I had a few Parker pens when I was growing up, including a Jotter that used to belong to my Granddad. At the time, I thought they were very nice, classy pens. As I grew up, I realised that they were actually quite cheap, and not very good quality. That perception has stayed with me, and put me off Parker pens.
When reading up about fountain pens, I’ve become much more aware of Parker’s history, and they have made some of the greatest pens around. The Parker 51, for example, is widely acknowledged as one of the best fountain pens ever made. I’d seen the 45 in Staples a couple of times, and thought it looked very nice, for a Parker. I’m often taken by pens with unusual nibs, so the partially-hooded design of the 45 caught my eye.
Recently, though, I read Richard Binder’s profile of the Parker 45, and realised that this is one of the originals. The 45 was introduced in 1960, and has just gone out of production this year. If I didn’t get one now, they could be gone for good.
Does it write well? Does it reaffirm my feelings that Parkers are just a bit cheap, and not very good? Or is it a real Parker, from they days when they were at the top?
And why is my Lamy Safari in the drawer?
Steel and gold. The looks aren’t really anything special, but they certainly aren’t at all bad. Personally, I like things a bit more unusual than this (Lamy unusual, perhaps, not Rotring Core unusual), but it’s a very pleasant looking pen. Fairly understated – the only real design feature is the black jewel at the top of the cap.
It’s not going to be offensive to anyone, but I think that’s the downside to me – I like things a little less bland. No complaints, though, it’s got enough about it to keep me happy.
Things actually improve when you open the pen – the section is black, which really contrasts with the brushed steel, and the gold-plated nib contrasts beautifully with the black – especially with the hooding around it. I find myself wanting to make more notes, just so I can spend more time looking at the nib.
It feels a bit more solid than the cheapest Parker pens do, but not much different. It definitely feels like it should last well, though. The weight is a bit on the low side – I like that, but it wouldn’t please Sam so much.
Pulling the cap off takes quite a lot of force, and pushing it back on takes some doing. There’s no nice reassuring click as it gets into place, either – it’s just friction holding it.
I find the balance good unposted. If you prefer a heavier feel, posting the cap seems to give it that, but without pushing the centre of gravity too high.
Let’s not hold back for suspense here – the Parker 45 writes well. Very well. The flow is fast and smooth, and never seems to fail, even when you’ve sat staring into space for a while, and have forgotten to put the cap back on. The ink flow is as good as any pen I’ve used, but it’s smoother. My previous favourite, the Lamy Safari also writes perfectly, but with a very slightly scratchy feel. It’s not unpleasant at all, but when switching between the two, the 45 feels positively buttery. There’s two small downsides I’ve found so far…
- The nib likes to be the right way up – twist the pen at an angle, and it won’t write. This is true of all fountain pens, but the 45 seems to be a little bit more fussy about it than the Safari. There’s not much in it, but it’s caught me out a couple of times. This may also be because the Safari has a grip that you can only comfortably hold the right way up.
- I find the paper in my Filofax doesn’t take ink too well when it’s got hand prints on it. Sometimes, I get to the bottom part of a page, and find I’d rested my palm at that point, and the ink actually fades in and out with my hand-print. For some reason, the 45 seems more susceptible to this than the Safari – maybe it’s just laying down slightly less ink.
The 45 came with a single blue cartridge and a converter. Cartridge filling is just a matter of pushing in a new cartridge when the previous one runs out, same as most modern fountain pens. (The 45 was actually the first Parker to take cartridges.)
The converter is the now-standard Parker converter, with a plunger for filling, and a tiny ball-bearing inside to help keep the ink moving. It works well. According to the instructions, you should operate the plunger down and up three times, with the pen dipped in ink. I only did it once on the first fill, and it worked fine. Maybe it would have taken a little more ink with more plunges, but it seemed to fill up pretty well.
Not only is there no viewing window to see how much ink is left, but even when you unscrew the body of the pen, you can hardly tell. The converter fits mainly inside the section, so only a small amount of the clear ink reservoir can be seen. I can tell my pen has ink in it now, but beyond the fact that it’s got at least half a centimetre, I don’t really know how much is in there. Not too much of a problem if you keep an ink bottle handy, but it may mean you need to be a bit more careful about filling regularly.
One small point, that probably won’t be relevant to most people – the nib unit is removable and user-replaceable.
Compared with Others
I was very surprised to find that this pen beats the Safari, for me. There’s not much in it, and the Safari is around half the price, though, so I’d still recommend the Safari as a great buy. If you want the chance to own a piece of fountain pen history, though, this could be it. OK, so you’ll get more genuine history by buying a real vintage pen from a second hand dealer, but as new pens go, this has as much heritage as almost anything.