Schneider BK406 Review
Introduction & First Impressions
I was looking for a cheap EF pen to dedicate to Baystate Blue and wanted something blue to match the ink. I had been leaning toward getting a blue-capped Pilot Kakuno (F) for this purpose, but when I came across this Schneider pen for less than half the price here in China (under US$5), I thought it was worth a try. I couldn’t find any reviews online for this model and the closest equivalent for sale in the West seems to be Schneider’s Zippy which is still quite different. Schneider makes several inexpensive pens for sale in China that have the same feed and general design as the BK406, but this is one of the few pens in the family that comes with an EF nib, something I felt essential for minimizing BSB’s infamous feathering issue on cheap paper.
I was quite underwhelmed when it arrived. It came in a cheap plastic sleeve (see photo below) and had no instructions. Everything about the packaging screamed “disposable ballpoint.” I was still grateful that upon unscrewing the barrel I found a complimentary blue international standard ink cartridge (which I discovered after some testing to be quite waterproof) and a strange empty cartridge inserted into the nipple, perhaps to show the new owner that the pen was cleverly designed to have one cartridge in use and a spare behind it inside the barrel. This is quite clever and explains the length of the pen.
Appearance & Design
True to its German origin, this pen is as utilitarian as it gets. Everything from the ribs on the cap for ease of removal to the matted section with grip indentations says that this pen is designed for quick and easy use in the trenches of the office or classroom. There are no bells or whistles whatsoever. Even the nib is so plain that all it has on it is an encircled “EF.” If the appearance hadn’t convinced you, the two places where the cap tells you it was made in Germany leave no room for doubt. Like disposable pens, its cap is unfortunately marred by the brand logo and “Schneider Made in Germany” along the side where it can’t be missed.
There is a rounded grip section with subtle indentations like is often found on student pens. This section’s matte finish and smooth corners make it quite comfortable to hold and allow for more variation in grip than on something with sharper angles like a Lamy Safari. The flat grooves are even less prominent than on a Pilot Plumix. I was very thankful for this feature because the nib and feed are not aligned with these grips like they usually are on other pens. Since the nib and feed are very tightly in place and appear immovable, I have to disregard the grooves in order to hold the pen the way I usually do. Thankfully, the unobtrusive nature of the grips makes this easy. At first I thought the odd alignment was a quality control issue, but my other Schneider pens have the same alignment, so I suspect it may be some ingenious German design feature. The pen writes perfectly if you hold it according to the grooves, but the alignment just looks odd.
Construction & Quality
Despite the impression given by the packaging, the BK406 is not a flimsy pen. The plastic barrel and cap have a slightly soft surface (just a little harder than on those disposable Bic ballpoints they have at a bank teller), but the material is thick and looks like it could easily take a beating in a purse or book bag. It feels soft but solid in the hand, certainly more so than similarly priced pens like the Platinum Preppy. Holes at the end prevent the roomy barrel from being used as an eyedropper. The pen has a molded plastic feed which is quite thin and fragile at the tip but seems adequately protected by the rolled steel nib that partly wraps around it. The nib is thick and looks like it could take some tumbles without any repercussions. I used the pen as my daily carry for over a week and it met the floor a few times and survived unscathed. I’m sure you can treat this pen like any cheap ballpoint and expect it to hold up admirably.
As for manufacturing, the only flaw I found is the slight misalignment of feed and nib which doesn’t affect writing. The only visible external seam is on the grip section which isn’t really an issue with a pen this cheap and would be covered by one’s hand anyway when in use.
Weight & Dimensions
Measuring about 14.5cm capped, its length is just between that of a Pilot 78G and a Plumix. This makes it just a little too long to fit neatly in my T-shirt pockets, but a decent fit for the pockets on my dress shirts. It’s too long to fit in the pen pockets of some backpacks and messenger bags. In one bag I tried it stuck so high out of the pen pocket that the clip couldn’t grip the pocket. It measures 13cm uncapped, and 16cm posted, which for my smallish hands means this one is not a poster.
Weighing in at 11.6 grams capped/posted and 7.2 grams uncapped, the pen is light and allows for prolonged writing sessions without any fatigue. Writing with it feels like a dream compared to the cramps I was getting from my chunky clunky Jinhao X750.
Nib & Performance
The BK406 is only available with an extra fine nib, but Schneider makes several similar pens in this price range in fine (e.g., BK400, BK402, Zippi). Some may scoff at using a rolled steel nib, but I find the BK406’s nib to be surprisingly smoother than the dubiously labeled “iridium point” nibs on many of my Chinese pens. It glides across the paper and only gives a little feedback if pressure is applied on rough paper. As can be expected for this price, it’s a true nail with no flexibility whatsoever. The nib and feed work well together to provide perfect flow which I would describe as moderate. I never once experienced skipping or hard starts, although I’ve only tested it with the juicy Baystate Blue and nothing drier. The line is a typical German extra-fine, which becomes somewhere between a Japanese fine and medium when using such a wet ink like BSB.
BK406 with Baystate Blue vs. Pilot 78G (F) with Luxury Blue:
Filling System & Maintenance
The BK406 comes with a single blue Schneider international sized cartridge, but a converter can be purchased separately for nearly the same price as the pen. The converter is great and holds a lot of ink. This pen and converter combination creates a perfect workhorse for extensive writing. Although the pen functions well, it’s regrettable that the nib and feed cannot be removed for cleaning. This inability limits the pen to being used with low-maintenance inks that can be easily washed out or dedicating the pen to just one high-maintenance ink.
Cost & Value
As far as I know these pens are not available in the States, but here in China they are a little more expensive (32RMB=$4.87) than Chinese pens like the Duke 209 or Hero 359 (both 25RMB=$3.81). The Chinese pens may be better deals because they are often mostly metal and have a removable nib and feed. Nevertheless, I find the nib on the BK406 and other Schneider pens in the same price range to be sturdier and more reliable. For me it’s worth it to pay a little more for an all plastic pen that writes reliably and is more comfortable to use than the cheaper alternatives.
I’m completely satisfied with this pen and believe I got what I paid for. Although plastic, the BK406 feels sturdier than a lot of lower end Japanese pens that cost much more than it. It isn’t stylish or pretty by any means, but it feels great to write with and suits my needs—an ideal bright blue pen for Baystate Blue (it’s also available in black or white). That being said, I’d never give it to someone as a gift because it lacks eye appeal. If you want an inexpensive and extremely practical pen, this is a great choice.
Edited by TruthPil, 29 June 2016 - 07:07.