Fountain Pen Restoration

Parker Holy Water Sprinkler

I previously restored an aspergillum in my post of October 12, 2012, Fountain Pen Surprises. That pen was a no name, piston filler. This one is much more familiar, sitting on a Parker 65 body. If you recall, and aspergillums are holy water sprinklers, used by priests during Catholic and Anglican Masses.  These pen versions were likely used visiting the sick in hospitals or homes, or away from the Church in other holy activities.    Parker marketed these also as gifts to be given by Parishioners to their Clergy, especially during the Christmas Holidays.  As also previously mentioned, other major pen companies that produced these were Waterman and Leboeuf.  Parker also produced these as far back as 1935 in the Vacumatic line.

The Parker VP (Very Personal),  was introduced in 1962 and remained in production for a short time, until 1964.    The filler, seen in the first photo below, is a semi aerometric, but actually was placed directly into the holy water and after full, placed into the pen with the black capillary like filler contacting the chalice.  It was also used in early versions of the Parker 65, and was very problematic as the tip was prone to breaking and many pens were sent back for repairs.

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Here is a photo of the filler inserted back into the chalice unit.  I wish I had an actual VP to show the comparison, but alas, I do not.

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The Holy Water Sprinkler measures 5 7/16 inches closed and 6 1/16 posted (photos below).

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The imprint for Reverend Francis M. Valenti.  An internet search reveals that he was a Catholic Priest from the Cleveland, Ohio Diocese during the period this pen was produced.

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Below are two final closeups of the cap barrel jewel and the gold chalice.

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These are somewhat unique, and though not pens, they do sit on a fountain pen base, and form a small niche for collectors.


May 11, 2013 Posted by | Parker Holy Water Sprinkler, Parker Pen Company, Parker VP | , | 1 Comment

Two Wrongs Do Make A Right – Parker Signet

Though I am not an avid Parker 51 collector, I have always wanted to find an all gold example.  This limits the choices to two ~  The Gold Plate Signet/Insignia, or the  Gold Presidential.  As I have yet to win the lottery, my sights have been set on find a Signet / Insignia.  The first question is:  Why do I call this pen by two names.  Without getting into the legal details, it is my understanding that Parker initially named this pen the Signet, and due to this name already being used by another fountain pen, they changed the name to Insignia.  Both were introduced by Parker into their highly successful 51 line of pens in 1949, as aerometric fillers.  I have restored, and written about, many vacumatic and aerometric 51s over the past six years.  Here are a few ~

Double Jewel Parker 51 – April 9, 2010

Black and Gold Parker 51 Vacumatic – September 25, 2008

Final Year For Parker 51 Vacumatics – 1948 – January 15, 2009

Parker 51 First Year Double Jewel – June 16, 2010

Parker 51 Canadian Set – May 9, 2011

As you can see below, it took me a while, but I found two Signet/Insignias.   The first is on the bottom of the photo.  It is was a pen with a very nice cap, clean filling unit and medium nib.  However, the barrel had many, many dents and dings.  I have a fellow pen club member who has the tools to take these out, but he advised that if there are too many and they are deep, the lines of the cap will be compromised when the cap is reworked.  So, I set the pen aside, hoping to find a mate at some point.

Recently, I ran across the perfect match.  The pen on the top of the photo had a close to perfect barrel (with imprint), but a cap with numerous dings and dents.  I brought it home for a very low price, and proceeded to mix and match. Though not the ideal solution, and looked upon negatively by the fountain pen purist, it gave me a very nice looking Signet, and a really bad looking one.


Here is the photo of the final product.  Often called a ” frankenpen”  by collectors, it takes parts from two or more pens to make one.  It suits my purposes, though if I ever resell it, full disclosure would be in order.



The following photo shows the two created pens – the top one being a nice example of a Signet and the bottom, well…a scary example.


Parker also came out with a silver model – the Flighter – at the same time.  Here are the Signet/Insignia and a Flighter from my collection.


The imprint on the barrel – Meta D. O’Connell.  Not much information exists on Meta herself, but she was born into a famous Boston family and was the sister of Lenahan O’Connell.

In an article about her famous brother, it is stated:

“O’Connell, named for his Lenahan grandfather, recalls in a book he wrote about the law firm on its 100th anniversary that his father constantly insisted that his children “always write the words down.” The senior O’Connell believed that the spoken word is all too soon forgotten, “no matter how powerful and eloquent.”

