Tag Archives: vintage fountain pen

Fountain Pen Review: Vintage Parker Vacumatic

Have you ever seen something so beautiful you just had to have it? Something that just makes your heart stop, something that makes you obsess over it a bit too much, especially once you think you have a chance of obtaining it, even though it’s just a material item?

That’s how I felt about the Parker Vacumatic the first time I saw one. There was just something so Wow! about that stacked celluloid, with bright lines of color so equally interspersed with dark that they look like a skyscraper at night. Of course, on my journey with vintage fountain pens, it’s often the celluloid that gets me. It’s just gorgeous.

I just can’t even show you how beautiful this really is!

I thought about the Vacumatic a lot, watching numerous eBay auctions go to someone else because I wasn’t willing to spend the money. Finally the stars aligned (along with my finances and just the right auction) and a Vacumatic was on its way to me! I should also say here that I was also waiting for just the right pen to be up for sale. It had to be restored and in working order, preferably one of the slightly larger sizes, and definitely at least a medium nib. Check, check, and check. I crossed my fingers and hoped it was as nice to write with as I’d imagined.

This particular Vacumatic is a color called Golden Pearl. It’s kind of a fancy term for brown, but honestly it’s absolutely beautiful. The imprint is clear, with the date stamp showing it was made in 1941. (Thank you, Parker, for not making me guess like I usually do on my vintage pens!) I was incredibly pleased to find that the nib is in better shape than it appeared to be online, and the trim is in great condition. The barrel transparency is wonderful, letting you really see the huge amount of ink this thing can suck up.

I know, I know. But how does it write?

My first dip test was all I could’ve hoped for. The pen was incredibly smooth with very little feedback, which is how I like mine. I did use just a little micromesh to tune it up a bit, and then I was reaching for it every time I needed to write.

I did start to have problems after a couple days. The ink flow wasn’t keeping up with my writing speed, and the tines were constantly picking up paper fibers, essentially clogging itself. I’d filled the Vacumatic with Diamine Autumn Oak. Diamine can be a bit of a dry ink, and I know oranges often crust over. I flushed it out and refilled, but that wasn’t helping. I started to really worry. Was I going to have to send my precious Parker back? Would I get another one for such a good price? Did a pay too good of a price and now I was getting what I deserved?

It turned out the nib and feed were slightly misaligned, a small and simple fix I should’ve found right away. The Vac is now filled with Monteverde Horizon Blue, a lubricated ink that truly adds to the smoothness and makes for a lovely writing experience. I can’t say that I regret my purchase at all, and it’s so nice to see there’s some truth to the hype behind these pens.

Now there are other colors to collect!

If you want to know more about the Parker Vacumatic, I highly recommend checking out this article by Richard Binder.

Do you own or have you tried a Parker Vacumatic? I’d love to hear about it!

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Ashley O’Melia is an independent author and freelancer from Southern Illinois.  She holds her Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing and English from Southern New Hampshire University.  Her books include The Wanderer’s Guide to Dragon Keepingand The Graveside DetectiveHer short stories have been published in The Penmen Review, Siren’s Call, and Subcutaneous.  Ashley’s freelance work has spanned numerous genres for clients around the world.  You can find her on Facebook and Amazon.

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A Vintage Find: Sheaffer Balance Fountain Pen

Can you find love on the internet? Sure. I mean, that’s how I met my husband. But you can also head on over to Ebay and find a vintage fountain pen!

I’ve loved the idea of fountain pens for quite some time, though I only started actually buying them a few years ago. It’s a dangerous hobby, as it’s addictive and can be quite expensive. There are plenty of cheap fountain pens out there (like the Jinaho X450), but I find myself gravitating toward the more expensive ones (like the Pilot Custom 823, which I definitely don’t own yet).

Though I haven’t yet felt I could justify spending $300 for a pen, I was quite interested in trying a gold nib. The cheapest way to do this was to go vintage, and that’s when I found this beauty.

I’m no photographer, and this really doesn’t show how gorgeous this pen is.

This vintage Sheaffer Balance had everything I was looking for: a gold nib in medium flex, a vacuum system (something I hadn’t tried yet but wanted to), and fully restored internals.

That last part was really important! Many older pens are lever fill, which means they have an internal rubber sac that degrades over time. The vacuum systems have rubber diaphragms that can also break down. I’ll admit that I considered restoring a pen myself, not only to save money but also to make sure I got exactly what I wanted. I need another hobby like a hole in the head, and in the end it was easier to spend a little extra cash instead of doing all the research and work.

The next challenge with this particular pen was finding the right ink. Someone in the online fountain pen group I joined pointed out that anything permanent, corrosive, glittery, or difficult to clean shouldn’t be used in a vintage, vacuum-fill pen. That filling system also meant this wouldn’t be the sort of pen I’d want to constantly swap colors in.

After a lot of late-night shopping and indecision, I settled on Monteverde Olivine. I already knew I liked Monteverde inks from previous experience, and the price was too good to pass up. I knew I wanted this ink to match the pen (I told my daughter I was looking for ink the color of an old couch, and I meant that in the most loving way possible), and since I like a smooth writing experience I wouldn’t mind that it’s lubricated.

Okay. After all that, you probably just ant to know about the pen itself, right? Honestly, it’s amazing. The Sheaffer Balance feels wonderful in my hand, with just the right Goldilocks size and weight to avoid fatigue during a long writing session. The gold nib is mostly smooth with just a touch of feedback. It writes beautifully, and since the pen is close to one hundred years old I can forgive it for a few hard starts here and there. The vac-fill holds a lot of ink and is pretty easy to fill.

If you really want to know how I feel about this pen, I’ll tell you this: I told my husband recently that if I had to sell all my fountain pens and could only keep one, the Sheaffer Balance would be it.

What’s your favorite pen? Have you had any luck buying vintage? I’d love to know!

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Ashley O’Melia is an independent author and freelancer from Southern Illinois.  She holds her Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing and English from Southern New Hampshire University.  Her books include The Wanderer’s Guide to Dragon Keepingand The Graveside DetectiveHer short stories have been published in The Penmen Review, Siren’s Call, and Subcutaneous.  Ashley’s freelance work has spanned numerous genres for clients around the world.  You can find her on Facebook and Amazon.

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Filed under Fountain Pens and Ink