This is a review of the "Master" from Kaco. I saw precious few reviews of this pen while I was researching for it, for possible purchase, either on youtube or written. I took a chance based on a few comments regarding the quality of the nib, and I am very glad that I did. This is one of those occassions where a gamble pays off. This is one of the best, if not the best, Chinese pens that I own - compared to 5 pens form PenBBS, 5 from Moonman and a couple of Wing Sungs and Jinhaos. This is also the most expensive Chinese made pen that I own, beating the 14K WingSung 698 and the Bock nibbed Moonman 800 (another excellent pen); however at $80, its not expensive for what you get.
This pen cost around $80 on one of the discount weeks on Aliexpress. However, the price tends to fluctuate quite a bit from mid 80s to even up to $140...so try to catch a good deal if you can. For anything less than $100 - this pen is an absolute steal. Both for the elegance and ergonomics of the design as well as for the surprisingly springy and precise gold fine nib (which though an interesting quirk to keep in mind as I discuss below).
Appearance & Design - This pen as a cigar shaped design (with the cap slightly more rounded than the barrel) which is a classic. The material is a glossy black resin polished to a high shine. there is only one visible accent which is a substantial metal clip. The clip is one of the defining features of this as it is spring loaded; and attached to the top of the cap. The clip also fit into a clip-shaped recess in the cap, so that the clip is almost (but not exacly) flush with the surface of the cap. the clip also has the only visible logo on the pen (besides the nib which I shall come to). Due to the spring mechanism, the clip is extremely ease to operate and very functional; if you care to post a pen this big.
Other than that; the pen is understated and elegant. It seems perfect for use at workplace (will I use my most colorway acrylic pens in the workplace with impunity, but some workplaces are more stuffy I am told ;-)) . This seems to be a theme with Kaco - they seem to prefer to make 'business gift' oriented pens in solid colors and have seemingly eschewed colorful resins till now.
the pen comes with an oval dedicated pen case, which can be stood upright, whereby it also operates as a pen holder. It has a foam insert with a hole cut out to rest the barrel so that the resin pen does not court scratches from the metal sides of the holder. Apologies as this was left in my office, and I could not fetch that (and a lot more things) given that lockdown was imposed in our country on a weekend night with 4 hours notice! So this link should give a fair idea
Opening the cap, one sees an ample hourglass shaped section, followed by a number 6 14k nib in Fine with a minimalist design - just two lines parallel to the shoulders and the logo and below that, the words 14k. there is a broad thermoplastic feed which is similar to (but not same as) as Jowo #6 feed. the section is long and the threads for the cap are precise. The nib seems perfectly proportioned to the size of the pen.
Overall, the pen looks stellar and understated. It reminds one of high end Urushi pens from across the East China Sea. It made me renege on my decision to not buy another black black for a while; so that's something. I just wish they offered this model in other solid colors (on this note, there is a steel nibbed, slightly smaller, version of this pen which cost about $30 and is also available in appealing red and white versions. Wonder why they didn't provide options for the 14k model...I'd have loved me a red version...). I also like that it does not look like an obvious rip off any other design - various influences are there (for example the clip is similar (though not identical) to that in the Lamy Imporium, and the body is similar to several Japanese ebonite and urushi pens, it is distinct enough to be an unique design.
Construction & Quality– Construction is top notch. Forgot $100; it would not disappoint in a pen worth $300. There is no squeak in turning the threads (either of the barrel or the cap). The polish in the resin body and gold plated clip is top notch with a mirror like finish when new. On the flip side, this causes any gathered lint or dust to stand out, and may highlight even the smallest scratches (which it does; if you are one inspects obsessively). One that note, while the gold plating is of good quality, it does feel a bit soft and scratch prone; I have been accordingly, careful of how I place of the cap on the table etc.
The nib and feed attach into a housing which doesn't appear to be removable. At least I was not able to. The nib and feed though can be pulled out with some effort.