“You must always write them down to keep them from being lost and to ensure they will be preserved for future generations,” the father urged his nine sons and three daughters-Joseph F. Jr., Lenahan, Frederick P, Finbarr, Marisita, Kevin, Brendan, Meta, Lelia, Conleth, Diarmuid, and Aidan. O’Connell’s surviving brother Diarmuid lives in Cohasset.”

Perhaps this pen was used by Meta to “write the words down” as insisted by her father.   In any event, I find it is always interesting to search for the names that I find imprinted on pens from time to time.  You never know what you may learn.  In this example, I was able to follow a story that included a famous Boston legal and political family, including brushes with John Kennedy and Teddy Roosevelt.


I am not an advocate of mixing and matching pen components to create new pens, especially if you can preserve the original pen and parts, but in this example, as long as it is disclosed at any future sale or trade, I have created two usable pens, and one that I will be proud to display.   The bonus is that the acquisition cost is less for both of these pens, than clean example would sell for.

I guess the lesson is that if you are seriously chasing down an elusive pen for your collection and you find an imperfect example, you may want to take it home and wait for the day when another imperfect pen has a different problem, and the parts can be traded out.

April 4, 2012 Posted by | Parker 51, Parker Pen Company, Parker Signet/Insignia | , , | 3 Comments

1946 Silver Pearl Vacumatic Major

A short one this week ~ yet another Vacumatic repair. This time it is a 1946 Silver Pearl Major.

As you can see below, the eleven (11) parts came apart successfully and only two need replacement.

~ Diaphragm

~ Breather Tube

You can see from the first two photos that the breather tube is bent.  In fact, after testing it, it revealed a small crack and it needs to be replaced.  Even with the bend in the tube, I would recommend replacing it, as a leak is not far ahead.  I purchase a long cord of tubing from Woodbin, and it can be cut to the exact size necessary for Vacumatics, 51s, Skylines, and any other pens requiring breather tubes.


Here is a photo of the nib / section / feed and breather tube after all have been cleaned and reassembled.


This pen takes a debutante size diaphragm and I successfully attached it to the plastic speedline filler and inserted the filler back into the barrel after cleaning the barrel thoroughly.  Remember to insert the filler first so that you can scope into the barrel to make sure the diaphragm sits correctly and there are no problems sticking or twisting.  After this is completed the nib unit can be screwed back in.  The pen measures 5″ capped and 5 5/16″ posted.


Here is the finished product, a clean example of a 1946 Vac Major in Silver Pear, with nice transparency ~ a pen produced near the end of the Vacumatic run.


November 14, 2011 Posted by | Parker Pen Company, Parker Vacumatic | , | 1 Comment

Parker Canadian 51 Set

This set came to me in a trade for some extra parts that I had in my possession.  I was interested in this particular set because it is a Canadian one and the gold caps are in quite good shape.  You can see from the photo below that there is one small ding in the pen cap, but that everything else seems to be in order.


I first started with the pencil.  Vacumatic pencils were rotary pencils, meaning the cap is twisted to load the lead and to expel new supplies.  I used 0.9mm black lead in this pencil and it is ready to go.  I polished the cap and cone with metal polish and then cleaned up the pencil body with a combination of scratch remover, polish and wax.

The pen presented no particular problems other than the need for a new diaphragm and general clean up.  I thoroughly cleaned all of the parts above, paying particular attention to the barrel and any stray pieces of the old diaphragm that always seem to stubbornly stick to the barrel, just inside the top where the vac filler sits.  The breather tube, another problem area, was in good shape with no cracks or  holes.   The nib was a pleasant surprise as it is probably a medium, which is always a nice find as so many of these vintage 51s have fine nibs.  I used a debutante sized diaphragm on this 51 and the re-installation went well.  I polished the cap and nib with metal polish and the barrel, cap, and hood with scratch remover/polish/ and wax.  The blue diamond (which I failed to capture above) was devoid of its blue coloring. To replace this, I use Testor’s Enamel Model Paint Number 110 – Blue. I dip a pin into the paint and get a small amount on the pin head. I then touch the pin head in the diamond and the small amount usually fills the diamond perfectly without spreading over the edges. The resulting pen and pencil set is below.


