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About six months ago, I discovered the amazing treasure trove of cheap Chinese pens available on eBay. While suspicious of the quality on offer at such low prices, I thought it worth plunking down fifty bucks of fun money to find out. I had heard the Duke was one of the more reputable of the Chinese pen manufacturers, so I spent $7 of the Duke/Uranus snakeskin. At that time, the Pelikan Lizard had just come out and I wanted to compare the Chinese and Pelikan versions of lizard/snake scales. It goes without saying that, in all ways artistic, the Pelikan blows this pen away, so this review will only examine the pen on its own merits. I've now had the piece for six months and used it off and on during that time. It's been in various rotations three times, or about 6 weeks of reasonably intense usage. The pen arrived in a nice blue Duke labeled gift box or approximately the same dimensions as a typical Waterman pen box. Inside, the pen was enclosed in a narrow plastic bag. It came with the converter pre-installed and, from first appearances, looked pretty good. Like most Chinese pens, this one features a brass body with a silk-screened pattern and then a clearcoat layer of varnish on top. The pen itself is of moderate weight, approximately that of a Sheaffer Prelude. It is a thin pen, but not obnoxiously so. A close inspection of the pattern reveals no disastrous defects, but the screening is certainly imprecise and incomplete in places. The design looks much better from a distance than up close, where the sloppy craftsmanship is more readily apparent. The pen does have some nifty features that elevate it somewhat. The cap band is handsomely inscribed "URANUS" in a Roman font, together with some stars and some Chinese script. Uranus is, I believe, a sub-brand of Duke. After 6 months, it has held its luster and looks quite nice. The clip features a lovely compass rose design, and the tassie features an ivory circle in a sea of black. These details are all well executed. The nib is a nice design too, featuring a crown logo with rays splaying out toward the end of the nib. At the bottom is the word Duke inscribed in san serif all-caps. While the design elements are good, the craftsmanship of the stamping is less so as the imprint is weak. Holding the pen side by side with a Pilot 78g, the difference in the quality of the nib inscription is striking. All of this is to say that you do, to some extent, get what you pay for. A large part of the difference between a $100 pen and a $7 pen is in the quality of the materials and craftsmanship. I would say that, for the price, Duke has done a very creditable job on the design and execution. The cap snaps on and off and posts securely. Many Chinese pens feature snap on/off caps, presumably for cost reasons, but getting the correct amount of force to hold the cap on seems to be a challenge for many. Most err on the side of way too much force. Baoer, in particular, seems to suffer from this problem a fair bit. Some, like certain Hero pens, employ too little force. Duke, however, has found the "butter zone" for the force needed with this cap. It's easy to remove, but does not remove itself. One also worries that, even if the force is correct initially, wear and use will lead to a situation where it's no good. After 6 months of use, however, there is no sign of any problem. On to the writing. (See attached written review.) This pen is perfectly fine. I'm glad to have satisfied my curiosity about Chinese pens, but I do not see myself getting any more of them, at least at this price point. The $30 Kaigelu pens that are an homage (copy) to the Parker Duofold Centennial are rather nice, but these very inexpensive pens have to make too many sacrifices in the name of cost reduction to be inspiring. In a way, I'd prefer the more honest approach that Pilot and Sailor have taken with this market. The Platinum Preppy and Plumix cost about the same or less. They do not try to pretend to be a high-end pen, even from a distance. What they do well is to produce an interesting writing experience with a number of options. Duke/Uranus, on the other hand, provides a reliable writing experience, but not an interesting one. I would recommend passing on these unless you are in the position of needing a reliable pen with a more upmarket (at least from a distance) design. Even then, I would say that springing for a Pilot 78g is probably still a better bet as these can be had for around $15. By the way, if anyone wishes to trade for this or other inexpensive Chinese pens I own, I would happily take most deals. Please PM me.
