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Kaigelu 316 Grey- Amber


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#1 richardandtracy

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Posted 22 September 2011 - 13:04

This is a review of the Amber & Grey Kaigelu 316 Pen.

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.
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Initial Impressions
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.
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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:


Dimensions
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)

Construction
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.
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Durability
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.
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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.
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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.
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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?


Conclusion

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,


Regards,

Richard.

Edited by richardandtracy, 31 October 2011 - 09:45.


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#2 raging.dragon

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Posted 22 September 2011 - 15:26

Thanks for the review.

On one hand I'd rather have a Duofold. The acrylic finial and blind cap, and the resulant balance, would be more to my liking. On the otherhand, the Kaigelu is cheap enough I wouldn't care if I lost it. It would make a nice alternate pocket pen to supplement my TWSBI.

As for legality, unlike the counterfeiters, Kaigelu didn't clone the iconic arrow clip and have avoid stamping "Parker" or "Duofold" anywhere on the pen. So they smartly avoided Parker's trademarks. Nor do Kaigelu try to market their pen as a Parker. The rest of the design isn't likely to be trademarked (and probably couldn't be), and any Parker patents on the Duofold Centennial probably expired years ago.

#3 Uncle Red

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Posted 22 September 2011 - 17:40

I got the same pen for my niece when she went back to college. It was very dry out of the box but I was able to spread the tines and improve the flow. The balance was good for all the people who tried it. I'll ask my niece how it held up when I see her during the hollidays.

#4 robeck

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Posted 22 September 2011 - 17:56

Richard,

Thanks for an excellent, in-depth review. A great read.

Do you know if these pens come in other colours?

Dean



#5 Fountainpenlover

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Posted 22 September 2011 - 18:07

Well done Richard for a very exhaustive and precise review!
I have an identical Kaigelu 316 but in a dark bluish grey, and I also have the Parker International in classic wine colour, which is slightly smaller than the Centennial.
Cannot add anything else to your review as you were so detailed and elaborate in your descriptions and assessments.
What I can add is that I do confirm that the gold plating on the rings and clip will not last too long. I have had the Kaigelu for a couple of years now and it has seen only light use, and in spite of this the plating does show signs that it is going off, even though it is stored in a pen case when not in use.
My Parker International, on the other hand, still has its gold plating intact save for some micro scratches, but it has been with me for about 30 years and has seen quite considerable use.
But for the price the Kaigelu 316 sells for it is a bargain, and reasonably well built; only cons are its excessive weight and slightly awkward balance.
Mario

#6 raging.dragon

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Posted 22 September 2011 - 18:14

Richard,

Thanks for an excellent, in-depth review. A great read.

Do you know if these pens come in other colours?

Dean


They come in, at least, 3 colours.

http://www.isellpens.com/kaigelu.html

#7 richardandtracy

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Posted 23 September 2011 - 07:27

Dean,
I have seen the Amber - Grey and White with Black stripe on E-Bay, with Todd being the only source I know for the pearlescent Black.
The colour density on the White with Black stripe isn't really good enough, and you can see through the material. However the amber is really nice.

Thank you all for your kind comments on the review.

Regards,

Richard.

#8 thinkink

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Posted 23 September 2011 - 18:01

I will say this at the outset: this is one of the most comprehensive and incisive pen reviews I have ever come across. VERY well written, and a good read- thank you.

Also, it makes me want a Kaigelu. However, having limited means and wanting to avoid a mistake, I will ask this: in my Jinhao pens, (e.g. X450), the nib is clearly made of higher gauge metal sheet (i.e. thinner)- it is very apparent when you tweak the nib. It is not solid metal like a JoWo or Lamy nib or (to a lesser extent) a Schmidt nib.

So- how good is the Kaigelu nib really- in quality of materials and quality of tipping? It would also help if you could include a picture of the feed / underside of the nib.

#9 dcwaites

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Posted 24 September 2011 - 02:52

How does this pen compare with the Jinhao 'Century' pen that you reviewed earlier?

