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My First 51 Experience

1955 parker 51 pencil box

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42 replies to this topic

#1 TheDutchGuy

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Posted 03 November 2018 - 12:55

A couple of weeks ago I spotted a lovely burgundy vintage Sheaffer on the website of a well-known and reputable British vintage pens dealer, at a very attractive price. I ordered the pen, but as fate would have it, the dealer sent me an email that upon final inspection he'd found a hairline crack in the section, so the deal was off. We corresponded for a bit and I shared my small collection of vintage pens with him and inquired what he felt was needed 'to complete my education'. Among the pens he kindly suggested was the Parker 51.

I've never been a Parker fan, based on looks that I don't care for, bad associations with my 70s/80s school days and less-than-stellar impressions left by modern Parker pens since the '90s or so. I researched the 51 a bit online, on FPN and in Andreas Lambrou's book and took the plunge.

I then spent a few days agonizing over which one to buy. The dealer in question has a large number of them, all fully serviced and restored, with a wide variety of nib-, colour- and era-choices. He suggested a wonderful burgundy oblique italic because it was in great shape and a real writer's pen. I hesitated, because I'd prefer to try a nib like that before I buy.

In the end, primarily based on the wonderful writing samples that were included along with photographs of the pens, I chose this:

fpn_1541249012__204b69ab-91a9-455a-a0f4-

Boxed, with matching mechanical pencil, fully serviced and at a very good price. There are fancier colours for this pen, but I always force myself to make choices based on writing, not aesthetics. The writing sample of this pen just seemed to match my style of writing. Once it arrived, I decided to ink it up with a dark ink (I'm partial to filling pens with ink of the same colour as the pen).

fpn_1541249208__99a6cba4-ec75-49ff-995a-

I'm very impressed with the quality of this pen. They just don't make 'em like this anymore. I don't find the design to be particularly attractive, but it does have a certain Sputnik-age late'40s/early-'50s charm. It must have been quite modern at the time. Ergonomically, it's wonderful. It just melts into my hand.

The nib is a medium. It's smooth and wet, but not sterile. There's texture, some subtle feedback. There's not much character in the writing, as line width is identical in all directions. The wetness of the pen prevents shading, but there is some to be seen.

As a writing machine, this pen is marvellous. I can do long sessions with it without any fatigue. It won't make me forget my '59 Sheaffer PFM-III, though. That pen has subtle variations in line width, offers more shading, has slightly more pleasant feedback and is a stunner to look at.

As far as black cigars go... wow.

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#2 sherbie

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Posted 03 November 2018 - 13:13

There was a reason why Parker sold 42 million plus P51s

They are fantastic, built like tanks and come in a huge range of styles ( vac vs aero, diff caps, colours etc etc)

The only grumble that some offer against is the hooded nib - no flex to speak off, and a lot of folks like to see the full nib when writing

I have hundreds now in my collection - so be careful, they are addictive

#3 JayKay3000

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Posted 03 November 2018 - 16:59

Looks good for an unassuming black cigar! Shame about the box, but might help it hold its value if and when you come to sell.

 

Can never really see the appeal of the 51 having owned one myself. It did write well and the grip was nice, but aesthetically... nothing really. But, for the time I can imagine when more people wrote with pens then this is would have been a really good choice for the money as they seem to go on forever - I guess this fits with the OP as I re-read the whole post.

 

I almost got  another one a few months ago. A burgundy one in mint condition. I didn't bother bidding as someone already had. Thought I'd end up in a bidding war. Came back a few months later as it was still on my watch list. Darn thing only sold for about £20 Less than $30 USD! Like I say, looked in perfect condition too! But I guess they were lucky.

 

I pretty much agree with the OP, not much to look at, but really good writers pens. I'd love to own another, but I hardly ever write with a pen.

 

Glad the pen lived up to expectations!



#4 peterg

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Posted 03 November 2018 - 17:39

Agree with Sherbie and KayJay, but it did set the style and standard for the next 20 years.



#5 Glenn-SC

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Posted 03 November 2018 - 19:32

I have hundreds now in my collection - so be careful, they are addictive

 

I have only 80 or so, but they are addictive!

 

The "51" defined "streamlined" like no other pen had before.  
No other "hooded" nib pen (e.g. the Waterman Taperite) were as elegant.
The Sheaffer's inlaid nib pens and other's, like the Waterman Carene, may be worthy evolutions, but the "51" started it all.

