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Parker Duofold International
Posted 18 March 2011 - 09:11
This review is of a Parker Duofold International with a Broad Italic nib. I shall compare it with the Centennial to show the size differences and similarities in shape and design. This Duofold is in the Pearl & Black colour scheme, one I think is really attractive.
What made me get it? Well, I have the Centennial in Pearl and Black and really love the colour and pattern. I did try the Centennial & International in comparison a few years ago, and came to the view that the Centennial was the more comfortable to write with even though the International is closer to the size I prefer. However, in the last year I have been developing a prototype fountain pen to my own design to a shape I find comfortable. Having got to the finalised, comfortable, shape I realised the pen was very similar in size to the Duofold International. Rats, someone had got there before me!
Anyway, having decided that my pen was really comfortable, I was sufficiently convinced that the International was worth buying one. Then it was a matter of waiting for one at an acceptable price.
I wanted a new one because I needed to take advantage of the Parker nib exchange system to get a Broad Italic. JML came up trumps on the price (£149.99 + £14 postage), and was able to do the nib exchange too. But not without some difficulty. The current nib pattern is the 'Ace of Spades' 2005 onwards shape, which, according to Parker via JML, is discontinued in the broad italic nib size, and there were none available. So they offered the sole broad italic nib they had as an alternative, in the 1995-2005 two tone arrow pattern. This I accepted, not really caring other than that the pen has the italic nib.
That's enough about the background, now on to the pen itself.
Packaging & Initial Impressions
The packaging on this pen was the standard packaging, forming a card sleeve over a cardboard shoebox. Inside the shoebox was a solid hinged box with a generally matt finish and a glossy fragment of a Duofold 'Ace of Spades' logo on it. This box, opened to reveal a velvet shelf with three grooves on it, the central one occupied by the pen. In fact, it was a really rather small pen. However, the proportions looked right. The Centennial looks a bit stubby because its girth is greater without significant increase in length.
On picking up the pen I was surprised at its weight. From its size I was expecting 17-18grams rather than the fairly substantial weight it really is. The pearl and black material is really attractive, having a depth to its pearlescence that is very, very alluring. In florescent light there appears to be a greenish tinge to the material, but that disappears as soon as you are in natural or incandescent light conditions.
The date code is Y.III (first quarter 2006), identical to my Centennial, which may explain a surprising similarity in the barrel patterns. No, the patterns are not similar, the black lines are identical between the two pens. That is interesting from a production point of view, but has little further significance (I do wonder how they made it though..). The caps and cap lips are different in their patterning.
On removing the cap I had a look at the nib that had been so difficult to get.
It is two tone and sharply stamped. However, it has not been carefully plated, and the silver colouring (Rhodium?) goes outside the arrow pattern. If there was another broad italic available, this pen would be straight on its way back for a replacement, but there isn't, so I'll have to live with it . To be honest, this nib is more carelessly plated than my Jinhao 1200 reviewed here: http://www.fountainp...showtopic=65339 . Jinhao kept closer to the lines than on this Duofold.
Just remind me, which is the more expensive, and supposedly better quality, pen? I am rather disappointed with this. The arrow below shows where the plating is missing:
Length Capped: 131mm (Centennial 136mm)
Length Uncapped: 123mm (Centennial 128mm)
Length Posted: 164mm (Centennial 173mm)
Nib Length: 20mm (Centennial 23mm)
Max Barrel Diameter: 11.5mm (Centennial 13.5mm)
Max Cap Diameter: 13.7mm (Centennial 15.5mm)
Weight: 24g (Centennial 30g)
Writing with the Pen
The size is actually very pleasant for writing with. Both the International and Centennial seem just right on different days, depending on mood, so having both is rather nice. The length of the pen is fine unposted for my large hands, and sits in the hand very well. The balance is good whether posted or unposted, and when the collector is full, the pen writes with almost no pressure (more about this later). The cap posts securely and stays put (mostly) when you wave your hand around with it in your paw.
The first thing I wrote after getting the pen was a 14 page letter, which gave me a fair bit of experience of the pen. Trial by fire, almost. The c/c had to be re-filled twice to get through the letter - so it will be a relatively expensive pen to keep.
The nib is a nail, very rigid and all writing shocks are transmitted to your hand. There is feedback, in spades. It is a little scratchy, and needs smoothing off like my centennial did (another example of carelessness from Parker, I think).
One problem I have come across is rather irritating - and I have already referred to it. The feed does not appear well matched to the nib, and the nib feels starved of ink unless the c/c is wound down to fill the collector fins, and becomes scratchy to write with once it is empty - and at this point the pressure required to make any mark on the paper increases greatly. This is not like the centennial, and may require further work. Once again, if there were another nib available, I'd be sending it straight back to Parker to deal with.
