how they relate to each other. The machining is clever and the design well thought out, but it does have a potential weak spot at the end of the cap lip spigot. The use of the cap end as an inner cap is something that home pen makers may want to consider for their own pens as it reduces the parts count and machining time while allowing extra space in the cap.

 

The pieces are bonded together - which means that future repairs will be almost impossible.

 

ParkerDuofoldCapXSect.gif

 

 

The use of a separate cap lip does have a disadvantage when being used with the pearl & black material - it's impossible to align the black lines between the cap lip & body. On my pen they don't align. The only way of having rings and a continuous line would be to swage the rings into grooves cut into a single piece body/lip, not an easy task, but this is most certainly not an inexpensive pen, so I do feel justified in having a slight gripe about it.

 

The nib is a huge, gold & silver coloured lump with lots of engraving over it. Just like a Jinhao 1200 dragon clip pen ( http://www.fountainp...showtopic=65339 ). In fact the nib sizes are very similar. Yep, it looks just like a cheap & blingy Chinese nib. Or do the cheap & blingy Chinese nibs look like this one?

 

So the overall initial impression is that it's a beautiful, well made, but rather flashy pen. It gives the impression of being nouveau riche - not really knowing when good taste requires you to stop. Just perfect for me then!

 

 

Size & Weight

 

Woodworker has done a very comprehensive measuring & weighing exercise here: http://www.fountainp...howtopic=115397 , so I'll not repeat his findings. I will, however, say that the section feels in proportion & the lightweight cap doesn't alter the good balance one jot if it's posted. I prefer not to, but that's just me.

 

 

Writing with the Pen

 

Hmm. This is the third new Parker I've had in the last decade (discounting Vector's, as most people do), and it's the first non-standard nib I've ordered. After flushing the pen with detergent I was ready to try it with my baseline ink, Pelikan Turquoise, 1:1 dilution with water. Anyway, it worked. Which was a great advance on my Parker Profile (IM) of last year, when I got very upset with Parker for shipping a pen that wouldn't work immediately. I put the pen to the paper and drew my first line.

 

The nib felt... Erm. Scratchy.

 

A scratchy nail.

 

A scratchy nail with an amazing ratio between the down stroke width and the horizontal stroke width.

 

On altering my hand position a bit much of the scratchiness disappeared, but re-appeared if I altered the angle of attack at all. This is expected behaviour for a no-holds-barred italics nib. It's not a stub nib with compromises to make it easier to use.

 

This is a signature pen par excellance, but is less easy to use as a general writing pen. I am still training myself to use it properly, however, I do enjoy it. The nib width is 1.4mm, while the thickness is 0.25mm, giving an extreme ratio of 5.6 in the line widths. The nib doesn't run dry, or blob. With Pelikan turquoise it gives good shading, dries at a reasonable rate and behaves in such an unobtrusive way that you don't need to consider the feed or collector. Which is the way it should be.

 

 

OK, it's now time to compare the nib with other pens. First the Lamy Vista/Alstar/Safari 1.5i nib.

 

The Lamy nib, with light pressure gives a slightly narrower line width of 1.2 to 1.3mm and a 0.3mm width horizontal stroke. The Lamy nib, being rather more of a stub nib shape, is more forgiving of the angle at which the pen is held. In this respect it is probably a better nib for general use than the Duofold. The Lamy also feels smoother than the Duofold when the Duofold is at its best angle. This came as a surprise to me, the pen cost exactly one tenth that of the Duofold. The disadvantage with the Lamy is that, when the collector is nearing empty, the feed cannot cope with the ink demand from the nib, and the wide nib starts to run a bit dry. The Duofold feed and nib are well matched to each other and you never feel tempted to twist the convertor a bit to re-fill the collector and make the writing a bit wetter.

 

ParkerDuofoldPicture2.jpg

 

 

My P51 with a 1.1mm Cursive Italic (CI) nib gives a ratio of about 4:1 between the down stroke and the side stroke. The pen cost fractionally over one tenth the price of the Duofold, but did have problems when I got it. Eventually I gave up and passed it on to Onoxian to cure when I ran out of ideas. The CI nib is really sweet now, it glides over the page in a way that is better than either the Lamy or the Duofold. The nib, despite being a P51, is more flexible than either of the two other nibs, and it is now the most forgiving in angle of any of the italic nibs I have. To be honest, it's much nicer to write with than the Duofold. I didn't want to write that. But it's true.

