Jinhao 993 Shark Pen: First Impressions

Christmas has come and gone, which means it is time to review the pen-related gifts I received. I want to thank everyone kind enough to give me any gift, as I would not be able to keep this blog up and running without them.

A Chinese pen company, Jinhao manufactures many different models of affordable fountain pens. Among these is the 993 Shark Pen, a recent addition to the Jinhao collection. This instrument’s fun design and ridiculously affordable price make it a great everyday pen that one need not worry about losing.

The Shark pen is a sleek, lightweight plastic fountain pen. The screw-on cap features a low profile shark face and a small dorsal fin to keep the pen from rolling when placed on a surface. The body is a single plastic shell, the same color as the cap. Between these two pieces is the grip section, which is made of tinted, transparent plastic (on most color options). The grip section slopes slightly inwards towards the middle, with two inverted sections for the index and middle finger to rest in. This design allows for maximum comfort when writing. Underneath the cap is the hooded nib, the hood a matte-black plastic section that slopes down into the steel nib protruding from it. Because it is a hooded nib, it is quite small.

The inside of the pen is interesting. According to an outside source, this pen can, in fact, be turned into an eyedropper pen easily, which I intend to try in the next few days. From the factory, though, this pen comes with a converter. I was surprised to see this, as most pens within the price range of the Jinhao Shark Pen (around $4) will come with a single cartridge or be disposable.

Now for the packaging. I received a 12-pack of different colored shark pens, which came in a wide, cream-colored cardboard box with a shark and the Jinhao logo printed on the front. Inside of this box was another, almost exactly the same shape and size, but this time made of frosted plastic. The box contained twelve individual slots, each holding a single pen. Laid across the pens was a white foam board. The board was used to hold the pens in place as they traveled to my home. Overall, the packaging was what one should expect from a set of $4 fountain pens: It did its job, but was not much to present.

For its price, though, the shark pen performs quite well. The hooded nib writes smoothly enough and does not show even the faintest sign of skipping. As the nib is extra-fine, the lines that it puts down are thin and crisp. The nib is closer in flexibility to a nail than any other I have used as it is so small, but this reality is not necessarily a con. For those who like a stiffer nib, it is a great option. Additionally, the converter that comes with the pen holds a relatively large amount of ink.

My first impressions of the Jinhao 993 Shark Pen are, for the most part, very positive. It is a good writer, it is affordable, it looks fun, and it is very versatile. I give this pen four and a half stars, with a half-point missing simply because of the plastic (which tends to feel cheap in fountain pens.) For a $4 pen, though, it is one of the best I have used. I would recommend this pen to anyone looking to make their first eyedropper pen, as it is expendable at its low price, or to anyone looking for a fun, inexpensive starter pen. The Shark Pen is available here at Goulet Pens.

Signing Out,

Will

Pelikan M400 Fountain Pen

Pelikan is a company well known in the fountain pen world for manufacturing some of the nicest, most reliable pens available to purchase. Centered out of Germany, Pelikan makes many different types of writing instruments, from art pastels to fountain pens. The M400 is one of Pelikan’s higher end instruments, one that I was given the chance to purchase at a reduced price. I have only used it a few times as of now, so here are my first impressions.

First, for the appearance. The Pelikan M400 is a medium sized fountain pen with a cylindrical body. Above and below the body are two rings, one that separates the body from the grip section, and one that separates it from the knob of the piston filler. The cap is screw on, and posts easily over the piston to make up for the fact that the pen itself is on the shorter side. The M400 nib is a dual tone nib, with a brilliant gold towards the front of the nib and a chrome behind it. Engravings of the Pelikan symbol and some crisscrossing lines form a pattern on the nib. The pen is available in several different color options, including a gold striped body and white cap/grip section with gold trim, a green striped body with a black cap/grip section and gold trim, a blue striped body and black cap/grip section with gold trim, and a special edition tortoiseshell brown striped body with a black cap/grip section and gold trim, among some others. On the top of the cap is a gold circle engraved with the Pelikan symbol, a pelican feeding its young, and the clip of the pen is a forward facing pelican head.

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Now for the technical aspects. First, the filling system. In case anyone isn’t familiar with the iconic piston filler, I’ll lay it out right here. A piston filling system is a filling system in a fountain pen that utilizes the entire body as a house for the ink. It functions manually, as the user twists the end knob to extend the piston into the body until it is fully extended, and then twists in in the other direction to pull ink into the pen. The M400 piston system works like a charm, and the end knob does not come unscrewed if you post the cap. (which I do.) Because the body is translucent, if you hold the pen up to a light you can see the ink inside of the body, a beautiful and interesting feature. Additionally, the rivets above the grip, which is rather small, do not interfere at all with the writing experience, which is a major plus.

