This is a review of the Jinhao 'Century' Blue Celluloid Pen.
The first thing to say about the Jinhao 'Century' Blue Celluloid Pen is that it's not made from celluloid, but from a glorious blue/ black pearl blank that's available to custom penmakers.
The first impression when opening the rather basic packaging was 'Ooh, Shinee'. I like it. Lots.
The colour has a depth and pearlescence to it that is strongly reminiscent of celluloid, without actually being the material. The overall impression is of a pen inspired by the modern Parker Duofold - so much so that later on in this review I do a comparison with the two sizes of modern Duofold. This is not an expensive pen, so don't expect it to be up to the standard of a Duofold but it's interesting to see how Jinhao are able to do in a direct comparison against such a high quality pen.
Once I got it in my paw, the thing that struck me most was the weight. I have made a prototype pen in the same material and it came out at 21.5g, so how did this become so heavy? After taking the cap and barrel off, the answer was immediately obvious. Jinhao used solid brass finials at the end of the cap and barrel. This gives extra weight, but not really in useful positions. The cap posts insecurely (due to the protrusion of the gold ring under the barrel finial) - but that is not a real disadvantage. The brass finials are so heavy and so far back from the nib when posted that the centre of gravity is above your hand, and the nib is fighting to flip up off the paper when the pen is posted. This is completely unbalanced and unusable when posted. Not clever.
Having talked about the weight, I suppose I should give the dimensions and weight:
The sizes and weight are as below:
Length Capped:136mmLength Uncapped:123mmLength Posted (Not secure): 168mmBarrel Diameter: 11.82mmCap Diameter: 13.82mmWeight: 39g
The overall quality of fit and finish is remarkably high. Note: I did not say 'Remarkably high for a Chinese pen' and also did not say 'Remarkably high for a pen of this price'. It is a remarkably good quality pen on any scale of reference, the low price is absolutely amazing for this quality pen.
The overall construction method is almost identical to what you would expect to find in a kit pen. The blue/ black pearl material is turned on the outside, and drilled to the correct size on the inside. This material suffers from melting swarf when drilled (makes it a pain to drill on a lathe, actually, as it's almost impossible to get enough coolant to the drill tip) and there is evidence of this on the slightly roughened and picked up internal surface to the barrel & cap. Makes me happier to find this occurs with other people too! Anyway, once the barrel & cap tubes are the right size, the finials and furniture are press fitted into the pen. There may be some adhesive, but it's difficult to see any evidence of it.
Due to the semi-transparent nature of the base material it is possible to see the ends of the spigots pressed into the barrel & cap tubes on the outside of the pen. This does detract from the overall looks of the pen, and I don't much like being able to see the c/c through the barrel either - however dimly you can see it. The pen also comes in two different Duofold style White & Black stripe type of materials, both of which allow you to see the spigots even more clearly than in this pen - yuk!
The c/c is a deluxe piston c/c, of average quality. Not much more to say about it other than these Jinhao c/c's seem to work fairly well, and it's unusual in having a little spring in it to break the surface tension.
The nib is sharply engraved and the bi-coloured plating accurately stops at the edge of the engraving. This is precision work.
The barrel & cap body materials feel softish, so will probably scratch up a little with use, but not too severely. There are two areas of durability problems I can see. The first is the gold plating - My Jinhao 1200 doesn't have very thick plating and it has started to wear away, and I hope this will not be the same. The second area is likely to be the coating on the brass finials. I imagine that it will start to chip off before too long.
Other than the problems identified above, I expect the pen to be a long lasting one and keep writing well for years.
Writing with the Pen
I have already mentioned one major problem of writing with the pen. This is the inability to write with the pen when posted. For me, it's not a problem, as I don't like posting, however it may be a problem for some. The barrel is long enough to write comfortably with my hands (I take 'Extra Large' gloves) when unposted.
The next problem to manifest itself was a designed-in problem. The nib slit is central to the tines, and properly aligned with the feed. The tip was well ground to the shape Jinhao wanted, and it was very smooth. A really nice nib. However, it skipped randomly at the start of writing words. I fear Jinhao has fallen into the same trap as Parker has in recent years. The nib was deliberately ground with 'Baby Bottom' syndrome to make it smooth on poor quality, rough paper. As a result, on smoother paper the ink meniscus in the nib doesn't touch the paper and it skips.
Half an hour after first writing with the pen, I couldn't stand it any more and had to do something about it. Out came the jeweller's eyeglass and the micromesh, and within five minutes I had a nib that was gorgeous. It was even smoother that in the beginning and didn't skip. Shame I had to do it, but I can understand why Jinhao & Parker grind the nibs this way.
In the sale, the nib was described as a medium. Before my re-grind it was on the fine side of Medium, and now I'd describe it as a UK medium - a bit fatter than a US medium. It certainly isn't a Far Eastern 'Medium' which is a western 'fine'.
When writing with the pen, it is actually rather nice to write with. I find I can write all day with pens under 25g, almost regardless of the section design. However for pens heavier than 25g, the section design must be good for me to be able to write all day with them. This pen is pretty well designed, and despite it's weight, it can be used for a large part of a day before the weight becomes an issue.
The nib is very, very stiff. There is no hint of flex, and if you press hard enough to flex the nib, it moves far enough from the feed not to be fed with ink. So no flex. Ah well. Cannot have everything.
