The Parker Challenger pen was manufactured from 1934-1941 and a surprise success for the George Parker company. The pen was introduced in February of 34 during the Vacumatic era. The pen featured a button filler and made from the same material as the Vacumatics at less than half the price. The pen was offered in two sizes, slim and standard and sold for $2.50, whereas the Vacumatic sold for $7.50 and the Parkette for $1.25, making it priced right as a gift pen for school students.
So I got a Parker Challenger with a purchase of a newer Parkette. The Challenger was in horrible condition. As you can see the clip and cap ring are brassed, the clip especially. The ink sac is a dried up crunchy thing, the section is froze and the nib won’t pull out. So I decided what the hell let’s give it a go, I need to learn about Parker pens anyway.
Little background on the pen, this model is from Q1 1935 – it has a date code of 13 – it has a plunger fill system. It is considered a mid grad pen in the Parker family. Offered in two sizes; the slender measured 122 millimeters (4 13/16”) long and the standard measure 132 mm (5 1/8”) when closed. I need to measure mine. Which I did and it is 132 mm long, answers that question. At the time it sold for $2.50. I started doing some research and pulled out my Parker Repair manual, which was apparently a bad idea. In the manual it indicated that the plunger section needed or could be removed using the Parker pen vise. Now those are nearly impossible to find but I found a home made modern pen vise which I ordered. Turns out you aren’t supposed to take the plunger section out so when I tried and tried all I did was screw up the threads for the plunger cap. So now the cap is too big – geez, but hey better find out the hard way on this pen.
So I got working on the section and the nib. Both aren’t budging, used a hair drier and soaked them for days, finally they all came apart. I took a peek inside and the mess looked like some kind of mold growth but it was just the hardened old ink sac. I could see there was a pressure bar mixed up with the ink sac.
Feeling frustrated I did a Duck Duck Go search and found 2 articles The Fountain Pen Network and on a Fountain Pen Restoration blog on how to refurb a Challenger, well shit. This is when I realized the vise was a mistake. I learned instead that I needed to pull the plunger out, followed by the pressure bar. Pulling the plunger was no problem but the pressure bar wasn’t moving – remember the mold looking thing? Next step, I used a dental pick and broke up enough of the sac to pull the pressure bar. Then I could scrap out the rest of the ink sac.
Feeling empowered now I decided to make a serious effort at refurbing the pen. I found a guy in South Dakota with the same clip I took off the pen nearly NOS – so I ordered one. Well the clip arrived and the hole in the washer is too small, wtf. At first glance it is otherwise identical to the one I took off. Placing them side by side the new one is a little shorter so I guess my pen is a standard. Did some measuring and the inside diameter of the brassed clip ring is 10mm. Wondering now if it is a Vacumatic clip since Challengers were made from the same plastic. Upon further review I think the clip is a remodeled Duofold clip, need to keep my eyes open for a Duofold clip replacement. Anyway, until I can find a replacement or an inexpensive “zinc” application process (lol) I’ll use the ugly brasses clip.
Also learned the pen uses a #20 ink sac, which I don’t have, order some of them. All the goodies are on the way so Now it’s time to clean off the years of grim, tooth marks and scratches. Taped over the name and mfr info and started sanding with 1000 grit paper, then 2000, 3000, 5000, 7000 grit paper then I repeated the whole process. Afterwards I went over the pen with a jewelers polishing cloth. It fells great! and looks good. I repeated the process on the cap.
Then I focused on the section, it had a brown tint from all the grime, sanding it twice. The paper turned brown, but when I finished it looked great. Used the polishing cloth on the nib, it shined up great so I also polished up the feed and put the nib back into the section. Turned my attention to the damage I did to the plunger cap. I used the ink sac shellack and coated the inside of the lid twice, didn’t help so I cut some black construction paper into a thin strip and put it inside the cap and shellacked it into place – bingo.
OMG I’ve found a DIY process for nickel electroplating that is safe and easy. Probably a little unnerving and my wife will be terrified I’ll blow the house up but definitely worth consideration.