Been a few months coming, the final part of my Pens from My Past series where I cover the fountain pens that led up to my purchase of the TWSBI Diamond 580 and my entry/re-entry in to the fountain pen hobby. After all this was the one that could have completely moved me away from fountain pens but instead resulted in my looking for better alternatives.
With my Parker Inflection starting to become problematic and with the replacement nib on my dropped 45 being unpleasant to use, it was natural for me to once more look at Parker Pens, and again at the lower but not bottom levels. It was actually in a local supermarket (Watford Tesco Extra) where I first saw the IM in the gunmetal finish and it really appealed to me. I actually had some vouchers so could have bought it for near nothing, but then found it for less on the Amazon Market Place (a legit UK seller who is still around) and so my order was placed and the vouchers were probably used on chocolate or wine/port. This was back in August 2013. By late 2013 it (along with the Inflection) had been replaced by the TWSBI.
So what went wrong? Well fortunately I already knew my existing spare converters would not fit and so an additional one was ordered at the same time (something I think I forgot to mention being an issue in my Inflection piece) so on arrival the pen was inked up and I started to use it. At first all was fine, it wrote in a similar style to the Inflection, which was nicer than my old Parker 25s (which have a very nail like feel), however within a week or two it also copied the issues of my other modern Parker. Hard starting and ink evaporation. This time I could not blame the ink as I was using a bottle of Lamy black which was only 3-4 years old (and which has caused no problems in any pen post this). If anything the two main problems were actually worse than with the Inflection. I was not happy but soldiered on for a while until I switched my Lamy Safari from red to black ink and started to use one of my 25s for the secondary colour, effectively giving up on Parkers.
Now for this set of works I cleaned out and inked up the ‘PfMP’ pens and for this one I played safe filling it with Pelikan 4001 Royal Blue ink. Freshly filled the pen worked, but unlike with the Inflection, experience with cleaning techniques did not result in a pen behaving better than before. Evaporation was still an issue – loosing most of a converter of ink in just over a week. Topping up with water or emptying and refilling did provide a working pen, for a short while, however having not used it for a couple of months I now found that even with priming the pen it would not write. Just how many pens do you have that if not used for a couple of months need a complete and thorough soak and clean to be able to use again. Can’t blame the ink either as Pelikan 4001 Royal Blue is arguably the safest one out there.
I will be honest and blunt. If this were to be my first Parker it would be my last and also I most certainly would not recommend this brand to others. Adding the issues with the Infection, double so. It could so easily have resulted in the end of my relationship with fountain pens, fortunately instead I became determined to find an alternative that would work and my collection, post selling some and giving others away, is now the (arguably) wrong side of 100 (I need to do a purge at some point and have close to 20 ear marked to sell).
So what is the pen actually like as a writing implement ‘when’ it works. Not too badly is the answer. The section is of reasonable length and width with a gentle tapering. The cap being of a click nature means there are no threads to catch, though the back of the section is raised slightly compared to the barrel, something that is either a poor design decision else poor quality control, and this you can feel if you hold the pen further back, but not enough to be distracting nor painful. The metal barrel means there is a slight back weight but the balance in the hand is still good. The writing experience is typical modern Parker, a little feedback, relatively smooth, slightly wet, and lacking substance and character. The nib could be virtually any from Parker from the last 20 or 30 years, including both steel and gold. This is no bad thing if you like that style, and if this pen did not suffer from it’s issues then it would be a decent option for some one who just wanted/used the one reasonably priced pen. Parker QC however meant this pen was used for about 3 to 6 problematic months and then stuck in a drawer for 7 years until I started this series of articles.
Price wise these retail for between ~£40 and £70 depending on body, with this finish being at the higher end. A quick search though shows you can get one for around the £30 mark, which if the pen worked would be decent value. IF.
So was I glad I got this pen. No. I had nothing but problems with it, and still do these days when knowing how to properly care for my pens. It writes well enough when it works, the problem is the when part of that statement. Still this was the pen that led me to hunt round for makes that actually worked resulting in the purchase of my first TWSBI and the rekindling in an interest in fountain pens in general.
Thanks for sharing this piece of your pen journey.
I think the issue you mention, of ink evaporation, is due to the cap not being air-tight. You can test this by putting your mouth over the open end and blowing. The air blows right through.
This, I believe, is due to a large hole hidden beneath the pocket clip, which I understand to be an anti choking safety device for kids (or anyone else who puts a cap in his mouth checking for air tightness).
The solution is to seal off the hole with Sellotape…or buy a TWSBI as you did!
Cheers Rupert – I’ve not checked but I believe there are long known issues with cracked/split inner caps in the Indian made Parkers and this is more likely to be the cause as the front lip by the nib is meant to act as a clutch and seal in to that.
Exactly my experience with a Parker IM, a rather attractive pale rose one I bought a year or two ago. Writes very nicely when you first ink it up, then hard starts, and finally is mysteriously out of ink very quickly. 😦 I don’t feel I can even honestly sell this pen to someone.
PS Some quick googling pointed out that there is a GIANT breather hole in the cap, under the feather part of the clip, which encourages the drying out, and various people argued about whether you should seal it. I mean it’s HUGE, like 1/3 of an inch. I have some washi tape that almost matches the pen so I wound some of it around covering the hole and we’ll see if I get the results some others mentioned, that the drying out pretty much stops although according to Richard Binder you could end up with a pen that burps ink when you open it because of the vacuum.
Jerome Tarshis said:
To quote Rabelais, one half the world doesn’t know how the other half lives. I feel grateful for this account of suffering with a modern Parker pen. And giving up on the brand. My own fountain-pen journey began in the 1940s, and what was then a modern Parker pen was the 51. That didn’t dry out. None of my pens has ever dried out. It is a new world out there, in which fountain pens dry out.
For me Parker is still a top brand, though hardly for the bulk of its recent production, but then I am a creature of the Midcentury Modern and my Parker pens are the 51 and the squeeze-filled Duofolds manufactured in Newhaven. Plus a few 75s. In the lower price brackets quite a few other companies have done better, as dapprman has had a chance to learn.
I totally agree Parkers were far better made in the past. I have a 51 which belonged to my grand father which has never has a problem, even with being loaded with a J Herbin shimmer ink for several years, and my late father’s ‘New Duofold’ Senior also will just going on – I know some would suggest the latter day UK and lower end French pens were not as well made as Parker were not interested in updating the equipment, but certainly since moving production afar the quality has dropped considerably. Some would say the same with the high end pens which are still made in France.
Thomas Gill said:
I have a parker IM exactly like yours, had no idea about the breather hole. It’s my first pen and i really had no experience with other pens. Then I tried a Lamy safari and I preferred my Parker. Unfortunately I have recently found the quality of my pen lacking.
1. I found that some kind of plastic/shine on the outside slowly deteriorated. So whilst not immediately noticeable, it really sucks. Along with that, I put my pen lid on the top of the pen, and this has worn out the pen, showing the brass under the coat of paint.
I think i will try adding some cello tape on the hole, and try out my lamy again. I recently read you duo-fold chevron review and I thank you for saving me 400 euro.
Welcome to the world of fountain pens 🙂 If you still enjoy using the Parker then you could consider the wear to be patina. I wouldn’t be put off by it.
If you’re willing to look at an alternate pen over time then there are a lot in the sub €100 price bracket and even sub €40-50, in fact one of my favourites is sub €30/£30, though it uses bottled ink rather than cartridges (which many of us prefer).