February 23, 2015

Parker Centennial Eternals

, making your own limited edition frankenpen.


[Posted on L&P on June 28, and July 6, 2005, and on PenCraftsmen on Oct 17, 2007.]
        A few years ago, I bought two Parker Centennial Duofold pens in the orange color with black ends, and I had them converted by Paul Rossi into all-orange pens.   Because they resemble the Swan Eternal, I sometimes call them my “Rossi Duofold Eternals”, or my “Parker Centennial Eternals”, but they could just as well be called “Canadian Orange Heat Waves”.  Paul also converted an orange vintage hard rubber Duofold into an all-orange pen for me.  The above picture shows them side by side.  I have a vintage bandless RHR Parker Duofold Sr., and I sometimes also place that cap-tube on this pen.  Then I took all the parts leftover from all my Centennial Duofolds and started to play with them.
        The Parker Centennial Duofold was originally released in 1988 in the
colors maroon, blue, 
and black, and soon after I bought one of the black pens.  The original release of the pen came in 
a rather plain box, not at all like the wooden boxes of the later Limited Edition pens, but it also included a very interesting brochure that was exclusive to this early run of pens.  This warrantee booklet contained the blueprints of the fountain pen with a cartridge, a nib-and-section unit with a convertor, and the first-version ballpoint, and it was from those images that I figured out how the pen could be taken apart.  Here’s one of the blueprints, the most crucial one because it shows the three major parts, that is, cap, barrel, and nib-section.
        So when the new orange version of the pen finally came along a few years later, I showed the blueprints to Paul Rossi at the 1994 LA pen show, and commissioned him to remake the pen for me in all-orange, no black tips, or gold rings.  At the time the pen was not selling well for Parker because they had saturated the market with the pen.  I was fortunate enough to have found two pens at $150 each, and I had both of them converted by Paul.  Soon after that, Parker recalled 1,945 pens, engraved them with MacArthur’s signature, stuck them into fancy limited edition boxes, and started to sell them for about $850.  After that, the price for the plain pen started to climb as well.
        As a consequence of the conversion of my two pens, I had some leftover parts, some red rings, and some gold-plated rings.  I took my black pen apart as well, and started playing around with exchanging those parts with the orange ones.  I showed the pen around at an LA pen show, and by the time of the next Chicago pen show a couple of months later, other people were already selling their versions of the pens with mismatched and mixed-up parts.  Some of these pens had one part each from the maroon, blue, green, orange, and black pens, and these tasteless pens were being called “factory prototypes” by the shady sellers.  I couldn’t believe it.
        In any case, this is how all these pens came about.  I started with a
first-version black pen 
with flat bands on the cap and barrel, but with the second-version clip.  I placed the original first-version clip on one of my orange Rossi converts because I liked it better.  This is what my black pen looks like now, with second-version clip and rounded cap and barrel bands.  I call it my “Reverse Hemingway”, or my “Anti-Rossi Centennial Duofold”, since it is the opposite of the Montblanc Hemingway color scheme, and none of the parts are made by Paul.  It could also be called an all-Parker frankenpen, since all the parts are made by Parker.  This is what my Anti- Rossi convert looks like with the first-version flat bands and the second-version clip.  And this is what the whole conversion kit looks like.  The original black pen did not come with the Centennial Duofold emblem on the cap end, so that adds another possibility to the conversion.  And here’s one of the boxes in which the original orange pens came, an American Cherrywood box.
        So this is how I made my own
three Limited Edition pens.  They’re not standard issue pens, so they’re also frankenpens, for they do bear the mark of pens customized by a ninja pensmith.  
So get out there and start customizing your pens, and start making your own Limited Edition frankenpens as well, but make them tasteful.

George Kovalenko.


Addendum, May 31, 2015.
Looks like the Parker Pen Co. has finally taken a hint and produced a Parker Centennial Duofold “Big Red” in all-red.  Here’s John Mottishaw’s article ad for the pen, and some more pictures.

Addendum, June 7, 2015.
Glenn Craig recently posted a picture of his black & pearl Centennial Duofold with a shortened cap on Pentrace.  And by the way, Parker has never retooled the length of the Parker Centennial Duofold cap since 1988, when the pen was first introduced, and has never shortened it.  The cap bands, no matter what their size, shape, or configuration, have always come to a total of exactly 5mm.  You have to remove bands to make the cap shorter, as Glenn did, but the cap lip will allow for the removal of only one narrow band.  This is what my black Parker Centennial Duofold looks like at presentI actually lengthened my cap with the addition of two narrow bands, so the band portion is now 7mm.  This is the dreaded Montblanc triple-cap-band configuration trademark, one wide band flanked by two narrows.  Now, it’s really a “Reverse Hemingway”.