Before I start this review, let me say that I am unable to post pictures, but my Raja looks just the same as the one that ASA sells, so you aren't missing anything super different. Also, I'm no professional reviewer, just a hobbyist. There are relatively few reviews on this pen aside from Hari's excellent posts, so I'm hoping to help someone that is interested in Indian pens, particularly Gamas, decide whether or not to take the plunge (or, given the price, the dip). I have, for full transparency, posted a thread on this pen after a few days of use in the India forum, but I've used this pen extensively since then, so my perspective should be different. I hope you enjoy the review, and I welcome constructive criticism
I bought this pen from ASA Pens, which is based in Chennai, India. I didn't have any need to e-mail Mr. Subramaniam or anyone else, so I can't comment on that aspect of the customer service, but the buying process was painless and the pen showed up on my doorstep three weeks or so after I ordered it. Considering the shipping was free (and the pen was competitively priced to boot) and it had to literally make its way to the other side of the world- I'm in the U.S.- I consider that pretty good. If I recall correctly, the pen was packaged in a mylar bag (I might be wrong on that) with a LOT of bubble wrap. This thing could probably have been kicked across the room by a professional football kicker with no ill effects, though I wouldn't try it. The pen comes in a velvet pouch with the Gama logo in white ink. Along with my pen, I got a spare Indian single-tone nib and a disposable plastic pipette- nice additions, though I haven't used them. The pen seemed really large to me on first feel- I was used to a Safari- but it seemed well made and very nice.
Feel in Hand
This pen is large. The section is about 12 mm, the barrel is 13, the cap 14 (all according to the ASA site). It's 14.8cm long (ASA). However, due to the ebonite construction, it is very light and well balanced. The common saying that ebonite feels weightless holds true with this pen. It all but disappears in the hand. While the pen is very light, it is noticeably heavier when you fill it with ink- I'll explain why in a bit.
Nib and Feed(s)
This pen comes with a two-tone steel Indian made fine nib, which is the rough equivalent of a Western extra-fine in line width. Quality seems to be notoriously inconsistent with these, so keep that in mind when I comment about mine. Mine wrote smoothly enough, provided you were in the very narrow sweet spot. When you got out of that sweet spot, it got pretty scratchy pretty quick. I took a few moments with a fingernail buffer (bought for this purpose, not shared with anyone- that probably wouldn't go over well) and smoothed it out. Now it writes like a dream and the sweet spot issues are alleviated. The steel the nib is made of is very thin, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. In normal writing, it adds a little bit of pleasant springiness to cushion your hand, and it gets interesting when you put some pressure on it. This thing flexes better than the Ahab I tried from a buddy. Mind you, it's NOT a flex nib. It's not marketed as one, nor is it marketed as a semi-flex, so flex at your own risk. BUT... this thing goes from extra fine to a solid medium, maybe even a broad (I usually stick to fines so I have no broad experience) and can resume its extra fine state well enough. I have bent the nib enough that it contacted the inside of the cap, but it was easily fixable and I was pushing the nib farther than I had pushed it before or since. It isn't going to even keep up with your vintage semi-flexes, but there's definitely enough flexibility to add some nice expression to your writing with a little care.
I replaced the stock feed with a Sheaffer No Nonsense feed from a Viewpoint. There was nothing wrong with the stock feed- it kept up well and flowed great- I just wanted something to keep my papers clean when the pen got low- the Viewpoint feed can buffer the ink that would have otherwise been burped onto the page quite well.
The pen is superbly balanced and light. With a smooth nib, I've written for long stretches with no issues. If you like larger sections, you won't have an issue.
Posting makes the pen back heavy, too long and scratches the barrel.
When you think about the quality, keep the price in mind. This isn't a Pelikan. It isn't a Montblanc. It's got nothing on Nakaya. But for a $25 pen, it's really quite impressive. The machining is well done and consistent. The threads, while single start on both the section and for the cap, are well machined, mesh smoothly (with a dab of silicone grease) and are tight. The finish is nicely done. The polished ends and section are nice and shiny. There is one small polished streak where there isn't supposed to be from where the clip ball rubbed during installation and one of the trim rings is a bit wonky. There was a bit of plating wear on the ball of the clip. Other than that, no issues whatsoever.
The ink capacity on this thing is HUGE. I measured about 4 mL last time I checked. I write a LOT and this thing lasts me two and a half weeks consistently between fillings- I do write it dry, however. Don't put an ink that you don't love in this pen. It'll be there a while. That's why there's a noticeable difference in weight between this pen empty and full- there's a ton of ink in there.
This pen takes #6 nibs, should you choose to swap the stock one with another from a different maker.
The clip is nice and stiff but not too bad- it can still be used easily.
I hope you all liked the review. Sorry for the long windedness of it all... hopefully I made up for the lack of pictures Thanks for reading.
TL;DR- Great pen for the price. Some quirks and issues, but worth a shot.
Edited by thatotherguy1, 31 May 2015 - 01:20.