Back to basics, with the Parker Junior Duofold and a bottle of Quink.

One of my lucky finds at the recent Cambridge pen show was this lovely Parker Junior Duofold, in dark green with gold fittings.

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Parker Junior Duofold

The pen is lovely in its own right, but had a particular attraction for me, being a close match to the pen that my mother bought for me in 1970 on the occasion of going to a new school. Sadly and inevitably, I managed to lose it within a few weeks and for the next seven school years, used a succession of less valuable Parker fountain pens.

Description

The pen has a classic, timeless look, in British Racing Green resin (think of a 1920’s Bentley at Le Mans), with a 14k gold nib, which looks like a Broad but has no width description showing, and a simple, fixed aerometric type squeeze bar filler. It has a screw cap, a shortish gold coloured arrow clip and a single gold coloured cap band with some engraved pattern but no text. The cap has two small drilled air holes in the sides which I presume are to avoid air pressure building in the cap. It is not a particularly big pen, by today’s standards but forms a generous length when posted and is smooth, light and comfortable to hold. The nib reads “PARKER, 14K, ENGLAND, 10”.

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Still lots of mileage in this nib.

The pen measures 135mm long capped, 120mm open, or 160mm posted. It weighs just 15.5g closed or posted. Uncapped it is 10.5g and the cap alone weighs 5.0g.

Buying a vintage fountain pen can be a bit daunting. At a pen show, tables filled with row upon row of vintage pens can seem rather overwhelming unless you are looking specifically for something. There is the worry (assuming that you are buying a pen to use) of whether the nib writes well, whether the filling mechanism is still working and (unless you have researched any given model before hand) whether the price is right.

Being at least slightly prepared, I had a magnifying glass with me and was able to have a look at the nib and the tipping material, which looked to be in great shape. I also looked at the barrel and there found the very faint imprint, barely visible to the naked eye, “PARKER, JUNIOR DUOFOLD, MADE IN ENGLAND”. That clinched it.

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I had to hold a torch in one hand while holding the camera in the other.

I have heard it said that the Parker aerometric sacs rarely have anything wrong with them. You can test them by removing the cap and barrel, putting the nib to your ear and giving the squeeze bar a press, to feel a small puff of air, assuming that it is not inked, of course.

At home, I flushed the pen in clean water a few times. I was pleased to see that the sac filled easily with a few presses.

The writing experience

I filled the pen with Parker Quink, Blue-black, a rather obvious choice, I know. The glass bottles with their chunky plastic caps and 57ml of inky goodness, seem not to have changed much (if at all) since I was a child, except that they are now sold in ugly blister packs instead of carboard boxes.

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Parker Quink Blue Black suits it well.

To my great pleasure and delight, this little pen wrote like a dream. It has a lot of what fountain pen enthusiasts crave, namely a buttery smooth nib, ideal ink flow, a little softness to the nib giving beautiful shading, comfortable handling, reliability and a bit of historical interest too.

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A bit of Keats. Beautiful shading with Parker Quink Blue Black on Tomoe River paper. [should read “but still will keep”, not “with”, demonstrating that errors are only visible after publication].

In fact, looking across at my (ahem) 18 other currently inked pens, I could almost convince myself to put all the others away and just enjoy the Parker with its bottle of Quink. That is all I need, really.

I did not know very much about this range before buying one. Reading up afterwards on FPN, in a post by Malcy, I learned that Parker Duofolds of the 1950’s came in a range of models, with a corresponding number on the nib as follows:-

  • Lady (4)
  • Slimfold (5)
  • Junior (10)
  • Demi (15)
  • Standard (25)
  • Senior (35)
  • Maxima (50)

Conclusion

Armed with this information I am interested now to handle some of the others in the range. It is nice to have something specific in mind to hunt for next time a pen show comes to town. Parker Duofold pens have been made for a long time and I feel that I have a lot more to learn.

Last Saturday I had another browse in the sumptious fountain pen department at Selfridges in Oxford Street. (No, I managed to resist buying anything this time). I did linger in front of the current Parker Duofold, International, Big Red in a glass display case, but at £500.00 it is a lot of money. Happily, my vintage Junior Duofold cost me only £50.00 which seems a small price to pay for the pleasure it gives and for entry to the Duofold owners’ club.

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My work here is done.

So what happens now? Another pen show, another haul.

A week ago, it looked unlikely that I would make it to the Eastern Pen Show (Cambridge) on Sunday, 4th March, as snow and freezing temperatures had caused disruption to transport. Fortunately, this cleared just in time and a good rail service to Cambridge was running.

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London Kings Cross station, at 7.30 on a Sunday morning.

This was my first visit to the Cambridge pen show and I was much looking forward to it. Arriving early, I had time to walk from the station to the venue, the Doubletree Hilton Hotel, on the River Cam. This proved to be a good decision as those travelling by car were delayed by road closures and diversions for the Cambridge Half Marathon.

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The venue, situated next to the River Cam.

