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Review: Huashilai 2375
Posted 28 May 2009 - 22:17
The pen is pretty, though the milled accents on the cap aren’t consistent in depth leading to residual lacquer in one set. The hooded nib is a classic note.
Black lacquer and chrome is a very good combination to my eye. Simple, classic clip looks and feels sturdy, and the milled accents on the cap change a very basic looking pen into something with a “modern classic” look, almost a hint of Art Deco without any actual cues from that movement.
The pen is very slender, but heavy, due to the metal barrel and cap (I presume stainless, too heavy for aluminum and the base metal under the lacquer shows bright silvery tone where the accents are milled). The cap snaps positively in place in a groove on the chrome section grip, and a black plastic hood covers the nib almost as completely as on a Parker 51 or 21. The length is comfortable, but for my hand the pen may be a little slender -- more writing will be needed to be sure; it’s thinner than my Dollar 717i, but longer and much heavier. The cap doesn't post securely, but it's not needed for either balance or weight.
The nib is hard to see between the black feed and black plastic hood, but appears to be stainless. In this price range, it may even lack hard tipping, though there’s a definite thickening and to my eye it looks as if something is welded on. Writing is smooth and flow is good when the pen is on the sweet spot, but I’m not used to hooded nibs, and I keep rotating the pen toward my body because my eye is fooled by the hood (same color as the feed, which doesn’t help). The sweet spot is small and, like many pens made for the Asian market, has a higher preferred writing angle than I’m used to; this may be my first experiment in nib grinding as a result, because the higher angle causes my hand to cramp.
This nib is also a little soft, though I’m still trying to decide if it has actual flex or just spring. I’ve seen a little variation in the line, but with the ink I have in the pen for testing, I’m simply not sure if that’s the nib flexing open or just digging more ink into the paper. At most, it’s a “semi-flex” -- but I won’t know until I try a different, drier ink than my test fluid.
Filling System (5/10)
The pen included a syringe type converter, apparently identical to some I just purchased that were sold for pen makers. The converter will not fill completely because the plunger doesn’t reach the bottom of the reservoir; this reduces ink capacity, though as a result the glass (?) ball inside the filler (presumably to combat ink stratification) doesn’t have any further effect. Capacity of the converter is a bit less than an international cartridge -- and of course the pen will accept international cartridges, possible even the longer type.
Cost and Value (9/10)
Like many Chinese “consumer grade” pens, this one is very inexpensive, and appears capable of being a good writer with a little tuning. Purchased from an American seller, with free shipping, it still cost only about half what I paid for a cartridge pen without a converter at Office Depot or (exclusive of shipping) for a pre-tuned Pakistani made all-plastic piston filler.
There’s a possibility this could turn into a favorite if my hand adjusts to the slender form and if I can grind the nib to bring the sweet spot to a lower, more comfortable angle. The looks and mechanics are excellent for the price, and it’ll write well for you if you hold the pen at a higher angle (as do most of the intended Asian audience).
Does not always foot up columns correctly.
Does not always sign big checks.
Posted 29 May 2009 - 16:19
One thing I find rather common with Chinese pens that have a metal foundation, is that they use some kind of inexpensive but heavy material. Although sufficient weight can certainly make a pen feel substantial, I believe there is a subtle threshold that when crossed makes it feel unpleasant. I've experienced that with a few Chinese pens. One exception to this was the Rotring 600... although relatively heavy, the quality feels intentional rather than negligent--it's an extremely rugged pen. Hopefully the 2375 isn't too unwieldy in terms of weight.
You make an excellent point about using this pen for nib grinding experiments. At just $8 shipped (within USA), this is significantly cheaper than buying a separate nib for an inexpensive popular pen like a Lamy Safari. I also wonder if the nib design has enough in common with other hooded nib pens that might offer the opportunity for nib swapping.
Edited by MYU, 29 May 2009 - 16:25.
Posted 30 May 2009 - 00:53
Some followup -- I hadn't noticed when I wrote this review, but the hood isn't perfectly fitted to the chrome section; it looks as if it's a little rotated, though the hood is perfectly aligned with the nib. More careful examination in better light makes me almost sure this is an untipped nib -- it has a thickened tip, but less suggestion of added material than either my Yafa (with IPG nib, M) or my Dollar 717i (with a nib almost identical to the Yafa's IPG, but without "Germany" in the marking, F) -- the Yafa, especially, has a distinct ball of something on the tip.
And this morning, I flushed the home-mixed brown ink and refilled with PR Ebony Blue, and find the pen writes better with this purpose-made fountain pen ink (not too surprising): much less spreading, more consistent flow, and easier starts with what seems a slightly larger sweet spot. And my hand is adjusting to the pen, holding the correct angle with less attention on my part, as I suspected would be the case -- in fact, with the Ebony Blue and when I'm on the sweet spot, the pen is about as smooth as the Dollar, and with a similar line width.
I'm now pretty sure the nib is springy, but not flexible; there's no indication of flex with the Ebony Blue, so I think the wider line from more pressure with the inkjet brown was due to that ink spreading on a firmer or slower stroke, rather than the nib opening. Further, the sweet spot is at too high an angle for reasonable flex. The big downside of using this pen as a grinding testbed is that the nib starts out fine; the upside is that, seemingly untipped, it might lend itself to stubs, fine italics, and other things that wouldn't be possible with a fine tipped nib (because you'd grind away all the tipping). The nib will probably only last a few years of regular use, but that's not a big drawback for a pen in this price range or for a first experiment in nib grinding.
FWIW, the chrome section is comfortable other than being slender enough to remind me of a skinny ball point; it doesn't feel slippery to me, though certainly others might find it otherwise.
Edit: re nib design, it appears the hood is glued into the section, but the section appears to be crimped or formed around the feed and nib -- with the taper that's present, if that nib is going to come out, it'll have to be toward the back, and I don't see a way to do this without damaging something. I'm not going to try; I can't currently afford to replace this pen...
Edited by ZeissIkon, 30 May 2009 - 00:56.
Does not always foot up columns correctly.
Does not always sign big checks.