The date code is located on the barrel, at the point where it meets the trim ring and the hood.  It reads



Thus, the pen is a Dove Grey Canadian made set from 1946.  You can see from these photos that the pencil has discolored (the last photo in the box is the most accurate).  This is attributed to the fact that they were made from different materials.  The pens were made of Lucite and the pencils were made of Celluloid.  The celluloid has not stood up as well over time.  These Dove Grey pencils tend to turn darker and greenish.


Referencing the excellent book on Parker 51s ~ Parker 51, by David and Mark Shepherd – gives some background on the box that this set came in.  It was a designed by Robert Gruen and Associates of New York during the 1940s for Parker 51 sets.  Another Gruen presentation box appears in my post of April 9, 2010 – Double Jewel Parker 51.  This box is a little different in that it is a lighter faux leather and designed for single jewel models.


The photo below is the best representation of the color difference between the pen and the pencil of this set.  Aside from discoloration of the pencil, this is an excellent set and representation of Canadian Vacumatics for a collection.


May 9, 2011 Posted by | Parker 51, Parker Pen - Canada, Parker Pen Company | , | 1 Comment

1946 Vacumatic Junior

It has been quite some time between Vacumatic repairs. They are one of my favorite pens to work on, and I enjoy writing with them as well. So, when this one showed up on my workbench, I jumped at the chance.  I decided to label the parts this time as I often get questions about the parts I am referring to and this is a good point of reference.  This photo is of the parts after the pen has been taken apart and before I started to clean and repair.   You can see that the later generation plastic filler still has some of the old diaphragm attached and I had not yet taken out the pellet.

I will take each part and describe what needs to be done ~

Clip – Polish with metal polish.  These later third generation vacs have no blue diamond.  For clips with blue diamonds that have worn, you can carefully repaint them (if that is your desire) with Testor’s 1110 or 1111 enamel blue paints.

Clip Screw/Jewel – Clean thoroughly.  Polish the end jewel.

Cap – Clean inside and out.  The inside will very often be coated with old ink and this needs to be removed, especially from the inside threads.  Polish the cap band(s) with metal polish.  The barrel can be cleaned with scratch remover and then polished.  I use Pentiques polishes.  You can see that there was quite a bit of build up under the clip of this pen.  I first removed the crud with my fingernail and then polished with a dremel at low speed.

Barrel – Cleaning the inside of the barrel is very important on vacumatics.  All remnants of the old diaphragm need to be scraped from the end of the barrel.  Even if you think they are gone, it is a good idea to recheck with a small light and magnifier to make certain.  Once that is done, clean the inside by placing in an ultrasonic cleaner and using q tips to remove any old ink.  Clean the outside with scratch remover and polish.

Filler – This one is a plastic speedline filler.  Other earlier fillers are metal speedline and lockdown.  Previous vacumatic posts (see blogroll at right) will have photos of these.  The process is the same for all fillers.  Make sure that you scrape all of the old diaphragm from the filler.  The tricky part is to remove the old diaphragm pellet from the pellet cup on the end of the filler.  This can be done by digging it out with a small pin or drilling it out.  The important thing to remember is too be very careful not to damage the pellet cup.  Doing this will render the filler useless. Attach new debutante size diaphragm and test.  Previous vacumatic posts have described this process.

Blind Cap – Clean and polish.

Breather Tube – clean insides thoroughly and test.

Feed – Clean out the channels and wipe off any residual ink.

Section – Clean inside of section with water and q tip, removing all residual ink.

Nib – 14K can be cleaned with polish and/or ultrasonic cleaner and jewelers cloth.   Be careful of earlier two tone nibs not to remove any silver wash. It is probably better to leave these as found.


Below is a photo of the section/feed/nib/breather tube assembly.  Note the feed sticking out of the section.  This is not preferable and needs to be corrected.  Underneath this is the completed filler unit and attached diaphragm.


The filler unit is first reinserted into the barrel end using a vac tool, and once seated, is tested to make sure it is sitting properly.  I shine a light in the nib end of the barrel and push the plastic end in and out and observe the pellet and how the diaphragm is flexing.  I then place my tongue on the nib end of the barrel and press the filler in and out to test for suction.  Assuming all is well, and after brushing my teeth :), I screw the nib assembly into the barrel from the front end.  The rest of the parts can now be assembled   After the pen is fully assembled, I usually give it one last polish.  Wax is optional at this point.  It protects the pen to some extent, but some people do not like the feel of a pen that has carnuba wax on it.

