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Inexpensive (Aka Cheap) Fountain Pens - Worth Trying?

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#1 AKCaraboo

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Posted 27 October 2014 - 00:24

Hi everyone…I have several fountain pens but consider myself a newbie to the fountain pen world. While window shopping on Ebay I have found a few brands of fountain pens that are very cheap. I am referring to Hero, Jinhao and Picasso to name just a few. I looked at the forum for info but am still a bit confused. Are these brands worth trying? If so, are there particular ones that are better than others? For example, the Jinhao 599 and x750 look good but are they? Thanks in advance for your help. 



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#2 redisburning

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Posted 27 October 2014 - 00:34

Nope.

 

JME, but if you want an inexpensive fountain pen you can often get a vintage Sheaffer or Esterbrook in that price range. Having given Picasso pens as gifts, I cant say the vintage pen is better in EVERY way, but they certainly have more character. I've seen touchdown fillers go for 15 dollars; if you're handy why not give one of those a shot? Or cartridge imperials/targas, etc.


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#3 Jadie

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Posted 27 October 2014 - 00:43

It's a hit or miss world out there, especially with some of those Chinese brands. My experience with Jinhaos is that they're generally good, wet writers, but very heavy (because of the pen's brass components) and teeny-tiny ink capacity. =p Heros seem popular, especially the Parker 51 knockoffs, maybe because there's just so many of them. I haven't had any experience with Picasso though. If you're willing to risk it, go for it--but be prepared for heartbreak.

 

(Then again, one of my best writers was a $2.50 spur-of-the-moment hooded Duke, but diamonds in the rough hide everywhere.)


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#4 lmarine0510

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Posted 27 October 2014 - 00:53

I would say that none of them are very good for a first fountain pen or somebody that is not familiar with and/or willing to tweak on a pen. QC on these things is questionable at the least. Out of all of the cheap Chinese FP's that I have bought, I have never had one that worked right out of the box. I had to tweak every one of them so that they would suit my tastes.


Parker 51 Aerometric (F), Sheaffer Snorkel Clipper (PdAg F), Sheaffer Snorkel Statesman (M), red striated Sheaffer Balance Jr. (XF), Sheaffer Snorkel Statesman desk set (M), Reform 1745 (F), Jinhao x450 (M), Parker Vector (F), Pilot 78g (F), Pilot Metropolitan (M), Esterbrook LJ (9555 F), Sheaffer No-Nonsense calligraphy set (F, M, B Italic), Sheaffer School Pen (M), Sheaffer Touchdown Cadet (M), Sheaffer Fineline (341 F), Baoer 388 (F), Wearever lever-filler (M).


#5 Art

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Posted 27 October 2014 - 01:08

Wow! Sorry to say I have to disagree completely. I have a number of Jinhao, Hero, and Baoer pens. I have had one nib that caused me a problem. Other than that each pen has written from first use and writes nicely. Some are wetter writers than others, some heavier (I like a heavy pen). My favorite pen is a Jinhao 159. It's really big and heavy. Has nice ink flow and writes smoothly. 

 

On my desk right now:

  • Cross rollerball
  • Mont Blanc pencil
  • Esterbrook SJ
  • Jinhao599
  • Baoer188
  • Baoer388
  • Jinhao159
  • Jinhaox450
  • Jinhaox750 with Goulet broad nib
  • Cross Dubai
  • Cross Solo
  • Esterbrook Transition J
  • Pilot Metropolitan
  • Hero 68
  • Hero 007
  • Hero 007

And waiting for initial cleaning and inking -- Duke Chaplin and Jinhao X750. To get the best ink flow, I clean each pen with Dawn dish soap before the first use and then before I put it away for a rest. By the way, each pen has a different ink. Some are samples that I'm trying. It's a lot of fun. 



#6 NinthSphere

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Posted 27 October 2014 - 01:09

I got a freebie 616 from Teri when I bought a 51. You could do worse, but I would (and do) go vintage rather than cheap Chinese. The 750 doesn't look too bad though.