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Onto the performance. The M400’s nib is 14k gold, and at its price range you probably expect a smooth writing experience. Pelikan gold nibs are not just smooth, though. They’re butter. German nibs are known for their quality and smoothness, and Pelikan does not deviate from this reputation. The experience of writing with this pen is easily one of the smoothest that I have ever had. The medium nib is on the wetter side. As of  late December 2018, this pen has been sitting with ink in it for too long. After taking it out and trying it, there are no flow problems and no crusty ink. 

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I recommend the Pelikan M400 to anyone who is willing to spend a significant amount of money on a fountain pen or to anyone looking for a Pelikan pen to start out with. Do not purchase this pen for its retail price, $400! You can purchase it for $280 on multiple websites and at pen shows, which is the same price of the upgraded M200. Click here for the M400 on Pen Chalet.

Signing Out,

Will

Pilot-Namiki Falcon (Flex Nib, Fine) + Some Flexible Tips

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The Pilot Namiki Falcon is an interesting pen.
Flex nibs are both famous and infamous in the fountain pen world, known for their unprecedented ability to be carried around in a pocket while also being able to create beautiful calligraphy and to transform normal handwriting into artwork. Flex nibs are also known for inky messes, lots of smudging and skipping on paper, and, frankly, the fact that they are hard to use. While all of the latter facts can be true, there are numerous solutions. With a little practice and some tips, anyone can use a flex nib, and the Pilot Falcon is one of the best.

First off, let me talk a little about the Pilot Falcon pen itself. Afterwards I will address that flex nib issue and give some pointers. The Falcon is a flex nib fountain pen costing $152 (a little pricey, but very reasonable for a gold nibbed pen) that has a 14k gold nib available in extra-fine, fine, medium, and broad sizes, that comes either with a red body/chrome trim, black body/chrome trim, or black body/gold trim. It is a considerably light pen, weighing just over 18 grams. The Falcon uses a Pilot Con-50 converter, a standard Pilot converter, and can also take cartridges. *I will soon be constructing a blog post on how to fill pens (converters, cartridges, and piston mechanisms), so tune in for that!* The Falcon has a plastic body (or metal, but that’s a different pen). Writing with a Falcon is not smooth, but the experience should not be expected to be smooth, as it is a flex nib. The Falcon is a wonderful pen for anyone looking for a nice flex nib, perhaps a next level flex pen (after starter) or a starter gold nib fountain pen.
Link to Goulet Pens Falcon HERE.

Now for some flexible tips. First off, it is a wise idea to initiate your flex journey with an inexpensive flex nib to get a feel for what that are like, the best being the Noodler’s flex series (click HERE). Secondly, never press down to hard too try to get maximum flex when writing with a flex nib. It is not in anyone’s best interest to break a nib. Just be careful. Third, the myth that lefties can’t use flex nibs is a MYTH! Although it may be slightly harder for us folk, lefties possess the same ability as righties to wield this flexible weapon. A tip for lefties: try to teach yourself to be an underwriter (keep your hand underneath your nib when writing) if you are going to use flex nibs. It helps immensely. For more information, refer to this great new video series by Goulet Pens about lefties, called Left Out. And last, do some research! There are lots of great resources on the interweb about flex nibs, all of which are waiting to be checked out by a new flex nib user. Flex nibs are a whole new world, and I suggest that you venture into it.

Signing Out,
Will

Pilot Vanishing Point

Well.

I haven’t written a post in forever, and have been thinking of what to write about for a while. I’ve gotten a couple inks, tried some new pens, but most importantly, I purchased a new pen. This is one of my favorites so far, and as a relatively new pen collector, it was, frankly, a revelation.

The Pilot Vanishing Point is a fountain pen costing between $148 and $640 (depending on the model) and is a modern pen. With a thin, retractable nib and a push button mechanism, this is one of the only retractable fountain pens on the market that can be purchased for such a price. The clip is on the front of the pen, and the body is a normal pen width. The pen is a great, normal weight, and fits well in my hands. The body also comes in many, many colors, as does the nib, which is 18 karat gold and can be gold, chrome, or even black. Now for the specifics.

