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Jinhao, Duke, And Other Similar Chinese Pens


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25 replies to this topic

#1 tonydent84

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Posted 20 February 2012 - 09:37

Chinese pens seem to be a gamble for me. Some write heavenly while others look heavenly but write hellish. My first experience was with a Jinhao fountain pen that skipped all the time no matter how much I cleaned it, what ink I put in, etc. I bought a few more just to see if I just had a bad one, but they all performed the same way. Some Hero pens are simply unbeatable..super cheap but very high in their quality of performance. Wing Sung seemed like a good deal for me, but the nibs always dry up on me. Duke seemed to be a winner for me in terms of quality. I still use the first Duke I ever bought (occasionally now since I'm spoiled with other higher-end pens).

But now I'm starting to look at their rollerballs. Some of them look better than many made by high-end companies. Do any of you have any experience with their rollerball pens? I was thinking about buying a few of them off eBay from China, but I was wondering if you guys knew if they could take Pilot G2 refills or if there are other common refills in the States that can fit these pens? (I believe that Duke can take the Uniball Premier refills.)

Also, what are your opinions on Chinese fountain pens? Which companies do you prefer? Which pens would you recommend? I love some of the styles of the Chinese pens, but I'm afraid of wasting the money on pens that are likely to be junk writers. Again, Duke I'm pretty confident about. I have also used Hero pens which I like. Wing Sung, eh. How about those new Paul Pirre (sp?) pens?

Thanks!

--Tony
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#2 custermustache

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Posted 20 February 2012 - 12:11

I bought some Chinese rollerballs from Benton Clay for super cheap ($3) and cannot find a refill that fits. Neither can the seller, so they are really nice disposables.

#3 VillersCotterets

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Posted 20 February 2012 - 12:57

First of all, the most common mistake about affordable Chinese pens found on eBay is to infer a relationship between the brand names and the quality of those pens. You just cannot say something like Jinhao = bad, Duke = ok, Picasso = always wonderful. This is simply not true. Chinese pens don't go through a thorough quality check procedure. So, whatever the brand, some batches will be wonderful, others awful. You cannot make any generalisation based on your very small sample. It's a matter of luck, and will remain that way. There won't be any consensus. Some user experience with one brand will be awful, while others will rave about the performance of that same brand.

For instance, my personal experience with Jinhao is exactly the opposite of yours. I had to disassemble my x750 completely and scrub it with soap to make it work, but once I did that, it became my smoothest, most reliable writer. It never skips and it has a very generous flow. I am sure, other members of FPN will tell you similar stories and others will give you simultaneously contradicting testimony.

Second, many models are sold under several brands. The only changes are cosmetic.

To make sense of Chinese pens, one must focus on specific designs, not on brand generalisations. For instance, the B nib found on oversized nibs (like the one used on the Jinhao x750) can be extremely smooth. However, the smaller the nib, the probability of getting a scratchy nib increases exponentially. The finish (paint, melamine, ...) on pricier pens (like the 50$ Dukes) receives better care. Usually, one get a perfectly beautiful pen. Etc.

In other words, since variance in performance is due to a complete lack of quality check, focus on models that are built with easier to build components instead of making broad generalisations about the brand name printed on the pen.

Edited by VillersCotterets, 20 February 2012 - 13:00.


#4 Hex

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Posted 20 February 2012 - 13:07

What Villers said, it's the luck of the draw.

One of my 1st pens was a 3 pack of Heros and 1 of the three was defective. The other 2 worked well.

I always get a laugh when I see Chinese pens advertised as "Vintage".
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#5 brownargus

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Posted 20 February 2012 - 13:07

I have a number of Chinese pens and can recommend them. I have Hero 1000, 389, 715, 704, 329, 616, Yiren 615, Jinhao 321 and 1200 Golden Dragon. They all write well and the main complaint I have is that their attempts at psuedo aerometric filling systems on Hero 329 and 616 and Jinhao 321 are generally poor. The Yiren is an excellent pen but quite heavy at 51 g. Best of the bunch which was also the most expensiver at £25, is the Hero 1000; all the others were less then £10 including postage.
John
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#6 richardandtracy

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Posted 20 February 2012 - 13:30

I think if you have a Chinese pen you must be prepared to do some nib work, but only after establishing that the pen isn't suffering from manufacturing oils by flushing it first.

