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Chinese Pens and Taiwanese Pens


AlexItto
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It seems Japanese products set the standard in the fountain pen world, or at least some type of benchmark for most users.

I have noticed too that pens from Germany, Italy and (to a lesser degree) the United States also have the most fans.

Outside of those few countries, I have also taken note of the very popular Taiwanese brands, such as TWSBI and Opus 88. I have yet to try any of those, but it looks like  the general approach to quality construction and materials seems to at least match the standard of the more traditional pen countries. Maybe it's just my impression as a newbie, but there seems to be a bunch of brands from (Mainland?) China that are super cheap and often very good-looking. Their price, though, it's a bit of a red flag. Surely somehting that cheap cannot be great? I am sure there are expensive pens from the Mainland too, but that's my overall first impression. I do not want to pay a lot of money for any one pen (yet!), but it is a bit of a concern and something I've been curious about for a while.

Which of these Chinese brands would say offer the best quality, overall?

Anything that you'd call a dealbreaker in terms of the type of nib, material, etc?

I have also read about copycat products (not-so-subtle replicas of famous models), but that's less of a concern, since I'd only buy original designs.

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Set a benchmark? That can be interpreted in many ways but certainly Parker, Sheaffer, Pelikan, MB, Lamy and others come to my mind before any Japanese pens.

 

As to Chinese brands that I feel offer the best quality I'd day PenBBS and Moonman, but even within those brands some models are better than others.  Wing Sung is doing some very interesting things and their 699 is fantastic. Jinhao, Baoer, Picasso, etc all have some good and not so good models. Best advice is to read the reviews in this section.  It is a fun journey!

Children think adults have all the freedom and adults think children have
all the freedom.
 

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It's a great time for fountain pens. Seems like the market is flooded across the range of decent instruments.

 

As you noted many of the Japanese, German and Taiwanese brands make terrific reliable pens. On the mainland side, I've had good luck with PenBBS 355, 480, 308 ; Jinhao 100, 85; Moonman/Majohn T1, M600; Wing Sung 601 consistency-wise that I can recall.

 

Sometimes the writing is a hit or miss with other models which really wastes my time and add frustration like the Moonman m8, both sucked nib wise. I had the hardest time with PenBBS (F) until I saw a tip from YouTuber Doug Rathbun about pressing harder to open up the tines and that really did the trick to get consistency with tight tined PenBBS nibs.

 

So for me dealbreakers are when the pen will not write without undue extra user effort. Why would I want to 'fix' a new pen? There will always be others will disagree and claim otherwise, Pen X will writes perfectly, no problem but a brief search on YouTube, Reddit, FPN or other fora is enough research to highlight the more troublesome models.
 

 

 

 

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Recommending a brand unconditionally is problematic because all brands have released bad pens at one time or another, and every pen user has their own preferences. That's why there are forums like this one where a wide variety of pen enthusiasts share their experiences, to give you an idea of whether or not a pen is compatible with your expectations. But this requires you to identify reviewers with similar tastes to your own, and above all to know your own requirements. This can only be achieved by putting a fairly wide range of models in your hand. This endless exploration is what makes this hobby so interesting.

That said, if I could go back in time and advise myself, I would say to myself that there is no shame in trying a lot of cheap pens. Not only are most of them of much better quality than you might think, but they have helped me narrow down my likes and dislikes, and forced me to learn the basics of nib tuning, a skill useful even with more expensive brands.
 

The Jinhao 100 is representative of the Chinese offering in terms of satisfactory yet affordable fountain pens. However, as with most Chinese nibs, it is stiff and requires some adjustment if you prefer a more generous ink flow. On the other hand, the Jinhao 100 Century is available in a myriad of colours and finishes.
 

The Yong Sheng brand, also known as Wing Sung, produces several product lines, some below the 10$ floor where it is possible to make a pen cheap yet usable and/or durable, and other luxurious (too expensive, if you ask me) lines with gold nibs over 150$. I found their intermediate models, around 25$, with 6xx numbers (from 601 to 699) especially satisfying. I never been disappointed with one of them. Their nibs are made of steel, while the barrels are made of the same materials as their more expensive gold offerings.
 

The quality control of PenBBS pen's is above average. It has nothing to envy the more reputable brands. However, contrarily to most people, I personally dislike the colours they tend chose for their otherwise above average CNC machined acrylics. Symmetrically, some Hong Dian metal models, especially those starting with 18xx that most people overlook, I found to be also of superior quality and I enjoy them a lot.