The enjoyment of the day was as much down to the people, as the pens. First, I was pleased to find Marisa (@illustriouscactus on Instagram) and Faisal, two members from our monthly London UK Fountain Pen Club gatherings, as we waited in the lounge for the show to open. Also I had arranged to meet Jon (@jonr1971 on Instagram) and he introduced me to two of his Instagram friends, @fountainpensandink and @theclumsypenman. Jon later guided me as to the features of some Montegrappa pens which we saw at the show.

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Bright and roomy venue.

The venue was excellent, a bright, spacious ground floor room with rows of tables on three sides, and more down the middle, which lent itself to doing “laps”.

In prime position was Sarj Minhas, with several tables of enticing vintage and modern pens. Immediately, a green Sheaffer (a Crest, I believe) on his table caught my eye, as I already have the matching ball-point which I use daily. The fountain pen has a distinctive conical bi-colour nib in 18k gold. This proved irresistible and I thought it best to pick it up at my first pass, rather than risk losing out. Sarj also showed me some beautiful Sheaffer Balances, which will be added to the “wish list” as the price seemed a bit too high just for an impulse buy.  While at Sarj’s tables it was good to examine some Urushi lacquer pens and an Arco pen which hitherto I had seen only on the internet.

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A Sheaffer Crest with conical 18k bi-colour nib, for which I have the matching ball-point pen.

I had not planned to hunt for anything in particular although I was hoping that the vendor of my London Pen Show “mystery pen”, would be there so that I could buy another! He was. I learned that he is John Twiss of Twiss Pens (twisspens.co.uk) and that the blue and clear demonstrator eyedropper pen that I had bought at the London Show, (see blog post: Wanted: an identity for this pen. ) from his supplier is deliberatly left unbranded. John also sells his own handmade pens and produces these at his Nottinghamshire studio. I bought another of the eye-dropper pens as I liked the last one so much and also picked up a gorgeous purple and black cartridge/converter pen with a size 6 nib for my wife (purple being her colour).

Having now attended the London pen show several years running, I now recognise many of the vendors and I enjoyed talking again to Graham Jasper (of Penestates) who had helped me to select one of his Parker 51 Aerometrics a few shows ago, and Kirit Dal who is a dealer for Aurora. I handled a beautiful Aurora 88 Mineralis demonstrator, but reluctantly put it down again and decided to content myself with a bottle of Robert Oster Aqua ink, at a show price of £10.00.

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The Aurora table.

John Hall of “Write Here” showed me a Scribo fountain pen and told me about the brand. Trying the smooth, wet nib was a revelation. Again, this would have to wait for another occasion but I did not leave his table before buying a bottle of Pilot Iroshizuku Yama-budo,  a beautiful magenta ink.

Next at the table of The Hamilton Pen Company, (Nigel Simpson-Stern) I was shown a Pilot Falcon, which I had seen online but was yet to handle. I have harboured an urge to pick up a Pilot (so to speak) and have tried the Custom 823 and the Custom 74 at our pen club gatherings and been impressed by the feel of the gold nibs. The Falcon is different and has a rather uniquely shaped flexible nib. The models for sale were of lacquer over a steel body and therefore heavier than the resin versions and also featured the interesting, large capacity, CON 70 push-button vacuum converter. With my resistance weakening, I chose the metal Falcon in black with a Soft Fine nib and was excited to try it out. I later spotted Marisa again and she kindly allowed me to dip my new Falcon in a blob of wet ink which she made, in her notebook. The smooth, fine, wet flexible nib was wonderful.

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Pilot metal Falcon with 14k Rhodium plated SF (soft fine) flexible nib. The most quill-like nib I have experienced.

At the same table  I bought another ink, the Graf von Faber-Castell Garnet Red, which I have wanted for a long time, having enjoyed their Cobalt Blue and Moss Green very much.  Oh, and I could not resist a leather three-pen case and chose the red one.

My final pen purchase of the show was a little green vintage Parker Junior Duofold with a broad, 14k gold nib and aero filler. Why? Because this is a close equivalent to the pen that my mother bought me in 1970, to take to my new boarding school and which I lost within the first few weeks. It was my first quality fountain pen and I remember to this day, the sales lady telling me that gold nibs give more expression to your handwriting. I was fascinated, although rather puzzled, knowing that the tipping material was not gold and so why did gold nibs matter? It was to be many more years before I began to appreciate the delights of line variation and inks that shade.

Outside the show I met Jon and his two friends again, for coffee in the hotel lounge where we had a very enjoyable time trying each other’s pens, and sharing our pen stories and experiences.

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Left to right: Sheaffer Crest, Parker Junior Duofold, Pilot Falcon, eye-dropper pen from John Twiss, another un-named pen from John Twiss and a Lanbitou give-away from @fountainpensandink.

All in all, I had a great show. It was somewhat smaller and quieter than the London pen show in October but considerably less crowded. The relaxed atmosphere was perhaps more conducive to some memorable conversations and purchases.

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My haul.