This is a review of two Parker "51" Fountain Pens, one in India Black, and the other Cordovan Brown. The pens were made in 1941(First Year) and 1945(Wartime) respectively. I have only owned four Parker "51"s in my lifetime, but I have had the chance to try many and I will attempt to take into consideration all of my experience with various "51"s and not just the ones that I own.
- First Impressions (8/10) – My first Parker "51" was a Navy Grey Aerometric pen. To tell you the truth I wasn't all that impressed with it. It had a steel cap with fairly worn finish, and the gift box was not all that impressive. However the plastic felt very durable and I knew that the "51" would be a very reliable pen. However after getting my first double jewel "51", I was very impressed. The extra jewel on the end completely changes the appearance of the pen. So in my opinion, the DJ is much more impressive than the SJ, but are both nice pens.
- Appearance & Design (9/10) – The Parker "51" is one of the most streamlined pens in existence. If you really like streamline design, then this is the pen for you. Obviously pens such as the Balance had been sleek, but not until Sheaffer released its TRIUMPH nib did any pen come close to the "51" when uncapped. The clip design is very good for riding low in the pocket and it seems to be able to clip over thick fabric. One of the best things about "51"s is the sheer number of cap/barrel combinations that you can come up with. Based on the colour of the barrel and the material of the cap, you can achieve looks of simplicity, elegance and opulence, without looking flashy. The barrel is made of Lucite(acrylic glass) and is very durable and heat resistant when compared to older cellulose nitrate pens. The caps come in silver(.925 and .900), gold(14k), gold filled, and steel. Just a wonderful design that gets all the attention that it deserves. The hooded nib is revolutionary and I will cover it in the nib portion of the review.
*Note the difference in the cheveron patterns. The 1941 sterling caps had a simpler design.
- Weight & Dimensions (10/10) – The pen is about 5.5" capped and 5" uncapped, with a circumference of about 1.373 inches at its widest point. It fits very comfortably in my hand both posted and not posted. The hood offerers a larger gripping area toward the tip, but if your hands are sweaty you may find it a bit slippery. Overall it is a very good user pen.
- Nib & Performance (9/10) – I was not actually able to "choose" the nib size on my pen, but Parker did offer the "51" with various sized nibs. Both of my pens are a medium-fine with little to no flex because of the hood. The hood is simply amazing. The nib is 14k gold and fits perfectly over a tiny rubber feed that is nested in a very large multi-finned collector. The hood then fits over the entire nib assembly, helping to prevent evaporation. These pens can be left uncapped for minutes and start up again without missing a beat. The actually composition of the "51"s tipping material is a mystery to me. Parker labeled various nibs with various elements, some of which they seem to have made up. It doesn't really matter because there are no problems to be found with the pen's tipping. I generally like large open nibs, but the hooded nib is so effective that I am able to put all of that aside and make an exception for the "51".
- Filling System (10/10) – Parkers classic Vacumatic filling system is on the pens that I am reviewing, but they can also be found with the durable aerometric filler and the very elusive "Red-Band" button-esque filler. The Vacumatic filler was available in 2 styles for the "51". The first is the speedline filler, which is generally made of aluminium but can steel versions exist as well. The speedline is very durable and is generally found on 1941 pens, but can be found on pens made as late as 1943 I believe. Wartime constraints led to the use of a plastic filling unit with a metal collar, and eventually a plastic filler with a plastic collar. Vacumatic filling pens hold ink directly in the barrel and have very good capacity. Changing ink colours can be a bit of a hassle, but it is something that I can put up with because the "51" is that good.
- Cost & Value (10/10) – I received the 1945 pen as a gift, and the 1941 pen in a lot of 5 Pens/pencils for $200. Both pens required some work, but turned out to be wonderful writers. Note that you can get a good condition single jeweled "51" for $50 if you look hard enough. If you search around for a while, you will find a great pen at a great price.
- Conclusion (Final score, 56/60) – The Parker "51" is just one pen that you have to own. It is one of the most iconic pens in the history of pendom. If you don't have a "51" you are just missing out. I hope this review helps you decide if the "51" is the pen for you.
*Note the missing plating on the first cap.
Parker "51", Duofold Jr, Vacumatic.
Edited by grimakis, 07 February 2009 - 00:49.