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The Jinhao 599 – A Stylish Chinese Pen With Strangely Familiar Germanic Leanings…

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#1 Jamerelbe

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Posted 09 April 2014 - 10:45

Several months ago now, as most FPN regulars will know, a ‘new’ pen was released onto the market by the Hero Pen Company – a new pen which, like so many other Heroes in the past, looked somehow familiar… The ‘Hero Summer Colors’ had arrived, and is it just me, or did that sucker look just a little too much like the Lamy Safari?
 
At the time, I’d recently begun buying pens (and ink) from a local Australian distributor (Kevin from www.justwrite.com.au), who among other things stocks a wide range of pens from China.  I asked the question – more out of idle curiosity than anything else – had he heard of the Hero Summer Colors?  He had… but had heard the build quality wasn’t fantastic, and they weren’t on his radar.  However… his suppliers had recently provided him with a stash of Jinhao pens that seemed to owe a debt to the design of the same German ‘progenitor’:  would I like to take a look?
 
So, in return for an impartial review , Kevin sent me a Jinhao 599 – in fact, for good measure, he sent me two!  And what can I say?  From the moment they fell out of the envelope, encased each encased in its own plastic sheath, I was blown away!  These are sleek, stylish pens – at least in the black glossy finish; they look good on the desk, feel great in the hand, and write sweetly on the page. 
 
It will almost be impossible to review this pen without comparing it to the Lamy Safari – so you’ll see comparison shots littered throughout.  But let me say up-front, most of the design changes Jinhao have made in producing this pen are, in my view, design enhancements.  If you’re squeamish about using pens that appear to have blatantly copied someone else’s design brief, then this may not be the pen for you – personally, I think it’s different ENOUGH to be forgivable – but you’ll have to judge that for yourself.
 
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Appearance & Design (8/10) – A sleek, stylish looking pen
 
If you’re a fan of the Lamy Safari’s design, you won’t have any issues with this pen – the overall profile, including the grip section, is very similar.  The 599 pens I received came in a black glossy lacquer finish, with ‘Jinhao’ imprinted proudly at the end of the pen barrel/body in a contrasting colour (white) – the company name is also found on the nib, and on the cartridge converter inside.  No mistaking who this pen is from – and unlike its German ‘predecessor’, the barrel only threads on to the grip section one way: you can’t hide the printing on the underside of the pen as you write! 
 
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No ‘ink window’ with this particular version of the 599 – which may bother some users, if you like to know at a glance how much ink capacity you have remaining.  The clip is also styled somewhat differently – still a large clip, but to my eyes more aesthetically pleasing.  It looks a little less like an oversized paperclip!  The design of the grip section is ‘vintage’ Lamy (à la Safari) – the nib, on the other hand, looks more like what you’d find on a Pilot VPen, but more on that later…
 
Only one real negative (if you can call it that): the glossy cap and barrel tend to show fingerprints – if you care about that kind of thing (or if you’re planning to take photos for an FPN review), you’ll need to give it a quick polish every now and then.
 
Construction & Quality (8/10) – A pretty sturdy pen
 
It’s hard to find fault with the construction and quality of this pen – it appears well-made, the grip section and barrel thread together nicely, the metal (brass, I think?) and plastic on the pen all appear durable, the clip is nice and tight without being hard to use… 
 
Everything I like about the Safari, this pen will put up its hand and say ‘me too’ – with one or two small exceptions.  Because the pen is made of metal, it will probably be more prone to ‘dings’ and dents than the ABS material of the Safari – but that would also be true of the Lamy AL-Star.  The rubber O-ring that sits between the grip and body of the Safari – and provides a better air seal between body and cap – has been replaced with a metal ring that comes loose and rattles around every time you unscrewing the body.  That’s probably my only real gripe with this pen: the metal ring is needed for the cap to snap on securely, and could be easily lost if care is not taken. 
 
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Weight & Dimensions (8/10) – A good weight – sits comfortably in the hand
 
The pen sits very comfortably in my hand, and writes well unposted.  You can, if you want, write with the cap posted – if you’re self-conscious about the branding on the pen, that’s the only way you’re going to be able to hide it! – but I found that made it a little unwieldy. 
 
Capped, the pen is about 138mm long; uncapped it’s closer to 127mm; posted, it extends to 170mm.  Tipping the scales at 25g, this is just a little more substantial than the Safari (17g) – heavy enough to know you’re holding it, light enough to be supremely comfortable (as long as you like the standard Lamy grip section!).
 