 

 

On the writing side my conclusion is that the Duofold is exactly what it says. It's a Broad Italic. It's a flamboyant nib for a flamboyant writing style. Well, with one big proviso. The flamboyance needs to be tempered by the requirement to hold the nib at exactly the right angle, otherwise it starts to go scratchy very quickly

 

 

The Duofold nearly always starts well, but the nib seems to dry remarkably quickly and this can be a pain. I'm used to the P51 & P61, and don't usually have to re-cap these pens while I'm thinking, but do with the Duofold. Maybe I need to think faster...

 

 

 

Overall impression of the pen.

 

I like it. I like it a lot. It's a really beautiful pen, well made and pleasantly proportioned. However it isn't my best writing pen by a long shot.

 

I take great pleasure in using it, holding it and carrying it. The nib is nice to use, but it is an acquired art to get the best out of it. I suspect that if time and use do not smooth the nib, then I'll pass it on to someone who knows more than I about smoothing and get it made easier to use.

 

The biggest question is 'Was it worth it?'. That's a real imponderable. Had I had no 'Luxury' money, then I certainly wouldn't have it now. It is a frivolous luxury. As such it's worth the money in the same way as a bottle of Channel No 5 perfume. You can live without either, but to have or use one gives a little glow of luxury in a life.

 

 

So, is it really worth it? No.

 

 

But I like it nonetheless. And I'm going to keep it. This is going to be 'My Pen' in the same way my grandmother had an Onoto 3000 with a gold overlay as her version of 'My Pen'. There was no need for it, but it gave her pleasure every time she used it. This Duofold gives me pleasure every time I touch it, and maybe, one day, my grandbrats will touch it reverently in the same way as I touch my gran's pen. Maybe they'll enjoy using this little touch of frivolous luxury too.

 

 

If you want a feel of a Centennial without the expense, seriously consider the Kaigelu 316, reviewed here: http://www.fountainp...316-grey-amber/

 

 

All the best,

 

 

Richard.

 

 



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#2 Izzy

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Posted 03 December 2009 - 13:46

Hi Richard

Thanks for the review. Richard I purchased this exact pen for my Mother two years ago with a fine nib and have just re-acquired it from her as she wasn't using it enough (seemed a shame to waste it :P).

Are you sure this is a Centennial? I thought it was just a standard Duofold, I have a Duofold Centennial in Black with Gold trim and it's a slightly larger pen.

The Pearl & Black is stunning to look at though :).

Kind regards
NIGEL
NIGEL
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Pens: Caran d'Ache Leman Godron, Lamy Safari, Italix Parsons Essential, Mont Blanc LeGrande '90 years' Edition, Sigma Style, Italix Vipers Strike, Parker Sonnet, Omas 360, Parker Duofold (c.1950), Conway Stewart #286, Conway Stewart #24, Onoto Magna Classic in Chased Midnight Blue and SS Trim

#3 Izzy

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Posted 03 December 2009 - 14:00

Hi Again

Ignore my previous post Richard, I have the international version :headsmack:
NIGEL
Exploding Ink Maestro

Pens: Caran d'Ache Leman Godron, Lamy Safari, Italix Parsons Essential, Mont Blanc LeGrande '90 years' Edition, Sigma Style, Italix Vipers Strike, Parker Sonnet, Omas 360, Parker Duofold (c.1950), Conway Stewart #286, Conway Stewart #24, Onoto Magna Classic in Chased Midnight Blue and SS Trim

#4 andyk

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Posted 03 December 2009 - 22:38

Hi,

Richard nice detailed review, this is a lovely looking pen, still hoping to acquire a Centennial at some point but still haven't found one cheap enough.

