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Cheap Pen Shootout

inexpensive cheap pen shootout comparison

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#21 wastelanded

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Posted 31 May 2013 - 22:33

BTW, do you have a plain black or the "leather wrap" version?  At first, the "leather" version looked silly, but it's growing on me.  I'm curious how it is to write with.

 

I have the plain one. It's very solidly built. The nib needed some flossing to get the flow moving, then it became a useful and attractive pen.

 

I wouldn't mind one of the leather ones, but the 519 FPs appear to be off the market now: only the rollerballs seem to be available. I always meant to get a couple more, but never got around to it.


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#22 wastelanded

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Posted 31 May 2013 - 22:35

Theyre not 'fakes' or knock-offs, because they are clearly marked with their own brand. They're homages. I would not go for outright fakes either.

 

Exactly. I don't see anyone calling the Sailor 1911 a knockoff of a Montblanc.


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#23 gmcalabr

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Posted 31 May 2013 - 22:43

Have you tried hot glue for plugging cap holes?

 

Not hot glue.  Both pens have inner cap sleeves, but both tend to leak air.  The 612 (yes, another Hero model# correction here, it's the Hero 612) seems to leak through the screw hole at the top of the cap and the 360 leaks at a hole in the top where a screw (or other blockage) aught to be.  Because of that, hot glue isn't really an option.  A tooth pick or similar covered in some sort of resin adhesive has been applied, and I'm awaiting the results.  So far, a gentle blow test show the holes sealed.

 

 

I have the plain one. It's very solidly built. The nib needed some flossing to get the flow moving, then it became a useful and attractive pen.

 

I wouldn't mind one of the leather ones, but the 519 FPs appear to be off the market now: only the rollerballs seem to be available. I always meant to get a couple more, but never got around to it.

 

They appear to be back on ebay now.  I see the leather fp, the black fp, and the roller.  I'm planning to either polish the gold plating off of the nib or buy a #6 nib to use instead, I don't like gold nib on silver trim.

 

Does the Noodler's line quality as cheap?

 

Dangit, I knew I was forgetting another one.  I will plan to add that in an edit to my original post as well.

 

I have found the Lami converter to be very poor.  No real piston suction.  Unfortunately for the beginning fountain pen user, this is a real negative.  What ever happened to proper inbuilt pistons such as those used by Pelikan and MB?  Why is it that $250 and up fountain pens continue to hand us converters instead of inbuilt pistons?  A real turn off since I have found the quality of converters to be incredibly awful.  If you can't supply a converter that actually draws ink, what  is the point?

 

I've never had a converter that failed to operate.  The Lamy does tend to, for one reason or another, pull a small bubble at the top of the converter, but I always attributed that to some air in the feed getting pulled out.

 

As far as the integral filling system vs. cart/converter, I'm probably more on the latter's side...  I understand how the integral filling system is part of the art of the pen, and by comparison, c/c pens look kinda like ballpoints to FP users; MB BP's are just fancy tubes, wheras the FP versions are proper, fully worked out tools.

 

That said, c/c pens have these advantages: no need to keep a bottle of ink with you, just a small cart.  Can be left empty for a flight, and keep a cart handy for when you land, can be disassembled more easily (I dislike pens that cannot be maintained by the owner), can be filled without dipping the nib (keep the nib all clean and shiny), can be replaced for $5-10 without disassembly, and more often can be converted to ED.  So as a tool, they're typically adventagous over integral fillers.

 

(EDIT: Grammer)


Edited by gmcalabr, 31 May 2013 - 22:45.


#24 wastelanded

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Posted 31 May 2013 - 22:50

I don't mind converter pens at all. Some converters are better than others: the Schmidt ones seem to be the best. I agree, the Lamy isn't the greatest, at least the red Z24. Very flimsy for the money it costs.

 

I actually prefer to refill cartridges over using a converter. Some, like the Lamy, hold more ink than the converter. And the Lamy carts are a little reinforced at the entrance, so they hold up. I've been using the same two cartridges for over a year with no issues. Yet the Z24 that came with my last Safari tends to leak,even when clicked in.