Nib & Performance (7/10) – A very smooth writer, but only one nib size…
 
The nib on this pen is one of the few things Jinhao have not copied directly from Lamy – but I have seen this profile before, on a number of pens.  The Pilot VPen (pictured – from Japan); the Hero 358 ‘Schedule Note’ kids’ pen; and the Sellner Marchtrenk plastic fountain pen (from Germany) to name a few. 
 
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The nib is made stainless steel (duh!), with no discernible ‘spring’ or line variation.  Writing is nonetheless a very pleasant experience –and if your preferences naturally run to finer nibs (as mine do), then this pen will be right up your alley: slightly finer than the Lamy Safari (which writes a little wetter); directly comparable to the Pilot VPen / Varsity and the 0.3mm Platinum Preppy nib.  See the writing samples below:
 
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Filling System & Maintenance (9/10) – Custom-Designed Cartridge Converter...
or Standard International Cartridges!

 
For me, this is one of the real selling points for the 599 over the Lamy Safari: the pen is built for compatibility with standard cartridges, and will therefore take any of the cheap cartridge converters you can buy on the market.  However, it comes supplied with a cartridge converter, that looks very similar in design to the Lamy cartridge converter (the Z26) – except for the narrower ‘mouth’, to accommodate a standard international fitting.
 
A Lamy-style pen – without the constraints of a proprietary cartridge / converter system?  Now that’s smart thinking on Jinhao’s part. 
 
Posted Image
 
Cost & Value (10/10) – Full marks from me!
OK, OK, this is not the best fountain pen available on the market – it would probably not stack up well against a Pelikan M1000, or Montblanc Meisterstück 149, or a Yard-o-Led Viceroy Grand Victorian (not that I’ve ever handled any of those!)… In fact, I’d probably rate it behind the TWSBI Diamond 580 and the Diamond Mini, the highest-end pens currently in my collection…  But for AU$11.50 (that’ll be the asking price at www.JustWrite.com.au, when they go up on the website!) I’d buy one of these ahead of a Lamy Safari or AL-Star (unless I wanted a stub nib) – in fact, I could buy at 3-4 of these for the price of a Safari! – and I’d happily give this away as a gift pen to anyone I’m trying to convert to the pen habit.
 
Conclusion (Final score [SUM/6]: 8.16666667) – A really good quality pen, for the price!
I guess the scoring system above is somewhat subjective – and certainly takes into account the fact that this is an inexpensive pen.  But for the price, and for its ‘place’ in the market, this is a really good value pen.  Looks good, a pleasure to write with – I’d have no hesitation recommending the Jinhao 599.
Disclaimer: I was provided two free ‘samples’ of the Jinhao 599 by Kevin from www.justwrite.com.au in return for an impartial review.



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#2 Seele

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Posted 09 April 2014 - 11:37

Thanks for the review.

 

I do have a Safari (charcoal with black-finish M nib) I rarely use it as I do not use the "tripod grip"; my grip is slightly twisted counterclockwise by a few degrees. The Safari feed is keyed to the section grip so there is only one way for it to fit, is the 599 the same in this respect?


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#3 alc3261

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Posted 09 April 2014 - 12:13

I have several Hero Summer Colors, Jinhao 599s, 599Cs and a large number of Lamy Safaris.

My verdict - the Hero Summer Color is a virtually exact replica of the Safari but only slightly lower in quality.

The Jinhao 599 Metal painted body pen is pretty good as a writer, the paint finish is much more prone to scratching than an Al-Star. The 599C is a translucent plastic pen (I got a pack of 3 in Blue, Smoke and Pale Orange) - when I tried to put the converter in the whole nib/feed/collar shot out of the top of the pen. It all seems a bit too loose. The other 2 pens seem OK.  

Overall I find very little to choose between the Hero and Jinhao offerings (but the Jinhao clip is certainly an improvement!!)



#4 Jamerelbe

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Posted 09 April 2014 - 12:32

Thanks for the review.

 

I do have a Safari (charcoal with black-finish M nib) I rarely use it as I do not use the "tripod grip"; my grip is slightly twisted counterclockwise by a few degrees. The Safari feed is keyed to the section grip so there is only one way for it to fit, is the 599 the same in this respect?

 

Sorry, no joy on that score: the 599 section grip is identical to the Safari.  



#5 Jamerelbe

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Posted 09 April 2014 - 12:39

I have several Hero Summer Colors, Jinhao 599s, 599Cs and a large number of Lamy Safaris.

My verdict - the Hero Summer Color is a virtually exact replica of the Safari but only slightly lower in quality.