Nib:

The Pilot Vanishing Point has a slim, 18 karat gold nib. The nib color is dependent on the body color, although you can get replacement nib sections (I will cover that in a minute) in any color you like for $80. The nibs come in extra-fine, fine, medium, broad, and even a 1.1 mm stub that I have heard is great. I have one completely adequate word to describe this nib: smooth. Having never really used a gold nib before, this feels incredible on the paper, gliding across effortlessly. It is firm for a gold nib (having used flex nibs before) but is surprisingly flexible for its size. I have Noodler’s Apache Sunset ink in this pen right now, and it writes beautifully. After some days of not being used, though, the ink dries out.

Nib Section: 

The Vanishing Point Nib section is quite interesting. In order to have a retractable pen, you need to have a refill section that can move up and down inside of the pen in order to have the nib go in and out. For a fountain pen, this is more difficult.  The Vanishing point nib section is about 3/4 the length of the pen, and is, for the most part, a converter attached to a metal section which is holding the nib. The converter is a Pilot Con-50, a clear plastic twist converter, which can be removed from the nib section with a little bit of tugging. The nib section itself is a metal tube, the bottom half about 3/4 the circumference of the top half (see picture below) which holds in the nib. At the top of the nib section where the converter goes in, there is a small piece of metal jutting out, which fits into a notch in the body. This is so that the nib is aligned the correct way inside of the pen, and can emerge when the mechanism is clicked.

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Converter/Cartridge

There is not much to say about Vanishing Point’s converter. The Vanishing point can take a Con-20, Con-40, or the standard Con-50. The 40 is available here at Goulet pens. These converters have 4 small metal balls in them, and are all twist. Pilot Converters do not hold a substantial amount of ink, so if you are going to be writing for long periods of time, you might want to carry and ink bottle with you (or use a portable inkwell). If using a disposable cartridge, there is a metal cap included with the pen that you can put on top of the converter as to be able to click the pen without destroying the plastic of the cartridge.

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Body & Everything else:

The Vanishing Point is a medium weight, noticably heavier than a Platinum Preppy (which will now be my go to light pen, a great starter fountain pen) but not as heavy as some metal pens available. My Vanishing Point is the navy blue and black matte, which is just one of the many colors available (as well as some limited editions available at points, keep an eye out for the 2018 one). The Vanishing Point has a relatively standard width for a fountain pen, with a diameter of about 1/2 inch. The matte texture feels wonderful in the hand, and is not too slippery. The button on the back of the pen is about an inch long, which is very, very long in comparison to some retractable ballpoint pens. The pen unscrews in the middle in order to access the converter and refill the pen. One of the sole downsides to this pen is that on the matte body, a hand that is even remotely moist will leave large fingerprints on the pen that will linger for about 30 seconds, which can be a little slippery and are, frankly, annoying. This Vanishing Point is actually one of the most leak free pens to carry in a pocket, because the clip is on the top of the pen near the nib, and the pen is carried with the nib hole up in the pocket.

Packaging:

The Vanishing Point comes in a fake leather cardboard box with a clear plastic window on the top. Inside is a soft plastic fur and elastic bands to hold it.

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Pros and Cons:

Pros:

-Leak Free (mostly)

-Looks Great

-Retractable fountain pen!

-Good price

-Nice nib (smooth, a bit of flex)

-Great weight

-Lots of color and size options

Cons:

-Very Small Ink Capacity

-Susceptible to ink drying (as all pens are, but this one seems to be especially susceptible)

-Fingerprints are annoying (on matte models)

Overall, I give the Pilot Vanishing Point 4.5 stars for having many pros and just a few cons, and serving me very well. The price is very, very reasonable for being retractable as well as having an 18 karat gold nib, and everything else seems to work perfectly. I recommend this pen to anyone looking for a starter gold nib pen with a fun twist.

See you next time.

-Will

 

TWSBI Mini AL Gold Demonstrator Fountain Pen

TWSBI is a well known fountain pen company offering advanced filling systems (Vacuum and Piston) at lower prices than most companies offering the same systems. The TWSBI Mini AL Gold Fountain pen is a wonderful little thing. At around $65, you can get it here at Jetpens or here at Amazon, but jump on the chance to get it if you like the sound of the pen, because it’s a limited edition!

The TWSBI Mini Al comes in a neat little clear plastic case, set into a nice holder behind an elevated step with the TWSBI name and symbol on it. If you take out the white part of the case with the step, there are two things inside underneath, a bottle of silicone grease and a TWSBI wrench. Both serve a purpose. TWSBI is of the mindset that you should learn to fix your own pen and take care of it, which is really interesting, and makes it that much more fun. The silicone grease is to lubricate the pen if it needs lubricating and is to be used much later in the pen life, not right away. The wrench is for twisting things off, primarily the piston mechanism. Both are a fun little collectible if you don’t end up using them, and useful if you do. To get the pen out of it’s case, you just remove the two clear arches that are holding it in from the white base, and lift the pen! A very interesting feature of this pen is that the trim rings actually fit into the holder in the case it comes in, so the trim rings actually serve a purpose.

