Monday, 26 March 2012

Parker 51 Vacumatic - Capping it All Off

The Cap

It's a rolled silver cap, with what I think is a silver plated clip, longer than my Aeromatic's and with more feathers. Perhaps not the original cap (or even this cap's original clip?), I nevertheless find it tremedously appealling, with a warm shine and a sort of careworn, blasted majesty.

On arrival, I was very disappointed with the state of the cap. I'm not a natural cynic, and "some wear to the cap" is a fairly subjective term. In my book it doesn't cover a badly bent clip, fitted back to front. On a minor note, what was that wedged behind one of the clutch fingers? Brasso wadding?

Prior to fettling, the bent clip, exposed clip tab, and cap lip oddness.

After washing out decades of dried blue ink, I set about with gentle heat and blutack to unscrew the grey jewel. To my surprise it brought the brass bush beneath with it. They are bonded together with something so strong that it defied all efforts with heat, spirits, penetrating oil and torque. I gave up on seperating the two lest I shear off the jewel from its shaft, and decided to simply use blutack to tighten the fused jewel and brass screw securely against the clip when I was finished working on the cap.

These two really don't want to be seperated!

After some heat, gentle persuasion, and patience, here's the straightened clip on the reassembled and lightly polished cap. I used a diluted silver polish, to keep some of the patina while removing tarnish (I don't like it staining my clothes).

 Clip straightened, cap washed out, polished, and reassembled. 2nd photo - 616 cap in background.

You can certainly see where Hero took their inspiration in the 616 cap's design! The clutches are also very similar, and the caps are interchangable between the two pens pictured above. The engraved lines on the Parker converge at the top of the cap.

Closing Mindthots

... well, there you have it, so far as I have gone tinkering. At some stage, I would like to address the blind cap's strange, semi transparent ring, but for now I'm just enjoying the use of this old classic. Overall, I'm happy with how this eBay purchase has worked out, with a expectations/reality balance that gave me a few tasks to relish, uncovered some of the pen's history, and left me in a bright mood.



Parker 51 Vacumatic - Under the Hood

When the pen arrived, I noticed the feed was misaligned with the nib. I've tried, but I can't seem to let little things like this slide. If there's a spec of dust trapped in my mp3 player's display, I'll affect nonchalance for a while, then snap and reach for a screwdriver.

The nib and hood were perfectly aligned on receipt, the feed less so.

With gentle heat, the hood screwed off; I cleaned up the threads for later reassembly. I was pleased to see the (chipped) collector had indeed been flushed as per the listing description,  less so that its spacer rod was missing.

Superficial damage to the collector, and the empty shim cavity.

I used a length of propelling pencil lead as a substitute shim, after reading about a similarly laid up 51 collector on FPN. While the collector was out, I tested the vac unit for leaks by filling the barrel with water, and holding it over a sink. The water stayed in the barrel, so I was reassured the diaphragm isn't leaking on this pen.

While the nib was out, I found this pen's origins were Canadian. I had assumed given the width of the nib, the domestic auction, and the rolled silver cap, that this was probably an English pen. Not so! Later, with strong sunlight and a loupe, the vestiges of a barrel imprint appeared, "Parker '51' Made in Canada". It's a fine thing to get these interesting surprises :-)

Parker - Canada - 1948.

Oh - one other thing while the nib was out, I reduced the flow. It was a very wet writer indeed, which is not a bad thing, but this pen was a bit too wet for even my best paper to cope, with pooling on the page, long dry out times, heavy bleed through, and a lack of shading variety.  I brought the tines closer together till I was happy with the nib's performance.

Tine gap before and after adjustment. 

When I was happy enough with the writing characteristics, I cleaned up, aligned the feed's ink slit between the nib's tines, the nib with the large collector channel, and the tipping with the hood. It's now resealed. That's a piece of lint or something at the mouth of the hood in the second photo, not a split.

 Collector, feed, and hood alignment after flow adjustment.

Rounding off this topic, the next post deals with this 51's dodgy cap. I wrote it before this one, so see you again soon!

Sunday, 25 March 2012

An eBay 1948 Canadian Parker 51 Vacumatic

The aim of this post is to show a few windfalls and pitfalls of picking up a vintage pen at auction, rather than going the safer route of buying from a professional restorer.

For a good while now, I've been after a Parker 51, specifically a Vacumatic in Cedar Blue, with at least a medium nib. Hero's 616 has impressed me so much, despite the lack of nib sizes and flimsy thin plastic, that I thought the time was right to find the lucite bodied masterpiece that inspired it, with a nib that better suited my handwriting - something to keep for years. I had too many good pens I wasn't using, and all in a condition I hoped would sell well enough to fund a pared down "collection" of just a handful of classics, a vac 51 among them.

PhotobucketSell they did! Admittedly, I soon became discouraged by the search, lost patience and found a bold nibbed (and very fresh) Aeromatic 51 at a good price, this will also go off to eBay now the vac is here. Overall, after a weekend of tinkering, it's not a bad example. It is exactly what I wanted, a cedar blue vacumatic 51, with a nib comparable in size to a modern medium Parker Frontier's. As an added bonus, it has a fresh diaphragm.

First, the bad news. Although the body was described as in excellent condition in the eBay listing, there is a tiny chip in the barrel lip where it meets the clutch ring.

A small barrel chip near the clutch ring.

This gave me some concern, to the best of my knowledge in a vacumatic the barrel cavity acts as a single-walled ink tank. If the chip grows, bad news. In the end, the seller gave me a choice between a partial discount and swapping it for another vac 51. Sadly, no photos of this alternative were forthcoming so I accepted the discount and stuck with this one. I'm hoping the lucite holds up!

Now that's out of the way, happily the rest of the pen had plenty of potential. Without the vacumatic diaphragm to worry about, getting this pen in good fettle was a pleasure. In the course of tinkering, I found out this is a Canadian made pen, manufactured in 1948, it's always nice to find out these wee details.

In the next couple of posts, I attend to the 51's workings under the hood, and the ill-treated cap. Come join me!