For a moment there, orange was my color of choice. I think I was coming off a sepia phase, but don't rightly recall. I got myself some Diamine Autumn Oak and took a flyer on J. Herbin Orange Indian.
J. Herbin Orange Indien
The Autumn Oak was a great success but I could never get the J. Herbin to work for me. None of the pens I tried would make a go of it. It was my first out-and-out ink failure.
So when I unboxed the PenBBS 350, I did two things. First, I swapped out the fountain pen nib for the rollerball. Then I filled the pen with Orange Indien.
I was being a little perverse. Like many, I write with a fountain pen unless I can't help it. You know the type. (You may be one yourself.) But I was impressed by the moxie PenBBS was showing by including a rollerball with the pen. They were thinking outside the box.
To reward the daring, I gave the pen the hardest ink I have. To my surprise, it worked.
Truth be told, I think the J. Herbin ink has darkened over time.
Looking at some old notebooks, it looks a bit brighter.
Conceptually, the PenBBS 350 combo hits it out of the park. I love the idea of including a rollerball in the mix. It fits the style of the pen and it writes very well. The line is satisfyingly bold and the rollerball is smooth, agile and consistent.
Ergonomically, however, the rollerball isn't a complete success. The rollerball tip is much shorter than the the fountain pen nib - making the pen just that little bit smaller in the hand. The balance between the girth, length and writing experience is slightly awkward. After writing with the rollerball for a bit, I swapped in the fountain pen nib and felt much better.
In its fountain pen configuration, the PenBBS 350 rocks:
- The size is perfect. The diameter is fat enough to be substantial and the unposted length is just right for my hand. The pen posts well enough but that's not how I use it.
- The weight is spot on. Weighty enough to feel intentional while remaining nimble. Long writing sessions are no problem with this pen.
- The texture of the pen is light but real: a matte finish with just little grip. Nice.
- The threads are fine and not bothersome. They work as a midpoint reference for keeping the pen oriented in the hand by touch.
- The cap comes off in under 1 1/4 turns making this a fast pen to cap and uncap.
- The cap facets keep the pen from rolling about when not in use and, of course, mean the cap is less likely to wind up on the floor when using the pen.
- The cap uses plastic interior threads so you don't have the potentially annoying metal-on-metal feeling when capping/uncapping the pen. The action is nicely smooth and precise.
- There's no clip but that's not a bother for me. I don't need one.
- The nib is the same PenBBS F No. 6 that comes with their other pens. It's a great nib and performed up to expectations out of the box.
Given the aluminum construction and minimalist, industrial design, I put the PenBBS 350 in the workhorse camp. It's durable and functional and could easily serve as a beater pen for everyday use. It works as a full-sized pocket pen.
- Length capped: 130mm
- Uncapped Rollerball: 117mm
- Uncapped Fountain Pen: 122mm
- Weight capped (inked): 23.1g
- Weight uncapped (inked): 15.7g
I like the style of the pen. It feels modern. I'm becoming a bigger fan of the PenBBS brand. It could easily be the best Chinese pen brand today.
At under US$15 on Taobao, it's a heck of a value.
- Would I recommend this as a first fountain pen? Yes. If someone is going to catch the bug, this is as good a vector as any.
- Could this be someone's only fountain pen? Well, it could. If there are folks out there who can eat just one.
- Would this make a cool gift for a fountain pen friend? I think so. It fits the ideal of something different that lots of people might not pick for themselves.
More pictures and comments here.