Value for Money
I got the pen for £10.48 inc postage (say US$16), of which £0.99 was the auction price, the remainder being postage. This is more expensive than many equally good Jinhao's, but it is exceedingly well made & very pretty. You get a lot of pen for the money.
Comparison with the Duofold
Regarding the Jinhao's size, it's part way between the Duofold Centennial (top) and the International (bottom), somewhat closer to the International's size than that of the Centennial.
And next to the Duofold International
As can be seen the section shape is different, but both the barrel & cap finials have an almost identical taper. All-in-all the design inspiration is obvious, even though the details are different.
Overall feel of the pen materials: The first impression is that both the Duofold's and the Jinhao are as well finished. They both have the same shine, the gold plating is as well plated and, if anything, the bi-colour plating on the Jinhao nib is more accurate to the engraved lines than on my International. The barrel & cap material somehow feels softer on the Jinhao. It is a feature I have noticed myself with this blue material - it's slightly softer than some pen making materials I have come across, but it does turn beautifully.
The proportions of the Jinhao are similar to that of the International. It's slightly larger in diameter, and slightly longer. These are the proportions I feel are 'correct' and look right. The Centennial looks just too short & stubby.
The section shape on the Jinhao is actually an older shape than the Parker - more reminiscent of the BHR Onotos of the 1910's rather than the Duofolds of the 1920's. Anyway, it's equally comfortable and prevents your fingers sliding down the section. I think the section of the Jinhao is made of an injection moulded material like Polystyrene, it feels quite soft compared to the hard acrylic feel of the Duofold section. The Jinhao also has a matte finish to the plastic, making gripping easier when hot & sweaty than with the Parkers.
The threads between the cap & barrel on the Jinhao are moulded in the cap lip and machined into the metal insert on the barrel, and are to an ACME buttress thread form, giving a flat upper surface in the threaded area so they do not dig in to your fingers. This is a very nice touch. The threads are a closer fit than on the Duofold, and are even smoother in use than the high quality threads of the Parker. They give a quality feel to removing the cap. The cap-barrel thread is a twin start with about half a turn to release it. The thread pitch is so coarse that it can unscrew in shirt pockets unless really tightly done up beforehand. The barrel threads are machined on the inside of the barrel insert, and give more play than on the Duofold when removing the barrel from the section - doesn't feel as nice as the Duofold here, but is acceptable.
The Jinhao's cap & barrel finials are painted brass. I do not know how long this will last, but previous experience indicates that painted coatings do not last well. I hope it's powder coated (a finish that's as tough as old boots), but I fear it's too much to ask for with a pen at this price bracket. The self coloured material in the Duofold, on the other hand, will not show up small chips.
The cap decal on the Jinhao is a stylised twin-horse drawn chariot stamped into a flat decal. Looks OK, but is not as interesting as the Duofold's raised 'Ace of Spades' decal. The shield motif on the Jinhao clip with its silver coloured repeat of the chariot symbol looks cheap & nasty in comparison to the restrained elegance of the Parker.
As with the Parkers, the Jinhao's cap lip is a separate item. In this case it's coloured differently from the barrel material, and is an injection moulded item. It works well. The single cap lip ring is attached in the same way as on the Duofold's, and engraved with the word 'Jinhao'. Not bad.
The nibs are difficult to compare, as both of my Parkers have Broad Italics nibs (0.9 and 1.1mm wide). However, the Jinhao is nearly as stiff as the Duofolds, and writes with a nice wet line, so it's broadly comparable in the way it writes. The feed works properly - which is more than the banner feed does on my International (note to self - get Parker to change the feed).
The c/c's in the Duofold's differ from the Jinhao only in finish (Parker is shiny gold, while the Jinhao is antiqued bronze), engraved name and the fact the Parker is to a proprietary c/c nipple size, while the Jinhao is an international size. I regard c/c as disposable, so if they work, that's as much as I'm really willing to think about them.
The balance of the Parker pens is much better. They do not have large lumps of brass at the ends of the pen and as a result you can post them nicely, unlike the Jinhao. Even when not posted, due to the even distribution of weight, the Duofold's feel rather more refined and nicer to hold.
The Jinhao is not on a par with the Duofold, but it is a much better pen than its price would suggest. It is a very fine attempt to produce a luxury type pen at school pen price point, and the aim is largely achieved. The one thing that really sets the Duofold on a different level is the range of nib options. The Jinhao gives you every size you want, so long as you only want a medium.
This is another very good, somewhat overweight, Jinhao. The design is a bit of a ripoff, but there is so much re-design in the shape that it is not a copy of the Duofold's. It's a classic shape, in a gorgeous looking material, that works well. Jinhao have a very good reputation and this pen has done nothing to reduce it. I suspect that due to a couple of issues I have with the pen, Jinhao have not enhanced their reputation, but it remains good nonetheless.
This pen is of near-luxury quality, at a school pen price. Amazing.
The biggest problem I have with the Jinhao is that it's so very much like my prototype pen:
[photobucket image removed]
My pen has a 12mm diameter barrel and a 14mm diameter cap - both exactly 0.18mm larger than the Jinhao. Galling or what? More than a year of sporadic development, and then I find Jinhao have got something so good, and so very similar into the market. It's enough to make you want to scream! However, I know mine is better because you can post it without the nib flipping up off the page.
I hope this is useful,
Edited by richardandtracy, 12 March 2018 - 16:35.