His Nibs posted a topic in Market WatchHisNibs.com update -- Re-stocking from China Greetings all, As it does periodically, Monteverde is retiring some pens to make way for new models. Unfortunately, two of my personal favorites are being effected, the Regatta and the Prima, and I question the wisdom of the decision. We've also just received a large re-stocking of models from China. A few of our favorites were not available this time, but the vast majority were. I'll only mention a couple of the models in this newsletter, but please just go to the homepage http://www.hisnibs.com to see them all listed as 'back in stock'. As this newsletter goes out to a mailing list of thousands of customers, please understand if there's a delay in answering your email queries or orders after one of these is sent. We will respond in order received and as soon as possible! Join us on our Facebook HisNibs.com fan page which can be reached directly at https://www.facebook.com/HisNibs1. Come join us for what has become a lively meeting place for news about pens, ink and handwriting. On the blog...Gorilla reunion ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~in this issue * Monteverde Regatta line retired * Monteverde Prima selection reduced * Jinhao Wooden Chariot * Hero 616 series * Duke '2009' * Picasso Candle Flame * Jinhao Black Dreadnaught * Black leather 48-pen case * Baoer 8-Horse series * 'His Nibs' page on Facebook * On the blog...Gorilla reunion ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Monteverde Regatta line retired http://www.hisnibs.com/MonteverdeRegattaGroupRandom2_small.jpg Why Monteverde has decided to retire the magnetic-capped Regatta is beyond me. Even if sales have leveled off at this point, the innovative magnetic cap (which provides the ease of a slip cap and the security of a screw cap) should argue for its continuance. The Black/Black version has totally sold out, but I've just laid in a final supply of the Chrome/Black and the White/Blue fountain pens, so jump now if you want to add one of these really neat pens to your collection. "Norman, I have received the new pen and ink, and am thoroughly delighted. My handwriting still stinks though. This is a wonderful pen and I look forward to writing with it more and more over the years...Maybe I will even get a few more nibs to go with it!" B. C., Athens, GA "My pens arrived today! I LOVE them both. I remember that you said the F nibs were like an extra fine, but both of these pens are perfect for me! The Invincia (which is much better looking in person-the finish is very luminous) is slightly finer than the Regatta, but I think these will both be daily writers. I love how heavy they both are, and the magnetic closure on the Regatta is very nice. Wonderful pens at a terrific price!" T. D., Anna, TX "Dear Norman: My Monteverde Regatta chrome and black fountain pen arrived today, as did the Private Reserve Purple Mojo bottles. I am absolutely delighted, and although I have only written a couple of sentences with it, I am confident I am going to love it as much as I did my Mont Blanc Ramses II predecessor. So back into the real art of penmanship again - whoopee. thank you." E. L., New Zealand "Hello Mr.Haase, i just got my pen today and it's awesome, it writes so smooth. I just want to thank you for the great review on Youtube, and the great customer service." W. A., New York, NY "The "Monteverde Regatta" as breath taking as a sail catching wind in the Caribbean. Writes with a strong line and holds it's course well." V. B., Naples, FL Read more here... http://www.hisnibs.com/regatta1.htm ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Monteverde Prima offerings reduced http://www.hisnibs.com/PrimaFPGroupSpread2_small.jpg Although the Prima still seems to be 'hanging around' (and probably my personal favorite of Monteverde's current line-up, for what that's worth), a number of the colors/pattterns have been retired. The Black is gone. However, Monteverde found two each of the Brown Stripes, Blue Stripes and Brown Swirl to send to me. I had previously listed the first two as 'permanently retired', so am glad to receive these...but I'll soon have to post that same description again. Act fast if you're interested. "Hi Norman. Just wanted to give a big thank you as the green Prima came this morning. Love it! I saw this pen when it first came out and was immediately struck by the luminous green, as I have an excellent collection of 1920s OS jade Sheaffer Flat=Tops. You tuned the nib perfectly, and I mean perfectly. I like them extra-fine and pretty dry, and this F nib completely fills the bill. This one will become a daily user. I also appreciate your kind and personal note that you put in with it. That makes dealing with you a pleasure, and makes me feel like an individual. The website is also very personal, and is one of the best on the web---if not THE best. Thank you x 100 for another excellent purchasing experience. I hope your business multiplies greatly. Others can take lessons from you." S. D., Luthrerville