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Tom Pike's 1946 Parker 51 Vac: Cedar Blue, (XF)


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12 replies to this topic

#1 rroossinck

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Posted 09 August 2007 - 20:02

I want to preface this review with a disclaimer of sorts.

There's no point in me writing a review of the Parker 51. There are pages and pages of information and reviews out there by folks who are far more knowledgeable about fountain pens than I'll ever be.

This review is more focused on the work of the restorer. Aside from having been a customer of Tom's, I have no affiliation with him, nor do I stand to gain anything from reviewing his work. However, Tom Pike is a name that's lesser-known on FPN, and for those interested, I felt obliged to share my story. That said, feel free to take this review with the appropriate measure of salt.

First Impressions
I bought this pen from Tom Pike out on the west coast back in April of 2007. Iíve known of Tom for quite some time, and while I had seen some of his restoration work, Iíd never had the chance to own or write with it.

When I came to him looking for a Parker 51, he told me that he didnít have an awful lot on hand that would scratch my itch, save for one pen. He said, ďIím not real proud of this one, but itís a Canadian-made 1946 with an XF nib in Cedar Blue. Itís definitely a user-grade pen, but the nib writes pretty well. Interested?Ē

I wasnít looking for something in mint condition. If that were the case, Iíd go for a more modern pen and buy one from a reseller. Iíd feel guilty owning and inking a vintage pen that was in mint/NOS condition. So, we agreed, and he shipped it out to me.

With the description he gave, I wasnít sure what to expect, quite frankly.

A few days later, it came in the mail. It was well-packaged (think bomb-proof), and I was quite surprised to find a 2.5 page letter accompanying it that spelled out the history of the pen, and what steps heíd taken to restore it. A very nice touch! Iím a big pen-history buff, and if I can find out more about the pens that I own, Iím definitely interested in it.

I wasnít at all prepared for what Iíd find inside that bubble wrap.

The pen was nearly immaculate. The level of quality in the restoration was astounding. I truly canít imagine this pen being in better condition on the day that it was originally sold.



Appearance
Everything on this pen is top-notch. The date code is crisp enough that you could use it as a stamp. The pen was made in late 1946 in Toronto, according to the imprint. The barrel, hood, and blind cap are all perfectly color-matched, which Iíve been told is somewhat rare, as they often discolor unevenly. This one is a nice example of what Cedar Blue is supposed to look like, to the best of my knowledge. Itís a deep, rich blue, that isnít quite navy, but has just a little tiny bit of teal in it. If I had to compare it to something, Iíd say that it looks just a little bit like Swisherís/Noodlerís Tahitian Pearl after itís dry. A rather fetching color, in my book.

The cap is a plain Lustraloy cap with a gold clip, and a gray-ish jewel in perfect condition. Thereís just a little bit of brassing thatís starting to form on the jewel-housing, but you have to examine the pen pretty closely to find it.

All of the parts are originals, from what Iím told, and there are no bite marks, or any scratches on it that I havenít put there myself. Tom did a masterful job of repairing a little crack at the bottom of the barrel where the blind cap screws on, but I honestly had to put the pen in bright sunlight and look at it for several minutes before I could actually find it.

He also told me that heíd ďtriedĒ to repair the dings and dents in the cap.

I defy you to find any evidence thereof. The workmanship is that good!

Design/Size/Weight
The design of the pen is well-known. Nicely-sized medium body thatís very comfortable in the hand, hooded nib with the venerable vacumatic filling mechanism. I doubt that I could elaborate better than the plethora of information available elsewhere, so I wonít.

Nib
For an extra fine nib, this one is the juiciest Iíve ever written with. Simply put, itís perfect for me. It lays down a flawless line that is just wet enough that it takes a few seconds to dry, but not so long that my hand ends up ink-stained. No scratchiness, never a skip, and never hesitates to start up immediately - even after being left alone for nearly two weeks to test it!

Filling System
As previously noted, itís the venerable vacumatic filler. Tom has torn it down and replaced everything and it works just great. Probably fills better now than it did when it was new! Sucks up tons of ink, too.

Cost and Value
To me, this one was a better bargain than the brand new Aurora Optima that I purchased in December for $80. This pen writes perfectly and looks exquisite. You canít do better than that for any price, let alone paying less than $60.

Conclusion
To this day, I donít know why Tom let this one go. See, hereís the thing about this pen. In his letter, he told me that not only was it the first Parker 51 that he ever restored, but it was his daily writer for several years! As such, this one is invaluable to me; itíll never leave my collection, and Iíll always be indebted to him for making such a sacrifice.

So, hereís my conclusion. Tomís work is second-to-none. Iíd put his work up there with the top recognized names in the business without flinching. He was terrific to work with, and as a result, Iíd recommend him to anyone for their next vintage pen purchase. If youíre in the market for your first (or your hundredth), donít hesitate to look him up. Heís one of the best-kept secrets in vintage pens.

*For the record, I haven't had any time to take some detailed photos of this pen yet. When I have a few minutes to take some, I'll post them here.