#7 lmarine0510

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Posted 27 October 2014 - 01:15

Wow! Sorry to say I have to disagree completely. I have a number of Jinhao, Hero, and Baoer pens. I have had one nib that caused me a problem. Other than that each pen has written from first use and writes nicely. Some are wetter writers than others, some heavier (I like a heavy pen). My favorite pen is a Jinhao 159. It's really big and heavy. Has nice ink flow and writes smoothly. 

 

On my desk right now:

  • Cross rollerball
  • Mont Blanc pencil
  • Esterbrook SJ
  • Jinhao599
  • Baoer188
  • Baoer388
  • Jinhao159
  • Jinhaox450
  • Jinhaox750 with Goulet broad nib
  • Cross Dubai
  • Cross Solo
  • Esterbrook Transition J
  • Pilot Metropolitan
  • Hero 68
  • Hero 007
  • Hero 007

And waiting for initial cleaning and inking -- Duke Chaplin and Jinhao X750. To get the best ink flow, I clean each pen with Dawn dish soap before the first use and then before I put it away for a rest. By the way, each pen has a different ink. Some are samples that I'm trying. It's a lot of fun. 

Maybe I just have extremely bad luck with cheap pens. I should add that all 3 Jinhaos I own are among the best writers that I own after adjusting the nibs.


Parker 51 Aerometric (F), Sheaffer Snorkel Clipper (PdAg F), Sheaffer Snorkel Statesman (M), red striated Sheaffer Balance Jr. (XF), Sheaffer Snorkel Statesman desk set (M), Reform 1745 (F), Jinhao x450 (M), Parker Vector (F), Pilot 78g (F), Pilot Metropolitan (M), Esterbrook LJ (9555 F), Sheaffer No-Nonsense calligraphy set (F, M, B Italic), Sheaffer School Pen (M), Sheaffer Touchdown Cadet (M), Sheaffer Fineline (341 F), Baoer 388 (F), Wearever lever-filler (M).


#8 AKCaraboo

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Posted 27 October 2014 - 01:18

Nope.

 

JME, but if you want an inexpensive fountain pen you can often get a vintage Sheaffer or Esterbrook in that price range. Having given Picasso pens as gifts, I cant say the vintage pen is better in EVERY way, but they certainly have more character. I've seen touchdown fillers go for 15 dollars; if you're handy why not give one of those a shot? Or cartridge imperials/targas, etc.

Thanks for the advice…I am a little worried about trying anything vintage as I am just beginning to play with adjusting nibs etc. ( I am so new I had to Google "touchdown fillers" but hey…I learned something new so thanks!) That said…I am watching a couple of the Shaeffers you mentioned on Ebay. Really like the looks of them…thanks again!



#9 AKCaraboo

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Posted 27 October 2014 - 01:19

It's a hit or miss world out there, especially with some of those Chinese brands. My experience with Jinhaos is that they're generally good, wet writers, but very heavy (because of the pen's brass components) and teeny-tiny ink capacity. =p Heros seem popular, especially the Parker 51 knockoffs, maybe because there's just so many of them. I haven't had any experience with Picasso though. If you're willing to risk it, go for it--but be prepared for heartbreak.

 

(Then again, one of my best writers was a $2.50 spur-of-the-moment hooded Duke, but diamonds in the rough hide everywhere.)

Thanks so much…I saw some hooded Jinhaos that looked interesting…may have to give them a try.



#10 AKCaraboo

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Posted 27 October 2014 - 01:20

Wow! Sorry to say I have to disagree completely. I have a number of Jinhao, Hero, and Baoer pens. I have had one nib that caused me a problem. Other than that each pen has written from first use and writes nicely. Some are wetter writers than others, some heavier (I like a heavy pen). My favorite pen is a Jinhao 159. It's really big and heavy. Has nice ink flow and writes smoothly. 

