The Parker Sonnet Dark Grey Lacquer is a beautifully designed pen with a classically tapered body and polished gold trim. Though the Parker brand has been around since the late 19th century, they are constantly updating their classic lines for a more contemporary base. This version of the Sonnet was originally released in 2010, but it joined my collection in the summer of 2016. My brother and I both received Parker Sonnets with Quink Black as presents from one of my mom's childhood friends. It turned out to be a huge coincidence because he did not know I had a fountain pen hobby. This simple gift-giving act reflects an overall surging market in China for imported fountain pens. Since China is currently the world's largest consumer market for fountain pens, several local companies have emerged, such as Jinhao. Foreign pen manufacturers— the likes of Parker and Lamy—have a much larger brick and mortar retail presences in major Chinese cities, unlike in the United States where Mont Blanc is the sole player.
Even though it is my second gold nib pen, it remains the most expensive in my collection to this day. Parker's reputable brand depends on its long history and persisting vintage pens, such as the 1940's Parker 51, but their modern lines don't necessarily justify the upper-tier gold nib price point. I was genuinely excited about getting the pen, even though Parker pens were not on my list due to their high price point. It just would not have been a pen I would've bought for myself, but it adds a vintage touch to my mainly "modern" pen collection.
Out of the box, I immediately noticed that the nib was extremely glassy, lacking any "toothiness" or grip on the paper. While this is an anticipated difference from the steel nibs that I mostly use, the nib glided across the page without putting down any ink. It skipped regularly and the nib dried out more quickly than most other pens. Moreover, the feed was quite difficult to clean out and it appeared to have an air pressure issue when flushing, possibly due to blockage in the feed. I experimented with variety of inks; however, it was no longer worth it to regularly ink up the pen. I even contemplated selling off the pen, but I realized that it would have been disrespectful because the pen was a gift from a close family friend. So, it just sat in my drawer for months.
When we were preparing for the Chicago Pen Show this past week, I thought about bringing my Sonnet along to see if anybody could remedy the problems. I asked around to find good pen repair people and was referred to Ron Zorn (of Main Street Pens) by Jim Rouse (from Franklin-Christoph). I got the opportunity to sit down with Ron, who immediately diagnosed the issues. Apparently, there have been a sizable number of people bringing in "moderns" such as mine with similar issues. Using various homemade tools, an ultra-sonic cleaning bath, and micro-mesh, Ron was able to fix my pen. The two main issues were:
- Twisted and misaligned tines, meaning that the split was not parallel and the nib would skip regularly because it wasn't touching the paper evenly
- Pressure building up inside the feed, so the ink was clogging up and failing to flow consistently
After the repair and modification, the pen now writes beautifully with its medium (refers to width of line put down on paper) 18K gold nib. Even though it writes a bit on the dry side, it actually works perfectly for me because it's broader than most of my everyday-carry pens. I will need to maintain and flush this pen more often than other pens in my collection. Nevertheless, a lot of the joy that I get out of this wonderful hobby is the maintenance routine itself. Unlike the common rollerball or ballpoint pens, one buys a fountain pen with the intention of using it for a long time. Like most precious objects , a lot of care has to go into preserving its functionality. For a classically and historically beautiful pen such as the Parker Sonnet, this is certainly worth it.