If there's one thing I know about myself, it's that I'm a sucker for metal barrel writing instruments. This is the reason I flicked the Parker IM rollerball into my cart one day when I was browsing through the different rollerballs on JetPens. It's the only Parker rollerball on JetPens, so I thought I'd give it a try. In short, I love the design and aesthetic of the pen, but not the refill.
The Parker IM has a really pleasing look and feel. I opted for the gunmetal finish, which is a dark gray with a silver sheen. The accents look like chrome, although they probably aren't real. The clip on the pen has the classic Parker arrow shape, which is a nice touch. My favorite part of the pen is the all-metal grip area – this is a huge plus for me. I love pens with metal grips.
The pen is a little on the heavy side, but it's not noticeable unless writing for more than 20 minutes or so. I usually write with it unposted anyway. The pen looks classy and feels well-built.
And then I tried to write with it.
I was greeted by poor ink flow and a really scratchy sound when I tried to write. It sounded like I was writing with a nail, and the ink trail looked like I was using a ballpoint pen that hadn't been used in a few months. It was skippy and faint. I was perplexed.
A little background info that might be helpful here: I hold my pen in the "standard" grip. The grip rests on my middle finger, and my thumb and index finger hold it in place. The angle of the pen to the page is usually between 40 and 60 degrees. From my knowledge, that's a fairly common and universal grip.
I couldn't write with the Parker unless I held it perpendicular to the page – 90 degrees – any deviation would result in the scratchy sound and feel. This was frustrating, so I put it away for a bit. I wondered if there was something I did wrong. Did this pen have some sort of seal on the tip like some of the gel pens? It didn't look like it.
After fiddling with some other pens, I had an idea. I put the Parker refill through a similar process as smoothing a fountain pen nib. Figure eights and infinity symbols on varying grades of grit while holding it at a 45 degree angle.
To my relief, a few rounds of smoothing produced a better (not perfect) result. It was closer to what I was expecting, but still scratchy. At least the ink was flowing well now. And, wow. This ink flows. It's extremely smooth and bold ink. Parker calls this a "medium" point, but I would call it a bold. It looks like a 1.0 mm line on the page.
My only guess is that I received a refill that wasn't quite ready for retail. Maybe there was too much metal around the roller ball that was causing the problem? Seems like that might be the case since a little grinding made it better.
But really, who's going to do that to a roller ball? These are the types of refills that just work straight away. I considered buying a replacement refill, but decided it wasn't worth it. They're the same price as the Schmidt refills used in the Retro 51s, but I'd much prefer those to the Parker. The Zebra R-301 is only a few bucks and delivers a stellar performance.
Instead, I set out to find another refill that I could retrofit into the body. It's pretty universal and will accept a Pilot G2 size or a Pentel Energel with very little fuss. I used a 0.25" piece of tubing from the kit I received with the Retrakt to provide the right amount of spacing for the refill. Perfect.
I'll continue using the Parker IM, but not with the Parker refill. For now, I have several better options that produce smooth, silent results on the page. Maybe one day I'll try another Parker refill in this pen to see if I got a lemon, but I doubt it.
JetPens sells several colors of the Parker IM roller ball. With the experience I had with it, I can't really recommend it unless you're prepared to do some retrofitting or tuning.