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Thread: The Ups and Downs of a Parker 51

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    Default The Ups and Downs of a Parker 51

    Thirteen years ago I bid on an Ebay pen and pencil set that only had a blurry photo. There were no other bidders but I recognized the item as a Parker 51, so I bid on it and got the set for $13. It turned out to be a 1947 Vacumatic. The diaphragm was not functional, so I sent it to a well-known restorer who specialized in this model and had it fixed for a very reasonable price. The restorer thought it was so good that he offered to buy it from me for a generous price instead of my paying for the repair, but I opted to get the pen back.

    The pen wrote extremely well but I don't like to stick to a single pen and I eventually became frustrated at how long it took to drain out all the ink from the 51's collector if I wanted to give it a rest and use something else. The eventual result was that it sat in a drawer for around a decade and probably was not rinsed out as clean as it should have been.

    Just a few days ago I was curious about it and tried to use it again but there is evidence of a damaged diaphragm. Pressing the plunger creates no bubbles and there is leakage out of the place the plunger goes into the pen. So, the diaphragm apparently disintegrated or ruptured over the decade of non-use.

    I don't want this to happen again if I have it repaired again. By the way, repair costs are now double what I paid 13 years ago, but I'm sure that's par for the course. I think I'll either go for a new repair or try to sell the set. I'll need a good method for keeping it in good shape if I opt to keep it.

    Any ideas?


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    Default Re: The Ups and Downs of a Parker 51

    It's just a fact of the life of a vacumatic that the diaphragms need attention more often than e.g. aerometrics or any other pen with a sac or piston. I personally like the vacs better for their writing quality, but maybe that's just due to a small sample space. I do have a "hybrid" 51, with an aerometric filler but a vac -type feed and breather tube, and it writes, in my sense of it, like a vac.
    Anyway, bottom line is that if you plan to use vacumatic pens, just go to pentooling.com and get yourself the tools and parts and just do it yourself. It's not that hard.

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    welch (April 10th, 2024)

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    Default Re: The Ups and Downs of a Parker 51

    I think that replacing a 51 Vac diaphragm runs about $40 now. A P-51 goes for close to $100 on Ebay, depending on whether someone has had it renovated and tuned. Maybe another $50 or $75. The pens that collectors want, of course, run much more.

    Ah, Indy Pen Dance lists the 51 Vac at $55 to clean, replace parts, etc. I'm a bit behind the times.

    https://indypendance.com/pages/restorations

    And see Parker51.Com for refurbished and tested 51s.

    https://parker51.com/index.php/for-sale/51s-for-sale/

    You were lucky -- no, LUCKY -- to find a P-51 for $13. Keep it. Maybe get a P-51 aerometric to change inks quickly, or a cartridge / converter, like the Parker 75, if you want to change inks more quickly.

    When I was a kid, with my first Parker, an original P-45, we did not change inks. I used Shaeffer's washable black and blue-black from 7th grade until I graduated high school. Most people had one fountain pen, and used the same ink over and over. I bough ink bottles in my local drug-store, where the choice was Parker of Sheaffer, Quink or Skrip. We wrote for school, all the time, in black, blue-black, and blue. My sister-in-law was sent home from high school, in the late 1970s, for using Sheaffer's Peacock Blue. "Not acceptable in THIS school, young lady!".

    Even now, I range from blue to blue-black, from Monteverde Ocean Noir or Diamine Oxford Blue up to Iroshizuku Asa-Gao. Just can't find a use for all the shades of all the colors now available. Just now, my favorites are Quink permanent blue, Parker Penman Sapphire / Scribe Indigo, Monteverde Horizon Blue.

    It's no problem to shift from one shade of blue to another in the same pen. And, no, I don't use Noodler's inks.
    Last edited by welch; April 10th, 2024 at 03:04 PM.

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    Default Re: The Ups and Downs of a Parker 51

    This is the way things ended up. I did have the P-51 vac serviced and the charge was $40 for a new diaphragm plus celluloid pellet cup. The charge was not so annoying, but the round-trip postage of $20, i.e. half the repair bill, did annoy me, bringing the outlay up to $60. I figured I'd give it another chance. If it breaks again, I'll just keep it as a souvenir. I mostly wanted to own a vac since I have lot of aerometric pens of different types. While the pen was being serviced I accidentally discovered that the Wing Sung 601 is a close copy of the P-51 vac. The usual price is around $20, but I found it on sale for a total of $8, including postage and tax, a deal I couldn't resist.

    So, I now own two vacs: my original repaired 1947 vac and the new Wing Sung 601 vac. I'm only using the latter for now since the 601 is easy to open and clean without special tools, in contrast to the real Parker. Actually, the only thing about the real Parker that I like much better is the gold nib. The steel nib on the Wing Sung is not as good, but works OK and is serviceable. I'm not sure where I go from here. When I'm tired of the new vac, I'll give the old one a try. The advice from the repair shop is to always keep it full of ink and renew the ink on a regular basis, like once a week. I never did that and I'm not sure I like the idea when there are weeks that I use a pen very little. But, I really can't complain. It's my fault that I accumulated 20 some odd decent fountain pens, although I'm often happy to keep using the same pen for months on end.

    Thanks for your comments. If anyone wonders about where I got both of my repairs, it was parker51.com, I have repaired Sheaffer Touchdowns with sacs but I didn't want to buy the tools for servicing the P-51 because I only plan to own that one and it didn't seem worth it to buy a special wrench, shellac, and heat treat the section. All these things don''t require any effort on the Wing Sung 601 and that's the one I'll service if need be.
    Last edited by rff000; April 13th, 2024 at 09:51 PM.

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    Default Re: The Ups and Downs of a Parker 51

    I got the Wing Sung about two years ago. Liked it so much that I bought a few more, at less than $20 each. It was fun to open up: everything fits together logically, and in a way that is easy to understand. I got some of the upturned nibs. They were handy when I found a couple bottles of Parker's Super Chrome, the revised version of the heavily saturated Parker 51 Ink from the mid-40s ("Write Dry with Wet Super Chrome Ink!"). Super Chrome was found to destroy the silver breather tube in a P-51, so we are warned not to use it. I dedicated a couple of Wing Sungs to Super Chrome Blue-Black and Turquoise Blue just to try Super Chrome, but both inks have lost their "zing" over the last 70 years.

    I keep writing with the Parker Vac 51s I have because the Parker nibs are so much better.

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