A brace of Parker 45s

The Prologue

I put an absolute block on myself in September: John, do not buy any more fountain pens. I have bought seven since then, mostly by reflex or to take advantage of a good price. This is about one per month which is a big reduction in my habit anyway.

It is so much easier to buy than to sell. Even the simplest eBay listing with a few photos seems to take ages to construct, but this is what I need to be doing: selling duplicates and those other pens that I might quite like, but are not my favourites. So from now on I shall do comparative reviews of more than one pen where possible to weed out the collection.

Oh, Parker! (Yus, milady?)

Parker pens are well-known in the UK. The many hundreds of W. H. Smith shops around the country stock Parker’s low and mid-range models, hanging in blister packs from uninspiring displays.

The teenage me got one as a birthday present: a heavy black Parker rollerball with gold trim, which was nice, but the clip was delicate and always getting bent out. I got it repaired a couple of times since it came with a lifetime guarantee, but the new clip was never any better so I took to wrapping the clip with thick rubber bands and then the pen got stored in a box with all my other pens and pencils.

My mum lives on the south coast and told me a few years ago that the British Parker factory at Newhaven is being demolished. Now Parkers are only made in the U. S. A. and France. You see what happens when I stop buying them. Parker’s latest innovation is their 5th Technology which looks like a fountain pen but has a fibre tip. At £110 for the cheapest model it’s a gamble for buyers.

The Parker 45 was introduced in 1960. Designed for the economy school market, it has a tiny nib and an innovation: ink cartridges. The story of Parker and this model, including why it was called the 45, is at the comprehensive parkerpens.net (— site found using Pennaquod). Initially all 45s had 14k gold nibs. Later, Octanium steel nibs were used on cheaper models. Production continued until 2007.

Parker 45 x 2

Dirty, dirty

I bought two Parker 45 fountain pens, both made in the U.S.A. One has a medium nib, the other a fine nib. The dark blue pen cost me £18.24, and the stainless steel pen was £14.01, including p&p, from eBay. With patience you could get a better price. Both have a friction-fit cap, a squeeze convertor and the same type of replaceable nib and feed that unscrews from the grip section.

Parker 45 - fine and medium nibs

Problem no. 1 was the steel pen’s nib which did not write. I had to adjust it for flow and alignment, then polish it in accordance with the excellent Pen Habit‘s videos.

Problem no. 2 was the amount of old blue ink left inside the blue pen. Whereas the steel pen flushed out with clean water in a few minutes, the blue pen needed a lot of work and an overnight soak before the water ran clear.

Fuyu-Gaki ink

Since random.org chose an orange red ink for me, I’m expecting this to turn purple during this review! Ink can sometimes be better than water at dissolving old accretions of dye. I filled both pens with Pilot Iroshizuku Fuyu-Gaki ink so I could compare them more easily. This is a really good flowing ink, performing poorly on porous paper (as found in Field Notes or Whitelines notebooks) because of feathering and bleed-through, but on denser paper like Rhodia or Tomoe River it behaves well. The colour really pops in my photos but in actuality it looks a bit darker. I would say it is similar to Diamine Coral.

Parker 45 with Fuyu Gaki ink

 Thumbs Up

I like these pens. Both write smoothly and the ink flow is fine. The steel pen weighs 22g and the plastic 16g. I think I prefer the medium nib which will show off ink shading better, even though I will have to form my script larger to compensate, and I shall unscrew the medium nib and stick it in the steel body. The blue pen will go back on eBay with a fine nib. One down!

Parker 45s by a six inch notebook flanked by a Senator 47, a Pilot Custom and a big old purple Lamy AL-Star.
Parker 45s by a six inch notebook flanked by a Senator 47, a Pilot Custom black stripe and a big old purple Lamy AL-Star.

I haven’t gone into the usual detail because these are “vintage” pens that you cannot buy new—unless as new old stock (NOS)—and eBay buys and their descriptions vary in quality. Cartridge pens are usually a safer bet than piston or lever-fill pens which can need skilled maintenance, and replacement nibs can be found since this pen was common until a few years ago. If you can find a Parker 45 from a well-rated dealer then you can probably go for it. They are nice, reliable pens.

Parker 45s on a Clairefontaine Crok'Book

Music for this review: ‘Ms. 45’ by L7 and ‘My .45’ by Holly Golightly & The Brokeoffs.

 

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