This pen is a pretty accurate copy of the Parker Duofold Centennial (reviewed here: http://www.fountainp...howtopic=134028 ). Due to the quality of the copy, I compare it directly with the Duofold Centennial throughout this review.
The first impression when opening the outer packaging was 'Ooh, this is nice'. The pen box came in a printed card box, then inside that was a leatherette covered box, size approx 200 x 150 x 35mm with a very impressive faux silk lining.
In this, the pen was nestling, almost shyly, on the diagonal axis surrounded by a velveteen pen pouch and a Parker style instruction book, with a 1980's style plastic tag on a string hooked over the clip, and most important of all - it was wrapped in a cellophane sleeve. These are all the accoutrements you expect with a high end pen. The instruction book is in both Chinese and and a curious Chinese version of English that leaves you wondering if it's you or them that's suddenly gone obscure.
Anyway, the pen looks gorgeous in its amber and grey acrylic. The colour has a depth and pearlescence to it that is strongly reminiscent of celluloid, without actually being the material. The overall impression gained is that you have, in front of you, a LE Duofold colour that most people won't ever get hold of. The material is hard and durable, with exactly the same feel to the material as the Duofold.
This is not an expensive pen, so don't expect it to be quite up to the standard of a Duofold but it's interesting to see how Kaigelu 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 think of the Duofold as a heavy pen at 35g; this is 46g when inked. Why is it so heavy? After taking the cap and barrel off, the answer was immediately obvious. Kaigelu 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 slightly higher than the Centennial, and due to the brass finials being so heavy and so far back from the nib when posted, the centre of gravity is only just below the flesh between thumb & fore finger on my large hand. While the nib is not trying to flip up off the paper when the pen is posted, it doesn't feel as if it it's far off. With a small/delicate hand you are likely to find it unbalanced when posted, with the nib trying to lift off the page.
Having talked about the weight, I suppose I should give the dimensions and weight:
The sizes and weight are as below:
Length Capped: 136.5mm (Centennial 136mm; accounted for by extra depth of decal on cap)
Length Uncapped: 126mm (Centennial 126mm)
Length Posted: 177mm (Centennial 172mm)
Barrel Diameter: 12.92mm (Centennial 13.00mm)
Cap Diameter: 15.02mm (Centennial 15.10mm)
Weight: 46g (Centennial 35g)
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. This is a pen trying to pretend to be a Parker Centennial, and the fit and finish are as close as Kaigelu could get to the original.
The overall construction method is identical to the Centennial as far as I can see, to the extent that the cap thread and cap rings are fitted in the same way, to almost identical dimensions. There are only two deviations that I can see from the Centennial's method of construction. These are:
- The finials are painted brass rather than acrylic.
- The clip on the Parker fits into a recess in the gold band under the cap finial, while in the Kaigelu the recess is in the cap body.
Due to the semi-transparent nature of the amber part of the acrylic, it is possible to see the gold coloured nib moving up and down the cap when removing the cap. This is peculiar and I'm not too keen on it. This does slightly detract from the overall looks of the pen, but it's not a major issue, and when capped the colour of the nib looks like a feature of the material.
The c/c is a deluxe piston c/c, of better than average quality, and it screws in. The c/c has a little ball 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, and better than on my Duofold International.
The barrel & cap body materials feel as hard as on the Duofold, so will probably not scratch much with use, and even then not too severely.
There are two areas of durability problems I can see. The first is the gold plating - My Jinhao 1200 and Jinhao Century Blue don't have very thick plating and both have 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 wear away before too long - Kaigelu would have been much better to have put self coloured acrylic for these items - and they could have moulded them too, reducing costs if brass is a similar price in China as it is in the UK. In the same situation on my Jinhao Century, the paint is wearing off after only 2 months of use.
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 high centre of gravity 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 moderately comfortably with my hands (I take 'Extra Large' gloves) when unposted, as I do with the Centennial. I am not convinced I really like the weight of the big brass finial pressing down on the flesh between my thumb & fore finger, and that's the only reason I said 'moderately comfortably' and not 'comfortably'. Due to this weight it feels slightly less refined than the Centennial, which doesn't demand to be noticed in this way.
The writing with the nib is now a real joy. The nib, as it came out of the box, was a little dry and a little scratchy, but after pulling it out & increasing the width between the tines it was much, much better (wetter & wider). As out of the box, it is a Medium. Possibly a shade on the fine side for a UK user (it's a US medium), but after tweaking to make it flow better it's a UK medium. The nib is the only area where it seems that the pen is not of the highest quality straight out of the box. However, the problem I had with it was less than on my Centennial when I first got it.
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 well designed - copying, as it does, the Centennial's section shape - 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 stiff, however there is a small hint of flex, but you need to press hard to get it, and that ends up being tiring. The feed copes well when the nib is flexed - and could probably cope with a tweaked nib to make it flow better.
Value for Money
I got the pen for £31.58 inc postage (US$49.95) from E-bay seller 'NewTrust 1'. The headline price is more expensive than Todd's from Isellpens, but when you take into account the fact Todd charges extra for the box and the international postage, I think it was marginally cheaper than I could have got the pen from him. Had I lived in the US, it would have been a no-brainer to get it from Isellpens.
Now to the real point. Was it Value for Money?
