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The Haolilai 575F


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#1 GrantC

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Posted 08 July 2006 - 21:25

The Haolilai 575F

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Introduction

When I special-ordered my Haolilai 801F from Todd at isellpens.com (see Reviews index), it wasn't for myself - my wife had wanted me to special order a pen for her, and the 801 was just "along for the ride." That's my story, and I'm sticking to it!

In any case, my wife really likes hooded and/or streamlined nibs - think Parker 51, Sheaffer Triumph, that sort of thing. She had looked at the Haolilai company website I'd managed to unearth, and found a few hooded nib models she thought she'd be interested in - one of them being the subject of this review, the Haolilai 575F.

Todd was kind enough to special order both pens, which certainly made my wife's day. ("If mama ain't happy, no one's happy!")


First Impressions: Design and Appearance

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The first thing that strikes you is the nicely brushed stainless surface. This is reminiscent of the famous Flighter pens, but less torpedo-like and more cigar-shaped. The surface is also a bit finer grained than the Flighter, giving it a more lustrous appearance.

The cap and body are separated by a polished stainless ring, which itself is bifurcated by a thin black groove.

The cap has a rectangular clip, which is gold-toned. The clip itself is dual finished, being mainly matte gold with a polished gold portion. It's subtle - you have to be fairly close to the pen to notice that detail - but it lends a sophisticated, feminine touch to what could otherwise be an austere industrial look.

The cap is topped with a polished gold-colored dome, the bottom edge of which has a black groove to echo that of the body/cap joint. At the other end, the stainless body has simply been domed to give a similar feel.

All in all, it's a unique interpretation of the classic Flighter design.


Features and Construction

The pen is what I'd call medium sized - 5-3/8" long capped, 4-1/2" uncapped, and 6" when posted. The girth is 7/16", making it a nice size for most hands. One surprise on first handling the pen is that it's a bit heavier than one expects; it's not heavy, by any means, but has a refreshing heft that is both unexpected and appreciated (at least, by me!)

The cap is of the snap-on type, and has a satisfyingly solid "click" when the pen closes. Taking the cap off requires just a tad more force than I would like, but it's not nearly as much as some Chinese pens I've tried. It's certainly secure, and the pen doesn't rotate inside the cap when closed - a sign of good sealing.

Speaking of sealing, blowing into the cap reveals absolutely zero leakage - a problem with many cap designs, but not so with the 575F.

The section is slightly convex in shape, tapers to mostly cover the nib, and is made of highly polished metal. (Personally, I intensely dislike this type of finish, as the sections offer little friction to keep pen in the fingers; I prefer a textured, or at least a plastic with more traction. My wife, on the other hand, really likes it - showing that even this small a detail can have ardent opinions on either side!)

Filling is by the common international-size cartridge converter.


The Nib and Writing Performance

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The nib, as noted, is semi-hooded and tapers appropriately. When I first inked the pen with Noodler's Luxury Blue (my wife's preferred color) and prepared to test it for the first time, I thought back to some of the similar Hero pens I'd tried. I braced for what I expected to be a somewhat scratchy, dry, extra-fine, painfully thin line. Imagine my surprise when instead the pen produced a very smooth, fairly wet, and decidedly western-like fine line!

I usually don't like many fine nibs, simply because they tend to have more tooth than your typical medium nib. This nib, though, was different - it was simply a pleasure to write with immediately out of the box. There is just a little tooth, and the best way I can describe it is that is feels a bit like a very good rollerball - but with much less writing pressure, of course. It's eminently usable, and I'd describe it as extremely smooth relative to its width.

(This is the kind of performance I've found to be normal for Haolilai. They know how a pen should write!)

Since it's my wife's pen, I don't use it very often, but she reports that it starts immediately after sitting for several days. This is not surprising, given the airtight cap and bank-vault-like closure!


In the Final Analysis...

The Haolilai 575F proved itself to be more than either of us expected. The construction is superb, the styling good, and the writing performance is excellent. The kicker is that the pen was only $12.99!

Let's put that into perspective: I recently bought a Wing Sung pen for $8, as did many others here at FPN. The Haolilai 575F, at just a few dollars more, is easily ten times the pen in terms of quality and performance than the Wing Sung.

Personally, it still amazes me that a pen of this quality can be produced and sold for such a small amount of money. Haolilai (and my other favorite Chinese brand, Duke) is producing pens that are good by any standard, and that they can be had with shipping for less than a $20 bill is outstanding. Yeah, I love my Esties and Sheaffers and other vintage pens, but they don't out-perform the Haolilai, and in their day cost much more as a percentage of average income.

Many thanks to Todd at isellpens.com for taking the trouble to special order this for my wife! (I understand that he brought in a few more after trying it for himself, and they are for sale on his site.)
-=[ Grant ]=-

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#2 acogbill

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Posted 09 July 2006 - 12:28

Very nice review!

#3 thewolfgang

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Posted 09 July 2006 - 15:42

Thanks for getting the Haolilai reviews up so quickly. And for convincing Todd to expand his line.

You are creating a new standard for Chinese pens, which obviously can stand on their own.

#4 GrantC

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Posted 09 July 2006 - 17:40

I don't think I did anything to actually convince him; I never told him to bring in more. Apparently, though, the good experience that folks had with the first pens convinced enough other people to buy, and he got the message that there might be a market. The reason I even tried the first one was because I read a one-line comment here from someone who had seen one overseas and liked it.

It's just neat to see heretofore unknown brands becoming available through consumer demand. If you think about it, we have never had such power. Twenty years ago (heck, even ten) what small retailer would take a chance on a product no one had ever heard of? Now, they can test the waters by bringing in a few; people try them, tell millions of others on the net about them, and that businessperson gets to sell more than they ever could with even the largest brick-and-mortar store.

A mere decade ago, it would have been nearly impossible for me to hear of Legal Lapis, Rhodia, or Haolilai. Now, it's a matter of a few keystrokes. To quote Homer Simpson, "if there's a better use for the internet, I haven't found it!"
-=[ Grant ]=-






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