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The Haolilai 801F


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#1 GrantC

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Posted 06 July 2006 - 20:47

The Haolilai 801F

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Introduction

After my very happy experience with the Haolilai 601F and my fairly happy time with the 611F (review coming), I decided to find out what else Haolilai offered. I managed to find their website (Chinese only, and very difficult to navigate), and waded through their product line. Believe me, that took some time - their line is very extensive.

The 801 caught my eye, not just because of the striking color or patterning - the profile and size of the pen was appealing too. Unfortunately, I could find no one in the U.S. who stocked the model; fortunately, Todd Nussbaum at isellpens.com agreed to special order one for me.


First Impressions

I opened the package from Todd, and there was a largish, heavy box inside. Opening this up revealed the pen case - and what a case it is! My parents were in the jewelry industry, and I can remember some very expensive watches that didn't have packaging of this quality.

Opening the case, I was struck by a pen whose pictures hadn't done it justice. Having experience with Chinese pens, I'd expected lacquer over brass. Not so - the 801F is a resin pen; a translucent, iridescent, black grained orange resin! It is a gorgeous color (think Rhodia pad, and you're close) with great graining. Even the cap jewel is made of the same material.

As you rotate the pen, the iridescent sections flash - if you've ever seen a nice piece of tiger-eye, you know the effect. Frankly, I catch myself staring at it, turning it into the light just to watch the patterns! (If you look at the picture, what look like stratus clouds are the iridescent highlights.)


Physical Description

Being a resin pen, you would expect it to be light for its size - and it is, though it's not as light as, say, an Esterbrook "J". The pen measures 5-3/8" long capped, 4/3/4" long uncapped, and 6-1/2" long posted. It is 9/16" in diameter, making it slightly larger than the Estie.

The cap features a contoured clip and a gold-colored band at the edge. The cap seats with an extremely loud "snap", and requires some force to remove. This is a bit disconcerting - I'd prefer it to be much easier to uncap - but it's not unmanageable, and it certainly won't be coming loose accidentally!

The filling system is the ubiquitous international cartridge converter.


The Nib

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This pen is from the Haolilai Gold series, which not surprisingly feature gold nibs. The nib is marked "14k - 580."

(To digress just a bit, there seems to be some confusion about American and European karat markings. 14k gold is 14/24 parts gold to alloy, which works out to 58.3%. The closest European equivalent is "585", which is 585/1000 gold - or 58.5%. The standard in Asian countries is the aforementioned "580", or 58% gold. Is this close enough to qualify as U.S. 14k? Being only 0.3% off, of course it is. The next step down, if it existed, would be 13k, which is 54.2% - a long way off. So, it's perfectly fine to label "580" as 14k. End of lesson.)

The nib is what I'd call a solid American medium, being ever so slightly wider than an Esterbrook #2668 medium nib. Loaded with Noodler's Walnut, it proved to be a wettish writer; not nearly as much as it's cousin, the 601F, but certainly not dry.

The nib is quite smooth; compared to my benchmark Cross Century, it is very nearly as good. The Cross has that absolutely effortless feel on most papers, the sensation of gliding without any input across the surface of the paper. The Haolilai, in contrast, needs just a bit of direction; I actually prefer its feel over the Cross, as it always seems as though the Cross is going to get away from me! The 801F, in contrast, gives me a feeling of better control, and is nicer to write with. It even outperformed my best Esterbrook, which carries a superb #2668 nib.

That's not the most interesting part, though.

One of the first things I noticed about the 801F is that my writing looked different. Every other pen I have makes lines that are perfectly consistent, the ink evenly distributed on the paper. The Haolilai's letters, on the other hand, looked "old." The downstrokes started out lighter in color and just a bit narrow, and finished more saturated and wider. The pen felt different, too - much "softer", with a bit of give when nib contacted paper. Writing with my Esterbrook, by comparison, felt like using a solid steel rod. Pressing the nib very, very gently on my fingernail told the tale - the nib does indeed bend with the lightest touch.

OHHH! That's what people mean by "flex" and "shading"! Wow - I like it! My handwriting finally looks like it came from a fountain pen; up until now, all of my fountain pens produced lines that were almost indistinguishable from a rollerball. Not this pen - my writing now has that "vintage" quality I've been seeking. That alone makes it worth every penny I paid.


Now for the Good Part

I paid Todd all of $45 for this pen. That's not some special one-time good deal: he ordered in a couple of them, and they are now up on his site at that price. I've acquired several pens that impressed me, but this one (so far) makes me happier than all the others. It looks good, it feels great, it writes wonderfully, and the work it produces looks like a fountain pen should - IMHO, of course.

Yeah, you might say I like this pen!

The isellpens Haolilai page

Edited by GrantC, 09 July 2006 - 21:21.

-=[ Grant ]=-

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#2 isellpens

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Posted 06 July 2006 - 22:19

Excellent Review Grant! I may have to hire you! This pen is sold out after this review. I will be ordering more of this model. If anyone wants to be added to my waiting list for the pen just drop me an email.

#3 meanwhile

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Posted 06 July 2006 - 22:47


One of the first things I noticed about the 801F is that my writing looked different. Every other pen I have makes lines that are perfectly consistent, the ink evenly distributed on the paper. The Haolilai's letters, on the other hand, looked "old." The downstrokes started out lighter in color and just a bit narrow, and finished more saturated and wider. The pen felt different, too - much "softer", with a bit of give when nib contacted paper. Writing with my Esterbrook, by comparison, felt like using a solid steel rod. Pressing the nib very, very gently on my fingernail told the tale - the nib does indeed bend with the lightest touch.