 

I enjoy pens with open nibs as well, but I always have at least one "51" inked at all time.



#6 surprise123

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Posted 04 November 2018 - 00:00

Looks good for an unassuming black cigar! Shame about the box, but might help it hold its value if and when you come to sell.
 
Can never really see the appeal of the 51 having owned one myself. It did write well and the grip was nice, but aesthetically... nothing really. But, for the time I can imagine when more people wrote with pens then this is would have been a really good choice for the money as they seem to go on forever - I guess this fits with the OP as I re-read the whole post.
 
I almost got  another one a few months ago. A burgundy one in mint condition. I didn't bother bidding as someone already had. Thought I'd end up in a bidding war. Came back a few months later as it was still on my watch list. Darn thing only sold for about £20 Less than $30 USD! Like I say, looked in perfect condition too! But I guess they were lucky.
 
I pretty much agree with the OP, not much to look at, but really good writers pens. I'd love to own another, but I hardly ever write with a pen.
 
Glad the pen lived up to expectations!


Was it from an Argentine seller? I might have been "that guy" who stole your $30 pen...

#7 MSA

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Posted 04 November 2018 - 00:06

Excellent experience. I used the same Parker 51 MK111 from High school to University Graduation. Then I lost it and was really sad for a long time. Still have a few in my collection. A Signet, flighter and a very special vacumatic belonging to my late father.

 

Nostalgia aside, it is very comfortable to hold and is bullet proof.


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#8 cellopen

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Posted 04 November 2018 - 02:14

I am a recent convert to the 51.

 

I was always a bit surprised at the following it had because the rigid hooded nib did not appeal to me at all. Most of my small collection consists of older pens with semi-flex nibs. I finally got one off the bay and...

 

Oh my. It just works. My writing, despite the uniform line, is much more legible and looks pleasing on the page. I forget I have the pen in my hand and I just write with no barrier to break my concentration. I have been neglecting my other pens.

 

I have even let a few non fountain pen friends try it, something I would never do with a flexible nib. They uniformly love it.

 

There is already another in the mail on its way to me. If I don't have the good fortune to find a stub in the wild, I may

break down and look into a nib from Greg Minuskin.

 

If you haven't tried a 51 yet, DON'T. Leave them all for me!



#9 TheDutchGuy

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Posted 04 November 2018 - 06:46

Oh my. It just works. My writing, despite the uniform line, is much more legible and looks pleasing on the page. I forget I have the pen in my hand and I just write with no barrier to break my concentration.


That's exactly it!

I was a bit surprised by the prices these things fetch, but since mine is fully serviced and comes with a 12-month guarantee... that's different from finding one at a garage sale that may or may not work.

#10 cellopen

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Posted 04 November 2018 - 16:55

The consensus seems to be that most aeros are useable with a good, patient clean (see Bruce's invaluable pinned thread at the top of this forum). My first pen had not been used in many years I think, but it works like a dream after the clean. I hope my second one works as well when it arrives. It is also fresh from the wild. I will post after (if) I get it working properly. 

I think I will go write something with my 51 now. mmmmmmmmmm



#11 mana

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Posted 04 November 2018 - 18:22

Just pulled the trigger on a nice black "51" Aerometric with a broad nib and a later Lustraloy cap for about 50€. Not a bad deal at all. Joining the flight of a several collectibles and a few EDC ones... just can't get enough of them. :)


Adopt, Don't Shop! Support Your Local Animal Shelters! - Let's make this world a better place together! Because... now is the only thing that is real...

"Indifference towards people and the reality in which they live is actually the one and only cardinal sin in design." - Dieter Rams
 

EDC: Post WWII green binde Pelikan 100N CI 14K B, post WWII black binde 100N 14K EEF, 400 Tortoise CI 14K BB. INKED: early 70s LAMY 2000 MK, Parker 51 Aerometric F & M, rOtring Art Pen 1.1 & 1.5 mm CI & Woodshed Pen Co. Red swirl 1.1 mm CI etc. Inks: Pelikan 4001 BB & Turquoise, vintage Parker Quink & Lamy Turquoise. Also, my own mixes. Desk pen: Black Pelikan 500NN with a 14K M-nib in a bakelite Pelikan pen holder.