The Jinhao 599 Metal painted body pen is pretty good as a writer, the paint finish is much more prone to scratching than an Al-Star. The 599C is a translucent plastic pen (I got a pack of 3 in Blue, Smoke and Pale Orange) - when I tried to put the converter in the whole nib/feed/collar shot out of the top of the pen. It all seems a bit too loose. The other 2 pens seem OK.  

Overall I find very little to choose between the Hero and Jinhao offerings (but the Jinhao clip is certainly an improvement!!)

 

Thanks for the feedback - I haven't had any problems with the finish scratching on the 599, but haven't really put the pens through a 'torture test'!  If I can put in a 'plug' for JustWrite (though this would hopefully be true of any similar retailer!), they're more likely to do a bit of 'Quality Assurance' before the pen goes out in the mail - and to back up their sales with a 1-2 year warranty, even on these cheap Chinese pens.  I'm happy to pay a little more for that peace of mind - so far, of the 15+ (mostly) cheap Chinese or Indian pens I've bought from his  (and the small sampling of pens I've been sent for evaluation / review purchases), I haven't encountered a single dud.  



#6 h.farmawi

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Posted 09 April 2014 - 13:02

Nice review, Tanks.


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#7 rezwrrd

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Posted 09 April 2014 - 14:23

I've been watching the recent 599 developments eagerly. I have a Safari and I like most of the design elements and the way it sits in my hand, but the Lamy EF nib is still far too broad for me. (I'm spoiled on Chinese XXF nibs, and my XF Super 21.) I'm getting a 599C, which appears to have an even more normal nib design. I definitely agree with your comments about the proprietary C/C system. I generally use bottled ink, but it was still annoying to have to buy a special converter when I've got several international standard ones lying around unused.


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#8 Jamerelbe

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Posted 12 April 2014 - 04:16

I've been watching the recent 599 developments eagerly. I have a Safari and I like most of the design elements and the way it sits in my hand, but the Lamy EF nib is still far too broad for me. (I'm spoiled on Chinese XXF nibs, and my XF Super 21.) I'm getting a 599C, which appears to have an even more normal nib design. I definitely agree with your comments about the proprietary C/C system. I generally use bottled ink, but it was still annoying to have to buy a special converter when I've got several international standard ones lying around unused.

 

If the Lamy EF is too broad, I'm not sure how you'll find this - I think it was just a shade finer than the Lamy Fine, but my (daughter's) yellow Lamy is also a fairly wet writer, at least with the turquoise ink she's using at present.  

 

I definitely agree with you, though: I think brands like Lamy shoot themselves in the foot when they insist on using their own proprietary style of cartridge - then charge you for the privilege of buying a proprietary converter IN ADDITION TO the price of the pen.  What really impressed me with this Jinhao pen was that NOT ONLY did they provide a converter WITH the pen, but they provided a custom designed converter, instead of their standard cheapy see-through plastic thing (of which I already have plenty!).



#9 DaveBj

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Posted 12 April 2014 - 13:49

Interesting, well detailed review.  I have already expressed in another thread how much I like the Chinese musical instruments that are clones of high-quality "name-brands."  I had a Lamy Safari and liked it, but it went walkies; I may look into getting a Jinhao pen or two to go along with my Jinbao horns :D


Until you ink a pen, it is merely a pretty stick.  --UK Mike

 

My arsenal, in order of acquisition: Sailor 21 Pocket Pen M, Cross Solo M, Online Calligraphy, Monteverde Invincia F, Hero 359 M, Jinhao X450 M, Levenger True Writer M, Jinhao 159 M, Platinum Balance F, TWSBI Classic 1.1 stub, Platinum Preppy 0.3 F, 7 Pilot Varsity M disposables refillables, Speedball penholder, TWSBI 580 USA EF, Pilot MR, Noodler's Ahab 1.1 stub, another Preppy 0.3, Preppy EF 0.2, ASA Sniper F, Click Majestic F, Kaweco Sport M, Pilot Prera F, Baoer 79 M (fake Starwalker), Hero 616 M (fake Parker), Jinhao X750 Shimmering Sands M . . .

31 and counting :D

 

DaveBj


#10 Jamerelbe

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Posted 12 April 2014 - 13:56

Interesting, well detailed review.  I have already expressed in another thread how much I like the Chinese musical instruments that are clones of high-quality "name-brands."  I had a Lamy Safari and liked it, but it went walkies; I may look into getting a Jinhao pen or two to go along with my Jinbao horns :D

 

I have about four different varieties of Jinhao pen in my growing collection: two 599s, three x750s, three x450s and a 159.  All of them magnificent pens in my experience - though I've swapped out the original Jinhao nibs for Goulet nibs (XF, F and 1.1mm stub) on all but the 599s.  Apart from the 599 (which is fantastic!), the Jinhao pen I'd recommend most highly is the x450.  For whatever reason, I find the grip more comfortable to hold than the other two - it has a kind of tripod grip pattern, like the 599 (and the Lamy Safari), but much less pronounced.  