One of my favourite nibs is on my Jinhao CRALMFP**, but the main problem is that the barrel is solid brass, so even writing unposted it is a bit heavy.
I am rather hoping that one of these pens, the 'Century' or the Kaigelu, would give me the same writing pleasure, but without the weight.




**Chinese Red Army Long March Fountain Pen

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#10 SamCapote

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Posted 24 September 2011 - 10:43

Richard, what an excellent review. As an owner of 3 Centennials, I also got all three colors from isellpens.com in the Keigelu. Everything is exactly as you reviewed. It is really a shame the weight is off balance, especially since I almost always like to post. For that price, that's the only significant downside.
With the new FPN rules, now I REALLY don't know what to put in my signature.

#11 777

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Posted 24 September 2011 - 17:51

Very good review! Thank you for it.

I really am liking the looks of this pen. I've always wanted a black/pearl Parker Duofold, but I always thought they were overpriced.

Now this comes along! As soon as I save up some more pen cash, I need to try one of these myself. :)

It looks like a really good pen for the money. I wish it came in multiple nib options though...

Need a pen repaired or a nib re-ground? I'd love to help you out.


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#12 paolino_paperino

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Posted 25 September 2011 - 05:34

Am I the only one unable to find user NewTrust1 on eBay? I'm sure I'm doing something stupid, but I would not say no to a little help, in the form of a direct link :-)

#13 jor412

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Posted 25 September 2011 - 05:59

Am I the only one unable to find user NewTrust1 on eBay? I'm sure I'm doing something stupid, but I would not say no to a little help, in the form of a direct link :-)


Here you go:

http://www.ebay.com/...984.m1438.l2649
Regards,
Issy

#14 jor412

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Posted 25 September 2011 - 06:09

Thanks for the thorough review. Among others, I'm interested in Chinese pens for the variety of styles available and I was considering buying this one for its looks. The white version is likewise beautiful. But now I think it may be too heavy & large for my hands.
Regards,
Issy

#15 paolino_paperino

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Posted 25 September 2011 - 11:45

Am I the only one unable to find user NewTrust1 on eBay? I'm sure I'm doing something stupid, but I would not say no to a little help, in the form of a direct link :-)


Here you go:

http://www.ebay.com/...984.m1438.l2649


Thanks

#16 SamCapote

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Posted 26 September 2011 - 03:47

Thanks for the thorough review. Among others, I'm interested in Chinese pens for the variety of styles available and I was considering buying this one for its looks. The white version is likewise beautiful. But now I think it may be too heavy & large for my hands.


Using it unposted is no real problem. Posted is where the weight becomes too imbalanced.
With the new FPN rules, now I REALLY don't know what to put in my signature.

#17 richardandtracy

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Posted 27 September 2011 - 08:34

How does this pen compare with the Jinhao 'Century' pen that you reviewed earlier?

One of my favourite nibs is on my Jinhao CRALMFP**, but the main problem is that the barrel is solid brass, so even writing unposted it is a bit heavy.
I am rather hoping that one of these pens, the 'Century' or the Kaigelu, would give me the same writing pleasure, but without the weight.

**Chinese Red Army Long March Fountain Pen

The feel of the pens is quite different. The general feel of the Kaigelu 316 is similar to the Duofold, however it's heavier & not so well balanced.
The section is larger in diameter than the Jinhao, and the nib isn't quite as nice. I have tweaked it a little & smoothed it a little so there is reasonable feedback & it's now wetter than it was. I think I over-smoothed the Jinhao, and it's now like writing on ice with very little feedback.

How do you do an objective comparison?
The Jinhao is lighter, but less well balanced.
The feel of the Kaigelu is of a higher quality pen. That may be purely due to the Parker design features that have been copied. It is, to me, a better writing shape even though I do prefer the lighter weight of the overweight Jinhao.

I think it is possible to write for longer with the Jinhao, as the Kaigelu is reaching that weight where one's hand gets tired moving that mass around for a couple of hours.

Looks wise, I prefer the Jinhao, purely because it's a more slender pen & doesn't look at all stubby. Also, I adore the blue material. Having said that, the amber-grey material in the Kaigelu looks & feels sumptious, and really makes the pen look & feel like a LE Duofold.


