Guest post #2: My obsession with the Parker Vacumatic

22 12 2009

Okay, so many of you may have visited my friend Dan Smith’s blog and learned that he grinds custom nibs and that he loves to restore Parker Vacumatics, but one day over lunch not too long ago, I asked him why he loved Vacs as much as he does.  This was his answer.  It’s a great read and he’s got some great eye candy in the article, too!

Let me start off by saying this is not going to be an essay about why the Parker Vacumatic is the greatest pen in the word, because it’s not. It’s not even the greatest pen in the the world to me, but I am completely infatuated by it and it is and probably always will be the core of my collection.

I suppose the main reason I collect Vacs is because there are so many different variations. What initially attracted me to the Vacumatic was the celluloid they’re made from. There’s so much depth and character to the celluloid. You can clearly see the difference between the real thing and a cheap alternative. The bargain pens that are made to look like the Vac celluloid look like an image has been printed on the pen. There’s no depth, no character, nothing special to them. One of my favorite aspects of the Vacumatic is there’s not a color I don’t like, but if I had to pick a favorite it would be a close call between the Burgundy Pearl and the Azure Pearl. The celluloid just mesmerizes me like a deer in headlights. And when you find one with excellent barrel clarity it makes it even better.

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My favorite Vacs by far are the first generation models with the section, blind cap, and jewels all made from the same celluloid, especially the oversize Vacs. My least favorites are the third gen, single jewel, plastic fillers. I don’t care for the non-jeweled blind cap, and the plastic filler looks out of place.

If you get lucky you’ll find some with spectacular nibs. For me that means flex. I have two Vacs with super-flex nibs: a ’34 Silver Pearl Oversize and a ’47 Emerald Pearl Junior. I also have a ’38 Burgundy Pearl Shadow Wave with a semi-flex nib, which is the pen I used to write the first draft of this essay with.

The one thing Parker deserves props for is building a solid pen. They were not intended to be fancy collectors items. They were designed to write and write and write and write. There’s not a single item on the pen that feels cheap (except for the plastic filler on 3rd Gen pens). They have good weight, feel great in the hand, and are very well constructed. Their system for dating pens was an ingenious idea. On very early models they used a two digit system where the first digit indicated which quarter of the year the pen was made and the second digit indicated the year. This system was used in the mid to late ’30’s. Parker then moved to a slightly different system where they utilized a single digit to indicate the year and then up to three dots around the number to indicate the quarter. Three dots = 1st quarter, 2 dots = 2nd quarter, and so on with no dots meaning the pen was made in the fourth quarter. It was done this way so that Parker could grind one dot off the stamp and keep using it throughout the year. I wish more pen companies had implemented some type of system to accurately date their pens.

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So now that I’ve gushed about all the good, its time to bring it back to reality because there are a few things about Vacumatics that I can’t stand. The biggest being the filling system. Go figure. The filling process is so tedious and time consuming, especially if you’re trying to clean the pen out to switch colors from, say, black to orange. Thank God the lock-down filler only lasted as long as it did. Why didn’t they just start with the speed-line filler? Who knows, probably for the same reason it took Apple until 3.0 to get copy and past and MMS into the iPhone. The thing that bugs me the most about the lock-down filler is that once you have the pen completely filled you have to push the filler back down, emptying a good amount of ink in the process.

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The other minor thing I don’t care for is the Vacumatic cap band. Not the cap band with the actual word “Vacumatic” stamped into it but the one with all the stupid ///\\\\///\\\. The triple, and even the double, cap bands were so much more elegant. Oh, and I’ll take mine in silver, please.

So, should you go out and try to find your next vac, or maybe for some of you your first one, on ebay? No, you should buy one that is restored and polished by me (what a plug, eh?). Seriously though, Vacumatics are not for everyone. I collect them because there are so many variants and quirky uncatalogued pieces. Its easy to start collecting them yet some people may never have a what can be considered a comprehensive collection even after a life time of collecting, unless you’ve got some serious cash to drop. If you want my recommendation, go out and find a really good example of a first or second gen Vac and play with it for a while. You’ll either be in love or it’ll just get a “meh” from you.

