Sunday, March 29, 2015

Epic Pen Search and Discovery, Part 10: The Unworthy and the Incomplete

Top to bottom: Jinhao 599A "Safari," Lanbitou, Zebra Comic G flexible nib
(This is part of a multi-post series about my ongoing search for the ultimate variable-line-width fountain pen. To read other posts in the series, choose “Epic Pen Search” in the label cloud at right, below.) 

The spirit of my blog has always been to post the less-than-successful sketches right along with the ones I’m pleased with because the point is to document the process – not to present a portfolio of only the “best.” With that same attitude, and in the interest of being complete, I’ll briefly summarize here a few other pens I tried that weren’t even worth writing complete reviews of. The last item is a Frankenpen experiment that has yet to be completed. (If anything eventually results, I’ll report back.)

Jinhao 599A “Safari” calligraphy fountain pen: This pen, purchased for about $5 on eBay (including shipping from China), is probably the single-most worthless fountain pen I’ve owned. (The bold and shameless pirating being displayed in the product’s name doesn’t surprise me.) Ironically, its bent, fude-like nib isn’t half bad. It doesn’t have the same range of line variation as my Sailor fude, of course, but it’s smooth and has a decent flow. The immediate deal-breaker is that the body and section won’t stay screwed together! I’ll write a couple of words or scribbles, and the pen continually unscrews itself. Into the trash it goes.

Lanbitou calligraphy nib fountain pen: Purchased on eBay for about $7 (including shipping from China), this pen was one I learned about from someone in the Seattle Pen Club who also has an interest in variable-line-width nibs for writing western calligraphy. Like the previously mentioned Jinhao “Safari,” the Lanbitou has a decent fude-like nib. In fact, I’d say it’s comparable to the Sailor fude in terms of line variation. The body isn’t bad, either (for seven bucks). However, it sometimes goes dry after only a day or two of idle time, and it displays (sometimes profuse) leakage every time I open it. Another one for the trash.

I don’t like to make sweeping generalizations such as “you get what you pay for” and evaluate fountain pens by price. After all, the Pilot Petit1 and Platinum Preppy, which can be purchased for about $3 to $4 each, are stellar examples of amazingly high quality pens for the price. But in the case of those Chinese pens, $5 is overpriced: You get even less than what you paid for.

2/26/15 Private Reserve Velvet Black ink, Petit1 pen, Canson XL
Zebra Comic G nib: Putting the Franklin-Christoph music nib on a Jinhao X450 pen body was my first foray into making Frankenpens. My second was going to be putting a Zebra Comic G nib on the same Jinhao. The Zebra G is a flexible nib designed for dip pens that people are putting onto the Jinhao – creating a fountain pen with dip pen flexibility! A quick search on Amazon showed that the price of the Zebra G nibs is 10 for $10. Let’s see – five bucks for the Jinhao and another buck for the nib. Six bucks for a flexible-nib fountain pen (and nine nibs left over for my friends)? I’m in!

Unfortunately, it wasn’t that simple. Although the Jinhao was supposed to be a compatible body for the Zebra G, no amount of finagling on my part would make the two work together. The curve of the nib is tighter than that of the Jinhao’s feed, so although the feed would be full of ink, the contact with the nib wasn’t sufficient to fill the nib. I had the same problem with the Nemosine body that fit the Christoph nib so well. Apparently people have been filing away the sides of the feed and making other modifications to force the Zebra G nib to fit. I could do that too, I suppose, but frankly, I’ve lost interest. When I want a flexible nib, I’m happy with my Pilot Falcon.

(Updated 4/21/15: Ive decided that a fountain pen body for the Zebra G is worth pursuing after all! Its a fabulous nib.)

You can tell that this series is drawing to a close, can’t you? I won’t even make you wait until next week.

(Just in case it’s not obvious, unlike many blogs that review fountain pens, my blog has no sponsors or affiliates. Every pen I mention here was purchased by me at retail price.)

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