Oh, I dunno. It's very hard to decide between them. I have both in my rotation at the moment, with the Jinhao being use interchangably with my Duofold International and the Kaigelu doing the same for my Duofold Centennial.
I suppose that's the main difference really. If you prefer the International size, get a Jinhao Century pen, or for the Centennial size, get the Kaigelu. If funds are really short - the Jinhao is the cheaper, so get it instead. Both are good pens, even if the balance isn't great and the plating is thin.

Regards,

Richard.

#18 richardandtracy

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Posted 27 September 2011 - 08:57

... However, having limited means and wanting to avoid a mistake, I will ask this: in my Jinhao pens, (e.g. X450), the nib is clearly made of higher gauge metal sheet (i.e. thinner)- it is very apparent when you tweak the nib. It is not solid metal like a JoWo or Lamy nib or (to a lesser extent) a Schmidt nib.

So- how good is the Kaigelu nib really- in quality of materials and quality of tipping? It would also help if you could include a picture of the feed / underside of the nib.

I did try a Jowo nib in it (one for a 6mm feed, which is present in the pen), and the Jowo nib is thick enough for it not to fit in the section. You would have to open the section up a bit for it to fit - a risky operation at best. Either that or reduce the diameter of the feed a bit to give the nib some more room.

I will try to get a photo, but it won't be today, and may not be tomorrow. For a verbal description: The point seems to be as wide on this pen as on my 'Broad' Jowo nib, though it doesn't extend so far towards the section (2/3 the length). The tipping material seems to have the same depth (top to bottom) on both nibs. The metal of the nib is 30.5mm long as opposed to the 35mm of the equivalent Jowo nib. The width of the nib is 8.5mm at the widest point, while the Jowo is 9.5mm. The angle from the point to the shoulders is the same on both nibs, with the Kaigelu nib being narrower & using less metal and having the shoulders closer to the point. The Jowo nib has thinner metal just behind the point than does the Kaigelu, even though the metal in the section is thicker on the Jowo. The length of the nib that sticks out from the section is the same on both nibs. The feed on my Kaigelu is identical in every respect to a batch of 5off 6mm plastic feeds I bought for pen making, and I have fitted to my Blue/Black prototype pen shown at the end of the Jinhao Century review. In fact, the feed seems (externally) to be the same as the one on the Jinhao, though I cannot confirm it with absolute confidence as I have been unable to get the nib out on the Jinhao - it's very stiff and the section is moulded with a flat on the bottom to align the feed. This makes it impossible to twist the feed out.

In comparison to my Jinhao 1200, the metal on the Kaigelu nib is thicker and stiffer. I suspect an X450 nib is similar to the 1200 as they are similar price bracket pens. The Kaigelu nib takes more force to modify it, and it withstands writing forces better.

Hope this helps a little.

Regards,

Richard.

Edited by richardandtracy, 27 September 2011 - 09:22.


#19 richardandtracy

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Posted 27 September 2011 - 09:09

Kaigelu has its own website, in Chinese and a slightly strangled version of English, and it's here:
http://www.kaigelu.net/

The page for the 316 is here: http://www.kaigelu.n...p?ID=18&SID=177 . The list price is RMB:¥201, unfortunately I don't know the exchange rate. I think it's officially ¥1=US$1, so the 'official' price for the pen is pretty high... And it's MUCH cheaper than som of their gold pens (The 319 is RMB:¥1378)

It appears that Kaigelu only make the three colours stocked by Isellpens.

Regards,

Richard.

#20 richardandtracy

richardandtracy

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Posted 27 September 2011 - 09:17

Am I the only one unable to find user NewTrust1 on eBay? I'm sure I'm doing something stupid, but I would not say no to a little help, in the form of a direct link :-)


Here you go:

http://www.ebay.com/...984.m1438.l2649


And for the store (which should be available for longer than the listing above: http://stores.ebay.c...sid=p4340.l2563

Regards,

Richard.






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