If you really want to get into some cool items then look for the desk sets made entirely from the stripped celluloid. Or, the Ripley versions made from alternating Burgundy Pearl and blue celluloid. Then, there’s the Imperial (one of my grail pens) which is sort of a 51 with a traditional nib and made from celluloid, or you could think of it as just a Vacumatic with a slip cap but closer in dimensions to a 51 than any Vac.

Parker_Vacumatic_Desk_Set-9

So there. In case you ever needed a great reason (or three) to buy a Vac…I think you just read it!

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Guilty?

25 11 2009

You be the judge…

Sorta stands out, doesn't he?

The crime has been committed...

Caught at the scene...

The guilty party...

Remember kids…only YOU can prevent nefarious malfeasances towards unsuspecting inks.

(Noodler’s Firefly is SO cool, isn’t it?)





Big news!

12 11 2009

For quite a while now, many of you have known that I’m good friends with James Partridge, owner of The Pear Tree Pen Company…but here’s something that’s probably new to you!  I’m delighted to announce that effective immediately, I’ve assumed day to day management of operations for The Pear Tree Pen Company!  Yep…you read that right.  The Pear Tree has been re-planted in the middle of Corn Country!

The Pear Tree Pen Company is pleased to announce that Ryan Roossinck has assumed management of the day-to-day operations of the successful online retailer. Roossinck is known among fountain pen and ink enthusiasts for his popular internet blog, Brassing Adds Character, where he reviews writing instruments and accessories such as pens, pads, and inks. He is also known for his role as a moderator on the Fountain Pen Network, the largest online community of fountain pen and ink lovers on the internet.

Pen collector James Partridge founded the Pear Tree Pen Company in 2006 as a part-time home-based business. Following the introduction of the Fountain Pen Ink Sampler later that year, business began to boom leading the fledgling operation to seek larger quarters. Pear Tree Pens moved, literally, from the kitchen table to the basement, and shortly thereafter opened a larger retail and order-processing facility just north of downtown Ann Arbor. Despite the tough economic times, the Pear Tree Pen Company continued to prosper, and even hired several staff members to help ship packages to thousands of customers around the world.

Unfortunately, splitting his time between his full-time career as a corporate attorney and managing the burgeoning online establishment began to take its toll on Partridge. “I realized that it’s impossible for me to do it all. I can’t excel in my legal career, grow the Pear Tree Pen Company, and spend as much time with my family as they deserve.” Partridge began to explore selling the business, and even considered simply shutting its doors.

Partridge soon had a few offers on the table, but ultimately found the best option lay closer at hand – in Roossinck, a friend and fellow pen collector. “One of his best attributes may well be his talent for ‘reading the minds’ of our customers.” Partridge said. “Several times already, Ryan has helped me choose new products that soon became extraordinarily popular. He possesses tremendous knowledge and expertise, and his enthusiasm for the pens, inks and papers we offer is second to none. Add to that his dedication to outstanding customer service and it became clear to me that Ryan would be an asset to the Pear Tree Pen Company – and the pen community.”

“James and I hit it off right away,” Ryan said. “One of the things I really enjoy most about James is his creativity, and his ability to trendspot. We’ve had a lot of great conversations over the past several years that will undoubtedly lead to some really cool new products that we think that our customers will love.”

The future for The Pear Tree Pen Company looks very bright, and includes a lot of great new products and ideas that customers are sure to love, and both Ryan and James are really excited for what comes next! “We’ve got some cool things up our sleeves,” says Ryan, “stuff you won’t be able to find anywhere else! The addition of Lum-Tec’s fantastic line of watches is just the start!”

In anticipation of the future, both James and Ryan have their shades ready. Get yours out.

