This is a review of the Crocodile 806.
I know there are a couple of reviews of this pen, but I didn't think they answered many of the questions I had about it. My principal query was 'Is it a Parker Duofold Copy' and 'Is it a nice pen?'. I shall try to answer both questions to my satisfaction, and hopefully anyone else's.
By the scale of Chinese pens, it is actually quite expensive, though on any Western scale of pen prices it is moderately cheap at £14 inc postage to the UK. Hours after I recieved the first, I ordered a second as a birthday present for my youngest daughter. I think that answers the question 'Is it a nice pen?' Yes it is. Very, very nice.
Having recieved the second a little prior to the birthday, I got a bit of a shock. The second pen is surprisingly different from the first:
These pens were bought from the same vendor through the same e-bay sale as 'Grey'. I was expecting some detail differences in the barrel material due to the nature of the resin used, but not quite the extremes seen here. My one is the dark one, my daughter's one is the light one. Personally, I much prefer the light grey one. The dark one is nice. The light one looks very, very nice.
Furthermore, I really was not expecting the posted lengths to be different by 2.5mm, there to be printing differences between the pens or the barrel to cap thread to be black on one and gold on the other. There is another difference, my pen (the dark one) has a brass liner to add weight in the barrel. This does rather smack of a lack of configuration control to me. Basically, they appear to be slapping any bits at hand together.
OK, now onto a few objective dimensions:
- Length capped: 138mm
- Length uncapped: 120.8mm
- Length Posted: Dark 151.5mm, Light 154mm (Both post very securely)
- Cap Diameter: 14.35mm, and is cylindrical
- Barrel Diameter: 12.65mm at widest tapering to 11.4mm at finial ring.
- Section Diameter: 9.0mm min, 10mm max. Section length 20mm.
- Weight: Dark: 39.0g capped, 20.4g Uncapped
Surprisingly for a pen at this price bracket, the majority of the pen is turned resin. The cap and barrel finials, cap body, barrel body and section sleeve are all resin. Yes, I really do mean that there is a turned resin sleeve over the metal section core housing the nib. The comparable Kaigely 316 uses a painted brass section.
The cap decal is a small gold coloured crocodile set in a turned black/charcoal two colour resin similar to the cap/barrel resin. This has a brass insert that screws into a bonded fitting in the top of the cap body with an M4 screw. The unusual gold coloured crocodile shape clip may be removed when the finial is unscrewed. The black painted brass cap lip and cap-barrel thread insert is bonded to the cap body, trapping two unstuck cap rings and a black spacer ring in situ.
The section is, as I said earlier, made from metal (probably brass) with a turned sleeve made from the same resin as the cap finial. The fit and finish is excellent. The c/c is a higher than average chinese quality c/c, and has a green twist stem. I have only ever see one other stem that is not black - and it's a red one found in my Lamy Vista.
The barrel has a metal thread insert glued into the resin barrel. One of the two barrels has a C shaped brass lining to add weight, the other does not. The barrel finial is resin, turned from the same resin used for the cap finial & section.
The quality of construction throughout is really good, with no cause for concern on any part. The fit of the parts together is excellent, and the finish is what you'd expect from a good quality resin pen. There are no ugly steps between parts that are eccentric, no areas where you say 'Oh, that doesn't feel right'.
Writing with the Pen
I like broad nibs. The nib on this pen is a slightly narrow medium, so is right on the lower limit of what I am willing to put up with. So, having expressed my prejudice, how does it feel?
I inked it up without flushing, and used it. And have continued to do so without cause for any complaint for two fills. I did not need to flush it out. The nib needed no grinding to feel reasonable. At some point I may polish it a little more, but it is close to being excellent at the moment, and I do not want to go past the point of perfect feedback. The nib is very firm.
The pen centre of gravity is quite low, even when posted, and does not feel top heavy at all.
