Nine years with the Parker Frontier fountain pen.

There are several reasons for my writing about this pen today:

  1. I have been looking through my accumulation and rediscovering pens which are like old friends.
  2. I added an Index of Pen Posts to the blog menu recently and noticed that this is a worthy pen not covered before.
  3. I thought that it was coming up to ten years since I bought the pen, although it turns out to be nine.

Background

I bought this pen at Rymans, our local stationers in May 2011. It cost £22.99 normally but there was a discount of £6.00, which was a bonus. I had some previous experience with other versions from the Frontier range. I used the plastic barrelled ones for registering weddings at our church, a duty that I had taken on a few years earlier. I had liked it, as a plain and simple but respectable pen, for use with iron gall ink.

Parker Frontier, in stainless steel with gold coloured nib and clip.

The story of the Parker Pen Company is a long one and dates back to 1888. This particular pen bears the production date code E which denotes the year 2008, (using the “QUALITYPEN” system with Q being a year ending with zero). The cap also states that it was made in the UK which would be from the Newhaven site, which was to close in 2011.

Make and Model name shown here…
and the place and date of production.

Thus at the time of manufacturing this particular pen in 2008, Parker had a history of 120 years. Apparently, this milestone was celebrated with a souvenir DVD of the company’s history, a copy of which was given to all the employees at the Newhaven site along with a twin set of a Parker Frontier fountain pen and ball pen. The Parker film (about 51 minutes long) on 120 years of Parker, can be viewed on YouTube. It is somewhat dated now but gives an interesting insight into the company’s origins in Janesville, Wisconsin, the introduction of the Duofold, the vacumatic and the Parker 51, the management buyout, visits by dignitaries including Margaret Thatcher and culminating in the production of 40 million pens a year.

The Frontier was to fill a place in the market at the lower end of the Parker range, sitting above the Vector but below the Sonnet. I remember reading a number of reviews of the pen on Amazon at the time. I was very happy with mine and it became my main pen, for several years.

Construction and design

My model has the brushed stainless steel barrel and cap with a gold coloured pocket clip and cap finial. Some people do not like “mixing their metals” but I liked the gold and silver colours together, (a feature which Cross calls “the medalist”). Parker did also make a version with all-silver coloured fittings which was the model that SBRE Brown owned and reviewed and with which he wrote his final exams in high school.

There is no cap ring. The rim of the cap is quite sharp but sits almost flush with the barrel when the pen is capped. It also posts deeply and securely. The length is around 131mm capped, 123mm uncapped and 149mm posted. Despite the steel body, it weighs only around 22g in all, or 14g uncapped.

The barrel seems to be made from a single piece of steel and has no seams, and has a rounded end like a bullet. When capped the pen feels very robust and protected, encased in steel.

The nib is stainless steel but on my version, has a gold colour plating or coating, matching the arrow clip and bears the name Parker and logo. The nib grade can be seen on the feed as M for medium.

Nicely finished nib.

The black grip section is slightly tapered with no facets but features a non-slip surface. This is not a rubber grip, but a thin skin giving a slightly sticky feel. This does eventually blister unfortunately.

Nib and feed unscrewed. Grip section showing blistering of the non-slip coating.

The pen takes Parker proprietary cartridges or a Parker converter although not included with the pen.

With Parker Quink cartridge.

I enjoyed mine and used it a lot. The nib wrote very smoothly with good flow, showing how good a steel nib can be when set up correctly. The nib and feed can be unscrewed for cleaning or maintenance.

Likes and dislikes

This seems a fairly straight-forward pen but one which presumably benefited from Parker’s 120 years’ experience of nib and feed design. It looks smart, is sturdy and durable (apart from the covering on the section) and is comfortable to hold. Being able to unscrew the nib and feed is a nice feature. Above all, it writes smoothly and well with good flow. Mine is currently inked with Waterman Serenity Blue.

Writing sample, with Serenity Blue on Radley notebook paper. Extract from John Milton.

On the downside, the tendency of the non-slip coating to wear and blister eventually leaves unsightly gaps. I would prefer a grip section without the rubbery layer, such as on the Sonnet or Duofold.

Conclusions

This pen has seen a fair amount of use. Later, I was to move on to a Parker Sonnet, in burgundy. That also had a steel nib which performed similarly but a more luxurious body.

I went through my secondary school days using Parker pens and grew up believing that a Parker pen was special. After my Sonnet, as I began to discover the fountain pen online community, online pen dealers, YouTube reviewers, and pen shows, my pen accumulating gathered pace. It escalated for a good five years or so. However it is nice to revisit our beginnings once in a while to keep a sense of perspective. Anyone can buy a new pen but to have one for nine years, takes a little longer.

The final Frontier (photo).

4 thoughts on “Nine years with the Parker Frontier fountain pen.

  1. I enjoyed reading this review- especially as it brought back memories of my Parker pen which I used throughout school The sight of those proprietary Parker cartridges was also a “Proustian” moment. I don’t think I still have my school pen but I shall have a look now, spurred on by your article!

    I also liked the rather stentorious Milton quote- at least it avoided the “quick brown fox” mantra which I do find really tedious in pen reviews…

    I look forward to reading about more “golden oldies” from your collection!

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  2. Many thanks for reading and I am glad that the piece brought back some memories for you! Yes, we all remember those Parker cartridges with the “tap tank” at the top.
    Since writing this post, I found out some more details online about my particular version of Frontier. According to one Parker enthusiast site that I found, this was called the Parker Frontier Flighter GT (there being a Gold Trim version and also an ST, silver trim). Apparently the plating was 50% gold and 50% titanium, a coating that they called Diamonite. Not bad for a twenty pound pen.
    Also, after reading some threads on FPN about the wear on the grip section, I simply scraped off the non-slip material easily with my thumb nail and it now looks better I think, and cleaner, as it was a dust magnet.
    Yes, you can’t go wrong with bit of Milton. This was from the opening lines of his sonnet “On the late Massacre in Piedmont”.

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  3. I’ve got a couple of Frontier fountain pens, one that is around 20 years old in brushed chrome with a gold tone (Diamonite) clip & nib (the Flighter version), and one that is a year or so old in matte black w/GT furniture and nib. The older pen has developed an annoying cap rattle, something the pre-2012 Frontier pens are famous for.

    Parker introduced the Frontier in 1996 and discontinued US/UK production in 2012. You can still buy a new Frontier on Amazon, The SS/GT Flighter version goes for around $25 USD. The newer Frontier pens are made in India through a licensing agreement with “Luxor Writing Instruments Private Limited”, and supposedly the cap rattle problem has been solved. I don’t think the Luxor license agreement allows them to sell outside of India.

    Here is a new matte black/GT Parker Frontier on the Luxor India web site, the price is INR 700 which equals $9.18 USD at my writing time:

    https://luxor.in/parker-parker-frontier-matt-black-gt-fountain-pene-comm.html

    There is more on the Parker Frontier product line here:

    https://parkerpens.net/frontier.html

    Here is a July 2012 post on the Fountain Pen Network describing a way to fix the cap rattle on a Parker Frontier:

    http://www.fountainpennetwork.com/forum/index.php/topic/226477-parker-frontier-loose-cap/#entry2419004

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thankyou for this information.
      I have now scraped off the non-slip coating from the grip section. With it all gone, the pen looks better now.
      This does seem to have made the cap rattle. I found that this is avoided by capping the pen with the nib at 90 degrees to the clip! I have not attempted disassembly of the cap.

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