This is the second Jinhao Century Blue pen I have bought, and it is quite different from the first in a number of areas, so does warrant another review. This is the pen:
The original Century pen (which I will call the Mk1 from now on) is as below:
The Mk1 was reviewed here: http://www.fountainp...blue-celluloid/
The first impression when opening the bubble wrap envelope was 'Ooh, Shinee'. I like it. Maybe not quite as much as the Mk1, but a lot.
The colour has a depth and pearlescence to it that is very attractive, but I think the colour looks a little washed out in comparison to the deeper blue of the Mk1. Without the Mk1 as reference, I'd like it unconditionally. The overall impression is of a pen inspired by the modern Parker Duofold International - so much so that later on in this review I do a direct comparison with the International. 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 just how closely Jinhao are able to duplicate the main features of such a high quality pen.
Once I got it in my paw, the things that struck me most were the reduced size, weight and the improved balance compared to the Mk1. The weight is closer to that of the Duofold International than the Mk1, though it's still not as light as the Duofold. The cap finial and barrel finial are metal, but as the cap lip is plastic in the same way as a Duofold, the cap is better balanced when posted and the nib does not try to flip off the page. Also, due to a slightly different geometry, the cap will post as securely as on a Duofold - that is to say you can get it to come off, but really need to wave your hand around to do so.
Next to the Mk1, it's as below:
Having talked about the weight, I suppose I should give the dimensions and weight:
The sizes and weight are as below:
Length Capped: 132mm
Length Uncapped: 121mm
Length Posted: 164mm
Barrel Diameter: 11.73mm
Cap Diameter: 13.70mm
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. As a small time pen maker, I would be proud of producing a pen of this quality. This is a pen trying to stand alongside a Parker International, and the fit and finish are as close as Jinhao could get to the original.
The overall construction method is identical to the International 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 is only one deviation that I can see from the International's method of construction. This is:
- The finials are painted metal rather than acrylic.
The c/c is a deluxe piston c/c, of average quality. The c/c has no ball or spring in it to break the surface tension, which may be a problem as the ink runs out.
The nib is sharply engraved, if somewhat small.
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 chrome plating. I had wanted a chrome plated pen to avoid the normal Jinhao gold plate problems as it seems to start wearing off fairly quickly. Unfortunately there is a spot on the chrome plate of the cap rings where the chrome has flaked off exposing the copper sub-surface plating.
That doesn't bode well for the longevity of the plating of that ring. The second area is likely to be the coating on the metal finials. On the Mk1 the paint started to wear away on the barrel finial corner after about 6 months of fairly continuous 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 confess, I didn't bother to flush the pen before first use. It had taken the best part of 4 weeks to arrive from China and I was anxious to try it. So, bearing in mind that pens are usually dry or skip if not flushed, I was pleasantly surprised with the way it wrote. There was no skipping and it laid down a line that was slightly on the fine side of medium. There was no over-smoothing of the nib that I've seen with a couple of my recent Jinhao's and the nib gives a nice amount of feedback. The small nib looks a little undersized, but I suppose I can get used to 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 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 section shape is almost identical to that of the Duofold, so possibly that's where its usability comes from.
The nib is very, very stiff. There is no real hint of flex, and if you press hard enough to flex the nib, the force rises to a level that will be excessively tiring in time. So no flex. Ah well. Cannot have everything.
Value for Money
I got the pen for under £10 inc postage (say US$16), as an E-Bay BIN. This is more expensive than some 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 almost the same size as the Duofold International.
As can be seen the section shape, barrel & cap finials are almost identical.
The Jinhao's cap body is a little longer, by a matter of 2.5mm, and the nib is 3mm shorter at 17mm compared to the 20mm of the Duofold.
This means that the tip of the nib stops 5.5mm short of the clip ring, while the Duofold's stops at the clip ring. This gives more design leeway for Jinhao over their finial-cap body joint design.
