When I first saw the new Parker 100 last year I had mixed feelings. The Parker “51” has been one of my favorite writing instruments for many years and this new visitor appeared to have an attitude… ‘move over cousin “51” you’re a has-been and I’m the new kid on the block!’
Well, once in my hands for review I can say the Parker 100 is a modern complement to the “51” yet this pen has qualities and design to make it stand quite separate and apart from anything ever produced by Parker. The design is borrowed from legend and brought to the 21st century with modern materials and technology. Slightly larger than the “51” or “61” I find it is still quite light and just as manageable as its smaller cousin. The 100 weighs in at 1.25 oz, slightly twice the weight of the “51” and only .25 oz more than the smaller Sonnet. So given the slightly larger profile, the lightweight makes this an almost identical feel in the hand. Learn more parker pens at http://pentrace.net/pen-doctor-side-by-side-the-parker/
The Parker 100 is 5 5/8” (142mm) closed and almost 6” (150mm) with a cap posted. The barrel is 0.498” (12.66mm) diameter, noticeably larger than my “51”s yet has a very light and comfortable fit. The satin-brushed caps and striking new style clip gives an appearance fit for the new generation. The clip is tight and gives a firm grip, and notably a smooth and solid fit when it is posted.
The trim is 23K gold or silver-plated gold trim with a high polish finish that contrasts nicely with the matte finish of the brushed caps. The metal end jewels are a bright high polish finish but are recessed so they would do not appear to be exposed to scratching or abrasion. I really like the appearance of the hooded nib and find a very slight flex, maybe not a part of the intentional design, but nevertheless we are very conscious of this performance and are able to coax a slight line variation.
The ballpoint, pencil, and rollerball are almost identical in size and they feel in the hand. Each weigh-in at 1.25 oz. The pencil is a twist-action clutch repeater, the lead is gravity fed and stored under the eraser. The ballpoint also accepts the new gel refills.
All gold trim Parker 100 fountain pens have 18K gold nibs. All silver trim fountain pens have 18K gold rhodium-plated nibs. Parker 100 caps are finished in a shimmered gold or shimmered graphite effect, and the barrels are lacquered in a choice of five modern colors. The barrel colors are Smoke Bronze, Diamond Blue, Honey White, Opal Silver, and Cobalt Black.
The filling system is either an ink cartridge or ink bottle with the Deluxe piston fill converter. Fountain pen nibs are available in XF F M and B. Parker 100 fountain pens are beautifully gift-boxed, and include a black velvet pen pouch.
So where does this model slot in the Parker family line up? I would say right with the vintage or modern “51” SE and the Sonnet.
Pen in hand image courtesy of Pentracer Joseph Camosy
Last weekend I assembled some inks, a dip pen, and a large bowl of water. My goal was to test the water resistance of the blue, black, and blue/black inks I own at this moment. I certainly admit that this experiment has little relevance. After all, I don’t make a habit of soaking my journals in a fishbowl. And I use a multitude of ink colors, so if I did soak it, the result would probably be interesting, but definitely unreadable. But performing the experiment was fun, and if the results are useful to someone, that’s a nice bonus.
With a regular dip pen (Hiro Leonardt No. 41) I wrote a sentence on standard 60 grams office paper, for each ink to be tested. After the ink dried for an hour, I soaked the paper for 10 minutes. I let the paper dry completely and put the results under the scanner (in that order).
Results for blue inks
I tested the following blue inks:
Quink royal blue
Sheaffer Skrip blue
Hema blue is a no-name blue ink, from the Hema store (Netherlands), that is only available in cartridges. I don’t know who manufactures this ink, but the color reminds me of Pelikan Blue. My PaperMate fountain pen with a fine nib was filled with this ink, so I used this pen for the “Hema”. The other inks were applied with the dip pen.
None of the blue inks were very water-resistant acralic color. In fact, all of them washed away almost completely. The Skrip blue totally disappeared from the page. The other three left a very light blue shade. None of them were readable anymore.
Results for blue/black inks
I tested the following blue/black inks:
Sheaffer Skrip blue/black
Most of the samples were still readable after a 10 minutes soaking. However, Quink blue/black lost a lot of its color. Only a blueish residue was left on the paper. Surprisingly the Montblanc blue/black performed excellently. I have heard terrible things about Montblanc inks, so I fully expected that it would fail this test. But it was the only ink that kept a really dark color. Skrip black lost its blue, leaving a grey line behind. But the result was still very readable, and the ink did not leave a hue on the paper. The Lamy blue/black was really disappointing. It only left a very light blue line behind, making the writing hardly readable anymore.
Results for black inks
Finally, I put the black inks out:
While the writing samples were still readable, all inks washed away somewhat. What surprised me was that the blue/black inks performed much better than the blacks. Of the blacks, Quink finished as of last. After soaking, only a blue line remained. The Penman and Cross did not give in to each other. Each one remained dark but also spread a bit.
Most blue/black and black inks that I tested had a reasonable water resistance at least. Overall, the blue/black inks performed better than the blacks (I had expected it the other way around). The winner is Montblanc blue/black, followed by Skrip blue/black. The real losers are the blue inks. None of them had any water resistance at all.
Of course, water resistance is only one, relatively unimportant, quality of fountain pen inks. Most important for me are the flow characteristics and the color. Since most of my writing consists of notes taking, ink permanence is not a real issue. Using a spot of ink that tends to fade over the years might even be an advantage for letter writing. After all, I write snails, not my memories.
