The Pilot Parallel pens, although fountain pens, are not meant for writing novels, journals or to use in the office. That's because they are primarily intended for calligraphy. This is not meant to be an exhaustive review of the Pilot Parallel, but rather an insight into what makes these pens so special.
Pilot has invented a rather unique concept with the Parallel series. There are currently 4 nib sizes in the series: 1.5mm, 2.4mm, 3.8mm and 6.0mm. The caps are color coded in orange, yellow, green and blue, respectively. The innovative thing about the Parallels is the nib, which is made up of two parallel plates between which the ink flows. And it flows very well.
If you look at the nib you will see how sharp the edges are. You'd be forgiven to think that the pen skips and the nib likes to grab the paper. In fact, the Pilot Parallel is very smooth on any type of paper. The sharp edges of the nib ensure that the line is sharply delimited and that there is no fuzziness at the edges.
As I write this, I have only played with the 2.4mm version but I just received the 3.8mm and the 6.0mm pens. As such, the impressions in this review pertain to my experience with the 2.4mm nib, but I'm sure the same observations are in order for the other nib sizes.
I started with the 2.4mm nib because I didn't know what to expect from these pens. After playing with it, I realized that I wanted to experience the larger nib sizes so that's why I ordered the 3.8mm and 6.0mm. I won't be getting a 1.5mm pen because I already have a 1.5mm nib for my Lamy AL-Star and the line width is about the same, although the Lamy nib is not as crisp.
One thing that beginners (myself included) might not realize is that the Pilot Parallel can be used in two ways: you can draw with the entire width of the nib or you can just use the edge (one of the sharp corners) which creates a thin line, comparable to a classic medium or fine nib.
You have seen samples of how a 2.4mm Parallel writes in my reviews of J Herbin 1670 Rouge Hematite and Noodler's Yellow as well as my Noodler's Yellow and Navajo Turquoise ink mix. I have tried my hand at some pseudo-calligraphy in fonts of my own devising but you can probably tell I'm a big noob at this sort of thing. Nonetheless, this is a fun pen to play with.
The Pilot Parallel could very well be the gateway drug into calligraphy because it is cheap (I got mine for $10), simple to operate and well-built.
There's some interesting stuff that comes in the box: the pen itself, two ink cartridges (red and black), a cleaning pump, a shim for cleaning between the plates and instructions on how to use the pen and how to get started in several calligraphy styles. There's plenty of value for only $10.
The Pilot Parallel was not designed to be carried in a shirt pocket. There is no clip on the screw-on cap, except for the fin which prevents the pen from rolling off your desk. I really like the way they did the cap: it's brightly colored, big and screws on and off very easily.
The barrel is made from a soft, silvery plastic which seems to be the only weak link in this pen. It looks rather cheap but personally I prefer soft plastic to the hard, brittle variety. One cool thing about the Parallel is that it can be easily converted to an eyedropper if you apply a little silicon grease to the threads. The barrel is airtight but since it isn't transparent, I decided not to convert mine.
The Pilot Parallel takes Pilot's proprietary cartridges but that's not a bad thing because these cartridges are huge. I like to save mine, wash them and then refill them with the ink of my choice. One little documented fact is that you can also use Pilot's CON-50 converter in the Parallel if you so choose.
The pen comes with a converter-like pump which resembles a CON-20 converter but don't be deceived: it is not a converter. In fact it is meant to be used for cleaning the pen: to pump water in and out of it. Although some people have used this pump successfully as a converter, others have reported that it is very loose and won't stay attached. Mine, for example, is extremely loose.
Thing is, you don't even need to use the pump to clean the pen. What I love about it is that you can easily take the pen apart for cleaning. First, the feed is friction-fitted to the section. It slides out easily.
Second, the nib (actually the two plates) can be grabbed and pulled out of the section. Here's how the plates look when pulled. The plates are much tighter than the feed, though, so I used a piece of cloth to grab them with.
I just love a fountain pen that can be taken apart easily. That's the best way to ensure that there's no gunk left after cleaning.
As mentioned before, I like to refill used cartridges with whatever ink I fancy, and I do that with a syringe. It's the least messy and cheapest way to fill up these pens. As a rule, I don't like to make eyedroppers out of opaque pens. I like to see the ink level and besides I'm always scared that the barrel might come unscrewed and spill all that ink over me.
I'd like to mention one final thing about the 6.0mm Parallel. Many people have been using it as a highlighter. At 6mm, the line is very wide and can easily cover any handwritten text. If you can also load the pen with a special highlighting ink, you are bound to have endless fun highlighting stuff. Just a warning though: this could become addictive!
I would highly recommend the Pilot Parallel pens to anyone interested in calligraphy. As to what size is the best, that's a hard question. I started with the 2.4mm because I considered it intermediary. You might want to start with the 1.5mm or with the wider nibs. Either way, before long you will probably end up craving the other sizes that you are missing.
Here are samples from my previous ink reviews using the Pilot Parallel 2.4mm.