#11 DaveBj

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Posted 12 April 2014 - 14:10

I just looked on Amazon -- not believing those prices.  One vendor is selling a collection of 5 x450s in different finishes for $39.95.  I can see buying a collection like that and changing nibs for 5 different writing styles.  That said, I've never changed nibs in a pen; I would almost want someone watching over my shoulder when I did it. 

 

Thanks again for the review; it opened a new world to me.


Until you ink a pen, it is merely a pretty stick.  --UK Mike

 

My arsenal, in order of acquisition: Sailor 21 Pocket Pen M, Cross Solo M, Online Calligraphy, Monteverde Invincia F, Hero 359 M, Jinhao X450 M, Levenger True Writer M, Jinhao 159 M, Platinum Balance F, TWSBI Classic 1.1 stub, Platinum Preppy 0.3 F, 7 Pilot Varsity M disposables refillables, Speedball penholder, TWSBI 580 USA EF, Pilot MR, Noodler's Ahab 1.1 stub, another Preppy 0.3, Preppy EF 0.2, ASA Sniper F, Click Majestic F, Kaweco Sport M, Pilot Prera F, Baoer 79 M (fake Starwalker), Hero 616 M (fake Parker), Jinhao X750 Shimmering Sands M . . .

31 and counting :D

 

DaveBj


#12 Jamerelbe

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Posted 12 April 2014 - 14:18

I just looked on Amazon -- not believing those prices.  One vendor is selling a collection of 5 x450s in different finishes for $39.95.  I can see buying a collection like that and changing nibs for 5 different writing styles.  That said, I've never changed nibs in a pen; I would almost want someone watching over my shoulder when I did it. 

 

Thanks again for the review; it opened a new world to me.

 

My pleasure - others may disagree with me on this, but my advice would be to consider buying from a local dealer, rather than on eBay.  My impression from reading the reviews of Jinhao pens on FPN is that pens bought on eBay are a bit of a lottery - and if the nib or the feed or whatever proves unreliable over time, it's  a little harder to get satisfactory after-sales service.  The Just Write pen company (www.justwrite.com.au for Australia / NZ customers) - or someone like the Goulet Pen company in the US (www.gouletpens.com) will probably cost a bit more, but you have the added 'safety-net' of their customer service support, not to mention faster delivery to your door.  At the very least, it's worth comparing prices before you commit to buy!



#13 Jamerelbe

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Posted 12 April 2014 - 14:34

I forgot to say: if you're interested in buying these pens to swap out the nibs, Brian Goulet has a few Youtube videos that explain how to do this - he began stocking the Jinhao pens specifically for that purpose.  In my limited experience, the x450 was a little easier to do this with than the x750 - it was just easier (for me) to tell which way the nib and feed were meant to fit back in!  



#14 Ponsonby_Britt

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Posted 12 April 2014 - 14:40

My pleasure - others may disagree with me on this, but my advice would be to consider buying from a local dealer, rather than on eBay.  My impression from reading the reviews of Jinhao pens on FPN is that pens bought on eBay are a bit of a lottery - and if the nib or the feed or whatever proves unreliable over time, it's  a little harder to get satisfactory after-sales service.  The Just Write pen company (www.justwrite.com.au for Australia / NZ customers) - or someone like the Goulet Pen company in the US (www.gouletpens.com) will probably cost a bit more, but you have the added 'safety-net' of their customer service support, not to mention faster delivery to your door.  At the very least, it's worth comparing prices before you commit to buy!


I disagree. If I can buy this pen for say $5 (or less!) with free shipping on eBay, which I have frequently done with Jinhaos, and I find a problem, I will just buy another one. It is less trouble and far cheaper to buy the pen. I will add that I've purchased 10-15 Chinese pens on eBay (mostly Jinhao) and never had a problem with a pen. It does take up to three weeks to get it from China (although a few were delivered in only one week!) I am really in no hurry, and I never failed to get the pen.

Edited by Nicolas_Rieussec, 12 April 2014 - 14:42.

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#15 basterma

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Posted 12 April 2014 - 14:40

I have a Flair pen from India with the same nib, but with a small piece of felt on the underside of the nib between the end of the fed and the tipping material. It wicks the ink to the tip of the pen. Does your nib have this felt wick?