OHHH! That's what people mean by "flex" and "shading"! Wow - I like it! My handwriting finally looks like it came from a fountain pen; up until now, all of my fountain pens produced lines that were almost indistinguishable from a rollerball. Not this pen - my writing now has that "vintage" quality I've been seeking. That alone makes it worth every penny I paid.


Grant - puh-leaze post a writing sample?????
- Jonathan

#4 meanwhile

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Posted 06 July 2006 - 22:47

(Duplicate post removed - my browser keeps appearing to stall, so I do a cancel and try again after every so-long. )

Edited by meanwhile, 06 July 2006 - 23:10.

- Jonathan

#5 meanwhile

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Posted 06 July 2006 - 22:47

(Duplicate post removed - my browser keeps appearing to stall, so I do a cancel and try again after every so-long. )

Edited by meanwhile, 06 July 2006 - 23:10.

- Jonathan

#6 Leigh R

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Posted 06 July 2006 - 22:52

I second the motion - a writing sample would be great!

#7 GrantC

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Posted 07 July 2006 - 14:58

My handwriting is so bad, I'm ashamed to show it - especially considering some of the folks here who can put a 17th century monk to shame!
-=[ Grant ]=-

#8 *david*

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Posted 07 July 2006 - 16:09

Even with horrible handwriting, it will be cool to see how this one works. And if your writing seems horrible, let this pen teach you a light touch - that way, your writing gets a chance to improve just by using this pen! :D

My writing always looked like that of a six-year-old boy. Now I've spent some time re-learning, and it sort of looks like the writing of an extremely well-educated six-year-old boy. :bonk:

#9 Larry T

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Posted 07 July 2006 - 16:38

Nice review, Grant. I have a Haolilai, I'm not sure what model, and it is an excellent pen for the money. As far as a writing sample goes, if you have looked at my ink reviews, I'm sure your handwriting is better than mine, and they haven't kicked me out yet. Live dangerously, please post a sample.

Larry

#10 GrantC

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Posted 07 July 2006 - 20:04

OK, people, avert your eyes...but remember, you DID ask for it!

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-=[ Grant ]=-

#11 Larry T

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Posted 07 July 2006 - 20:14

See? That wasn't so bad, now was it? Seriously, I like the line variation and shading. The Noodler's Walnut looks like a nice brown. I'll have to try a bottle.
Thanks Grant.

Larry

#12 GrantC

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Posted 09 July 2006 - 21:22

Hey, you're the one who has to look at it!

Seriously, thanks. I know my handwriting stinks, one of these days when I have free time I'll make the effort to improve. For right now, it's legible and very fast to write.
-=[ Grant ]=-

#13 Macuser

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Posted 10 July 2006 - 22:59

Great review! Thank you for taking the time to share your experiences with us.

#14 Dawn

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Posted 11 July 2006 - 00:12

Excellent review, and what a lovely looking pen. Thanks for sharing.

Dawn

#15 thewolfgang

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Posted 11 July 2006 - 19:57

I just received my 801F from Todd and it's a fabulous pen, everything that GrantC says it is. The wonderful nib, so sensuous and yet so family values (an odd combination, I admit), lays down a restrained but moist medium line, not as controlled as the nib in, say, a Lamy 2000, but undeiably irresistible.

And the finish is very gorgeous. I would have thought myself impervious to the attractions of such finishes, but now I can see why they attract so many admirers. Maybe that will be my (admittedly late in the game) mid-life crisis.

And now, I must admit that I am planning to give this to my beloved mother in law (two months shy of her 80th birthday, she was diagnosed with lung cancer, and so this will be a very special gift in so many ways. Yes, yes, I will put myself on Todd's waiting list!

#16 sonia_simone

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Posted 11 July 2006 - 22:14

I am dying to know what "family values" connotes in a nib.
Isn't sanity really a one-trick pony, anyway? I mean, all you get is one trick, rational thinking! But when you're good and crazy . . . ooh hoo hoo hoo! . . . the sky's the limit!
--The Tick

#17 thewolfgang

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Posted 12 July 2006 - 03:30

I wondered that myself as I was writing it. My first impulse had been to expand on the sensuous angle, but only for a moment. The son of a close friend of mine had recently married a charming young woman from China and I remembered how sweet the two of them were at their wedding, and somehow the qualities of sensuous and family values came together in my head. Luckily, when I write for publication, there is someone asking such questions as you have asked before my words get into print, and I can correct them, or elaborate, or tweak as necessary. In any event, the pen is that good, to elicit such complex associations!

Laurence

#18 sonia_simone

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Posted 12 July 2006 - 17:39

It's the editor in me, I can't help myself! Thanks for the elaboration.
Isn't sanity really a one-trick pony, anyway? I mean, all you get is one trick, rational thinking! But when you're good and crazy . . . ooh hoo hoo hoo! . . . the sky's the limit!
--The Tick

#19 thewolfgang

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Posted 12 July 2006 - 18:06

I have been an editor and it's interesting to switch between the two personna (personnae?). When I'm writing, I work and work at asking the questions but never ask quite enough of them. And it always amazes me the questions I didn't ask--in retrospect, they always seem so crucially important. As an editor, however, I spot them right off the bat.

#20 Nimrud

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Posted 17 July 2006 - 16:00

Sigh... yet another pen to add to my lust list... and just after I promised myself to stop buying more pens for at least the rest of the year.

Ok, first the Pilot Custom 823, then the Haolilai 801F... or should it be the other way? How long can I hold out?






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