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.
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.)
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.
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.