I've been often disappointed by the poor quality of Moonman/Majohn pens. Maybe it's only bad luck but I have several pen of that brand with defects like cross threading and not centered nib slits. However, some of their acrylics are my favourites.

In short, although you'll have to gain experience with Chinese brands on your own, at this stage I wouldn't worry so much overall reputations, generalizations, stereotypes and what you currently perceive as "red flags", especially low prices compared to Western and Japanese counterparts.

At the end, the only thing that matters is your own enjoyment. Have fun. Happy discoveries.

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3 hours ago, AlexItto said:

Maybe it's just my impression as a newbie, but there seems to be a bunch of brands from (Mainland?) China that are super cheap and often very good-looking.

 

Some models are excellent writing instruments. Some models punch well above their weight, so to speak, in view of their asking prices.

 

But then, there are dud units from time to time even in generally good pen models; never mind the view across an entire brand. This applies to even Japanese and German brands, never mind (mainland) Chinese brands.

 

(I'll leave off my opinion of pen from the United States.)

 

3 hours ago, AlexItto said:

Which of these Chinese brands would say offer the best quality, overall?

 

Going by brand alone for ease and simplicity, instead of spending wasting hours scouring and poring over multiple reviews of individual models, is not an approach I'd recommend to someone who doesn't want to spend a lot of money, or make regrettable purchase decisions, on a Chinese pen. What you're not spending in dollars, you should plan or expect to make up for in hours of effort doing due diligence, if you want to get some target (or better) level of satisfaction and enjoyment of the writing instrument(s) you end up deciding to purchase.

 

11 minutes ago, VillersCotterets said:

Recommending a brand unconditionally is problematic because all brands have released bad pens at one time or another, and every pen user has their own preferences. That's why there are forums like this one where a wide variety of pen enthusiasts share their experiences, to give you an idea of whether or not a pen is compatible with your expectations. But this requires you to identify reviewers with similar tastes to your own, and above all to know your own requirements.

 

Well said!

I endeavour to be frank and truthful in what I write, show or otherwise present, when I relate my first-hand experiences that are not independently verifiable; and link to third-party content where I can, when I make a claim or refute a statement of fact in a thread. If there is something you can verify for yourself, I entreat you to do so, and judge for yourself what is right, correct for valid. I may be wrong, and my position or say-so is no more authoritative and carries no more weight than anyone else's here.

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Twsbi and Opus 88 are good writing pens with big differences in their filling systems. Some users  have complains about the plastic used in some Twsbis but also almost everyone has had a reasonable response in obtaining replacement parts.

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15 hours ago, VillersCotterets said:

Recommending a brand unconditionally is problematic because all brands have released bad pens at one time or another, and every pen user has their own preferences. That's why there are forums like this one where a wide variety of pen enthusiasts share their experiences, to give you an idea of whether or not a pen is compatible with your expectations. But this requires you to identify reviewers with similar tastes to your own, and above all to know your own requirements. This can only be achieved by putting a fairly wide range of models in your hand. This endless exploration is what makes this hobby so interesting.

That said, if I could go back in time and advise myself, I would say to myself that there is no shame in trying a lot of cheap pens. Not only are most of them of much better quality than you might think, but they have helped me narrow down my likes and dislikes, and forced me to learn the basics of nib tuning, a skill useful even with more expensive brands.
 

The Jinhao 100 is representative of the Chinese offering in terms of satisfactory yet affordable fountain pens. However, as with most Chinese nibs, it is stiff and requires some adjustment if you prefer a more generous ink flow. On the other hand, the Jinhao 100 Century is available in a myriad of colours and finishes.
 

The Yong Sheng brand, also known as Wing Sung, produces several product lines, some below the 10$ floor where it is possible to make a pen cheap yet usable and/or durable, and other luxurious (too expensive, if you ask me) lines with gold nibs over 150$. I found their intermediate models, around 25$, with 6xx numbers (from 601 to 699) especially satisfying. I never been disappointed with one of them. Their nibs are made of steel, while the barrels are made of the same materials as their more expensive gold offerings.
 

