An Easter weekend of Gold, Frankenpens and Mirth. Rediscovering the Parker Urban fountain pen.

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Parker Urban mash-up.

This holiday weekend, I spent Saturday in Colchester visiting family. There was also time to explore the town centre for pen shops. The best option seems to be the Fenwick department store, (formerly Williams & Griffins) in the High Street, with gleaming glass counters including Cross, Waterman, Parker and Mont Blanc and a revolving rack of Lamys. I witnessed the sale of a Waterman Hemisphere as I bobbed around the nearby glass cabinets but did not make any purchases.

In the evening after a meal with my sister’s family, (always accompanied by much laughter) I sat with my neice who tried out my Pilot Falcon and who, being right-handed and having a natural flair for calligraphy, was able immediately to produce beautiful script from its soft flexy gold nib, far better than any of my efforts. Some of her pieces are on Instagram at simple_inkings (although she might change that name, in case people think it is for tattoos).

Back in London for Easter Day, which coincided with April Fools’ Day, I found a picture of Brian Goulet on Instagram with the caption “In the strangest move yet…Brian switches to Ballpoints!” I was not fooled by that.

Checking out our local Rymans, to see whether anything new had appeared on the pen shelves, I found  reductions on low-end Parkers, with 50% off the Parker Vector. (Annoyingly I had paid full price there for the new teal version just two weeks ago, although it is a great match for my Robert Oster Signature “Aqua” ink!)

Scanning the shelves, I noticed the Parker Urban, reduced from £32.99 to £14.99 and now to £7.49. This is not a pen that I am keen on, but figuring that this amounted to more than 75% off, I decided that a brushed stainless steel model might be useful. I do think the ergonomic, contoured barrel is ugly and find that the Vector-type steel nibs can be hit or miss, so that buying one is a bit of a gamble. The blister packs do not enable you to examine the nib before purchase. I had bought an Urban a few years ago in matte black and had to work at the nib to get an adequate ink flow.

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Parker Urban (left) and Parker Vector (right).

Deciding that for the price, it was a no brainer and worth the risk, I made my purchase and went off to  give it a try in a nearby coffee shop.  I found the production date code on the cap band, IIA, (second quarter of 2012), so this pen had been languishing somewhere for up to six years before finding me. (Conversely, my teal Vector was IIIE: first quarter of 2018 and still warm from the factory!)

Initial impressions from the brushed stainless steel Urban were mixed. The nib looked to be decent on close inspection. The pen was a reasonable length when opened (125mm) but the cap posts securely for extra length, which I prefer. I do not find it a very comfortable pen to hold. It does have a much less skinny section than the Vector, but there is still a rather sharp step down from the barrel to the section, just where my fingers want to go.

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The Parker Urban medium nib. The groove in the housing is an ink trap if bottle-filling.

I shoved in the supplied blue Quink cartridge. (Yes, flushing the section first might have been more sensible). I love it when you put a cartridge in a new pen and it writes immediately. This did not happen and it took an age before it would write anything, with much shaking and squeezing of the cartridge (and fear of splitting it) before it finally started to flow. Fortunately, it did then write pretty well, with the rounded medium nib being quite smooth in all directions. Given time to wear in, I think it will prove to be a good basic writer. Also, the cap passed my “blow test” for air-tightness, and so I hope that the nib will not suffer from dry-out when left capped and unused for a day or two. If you have one with a good nib and can tolerate the design, then it is quite a durable workhorse and, having a metal construction, will not suffer from cracking of the barrel or cap as can happen with a Vector or Reflex.

At home I got out the matte black Parker Urban that I had bought a few years earlier. I had never really taken to it and it had seen little use. It then occurred to me to borrow the matte black barrel to put on my new brushed stainless steel pen to make a Frankenpen mash-up, of black barrel with brushed stainless steel cap. This was an improvement, IMHO, both when capped and when posted, (in a Parker 51 sort of way) and so this is how I propose to use it, for the time being. Also, I will try some nice bottled ink once the Quink blue cartridge is finished.

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Parker Urban in brushed stainless steel with barrel from a matte black version.

One email this weekend, which was not an April Fool joke I hope, advised of a discount code on Bureau Direct’s online orders to receive a 15% discount, on anything, so long as you order before Tuesday! It so happened that I had been deliberating whether to treat myself to the Lamy Dialog 3, which I had seen on their web site. In fact I had been watching YouTube reviews just the previous day! Having been tempted now by several favourable reviews and with the timely added incentive of the discount, and being in holiday mood, I pulled the trigger on the Dialog 3, in glossy piano black with a Medium 14k gold nib. My experience of Lamy Safari and AL-star medium nibs is that they have been very pleasant, (smooth, if rather firm) and I hope for even more smoothness from the Dialog but with a little softness too. I am now looking forward to its arrival and pondering which ink to try first.

Happy Easter everyone.

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9 thoughts on “An Easter weekend of Gold, Frankenpens and Mirth. Rediscovering the Parker Urban fountain pen.

  1. This was great, and you saw some great deals there!

    Colchester? Wow, memories. I worked on the lions, tigers and bears as a keep at Colchester Zoo for a (short while), then lived near there for a few years (Tollesbury, later Stanway), before we emigrated to Canada. There are some nice little tea shoppes in the older part of Colchester… or there were circa 2005/2008.

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    1. Thank you! Small world. Colchester Zoo is still going strong. I have been visiting the town all my life as I had grandparents there, and now other relatives. Yes there are some nice traditional tea shops and half timbered buildings there still.

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    1. Thank you! I have much enjoyed your recent posts on retractables. I am sure that I will enjoy the size and heft of the Dialog 3. The unique design and mechanism are impressive and I do like gadgets!

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    1. From what I have read it sounds a lot of fun. My only hesitation was whether to go for a fine or medium nib, and I landed on the side of medium in the end. Am not sure quite what packaging it will have or whether it has ink windows and a cleaning tool. Time will tell. 😊

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    1. Thank you. Yes, I think it looked better in black with a shiny silver cap. Unfortunately I did not really take to it. The little step where I hold the pen was uncomfortable and the writing performance not especially exciting.

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