Parker Vacumatic—Use and Maintenance
These instructions work for any Parker fountain pen that has a Vacumatic filling mechanism. This includes the Vacumatic, “51”, some Duofolds, and possibly some other models that aren’t in my knowledge bank yet.
Filling the pen
Filling a Vacumatic is pretty straightforward.
- Insert the nib end of the pen into a bottle of ink (make sure the ink level comes up to the section).
- Depress the plunger several times (at least 3, sometimes 6 or more).
- Wait several seconds between each depression of the plunger.
- If your pen has a lock-down pluger, depress it and lock it in position before you remove the pen from the ink.
- Wipe the excess ink from the nib and section and you are ready to write.
There is a breather tube inside the pen. When you depress the plunger, air is forced out of the pen through the breather tube. Once the ink level inside the pen raises to the top of the breather tube, depressing the plunger more will force ink out instead of air. So if your ink level is above the breather tube, your pen is about as full as it’s going to get. (On pens that don’t have a transparent barrel, you have no way of knowing how much ink is in the barrel. You’ll have to judge based on whether ink bubbles come out when you depress the plunger.)
Emptying the pen
The Vacumatic filling system was designed to fill up the pen with as much ink as possible with minimal effort. One side affect of this design though is that removing ink from the pen is somewhat difficult if you want, for example, to change ink colors when you pen is still half full of ink. Depressing teh plunger over the ink bottle won’t necessarily empty the pen of ink. On some pens, if you depress the pluger slowly, it will push ink out several drops at a time. This doesn’t work consistently though.
Another option is to flick the pen over a sink BUT THIS IS DANGEROUS!!!. I’ve done this before, but it is a disaster waiting to happen. Eventually you are going to hit the pen against something when you flick it and you’ll end up ruining your nib.
Another thing that works well is to stuff a wad of paper towel in the end of a long sock, insert the pen so the nib is nestled in the paper towel, and then twirl the pen. If your pen is full of ink instead of water (from cleaning), then you may fling ink droplets around so either do it outside or flush the pen first so it is mostly water inside.
Cleaning the pen
Cleaning the pen is a matter of flushing the pen with water. You should do this every time you are changing ink color or if your pen is going to sit unused for awhile. To do this just take it to a sink, fill a cup with cold water, insert the nib end of the pen into the water, and depress the plunger until the water runs clear through it. When I do this, usually I pump it untill the remaining ink is obviously diluted. Then I empty the pen using one of the methods listed above. Then I refresh the water and repeat the process until their is no evidence of ink coming out when I depress the plunger. Then I empty the pen of water using the methods. I usually then let it dry, uncapped.
Note that when you are cleaning your pen, it is sometimes a good idea to rinse out the inside of your cap as well. It’s pretty common to get ink build up inside the cap when the pen is getting used.