Flawed and Wonderful: Parker Vacumatic in Azure Blue

Parker Vacumatic Azure Blue

When I was at the DC Pen Show, I found myself completely overwhelmed and intimidated by the stunning array of vintage pens. I shied away from exploring them because I felt like I needed to know [much] more to be able to recognize an acceptable pen at a good price. Sarj Minhas has a staggering vintage collection (so nice that it paralyzed me, both physically and verbally). I was especially blown away by his “Ripley” Vacumatic— simply stunning— with a hefty price tag that I’m sure is well worth it. So, while in DC, I stuck to moderns and remain very pleased with those purchases.

Vacumatic striations

But gosh darn, those Vacumatics speak to me. And wouldn’t you know it— one popped up for sale on Dan Smith’s site. I slobbered over it, then had a bit of a twitter conversation with Dan before deciding to go for it. During this exchange, Dan asked me, “What is it about the Vacumatics that you like?” I quickly answered, “The stripey bits.” It really is that simple— I love the look of the striations (aka stripey bits). And at $65, I knew this would be a good “starter” Vacumatic.

Vacumatic with Duofold nib

Going in, I was well aware that there are a few things wrong with the pen— and they’re undoubtedly big things if you’re a collector. The nib is a Parker Duofold, which is the wrong nib for this pen. The barrel is badly ambered so that it’s not at all translucent. I’m not able to judge the ink level by looking at the barrel— it just stops writing. And I may or may not be having some filling issues (TBD; working with Anderson Pens on this…pretty sure it’s just me being impatient when filling).

Vacumatic imprint

Despite all of this, I love this pen. LOVE. It puts down a perfectly wet, smooth, medium line— pure fun to write with. The barrel imprint is crisp and completely readable. The cap and clip are in great shape. Amazing, really, for a pen that was made in 1945. And those striations. Yeah, they’re what really got me.

Vacumatic barrel

Myke Hurley recently said, on Episode 75 of “The Pen Addict” podcast, that he overheard someone at the London Pen Show describe a Vacumatic as looking like the lit windows in a skyscraper at night. I SO agree with this description. (I was driving at the time I heard this, but nodded and laughed a little because I’d been thinking the exact same thing.)

Blind cap & vac

The filling system is very easy to use, but as I said, requires a bit of patience in that, according to Brian Anderson, one needs to pause at the bottom of the plunger’s downstroke, as well as at the top, for a second or two. I’m not sure that I’ve been doing that so my fills may have been a little short. Next time, I’ll take my time.

Uncapped Vacumatic

Like so many pen lovers, I’ve been on the elusive hunt for the “perfect pen,” as if such a thing exists. Does perfect mean that it has to be expensive or super smoooooooth or drop-dead gorgeous, or does it just have to fit our hand or our tastes or our writing style? Heck if I know. I’m pretty sure, though, that “perfect” is a moving target. And maybe (undoubtedly) “perfect” is overrated.

Parker Vacumatic clip

Our jobs/partners/kids/pets/churches/schools/movies/books/art are all imperfect— well-marbled with flaws along with the good stuff. And yet we love it all. We love our messy, sticky lives. This pen is the same— flawed, and yet still wonderful.

I wouldn’t have it any other way.


  • My Parker Vacumatic is currently inked with Pilot’s Iroshizuku tsuki-yo.
  • The Sassafras pen case prototype by Nock Co. provided the colorful backdrop for a number of these photos, and is where I’ve been storing this Vacumatic.  I’ve been carrying the Sassafras case with me EVERYWHERE and it looks as fresh as it did on day one.  Check out Nock Co.’s project on Kickstarter.
  • That Ripley Vacumatic? Unforgettable.

9 thoughts on “Flawed and Wonderful: Parker Vacumatic in Azure Blue

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  3. Beautiful design and color on that pen. I tried my hand at vintage with a Parker 51 and an Esterbrook J. The J has by far the smoothest nib I have ever experienced. But it burps up alot so I rarely use it. Maybe that is the character in vintage. Glad you’re loving yours for it’s character.

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  5. you are a lucky person.The parker duofold nib your pen has is better than the vac ones because it doesnt fracture on the long arrow lines,where the nib is thinner.I use my semi flex nibs black parker vac junior 36,black parker vac standard 36,,black vacufold junior41,all arrow nibs and my vacufold red toothbrush standard 41 ( nib marked parker pen usa),all on calligraphy writing.The last pen nib is more flex,smooth and higher on lines width variation .Sadly a vac arrow nib died the way im describing.And youre pen nib except the word pen- duofold is the same type my vacufold proudly shows.I hope yours is as flex as mine

  6. As addition to my previous words ,the dead parker vacumatic nib, is not any i described.Is another one fractured many years ago (no calligraphy pressure resistanse).Im a fortuned man because i replaced it with another u.s. rare semiflex nib like the rest on my writing wonders

  7. Love the review, thanks. I have a few Vacs and they’re all a joy to use. All 3 of mine have cosmetic issues, but the nibs are amazing. I have to say that I prefer the comfort of the oversized Maxima, but the nibs I have on my Majors are more smooth/wet (which I prefer).

  8. Pingback: Nib 9-1-1: Nib Tuning by Dan Smith | From the Pen Cup

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