All-in-all the design inspiration is obvious, even though the details have been re-engineered.
Overall feel of the pen materials: The first impression is that both the Duofold and the Jinhao are as well finished. They both have the same shine, the plating is as well plated (except where I have already noted). The barrel & cap material somehow feels softer and not quite so dense on the Jinhao. The Mk1 Century Blue pen I have hasn't marked as much as I expected, so I imagine the Mk2 will be good for some time as well.
The proportions of the Jinhao are almost identical to that of the International. It's slightly longer, but the barrel & cap diameters are identical to within 0.02mm (less than 0.001") and the uncapped section/barrel length is identical. These are the proportions I feel are 'correct' and look right. The Duofold Centennial looks just too short & stubby to me.
The section shape on the Jinhao is identical to the Parker and also has a plated ring just above the nib, but due to the smaller feed diameter the ring is a bit more noticeable. 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 slightly matte finish to the plastic, making gripping marginally easier when hot & sweaty than with the Parker.
The threads between the cap & barrel on the Jinhao are machined into a separate cap lip exactly as with the Parker. The threads have the same fit as on the Duofold, and are equally smooth in use. They give a quality feel to removing the cap. The cap-barrel thread is a triple start with about three turns to release it, or half a turn more than the Parker. The barrel threads are machined on the inside of the barrel body, exactly as the Parker, and give fractionally more play than on the Duofold when removing the barrel from the section - it still feels like a high quality pen here. The barrels of both pens have the same increase in diameter above the cap-barrel threads and the same taper & start position prior to the barrel finial. The finial ring is the same diameter.
The Jinhao's cap & barrel finials are painted brass (or maybe steel). I do not know how long this will last, but experience with the Mk1 indicates that painted coatings last about 6-8 months before the base metal starts to show. The self coloured acrylic material in the Duofold, on the other hand, will not show up small chips. The barrel finial is hollow, just like the Parker's, however the c/c is of normal length and does not take advantage of the extra space available inside the finial.
The cap decal on the Jinhao is a stylised twin-horse drawn chariot, die cast or etched from a flat decal. Looks OK, but is not as interesting as the Duofold's raised 'Ace of Spades' decal, however it is more interesting than the stamped finial on the Mk1. 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.
The nibs are difficult to compare, as my Parker has a Broad Italic nib (0.9mm wide). However, the Jinhao is nearly as stiff as the Duofold, 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.
The c/c's in the Duofold differs 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 pen is quite a bit better. The International does not have lumps of metal at the end of the pen and as a result there is less weight pressing on the skin between the thumb and fore finger. Even when not posted, due to the more even distribution of weight, the Duofold's feel rather more refined and nicer to hold. That is not to say the Jinhao is bad, though, and the Mk2 is much better than the Mk1.
The Jinhao is not on a par with the Duofold, but it is surprisingly close, and 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, slightly overweight, Jinhao. The design is a bit of a ripoff, but there is so much re-design in the shape that it is not quite a copy of the Duofold. It's a classic shape, in an appealing looking material, that works well. I suspect that Jinhao have enhanced their reputation with this pen.
This pen is of near-luxury quality, at a school pen price. Amazing.
So, if you are undecided about buying a Duofold and want to get most of the experience without all the cost, this Jinhao may be used to simulate the Duofold International, and the Kaigelu 316 simulates the Duofold Centennial. It is amazing how far Chinese pens have progressed in the last 5 years.
Other Reviews that may be of Interest
Jinhao Century Blue Celluloid (Mk1): http://www.fountainp...blue-celluloid/
Kaigelu 316 Charcoal: http://www.fountainp...u-316-charcoal/
Kaigelu 316 Amber/Grey + Comparison with Duofold Centennial: http://www.fountainp...316-grey-amber/
Parker Duofold Centennial: http://www.fountainp...howtopic=134028
Parker Duofold International: http://www.fountainp...-international/
I hope this is useful,