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Kaigelu 319 Lapis Review
Posted 22 November 2011 - 14:07
The pen in this review is one that I have only recently purchased, and is the first non-western gold nibbed pen I have ever bought. According to the Kaigelu website the RRP is RMB 1378, or almost exactly £150 (US$220). So, it's not intended to be a cheap or throw away pen. In this review I consider it against its official price point and against its actual sale price of US$49.99 (£31.66) including postage to the UK.
The pen comes in two colours, the 'Lapis' with a mostly blue cap with brown and cream veins, and 'White' which is mostly cream with brown veins in it. My wife bought a 'White' a few months ago, but I can't review that one - it remains un-inked and inaccessible to me.
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.
The photos below of the box are from my Charcoal Kaigelu 316, but as the box is the same, this is what you get:
In this, the pen was nestling, almost shyly, on the diagonal axis surrounded by a Parker style instruction book and had a 1980's style plastic tag on a string hooked over the clip. 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 opaque.
The pen looks impressively understated with its black barrel, gold trim and blue/white cap. According to the Kaigelu website the cap is made from 'Imported Italian Celluloid'; Well, if it is Celluloid, then the material is 'Cellulose Acetate' rather than 'Cellulose Nitrate', as there is no smell of camphor at all. The colour has a depth and pearlescence to it that is very like celluloid, and the colour can be seen all the way through to the inside of the translucent cap. It looks good and feels equally good.
Before removing the cap, the shape is a sophisticated curve that puts me in mind of expensive Italian manufacturers and the Parker 61. It looks classy. The clip is a sprung loaded arc that's made from solid metal and crosses the top of the cap - in an identical way to the clip found on the Delta Titanio. The top of the cap is angled to further indicate the designer's ability. I get the feeling that it's inspired by Italian pens, though it seems to me to be a Kaigelu original design. It's shown next to the Parker 61 below:
The pen has a fair bit of heft to it and the barrel is obviously metal, but has a thick laquer applied so that the only indications of its metallic origin are the noise it makes when tapped and the temperature when you touch it.
The cap comes off with a distinct click to reveal the relatively short and steep section - very similar proportions to the Delta Titanio's section. The nib is small, no doubt about it, and looks a little too small for the rest of the pen. However, the nib is fractionally longer than that of the Parker Sonnet even if it's a little narrower. The nib is 14ct gold and is equipped with a medium point and stylised kangaroo engraving.
The sizes and weight are as below:
Length Capped: 138mm
Length Uncapped: 118mm
Length Posted: 166mm (not very secure)
Barrel Diameter: 12mm
Cap Diameter: 14mm
The overall quality of fit and finish is really high.
Note: I did not say 'High for a Chinese pen' and also did not say 'High for a pen of this price'. It is a remarkably good quality pen on any scale of reference. This is China truly producing a good quality pen. The quality of the fit and finish exceed those found on my modern Parker Sonnet and several of my Parker 61's. It's leaps & bounds ahead of the quality of fit on my Parker 100. This pen feels like one costing over £100 (US$150).
The barrel is metal, as suggested already, painted inside and out, gold plated thread insert at one end and gold plated finial at the other end. The fit of the finial to the barrel is absolutely seamless.
The section is a hard, acrylic-like plastic, with a gold plated metal thread to the barrel and a plated ring around the bottom of the section.
The cap body is the multi-coloured plastic (possibly cellulose acetate) and has a perfectly fitting cap ring at the bottom edge of the cap and a perfectly fitting clip attachment at the top. Both sections of metalwork are exactly the same profile as the cap and exactly the same diameter. The quality of the fit is simply superb. The cap is lined with a clear platic inner cap that incorporates the cap click and a Phillips head screw which retains the end of the cap. The cap is beautifully engineered.
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 looks good even if it seems to be a little small.
The laquer on the barrel feels no less durable than the finish on laquered Sonnets or the painted Parker 100, so it should survive for a good length of time.
The cap is fantastically well built, and I cannot see any problems occurring with it.
There is only one area where durability may be an issue that I can see, it's 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. Only time will tell whether this pen has better plating than other Chinese pens, but on the positive side I have had two Kaigelu 316's for a while and they are not yet showing signs of wear - after the same period of time when the Jinhao's did.
Other than the possible problem with gold plating identified above, I expect the pen to be a long lasting one and keep writing well for years.
Writing with the Pen
The pen size is not huge - in fact it's not much different from a Sonnet when un-posted, and it rests fairly comfortably on the skin between my thumb and forefinger (I take extra large gloves). The barrel isn't too heavy and the centre of gravity is reasonably low, so it's pretty comfortable to hold for a fairly long period of time. The only limitation to writing with the pen for a long time is the angle of the section taper, on hot days it may be too steep to give a good grip without holding it hard. I've not found this myself, because the UK in winter is not an environment that encourages overheating.. The weight of the pen is a bit high for me, but it's sufficiently well balanced for writing of a couple of hours at a time to be very pleasant. I prefer pens to be OK for all day use, and I think this isn't really suitable due to the weight and section shape not being as supportive as it could be.