 

On my desk right now:

  • Cross rollerball
  • Mont Blanc pencil
  • Esterbrook SJ
  • Jinhao599
  • Baoer188
  • Baoer388
  • Jinhao159
  • Jinhaox450
  • Jinhaox750 with Goulet broad nib
  • Cross Dubai
  • Cross Solo
  • Esterbrook Transition J
  • Pilot Metropolitan
  • Hero 68
  • Hero 007
  • Hero 007

And waiting for initial cleaning and inking -- Duke Chaplin and Jinhao X750. To get the best ink flow, I clean each pen with Dawn dish soap before the first use and then before I put it away for a rest. By the way, each pen has a different ink. Some are samples that I'm trying. It's a lot of fun. 

 

Well I am definitely jealous of what you have sitting on your desk…although I do have a Pilot Metropolitan which I love.  Thanks for sharing!



#11 Buzz_130

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Posted 27 October 2014 - 01:22

Are inexpensive pens worth trying?  Absolutely!

 

Vintage Parker 45s and Esterbrook Js are reliable, cheap, rugged, and fun.  You can take them apart in seconds, replace the nib, and clean easily.  You can get them through reliable online sources, and you are not going to worry about having work done on your nib.  After that, you'll be looking for more expensive vintage pens...

 

For modern pens, you don't need to limit yourself to some of these brands.  The Lamy Safari, Pilot Metropolitan, Platinum Preppy, and even the humble Pilot Varsity are all very inexpensive pens with great reputations.  I usually keep a Platinum Preppy around as a knock-around pen.

 

Well worth the effort of trying a few pens to see what you like.  I'm a fan of the classics, and the vintage pen market has been very good to me!

 

Buzz



#12 H.M. Murdock

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Posted 27 October 2014 - 01:33

I have a variety of Hero 616 Jumbos (thanks for the huge hands, genetics), and I'm extremely pleased with them. I've also given away a few Hero "Summer Color" pens to spark peoples' interest without having to feel any pain in my wallet, and they're generally excellent writers (I just wouldn't rank them as being durable at all due to the quality of the plastic and the structure of the Lamy Safar/Al-Star clip).
I love my 616s- they write a finer line than my Parker 51, which is good for me in many instances, and the nibs are surprisingly smooth. I use them more than my P51, but that's admittedly because they are more comfortable for marathon use than a Parker due to thickness and length (posted and otherwise).

I think that cheap Chinese pens are a good thing. They give you a cheap option to try out different styles and sizes of pens, and they also give you good fodder for learning how to do things like smooth nibs and fix any alignment issues with tines. They're fun and cheap and, while you don't always get a good one, the price makes it painless to buy a multipack. My 10-pack of 616 Jumbos set me back $13 just over a year ago. One didn't work. One had misaligned tines, another had baby's bottom like nobody's business, another had a faulty filler sac. I swapped the filler sac from the nonfunctional one, aligned the tines, smoothed out the baby's bottom, and now have 9 perfectly functional, very smooth and wet-writing pens for $13.

With that said, it's really a matter of how you view your pens. Some people just want a pen that "gets" them right out of the box, that by its very design fits everything about them as a pen user. Some people look for a bargain and if it works, great, but if it doesn't it's not like they're broke for having taken a shot. Others buy cheap pens specifically to tinker and experience the enjoyment that comes from finally getting a pen to operate on their level perfectly.
I'm a mix of all three. I love bargains, I love tinkering, and I adore the feeling of writing with a pen for the first time and thinking to myself, "Me and you, we're going to go places where no comma splice has ever been." But if you only fall into one group, there's nothing wrong with you or the group you're in. 