Weight, Dimensions and ergonomics This is a big pen, bordering on oversize. Smilar to MB149 and Sailor KOP Profit; However, most of the girth is in the cap; the barrel is actually, reasonably slim.
Length; weight (capped): 154mm (6.06"); 28gms gms (1 oz)
Length; weight (uncapped) : 135mm (5.3”) (measured from tip of nib); 14gms (0.5 oz)
Length; (posted) : 161mm (6.34")
Section length : 25mm (1”)
Section diameter: 11mm to 13mm (0.43 – 0.5 inch) [this is a rough calculation).
In short, it is large but not egregiously so. Further, the cap weighs exactly half the total pen weight (due to the substantial clip and the significantly larger diameter); hence it is very light and comfortable when used uncapped. I stress: this pen is perfect as far as ergonomics go. the section is perfectly contoured and the length and weight (uncapped) is just right.
Some comparison pictures are below:
This is what it looks like next to the PenBBS 380 and the Pilot Justus - both similarly large black pens pens at around 145-150 mm (5.8-6"") posted.
This is a comparison with some other pens (left to right: TWSBI 580AL, Sailor Pro gear slim, Kaco Master, Montegrappa Fortuna teak, PenBBS 456)
It posts deeply but not securely. You wouldn't need to post this pen; but you can subject to cap possibly falling if you suddenly turn it around.
Nib & Performance - Cue: customary bokeh shot of nib
It has a very well-tuned #6 nib which extremely springy and relatively soft, for a modern nib. the odd thing is that it has a significant forward curve; this creates an ...interesting sensation, as the apparent angle of the pen to paper is different from your normal holding angle. the forward curve can cause the pen to catch to paper in sudden down-to-up movements; such as rounding a 'g' or bottom-extension of an 'f'; this is more so on rougher papers. This seems to be a conscious design choice, as the pictures in the web listing suggest that this helps appreciate/ fully utilize the springiness of the nib. Even with this, I really do enjoy the nib - it is springy and soft, and really smooth with the required traction to have sufficient control over the written word. While springy, this is not a flex nib, and I wouldn't feel comfortable trying to coax out line variation.
Pic of pronounced forward curve of the nib:
The feed is a jowo type wide shoulder one; but is perfectly tailored to the curve of the nib. It was a little dry at first, but after a little adjustment, is providing uninterrupted generous supply of ink.
Filling System & Maintenance – This is a simple C/C system. The converter is interchangeable with a schmidt K5 converter. The supplied one looks slightly larger but I could be mistaken. Disappointingly, it does not have metal reinforcements at the mouth. the plastic also is slightly cloudy and not crystal clear. However, it is perfectly functional. It is good that it uses the K5 standard, as one can use cartridges in a pinch.
(apologies for the bubbles - it was a hurried fill)
The nib is a true fine. When I think of fine, I think of this line width. Since this pen supplies, it makes me satisfied. Here is a comparison to well known nibs with similar line widths, namely European fines and Japanese Medium, with the same ink in all (Pilot Iro Yama Guri):
As you can see, this nib writes very similar to a Jowo or Bock fine; and also similar to a pilot 14K and Sailor 14K Medium. The Kanwrite F is slightly finer, and the penBBS F is way fatter (its actually closer to a western medium). the Moonman is between the Kaco and the PenBBS.
Some longer writing samples; one on Rhodia and the other on ITC classmate (a low cost, but really good, student notebook)
Cost & Value – I paid about $80. This is on the lower end for this pen and usually available during sales. At this price, it is a phenomenal deal. I would say, given the quality, ergonomics and writing experience, anything below $125 is a good deal.
Conclusion – This is a pen which ticks most boxes. I find it among the most comfortable pens to hold, and the writing experience, even with the quirky angle on the nib, is pleasurable. The build quality and finish is superb. Only concern for me is finding replacement feeds/ nibs in case of damage and the lack of color and nib width alternatives, which would prevent it from being a pen appreciated by a broader spectrum of FP users.