Hmm, I seem to be saying that rather a lot, don't I? Once should be once too often.
It must be said though, I have an identical need to twist the c/c on my Lamy Vista with a 1.5i nib too. I just wish this one didn't have to do it too.
The 'Italicisation' is fairly radical, giving a line that's approximately 0.9mm wide by 0.2mm thick, so about 4.5:1 ratio. That's not as extreme as the Centennial BI, which appears on further use to give a line of 1.2mm x 0.2mm at an extreme 6:1 ratio. The line is evenly inked all the way across when the nib has enough ink, or totally missing if the collector is empty. This can be taken as a clue that the collector needs re-filling!
Living with the Pen
It feels luxurious, beautifully finished (except the nib) and a quality product. It's a pen that I have welcomed into my rotation and am happy to carry it with me at all times. The clip is very secure for shirt pocket carrying, and the Pearl & Black material is very hard, so doesn't scratch easily.
The cap-barrel thread twists off in two turns on a triple start thread. This is an acceptable number of turns, but I wouldn't want any more. The machining of the thread is so good that the thread is polished too. That is - and I speak from the experience of trying to do it myself - difficult, and very nice. The thread of the section into the barrel is a better fit than on the centennial, but not as good as an injection moulded thread (like on the P100).
Ink usage may be an issue with the italic nib, especially considering the tiny little volume of the c/c, giving about 5 pages of writing to a fill. Ridiculous.
Comparison with the Centennial
The international and Centennial are shown below side by side:
Some days I like a light, slender pen. On those days I have to go for a P61 and/or the International. On other days a fatter pen is the preference, so I go for a P51 and/or the Centennial is OK. The centennial does feel fat & bulky in comparison, but it isn't excessive.
The Centennial does look subtly wrong, as if the pen is too short for its girth, while the International has the proportions that I think of as 'right'.
The writing from the two BI nibs is shown in comparison below:
The International has Pelikan 4001 Turquoise in it, while the Centennial has Diamine Woodland Green.
The Centennial has a wider nib, and it's more extreme in the ratio between the down and side strokes. Both nibs are equally easy to use though, and I cannot choose between them, I like them both, but not quite as much as my 1.1mm P51 with a cursive italic nib that Oxonian tweaked to write perfectly.
All in all, the pen is nice, fairly flashy and absolutely gorgeous.
If I could get over the slight problems I have with the nib, I'd be a really happy customer. I can recommend it wholeheartedly despite that.
Posted 18 March 2011 - 09:34
Disappointing about the lack of care gone into the plating. That seems very unusual in my experience with Parker. I also wonder if there would have been any flow issues with the original nib? I'm a 'user' rather than a 'tinkerer', but I wonder whether the different nib has any impact on the feed. You mentioned that it doesn't fit well..
Well I hope you enjoy your pen as it is a very nice looking one.
Thanks for the informative review.
Shotokan Karate: Respect, Etiquette, Discipline, Perseverance
Posted 18 March 2011 - 09:59
Posted 19 March 2011 - 04:01
one little question. How is the nib of Centennial is it less stiff than International or is it same. Please let me know I am also willing to buy this pen
Posted 19 March 2011 - 09:39
would you mind sharing a few words on your prototype pen design, if i understood correctly.
i can imagine you carrying both these pearl and black pens together (though you may prefer not to do so), people will certainly stare admiringly at these twins. oh my!
Posted 21 March 2011 - 08:22
Both pens are similarly rigid in their nibs - there is no flex or spring at all.
one little question. How is the nib of Centennial is it less stiff than International or is it same. ...
I do occasionally carry both the International & Centennial, but the replacement cost, should I lose them, makes me blanche.
Posted 22 March 2011 - 04:23
Posted 07 August 2014 - 17:40
Today I pulled out and inked up my Parker Duofold International, identical to yours except I have the stock medium nib. I haven't even picked this pen up for a few years, as the nib writes so very stiffly, and I like my Conway Stewarts much better. But after inking up (with Waterman Florida Blue) and giving it a few runs around the old Rhodia, I find that it writes well, albeit like a nail. I will put it into rotation for a while and see how it goes. The one issue I have (had) with this pen is the black veining pattern is identical on all the pens (both sizes apparently), and like you I wonder how this was achieved. I would have preferred it if they were all a bit different. Mine seems to have plating on the nib that is near to perfect, all the rhodium staying "inside the lines".
Posted 25 August 2014 - 05:03
I have some centenials and internationals from the 90's, I also have form 5 years ago.
I prefer the old ones.