For a long time I avoided vintage pens either out of fear of them being expensive or fear of me buying a lemon that I'd end up having to send to repairs. Here on FPN a certain name came popping up when referring to vintage pens and that was the Parker 51, but I never did like the style, however I immediately fell in love with the Vacumatics. They're just so aesthetically pleasing with their gradiating bands and translucency. I finally decided to buy one for myself. This pen is one of the restored pens from Richard Binder's monthly special tray. I've no affiliation. I'm not an expert on these pens, but someone completely new to them at the moment of this post, and I hope that through the eyes of a newbie to such a wonderful pen I may help others who are also thinking on purchasing a Vacumatic.
Appearance & Design (9/10) - Glorious celluloid in gradiating silver and black
This pen is almost 70 years old and it does show some wear, especially in the clip and bands, but I think that just adds to its beauty. That such an object was used way before my time and is perfectly functional leaves me in awe. Personal awing aside, the pen is a dark traslucent celluloid pen with gradiating horizonal grey bands that give it a sense of movement and speed. The clip is the split arrow model with little to no chrome. The cap includes two thin worn bands near the bottom of the cap. The chrome here is also gone, but it doesn't detract from the pen's beauty. I think it actually looks good for its age. Upper part of the cap sports a squat faceted design. The cap also has two neat holes at the side. It definately looks like a design feature and not something added later by an owner. Ventilation, perhaps? The pen is from the third quarter of 1946. (Thanks for the clarification, jar!). My score reflects on the pen itself and I'm not deducting points from expected wear.
Construction & Quality (10/10) - They certainly knew how to make things to last
The pen is made from celluloid. It feels robust while at the same time silky smooth. The pen does feel like it would survive a fall. I'm mostly confident of this due to the large scratch in the blind cap area. The celluloid seems to absorb impacts as opposed to hard plastic where shattering would be more common due to the hardness of the material. Let's head over to the filling system now. In order to access it the blind cap has to be removed. It screws on and off easily while at the same time not showing where it meets with the barrel unless you are looking for it. Both the caps' screws are secured and don't need neither too much screwing or have too little. Quality is excellent. I'd imagine because of the war materials would be scarce and things would be cheaply made, but then the world didn't have a culture of disposable objects like we do today. Things were made to last, not to be used and tossed when finished.
Weight & Dimensions (8/10) - Almost like a Pelikan
The pen is roughly the size of a Pelikan M400 at 12.9cm capped and 15 cm posted. Cap is a screw-on and it is a light pen, again roughly the same weight as a Pelikan M400. It's not a small pen, but since I'm used to pens around the Pelikan M800 size range, it does feel just a bit small for me, but without it being awkward. Posted feels more comfortable, but there is some weight in the back. I'd like to add that I'm mostly a Pelikan user, hence the comparision. The lightweightness is good since I do extended writing sessions and this prevents my arm and hand from getting tired. Also, despite it being light it does feel sturdy to survive a fall from a desk, but that's something I'd rather not think about since it makes me sick to think damage could come to such a pen.
Junior M Nib by Delphideo, on Flickr
Nib & Performance (7/10) - A super wet nib that likes to bite down on the paper
The nib is a medium stiff one, to the point that it reminds me a bit of my Lamy Al-Stars. It's quite a nail that is also elegant and sharp. It tapers acutely towards the tip that for a moment I thought it might have been a fine nib. The nib has a color the hint of rose. I can't confirm if it's gold or plated steel, but it sure looks like gold to me. A small arrow is engraved onto the nib and one can read the inscription "Parker U.S.A. 6. R". It draws a very wet line on good paper, even more than my Platinum Music Pen. I've had the pen help produce some feathering on Rhodia paper but to be fair I was using Noodler's Polar Blue and this is an M nib. Once I changed the Polar ink and switched to a *ahem* cheaper paper, it still wrote wet, but there was no longer any feathering. One thing that surprised me was that the pen has quite some tooth in it. I was expecting it to be smooth, but maybe "binderized" Pelikans have spoiled me. The tooth is obvious on good paper, however; it isn't bad, but it is something unexpected. Below are some writing samples using Noodler's Manjiro Nakahama (Whaleman's Sepia) on Clairefontaine 90g paper french ruled paper.
Filling System & Maintenance (10/10) - Ridiculously fast and easy
The filling system consists of a rubber diaphragm connected to a plunger system and this has got to be the fastest and easiest way to fill a pen up. You unscrew the blind cap to reveal the plunger filler. In this case it's an all beautiful celluloid postwar plunger. I know I've been using beautiful a lot in this review, but wow, they sure knew how to make some gorgeous pens in the past that even the filling mechanism looks nice! Anyway, you just dip the pen into the ink bottle, press the plunger and release and ta-da! You're set. My father has multiple sclerosis so doing simple things like ink filling with a piston or C/C is a hassle for him at times, but even he was surprised with the ease he filled up this pen to the point that he's considering getting one for himself, too. The pen's barrel carries a lot of ink so you won't have to worry about refilling often. Cleaning is also a breeze with the plunger system. If you want to know more on how it works, please check here. (External link)
Junior Plunger Fill by Delphideo, on Flickr
Cost & Value (10/10) - One great buy
The pen cost me $85 dollars plus shipping and without a doubt it was a great value. However, it looks like the older the pen, the more expensive it gets. I think it's a great buy considering I have pens as good as this one that cost twice as much. It's a real pleasure to use it. After my experience with this one I am thinking about getting myself another vacumatic after this, perhaps a Major so it feels more comfortable in my hands.
Conclusion (9/10) - It's become my daily writer...
...despite its tooth and really wet line. If you want to take a foray into the world of vintage pens, you can't go wrong with this. It's a beautiful pen that shows that aesthetics and function can go hand in hand.
Edited for spelling and new information
Edited by Delphideo, 11 June 2011 - 02:22.