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  1. In the world of fountain pens, there are forgettable pens and famous pens…. and then there are the icons. Those are the pens that have a wide appeal and a cult like following. You may love them or not, but there is no denying their impact and the passion they generate amongst devotees. One of these icons is the Parker “51”. There is an abundance of information about these great pens, and I will make no attempt to repeat all the details. I will simply point out that there are two primary filling systems used in the life of the pen – the vacuumatic plunger filler and the aerometric filler. The vac filler was the first system used and I draw this distinction because the pen I am reviewing uses this method. Sometimes iconic pens inspire tributes or fantasy versions where people create a pen they want to see, but it never came from the factory. When this is done with the intention to add character or widen the scope of a pen, I think it has the potential to be a thing of beauty. (When it is done to deceive or to make a pen that is represented as a rare factory original, I find this despicable and blight on our hobby.) There are many folks who have created so called fantasy “51” pens including Ariel Kullock, Paul Rossi, Ralph Prather, and Brad Torelli. Each has their strengths and their products cover a wide range of prices, depending on materials, hours invested, and parts used. While I admire the work or all four men, the pens that appeal the most to me in general are those by Brad Torelli. Although he is a master of many pen skills, plastics are the area of expertise he focused on for this pen. He essentially took standard “51” vac parts and crafted a new barrel, hood and blind cap. In addition, he put new jewels on the top and bottom of the pen to make is a “double jewel” or DJ version of the pen. This particular pen is a demonstrator in a lovely transparent brown, almost the color of a refreshing root beer. I find the color pairs well with the gold cap. The transparency also gives one a real appreciation for the mechanics of these pens. Manually creating a vacuum to pull ink through the collector and breather tube in order to fill the ink chamber – simple but effective. One of the best things about Brad’s pens is the warranty. He likes to say he offers a lifetime guarantee on his work and his materials. The part that always amuses me is that he means his lifetime. I have no desire to publicly share his current age, but he has joked that he probably has 20 good years ahead and then maybe another 5 or 10 so so years (so get that warranty work done!). In all seriousness, I have personal experience with him standing behind his work and going above and beyond what any large manufacturer would do in support of their pens. Besides the giant pain in the rear it is to clean a “51” vac, the other issue for me personally is the limited range of nib widths available. To remedy this I turned to a custom retipped nib from Greg Minuskin. Greg sells a lot of “51” nibs that he retips and stubs in various widths. The one I picked was a fairly broad 1.3MM tip and Brad mounted in into his pen for me. Now I have a demo pen with a tip that is wide enough to suit my preferences. I’ll close by saying that if, like me, you found the Parker “51” a little lacking from the factory the good news is there are artists who can make your desires a reality. I have a soft spot for demo pens, wide stubs, and pens hand made by artisans. This pen met all these criteria in one slim, iconic form factor.
  2. Fantasy pens, sometimes known as homage pens, can represent an opportunity to fill in a gap in a pen maker’s catalog. Or it can be a pen that is inspired by the design aesthetic of a brand, but one the company never would have made for various reasons. The pen I want to focus on in this review is a Brad Torelli creation that pays homage to various vintage elements from MB. I am a big fan of Brad’s work because his pens are well made using quality materials and they incorporate vintage hardware like nibs, clips and even filling systems. The pen I am reviewing today is inspired by MB pens from the 1930s to the 1960s. The pen is made out of a luxurious Italian Lucite in a pearlescent medium green. The material is not quite the same feeling as celluloid but still different that acrylic. Perhaps somewhere in between the two in terms of grip feel. I would say it has more surface friction than acrylic but lacks some of the warmth, and certainly the smell, of vintage celluloid. The pen material is translucent, so that even though there is not an ink window, just holding the pen up to a light source allows one to see the ink level. The pen design is faceted with 8 sides. This has the practical benefit of keeping the pen from rolling even when uncapped during a pause in writing. The facets are maintained along the length of the capped pen, even though the thickness varies from the piston cone to the cap derby. Once nice and subtle touch is how the facets gently curve in to create a thinner cap lip allowing for less of a step between the cap and the body of the pen. The pen is threaded so that the cap and body facets always line up. Visconti, please take a note on how this should be the standard for faceted pens! The grip section is inspired by other vintage pens like the celluloid MB 146, 136, and the like. There is a nice concave shape to it that makes it much more comfortable for me to hold for extended writing sessions. The threads are very well cut and smooth to the touch, so much so that I sometimes grip the pen half way up onto the threads. Other elements that are MB inspired are the custom tie shaped clip, the piston filler, the nib, the feed and the MB logo. The clip is made from a mold of a 139 tie clip, but it is solid 14K “springy” gold. The particular formulation Brad uses allows for more spring that a typical 14K clip ensuring the clip can perform its function well, yet never tarnish. The piston filler is a repurposed MB unit. Nothing exciting as it is not a two stage piston, but