 

Re: the original pen review, I also prefer to refill carts for the Pilot 78G. They hold lots more ink, and the open end doesn't wear out. The open end also lets you swab them out with a q-tip, so they get nice and clean.


"I was cut off from the world. There was no one to confuse or torment me, and I was forced to become original." - Franz Joseph Haydn 1732 - 1809

#25 gmcalabr

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Posted 31 May 2013 - 22:59

 

Exactly. I don't see anyone calling the Sailor 1911 a knockoff of a Montblanc.

 

Exactly.  Nor does anyone call a Taperite a Parker 51 half-clone.  I think that the biggest issue is that having a $10 'homage' (since we're calling it that now) of a $700 Mont Blanc makes the guy who owns the MB look like a fool.  I don't believe this at all myself, but there's an innate quality to humans where we feel as though we need to justify those sorts of purchases, to ourselves or others.  That's not an easy thing to do, even though there are plenty of good reasons.

 

I also suspect some anti-Chinese sentiment, for much the same reason.  Every pen company has copied the MB torpedo shape, but some FP geeks get all in a huff when it's a Chinese copy.  I'm not calling people racists here, because there's a tendancy for Chinese manufacturers to completely rip off designs and patents from other manufacturers/designers.  Since they didn't have to fund the development, they don't need to charge the same prices.

 

All fair reasons to avoid the homages.

 

My standpoint (admittedly much tougher to defend) is that pens are art, and art is not owned by anyone, it's a part of humanity.  Since pens are physical art, then owning a homager version is equivalent to downloading a picture of 2D art.  Everyone has the right to own a 'copy' of this sort at only the reasonable cost to reproduce the art to whatever quality or grade of that particular copy.

 

 

BTW, thanks everyone for not turning this into a flame war, I'm happy to have a good discussion on this topic as I've wanted to for some time.



#26 Sailor Kenshin

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Posted 01 June 2013 - 00:02



I think that the biggest issue is that having a $10 'homage' (since we're calling it that now) of a $700 Mont Blanc makes the guy who owns the MB look like a fool. 

.


How do you figure that?

#27 TSherbs

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Posted 01 June 2013 - 03:09

I just want some pens that write pretty good and look pretty good and feel pretty good. And come pretty inexpensively. Then I am pretty happy cuz I can actually own it. I have no idea--except when I read more here--which pens are clones or homages. I really don't care at all whether it is the first or the last or the 17th copy. I just wanna write with it!



#28 chandelle

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Posted 01 June 2013 - 04:35

 

Artists do deserve monetary credit, but the manufacturers don't deserve 95% profit margins on those designs.

 

I've often wondered what it might cost MB to manufacture the 149 (I consider it the benchmark for a high-quality FP that's also practical for everyday use), and I'm sure that there's no way that that figure can even be $100.

 

As with other luxury products, the prices of FPs from some manufacturers verge on the unjustifiable, if not obscene.


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#29 Fakie

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Posted 01 June 2013 - 09:58

I love preppies, although the caps break easily

The petit1 is too small for me

And the varsity is great as well, although the nib size is a tad too big for me, and the ink (black) isn't very good



#30 Fabienne

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Posted 01 June 2013 - 12:07

 

I've often wondered what it might cost MB to manufacture the 149 (I consider it the benchmark for a high-quality FP that's also practical for everyday use), and I'm sure that there's no way that that figure can even be $100.

 

As with other luxury products, the prices of FPs from some manufacturers verge on the unjustifiable, if not obscene.

Well put. I am sure that your figure of $100 or so is about right. It's us who drive the price up. I have two modern day (post 1950) luxury goods which I bought knowing they were very overpriced when new. I bought both used and was glad I did but they were both still pretty expensive, even at half or less of what they would have cost new today! They are nice products and fun to own but I don't own too many. 

 

My Mont Blanc is one of those products. I think one of the secrets of that pen is that Mont Blanc has been producing them for so long that they have gotten the nib and feed to the point of perfection. I think that many other makers don't work on the performance of the product and sales languish over time (or they cheapen the product to make more money and eventually cannibalize it chalking it up to 'product lifecycle'). 

