Parker 51 Fantasy Trip - Part 2
by Jim Mamoulides 3/28/04
Parker Goes Aero
Reading the launch advertising copy for the new Aero-metric Parker 51 opens the door well for this particular and unique Parker 51 fantasy pen:
The "New Parker 51" was loaded with creatively named features, not the least of which was the new and "exclusive Aero-metric ink system." Most collectors are familiar with this press-bar filling system that Parker introduced in 1949, replacing the Vacumatic filler. They may also recognize its similarity with later removable press-bar converters found in many early cartridge / converter pens, including Parker models.
What's interesting is that this filling system is a bit of something old and something new mixed together. The something old is opening the pen to reveal a simple pressure bar to compress an ink sac to fill the pen. Early sleeve-fillers work this way. The Conklin crescent filler is essentially the same filler, with a slot cut in the side of the barrel with a tab sticking out that the user pressed to fill.
The something new is the new technology used to improve the very simple sleeve filler. The 51 Aero-metric keeps the nib and feed unit from the Vacumatic and adds a metal sleeve with a press bar and a clear "Pli-glass reservoir" permanently to the base of the feed. This new "Foto-fill" filler unit added an ink-visible reservoir to the 51, which the Vacumatic pen lacked.
Considering that Parker replaced the very complex Vacumatic system with something so simple is extraordinary. Sheaffer was moving in the opposite direction, replacing the Vacuum-Filler with the more complex Touchdown, and eventually the penultimate complex filler, the Snorkel.
White Metal Fantasy
When I pulled this pen out of the box, I was immediately struck by the cool touch of the sterling silver, combined with the sharp edges of the deep engraving. The piece is heavy and cool, like a Flighter, and warms up in the hand the same way, but no Flighter has the feel of this pen!
This piece was made by Sergio Kullock, and is hallmarked "STERLING SILVER" and "SK" on the back of the cap. The Parker name is engraved on the cap front, as on the Parker 51 Aero-metric Signet all gold-filled pen.
This fantasy pen is more in the vein of a jeweler's piece, using the 51 as a base pen. Some early examples were obviously commissioned by or done under the authority of Parker. Many of these are made in the UK. Since the 51 was in production, collectors and artisans have made pieces using the pen itself, such as re-engraving or hammering the cap, adding overlays, and inlays to the existing pen. This pen replaces the cap and barrel with two new sterling silver pieces, giving it a more newly manufactured feel.
Like the two Ariel Kullock vacumatic fantasy pens, this pen sources from Argentina, where parts and complete fantasy pens are still being put together. Prices for an artisan made fantasy pen would be hard to estimate. There are some who do this work, and your best bet is to contact the artist directly.
If Parker were to make a sterling silver limited edition 51, this should be the prototype. The simple repeating wave pattern, deeply engraved into the solid sterling silver cap and barrel stands out strongly against the muted silver glow. Like many sterling silver pens, Kullock has avoided a highly polished finish, which allows the engraving to be the forefront of the piece. The engraving is very deep, more reminiscent of early Wahl pens than many moderns, including early modern post World War II pens. This presents a high tactile feel, which coupled with the cool touch of the silver, makes the writing experience interesting and the pen ever present in the hand. The modern Classic Pens limited editions have this same feeling, having been made using vintage engraving machines.
This is a superbly well made pen. Everything fits together as if original, though the only new parts appear to be the cap and barrel, unlike the two Ariel Kullock 51 Vacumatics, which look almost completely new. The silver is hallmarked "STERLING SILVER" and "SK" on the back of the cap band, and has a white tone. The engraving may pick up a patina with use, setting it off even more in contrast with the surface. The engraving is four wave lines with a space, repeated around the pen, with a blank indicia on the barrel. It has a similarity to the more formal 1920s Wahl ribbon pattern, which is three wave lines flanked by a pair of straight lines on each side. The clip is very lightly brassed gold fill, indicating original equipment.
The cap and barrel are the same dimensions a vintage 51 Aero-metric, being about 5 1/2 inches long capped and 6 inches posted, and has the same weight and balance as an early 51 Flighter. As expected, it's well balanced, capped or posted, and posts securely. Given the softness of sterling silver, the detail of the engraving, and the tendency of the clutch fingers in the caps of 51s to mar the finish of the barrel, even on hard stainless steel Flighters, I would avoid posting this pen. I would hate to see irreversible damage from the fingers digging into the engraving. I posted it once, just to see, but never did again.
Unscrewing the barrel reveals the expected 51 Aero-metric filler. It's original, and works the same as any other Aero-metric, several squeezes of the press-bar sucks in a good fill of ink, and with a quick wipe of the hood, and replacement of the barrel, we're ready to write. It appears that the entire section was unscrewed from an Aero-metric 51 onto this barrel, but the fit is perfect. This was a carefully made pen.
The nib turned out to be a typical firm and very smooth fine that wrote slightly dry, reminding me of the Parker advertisements that say, "writes dry with wet ink." The lines are nice and even, and either this was originally set up well, or was adjusted when the pen was finished. A typical firm, smooth 51.
This would make a very nice and attractive daily user. I would only worry about dings and scratches, a common problem with sterling silver, which quickly picks up fine spider web marks from daily use. Unlike sterling silver flatware, the fine engraving on this pen will not hold up to repeated buffing to remove scuffs, so this pen should be used with care and put away when not in use.
Of the three 51 fantasy pens I've reviewed so far (more are coming), this one is the black tie model. It is wonderful in the hand, not only as a writer, but in the feel of the writing action. It's a pen that's fun to hold and look at the detail. There are many "jeweler's overlay" 51s that have been made, but this one has the quality of an original, individual work, and at the same time, gives a hint as to what a sterling 51 limited edition might be. As with the other two Ariel Kullock fantasy pens, if only Parker had looked at what was already being done with their design when considering choices for a special or limited edition 51. This pen is a great inspiration.
Grateful thanks to Harry Shubin for supplying this beautiful Kullock Parker 51 sterling silver fantasy pen. Harry was not only kind enough to loan these pens, but was also very helpful in supplying background on their origin.
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