So…what happens now?  Well, for me…lots of things.  I’m still intending to run Brassing Adds Character as a semi-separate entity, and I’ll still be covering lots of the same topics that you’ve seen from me before; features on vintage pens that you may not have seen before, hacks & how-to’s, and the occasional review of a pen that strikes my fancy.  You might see a few more product announcements here and there, but my intent is to keep Brassing operational as a non-commercial site.  If/when I do another roundup/best-in-class feature, etc., you’ll still find links out to eBay and other sites that sell the pens & products that I review.  If it’s something that we sell in our store, or it’s something that you can’t get anywhere else…you’ll find links for that stuff, too.

I would ask that in the interim, while I get used to “minding the store”, that you’d be patient with us.  Our dedication to a great customer experience remains the same, but let’s face it…there’s a bit of a learning curve that I’m going to deal with, and I’d appreciate your cooperation!  Along those same lines, I’d also ask that we keep Brassing conversations focused around Brassing topics, and go back-channel for Pear Tree stuff.  Thanks!

Now if you’ll excuse me…I’ve got ink samples to make! 🙂





A neat Aurora 88P!

2 10 2009

Notice anything different about this little Aurora 88P?

Aurora 88P

Aurora 88P #2

I’ve owned this one for a while now, and really enjoy it (the vintage Aurora 88 models are absolutely top-notch pens), but I really got tired of it showing fingerprints all the time. So, one night while watching TV, I decided to give it a satin finish. Out came the abrasives, and a few hours later I had a nifty satin-y finish that feels GREAT in the hand, looks really elegant (the satin & chrome combo really looks good, in my opinion), and is almost impervious to fingerprints! Since the 88P is an all-celluloid model (there were a handful of different versions of the 88 – read my friend Andrea’s outstanding profile of this iconic pen here), it took the satin finish very nicely and very evenly, too. The best part about it is that it’s totally reversible with a little bit of polishing (I didn’t remove much material at all, so it should be able to be polished back out to a glossy finish without disturbing the imprints on the section).

At any rate, it doesn’t take much to do this, so if you’ve got a pen that you want to experiment with, grab some soft abrasives (I use these in 1000, 2000, and 4000 grit) and start with the finest grade and work backwards until you get the finish you’re looking for! Experiment with wet and dry sanding, and see what happens! You might be surprised the way your pen responds to a satin finish!

(*Disclaimer: You’re doing this at your own risk…if you choose to do this to an Omas Arco Paragon and you don’t like how it turns out, I can’t take responsibility for that. In fact, if you DO decide to give this treatment to an Arco Paragon, please email me your address because I’m gonna find you and kick you for even thinking of it. You’ve been warned…) 🙂





Spell with Flickr!

1 10 2009

Spelling with photos is always lots of fun, but it can be time-consuming to do it if you’re shooting on your own. Locating the right words, cropping them appropriately, and arranging them all takes some time. But, if you want to shortcut it, take a look at this neat little web app from Eric Kastner. No, it’s not your original work, but it’s a whole lot quicker letting Flickr handle it!

Spell with Flickr

letter B R A letter S letter S i23 letter N letter G

letter A D Educational Brick Letter D letter S

letter C H a53 R Art letter C t38 E R





Getting re-aquainted with the blog…

16 09 2009

Ah…it feels good to be back. It’s been a long time in the making, but I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to start posting a little more regularly than what you’ve seen from me in the past few months. There’s lots of cool new pen topics and interesting stuff to talk about, too. Despite the troubled economy, pen companies are still doing cool things, and there are always a few more vintage pens that don’t get the love they deserve.

In the coming months, I’m hoping to be able to stick to about two posts per month. Here’s a few ideas I’m working on: tips on smoothing scratchy nibs, a few new-ish pen reviews, some notebook short-takes, perhaps a hack or two, some history lessons, and maybe some additions to the budget writers series, too.





Twofer Tuesday…a day late!

10 09 2008

James’ comment to the pictures of the Arco reminded me that I’d taken these, but not posted them here! 

That said, here’s a few pictures of a truly gorgeous pen that I had the opportunity to play with for a bit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks for reminding me, James!