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Baoer 388


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#1 Flounder

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Posted 23 May 2010 - 23:53

Baoer 388 – Stainless Steel Gold trim, medium nib



Introduction
Apologies if reviewing conventions aren’t adhered to everyone’s satisfaction – this is my first review. This fp is a Baoer model 388, available – so far as I know – in black lacquer or stainless steel; I went for the steel version. Despite all the volcanic dust cloud disruption, the Baoer arrived here in Scotland just a fortnight after winning the auction on eBay, from Wuhan, China. On top of this, a free converter was included!

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Here’s the package as it arrived, on my recently restored antique burlwood desk.

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Packaging was a little light – bubblewrap around the pen, inside one of those bubblewrap-coated envelopes. The seller did make clear in the listing there was no presentation box, and the pen itself was totally undamaged.

Appearance and Design
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On first sight, I couldn’t fail to be impressed with the Baoer. I don’t usually go for pens where there’s a noticeable step between the cap and body – I prefer there to be a seamless transition – but on this Baoer it looks just great.The 338 also looks great against the grain of my exquisite, recently restored burlwood desktop. With the cap off, it looks even better – see the photo below.

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Oh no! I’ve been rumbled! As you probably guessed already, the only ‘burlwood desktop’ here belongs to my laptop. The genuine article is a little out of my price range! In my clumsily obvious way, I’ve arrived at my next point: the Baoer 388 is one of those nudge-nudge, wink-wink, Chinese ‘homage’ pens to the Parker Sonnet. I have no basis for comparison, so this review is conducted on the Baoer’s own merits.

Looks – wise, the brushed stainless steel body is very classy. Looking at my other flighters, it looks more like the 45’s body than my Targa’s, which is brushed a touch coarser. The gold cap band isn’t overstated, and is in perfect proportion to the rest of the pen.

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The clip and partially countersunk cap jewel are also very tasteful and at odds with 90% of the more ostentatious style of Chinese fountain pens I see on eBay.

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I think the photos speak for themselves - this is a very handsome pen, and looks far more expensive than it is.
Plating is very good overall – there is a tiny patchy area on the end of the cap clip, as shown below.

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There is also some evidence of plating loss on this ring. Bear in mind these are macros, everything looks good to the naked eye.

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The nib is two-tone, steel and gold, and this effect has been done quite accurately, shown in the following two photographs. It’s refreshing to see a generous amount of tipping on a Chinese pen.

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There’s a gold ring just behind the nib the cap secures to, but it’s not at all gaudy.

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Construction and Ease of Use
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As soon as you pick it up, this feels like a very solid, dependable pen. It weighs around 20 grams according to my wildly inaccurate scales – I have seen different eBay sellers claim anything from 27 to 38 grams. It feels heavier than my 45 flighter. It’s around 13.6 cm long; the barrel at its widest is 1.1cm diameter.

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This is one Chinese pen with a very European feel. For a pen that’s a decent size and weight, with Parker-style medium tipping, I was very surprised to find that I just can’t get used to writing with it at all. I have puzzled over this for a few days now, and have come to the conclusion that it’s a combination of balance and section size. To my large hand, it feels oddly top heavy, an effect exacerbated by posting. But principally, the reason we can’t get along is the tiny grip section (may I remind a certain member to return my snorkel grip section? Do the decent thing). At 2.5cm long, it’s simply too small for the thumb and forefinger, forcing you to hold the pen almost by the nib. Also, the section is very narrow, 0.8cm where your fingers are forced by the bevelling to grip it. The combination of these factors makes the pen very unpleasant for someone with larger hands to write with, but will probably suit most people. Shame! Comparative photo of the section below.

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The cap clip is tight. The cap itself snaps very, very securely on to the pen and has a very impressive action that’s hard to describe – sort of elastic to begin with, and then a very definite click. Unfortunately, it’s astoundingly difficult to then get the cap back off – it takes both hands and a lot of effort – usually enough to cause real irritation. I’m hoping this will get easier with use.

Unscrewing the barrel and section, I got a nice surprise. Both have metal threads, rather than metal screwing into plastic. I don’t see these stripping, cracking or losing tightness any time soon. Very impressive and actually a more robust design than most of my other fountain pens.

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Nib and Performance
The nib is two tone steel and gold plate, listed as medium tipped and lays a line as wide as my Frontier’s medium. Strangely, I’ve only seen these 388s available with a medium nib or as rollerballs. It’s wider than a Sheaffer medium, see the photograph below.

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Sorry about the handwriting – they are all medium nibs and all filled with Diamine Royal blue. The Baoer may be filled with Turquoise, it’s hard to tell from the free pack of carts Diamine sent with my last order. For a Chinese medium point it’s nice and wide. The nib is absolutely rigid by the way, and of moderate wetness. It’s as happy writing on 90gsm black & red notepads as it is on generic Asda A4 lined paper. I’d say its slightly less smooth than my Frontier, but only slightly. Considering it was approximately half the price, it’s certainly much more than half as smooth.