Here is the completed pen – a 1946 Parker Vacumatic Junior – measuring 5 inches closed and 5 7/8 inches posted.  The black color version has a semi clear barrel that really looks great after it has been cleaned out.  When ink is added, it is easy to keep track of the supply.



Here is  a close up of the imprint.  The darker color on the right side is the diaphragm on the inside of the barrel.   The 6 denotes the 4th quarter of 1946, placing this pen later in the Vacumatic period, and about the time that Parker 51s were overtaking vacs in the Parker pen lines.


This is not an example of a highly collectible Vacumatic, but certainly a clean crisp example that will be usable for years to come.

March 23, 2011 Posted by | Parker Pen Company, Parker Vacumatic | , , | Leave a comment

Parker Softball Pen

Prototype ~ a name that pen collectors get very excited about. I am skeptical that this is one – I just think it is a pen put together for a Softball Team sponsored by Parker in Janesville, WI in 1971. I purchased it at my local pen club. One of the members brought a friend who had inherited a collection of pens from his father who worked for Parker in Janesville. There were numerous pens from this time period and a gold mine of Jotter Ball Points. I was drawn to this one as I have a soft spot for imprints and this one even has the Pen Company name.

There is no restoration necessary on this pen other than some general clean up. Here is the mystery pen taken apart.  The nib unit on this pen screws out of the section, but I did not thread it all the way out as it did not require cleaning.  I simply tested it to see if it was a screw out unit.


As you can see above, the pen is simple cartridge / converter style.  Its uniqueness comes from a few items –

~ The clear ring that sits on the section, between the cap and the silver trim ring.  It can house piece of paper, presumably with the owners name.

~ A very large and unique clip, that I really like and have not seen on other Parker Pens, still with a narrow arrow down the middle.

~ A large studded gripping area on the section above the nib.


The nib is very reminiscent of a Parker 45 nib – semi – hooded.  As mentioned above, it screws out, as do the 45 nib units to allow for interchanging to fit the nib style the owner prefers. I have never seen one of these before and even though it is not a valuable pen, I enjoy its historical significance, remembering a time when Parker still made pens in Wisconsin.


As I mentioned, this pen reminds me in several respects of a Parker 45.   Below are photos of a Teal Blue 45 and this pen next to each other.  You can see that the 45 is a bit longer and narrower, with a section that matches the  barrel.  The Parker 45 was produced by Parker between 1960 and 2006, an extremely long run for this pen, aimed at the budget minded and school markets.    The differences are several, including the length, width, barrel end, clip, and grip section.  The 45 measures 5 3/8 inches closed and 5 3/4 inches posted and the “Softball Team Pen” measures 5 inches closed and 5 1/2 inches posted.


Here are two Parker 45s from my collection that show the difference in the sections and similarities of the nibs, though the 45s have gold nibs.  You will note that the Flighter version of the 45 has a black section while the Teal has a section that matches the barrel.  All three have the PARKER imprint on the cap below the arrow, as seen below.


So, what is this pen?  I honestly don’t know.  My guess is that it is a pen thrown together for the softball team(s) of the 1971 season.  Whether it was a prototype for another pen or a variant of the 45, I do not know.  Perhaps one of the Parker experts out there can chime in and offer a solution to this puzzle.  In the meantime, I will just enjoy using it.

Note:  Please see comment below from John regarding this pen and that it was a test marketed School Pen.  Thank you to John for sharing his insight.

December 3, 2010 Posted by | Parker 45, Parker Pen Company | , | 4 Comments

Parker 51 From Alabama

This pen came to me from a pen friend in Alabama who has done a remarkable bit of research on Artcraft Fountain Pen History.  He stumbled upon a Parker 51 in an Antique Store and could not pass up the great deal for this vacumatic fill model.  I did not take this photo until after I had cleaned the parts a bit.  You can tell by the clear collector – they never look like this…

One part jumps out – the cap.  It is clearly a replacement.  You can not see the cap jewel, but it is black and I suspect that somewhere along the line this Parker 51 Special Cap was put substituted.  I contacted my friend and offered to replace it with a spare cap that would be closer to the correct cap.  He agreed and now I have an extra 51 Special Cap that I did not have before.  One never knows when it might come in handy.

You can see that the components are all in good condition and a simple restoration awaits.