MD "Dear Norman, I have just received the pen and it is superb! The nib is wonderful and a delight to write with. Thank you so much for your frank and excellent advice. I have told my wife that I am thinking of buying another of these wonderful pens with the outstanding stub nib! Warmest regards and I am going to buy the Monteverde turquoise ink for all my official signature work." G. A., New York, NY "Mr. Haase, I received my Monteverde Prima yesterday and got it cleaned up as you instructed and filled with ink and then put pen to paper. I love it. It writes great and keeps up with the pace I write at nicely. Every once in a while it has a little trouble starting But that could be my fault and it isn't a problem really at all. I have been writing different things with it all morning. I also wanted to thank you for the prompt responses to my questions, the quick delivery of the pen, and the personal note. That type of customer service goes a long way with me and you can bet I will be ordering again very soon. Merry Christmas!" A. C., Odessa, MO Many more testimonial here: http://www.hisnibs.com/prima.htm ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Jinhao Wooden Chariot http://www.hisnibs.com/JinhaoWoodenChariotPosted2_small.jpg "I received the Jin Hao Wooden Chariot, and Dancing Dragons today. They are truly works of art as well as reliable smooth- writing pens that actually write better than many of my expensive European models. Thanks for your kind attention, first class service and the hand written note. I look forward to purchasing more pens from you in the near future." K. G., Columbus, OH See more photos here... - http://www.hisnibs.com/wooden_chariot.htm ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Hero 616 series http://www.hisnibs.com/Hero616GroupRandom_small.jpg "Dear Norman, thank you for drawing my attention to the new 'old model' Hero 329s. I would like to order one in dark green, and I would be grateful, if you could send me a PayPal invoice. The 616 arrived two weeks ago. What did you do to the nib? It is very smooth and lays down a slightly thicker line than my other 616s. That's perfect for me. At the moment I use it more often than my Parker 51s where the medium nib tends to be a little too broad for my hand-writing. This is more than just a simple knock-off. In terms of balance, reliability and design it is an exceptionally good pen in its own right. If the old 329 is similar than I will be very happy. Thank you for going to all that trouble for such 'cheap' pens! I have many more expensive ones in my collection, but I do not have the same fun in using them. With thanks and warm regards", C. S., Tübingen, Germany "Hello Norman, Just to let you know that the Hero 616s arrived a few weeks ago, and I've been using them since then. I couldn't be happier with the way they write. The fine point is just what I wanted and it writes beautifully. These pens are absolutely amazing value and your service was excellent. Thank you." M. D. S., Australia "Norman: Received the Hero 616 and Pilot 78G today. Must say they're great--properly tuned and ready to go to work! The 616 writes just like my beloved Parker 51 Flighter (I'll use it for travel since the Flighter has become to valuable to lose). The Pilot with the F nib is perfect for my research notebooks (where I tend to write with very small handwriting). Thanks! Fine pens and great service. Have a great day!" M. D., West Jordan, UT "Hi Norman, I received my 616 yesterday. I wrote about twelve pages with it last night and I'm very pleased - as far as I'm concerned the nib is perfect. I don't remember exactly where I saw your site recommended, but I'm glad I did! I'll certainly order again from you in the future." J. C., Chattanooga, TN Read more here... - http://www.hisnibs.com/%27616%27_series.htm ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Duke '2009' http://www.hisnibs.com/DukeChaplinPosted_small.jpg "...the Duke 'Niner (nee Charlie Chaplin) arrived today and all I can say is OMG! I feel like one of my many nieces when their hair does exactly what they want it to. This thing is so bitching, Norm...And I must say that your "tune-up" has revealed to this poor scribe what a FP is actually supposed to write like. I thought my Sheaffer was all that and a bag o' chips, but the 'Niner beats it hands down. I don't know what you did, but Norm you've got to tell me, because I've got a dozen FPs that don't work quite right and I must get them working at least in the neighborhood of this one." M. H., Salt Lake City, UT See more here... - http://www.hisnibs.com/2009.htm ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Picasso Candle Flame http://www.hisnibs.com/PicassoCandleFlameAngledCap_small.jpg "Norman, hope this email finds you well. I enjoy the Picasso Candle Flame pen a bunch-I'm sure it has