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#13 Yuki.M.B

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Posted 27 October 2014 - 01:35

I am not certain of this, as I am a pretty new to FP's also ,however I have heard a few good things about the platinum preppy and it is certainly a cheap pen.
Considering I purchased a few pens in the last little while, the most recent of which is a sailor 1911 that should arrive today!  :D  I think I'll personally hold off trying it for now however here's a quick link comparing some very cheap and possibly nice pens.

http://www.pentorium...-fountain-pens/

Apologies as I don't know a thing about the initial pens in question, however I hope this post is at all helpful.



#14 maus930

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Posted 27 October 2014 - 01:45

I have a number (20-30) of Jinhaos and Baoers --every one has been a good reliable writer -- they are heavy, (Brass) but I like heft in a pen  



#15 lisadan

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Posted 27 October 2014 - 01:51

I find the Baoer 388 (a Parker Sonnet clone) very good for it's price. Nice looking pen with smooth nib, between fine and medium (more towards the medium).  Some have very hard to pull caps, while others have easy to pull caps.  I gave a golden 388 to my 8 year old daughter as her first FP, and she loves her "gold" fountain pen and very proud of it. 

I have two red Baoer 68 FPs I use with red ink at the office.  They are a little heavy, especially when capped, but are very good writers.  I also have several Hero, Jinhao, Duke and Wingsung pens.  Generally they are good pens for the price, and some look pretty impressive.

And the best thing about all these cheap pens - If they don't work well, or you messed them up, or they are stolen/lost/broken - you might have your pride hurt, but not your wallet.


Edited by lisadan, 27 October 2014 - 01:59.

Dan


#16 AKCaraboo

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Posted 27 October 2014 - 02:38

I have a variety of Hero 616 Jumbos (thanks for the huge hands, genetics), and I'm extremely pleased with them. I've also given away a few Hero "Summer Color" pens to spark peoples' interest without having to feel any pain in my wallet, and they're generally excellent writers (I just wouldn't rank them as being durable at all due to the quality of the plastic and the structure of the Lamy Safar/Al-Star clip).
I love my 616s- they write a finer line than my Parker 51, which is good for me in many instances, and the nibs are surprisingly smooth. I use them more than my P51, but that's admittedly because they are more comfortable for marathon use than a Parker due to thickness and length (posted and otherwise).

I think that cheap Chinese pens are a good thing. They give you a cheap option to try out different styles and sizes of pens, and they also give you good fodder for learning how to do things like smooth nibs and fix any alignment issues with tines. They're fun and cheap and, while you don't always get a good one, the price makes it painless to buy a multipack. My 10-pack of 616 Jumbos set me back $13 just over a year ago. One didn't work. One had misaligned tines, another had baby's bottom like nobody's business, another had a faulty filler sac. I swapped the filler sac from the nonfunctional one, aligned the tines, smoothed out the baby's bottom, and now have 9 perfectly functional, very smooth and wet-writing pens for $13.

With that said, it's really a matter of how you view your pens. Some people just want a pen that "gets" them right out of the box, that by its very design fits everything about them as a pen user. Some people look for a bargain and if it works, great, but if it doesn't it's not like they're broke for having taken a shot. Others buy cheap pens specifically to tinker and experience the enjoyment that comes from finally getting a pen to operate on their level perfectly.
I'm a mix of all three. I love bargains, I love tinkering, and I adore the feeling of writing with a pen for the first time and thinking to myself, "Me and you, we're going to go places where no comma splice has ever been." But if you only fall into one group, there's nothing wrong with you or the group you're in. 

 

Thanks so much for taking the time to respond to my question. While I haven't started tinkering with pens, it's a great idea to use these cheaper pens when I do. Someday I may get brave enough but I am not there yet. I do love a good bargain and I like trying different pen shapes, nib sizes etc. I think I am going to get a few of these cheaper pens and have a little fun! Thanks again.



#17 AKCaraboo

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Posted 27 October 2014 - 02:40

Are inexpensive pens worth trying?  Absolutely!