I polished the nib and scraped the inside of the barrel until I was certain there were no remaining remnants of the old diaphragm.  After I was certain that all of the parts were cleaned and polished I turned to the vacumatic filler unit and trimmed a debutante sized diaphragm and installed it into the filler.  I was lucky with this one as the old pellet had split up and was easily removed.  Once the diaphragm was cemented to the filler and allowed to dry, I inserted the filler back into the barrel and made sure that the seat was a good one and there was plenty of suction.  Then the feed and breather tube were inserted into the collector followed by the nib.  This was then fit back into the barrel and the hood was screwed back on – carefully making sure that it lined up correctly with the nib.  I tested the pen with water and it filled up – held water – and expelled it correctly.

Below is the pen after completion with a new cap.  I really like gold caps with India Black bodied 51s.  The cap is a “transitional” cap.  These appeared on Vacumatic 51s after 1947, toward the end of Vacumatic production and the introduction of the Aerometric 51 in 1949 ~ thus the term “transitional”   I have no way of knowing if this is the correct cap for this pen as the date code is worn off the barrel, but it looks nice.  It is a much better fit than the cap shown in the first photo above.  As I mentioned, I believe this to be a 51 Special Cap.  Parker began to produce a budget minded 51 in 19500 called the Special.  Without going into a lot of detail, one of the things that set this pen apart from the more expensive 51 was that it had an Octanium nib (in lieu of gold) and a smooth lustraloy cap with a black jewel.  I have a few of these in my collection and the cap above is definitely a Special cap.  So, the substitution is a step up.  It is not a Blue Diamond 51 Cap, but I did not have a clean one of those available.


Here is the pen uncapped.  The nib appears to be a fine.


So, the pen is done and on its way back to Alabama – in a little better shape than when it was found – ready to use.

September 9, 2010 Posted by | Parker 51, Parker Pen Company | , | 1 Comment

1941 Vacumatic Maxima

In my post of October 13, 2008 I wrote about a 1942 Vacumatic Maxima that I restored and sent the nib to Greg Minuskin to be stubbed and repaired. This past weekend I restored a similar pen – a 1941 (2nd Qtr) Golden Pearl Vacumatic Maxima.

As you can see from the picture below, this one needed an extra dose of tender loving care. I am not sure why the nib is stained the way it is – perhaps it was stored in an almost-empty ink bottle for a while. When I took it apart, the diaphragm was nothing more than crumbs. These are the best pens to work on as they often (though not always) yield the biggest surprises and the most satisfaction. That is, if there are not further major problems under the surface.

Some problems that can arise with vacs are troublesome – broken diaphragms (which can be solved by searching through the parts bin ), or worse – a cracked barrel, which will prevent the vacumatic seal necessary to operate the filling system. Again, solvable, but not without a substitute part or resealing the crack or hole.

Fortunately, this grungy looking pen had nothing lurking to prevent a clean restoration.


I grabbed a diaphragm and installed it in the old speedline filler after taking out the old pellet. Pellet removal (covered in previous posts) can take several minutes if not drilled out. Fortunately, this took about 10 seconds as the old pellet was extremely brittle. So, the new diaphragm was installed on the filler. The nib / breather tube / section / feed all cleaned up easily with my new (yes I bought a new one) ultrasonic cleaner. The barrel cleaned up to the best transparency I have seen in an old vacumatic. The clip unit is in great shape and the blue diamond is clean.

After reassembly, here is the pen.


To complete the good news, the nib is a nice medium with lots of iridium left. Finally, I prefer this pen to the Vac in my October 13, 2008 post as it has a jeweled blind cap. Double Jewels just look better to me.


August 17, 2010 Posted by | Parker Pen Company, Parker Vacumatic | , | 5 Comments

Three Pencils Just For Fun

Occasionally, I cover pencils in my restorations.  Often times they come as part of a set, as I have covered in articles about Parker 51,, Parker Vacumatic, Striped Duofold, and Sheaffer sets.   As a fountain pen collector, you constantly run across vintage mechanical pencils in your searches and they are frustratingly more common than the pens we covet.  I usually resist the temptation to clutter up my pen case with pencils, but when they are available for a very low price, it is hard to resist.  The three pencils that I restored this week were all found at less than a dollar apiece, so I could not resist.  They came in varying conditions – two completed sets, and one has an interesting story and interior.

The first photo below is of the simple opening of all three.  All were mechanically sound, but a bit dirty and without lead.