#12 SenZen

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Posted 04 November 2018 - 18:40

Very nice description, I have similar feelings for the 51, it might still be worth trying as a piece of history. You might want to try a 75, stupendous nib and very pleasing aesthetics, as long as you realize it's tiny and thin, like a 9/10 model of a Lamy Studio.


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B. Russell

#13 TheDutchGuy

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Posted 04 November 2018 - 19:48

If I ever buy another one, it will have to be one with a more interesting nib. My current one writes like a dream, but it's on the broad side of medium and very uniform - I'd prefer some variation.

Will look into the 75.

#14 Glenn-SC

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Posted 04 November 2018 - 23:21

The consensus seems to be that most aeros are useable with a good, patient clean (see Bruce's invaluable pinned thread at the top of this forum). My first pen had not been used in many years I think, but it works like a dream after the clean. I hope my second one works as well when it arrives. It is also fresh from the wild. I will post after (if) I get it working properly. 

I think I will go write something with my 51 now. mmmmmmmmmm

 

I never understood the fear some people seem to have of the vacumatic version of the "51".
With a properly working diaphragm, Vacs are just as easy to clean, load, and use as an Aero.

 

Parker sold millions of the Vac versions, there is no reason why one wouldn't or couldn't be made to "work properly".



#15 Chouffleur

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Posted 05 November 2018 - 00:20

 

I never understood the fear some people seem to have of the vacumatic version of the "51".
With a properly working diaphragm, Vacs are just as easy to clean, load, and use as an Aero.

 

Parker sold millions of the Vac versions, there is no reason why one wouldn't or couldn't be made to "work properly".

Speaking as an Aerometric-only user, I think it's the I-will-need-to-have-it-serviced mental barrier. I'm afraid that if I ever overcome that it's "Katy bar the door."


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#16 Glenn-SC

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Posted 05 November 2018 - 00:45

Speaking as an Aerometric-only user, I think it's the I-will-need-to-have-it-serviced mental barrier.

 

What? Because someone posted "it's gonna fail!!!"?

 

Wow.

 

And if the diaphragm does "fail", it's not going to explode, or melt your pen, or gush gallons of ink down the front of your white silk shirt.

 

I don't see people stressing over the Vacumatic.



#17 mitto

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Posted 05 November 2018 - 02:05

I agree. The vac 51s are as enjoyable as the aerometrics. It is a matter of time, however, to learn how to replace the failing diaphragm in them. I enjoy using both and restoring both.
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#18 cellopen

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Posted 05 November 2018 - 03:20

 

What? Because someone posted "it's gonna fail!!!"?

 

Wow.

 

And if the diaphragm does "fail", it's not going to explode, or melt your pen, or gush gallons of ink down the front of your white silk shirt.

 

I don't see people stressing over the Vacumatic.

 

I enjoy working on the pens I buy; cleaning, replacing a sac, light nib tuning, etc. The vac system is beyond my limited competence though. 

I like using pens with the vac system (I had my mom's laminated golden brown vacumatic restored a while ago) but the extra time and expense entailed in sending it out is bothersome.

I bought a demi vac 51 off the bay some time ago, but never used it because the diaphragm had failed. I will eventually get around to sending it to a pro.

My recently purchased aero 51 was easy to clean and it immediately wrote like a dream. I hope the next one (arriving soon!) is as easy to get going.

Delayed gratification has never been a strong quality of mine, so I expect that more aerometric 51s will find their way to my mailbox.



#19 mitto

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Posted 05 November 2018 - 03:27

Get them a good prodding and they will start finding your doorsteps.

Edited by mitto, 05 November 2018 - 03:28.

Khan M. Ilyas

#20 Chouffleur

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Posted 05 November 2018 - 11:08

 

What? Because someone posted "it's gonna fail!!!"?

 

Wow.

 

And if the diaphragm does "fail", it's not going to explode, or melt your pen, or gush gallons of ink down the front of your white silk shirt.

 

I don't see people stressing over the Vacumatic.

I usually purchase things with a reasonable expectation that they work.

 

Parker 51s come in two filling systems:

 

One reputed to work out of the box

 

and

 

One reputed to need repair in a non-trivial number of cases.

 

If it were a choice between two models of car or toaster or anything else I'd apply the same logic.

 

Simple utility. YMMV


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