Good question. The pen is exceedingly well made & very pretty. It is the same size as a Duofold Centennial, and looks almost identical. If you want a Centennial & can't afford one, get this. It's good value for a Centennial type pen. Compared to other Chinese pens, I do think it's good value too. The pen is exceedingly well made, looks good and - after some tweaking - writes well.
In general terms, it is a better pen for the money than any western pen I know. This is a sweeping statement, however it is a good pen at a marvellous price. It is worth the price increase compared to most Chinese pens, and also compared to £30 western pens (eg the Parker IM or Urban in plusher finishes), it's great.
Direct Comparison with the Duofold Centennial
The size is the same, only posting a little longer than the Centennial.
Overall feel of the pen materials: The first impression is that both the Duofold's and the Kaigelu are equally well finished. They both have the same shine, the gold plating is as well plated and, if anything, the bi-colour plating on the Kaigelu nib is more accurate to the engraved lines than on my Duofold International. The barrel & cap material feels identical. The Parker material seems to have more pearlesence, and to have it all round the pen rather than on two opposite faces (something that appears on all pearlescent custom pen blanks and must be due to the way the material settles when cast). However, the depth of pearlescence and apparent depth of material on the Parker is no geater than on the Kaigelu.
The proportions of the Kaigelu are identical to that of the Duofold (0.08mm [0.003"] on diameter is not something you'd notice by eye), and because of this, I think it looks just too short & stubby.
The section shape is identical, as is its diameter and length. The section material feels the same.
The threads between the cap & barrel on the Kaigelu 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 Parker's cap-barrel threads are a more traditional rounded V shape, and due to their shape they are smooth on the fingers, but nonetheless are more noticable than on the Kaigelu. The threads are a slightly rougher fit on the 316 than on the Duofold, however they are likely to wear in rapidly (I have noticed an improvement in smoothness in the last 2 days). They give a reasonable feel to removing the cap. The cap-barrel thread is a triple start with about a turn and a half to release it - identical to the Duofold. The barrel-section threads are machined on the inside of the barrel material, in the same way as the Duofold, and give the same play as on the Duofold when removing the barrel from the section.
The Kaigelu's cap & barrel finials are painted brass. I do not know how long this will last, but previous experience with my Jinhao Century pen 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 Kaigelu is a stylised kangaroo under a clear plastic blob. Looks OK, but is not as interesting as the Duofold's raised 'Ace of Spades' decal. The Clip is a plain version of the Parker clip (without the arrow point or fletching). It looks reasonable, but could be slightly better finished where the tip is folded under - the shape here does not quite match the profile on the sides of the clip (as below). The clip strength is similar to that of the Parker's.
As with the Parkers, the Kaigelu's cap lip is a separate item, and it is manufactured in an identical way. The two cap lip rings are the same width and have the same spacing as the Duofold's. On this pen, one cap lip ring can be spun around and really needs to be stuck down. The Kaigelu's cap lip matches the pattern of the base material better than on the Parker, but I feel it's pure chance that this occurred. The thread start position is such that the grey side and amber side match on the barrel & cap - which is more than occurs on the Parker, where it is obvious no effort was made to get the patterns to match.
The nibs are difficult to compare, as both of my Duofolds have Broad Italics nibs (0.9 and 1.1mm wide). However, the Kaigelu is a medium, and slightly more flexible than on either Duofold, and wrote with a slightly dry line out of the box. The feed works properly - which is more than the banner feed does on my International.
The c/c's in the Duofold's differ from the Kaigelu only in length (Parker is longer & slightly wider), engraved name and the fact the Parker is to a proprietary c/c nipple size, while the Kaigelu is an international size. The Kaigelu's c/c screws in - something that strikes me as an utterly pointless increase in complexity, addressing a problem that doesn't exist. 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 Duofold is better. The Centennial has a centre of gravity in the middle of the barrel, while in the Kaigelu it's one third of the way down the barrel from the finial. Even when not posted, due to the even distribution of weight, the Centennial's feel is rather more refined and nicer to hold. The fact the Centennial is lighter, helps too. However, as you can imagine, due to the shape being the same, the feel is remarkably similar.
It should be noted that no parts are interchangable between the two pens due to different thread and feed sizes.
The Kaigelu is very close to being on a par with the Duofold. It is very much better than its price would suggest. It is a very fine attempt to produce a luxury type pen at moderate 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 Kaigelu gives you every size you want, so long as you only want a medium. I wonder when Chinese manufacturer's are going to realise that really good pens have alternative nib sizes?
This is a very good, somewhat overweight, Kaigelu. The design is, without question, a ripoff, and I do not know how law suits have been avoided; Maybe sufficient details are different to make it not worth Parker's effort, but I have no real idea. Having said that, it's a classic shape, in a gorgeous looking material, that works well. This is my first Kaigelu, but my wife has two (a 332 and a Chalana). This brand is excellent, and this pen is superb too.
This pen is of near-luxury quality, at a moderate price. Amazing.
If you want a Centennial, but either cannot justify the price, or want to know more without committing too much money, then buy one of these, they will give you the majority of the Centennial experience without the cost.
Ignoring the comparison with the Centennial, it's a very good pen in its own right and should be a first choice before most western pens under £30 (US$50).
To see the Charcoal colour, take a look here: http://www.fountainp...u-316-charcoal/
I hope this is useful,
Edited by richardandtracy, 31 October 2011 - 09:45.