 

I have to say I was mildly shocked to see one of the FPN people's image of their MB which had a broken piston which was taken out of the pen and it resembled a TWSBI piston very closely. I was expecting a gold plated piston, or at least a cloisonne piston with serpents or something. 

 

On the cheapie side, I really like the Varsity and have been using it since college (decades), the Pelikan Pelikano is wonderful and writes perfectly every time. 



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#31 Sailor Kenshin

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Posted 01 June 2013 - 12:28

I just want some pens that write pretty good and look pretty good and feel pretty good. And come pretty inexpensively. Then I am pretty happy cuz I can actually own it. I have no idea--except when I read more here--which pens are clones or homages. I really don't care at all whether it is the first or the last or the 17th copy. I just wanna write with it!


I don't think you're alone in that sentiment.

#32 gmcalabr

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Posted 01 June 2013 - 13:52

How do you figure that?

 

I'll start by saying again, I don't believe that people who decide to spend $700 on an MB are fools.  That said, here's an example about something I imagine not many of us know/care about.  Imagine you're hair product shopping with your significant other, and on the shelf, there's one bottle of, let's say, mousse that costs $3 that everyone online says is really incredibly good, and another brand name that's $120/bottle that everyone says is only a little better.  You'd look at your significant other funny if she got the $120 bottle.  Same with the MB.  There are good reasons, but it's a tough decision that I think we've all made on pens or cars or speakers or something similar.

 

 

My Mont Blanc is one of those products. I think one of the secrets of that pen is that Mont Blanc has been producing them for so long that they have gotten the nib and feed to the point of perfection. I think that many other makers don't work on the performance of the product and sales languish over time (or they cheapen the product to make more money and eventually cannibalize it chalking it up to 'product lifecycle').

 

I can't imagine that the $149 even costs that much, considering the small amount of gold used in the nib or plating.  I'm sure that the Etoile Preciecuse costs a lot more to make.  But I have more moral trouble with profit margins that high than with "shorting" the designer the money.

 

And yes, I agree, MB works harder than almost anyone else to make perfection.  Copies, no matter how close, seem so far away sometimes.  And I have no problem paying a premium for pens like my Franklin Christoph (Model 29, $100), but I do have trouble paying 3 times that for an inferior pen just because it's made of "precious resin" (cheap plastic).  That sentiment is magnified by the reports of poor quality coming out of MB lately, and my positive, but generally lackluster experiences at the MB store in the local mall.

 

 

But yeah, back to the subject, I think all of that makes the cheaper 'homage' pens look much more reasonable.  They're not an alternative, they're just a little piece of nice for the everyday person.



#33 Sailor Kenshin

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Posted 01 June 2013 - 14:35

Ah. Thanks for the clarification. But the shampoo is like ink...it gets used up, the bottle is thrown away.

The pen, however, remains.

Spoken as a fan of cheap pens who wants a MB. Some day.

#34 TSherbs

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Posted 01 June 2013 - 15:05

.....

 

On the cheapie side, I really like the Varsity and have been using it since college (decades), the Pelikan Pelikano is wonderful and writes perfectly every time. 

Any time I must write on really cheap paper that claws at a fine point of soaks up ink like a towel, I just get out my purple Varsity and beat that paper into submission. Works like a charm.



#35 gmcalabr

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Posted 10 June 2013 - 03:08

Alright, I feel the need to give 3 updates to reviews.  Anyone that's been following along with the 'fake vs. real' debate will probably be quite happy...

 

1.  Dolce Vita Naranja:  After the pen fell out of the cap in my pants pocket 3 times, the nib got slightly maladjusted.  In re-adjusting, I've deemed that this nib is quite cheap steel that doesn't flex very far before it deforms plastically (doesn't come back).  This makes adjusting easy, but unfortunately it means that you have to be that much more careful to write gently.  Again, this isn't a super quality pen, but still, for the looks and price, I don't mind.  Also, all reviews I've seen so far say that the cap is too tight, not loose, so that probably won't be your issue.

