Nib Novice, Part 6 – Vintage Parker 51

This is the sixth part in a series in which I’m learning to use fountain pens. For all the previous installments, click here.

Meet the Parker 51 fountain pen.


First produced in 1941, the Parker 51 would go on to sell tens of millions of units before being discontinued in 1972. It’s possibly the most popular fountain pen ever made, and has a long history to show for it. In the vintage pen world, Parker 51s aren’t particularly rare, and their individual values depend greatly on age, condition, and style. But nevertheless, each one is a classic.

This particular Parker 51 was given to me as Christmas gift last year, but was probably originally produced sometime during the 1950s. However, as I’ve gathered from the wonderful resource page at Richard’s Pens, it can be difficult to nail down a specific production date. Regardless of its exact age, this pen has weathered the decades extremely well; it still writes great, despite a bit of leaking around the nib.

The Parker 51 is obviously designed to be a working man’s pen. It has a professional look, a sturdy clip, and the cap pulls off quickly (as opposed to most of my other fountain pens, which have caps that screw on and off). It also has a hooded nib that allows ink to start flowing quickly. But, above all, my favorite feature is the aerometric filling system.

With this filling system there is a flexible ink sac built into the barrel that acts a lot like a pipette bulb. A small cutout inside the barrel will allow you to compress the sac, squeezing air out of it. With the sac still compressed, all you need to do is dip the nib into a bottle of ink and release the sac – ink will be sucked inside. It’s a very simple mechanism, yet one that is rather unique.


I like this Parker 51. It’s such a classic that every fountain pen enthusiast should probably own one. If it weren’t for that slow nib leak, I’d probably carry this one around with me a lot more. As it stands, I’m a little paranoid about it, but I’m hoping that the problem will be solved by using a different ink. Currently, it’s filled with Noodler’s Black, which looks great but seems a little on the thin side.

Overall, however, I’ve found the vintage fountain pen world to be fairly daunting. There’s really a lot to learn in order to properly become a vintage collector. Still, I’ve had fun getting my feet wet with the Parker 51, and I can easily see myself buying another one someday.



Review: Parker 1M, Ballpoint, 1.0mm


The Parker Pen Company has been making click-style ballpoint pens for more than 60 years, and this 1M model proves they know what they’re doing. It looks and feels good to hold, it’s balanced well, and the thickness makes for a comfortable writing experience. However, there’s one major problem with the 1M ballpoint; the refill is atrocious.

While using the Parker 1M, I have to keep a scratch pad nearby because it takes a few pen strokes to get going. Even then it occasionally skips out in the middle of a sentence, and it always feels a bit sluggish against the paper. I didn’t notice many issues with ink blobs and smearing, but this wasn’t enough to make up for its deficits.


I really do like everything else about the Parker 1M ballpoint. It even has the same hardy retracting mechanism as the Parker Jotter, which I love to “click” incessantly whenever I use it. If you’re willing to spend a little extra money, Parker has a lot of other refill options available. Hopefully I’ll find one that works better than the one included here.


Review: Parker Jotter, Ballpoint Pen, 1.0mm (blue ink)


The Parker Jotter has been around since the 1950s, and it is probably the nearest thing to being the classic click-style pen. It has a durable stainless steel and hard-plastic construction, a light and compact build, and a retracting mechanism that makes one of the most satisfying “clicks” I’ve ever felt. It’s no wonder why Q used the Parker Jotter to build his grenade-pen for James Bond in 1995’s GoldenEye.


The standard refill that currently ships with the Jotter is a 1.0mm, blue-ink ballpoint. Though I personally prefer finer-tipped pens, the Jotter produces a consistent and reliable line, despite having some drag across the paper. Parker also offers a variety of alternative refill options, but you’ll have to find and purchase those separately.

Overall, the Parker Jotter is competent at walking the line between the professional and the pragmatic. It’s small and sturdy enough to throw in a backpack without much thought, but it also has a fairly polished look. It’s in the same category as a pen like the Zebra F-301, but for my money, the Jotter is a much better choice.


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