a lot to do with your nib prep but it writes smoother than any Pen I own. I'm requesting 2 more. Thanks." R.F., N. Andover, MA "Dear Mr. Haase, thanks so much - I received my "Candle Flame" pen today. It's a real beauty. I usually like to try out a pen in the shop, so I wasn't sure how much to expect from one I bought online. I'm glad to report it writes wonderfully and feels great in my hand. I'll be keeping an eye on your website for new pens. You have a bunch of other interesting models, but it looks like they sell out pretty quickly - I'll have to stay on my toes. Thanks again and all the best!" J. K., Berkeley, CA Read more here... - http://www.hisnibs.com/candle_flame.htm ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Jinhao Black Dreadnaught http://www.hisnibs.com/JinhaoBlackDreadnaughtPosted_small.jpg "Norman -- Thanks for continuing to send the updates. This time it reminded me that I had been meaning to write and tell you how much I've enjoyed the pens gotten from you. That "dreadnaught" is one heckuva pen! Probably the bulkiest pen I own at this moment. I had to find a special pen case to carry it around since it wouldn't fit into the one I normally carry. Even at that size, I find I enjoy it and tend to carry it most days, filled with Waterman purple. The nib is amazingly smooth and always starts right up; the line definitely leans toward the broad side of medium, which I very much prefer." J. T., Marietta, GA "The Dreadnaught FP arrived today . . . it's perfect! The wide girth, nice center of gravity (even when posted), and smooth-writing medium-to-broad (always my preference!) nib makes it my favorite writing instrument. It's every bit as good-if not even better-as you-know-who. . . I might have to purchase another color to have two in my collection. Definitely a superior pen!" C. H., Twinsburg, OH "Hi, Norman, My new Jinhao Black Dreadnaught arrived today. I was so eager to try it, I dipped the nib in ink and wrote with it before even following your washing instructions. Afterwards, I washed it. It fits well in my hand. I very much like the size and weight of the pen. Also, the nib glided over paper smoothly. I was too late to order it the first time you stocked it -- my bad. I am happy you brought it back, and that I bought it this time. Happily Writing," R. D., Melbourne, FL More photos here... - http://www.hisnibs.com/dreadnaught.htm ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Black leather 48-pen case http://www.hisnibs.com/PenCasesBrown48Filled3_small.jpg More pen cases here... - http://www.hisnibs.com/pen_storage.htm ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Baoer 8-Horse series http://www.hisnibs.com/Baoer8HorseAngledPair2_small.jpg "I received the inks and the surprise pen last Monday, which would have been October 1st. I absolutely love the Baoer 8 Horses pen. It writes like a dream and moves across the page so quickly I have to make sure I don't end up scribbling words that don't exist! It's filled with the Private Reserve Velvet Black and I love the ink. I knew I needed black, but I didn't know I would enjoy it so much. Who knew such a 'boring' color could be so much fun to use...I still can't believe how a pen could float across a page. I almost feel guilty that I want to use it more than the other two I have. It might be new pen addiction, but honestly, the pen is simply amazing." K. B., Etna, CA "Thanks Norman for the prompt shipping and careful packaging! I already had one of these "8 horses" pens and it is indeed a challenge to count all 8! It's a great pen and one that I could afford to give as gifts to friends who feel they cannot afford a good fountain pen. This one writes better than my vintage mabie-todd." C. F., Dallas, TX "Hi Norman, I'm gonna rave about the Baoer 8 Horses that came today. It is the smoothest nib I have ever used! That includes many $100-200 pens in my collection. Nobody is going to believe that this is a $20 pen. The brass construction gives it a solid feel, and it balances perfectly in my hand even when posted. I have the bronze finish, and am running Pelikan Brilliant Brown - makes for a nice combination!" T. T., Ann Arbor, MI More photos here... - http://www.hisnibs.com/eight_horses.htm ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 'His Nibs' page on Facebook http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v167/hisnibs/HisNibsFacebookimage.png Join us for daily news updates from around the world about fountain pens, ink, handwriting and more! Click here to visit our Facebook page - http://facebook.com/hisnibs1 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ On the blog...Gorilla reunion A video showing a former 'keeper' being reunited with a his gorilla charge, back in the wild. See the May 13th entry here... - http://hisnibs.blogspot.com Regards, Norman Haase His Nibs.com