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Do You Think Older Chinese Fountain Pens Have Better Quality Than Current Production?

quality chinese fountain pen

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31 replies to this topic

#21 richardandtracy

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Posted 20 August 2014 - 07:53

It may be only my perception, but I think Chinese pen quality was higher in the 1980's/early 1990's than it was in the early 2000's.

I think for most manufacturer's it is now better than in the early 2000's - there are exceptions to this rule and I think Yiren/Bookworm and Huashilai may be included as exceptions to the general improvement. As to whether they are better now than in the 1980's is a question I don't think I have enough information to make an informed opinion on, but my uninformed opinion is that the better ones are now back to the quality of the 1980's.

 

One thing that is striking is the relative uniformity of shape prior to the late 1990's. There seem to be two common nib types, hooded or triumph, metal cap, plastic body and a general look a bit like the P51. There are open nibbed pens that break this rule, but they seem much less common.

The post 2000 pens are, I think, more attractive to look at and all sorts of novel ideas & materials have been tried, particularly by Jinhao. Not all have been successful, but at least someone is being inventive.

 

Regards,

 

Richard.



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#22 KBeezie

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Posted 20 August 2014 - 08:04

Assuming that some of the "vintage" (ie: Wingsung and others of the 90s, which they call vintage) chinese pens I've tried are actually of the 90s and such, I imagine to *some* respect that they're better now if you're aiming solely for the cheapest possible writers, or least a large percentage of them can be adjusted to be decent. There are some you could spend more money into that may be decent (some of the older Jinhaos with actual 14K and 18K open nibs that range 30$ to 90$ depending), but by the time you get past the $10-15 range most people put their trust into either Japanese or Western brands. 

 

It used to be that you could buy a Jinhao X450 and X750 with a rather attractive wooden pen box for close to the same price you get them today without the box, general packaging quality has gone down because I'm guessing no one really cared about it, and it makes them more money without it. 

 

Judging just from the ones I had that claimed they were from the 80s/90s as new-old-stock, I'd say the rate of failure or need of adjustment remained about the same, the price simply just got lower. 



#23 rockydoggy

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Posted 20 August 2014 - 12:50

I bought my first Chinese fountain pens on a trip to Hong Kong in 1993.  They were dirt-cheap and only maybe 2 out of 10 or 12 of them actually worked.  I knew nothing about adjusting nibs etc at the time but I knew enough to see when I got them home that the build-quality overall was horrible.  I started collecting pens more seriously around 2000 or so and began trying a range of Chinese models.  I realize that lots of folks have had good luck with Jinhao, Hero, Baoer, Bookworm, Kaigelu, Haolilai, Wing Sung, and other Chinese brands; however, most of the ones I purchased were frankly lemons.  I was especially frustrated with the Jinhao pens (and the rebranded Jinhaos) because I liked the weight and how they looked.  At that point, I essentially gave up on Chinese pens; I must have over 40 of them in my give-away, throw-away, or try-to-fix box.  About 3 or 4 years ago, I cautiously began to buy Chinese pens again and I was shocked by the improvement in quality, both in terms of the nib/feeds and also the care invested in the build.  On a trip to Beijing in 2012, I picked up maybe 10 pens; of those, I'd say that 8 worked fine out of the box.  And a Hero 7038 that I got a year ago on Ebay has become one of my favorites and is the first Chinese pen that I now carry a pen case along with more expensive non-Chinese models. One other development I noticed involves Chinese ink.  I bought some Hero and Lucky (I think) ink back on that 1993 trip.  The labels were skewed and peeling off and there was considerable variation in the shape of the glass bottles--clearly, the manufacturing process was pretty haphazard.  On my most recent trip to China, I picked up some Picasso ink and it came what are among the nicest bottles I've encountered--they're even equipped with plastic inserts like those from Lamy and Sailor.  I realize that given the myriad Chinese brands, there no doubt continue to be quality control problems.  But based at least on my experience, the quality of Chinese pens has improved over the past decade or so to a surprising degree.  And this at a time where fountain pen use appears to be waning among young Chinese.  In a college summer class that I taught in Beijing in 2012, out of 40 or so students only 2 used fountain pens; one had a Safari and one had a Hero.  The latter student told me that she was the only person in her high school cohort who used fountain pens.  This is hardly a significant sample-size but it may reflect a trend among the current generation.  It also suggests that Chinese manufacturers are now targeting primarily foreign buyers.



#24 Seele

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Posted 20 August 2014 - 12:58

fpn_1408516248__kin_sin_for_forum.jpg

 

As promised, here is one of the old one. The brand is Kin Sin.

The aerometric metal is thicker than Hero 616. The plastic feels sturdy. The finish is smooth.

It is pretty much like Hero 100 quality.

