I regularly visit estate sales in the area, always hoping to find a fountain pen, but usually disappointed. A couple of weeks ago, though, there it was, a Parker Duofold Senior, aka “Big Red,” the pen that made the Parker Pen Company known nationwide and ensured its success.
The Duofold was introduced in 1921 and was an immediate sales success – so much so that many other pen manufacturers rushed to introduce something similar. Originally made of red hard rubber, the Duofold changed to celluloid later in the 1920s when the company realized that it was the material of the future. My Duofold Senior dates from 1928/29 and is made of “permanite,” which was Parker’s name for the new material from Dupont.
This pen was in excellent condition when I bought it, but after 85+ years it needed a tuneup. I disassembled it almost completely, then gave each part a thorough cleaning. The nib, feed, and section spent several minutes in the ultrasonic cleaner because they were caked with old blue ink. I used a cap brush to scrub out the inside of the cap, which also had a substantial deposit of old ink. The threads on the barrel were ink stained, so I used Phil Munson’s technique: toothpaste and a soft toothbrush. Finally I polished everything with Renaissance’s Pre-Lim, followed a very light coat of their museum quality wax.
The old ink sac had turned to tiny fragments of hardened rubber and the pressure bar was coated with residue. The latter got a good scrub with 0000 steel wool until it shined again and a new #20 ink sac, coated with a light coat of talc, replaced the old one.
After the shellac holding the ink sac in place had set, I reassembled the pen and tested it with water to see if it would fill properly. It did! And, it holds a lot of ink. The nib, a fine manifold, is as stiff as a nail, but writes very smoothly. I did have to give it a bit of smoothing with 4000 and 12000 micromesh, but that really brought it back to life.
I’m very pleased to add this first Duofold to my collection.