Category Archives: stationery

Parker 51

So someone with the initials AK decided they’d had enough of their Parker 51 and sold it to one of the antique outfits who turn up at Clontarf Castle. Last week, I bought it.

It’s a black pen, dates, I think, from the late 1950s. It has a black body and a rolled gold top. AK, or someone known to them, had it engraved with their initials. The clip is loose and the button on the top of the cap is missing. The cap has a couple of dings on it otherwise but the body is in broadly good condition and the nib appears to be a gold nib.

It has an Aeromatic filler, and, interestingly enough, it just have been in use until very recently. I bought it expecting it to be dry and looking at the ink reservoir on it, expect it would take some flushing to clean. However, this may or not be the case. The pen turned out to be full of black ink. It may have had blue in it at some stage as blue came out when I started to flush it, but once I realised it was actually full of ink, I stopped cleaning it and had a closer look. What is in it now (and what hasn’t appeared to run out yet) is black ink. I don’t own a true black ink in my ink collection. I have a very dark blue called Midnight Blue courtesy of MontBlanc, and I have what can best be described as a light black – ie black with some very dark grey shading – called Onyx from Pelikan. Neither is as black as this. Bearing in mind that the pen was bought in Ireland, it is most likely that it was filled with a commonly obtainable black ink here, and that’s must likely to be Quink with a possibility also of Waterman. I may buy a bottle of Quink for the pen as I am not sure I want to put any of my brighter colours.

With that out of the way, the Parker 51 is basically an iconic pen. If you spend any time around pen nerds at all (the internet has quite the community of them) the Parker 51 is spoken of in terms of being one of the greatest fountain pens of all times. It is no longer manufactured, but lots of them were made and there are plenty of them available on Ebay, and they turn up in antique/vintage shops from time to time. I’ve always been a little bemused by this. I have one Parker jotter and it’s nice but it’s not earth shattering. I own quite a few pens (trust me, while I have a problem with pens, it’s not a Problem) and probably the two most interesting ones are a Waterman and a Cross. They are not as expensive as the Caran D’Ache fountains that I have but they  are probably easier to write with.

The Parker 51 is significantly easier again. It has the ease of operation of one of my best Lamys (these can be nib hit or miss – the best is very very good, the worst is replaced ASAP). The Parker flows across the paper. It might be the smoothest pen I have owned so far. It doesn’t look like a fountain pen in certain respects – the nib is almost totally engulfed with only the pointiest bit poking out from its plastic hood – and its rounded ended body looks a bit space age, ca 1950s. It is a pen which looks vintage, and old fashioned. The shape is similar to a Platignum I picked up the same day (which is writing awfully and definitely needs a major clean) although the Platignum was clearly a less expensive pen at the outset, and is a much smaller pen. It is also in better condition cosmetically.

I’m surprised really. I didn’t expect to love this pen or find it writes as well as it does. The nasty thing is is I’d probably take a second one if I got the opportunity and put blue ink in it. I really don’t think it’s the kind of pen you put orange, pink or turquoise ink into. Maybe dark violet might be alright.

The Parker 51 came with a number of different filling mechanism. Mine is Aeromatic which means it’s not from the earliest array of Parker 51s. There is some discussion online to suggest that the Aeromatic fillers are a little more bulletproof than the older Vacumatics. I’m not enough of an expert to be certain why – I believe it has something to do with the build materials. However, the net result is that if you get a Vacumatic, it really should be serviced by someone who knows what they are doing before you put ink in it.

I paid 25E for mine which is not bad. As I can’t date it, I can’t open market value it for certain, but it has some cosmetic damage and it is engraved. Prices online for the pen vary greatly but it looks as though 25E is a good enough price for the pen. Most pens of this age are likely to have some cosmetic damage and some pens very similar to this one are commanding 4-6 times the price online.  The nib appears to a medium nib which puts it in the slightly rarer category for those pens.

Regardless of any resale value it might have, I’m really glad I bought it. I don’t even know what the pen actually looks like when I am writing with it, so perfect a feel is it. I’d be very sorry to lose it. It has a permanent place on my desk. As mentioned above, if I happened across a second one, I probably would take it if it were an Aeromatic and and in reasonably good nick. I own about 30 other fountain pens and in the grand scheme of things, I don’t actually need any others.

But…yeah this is lovely.

 

review: 849 popline, turquoise

I have been a user of Caran D’Ache ballpoint pens since I was 16 years old. This is more than 20 years.  Fact.

Most of the pens I own are from their Ecridor Range which costs around 110E for a ball point here. However, they have an entry level range Office line with a large number of options in the 849 line. They are the same shape as the Ecridors – hexagonal – but are constructed from lighter materials.

I own a few of them.

A recent addition to the Popline colour range in the office line is turquoise and as it’s my favourite colour. You can see all the 849 options here.  The 849 range of ballpoints all take the Goliath refill which has a very long life (speaking from experience here).

You can tell the pen is lighter than the Ecridor pens but it is beautifully balanced in my hand. I love the colour. I love the fact that the pen feels almost indestructable. And it writes like a dream.

