(Revised from the original posting on 16 March 2021.)
The Parker Challenger was manufactured from 1934 to 1941 and was a surprise success for the George Parker Company. The pen was introduced in February of 1934 during the Vacumatic era and featured a button filler made of the same material as the Vacumatics but at less than half the price. The Challenger was offered in two sizes, slim or 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.
When I got my Parker Challenger as a consultation prize for bitching about excessive shipping cost on another purchase. It was in horrible condition, the clip and cap ring is heavily brassed. The ink sac was dried-up, and the section is frozen to the barrel and the nib won’t pull out. The date code 13 is stamped on the barrel, meaning it was manufactured in Q1 1935.
How to refurbish it, I pulled out my Parker Repair manual, which was apparently a bad idea. In the repair manual, it indicated that the plunger section needed or could be removed using the Parker pen vise. Turns out you aren’t supposed to take the plunger section out so when I tried and tried all I did was damage the threads of the plunger cap. Now there are no teeth to hold the cap on.
So I got working on the section and the nib. Both aren’t budging, using a hair drier and soaked them for days, they finally came apart. A peek inside the barrel revealed the pressure bar mixed up with the dried ink sac.
Feeling frustrated I did a Duck Duck Go search and found 2 articles, one on The Fountain Pen Network and the other on Fountain Pen Restoration detailing how to refurb a Challenger, well shit. This is when I realized the vise was a mistake. Removing the plunger was no problem but the pressure bar wasn’t moving. Using a dental pick, I broke up enough of the sac to free the pressure bar, then removed the remaining sac.
I found a guy in South Dakota with a spare clip for the Challenger – I ordered one. Well, the clip arrived and the hole in the washer is too small. 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.
The inside diameter of the brassed clip ring is 10mm while the replacement clip is 7mm. Could it be a Vacumatic clip since Challengers were made from the same plastic or maybe a remodeled Duofold clip,
Removing 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. Afterward, I went over the pen with a Sunshine cloth. It feels great! and looks good. The process was repeated with on cap.
Time to focus on the section, it had a brown tint from all the grime which required sanding twice. The paper turned brown, but when I finished it looked great. Installed a #20 ink sac. Used the Sunshine cloth on the nib, it shined up great so I also polished up the feed and put the nib back into the section.
Do No Harm
Turned my attention to the damage I did to the plunger cap. Applied 2 coats of sac shellack to the inside of the blind cap threads. It 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.” I gave it a go, didn’t poison myself or blow up the garage, and my wife didn’t divorce me (lol).
- Capped length 132mm
- Uncapped length 116mm
- Barrel diameter 12mm
- Cap diameter 14mm
- Weighs in at 16g