Vintage pens are something I've barely scratched the surface on. They make me nervous. They seem a bit frail, unpredictable... will it work? For how long?
Up until now I've only owned three different "vintage" pens (excluding all of the Pilot stainless series of course), but every once in awhile a pen crosses your path that might be a good fit. Oddly enough, this pen came through a non-pen person, my mom. She is a collector of vintage things and happened across a pencil and fountain pen set on one of her searches. Someone had found it in an old estate and all I had to go off of was a photo in a text message (which is always interesting, right?). I made an offer of $40 for the set which was accepted and I was willing to take a chance.
The set was in the original box and was a Parker 61 stainless steel Jet Flighter series. I've had my eye on some vintage Parker Flighters (Mr. Thomas Hall loaned me a 51 Flighter earlier this year) and thought this might be fun to look into.
The pictures made the pen appear to be in decent shape, but upon arrival the cap jewel was missing on the fountain pen and it had ink dried up inside...likely, 30-40 year old ink. And the pencil didn't work, but I wasn't really banking on that. Discouraging? Not really. I was excited to see what could become of it.
When the pen arrived I didn't know much about it. I wasn't sure when the pen was from, how it was going to work, but what I did find was that the filling system was a bit unique. Instead of a cartridge or converter of some kind, the section had a plastic tube sticking out from it that was permanently attached. After some searching and studying I found that this filling system was called the capillary system. Very odd.
The capillary system was initially announced in 1956 as a revolutionary and "no mess" filling process as all you needed to do is dip the teflon coated "converter" end into the ink and let it wick for about 30 seconds. Inside the system is a tightly wound porous plastic that would hold the ink in the feed.
Ultimately, Parker discontinued the capillary system as it was prone to being clogged and had mixed/poor reviews from customers, so I suppose I had my work cut out for me. Still, I was up to the challenge. The capillary system puts the pen somewhere between 1956 and into the early 60's which is fun.
Since the feed was clogged with likely 40 year old ink I got to work soaking and flushing it with a bulb syringe and after over 2 hours of squeezing through what seemed ridiculous amounts of blue ink I decided to give it a go.
Success! After inking it up it wrote smoothly and with great flow. And actually, it is really pleasant to write with. A nice wet writer with clean lines and just enough feedback on the page.
The 51 Flighter that Thomas loaned me was quite heavy in the barrel as it was machined from a solid piece of steel, but the 61 is quite light. Each end of the pen is fashioned with a jeweled adornment (cap one was missing as mentioned) which I think reduces a bit of weight.
The barrel and cap didn't have any dings or dents, but did show signs of use. That actually made me pretty happy to know that its previous owner enjoyed using it. Being stainless steel, I may take a piece of soft scotch bright and re-brush it to a a consistent pattern. But, maybe not.
The nib is a hooded style much like the 51 and the section is made from a black acrylic and adorned with a steel, inlaid arrow. From what I've read the 61s often lose this inlaid arrow sometime during their life, so I'm pleased that this one has held on. The sections in these older pens are often prone to fractures and cracking, but luckily mine is in great shape.
There was the issue of the cap jewel... I was directed to a site called pentooling.com which is run by a gentleman named Dale Beebe. After a quick email exchange, Dale informed me that he had an original Parker 61 cap jewel that he could send out right away. The cap jewel cost $18 which I felt was extremely fair for an original Parker piece. Dale was great to work with and I'd recommend his services without question.
Considering the set was $40, paying $18 for an adornment piece may seem high, but overall I am happy to have paid in the range of $60 for a cool vintage pen that works even with a little character. And that helped me to learn quite a few new things.
I'm not certain I'll ever get into the hobby of pen restoration or play too much in the vintage arena, but this was a really fun experience that helped me step a bit outside of my comfort zone.