Jinhao's seem to be making their current nibs smooth on really dreadful paper by putting 'Baby Bottom' syndrome into them. This has the effect of making them skip on better paper. The thing you need to do is to get some micromesh and write figures of 8 on 6000 grade micromesh, trying to see whether the pen skips every 8-10 figures of 8. Once the pen stops skipping, polish on 8000 and 12000 grade micromesh. Do as little grinding as possible, so leaving as much tipping as possible. Anyway, that should help.

I had to do this with my Jinhao Century pen and it's now great.

Regards,

Richard.

#7 Kaptenmork

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Posted 20 February 2012 - 13:37

Chinese pens are so cheap that you can afford a few lemons before you find the perfect specimen :eureka:

I have some that probably are among the worst ever, and I also have some that I would not sell, at any price, even I bought then for a few dollar.

#8 Wh3r3sWald0

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Posted 20 February 2012 - 14:52

I am new to Chinese pens but have already purchased a number of them from Baoer, Jinhao, Hero and Yiren. They all came with different levels of functionality. With the exception of one Hero they are not "poor" writers. Some write better than others but none are downright bad. I have found that what Richard says above is very true, a few of them need a bit of work to get the most out of these inexpensive pens. I have a Hero with an EF nib that has just a bit of bite to it even after smoothing some, I don't want to smooth any more so as not to grind off too much. I have a Yiren that is just as smooth and starts as quickly as my M nib TWSBI 540. I have one Jinhao that I cannot seen to get to work correctly no matter what I have done with the nib.

One thing that is important to note, that even though some of the more expensive pens go through more rigorous QC that still does not guarantee a perfect writing instrument. It certainly does lessen the chances. Without the QC there is a greater chance of a difficult Chinese writer, but in my limited experience most have not been impossible to correct. Their cost has allowed me to build a modest collection of pens and a less than modest price, among which are some very handsome and surprisingly well made pens.

#9 79spitfire

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Posted 20 February 2012 - 14:54

In my experience the QC is very spotty. Buying from a reputable seller helps in spades on getting good ones. The Chinese companies seem to have multiple quality 'lines' depending on where the intended end market is.

The 'school packs' off ebay seem to have a 10-50% failure rate, the ones that fail usually can be disassembled and fixed, but if I buy from Todd (Isellpens) or Norm (hisnibs) they all seem to write well 'out of the box'

I also have a X450 (I got it from Xfountainpens) that wrote well out of the box, but then developed a habit of drying up until I advanced the converter. I finally got it to write well, and not dry up. The finish on the plated parts and some of the lacquered blue finish is starting to come off from normal wear, and it's only about a year old. The only reason this is tolerable is it's a very inexpensive pen to begin with!

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#10 bicfan

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Posted 20 February 2012 - 18:09

So far:

HERO 616 - would not write well as fines. Had to spread the tines to get decent flow. Now mediums.

Baoer (can't remember the model) - garbage.

Jinhao 159 - too sensitive to writing angle; flow is sometimes good, sometimes not

On the other hand, all the Japanese pens I've tried have been awesome. I recommend the Pilot 78G.

#11 chelsa

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Posted 20 February 2012 - 19:12

I bought a 10 pack of Hero 616's and all are nice, tho I had to reseat some of the breather tubes. I have a Jinhao 329 that is really nice, smooth, starts every time. I haven't done any nib work, because I don't have that expertise. I have had bad experiences with other Heros, a Baoer and a X750. They skip and dry up despite flushing.
Re the Japanese pens - I have 5 78G's: one fine is great, always on rotation; the other is scratchy; the 2 mediums, even though they write, I don't enjoy them; the B stub nib is very nice.
HTH.

#12 bumpyroads

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Posted 20 February 2012 - 19:13

I have purchased a few Jinhao 602's and they all have been working well. They are wet (too wet considering the size of my writing) and very smooth writers without drying out (hooded nib). One negative is that the nib sizes (F) vary slightly (not that much, but still noticeable). Another thing to knock is that the finish is not perfect under close inspection. But, considering the price (just $5) I did not mind.

#13 tonydent84

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Posted 20 February 2012 - 22:50

First of all, the most common mistake about affordable Chinese pens found on eBay is to infer a relationship between the brand names and the quality of those pens. You just cannot say something like Jinhao = bad, Duke = ok, Picasso = always wonderful. This is simply not true. Chinese pens don't go through a thorough quality check procedure. So, whatever the brand, some batches will be wonderful, others awful. You cannot make any generalisation based on your very small sample. It's a matter of luck, and will remain that way. There won't be any consensus. Some user experience with one brand will be awful, while others will rave about the performance of that same brand.