 

"Kin SIn" was one of the official renderings of Golden Star, much like "Jinxing", but it was more commonly used in the earlier days. It would be tricky to identify the model number of this example from this picture, but it might be a 103 with a gold nib, which was a comparatively higher-end model. Understandably it's of higher build quality.


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#25 fpenluver

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Posted 20 August 2014 - 13:09

 
"Kin SIn" was one of the official renderings of Golden Star, much like "Jinxing", but it was more commonly used in the earlier days. It would be tricky to identify the model number of this example from this picture, but it might be a 103 with a gold nib, which was a comparatively higher-end model. Understandably it's of higher build quality.


I think i have a couple other with similar quality. Does it mean that they were higher end model too? How is kin sin compared to Hero? It seems that they already closed door?

#26 Seele

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Posted 20 August 2014 - 14:13

I think i have a couple other with similar quality. Does it mean that they were higher end model too? How is kin sin compared to Hero? It seems that they already closed door?

 

Like Hero, Wing Sung and other large scale manufacturers, Golden Star had a vast catalogue of pens from very basic models to rather sophisticated high-end ones, so it might not be fair to generalize on the quality of a particular brand. But if we are talking about similar bulb-filled Parkeresque pens, Golden Star had a model - the 705 - which was a step above the 103; their constructions are very much unlike Hero's top model, the 100, but then there's no other pen built like the 100 anyway.

 

Golden Star in Beijing closed its doors some years ago although finished pens are still available from various sources, including the ultra-high-end ones built during the ill-fated 2003 resurgence. What's worth noting is that Golden Star Beijing was not the original firm; the original firm was based in Shanghai, then a Beijing branch factory was founded, at first assembling pens using parts from Shanghai on a CKD basis. Gradually they started sourcing parts from local makers, and even took over a number of them, hence the Beijing-built products started to differ from the Shanghai ones. Eventually, Shanghai abandoned pen manufacture some time in the 1970s, switching to consumer electronics, if memory serves, making Golden Star an exclusively Beijing marque.

 

At least two Golden Star Beijing models have recently been introduced by Hero, I am quite sure that they bought the tools from the remnants of Golden Star; they are the 565, which they retained the appellation, and the iconic 28 which they did not; further developments were done to the 28 such as adding a clear section to the barrel, and then a derivative model was introduced with a novel section.


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#27 fpenluver

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Posted 21 August 2014 - 06:42

Seele, you seem to know a lot on Chinese fountain pens. Any idea how to get them at local price for overseas buyers?

#28 Seele

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Posted 21 August 2014 - 13:41

Seele, you seem to know a lot on Chinese fountain pens. Any idea how to get them at local price for overseas buyers?

 

Well, I just picked a subject and tried to learn as much about it as possible. Taobao is an excellent source for not only current models, but also older ones, often at very modest prices. A fellow member organized a group buy some time ago, but as Taobao is primarily geared towards customers within mainland China, it can be a little trickier. I use a Taobao purchasing agent - there are scores of them around - and that is simple enough, but lately Taobao noticed that there are lots of international purchasers, so they have made it easier for direct purchase these days. I have not tried the latter method yet.


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#29 fpenluver

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Posted 23 August 2014 - 06:06

Interesting. I will try it sometime. Thank you very much.

#30 rwilsonedn

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Posted 28 August 2014 - 19:29

How "older" do you mean? I have happened into one or two Chinese pens from perhaps as early as the 1950s that are quite excellent--beautiful ebonite, excellent nibs, good filling mechanisms. Then I have a Gold Star from some time ago that is peculiar, but very well made and an excellent writer. I have some of the older Wing Sung pens with Sheaffer-style conical nibs that are not great on fit and finish, but generally of good materials and again, excellent writers. I would say that modern Chinese pens I have are flashier, have spotty fit and finish--some good, some sloppy--but they almost never write as well as the old ones. The only generalizations I would make are that the older pens seemed more focused on writing while the newer ones focus on appearance, and that country of origin is not an important variable in product quality.

ron



#31 TimTheZaj

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Posted 14 September 2014 - 04:59

My personal favorite low range chinese pen is the Jinxing 26 before the ipg style nib because it is so typically Chinese, the nib is semi-flex, and the build quality is rather good

#32 hari317

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Posted 14 September 2014 - 07:45

My observation is that the newer Chinese pen designs are all based on a metal chassis. i.e. metallic barrels, caps and connectors, leading to them becoming quite heavy. The older ones that we used, even the bigger ones were made of plastics which kept the weight and ergonomics good.

 

We did not have much choice on the nib widths on the older pens, I used to check each pen in stock at the shop to find a fatter and smoother nib. I see now that the fatter nibs are more common on the modern pens.


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