Since pictures and descriptions are available on isellpens.com and hisnibs.com, I'll not waste bandwidth with pictures here.
First Impressions: After seeing this on isellpens.com, I was intrigued by its color, size, and construction. Having had good luck with other Duke products, and spurred by the reasonable price, I decided to give it a try.
Appearance/finish: This is a very good looking pen. Duke seems to be the schizophrenic pen maker - when they're good, they're really good, but when they're bad they are UGLY! This pen thankfully fits into the former category.
The design is a classic asymmetrical torpedo shape, minimalist but with just enough "extra" to make it unique. I like the rose-colored accents, as opposed to the yellow of gold or gold plate; they are distinctive, and very elegant. The cap has a little "ball" on the top, which gives it some character when clipped into a pocket. I like that look so much, I'd like to see a series from Duke featuring that little topknot!
The pen is made of lacquer over copper; the lacquer work is highly polished, and consists of tiny red metallic chips in a very dark lacquer. To see the red, you must have a bright, direct light source and be looking for them. It's not at all gaudy, ostentatious, or distracting - they just give a depth to the finish that is missing on a plain black lacquer (or resin) body. The result is a lacquer with "soul", and photos really don't do it justice. The lacquer on mine is flawlessly applied, but it is ever so slightly soft - not that you'll damage it through normal handling, but posting the cap will leave telltale marks. Because of this slight softness, I would not carry this in a pocket with any metal objects.
Design/size/weight: this is a small pen! Capped, it's only 4-1/2" long; you must post the cap to write comfortably, which makes it 5" overall. When first picking it up, you expect it to be very light, like a resin pen - but the metal construction means that it is the same weight as a larger model. I have a Cross Penatia Lexington with resin body, and it is much larger than the Duke - but the weight is the same. It's not heavy in the absolute sense, because it is well balanced. I find it easy to write with, and I do not like heavy pens! (An unposted Rotring 600 is as heavy as I like to use.)
The pen is somewhat thick, measuring 1/2" at its widest. The steep taper of the section, though, makes it handle like a narrower pen. I don't like overly narrow or overly thick pens, but I find this to be very comfortable for extended writing sessions.
The cap is a snap-on affair, and posting necessitates just a bit of a "twist" in the process. The barrel unscrews from the feed on nicely machined metal threads that don't come loose in a pocket - something I can't say for some more expensive pens!
Nib performance: Duke scores again! I've had the pleasure of using several of Duke's pens, and I always come away impressed. This nib - nominally a medium, but writing to the fine side - is gold plated, very smooth and lays down a medium-wet line with no pressure necessary. The nib has a hint of flex, the line widening just noticeably as a bit of pressure is applied.
The nib has a very small amount of "drag" on the paper; no scratching, though, and the effect is so unobtrusive that I hesitate to call it "tooth". "Drag" is a good term, and there is just the slightest amount felt. It is not as friction-free as my old Cross Century, but is a bit better than my medium-nibbed Rotring 600. Personally, I've grown to prefer this feel over the friction-free Cross nibs; I just like being able to "feel" where the nib is on the paper. (It also gives better feedback as to the amount of pressure being exerted.)
How about upside-down? Well, it's surprisingly good! It now has what I'd call just a hint of "tooth", still not scratchy but definitely more friction than normal. (In comparison, it's better than my other Rotring '600', which carries a gold 'EF' nib.) The line is now extra-fine, but still fairly wet and very uniform. I'm impressed!
Filling system: The pen uses a squeeze-type filler; the sac is black, so I don't know if it's a true aerometric. The one downside of this diminutive pen is a smallish ink capacity; if you do a lot of writing at a stretch - class notes, etc. - this is not the pen for you. It fills easily and to its capacity, it's just that the capacity is a bit less than a full sized pen.
Value: Like most of the Chinese pens available, the cost is remarkably low. Unlike some others, though, this is a real value. I've tried several of Hero's products, for instance, and while they're cheap they also feel cheap. Not so Duke - I've had three different Duke models, and all of them felt and performed much better than their prices would lead you to believe. This is a pen that looks and performs in the "over $100" class, despite costing me less than $20 from isellpens.com
Conclusion: This is one of those pens that is a joy to use, carry, and look at. Highly recommended! However, there is one thing I'd like to see Duke change: I want a full-size version of this pen! A larger rendition would be gorgeous, and I believe would enhance its appeal to those who like the design, features and performance but don't like the small stature. (Hey, Duke, if you do this remember where you got the idea!)
Edited by GrantC, 09 April 2006 - 23:46.