Must admit whilst I like the idea of italic nibs, the couple of standard ones I have had were for me difficult to write with, tended to only use them for signatures/addresses. I still have an OB in a Balance II that fits the bill well for signatures/addresses and my desire for italics was solved by getting Oxonian to modify a couple of nibs an M into a CI for my Pelikans and more recently an M into a stub for my Duofold Internationals.

If you want cheap italics I picked up a couple of calligraphy sets at the local £1 (or 99p) shop, they look like the Sheaffer Viewpoint and the nibs are more like stubs than the Sheaffer equivalent and so easier to write with, anyway a cheap way to try italic nibs.

Anyway I hope you enjoy your pen, maybe I will take the leap and just buy a Centennial, maybe even sell some pens to finance it,

Andy

Edited by andyk, 03 December 2009 - 22:40.


#5 twdpens

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Posted 03 December 2009 - 23:21

A lovely pen. P&B is not one of my favourites, but no one can deny that the colour is stunning.

I've always liked Duofolds and it took me a long time to be in the "right place" to acquire a good one myself. It's a real shame than NewellCo has made such a total arse of Parker :(.

Martin
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#6 MJ Vesuvius

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Posted 04 December 2009 - 02:08

What an entertaining and informative review. I have the same pen (with a fine nib) made just
before they ran out of pearl material back in the early 00's.




I share many of your impressions. It is quite stunning, maybe a little too much so, but
so what? I take it out in public and flaunt it! It was especially effective for a marriage certificate
ceremony. It's a bit much for normal business use, but when you want bling, it's perfect.

The fine nib is great BTW. It's firm but smooth, and makes a great everyday writer. I like italics,
but they can be a chore when you have a lot to write, or need to take fast notes.

One thing to keep an eye out for: the cap lip is vulnerable to cracking. Mine has two cracks, each along
a black vein... and they are close, so now a third, perpendicular crack has appeared, and when they meet,
a small section could just fall out. I used to post the cap every time I used the pen, and perhaps that
caused the stress. I know I should send it off to Parker for repair, but I hate to let it out of my sight!

Thanks for the great review. Love the diagram!

– MJ




#7 richardandtracy

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Posted 04 December 2009 - 09:13

Thank you all for your kind words. I wish I could have given a 100% positive review, but it wouldn't have been honest to do so.

I am going to persist with the nib & get it so I love using the pen. That may take a while & a little more investment, but it'll get there in the end.

MJ, when you have a 3D CAD system on your PC, you tend to end up using it for everything...Posted Image . I may get around to making my own version one day, and the model I have so far will be a good start. Took less than 20 minutes, and I think it'll be less than an hour for the rest of the pen. It's always quicker to re-draw & tweak someone else's ideas than to come up with new ones from scratch.

One other thing I forgot to mention was that the nib is quite dirty. When I open the pen after carrying it around there is often ink on the top of the nib and lining the edge of the section where it touches the inner cap. It strikes me as rather old fashioned in this respect.

Regards,

Richard

#8 Dr Lopez

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Posted 04 December 2009 - 12:07

Outstanding review, comparison with other similar nibs is much appreciated. Thank you for this very well constructed review.
In my current rotation:
Pelikan 400 Brown Tortoise/14K Fine/J. Herbin Cafe des Iles
Lamy 2000/14K Medium/Lamy Blue-Black
Sailor 1911 Large burgundy/21K Naginata Togi Medium/Diamine Oxblood
Montblanc 146/14K Fine/Montblanc Racing Green
Rosetta blue/Steel Pendelton cursive italic/Pelikan Royal Blue
Delta Passion/18K Broad/Diamine Syrah

#9 FrankB

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Posted 04 December 2009 - 17:03

Thank you for taking the time to do this review.

The Duofold Centennial is one of my very favorite pen models. The pen fits my hand perfectly, and I love the flat top design. I have almost a dozen Duofolds, both Internationals and primarily Centennials. But I accumulated them over several years and even found some NIB at striking discounts, though several were used. At today's retail prices I am not buying very many, though.

I love my Pearl and Black, which is a Centennial. I also think the colors are rich, and I like that the color is reminiscent of some vintage pens. So far, I have no cracks in mine. Fingers crossed.