The nib is slightly flexible, unfortunately the feed isn't happy providing ink for a flex nib and it dries up almost immediately when flexed to a broad line width from the normal medium. There is no railroading, the flow just stops. Nib smoothness is good, with no tweaking being necessary on first inking the pen. I found that it didn't need to be flushed through on first use either. This makes the pen considerably better on first use than my Sonnet.
Value for Money
Is it worth the £150 RRP? I struggle to answer this question. I am constitutionally unwilling to pay the RRP on anything. With the uncertainties over the life of the gold plating on this pen, I'd say probably not. Kaigelu need time to build up a good history and show their consistency and quality over a long period before I'd be happy to say yes on this. However, this pen is a serious competitor to the laquer coated Parker Sonnets and it is worth what they are worth, so I think it's a reasonable entry in the £100-120 retail price range.
I got the pen for £31.66 inc postage (US$49.99), so is a £100-£120 pen for £31.66 good value for money? There is only one answer; YES. I feel almost as if I can declare 'Sumgai' on this new pen.
This is a luxury pen. The retail price is a little high (but then they usually are), however it can stand comparison with £100 (US$150) western pens and not look out of place. Its design is good and the execution of that design is superb.
The 319 is Kaigelu's top of the range pen, and it deserves its position. Get one, it's great.
If there is one problem with this pen being in the 'Luxury' pen price range, then it's only due to the lack of alternative nib widths. This pen is a slightly flexy medium, and there are no alternative nib widths - which is a shame. Given the small feed diameter, I doubt if you'll get any custom nibs that will fit. I'd love to have this pen in an italic, and it would get masses of use if I could get it in that format.
I hope this is useful,
Posted 22 November 2011 - 14:50
Did you get the pen from eBay?
Posted 22 November 2011 - 16:24
I was going to ask you about posting the pen---is it too heavy/unbalanced for that? Also, you mentioned above that posting was "not very secure"---is the cap 'wobby' when posted?
When I first saw the lovely cap and non-matching barrel in your photos, I thought the mismatch was a bit jarring...but now it's actually growing on me. I saw a photo of a Tortoise one on eBay and it looks lovely...
Posted 22 November 2011 - 16:56
The pen does post, so the edge of the cap is 103 mm from the nib, giving only 15mm of barrel-cap engagement. This isn't a lot for secure engagement.
If you jam the cap on, it will stay put quite nicely, but I have my concerns about the barrel finish in the long term if you do so. The cap liner is a relatively soft, clear plastic (polythene?) and isn't aggressive, so may not damage the finish too quickly. However finish life is always a concern with laquered barrels.
The cap is fairly light (12g or so), and doesn't badly affect the balance when posted.
I believe the 'Tortoise' version you refer to is the colour that Kaigelu refer to as 'White'. It's very nice in the flesh (on the only occasion I was allowed to see my wife's one), however I prefer blue as it's a lovely colour.
I do like the pen, but will confess that it doesn't give quite the same frisson of pleasure that one of my Pearl & Black Duofolds still give me a couple of years on after buying them (and I also get from pulling out one of the Kaigelu 316's I have). Maybe I still need time to fully appreciate it.
Posted 07 February 2012 - 03:31
Posted 07 February 2012 - 07:43
I had been looking at this pen with some mild interest, and have noticed that R&T's ebay source for it has not had one listed for some weeks now.
Does anyone know a source for this pen? I have been looking on ebay for the last month or so and have not seen anyone selling it. It is on the Kaigelu site, but way too pricey....
Perhaps that's all they had, and now they're all out? I don't know the official Kaigelu price for them, but the seller the OP used had them for about 35USD or so.
Perhaps you should contact the ebay seller, "pmstylus" if you are interested enough.
Posted 07 February 2012 - 11:17
You could try contacting pmstylus direct to ask if they have any more, otherwise I can't help, sorry.
There appears to be one at Vatigia.com ( http://www.vatgia.co...aigelu-319.html ) or at mybatda ( http://my.batda.com/...-319-25902.html ). You may feel the need to have the sales translated from Vietnamese, especially if your grasp of the language is as poor as mine!
There seems to be one at rakuten in Japan - but I have no idea of the current exchange rates so have no reference on value for money. ( http://item.rakuten.co.jp/auc-youstyle/k319-l/ )
I'm on the look out for a 228 and a 221 myself. Unfortunately but the only 228 I can find is at the list price of $140 from nLucky ( http://www.nlucky.co...=kaigelu= )- a store I have no experience of. I may get a 221 at a more reasonable $23.90, but it's not an amount I really want to risk throwing away.
Posted 14 April 2013 - 05:48
Fountain pens are my preferred COLOR DELIVERY SYSTEM (in part because crayons melt in Las Vegas).
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