I love it.

shop review: Casi One, Brussels

Way back in the mists of time, I bought a Caran D’Ache Ecridor in a stationery shop which stuck in my memory by location, rather than by name. It may have been a Prisma (which you cannot currently get by the way). The location was pretty much “down that street off Place Debrouckere, parallel to Rue Neuve, but not Boulevard Anspach. This is how I remembered it anyway; a little more scraping my memory would have revealed that it’s Boulevard Adolphe Max. It’s where Waterstones used to be. Not sure if it still is.

Anyway, sometime before I finished in UCD I had to give a run over to Brussels, and between the meetings I went for, and the plane rides there and back, I went back into the stationery shop which, after 15 years, was still there. I like that sort of continuity in shops – you see it in Dublin with the Pen Corner as well. I bought another Caran D’Ache there, a limited edition pink one designed by Claudio Colucci. I liked the colours.

Casi One is a wonderful stationery store. They have every mechanical pencil I want, a decent range of Clairefontaine paper; lots of other things that I crave. I draw from time to time (this is not something that I broadcast much) and after a lot of failures, I’ve settled on water colour pencils as my tool of choice. They have all the collection sets of Caran D’Ache Supracolor II pencils. They look gorgeous; I stood in front of the window display with a deep wish I could buy all the stuff.

I haven’t been in Casi One much in since I left Brussels, mostly because I haven’t been in Brussels much since I left Brussels. On the last occasion I was there, they remembered me from the previous time, which was about 9 months previously. I have found them immensely helpful but also, very happy to leave me browsing around their wonderland. I love the Pen Corner in Dublin but it’s a toss up as to whether I prefer it to Casi One or not.

Stormy grey

Anyone who’s still reading this after nearly 10 years of writing here and elsewhere has probably picked up that I have an interest in pens (no, maybe I shouldn’t hand write and scan all my blog entries, believe me, you don’t want that). I own * a lot of * fountain pens, including a reasonable collection of Lamy Safaris and AL-Stars. They may be, by fountain pen terms, dirt cheap (ie, 20E instead of 1000E) but for the money they are great pens. And Lamy do nice cartridges but they also do converters – I’ve never felt that’s the right word to describe them, but basically you can use bottled ink with them.

This is a nice thing and it means that in addition to loads of fountain pens, I have quite a few bottles of ink.

When I was 9 years old, using a red fountain pen because I was “allowed to” – only the elite handwriters got to write with fountain pens, possibly, to some extent, for very valid reasons, cartridges were not really considered that neat. Apparently they leaked and left ink all over the place, making them no different to unlucky biros I suppose. There was a choice of Quink ink or Quink ink, one in blue and one in black.

I’d like, at this point, to state that if I was an elite handwriter, it was through a lot of hardwon practice and the absolute fortune of getting the wrong copybook which had lines so narrow that I was forced to write between the lines at twice the size. It was such a successful move that it was imposed on other non-elite handwriters by my teacher at the time. I don’t think they liked me.

Anyway, I was 15 and using ballpoints before I discovered that in France, you could get nice pens, with small international cartridges and those cartridges came in aquamarine and pink. IN fact, in some of the more exclusive or better stocked stationery and chain stores, you could even get purple. This was untold riches. Fantastic. I fell in love.

Since then, I’ve discovered that in Ireland, a whole world of ink was being hidden from me. You can now get ink in many, many different shades. NOt just one shade of pink, but many. Pilot, in Japan, do some – many – shades of pink, and blue, and red, and green, and grey. I don’t have any bottles of their top end ink because I can’t get it here. I will, at some stage, justify an order.

In the Pen Corner in Dublin, you can get Pelikan Edelstein – which is wonderful ink – in a lovely range of colours – I particularly like the Mandarin (orange) and the Amber.

All the above is fore shadowing for what is about to come. In France, one of the oldest ink manufacturers is J.Herbin. They make a substantial range of beautiful liquid inks, of which I have a bunch in cartridges and, I think, four bottles. They particularly have a purplish shade called Poussiere de la Lune. Gorgeous stuff.

Their premium range is called 1670 and it only has a handful of shades, including their brand new, can’t keep it in the shops, constantly on back order, Stormy Grey. It’s appropriate for the weather outside which is stormy as hell tonight. The weather might be even more appropriate if we also had lightning – which we don’t (thankfully). I have a bottle which an extremely kind friend bought for me for my birthday. It’s gorgeous.

It’s a fine dark grey without being actually black, and it has gold flecks in it.

Most of the online reviews from fountainpen nerds (I am not one, actually, despite * lots of * pens and * more than 10 * bottles of ink – I am in the tuppenny hapenny place to be frank about this – are raving. I filled up one of the Safaris with it and am utterly entranced. I mean, the ink positively shimmers as you write with it on Clairefontaine paper (the absolute best paper in the world – none of your Moleskin soaky stuff) and it continues to shimmer after it has shaded and dried. I love it. I love it to pieces.

Of course, there are warnings about the sediment (when I mentioned gold flecks) but I don’t care too much. Ultimately, the ink has chosen its pen – I will not be putting it into any of the others – and it is writing beautifully. Smoothly. No smudging. I probably wouldn’t sign my mortgage application form with it, but seriously, I’d happily write every thing else I want to write with it.

I think every one should spend some part of the day handwriting but that’s a discussion for another day. It is, however, very easy to continue writing when you are using beautiful tools to do so.

Happy New Year.