Urushi (pronounced “oo-roo-shee”) is one of the most durable natural lacquers known to man. Urushi lacquered ornaments including bracelets have been discovered in Japan dating from the Jomon period 9,000 years ago. In the west, these objects are also referred to as “japaned” objects. Hardened urushi is water and acid-proof, and also protects the object from heat, salt, mold and mildews, and all types of weathering. It has been used on wood, pottery, bone, baskets, fabric, and metal. Recently it has been successfully applied to the barrels and caps of fountain pens made of ebonite (black hard rubber).
Urushi is not only a durable varnish but is also one of the strongest adhesives while it is wet, which makes it perfect for decorating with gold powder (maki-e) gold foil (chicken), or mother of pearl inlays (raden). It is so strong an adhesive that in the distant past urushi was used by hunters and warriors to fix arrowheads to their arrow shafts!
This strength combined with the natural beauty of urushi lacquerware is the reason it has been so popular for thousands of years.
When we hear of urushi lacquerware, we think of shiny objects such as boxes and bowls covered with gold or colored maki-e decorations. However, the idea of decorating on top of urushi is a relatively new idea. Until the 18th century, urushi lacquerware was quite plain with no decoration. Red or black urushi was used on a wide variety of objects from household necessities such as rice bowls, sake cups and combs to hunting tools. Swords, shields, and entire body armor had coatings of urushi!
Where does urushi come from?
Urushi lacquer is made from the sap of the urushi tree (Rhus vernicifera). The urushi tree has been considered such a valuable commodity that it was planted all over Japan during the Edo period (1603-1868). However, the areas today where urushi sap is actually produced are very limited.
From June through November the urushi is tapped by slashing the bark of the tree with horizontal cuts to let the thick white sap (arami) ooze from the trunk. This sap begins to solidify as soon as it comes in contact with the air. It is then collected and filtered through absorbent cotton with a centrifugal separator to remove bark and other impurities. The result is raw urushi (nama-urushi) which can be further refined, or used as-is for the base coats in lacquerware. The amount of sap collected from each tree is only around 250 milliliters per year, which makes it a rather precious substance.
The raw urushi is heated at a low temperature and stirred to disperse its ingredients and break down its particles. It gradually turns dark brown in color, and reaches a smooth consistency. It is now ready to be used for the middle and final coats.
What makes urushi so strong?
While most paints dry by the evaporation of some solvent, urushi dries or hardens by absorbing moisture from the air.
The urushi sap contains an oily substance called urushiol. When exposed to warmth and humidity, an enzyme is activated and extracts oxygen from the water and supplies it to the urushiol. The urushiol solidifies, forming a hard film. Even after it has hardened, the urushi retains some water content, making it look perpetually wet and shiny.
Urushiol is the exact same substance found in poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac which causes rash and itchiness, so it is not advisable to handle liquid urushi with your bare hands unless you are one of the lucky few who are immune to it. Apparently, Asians and Native Americans are less likely to be sensitive to urushiol.
Urushi lacquerware is often black or red. The black color is produced by adding iron powder, which produces a chemical reaction with the urushiol, turning the urushi to a deep black color. Other colors are produced by adding pigments. Mercuric sulfide produces vermillion, and ferric oxide is used to make red.
How is urushi lacquerware produced?
Raw urushi is used for base coats, and refined urushi is used for top coats and decoration. The process of producing typical wooden urushi lacquerware has over 20 steps, and more than a hundred individual processes, still done by hand. Even a small object like a bowl can take over 6 months to make.
These steps include:
seasoning the wood
carving and sanding it to form the object
reinforcing fragile parts with linen cloth (for Wajima nuri)
applying several base coats of raw lacquer with drying and polishing between each coat
applying several coats of refeined black or red lacquer with more drying and polishing between each coat.
Finally, decoration such as maki-e can be applied to the still-wet adhesive urushi, or it can remain in its subtly beautiful undecorated state.
Lacquerware produced in the small port city of Wajima in Ishikawa prefecture has gained worldwide recognition for its beauty and durability. Urushi lacquerware has been produced here since the 16th century, and even now over half of the population of Wajima is involved in its urushi trade. Of all the urushi producing areas in Japan, only the town of Wajima has been officially designated by the government as an “Intangible Cultural Asset” of Japan.
Wajima is famous for its own urushi technique called “Wajima Nuri.” Wajima nuri is different from other types of lacquerware in several ways (including the obvious fact that it is produced in Wajima). One distinction is the use of linen cloth to reinforce fragile parts such as the rim of bowls. The fabric is coated in urushi and then carefully applied to the wood, and smoothed out. After the fabric and urushi has hardened, the whole surface is sanded and coated again and again, so the fabric is no longer distinguishable from the rest of the object. Other distinctions include the type of wood (keyaki), and the application base coatings of a special laquer paste made of urushi, and a type of soil called “ji no ko” (powder of the earth).
Urushi lacquered fountain pens produced in Wajima do not require the fabric reinforcement or the application of “Ji no ko” so they are described as “Wajima urushi nuri” instead of the official designation of “Wajima nuri.”
There is also an urushi lacquerware art museum in Wajima, Wajima Shikki-Kaikan filled with lacquer art and items related to the lacquer culture in Japan and Asia established for the promotion and development of urushi lacquer. Seven species of urushi trees can be seen in the museum garden. This is the only museum in Japan devoted to urushi lacquerwork.
Caring for your urushi pen
Uurushi is a very tough substance, but it does have a natural enemy. It does not like ultraviolet rays. Prolonged exposure to sunlight will eventually cause it to become dull and lose its durability. In Japan, the most valuable pieces of urushi lacquerware are stored in silk bags or wooden boxes when not in use. So take a little precaution, and don’t leave your urushi pens lying around for long periods in direct sunlight. And pass the word onto your children and grandchildren, because with a little care, an urushi pen should outlast the original owner by many generations!