Vintage Pen Review: Parker Duofold Senior

Material: Celluloid?
Nib: 14k Gold (Medium-ish)
Appointments: Gold-colored
Filling System: Button-filler
Length (Capped): 138mm
Length (Uncapped): 123mm
Length (Posted): 163mm
Section Diameter: 10.2mm
Barrel Max Diameter: 12.4mm
Cap Max Diameter: 15.1mm
Weight, Capped (with ink and/or converter): 14g
Weight, Uncapped (with ink and/or converter): 22g

Okay. Let me get this out of the way right up front: I’m not very knowledgable about vintage pens. I’ve only got a scant handful of non-new pens, and they’re from all over the collecting map. I don’t focus on any particular brand or style, I’m not trying to collect all of anything, and I don’t have either the experience or the interest to spend all of my time learning about the history of every model of a particular type of vintage pen.

I preface my “review” with this information because I am 100% certain there is incorrect information in it. I did my best to compile what information I could find with a relatively cursory search through the standard internet sources for information. I didn’t find a lot, but what I did found seemed relatively consistent. Combined with what I was told about the pen by the buyer, I am fairly certain of what I have.

P1000321

This is a ca. 1936* English-made Parker Duofold Senior in Marbled blue. And when I pulled it out of the box, I was shocked. It looked like it was brand new. It was in near mint condition. Not bad for a pen that is nearly 80 years old. Hell, I’m only 36, and I’m not even close to being in near mint condition.

The fairly large pen is made of a truly stunning marbled blue material (celluloid?). It’s polished to a high sheen. There is a clear imprint on the barrel that says “Parker Duofold REG TM Made in England”. The flat topped cap is ringed with a gold-plated single ring and has a ball-style Parker clip with is nice and sturdy.

The end of the barrel has a black blind cap which comes off to reveal the button filling mechanism. I actually really like the button-filling mechanism for those pens that have the old style rubber sacs. They’re easy to repair, and they work quite well. (Much better, overall, than lever fillers, in my opinion.) This pen had a new sac installed, and worked right away.

The pen has a 14k gold nib, that is medium-ish. To the best of my knowledge, the pen isn’t marked with a size designation.

P1000333

It is also extremely smooth. The ink flow is divine, floating gently across the paper with almost no feedback, and leaving a perfect line in its wake. The only minor issue with the nib I have is that it has one of the narrowest sweet spots on the nib when it comes to a nib rotation. I have a bit of a tendency to roll my pens when I write, and if I do that, I will occasionally get a hard start. When I’m holding my pen properly, though, I have never had any problems at all.

Between the time I recorded the video above and I wrote this blog post, however, I noticed that there is a bit of mold growing in between the nib and the feed on one side of the back of the nib. I had to empty the pen out, clean it thoroughly, and run a bit of pen flush through it, then let it dry thoroughly. I’ll also be making sure to decant any ink I use to fill the pen until I’m sure whatever brought on that mold is no longer a player in the pen.

Really, when it comes right down to it, that’s one of the reasons I both love and hate vintage pens. I love the history of old pens–the sense that they’re connected to something older than myself. However, success with vintage pens can be very hit or miss. I’ve had more than my fair share of misses over the last couple of years. This time was a BIG win. I adore this pen. It’s beautiful, it writes wonderfully, and it’s in like-new condition. With a couple more experiences like this, I imagine that I could really start to find myself getting much more heavily into vintage pens.

* UPDATE 8/17/2014: Based on some YouTube comments I’ve received from some folks more knowledgable about this stuff than me, it seems that this pen probably dates, not from 1936, but rather from sometime post 1941. The N on the nib stands for Newcastle, apparently, and indicates that the pen was manufactured at the Newcastle factory, which didn’t begin manufacturing pens until 1941. Additionally, pre-1941 English pens were generally just assembled from Canadian-made parts.  I have no way of verifying this information, and it seems like 1941 would be a really bad year to start up manufacturing in England (just sayin’, is all), but I appreciate the additional insight.

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  • Mark Knoblauch

    I just came back to this review for the third time to drool over these pics yet once more. What a elegantly gorgeous writing instrument! It’s because of classic pens like these that I was first drawn to the hobby.

    Something about the connection with the past appeals to me with pens like this one, actually with fountain pens in general. I believe you said this one is an English model. Can’t you just picture the gentleman to whom this once belonged stepping out of his 1930’s Bentley coupe with this tucked into the inside jacket pocket of his double-breasted suit, or perhaps he’s sitting inside his office bent over his desk grading examination books at Eton or Oxford?

    I remember your review of the petite Lady Parker and your disappointment, and am glad to see you got your hands on this one. Thanks to your wonderful pics (or maybe I shouldn’t say thanks) I am obsessing about getting a hold of one of these myself!

  • Denise Rogers

    I think this is one of the prettiest pens you have reviewed, Matt. I’d like to get one of these older ones some day (the orange one appeals because I’ve seen a picture of Arthur Conan Doyle writing with one).

  • that’s my favorite J. Herbin Ink too. ^_^

  • Michelle

    Beautiful pen!

  • Cliff

    A lovely pen and a great review. When the Newhaven (at the other end of England from Newcastle) Parker factory closed down, I did security there to prevent the premises from being broken into and vandalised. Although disused, it was full of vintage equipment, posters, staff rules and advertising. It gave a fascinating insight into Parker’s history and the development of the modern fountain pen. There were also hundreds of pen parts scattered around on the floor. A less scrupulous security man than me might have been tempted to collect some of these and assemble them into complete pens. Of course I didn’t do this!!! Coincidentally, I have quite a collection of hybridised Parkers. They all work very well.

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