 

2. Jinhao 159: Three things, actually. a. the plastic ring inside the cap with the cap threads, that also holds the cap trim ring, came unglued from the metal cap body.  Actually, this always wiggled a little, so it's likely that the thing never glued properly and was friction fit in.  b. the converter seems to be a little loose, to the point of worry of it falling out in the pen.  Not sure if it's the pen or the converter just yet that has worn loose.  c. the section is made up of the front chrome ring, the plastic barrel, and the rear ring.  The rear ring has threads on each side, the front screws it into the plastic, the rear screws the barrel to the section.  The wrong threads (front) came unscrewed, and the same bad glue/glue job appears to be responsible.  Simple fix, I used thread locking compound on the threads and this appears to be holding fast.

 

 

So yeah, turns out that cheap Chinese may, at times, still be cheapo.  I'm still satisfied with my purchases given the price, but if you're looking for a no-nonsense tool, then you may be best directed to the Nemosine or one of the Pilots, etc.



#36 Sailor Kenshin

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Posted 10 June 2013 - 11:40

Interesting.

I have a '159’ (rebranded from xfountainpens, actually) and had a similar problem with the threaded insert on the cap SLIPPING DOWN so the cap could no longer be threaded back on. And I could not figure out what was wrong.

Eventually it was pulled up so the cap can work again, but glue may be in its future.

#37 dorothynotgale

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Posted 10 June 2013 - 13:22

I love cheap pens! The Varsities are my standard lend/giveaway to corrupt people into using FPs. So far, two guys have fallen for it and bought their own. The nib on the Varsity is just surprisingly nice to work with.

 

Never tried the Jinhao 159, but the X450 and X750 have both worked well for me considering the price. The standard #6 nibs are a feature I particularly like, because I swap all the time.

 

ED-converted Preppies are my guilty pleasure. Never had a crack, though one will happen someday, I'm sure. I agree about the ugly printing on the barrel; does anyone know of a good way to remove it? I don't want to just go dipping the pens in random bottles of acetone and whatnot.



#38 johnsi02

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Posted 11 June 2013 - 21:07

I wanted to chime in on the homage vs cheap copy discussion. I have a Bauer 388 in stainless steel. It is a nice pen, writes well, obvious copy of a Parker Sonnet. What bugs me about it a little bit is the clip. They copied the rather iconic Parker arrow clip. For me that takes it from being a reasonably priced homage to a classic design, and makes it a cheap knock off. Design your own clip. That's just my thought, YMMV.
Maybe the issue is more, why does Parker not have that clip design trademarked? If you tried to build a thin silver laptop and put an apple on the lid, a certain company would be all over you like stink on a skunk. And rightfully so. So why can Bauer make a copy of the Sonnet including the arrow clip and not have Parker saying "I don't think so"?
That does not at all detract from the pen being a nice looking, reliable daily writer for me. Impressive given the $7 price tag.
While thinking of cheap fountain pens, so far mostly c/c and ed fillers have been mentioned. Any thoughts on a piston filler? As far as I can find, the only ones in this price range are Noodler's, Wality, and Reform. Noodler's actually run about $20, so a little higher than most of what has been discussed here but the Wality pens can be had for $15 and the Reform for about the same or less with the right ebay auction. Anyone able to make comparisons between these?
JS

#39 mhguda

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Posted 11 June 2013 - 22:31

Camlin - also from India - has a nice piston filler, the 47 or, as I recently learned, the Kokuyo. It's in the same price range as the Airmail/Wality. I have two and love them. Reliable, nice writers, not exceptional but enjoyable. It has a fine, half-hooded nib, plastic body, and metal slip cap. I got my first one from Fountainpenrevolution and the second from FPN fellow member madzaxmax, in the Camlin SD group buy. I even see a tiny bit of line variation - thin upstrokes, slightly wider downstrokes. Good with a wet ink.


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#40 gmcalabr

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Posted 28 June 2013 - 00:06

FYI, part 2 is up: http://www.fountainp...-shootout-pt-2/

 

Thank you for the recommendation on the 519.  It's quite a pen for $6.

 

Greg







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