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#2 wvbeetlebug

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Posted 09 August 2007 - 20:32

Excellent review. Thank you for sharing.

:happycloud9:

 

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#3 Nikolaos

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Posted 10 August 2007 - 15:14

Very nice review, and that pen look beautiful.
I bought recently a 51 flighter and use it everyday. I started to appreciate this pen so much. I have another blue diamond on the way and on the look for a couple more perhaps a DJ one.

Enjoy this great pen
Nikolaos

#4 rroossinck

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Posted 10 August 2007 - 15:22

Thanks to you both. I'm glad you enjoyed the review, and I trust it was helpful.

Since I've owned it, I've also been able to find a Cedar Blue jeweled blind cap, so I'm enjoying the ability to switch back and forth with it. I'll take some pictures with each cap and post them. As for the factory correctness of a 1946 DJ, I'm not so sure that they were made, but without regard to that, it's still a good looker!

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#5 Margana

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Posted 10 August 2007 - 21:04

Hey R!

Nice review. There's nothing better for one's reputation than a satisfied customer. I don't recall ever receiving his contact info from you. Would you pass it along, please? Nothing I'm ready to get restored quite yet but it's good to have the info at hand should I get the urge to send one of my recalcitrant vintage pens off for the attention they so deserve. wink.gif

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#6 rroossinck

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Posted 13 August 2007 - 00:06

Ah...I knew I forgot something. Let me find it and I'll get it off to your inbox shortly.

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#7 Tom Pike

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Posted 16 August 2007 - 08:05

Hi Ryan,

Wow, I'm completely blown away...

Thank you for your kind thoughts. It makes me very happy to know that you're still loving your Cedar Blue "51" Vac.

I haven't been checking FPN on a daily basis for the past month or so because other life events have kept me occupied (the Portland Pen Show, pen restoration work, a job trasition, a long vacation, and a bunch of other stuff). I happened by tonight to look up some information about Francis (fountenbel) Goosens; I'm hoping to purchase some tools from him. For some odd reason, I decided to look at my profile page. I noticed that several folks had visited in the past few days, so I did a search on my name to find out why. That brought me here... what a nice surprise!

Yep, this was my first "51", and I did write with it for several years. I've probably already told you this, but I'm really glad that this pen went to you. It was one of those pens that really needed to belong to someone that would use it and enjoy it - I think it kind of chose you as much as you choosing it. It's always nice to find a good home for a well-loved old friend!

Thanks again for your kind words.


Cheers,
Tom

#8 rroossinck

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Posted 16 August 2007 - 11:51

You bet, Tom. I couldn't be happier with the pen. A review is the least I could do.

I recently bent the clip just a little out of shape the other day, and haven't had the chance to put it back to the right bend, so in the meantime I've been toting it around with the parallel lines gold cap I've got for my Dove Grey. The truth be told? The gold and the Cedar Blue (and the double-jewel) go together right nicely! Not bad, in a pinch!

Hope the life events have gone well for you!

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#9 JRodriguez

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Posted 02 March 2008 - 23:33

Very nice review Ryan. The pen looks absolutely fantastic - this is by far my favorite "51" color. I would have guessed from the pictures that this pen was potentially new old stock - just wonderful work Tom! That was especially cool of you to send Ryan the pen history. Actually, reading this review just made me smile because it reminds me of how much I love this whole crazy pen thing and why.

#10 jmkeuning

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Posted 02 March 2008 - 23:36

I also had two 51s repaired by Tom and each one came back to me with a two-page hand-written breakdown of the work, history of the pen, estimated value, and other helpful information.
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#11 Lloyd

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Posted 03 March 2008 - 01:47

Lovely pen but the writing doesn't look like that of an Extra Fine "P51". Are you sure that it's an XF?
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#12 Tom Pike

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Posted 03 March 2008 - 04:20

Hi Lloyd,

Good eyes!

That's actually my writing. I sent Ryan a little note with the pen and I probably had it flushed out when I wrote that, so I don't think it came from Ryan's "51". If memory serves, I sent Ryan this picture of it right before packing it up and mailing it - kind of like sending a picture of your kids to relatives that have never seen them, so they know which kid to grab at the bus depot... unsure.gif (only kidding).

I'll bet that's an MB 342-G with an B (italic) nib, and either Waterman Florida Blue or Omas Blue ink. Another pen with a history that came from Chris Chalmers in Australia (Tasmania). It was her first MB, so it seemed like a good pen to use at the time... Of course it's been longer than 2 weeks ago, so I could be wrong wink.gif


Cheers,
Tom

#13 rroossinck

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Posted 11 March 2008 - 16:32

Tom's right. That one was a decidedly italic nib. I know that Tom noted in the letter what he'd written it with. I'll check and see what it was/is.

Update: Just checked, and Tom was right about two of the three things he mentioned in his previous post. It was Omas blue ink, and it was a Montblanc, but not the 342 that he thought it was. This one was a 146 with an oblique broad from Joel Hamilton.

Edited by rroossinck, 11 March 2008 - 16:36.


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