still a pleasure to use with smooth travel. The piston cone will allow you to overtighten a bit causing the facets to misalign slightly so I have to back it off just a touch to align the facets (because it should look as lovely as it writes). The nib is a tri-tone 14C that is a BB in my estimation. I love wide nibs so this gave me another excuse to buy the pen. The nib itself is smooth and has some flexibility to it, but not near a wet noodle. It works for me as it allows for some variation on demand. I do have to be a little careful as the pen will railroad if I want to get nutsy with the flexing. One of my favorite aspects of the pen is the custom feed made of the same Lucite as the pen. It is designed like the old flat slope feeds from the 1930s and 1940s. It provides a wet and consistent flow of ink, but again, not enough to allow me to flex the pen all the time. I am sure this could be adjusted. What made me jump on this pen when it came up for sale is the two handmade MB logo stars inset into the cap and the piston cone. Brad has always admired the simplicity and elegance of the MB logo so he used to use it on many of his custom pens. However, many years ago it was strongly suggested by some legal eagles that while senior folks at MB admired the quality and craftsmanship of his work, he would be better off if he no longer used their registered trademark. Brad got the message and will no longer make pens with the logo involved. So when I see one for sale I try to pick it up. This particular pen happens to have a logo on both the cap the piston cone, much like the slimmer pens that came out in the 1960s. This helps me justify the price I paid for the pen, at least that’s what I tell myself. All this is for naught if the pen is not a good writer, and I am happy to report that it is both well balanced and well weighted for my needs. This is a large pen, but the material keeps it to a manageable weight. The pen does post, though I am not a poster except on a few smaller pens. The grip section is the real winner for me. Anyone who is a fan of vintage MBs from the 1930s and 1940s can attest to the comfort level of the contoured grips. (I also like modern custom pen makers who embrace this little curve in their sections and encourage you to consider this for any custom pen you have made.) Cost is not relevant here as this pen was purchased second hand from a collector. Brad still makes plenty of great pens (minus the MB logo) so I encourage you to reach out to him for details and pricing. Many people are especially drawn to his 139 style pens as MB seems unwilling to reissue the pen themselves. Brad also offers a lifetime warranty (his lifetime), and this includes maintenance or other straightforward issues like a nib swap or piston maintenance. He is also a pleasure to speak with as his knowledge of pens is impressive. Whether you like this particular pen or not, I hope it has sparked your imagination as to the possibilities of having a custom pen made to your own liking. I like supporting the growing number of craftsmen/women and true pen artisans and encourage you to do the same. None of them is getting rich from their efforts, but they are living their passion.
  3. I am a big fan of Brad Torelli's work and I try to pick up interesting pens he has made over the years. I was familiar with his work on fantasy MB pens, fantasy Parker 51s, fantasy Triads, and other fantasy brands like Parker or Scheaffer. I was not aware, however, of his fantasy Pelikan pens as I had never seen any before. I am posting these here in order to share the pens with Pelikan fans. I do not have a lot of Pelikan pens so maybe people are familiar with his custom Pelikans already. I'd love to hear your thoughts. The first pen is based on the M101N but oversized. The pen is nice an compact when capped, but is almost the same length as an M800 when uncapped. The pen is a piston fill with a removable blind cap and a little knob to operate the piston. There is a carved circle on the cap dome, but no Pelikan logo. The pen is a lovely swirled gold acrylic with a complimentary burgundy acrylic. There is a large ink window which makes life easier for me. The hardware is probably gold plated as I did not see a hallmark or karat rating. I think the clip and cap band give off a nice vintage vibe. Of course the heart of the pen is the nib, and this one sports a 14C B from that is M800 sized. A nice flexy nib for a vintage style pen! Compared to a Blue Ocean The second "Torelikan" I picked up is a little more straight forward. It is an M1000 with custom red acrylic. The nib, clip, cap rings, piston knob rings, and the cap top are all original Pelikan parts. I suspect the section is also stock Pelikan. The rest of the pen, however, is a glorious red material that has a lot of depth and really catches the sun as you turn it in the hand. It is hard to capture in pictures (especially on a rainy day), but you can get a good idea of the potential. The pen reminds me of the M600 Red O Red pen from several years ago, but I cannot really compare the color directly. It also does not have the same level of translucence, and I feel like the "granules" in the material are a little finer here vs the RoR. Here are a few shots of the two together to give a sense of relative size. One of the great things about these pens is the fact the nib units are standard Pelikan, and I can easily swap nibs among the several I own. Thanks for looking at the pictures. I hope you found them interesting. If you have any similar pens, please post them here. Your thoughts and comments are welcomed. I don't have much information on when the pens were made, but I can reach out to Brad for answers to questions.
  4. So if you've got $1500 on hand there is something great over on the classifieds. I don't know how many Prather or Torellis 51s I've seen for sale used. Maybe one or two in the past seven years or so. Now there both in one posting. I want those pens so bad. Someone please buy them before I break into my paypal credit.

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