The first pencil I cleaned up is a very clean example of a Sheaffer brown striped pencil with a military clip.  This would seem to place it in the World War II time period of the early 1940s.  It measures 5 1/8 inches and takes 0.9 mm pencil leads.  The lead is inserted and then fed using a twist motion of the barrel and cap.  What is nice about this pencil is the wide 14K band.  There is a clear area of the band that was available for signature or initial of the owner.  This pencil’s was left blank. As you can see from the top photo, the eraser is old and dried up.  It can be lifted and there is room for spare pencil lead. I cleaned the eraser and inserted an ample supply of 0.9mm lead.


I do no know what the corresponding pen is for this pencil.  My guess is that it has a larger signature band than the two brown striped military clip models that I have.

The photo below is of two pens from my collection, both Sheaffer lever filling Balance models from the early 1940s.  Not a perfect match, but close.


The second pencil is a mid 1930s Vacumatic Junior Pencil, made in Canada, based on the imprint.  You can see from the topmost photo that the largest issue with this pencil is the pitted tip.  I worked long and hard to try to clean this up and the best I could do is the result below.  It measures 4 5/8 inches and also advances lead and is filled by twisting the cap and barrel in opposite directions.  It takes a much larger lead – using a 1.15mm lead.


Below is a photo of this pencil with a 1935 Vacumatic Junior that I restored in a June 20, 2008 article.  I had restored a similar US made pencil to pair with this pen in a previous pencil article, so this will be a user pencil and the other, which is in great shape, will stay with the pen.


The final pencil is a bit of an oddity and just for fun.   There is no corresponding fountain pen, but a bit of history that actually fits in with some fountain pen history.

The vintage mechanical pencil below is a Ritepoint Pencil.  On the pencil it indicates that Ritepoint is in St. Louis, Missouri.  Google searches of Ritepoint generate many interesting mechanical pencils with all sorts of advertising twists.

First, the particulars of this pencil.  It measures 5 5/8 inches long and the lead (it takes 0.9mm lead) advances and is filled by holding the point and twisting the full barrel.  You can see from the first photo above that the barrel pulls apart to reveal a large eraser and small lead storage area.  The clip reads Ritepoint, and underneath there appears a list of Patents.


I researched the patents and they are below.  Clicking on each will take you to the Patent Summary and Drawings.

Osborne Balanced Pencil

Lipic Ornamental Device

Lipic Ornamental Device II

Here is a copy of the Lipic Ornamental Device drawing from 1941.  In the abstract they refer to inserting an image, symbol, or advertising device in the top of the pen to be viewed through the window at the top of the pencil.


My pencil was fortunately not used in their diagrams, appearing after the patent process.  I am not certain what Mr. Dow was promoting, but suspect it was just a pencil (New Peek Pencil) that was a novelty and could be used to promote a business or product.  Research indicates that the Louis F. Dow Company was a large National Promotional firm that produced all types of articles such as pens and calendars to promote businesses.  They were known to use  models such as the one in this  pencil for these promotions.   Before anyone sends emails about content, I can assure you that Miss Negligee is fully clothed.  The photos below are a bit hazy as it was difficult to get my camera to take a photo through the small hole.




An interesting tidbit that I learned about Ritepoint / St. Louis (the maker of the pencil)  when researching the patents is that they were associated with the Lipic family in some way.  I am sure that the St. Louis collectors out there know the connection, but the patents for both Ritepoint Pencils and Lighters carry the Lipic name as you can see above.  I have already discussed Lipic Pens in an article on The Radium Point Pen, dated January 22, 2009.  Further information on the Lipic Company can be found there.

Ritepoint pencils, as mentioned above, came in many different styles, with floating scenes, personalities, and perpetual calendars.  The ones I have seen, including this one, are very well made, and continue to be very functional today.  Here is a link to another Ritepoint review from a very good Mechanical Pencil blog that I check out regularly ~ Dave’s Mechanical Pencils … Ritepoint.

Sorry for the diversion again into pencils.  Once and a while it is fun to pick up a few and get them working again.   Not all of us can do a Crossword Puzzle with a fountain pen, can we?

July 7, 2010 Posted by | Lipic Fountain Pens, Parker Pen Company, Parker Vacumatic, Ritepoint Mechanical Pencils, Sheaffer, Vintage Mechanical Pencils | , , , | 1 Comment

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.


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.


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


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.


While I was writing this and restoring the pen, I ran across a very interesting chart on the excellent website ~ ~ 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.

June 16, 2010 Posted by | Parker 51, Parker Pen Company | , | 1 Comment

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