I shall always have an affection for Parker fountain pens. The brand was my first introduction to a higher quality, grown-up’s pen when I went to my new school in 1970. Previously I had used Platignum or Osmiroid pens at junior school.
I used Parker pens throughout my seven years at secondary school. Since then I have tried many different Parker models, most recently the new version Vector XL, which I quite like but which lacks the character of the vintage models.
Happily, vintage Parker pens are in plentiful supply at pen shows. One sees numerous trays of Parker 51 pens in their various finishes, which can be found at prices from about £50 upwards depending upon the model and condition. But in the crowded setting of a pen show, it may be difficult to pick out which one to buy, if you are faced with several trays of almost identical models. To check their condition, to have a quick look at the nib, the state of the barrel and the “Lustraloy” cap and the aerometric filler, one by one, whilst being careful not to mix up their caps, and then to remember which one you liked best, is a challenge.
Parker “17” Lady, green with gold trim. Broad nib.
Somehow there seems less pressure, to go down a rung or two, and look at the lower priced pens, sometimes grouped together by price. And so it was, at the London Pen Show in October 2022 that I picked up a Parker “17” Lady, for a very modest sum of £10.00.
On closer inspection at home, this particular example was damaged in several places, with a chip near the cap finial and cracks to the grip section, which I had not really noticed properly until I had filled the pen and found ink on my fingers. It was a pity, as the broad nib was silky smooth. Still, it was only £10.00. I could not bring myself to throw it away but thought perhaps the nib and reservoir (attached together) might be reusable as a spare in another body.
Parker “17” Lady, blue with gold trim. Broad nib.
At the London Pen Show in March 2023, I hoped to pick up another Parker “17” Lady. Sure enough I spotted a blue one in a box, at £20.00. The condition this time looked like new and the barrel even had the original white markings, in chalk or white crayon, which read “17” LADY B 25/ -. These rub off very easily, suggesting that this pen had been handled very little in the past 50 years. I bought it eagerly.
Parker “17”, Burgundy with gold trim. Oblique broad nib.
A little while later, on another pass of the tables, another Parker caught my eye, this time a Burgundy red model which was also a Parker “17” but not a Lady, and with a tag indicating that it had an italic nib. This one was £40.00. Using my loupe, I saw that the nib appeared to be a left foot oblique, and looked in good shape but there was a crack to the section just above the nib. I suppose this is a weak point and prone to cracking if too much pressure is applied to the nib. I hoped that the section might be reparable or replaceable. I was still keen to give the pen a chance and a deal was agreed at £30.00.
Thus I have in the last six months bought three Parker “17”s, at £10.00, £20.00 and £30.00. See how this hobby escalates?
Reading up on the Parker history, I learned that the Parker “17” range of pens were made from 1962 to 1972. They have the aerometric, squeeze bar filling system and so were true fountain pens, before the introduction of the Parker 45 which was a cartridge-converter pen. For more information on the Parker 17 range and the rest of the Parker family, visit Parkerpens.net.
After the pen show, when I was able to try out my purchases, I found that the blue Lady did not want to write, neither when first dipped nor when filled from a bottle. The aerometric filler was working fine and so I could not understand why no ink would come out of the nib when the pen touched paper. After a couple of days, I tried flossing the nib with brass shims. This seemed to do the trick: the problems was simply that the tines were too tightly together. I tried to ease the tines apart very slightly and then smoothed them on Micromeshe pads. The pen now writes smoothly, with a good broad line.
As for the Burgundy model, after cleaning the pen a bit, I could see that the crack to the hood over the nib was likely to be a problem and I could foresee leaks occurring. I found some Loctite glue and dripped some of the clear liquid onto the hood, to allow it to run down into the crack and waited a few hours for it to set hard. This worked. I filled the pen and there have been no leaks, after several weeks of occasional use. In hindsight, I wish I had had the patience to try out the pen before applying the glue, and also wished that I had been a bit more thorough in cleaning the crack before gluing it, but you live and learn.
Notwithstanding my rather amateur repair efforts, the real success story is how well the pen writes for me as a lefty overwriter and the pleasing effect that it has upon my usual writing style. The nib does tend to dry out and is a hard-starter. Also it needs to be held at a certain angle to the paper and quite upright, like a ball-point. But once it gets going and you find the sweet spot, it is worth the wait. For these reasons it may be better suited to longer, continuous letter writing or journaling sessions, rather than for intermittent notes.
At the last pen show, spending several hundred pounds, I got some great bargains and some wonderful pens and have no regrets. However, if I am honest with myself, it is the 50 year-old Burgundy red Parker with its oblique nib that is the best suited to my writing style and the most complimentary to my handwriting. It is a salutary reminder that in buying a fountain pen, perhaps the most important question is whether the nib will suit your writing style. If not, you will need to adapt your style to suit the pen.
Arguably for the £60.00 spent on my three Parker 17’s, I could have bought a Parker 51. Three 17’s do make 51. But, I have already enjoyed more than £60.00 value in my new Parker 17 family. If I do venture towards a Parker 51, I shall know that an oblique broad is the nib for me.
4 thoughts on “My Parker “17” fountain pen family.”
Your writing looks lovely with that nib and the pen has clearly contributed a little towards the continuous learning process that fountain pens bring. Overall it looks like £60 well-spent.
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Thank you kindly. Yes there is certainly a learning curve involved with fountain pens! It has only taken me 50 years to notice that Oblique nibs are better for overwriting whilst most standard fine, medium and broad nibs perform best in underwriter mode.
I got a 17 last year and it has, for the time being, negated the want of getting a 51. I like the solid color scheme between body and cap (dark blue for mine) and, as mentioned, it’s hard to beat the price at the entry level. I tried a 21 too but prefer the nib in the 17.
It’s nice you found an oblique broad that suits your hand. I don’t know if the hooded 17s ever came with a factory stub or italic but if they exist I’d love to find one someday.
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Thanks Nathan. I enjoy looking at the inexpensive vintage pens at pen shows and there are usually plenty of Parkers to chose from. Having discovered the 17 with oblique broad, I shall keep a look out for a back-up in a different colour next time I visit a pen show.