If the nib can be unscrewed/ pulled for ease of servicing, it certainly isn’t keen on the idea.

Filling System and Maintenance
Here’s a plus: the Baoer 388 takes international cartridges, so I’ve found a use for my free pack of Diamine samples. It comes with a free screw type converter – in the photograph below, you can see the converter has a tiny glass bead inside.

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I only used the screw converter to clean the nib/feed with water before first use, I have quite a few of these Diamine freebie cartridges. There is also enough space in the barrel to accept a Flounder converter.

Cost and Value
I bought the Baoer on eBay, for $6.90 - £4.70 – including shipping from Wuhan province, China to Scotland. Can you believe that price? This excellently put together, all-metal pen costs less than £5. Brand new. Including shipping across the planet. With a converter thrown in! It simply is unbelievably low priced for what you get. I believe the black version is lacquer over brass, at the same price.

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Parting Shots
If I had smaller hands, this pen would be ideal. It’s not for me, but it’s a seriously good looking, solidly made, high quality fountain pen at very, very low price. I’m suitably impressed!

EDIT: I forgot to add this cap off dry out test - I took the cap off, then left it lying on the desk for 5 minutes. Afterwards, it started up straight away.

Edited by Flounder, 24 May 2010 - 01:08.

Latest pen related post @ flounders-mindthots.blogspot.com : vintage Pilot Elite Pocket Pen review


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#2 FooWriter

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Posted 24 May 2010 - 00:47

It is a lovely pen and feels great in the hand. My only complaint with mine is that the nib came misaligned to the feed, so it's hard to keep it writing. If it didn't look so nice, I'd have binned it months ago; but as it is, I hang on to it in hopes that I'll bump into someone who knows enough about such things to knock it apart and put it back together as intended.
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#3 icardoth

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Posted 24 May 2010 - 02:17

Excellent review. I also bought this same pen, as well as the black lacquered model. Currently I'm using the black one as my daily writer, and I agree with your opinions. The only issue I've found is about the nib. With certain papers the nib 'slips' and so skips, just as my Frontier does. It's quite annoying, but I cannot ask for more for the price I've paid.

#4 lovemy51

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Posted 24 May 2010 - 04:51

nice review of the Sonnet.. ehem, i meant the Baoer!!

i would love to see it side-by-side with the Parker Sonnet.

#5 rwilsonedn

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Posted 24 May 2010 - 17:27

What a splendid, detailed, and yet personal review, and excellent photography. My experience with one different Baoer pen matches yours: if you are happy with the size and balance, the pen is beautifully finished and a great writer.
ron

#6 Spector

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Posted 26 May 2010 - 01:10

do you know if these would be the same quality of a pilot 78g which is in the same price range of 8-10 dollars USD?
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#7 Bluefinntuna

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Posted 26 May 2010 - 03:56

Great review!!! I too have a Baoer 388 in stainless steel and like it. It is inked with J. Herbin's Eclat de Saphir. Writes nicely. I just ordered another 388 in black off Ebay because I like this pen so much. It is really a bargain. I think.

#8 Flounder

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Posted 26 May 2010 - 18:20

Thanks for reading guys - could I ask the other Baoer users if their caps are hard to remove, and if not, did they loosen over time or just come that way?

Unfortunately I don't have a 78g to compare it with Spector - though thanks for bringing it to my attention, I like screw caps. I suppose you could say the Baoer is 'better quality' that the Pilot if the Pilot is made of plastic, as this Baoer is made of steel and the black version is lacquer over brass, but some people might prefer a lighter pen. Horses for courses! I will start looking for reviews of the 78g after reading your post!

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#9 Bluefinntuna

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Posted 28 May 2010 - 04:04

My 388's cap snaps on with a satisfying click. Removing the cap takes a little more effort, but not terribly hard like my Hero 200.

Just for comparison to some of my other pens with snap on caps:
Pilot Prera -- no effort
Aurora Ipsilon -- ok
Baoer 388 -- little more effort than the Ipsilon
Hero 200 -- a booger to uncap.

#10 vulpen

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Posted 27 November 2011 - 20:10

I have a blue Baoer 388 and the cap is very hard to remove. It was a very dry writer in the beginning, but pushing it a little against the paper solved that. That gives me the impression that while the nib is very stiff, it is also prone to deformation. Should not be a problem if you handle the pen with care.

Edited by vulpen, 27 November 2011 - 20:11.


#11 antidogma

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Posted 27 November 2011 - 20:45

The nib definitely appears to deform quite easily. It takes considerable effort to 'train' a Lamy or Parker nib - in comparison, it only takes a semi-firm press against a hard surface to modify the Baoer nib. Like vulpen said, it doesn't look like it should be a problem with regular careful use.
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#12 AlejoPlay

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Posted 28 November 2011 - 04:36

I just got a red lacquer version of this. I love it. I inked it up with Lie de The and I can't stop using it. It writes very fine, but very wet and the nib is very pleasant to write with.

