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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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,