 

Vintage Parker 45s and Esterbrook Js are reliable, cheap, rugged, and fun.  You can take them apart in seconds, replace the nib, and clean easily.  You can get them through reliable online sources, and you are not going to worry about having work done on your nib.  After that, you'll be looking for more expensive vintage pens...

 

For modern pens, you don't need to limit yourself to some of these brands.  The Lamy Safari, Pilot Metropolitan, Platinum Preppy, and even the humble Pilot Varsity are all very inexpensive pens with great reputations.  I usually keep a Platinum Preppy around as a knock-around pen.

 

Well worth the effort of trying a few pens to see what you like.  I'm a fan of the classics, and the vintage pen market has been very good to me!

 

Buzz

 

I do have a Lamy Safari (two actually) and a Pilot Metropolitan which I love…vintage pens make me a little nervous but I may venture into those in the future. Thanks!



#18 kidde

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Posted 27 October 2014 - 02:49

I've definitely done the "low cost import" thing. Where you run into issues is with actually IDing models. I've had three different models of Hero 616, the biggest one (jumbo) is great and not anything like the other two. Jinhao 599 also comes in at least variations; a Lamy-like nib, a hooded nib and a #5 nib. For me the first iteration is far superior.
I have some Pakistani pens, Dollar brand (717, SP10) that you can find on the bay for $3-$5 bucks. Mine are all well worth the price. Indian pens have been hit or miss for the cheap ones. I've yet to have any pen from Pilot or Platinum not be decent, even those meant to be disposable.
Sheaffer school and NoNonsense pens have a following. So do Esterbrooks. My experience with Pelikan has been great. From 120/140 to M150/M200 to Pelikanos. While most models are higher priced the Pelikano is way underrated.
You have a huge selection to pick from. Take a moment and search for the ones that interest you. Let us mknow how it goes.

Paul

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#19 ac12

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Posted 27 October 2014 - 03:44

How cheap is cheap?   Please specify $, as "cheap" is relative depending on the person.

 

I have a couple Chinese pens that I bought in a 6-pack and got the unit price down to less than $4.

- Baoer 388, close copy of the Parker Sonnet.  I had to adjust 4 of 5 to flow ink decently.

- Baoer 801, close copy of the Parker 88.  No adjustment needed on the 6 that I tested.

 

A step up are:

- Parker Vector, cartridge.  I do not know the quality of the new Vectors.

- Pilot 78G, depending where you get it $12-25 each, some dealers include shipping in their price.

- Pilot Metropolitan, about $18.

- Parker IM, about $20-25 street price.  Mine was a nice writer (Waterman ink) for both the original M, and the exchanged F nibs.

 

If you keep an eye on eBay, you can get vintage pens at decent prices.

- Parker 45, a great pen, cartridge/converter so no hassles with an old ink sac that needs to be replaced.

- Sheaffer "school pen" or "No Nonsense" pens, cartridge only.

- Reform 1745, piston, this is an OLD pen, so the piston will need to be lubed with silicone and maybe the nib adjusted for flow.  This is a "slimline" pen, about the diameter of a standard wood pencil.

 

For the Esterbrooks, I would make sure that the pen has been resaced.  Be careful as some eBay listings say restored, but all they did is polish the outside and the sac was not replaced.  Bad idea, as that sac could be over 50 years old, and ready to fail tomorrow.

 

BTW, what I like about the sub $5 pens is, you can take them to the office/school and if they get lost/stolen/damaged, it isn't a financial hit to your wallet.

And they make great gifts.


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#20 masterguns

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Posted 27 October 2014 - 04:04

I'm a huge fan of the Jinhao 159. I have two of them, but have replaced the nibs with 1.1 and 1.5 stub nibs from gouletpens. Not that the nib that comes on the pen is bad, mind you. I simply wanted to have a pen that would accept several different nib sizes.

Its a fat, heavy pen. If you like that in a pen (I do) and want to experiment with other nibs, you can get a #6 nib from Goblet for $15 and replace the one that comes in the pen. 







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