#13 ser.rep

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Posted 08 March 2012 - 14:06

Hello everybody
I received last week a "wholesale" set of 5 Baoer 388 (green, red & blue laquered, black and stainless steel).
I bought this set for three reasons:
1. 25$ for 5 pens including shipping is a worth to try
2. often chinese pens have some troubles in writing, so I wanted to be sure to have some pen writing correctly
3. I had to answer to my wife's desires (she also likes the 388) and also my daughter would try to write with a fountain pen (she's 8 years old ...).

Four of the pens came with the same nib of the one in this review (the nib without the Baoer logo, but just the BAOER firm name) - that I believe are the new nibs from this manufacturer - and one (the blue lacquered) with the old nib (the one with Baoer logo).

We are regularly using three of them (I use the stainless one with Pelikan 4001 royal blue, my wife uses the blue and red laquered equipped with Pelikan 4001 royal blue and bright red respectively).

Both the two with the "new" nib are really fine writers without any tuning required (just a very good wash with warm water and ammonia), right wet and continuous, without any skipping, not even at startup.

The blue one with the "old" nib suffers of skipping, that I tuned by separating the tines with a cutter, moving from the nib pierce to the point; even though, the other ones remain better writers.

On my side, the only drawback I see is the cap, very hard to pull out; anyway I now use my stainless 388 as my everyday writer and I am very satisfied with it, so that I am going to prepare the black 388 and fill it with black ink, to carry it with me on the job ...

Edited by ser.rep, 09 March 2012 - 00:25.

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#14 WetWetWet

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Posted 08 March 2012 - 15:12

Lovely review of a fine pen!

Mine is currently filled with Waterman violet and used for taking notes. The converter alone was worth the price, GBP 5 P&P included.
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#15 robofkent

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Posted 08 March 2012 - 21:07

I have a proper Parker Sonnet and a Baoer 388 Sonnet wannabe and the Baoer 388 has been more reliable

#16 WetWetWet

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Posted 08 March 2012 - 23:18

I have a proper Parker Sonnet and a Baoer 388 Sonnet wannabe and the Baoer 388 has been more reliable


Any chance of a picture featuring both pens or even a comparative review :notworthy1:
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#17 bicfan

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Posted 09 March 2012 - 16:14

Nice review. I have been thinking about getting one of these.

How long is the pen from point of nib to the end of the pen (unposted)?

Is the pen sensitive to rotational angle when writing?

#18 Flounder

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Posted 10 March 2012 - 14:53

I was browsing the reviews and was surprised to see this one resurface, it doesn't appear in "my content". It's certainly interesting to see that Baoer have expanded the range of finishes, some of them look very nice indeed! The example reviewed was 12.1 centimetres from the tip of the nib to the end of the barrel. It's not too fazed if you rotate it as you write, I reckon about 25 degrees from dead on either way and ink still hits the page.

bicfan, if you really are a bic fan I think you will be quite comfortable with these pens. The nibs are rigid, the cap is not likely to come off by itself, you could trap it under a laptop in a bag of books and it wouldn't snap in half. even the section is painted metal. If you scratched it or lost it, it's no big deal to replace.

I don't use my Baoer very often at all, I have to say. Since the review I did discover the nib is a friction fit in the section. At some stage, I might have a go grinding the underside of the nib to thin out the metal, hopefully make it a bit more interesting to use.

Edited by Flounder, 10 March 2012 - 14:59.

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#19 Durham K

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Posted 05 August 2012 - 20:02

My Boaer took a dive off a desk and I can say that the feed is a brittle plastic! I enjoyed using it but I think I should give other pens a chance, as that is why I have them. I will not wear any of my pens out in my allotted time, so buying pens that are "ok" seems a little futile. Having said that, if you want a cheap EDW that is solidly made and is easy to replace They are fine (well medium).

I might see if I can fit a roller ball in and makea frankenpen.

As for comparing to a Sonnet, here are some photos. Not a complete copy but close.

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#20 UK Mike

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Posted 18 December 2012 - 14:32

I have just received a Baoer 388 with the medium nib, and finished in dark green marble lacquer.

I agree completely with the reviews above, it writes beautifully with line slightly finer than a Parker Sonnet but not as fine as say the Pilot 78g. Flow is moderately wet and I had to align the feed by a fraction before inking the pen. Finish is rich looking with the usual caveat about Chinese plating not being very deep.

I also own two Parker Sonnets - one in gloss black lacquer and the other matte black. Both of them have feed problems and hard starts and in terms of ink management are not a patch on this Chinese pen.
I have the distinct impression that the Chinese have really upped their game on quality control and recent pens I have bought have been smooth and silky and very well finished.

At the price paid, the pen is an absolute steal and would pass anywhere as a luxury item.
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