For instance, my personal experience with Jinhao is exactly the opposite of yours. I had to disassemble my x750 completely and scrub it with soap to make it work, but once I did that, it became my smoothest, most reliable writer. It never skips and it has a very generous flow. I am sure, other members of FPN will tell you similar stories and others will give you simultaneously contradicting testimony.

Second, many models are sold under several brands. The only changes are cosmetic.

To make sense of Chinese pens, one must focus on specific designs, not on brand generalisations. For instance, the B nib found on oversized nibs (like the one used on the Jinhao x750) can be extremely smooth. However, the smaller the nib, the probability of getting a scratchy nib increases exponentially. The finish (paint, melamine, ...) on pricier pens (like the 50$ Dukes) receives better care. Usually, one get a perfectly beautiful pen. Etc.

In other words, since variance in performance is due to a complete lack of quality check, focus on models that are built with easier to build components instead of making broad generalisations about the brand name printed on the pen.



I have to say that I agree with you on this. I try to use the same discrimination that I use with Japanese or Western pens but it seems to be unreliable. Though I purchased a number of Dukes and none of them gave me any problems, I'm sure that many people have had horrible experiences with these and I may have just got lucky with the particular pens I received.

It's a shame because their pens do look real nice, and the ones that write well also turn out to be some of the nicest writers I've tried. I wish quality control was increased.

I am curious, though, if anyone knows more about Chinese culture and whether it is popular to see fountain pens in use by students, professionals, academics, etc. Also, are these particular pen companies aiming at profiting more from export to foreign countries to satisfy the fountain pen niche with low-priced pens or are they really intended for domestic users like school children, professionals, etc.?
I no longer own any fountain pens... Now they own me.

#14 tonydent84

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Posted 20 February 2012 - 22:53

So far:

HERO 616 - would not write well as fines. Had to spread the tines to get decent flow. Now mediums.

Baoer (can't remember the model) - garbage.

Jinhao 159 - too sensitive to writing angle; flow is sometimes good, sometimes not

On the other hand, all the Japanese pens I've tried have been awesome. I recommend the Pilot 78G.


The same thing happened with my old 616..became a medium when I spread the tines a little. Japanese pens are awesome. I'm not the biggest fan of the 78G because the fine is too fine for me and the medium is a stub, but if they made a medium like on the Prera, I'd be set with one of those all the time. Too bad I can't find a nice looking Pilot pen that also has a two-toned nib. In the meantime, I have to settle for either straight yellow (gold) or steel.
I no longer own any fountain pens... Now they own me.

#15 VillersCotterets

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Posted 21 February 2012 - 00:53

I am curious, though, if anyone knows more about Chinese culture and whether it is popular to see fountain pens in use by students, professionals, academics, etc. Also, are these particular pen companies aiming at profiting more from export to foreign countries to satisfy the fountain pen niche with low-priced pens or are they really intended for domestic users like school children, professionals, etc.?


My guess is that the Chinese still use fountain pens a lot and the numerous models you see on eBay (maybe with the exception of the Picasso brand seemingly created to be sold in souvenir shops) were not designed with Westerners in mind. The Chinese find those pens in regular brick-and-mortar stores and have a chance of testing them before buying, discarding the bad ones, unfortunately a thing we cannot do on eBay. This explains the lack of quality control. It's done by consumers themselves.

That said, the recent addition of broad nibs on many eBay models is most likely done with Westerners, and Westerners only, in mind.

#16 VillersCotterets

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Posted 21 February 2012 - 00:59

I'm not the biggest fan of the 78G because the fine is too fine for me and the medium is a stub


Are you sure? The B nib is in fact an italic nib, I know, I own one. But, from what I've read the M nib is not a stub nor an italic nib, it's a regular round nib, just like the F nib.

By the way, "stub" and "italic" are not synonymous. A stub has a soldered tip, just like regular nibs, but squared instead of being totally round, while an italic doesn't have a soldered tip.

Edited by VillersCotterets, 21 February 2012 - 01:03.


#17 studiohead

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Posted 21 February 2012 - 08:31

Well, I am in Suzhou China at the moment for a 10 day work trip in which I get to see fountain pens every day. It is very interesting compared to Shanghai, a first tier city, the locals don't have many choices of purchasing Fountain Pens in China. The preferred brand it seems will be Parker and an Urban has a Recommended Retail of 498 RMB which is USD$79 (I know that Lewertowski had them in Amazon for USD$19.99). But within the Chinese market, I only find fountain pens in Bookstores/Stationary Stores, Departmental Stores and Hypermarkets.

