Fountain Pen Restoration

Parker 51 ~ First Year Double Jewel

This is the second Double Jewel Parker 51 that I have discussed.  The first was in this post:

Double Jewel Parker 51 ~ dated April 9, 2010.

As discussed many times in the past, Parker 51s are very popular among fountain pen collectors and the double jewel versions are highly sought after.  They don’t hold more ink, come in more attractive colors, or have better nibs.  They do have a bit more gold and look a bit more substantial, and do often have more ornate caps.  The primary reason is their relative scarcity.

Within the Double Jewel models, the first year models are the most collectible as they are even more rare.  Double Jewels were produced during the entire run of Vacumatic Fill 51s, from 1941 through 1948.  The first year models were different in many ways, and I will cover them later.

Below is the exploded view of the pen.  You can tell that it suffered from years of neglect due to the dirty nib, collector, and very bad cap.  Fortunately, all of the parts are present and in decent shape.  This is good, especially for Dove Grey Vac 51s, which are more prone to cracking of the barrel and/or hood.  They are also more prone to discoloration, which has occurred here as can be seen in the shade difference in photo number two.

After the pen was taken apart, I began to clean all of the parts.  This involves thorough cleaning of all, except for the filling unit which I do not like to subject to moisture.  I scrape any remnants of the old diaphragm from the metal collar and carefully remove the old pellet from the pellet cup.  For a close up of the filling unit see this article posted on January 4, 2010.

Special care needs to be taken to clean the barrel completely of all dried ink and any traces of the old diaphragm, especially near the end where the filler screws in to the barrel.  Also, make certain that the breather tube is crack free and clog free.

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Putting a Vacumatic back together is a tricky proposition at times.  The most important items are making certain that the nib assembly sits correctly in the collector and into the hood as the pen is assembled.  A few trials are usually necessary.  Also, reinserting the filler into the rear of the barrel can be difficult at times due to the tendency of the diaphragm to twist on entry.  Always put the filler unit in first so that you can look into the barrel from the front end with a small flashlight to make sure the diaphragm is straight and functional.  Once that is assured, and you can feel the suction when the post is depressed and released, it is then ok to insert the collector/feed/nib and breather tube assembly.

Below is the completed product.  All the parts are the originals and there are two flaws.  First, note the color difference between the blind cap and the barrel.  Fortunately, the barrel and hood do match in color.  Secondly, there is a significant ding on the cap, which I have placed under the clip for cosmetic purposes.  You can see it quite easily when you look at the clip below the R in PARKER.  Other than these two issues, the pen is in great shape and the medium nib writes well.

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Here is a photo of the pen posted, hiding the blind cap and looking like a regular old single jewel.

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Several components separate the first year pens from the 1942-1948 vacumatic 51s.  Most are visible in these four photos.

First, the date imprint for the first year models is on the blind cap.  Remember that all 1941s were double jewels, as the single jewel began to appear in 1942.  The date appears just above the gold on the blind cap.  The photo below shows where the imprint appears.  In one line across the bottom is written MADE IN U.S.A.  .1.  This means that the pen was manufactured in Janesville, WI during the second quarter of 1941.

Secondly, the caps of first year 51s can be different and also are highly collectible.  This cap is a lined Sterling Silver with a Chevron patterned band.  These are very attractive.   Unfortunately, they are difficult to find in excellent condition and are prone to staining and dings/dents.  As mentioned above, this nib is no exception, with a ding under the clip.  It did clean up well with a jewelers cloth and the gold clip responded well to polish.

A third difference in the first year 51s is that many of them have metal filler units, similar to the early generations of Vacumatics in the 1930s.  This pen does not have a metal filling unit (as visible in the first photo).  From what I have read, this is consistent with some first years.

A final major difference in the first year 51s is that they have metal jewels.  Sometimes on both the cap and blind cap and sometimes only on the blind cap.  This pen has a metal jewel in the blind cap, highlighted in the photo below.  The jewel in my the cap of this pen is not metal, however, and I have read that this is seen (or this could be a replacement cap).

Another difference that I have read about is that these first year 51s can have a larger blue diamond on the clip.  If there is a difference in my pen and a second year, it is slight.

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While I was writing this and restoring the pen, I ran across a very interesting chart on the excellent website ~ vintagepens.com ~ which shows the reason for the desirability of these first year models.  About 2/3 of the way down this page, the sales chart shows both the growing popularity of the Parker 51, and the very low number of pens sold in 1941.  While these are not production numbers, they do shed some light on the relative scarcity of these.

My collection will never be overly populated with Double Jewel 51s, but it is nice to have a first year model and its history, even with a few flaws.

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June 16, 2010 - Posted by | Parker 51, Parker Pen Company | ,

1 Comment »

  1. Now that’s a lovely pen, with my kind of colours.

    Comment by Eric O. Costello | June 18, 2010 | Reply


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