The nib is quite small. It is an 'International' size nib in a 'Centennial' size pen, and initally looks a little odd. However, when holding it in your hand and putting the point to the page, that all becomes irrelevant. It does actually feel rather nice. I have tuned my K316's to feel like my Duofolds. And this pen slotted right in alongside them without feeling out of place. That is actually quite remarkable when you think about it. An un-modified £14 pen feeling like a Duofold, a £400+ pen...
I have had the pen for about 4 weeks, and not used it a great deal yet - I wanted to keep it pristine just in case my daughters pen didn't arrive in time and she'd end up with it instead. However, I have had no reason to think the finish will not be as durable as the K316. My most used Charcoal K316 started showing signs of serious plating wear at year 2.
The pen comes in
- Grey (At least 2 shades of grey, dark & light)
- Orange & Black
- Blue (looks like there may be 2 shades of blue from E-Bay photos, Royal & Navy blue)
- Red (looks like there may be 2 shades of red from E-Bay photos, Wine & Scarlet)
This range of colours almost makes up for the fact there are no alternative nib sizes.
Comparison with a Parker Duofold
One of the things I wanted to investigate when getting this pen was just how much it was like a Duofold, so there follows a fairly detailed analysis.
The capped length is almost the same, only the depth of the 'Crocodile' decal being the sum total of the length difference.
When uncapped, the Crocodile is shorter than the International, even though it is more of the Centennial diameter.
The Crocodile barrel tapers gently along its full length. The Centennial and International only taper over the last 20mm, and then by 2.5 degrees. The net effect is that the Crocodile can post deeper, and therefore more securely than the Duofolds.
Overall feel of the pen materials: The first impression is that both the Duofold's and the Crocodile's are equally well finished. They both have the same shine, the gold plating is as well plated and, if anything, the bi-colour plating on the Crocodile nib is more accurate to the engraved lines than on my Duofold International. The barrel & cap material feels almost identical, except as noted at the end of this paragraph. The Parker material seems to have more pearlesence than found in my dark pen, but similar to that in my daughter's light pen. The pearlescence is found all round the pen too. The resin on the Duofold usually feels cold to the touch. The resin on the crocodile does not. The C806 is so similar in feel that tiny little things like this become noticable - if they were more different you'd never notice something like this.
The proportions of the Crocodile are part way between the International & Centennial, and because of this, I think it looks better than the Centennial, but a bit too short & stubby when compared with the beautifully proportioned International.
The section shape is very similar to the two Duofolds, being about half way between the two in diameter and length. The section material feels the same.
The threads between the cap & barrel on the Crocodile are the biggest deviation between the two designs. The thread is a metal unsert bonded to the barrel in the Crocodile. I am not wildly keen on this aspect of the crocodile. It is fairly well made, but does not feel as luxurious as threaded resin on the Duofold.
The Crocodile's cap & barrel finials are resin and, because it's a black/charcoal version of the barrel material, it is self coloured and interesting to look at. As with the self coloured finial material in the Duofolds, it will not show up small chips.
The cap decal on the Crocodile is a stylised crocodile mounted on the surface of the pen. This looks interesting, possibly more interesting than the Duofold's raised 'Ace of Spades' decal. The Clip is a stylised crocodile. It looks reasonable, but a little on the tacky side compared to the restrained elegance of the Duofold's. The clip strength is similar to that of the Parker's.
As with the Parkers, the Crocodile's cap lip is a separate item, however it is a metal insert bonded into the cap. The two cap lip rings are the same width and have the same spacing as the Duofold's. On the two crocodile pens, both cap lip rings can be spun around and really need to be stuck down. The Crocodile's cap lip is not as nice as the self coloured resin of the Parker.
The nibs are difficult to compare, as both of my Duofolds have Broad Italics nibs (0.9 and 1.1mm wide). However, the Crocodile is a fine medium, and slightly more flexible than on either Duofold, and wrote with a normal, reasonably wet line out of the box. The feed works properly - which is more than the banner feed does on my International. The underside of the nib has obviously been modelled on the Duofold.