Most upscale places will sell Parker and Duke. These 2 the locals feel that they have the best quality. (Honestly considering both are made in China for the more common items) followed by Hero. Other than these, Picasso is the next most common in terms of upmarket pen sellers. Some of them will stock Crocodiles which come from the same company as Picasso. One the low end, we can see Hero and True-color/Lotus Pens dominate the school pen market which cost between 10 RMB and 17RMB (Less then USD$3.00) Full Recommend Retail. I have yet to see any one really retailing Jinhao/Baoer and the other pen brands that are talk about except in the wholesale centers in Shanghai/Shenzhen. (I am going to do a trip report soon)

One think I have to say, you need to know the RRP of the chinese pen and then from there gauge the quality. A Duke 209 which is one of the most basic models cost 59 RMB Recommended retail verses an official Hero 616 cost only 10 to 12 RMB. I can see there is a definite difference in terms of what you get. (For one any thing below 20 RMB, you get the pseudo aerometric filer.) Based on the few X750 I get from different sources, I can see an improvement of quality in regards to the feed.


The differences between Fountain Pen and Rollerball, now that honestly if you understand how the wholesalers/distributors operate, you see no difference between a fountain pen and rollerball. They will happily convert a Rollerball into a fountain pen and reverse by, taking the nib section and convertor, replacing it with a rollerball section and add a spring to the end of the pen to hold the refills in place. The prices are exactly the same for some unknown reason. (Back in Singapore and I believe elsewhere, rollerballs are slightly cheaper then fountain pens) Based on that, you can use anything from the cheap chinese rollerball refills to the Pilot G2 which everyone likes and of course the MontBlanc ones you can get from Staples.


As for vintage pens, well, their sense of vintage seems that it means out of production.


I will be here for another 2 more days. I hope to goto the Shanghai wholesale center again before I fly back home as I only visited one stall before the place closes. (Decan which wholesales Kaigelu, Regal and Jinhao/Baoer)
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#18 KrazyIvan

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Posted 21 February 2012 - 16:34

I don't really care what a stock chinese nib writes like because I am going to grind it down to a stub or italic anyway.

#19 Sailor Kenshin

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Posted 21 February 2012 - 17:10

What Villers said, it's the luck of the draw.

One of my 1st pens was a 3 pack of Heros and 1 of the three was defective. The other 2 worked well.

I always get a laugh when I see Chinese pens advertised as "Vintage".



I love Chinese pens. They're the ones I reach for every day, with a couple of exceptions, but I always have a couple of Hero 616s inked and likely a 329. Their around-$20 range is nice too, the 1026 especially(I THINK that's the model number---black and silvertone flat-top, smooth wet writer).

There are fake Heros, especially the 616s. Don't ask me why, but it's so---if a third of them are defective it might be a fake.

Either Hero loves me or I have yet to run into a fake---they all work first time.

#20 alc3261

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Posted 09 August 2012 - 15:03

Chinese pens seem to be a gamble for me. Some write heavenly while others look heavenly but write hellish. My first experience was with a Jinhao fountain pen that skipped all the time no matter how much I cleaned it, what ink I put in, etc. I bought a few more just to see if I just had a bad one, but they all performed the same way. Some Hero pens are simply unbeatable..super cheap but very high in their quality of performance. Wing Sung seemed like a good deal for me, but the nibs always dry up on me. Duke seemed to be a winner for me in terms of quality. I still use the first Duke I ever bought (occasionally now since I'm spoiled with other higher-end pens).

But now I'm starting to look at their rollerballs. Some of them look better than many made by high-end companies. Do any of you have any experience with their rollerball pens? I was thinking about buying a few of them off eBay from China, but I was wondering if you guys knew if they could take Pilot G2 refills or if there are other common refills in the States that can fit these pens? (I believe that Duke can take the Uniball Premier refills.)

Also, what are your opinions on Chinese fountain pens? Which companies do you prefer? Which pens would you recommend? I love some of the styles of the Chinese pens, but I'm afraid of wasting the money on pens that are likely to be junk writers. Again, Duke I'm pretty confident about. I have also used Hero pens which I like. Wing Sung, eh. How about those new Paul Pirre (sp?) pens?

Thanks!

--Tony


In my experience Paul Pierre (?spelling) pens are total rubbish (but I may have just got a bad batch, I suppose).
My favourite Chinese pen is a Kaigelu 316 which is amazing and very good value £14 inc postage from china (£17 if you want a nice box). I've bought 5-6 (for presents) and they were all very good.






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