|A trio of Parker "51" on a bed of rice.|
I had heard a lot about these pens, usually from mouthfoaming zombies rabidly spewing hyperexcited praises for their pens that were made 60 years ago. Never one to question the integrity of the undead, I heeded their wizened words, have been bitten, and now go around talking through excess drool to anybody with a functioning ear.
|The iconic Parker "51" with its hooded nib.|
First encounters with the P51 are memorable.
All these things that count against it are qualities I look for in a fountain pen. So, why do I ignore these shortcomings?
Firstly, it is a damn good workhorse pen. If I have to do a lot of writing, my hand will fall to a 51 more often than not. The balance and the no-fuss nib turns a long-haul scribble into a doddle. The Aerometric filler holds a ton of ink and just works. It writes, first time, every time, even after a long time. There aren't any more reliable pens in my humble collection.
If I'm in a more thoughtful or playful mood, I'll go for a pretty pen that makes pretty lines. If I want to spill a gallon of ink over a dozen pages, the P51 is the right tool for the job.
The design and construction is superb. When I get a new (read: secondhand) P51 I give it the deluxe clean out treatment to ensure that decades old ink cakes are all removed. This involves a complete deconstruction of the pen. Firstly, I soak it overnight to loosen most of the ink in the collector. Then I flush the pen and strip it down, with the help of a hairdryer to loosen the shellac that binds the hood to the filler. Once it is in pieces, the ultrasonic cleaner comes in and blasts away all the crud.
Once you have pulled apart and reconstructed a P51, you will have a new appreciation for the quality and design of this product. The humble exterior hides a feat of engineering marvel.
|A partially deconstructed Parker "51" with Aerometric filler.|
All my P51s are from the early-to-mid 1950s, but the model was made up until 1972. With any luck, I hope to be in such good condition when somebody finds me in a drawer in my sixties.