The c/c's in the Duofold's differ from the Crocodile only in length (Parker is longer & slightly wider), engraved name and the fact the Parker is to a proprietary c/c nipple size, while the Crocodile is an international size. I regard c/c as disposable, so if they work, that's as much as I'm really willing to think about them.
The balance of the Centennial is pretty much the same as the Crocodile. This is partly due to the fact the Crocodile & Centennial are very similar in shape, means that the feel is remarkably similar between the two radically different price pens. The other part of the reason is that the Crocodile centre of gravity is 68mm from the uncapped nib, while the Centennial's is 73mm. The close correlation makes one feel much like the other.
The Crocodile is surprisingly close to being on a par with the Duofold. It is very much better than its price would suggest. It is a very fine attempt to produce a luxury type pen at moderate price point, and the aim is largely achieved. The one thing that really sets the Duofold on a different level is the range of nib options. The Crocodile gives you every size you want, so long as you only want a fine medium. I wonder when Chinese manufacturer's are going to realise that really good pens have alternative nib sizes?
Comparison with a Kaigelu 316
The K316 is so much like a Duofold Centennial, that there are many comparisons already made. The primary differences are:
- K316 has brass finials, the C806 has resin finials making the pen lighter.
- The K316 has a resin cap lip and resin cap-barrel thread. The C806 has metal parts. The resin thread feels better & higher quality.
- The K316 centre of gravity is 83mm from the nib, while the C806 is 68mm. This lower CG feels better, a great deal better. Once the K316 barrel finial is replaced with a resin one, it drops to 65mm from the nib, and feels the same as the C806.
- The C806 seems to post better.
Value For Money
At a price of £14, if getting a Western Pen you expect to get some fairly cheap and nasty moulded plastic pen with some stamped metal bits. You expect that it will last around 6-8 months before something terminal happens to a moulded plastic thread or the cap click wears out. You do not expect a turned resin pen. So.. On that scale it is blooming marvellous. Its general quality is closer to western pens in the £70-100 range.
How does it rate against the Kaigelu 316?
That is a bit more difficult to answer. The K316 has flaws that can be corrected (brass barrel finial & nib). This pen has different flaws that cannot be corrected (metal cap-barrel thread & painted metal cap lip), however, on the positive side it seems to start off as a more usable Duofold alternative. So, if you are prepared to modify a K316, your overall experience will be a little better with the K316. If, however, you do not wish to modify the pen, this Crocodile is better value for money.
The Crocodile 806 is a good quality pen at a very good price. The pen quality is comparable with western pens in the £70-100 bracket - I am thinking particularly of 'Worcester Pens' and similar small scale manufacturers who are trying to sit in a fairly uncomfortable mid-range between cheap & luxury pens. Despite the price, this is no cheap & nasty Chinese pen. Neither is the Kaigelu 316. That's what leaves me thinking that the main deciding factors between this and a K316 should be 'Can I get a C806 or K316 cheaper today' or 'Is it a colour I like'. There is not a lot else to choose between them.
The C806 shows that China is emerging, as Japan did in the post-war period, as a serious quality manufacturing heavyweight and old prejudices need to be put to one side. European & North American companies really do need to look to their laurels in all high quality fields of manufacturing, as China is soon to be competing there too. Once they get their configuration control sorted, that is when the west really needs to do better.
Sorry, I digressed. Back to talking about the pen.
As a gift pen, people will think you have spent a fortune!
I'm going to get another. Possibly one of every colour, and probably more 'Grey's' to see what other colours also count as 'Grey'. I think it is a superb value pen, if you try one, I'd be surprised if you don't agree with me.
I hope this review helps.
Useful Review links:
Parker Duofold Centennial. http://www.fountainp...old-centennial/
Parker Duofold International. http://www.fountainp...-international/
Kaigelu 316 Grey Amber. http://www.fountainp...316-grey-amber/