The quality control of PenBBS pen's is above average. It has nothing to envy the more reputable brands. However, contrarily to most people, I personally dislike the colours they tend chose for their otherwise above average CNC machined acrylics. Symmetrically, some Hong Dian metal models, especially those starting with 18xx that most people overlook, I found to be also of superior quality and I enjoy them a lot.

I've been often disappointed by the poor quality of Moonman/Majohn pens. Maybe it's only bad luck but I have several pen of that brand with defects like cross threading and not centered nib slits. However, some of their acrylics are my favourites.

In short, although you'll have to gain experience with Chinese brands on your own, at this stage I wouldn't worry so much overall reputations, generalizations, stereotypes and what you currently perceive as "red flags", especially low prices compared to Western and Japanese counterparts.

At the end, the only thing that matters is your own enjoyment. Have fun. Happy discoveries.

 

Excellent information. And thanks to everyone taking the time to respond here!

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It was explained to me from an eastern source/seller that the Kaweco/Moonman drama has kicked off more behind the scenes maneuvering. Other western manufacturers are trying to find ways to halt the flow but with so many streams for something so niche it is like trying to seal a dam with a sink plug. Considering all these pens are intended for the domestic market it is going to be hard to stop individual sellers from shipping pens out. This is not the flagship stores hanging their shingle. These are individual sellers with multiple online store fronts selling mass amounts of pens to individuals, not retailers or wholesalers. 

The price undercut versus the markup. The consumer may benefit still now that it is clear they have the various filling systems in hand to improve upon or just put in other models that cause less polarization outside the home market. Whether the domestic manufacturers care about outside sentiment when there is no internal pressure remains to be seen. These pens are not being made for western consumption.  

It is going to be an interesting 2022.

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well well ... the part with the whole fountain pen sector .. China , India , and less so but Japan too , still made pens as PENS , a tool to write with , now some of them write better than others, some had more styling and some are fashioned more ornate or better equipped, or better made .. but overall that is what most other fountain pen Mfr outside of Asia lacks , the are now selling fountain pen as fashion accessories more than selling them as a pen , or they are selling them as collectable / hobby items.

 

Consumers sooner or later would find out that both can be doing the part the others do equally well , a fairly cheap Hero 616Plus can equally be pen intended to be used , to do writing, as well as a pen for just collection and having as an accessories to go with the party. A limited edition Montblanc  usually are for collection and hoarding but that do not mean it will not write

 

Am not with the way Moonman and other Chinese Mfr cloning, or style copying something that's by others and current , but that's just me .. many consumer do not see it this way , its how consumer goods are in any case .. we can see many consumer goods effectively having the same design more or less even though they might come from different name and often than not even competing brands. That is already a fact burn into consumers world wide , unless one had something really really unique that can only claim yours and yours only, otherwise , the wider consuming public do not see it as anything wrong others doing the same styling or even having the same styling or design. We just had to go into any consumer electronic store and check the various appliance, gadgets, and gears ...

 

Chinese pens surely see some big advance and changes this last decades , the same can be said for Taiwanese fountain pens but the are on different route .. Taiwanese Mfr are more turning into Craftwork manufacturing instead of pen makers and Chinese brands are more into pen making and advancing the pens making itself. Both had valid market incentive to do so. What they present , yes , is good news to consumers world wide , but perhaps not to those western brand who basically are sitting on their names mostly.

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21 hours ago, Mech-for-i said:

Chinese pens surely see some big advance and changes this last decades , the same can be said for Taiwanese fountain pens but the are on different route .. Taiwanese Mfr are more turning into Craftwork manufacturing instead of pen makers and Chinese brands are more into pen making and advancing the pens making itself. Both had valid market incentive to do so. What they present , yes , is good news to consumers world wide , but perhaps not to those western brand who basically are sitting on their names mostly.


I didn't have the insight to notice it myself, but it is indeed the general trend. Nice synthesis, @Mech-for-i.

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On 12/19/2021 at 5:48 PM, jchch1950 said:

plastic used in some Twsbis but also almost everyone has had a reasonable response in obtaining replacement parts

i have nothing but praise for TWSBIs customer service - one of my Ecos suffered from the infamous cracked section issue and with restrictions to posting out of Taiwan, I let the issue slip my mind after an email to their customer service and paying for a replacement section in June 2020.  A replacement barrel appeared thanks to Pulp Addiction (an online retailer) in August this year along with an offer to refund my initial replacement costs, TWSBI had piggy backed my replacement along with the retailers orders.

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