I am really into italic nibs, and I have found Duofold nibs to have some of the best factory italics in the business. I have them in F, M and B. Granted, the F and M are best for daily writing, but I have used the B very often. I think you might find that with use the sharpness of the nib will ease. I love my italics and I hope you continue to enjoy yours.

#10 RLTodd

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Posted 04 December 2009 - 22:07

Since first seeing it I have always thought the Parker Pearl & Black Duofold was the best looking pen design out there. Still is. Just about perfect.

To bad that Newell Rubbermaid has introduced modern assembly design and raised the price point up so far.
YMMV

#11 georges zaslavsky

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Posted 05 December 2009 - 06:38

Nice review :clap1: :thumbup: I have one duofold that was offered to me for my 24th birthday, it was the olive green model in the centennial size. The nib was far to be enamoring which is why uninked it and stopped to use it forever. I prefer vintage Duofolds which have better nibs and better filling systems.

Edited by georges zaslavsky, 05 December 2009 - 06:38.

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

#12 richardandtracy

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Posted 09 December 2009 - 09:10

After writing about 10 words on 12000 grade micromesh, the nib is now smoother than the Lamy italic nib. It also has the same angle range as the Lamy, so I suspect Parker had left a little burr after grinding it, and a tiny polish was all that was needed to make the nib into what it should have been. What a pity Parker's QA was insufficient to catch this.

Regards,

Richard.

#13 richardandtracy

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Posted 14 January 2010 - 15:33

Added the fancy photo at the beginning of the first post. A colleague/friend was testing out a home made light box and played with the photo afterwards. Makes it seem even more attractive.

The pen is standing up to use well and for the moment is my preferred pen, despite the rate at which it gets through ink.

Regards,

Richard.

#14 Ed Ronax

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Posted 14 January 2010 - 15:51

Excellent review, thanks.
And how can this be, because he is the Kwisatz Haderach.


#15 lowks

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Posted 16 January 2010 - 05:56

A small smile crept upon my lips reading that sentence about how you found this pen in the middle of a recession :)

#16 View from the Loft

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Posted 16 January 2010 - 15:17

"One thing to keep an eye out for: the cap lip is vulnerable to cracking. Mine has two cracks, each along
a black vein... and they are close, so now a third, perpendicular crack has appeared, and when they meet,
a small section could just fall out. I used to post the cap every time I used the pen, and perhaps that
caused the stress. I know I should send it off to Parker for repair, but I hate to let it out of my sight!"


Oh please, if you ever want your pen back in the condition it is now, DON'T send it off to Parker for service. Since they became part of Sanford, their customer service in the UK is awful - my husband's Sonnet came back scratched and chipped.

I would rather pay someone I trust for a good repair.

BTW, I never post my Duofold cap - but that's not because of fears about damage, but simply because I have always written with fountain pens, and as a 7 year old, the pens were too heavy with the cap posted, and it's true, old habits die hard. To me the balance is all wrong if I post the cap.

#17 greencobra

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Posted 17 January 2010 - 17:09

Killing some time before heading off to work, drying JELL-O is a 24/7 operation....anyway, stumbled onto this review and stopped dead. I missed it first time thru but I've admired this pearl & black configuration for a long time and was happy to see the review. Well done the review was and interesting reading. I'm in the middle of a kinda sorta buying black out but with a few dollars sitting my pay pal account, man, if I can locate one for a decent price....maybe.

Super review Richard.
JELL-O, IT'S WHATS FOR DINNER!

#18 richardandtracy

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Posted 18 January 2010 - 11:06

Thank you all for you kind words.

Regards,

Richard.

#19 enricof

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Posted 02 February 2010 - 14:53

I found interesting your description about cap's design.

Hope you won't need it, but this post is related, if you're interested.

Ciao - Enrico
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Posted Image

Daddy, please no more pens - we need food, clothes, books, DENTISTRY...


#20 richardandtracy

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Posted 02 February 2010 - 17:53

Enrico,

I'm amazed at the break. That's definitely not where I'd have expected it. Anyway, I'm glad you got it fixed.

Regards,

Richard.






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