Pen Review: Parker Duofold

I remember when I first saw the Parker Duofold in black and white pearl. I thought it was such a classic looking pen. I bought one long ago in the 90’s, and it’s been a somewhat bittersweet experience. I would expect a modern production model to be very much like this one, but of course things may have changed.

It was one of the first pens I really lusted after, and buying it was no impulse purchase.

The pen is large without being gigantic, mine is the international size. I would call it full size, and it’s got just the right amount of heft without being heavy. The overall construction seems fairly solid, but not as well done as a Pelikan or Lamy.

There are pens I can chuck into a drawer and count on them writing in a month or so. Pelikans, Namiki’s, Lamy’s can be counted on. Parker has vents in their caps. I’ve read that this is to comply with some law designed to protect children who swallow caps and get them stuck in their throats. Regardless, it makes for a very unforgiving pen in storage. Perhaps a day or two, but beyond that you’d better be ready to wet the nib before it will write.

The two-toned nib is nicely designed, and has a classic look to it that I like. There are no ribs on the bottom of the nib feed to hold extra ink, which is good for filling, if not for dipping. The nib is stiff but expressive. I don’t know how this can be since the nib isn’t flexible, but it writes much less like a rollerball than many stiff-nibbed pens. A lot like the Lamy 2000 FP in this regard. One of the things I really like about this pen is that I can tweak the ink flow easily. By pinching or spreading the sides of the nib I can get a fairly dry writer for most note taking, or a nice wet writer suitable for heavy cotton paper. The pen does have a ‘rust ring’, a ring at the bottom of the grip, and true to its name mine has begun to corrode

The reveal is short, but the pen is large enough that it may not fit in the sleeves where a short reveal is a problem. The clip is a simple spring clip, rather than hinged. Why can Lamy put a hinged clip on a pen that costs half as much as this one? The top of the cap has nice medallion on it – most other pen companies these days don’t do much here. I don’t know if it’s the medallion or that the cap posts quite high, but the pen is less pleasant to write with when the cap is posted. I usually just hold it in the other hand.

The Duofold is a converter pen, so it doesn’t hold much ink but the cartridges can be nice for travel.

I used to feel dignified when I carried and wrote with this pen, but now it usually feels a bit over the top. I don’t think that is the fault of the pen, as it’s a classic, timeless design. Now I tend to use it for writing letters, or the like, but I do go through phases where I’ll carry it in a pen case and use it at work.

Parker is a brand that is hard for me. Part of me wants to use a pen with American heritage, but the Parkers I’ve owned have been mostly unremarkable. The seem constructed more like kit pens than the offerings of a real pen company should be. If I spend a lot of money on a pen I want real, functional advantages. Nice resin isn’t quite enough.

The Vacation Satchel. What to Bring.

I’m going on vacation for a week in Florida. I’m not sure how much, if any, time I will have to write and draw, but I expect there will be some. I tend to think I will have more time to do these kinds of things than I actually do. More accurately, I have the time, but decide to spend it doing something else.

So what to take on vacation? Just a small notebook, or my regular journal? Should I bring my project sheets in case I decide to get organized, or add projects? I probably won’t bother.

What about colored pencils and water colors? I have this vision in my head of sitting on the beach sketching the kids under an umbrella in a beach chair. Of course the obligatory bottle of beer with a wedge of lemon in it sits on a crate nearby. The reality, however, is that there will likely be no umbrella, nor chair, and probably not even the beer. I will be wet, sandy, and helping one daughter or the other build something or playing in the waves.

But only some of the time will be spent at the beach, and we will be visiting relatives. That might also be prime sketching & writing time. Not to mention the 4,000 hour drive to get there. Ok, maybe not that long, but long.

The real question is whether there’s a satchel, per se, or not. We’re driving so the travel-light bug is in dangerous territory already – “Sure I can take that! I’ll just leave it in the car”. I’m always happier if I have only one bag I need to worry about. But it doesn’t take too many sketchbooks, laptops, or watercolor sets to add up to a second bag.

Maybe I should bring just a few pocket notebooks, a good ballpoint, and a pocket watercolor set. Ah – the lure of miniaturized travel perfection! But then, I’m driving, not going by air mail, so why not just bring what I want?

So how about it folks – what do you bring to record your thoughts while on vacation? Do you end up using it all, or just some of it?

[UPDATE: See what I ended up bringing here.]