#16 TSherbs

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Posted 12 April 2014 - 14:42

My one Jinhao 599 (orange) is a great pen. I have bought 5 different Jinhaos, all on eBay, all work fine.



#17 TSherbs

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Posted 12 April 2014 - 14:43

I disagree. If I can buy this pen for say $5 (or less!) with free shipping on eBay, which I have frequently done with Jinhaos, and I find a problem, I will just buy another one. It is less trouble and far cheaper to buy the pen. I will add that I've purchased 10-15 Chinese pens on eBay (mostly Jinhao) and never had a problem with a pen. It does take up to three weeks to get it from China (although a few were delivered in only one week!) I am really in no hurry, and I never failed to get the pen.

I agree, and have had the same experience.



#18 DaveBj

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Posted 12 April 2014 - 14:43

 

My pleasure - others may disagree with me on this, but my advice would be to consider buying from a local dealer, rather than on eBay.  My impression from reading the reviews of Jinhao pens on FPN is that pens bought on eBay are a bit of a lottery - and if the nib or the feed or whatever proves unreliable over time, it's  a little harder to get satisfactory after-sales service.  The Just Write pen company (www.justwrite.com.au for Australia / NZ customers) - or someone like the Goulet Pen company in the US (www.gouletpens.com) will probably cost a bit more, but you have the added 'safety-net' of their customer service support, not to mention faster delivery to your door.  At the very least, it's worth comparing prices before you commit to buy!

I was on Amazon, not Ebay; Ebay makes me nervous.  The subsidiary vendor on Amazon is Bulow Pens.  And further to your post about swapping nibs -- there are Youtube instructional videos for EVERYTHING :D


Until you ink a pen, it is merely a pretty stick.  --UK Mike

 

My arsenal, in order of acquisition: Sailor 21 Pocket Pen M, Cross Solo M, Online Calligraphy, Monteverde Invincia F, Hero 359 M, Jinhao X450 M, Levenger True Writer M, Jinhao 159 M, Platinum Balance F, TWSBI Classic 1.1 stub, Platinum Preppy 0.3 F, 7 Pilot Varsity M disposables refillables, Speedball penholder, TWSBI 580 USA EF, Pilot MR, Noodler's Ahab 1.1 stub, another Preppy 0.3, Preppy EF 0.2, ASA Sniper F, Click Majestic F, Kaweco Sport M, Pilot Prera F, Baoer 79 M (fake Starwalker), Hero 616 M (fake Parker), Jinhao X750 Shimmering Sands M . . .

31 and counting :D

 

DaveBj


#19 Jamerelbe

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Posted 12 April 2014 - 14:45

I disagree. If I can buy this pen for say $5 (or less!) with free shipping on eBay, which I have frequently done with Jinhaos, and I find a problem, I will just buy another one. It is less trouble and far cheaper to buy the pen. I will add that I've purchased 10-15 Chinese pens on eBay (mostly Jinhao) and never had a problem with a pen. It does take up to three weeks to get it from China (although a few were delivered in only one week!) I am really in no hurry, and I never failed to get the pen.

 

Fair enough: you're more than welcome to disagree!

 

I have a preference, where possible, for supporting local (i.e. Australian-based) businesses - at least when they're not charging through the nose for the privilege.  And I tend to be a bit cautious when it comes to buying on eBay, so tend to buy from 'reputable online dealers' (both local and international) more often than not.  

 

I made the comment earlier in the thread simply because some of the feedback on FPN regarding the Jinhao x450s and x750s (in the comments sections) were talking about skipping and flow problems being common - but I haven't had any hassles, and was inclined to put it down to the 'quality control' of the two retailers I buy most of my pens from.  Glad to hear you're happy with the pens (and prices) you can get on eBay


Edited by Jamerelbe, 13 April 2014 - 06:06.


#20 Jamerelbe

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Posted 12 April 2014 - 14:52

I have a Flair pen from India with the same nib, but with a small piece of felt on the underside of the nib between the end of the fed and the tipping material. It wicks the ink to the tip of the pen. Does your nib have this felt wick?

 

No, no felt wick on the 599.  I'm planning (sometime) to review a few cheap "children's pens" that were supplied to me by the same online store - one manufactured by Hero, and the other by a German company called Sellner - both of which have similar looking nibs, but rely on a wick feed systerm.  My gut feel is that this may limit the lifespan of the pen - but they're pretty cheap to begin with, so that's no great drama!  The Pilot VPen also has a wick running from the nib to the ink reservoir, I've noticed... but again, to be clear, this is NOT the case for the 599.







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