Background: This was the second fountain pen I ever bought. The first was a very tempermental Jinhao, but that's a review for another time. I paid $30 + $10 shipping for the pen through www.isellpens.com (no affiliation, I'm merely a satisfied customer). I bought the pen initially because I wanted a durable companion which was not as, shall we say, ostentacious, as my previous Jinhao. My poor man's Parker 51, if you will (although $40 is getting very close to the price of lower end Parker 51's, I would not be able to purchase the 'flighter' variety, which is what I wanted.)
First Impressions: I am not a fan of flashy packaging, even when done in good taste. All that matters to me is the pen. With that said, when I first laid eyes on the pen, I was pleased to see just about what I had expected - a shiny, but not eye-seeringly gauche metal pen. It looked fairly well constructed, but perhaps not of the highest quality.
Apperance and Design: Reminiscent of the famed "flighter" models introduced by Parker for the P51, with some noticable differences The clip, for instance, is fairly plain and common, and does not really resemble the Parker arrow clip. For this I am not detracting any points, as I am of the belief that imitation is suicide. The clip is functional and strong - perhaps too strong. It grips my pants like a starving infant wrasping itself around the bosom of its mother. Still, I prefer a tight clip which may present a challenge to abduct over a loose or structurally unsound one.
The body and cap are made from what appears to be quality stainless steel, which has held up admirably well to nearly a full year of use (not abuse). The cap has Chinese characters followed by "100" in a fairly classy engraving far beneath the clip. The gripping section is made of a black plastic, and I find holding the pen to be comfortable and natural. The cap fits snuggly and removes with a tug. Good.
The nib is fully hooded, with only a tiny section of the tines portruding from the end of the plastic housing. There appears to be a huge portion of iridium at the tip of my pen. I don't think that this is necessarily good or bad, it just struck me as idiosyncratic. The stainless steel does not attract fingerprints, and no more than a few microscratches mar the finish as of now. The overall fit and finish of the pen is not outstanding, but it is of reasonable quality and up to my personal standards.
Size and Weight: The pen's weight is what I would call a "light heavyweight", not at all uncomfortable, but still afforded some solid weight from the steel barrel and cap. It is well-balanced both posted and unposted; I prefer to post this pen, but that is a personal preference. The length of the pen is what I would consider about average, perhaps a bit longer than a normal pen with caps posted.
Nib: An excellent song by Black Sabbath. But really, the nib is made of 14 karat gold (not just plated), and is hidden under the afformentioned "hood." I feel that having a 14 karat gold nib available to me is important, because all the rest of my pens have nibs I would not risk to an iron-gallic ink, but that is because I tend to neglect a pen with ink in it for longer than what can be considered good pen hygeine. It just adds a nice touch to the pen, but in no way really enhances performance.
The nib writes a true XF line which I find very useful since I tend to gravitate toward mediums. It gives me the ability to use a pen I know will not make a mess of itself while making margin notes or writing on bad paper. It's flow is about a 6/10, that being only very slightly wetter than average. When I first began writing with the pen, it was very scratchy, skipped at times, and generally always left me reason to doubt whether or not it was going to give me trouble on a given day. I have since gone through my entire collection realligning tines where I see fit, and this happened to be one of the examples of this procedure. It now writes much more smoothly and much more cooperatively than it has in earlier times. Still, it is not the smoothest of writers, but I find it to be adequate.
Filling System: Squeeze convertor. Despite my best efforts, using the squeeze mechanism will not fill up more than 1/3 of the convertor at any one time. I've tried literally everything. Thankfully, since it writes such a fine line it still lasts about as long as a medium nib (1551) Esterbrook J. Not too shabby.
Cost/Value: $40 for this pen makes it really a fairly expensive purchase on a student budget. Yet for $40, it seems to be a fairly good buy. What it comes down to is, "Would I buy this pen again?"
The answer is unabashedly yes; if the P51 is built like a tank, than this is a Humvee. It's survived drops and frequent use, accepts almost any ink I throw at it and keeps doing its job acceptably well.
Conclusion: I like the pen. It is by no means of poor quality or shoddy craftsmanship. To spare it the shame of yet another Parker 51 comparison, I'll just say that this pen fills a niche in my collection and has been tried and true to me ever since I realligned the tines of the nib. Good pen, solid quality - don't rule out the Hero 100!
Final Score: 5.5/7
Edited by superfreeka, 07 January 2009 - 19:35.