It’s been a while since the last time I put up a pen review, but I’m hoping to publish a couple tonight – another two Chinese pens that fit into the ‘classic’ black-and-gold slot that seems to be so common. Both pens were provided to me free, in return for an impartial review, by Kevin at JustWrite Pens (www.JustWrite.com.au).
According to the JustWrite website, the Classic 717 is manufactured by Shanghai BAOER Stationery – which is a little odd, given the striking resemblance of this pen to two of the better-known offerings by rival company, Jinhao. It’s an attractive pen in its own right, though.
Appearance & Design –Jinhao x750 styling, with x450 trim
The first thing you’ll notice, if you place the Classic 717 side-by-side with its ‘cousins’, is how closely it resembles the x750, at least in terms of its overall shape. A sleek, cigar-shaped pen, with a large branded band at the junction between cap and barrel.
From top to bottom: Jinhao x750, Classic 717, Jinhao x450
The main difference, until you uncap the pen (more on this later!) is the colour of the trim. Here the Classic 717 more closely resembles the x450 – mostly gold-coloured, although in a nice touch the clip is a gold-chrome duotone.
Construction & Quality – A well-made pen
As with the Jinhao pens, it’s hard to fault the construction of the pen. I know Jinhao has some quality control issues, but the basic design of the pens are pretty good, and they feel substantial in the hand. The same is true for the Classic 717 – the body and cap are made of metal (brass?), and covered in a black lacquer that seems fairly scratch resistant; while the grip section and feed and cartridge converter are reasonably sturdy plastic.
Weight & Dimensions – Weighty – but a good size
The Classic 717 weighs about 40g with inked-up cartridge converter – or 25g uncapped. So it’s not a lightweight pen, but I didn’t find it too heavy to write with.
Capped, the pen is about 141mm long, or 124 uncapped. It’s not really designed to post, and would be over 160mm if you tried to do so. The diameter of the pen barrel along most of its length is around 13.5mm, while the grip section tapers from 11mm at its widest to around 10mm near the nib. For me, anything under 10mm is getting a little slender , so this pen was a good ‘fit’ for me. The grip section is a little more tapered than for the Jinhao x750, and the plastic has a shinier finish.
Nib & Performance – A fairly wet, broad pen
When you uncap the pen, you find the most obvious difference between this pen and the Jinhaos: the nib is somewhat smaller, maybe a #5 (?) compared to the Jinhao #6’s. It’s also gold-plated around the edges, but chrome-plated in the centre, with fairly simple scrolling, a single Chinese character and the word ‘Classic’ inscribed towards the centre. I like the #6 nibs in the Jinhao pens (and the fact that you can easily buy replacements!), but I didn’t feel that the smaller nib was out of proportion for the pen. Perhaps it helps that the grip section is that little bit more tapered than on the x750.
Comparison: Jinhao x450 (top) vs Classic 717 nib (bottom)
The performance of the nib was not exactly stellar straight out of the box (well, plastic sleeve) – I had some hard starts, and the flow was a little inconsistent. This was easily fixed, though, by giving the nib a good rinse, and flossing the tines with brass sheets for good measure. The nib lays a fairly broad line – broader than the Jinhao pens I’ve been constantly referencing – though I’d probably still call it a ‘broad medium’ rather than a ‘broad’. My handwriting is fairly small, so I tend to prefer finer nibs – but if you find the Jinhao nibs a little too narrow for your taste, this might be a good alternative to try out.
Filling System & Maintenance– Non-Standard Cartridges Converter
The pen comes supplied with a cartridge converter, and I confess I didn’t notice this at first that its aperture is non-standard – but when I tried to swap in a standard international converter, I discovered it wouldn’t fit! I don’t know why Baoer would do this, but it appears that this pen is designed to take Parker-style cartridges. No big deal, I guess, especially if you only intend to use the supplied converter – but for me it’s always a bit of a disadvantage when a Chinese pen requires the use of proprietary cartridges.
Cost & Value/Conclusion – A pretty good pen, for a reasonable price
The Classic 717 is a solid pen, that writes well and lays down a nice broad line of ink. It’ll suit those who like a more substantial pen, and like to lay lots of ink on the page. You’ll pay a little more for it, though – at least on the JustWrite website – it’s AU$22.95 compared with AU$11.90 or AU$13.90 for the comparable Jinhao pens.