 

The TWSBI Mini AL is a small fountain pen, as the name implies, and is great for pocket carry on an everyday basis. The cap screws on the front of the pen over the nib and screws on over the piston knob to post, which is convenient and reduces worry of the cap messing with the piston. The pen is a demonstrator, meaning the body is made primarily out of clear material, allowing the user to see all of the inner workings of the pen. The gold accents in the pen compliment the mostly transparent body, producing a clean and modern look. The gold accents include the grip and the piston. One feature of this pen might seem unnecessary at first, but it may grow on you. The barrel not circular like many other TWSBI models, but is made of long, narrow diamonds, rounded on the edges. This is barely noticeable at the outset but you may start to appreciate it as you use the pen more. The clip is a simple silver, nothing to talk about. After a little bit of wear and tear, though, the clip can come loose. On top of the cap there is a red and silver TWSBI symbol embedded in transparent plastic, which creates a really interesting and clean look. In terms of feel, the pen is not too slippery around the grip and it is light, but not overly lightweight. The ink capacity is fairly high because it is piston fill (as you can see below) but not a large as a full sized pen like a 540.

 

Now for the nib. The Mini, like all TWSBI pens, has a steel nib, which actually appears to have smaller shoulders than other TWSBI models like the Diamond 540. The nib comes in Extra Fine, Fine, Medium, Broad, or 1.1 mm stub. All are good choices, I am writing the first draft of this post with the EF, and it feels good. The nib is quite flexible for a non-flex, and if you really want it, you can get some line variation. I used Pelikan Purple Ink with this pen, and works well.

 

Pros:

-Looks Great

-Writes smoothly

-Great for pockets

-Good weight

-Good Ink Capacity

-Affordable

-Cap posts easily over the piston knob

Cons:

-Not the very smoothest writing experience (with EF nib)

-Clip comes loose easily

Overall, I give this pen 4.5 stars for being a quality pen and working well. I like the feel, the looks, and the way it writes. It also comes in a great case that you can use to store it. I recommend it to anyone looking for a nice fountain pen, better than a starter pen, that is great for everyday use and pocket carry, but also to impress people with it’s smooth looks. Great for anyone that does not want to spend a boatload of money on a pen but wants a good looking, well functioning fountain pen to write with.

 

TWSBI Eco 1.1 mm Stub Nib Demonstrator Fountain Pen

Attention Reader: A pros and cons and quick overview is at the bottom of the page for someone who doesn’t want to read the entire article.

TWSBI is a well know fountain pen company offering advanced filling systems (Vacuum and Piston) at lower prices than most companies offering the same systems. At $30, the TWSBI Eco is available here on Amazon and here on Jetpens, and is one of the highest quality pens you can get for under $50. The stub nib is a fun bonus that you can get with an Eco. Not many companies offer stub nib fountain pens anymore, so getting one for this price is a great deal. Stub nibs are fountain pen nibs that are ground flat on the end as opposed to round, so that writing horizontally will create thin lines, and writing vertically will create thicker lines. The writing tends to look like calligraphy, which is a very cool effect. Stubs are great if you are writing a special letter or writing something special in general, but are not as intended for everyday writing. Nonetheless, they can be used for everyday writing if the grind is to your liking.

The Eco also comes as a demonstrator, which is a clear fountain pen that displays the inner workings. A piston filler, you twist the back of the pen (where the cap would be posted) to extend the piston all of the way down in the pen, insert the entire nib into a bottle of ink, and retract the piston back up, drawing ink into the pen. This and a vacuum filler mechanism both grant a much higher ink capacity, and the Eco is no exception. You can see in the picture below that there is a huge amount of ink in there. Once your ink of choice is in the pen, you start writing. It is a smooth stub. You might see some shading, (color variation in ink) in the vertical lines as they are thicker, which is really interesting and satisfying. The pen feels very light in the hand (it depends on opinion whether this is a pro or con) and the grip is slightly slick. The cap does post onto the back of the pen, but you need to be careful that you don’t turn the piston mechanism, as ink will spurt out of the nib, causing pools and puddles on the paper. It posts with more of a click, not a twist, but it does not have a definite snap. It’s more of an unsure clunk onto the black, not a friction fit but not a click or magnet. The TWSBI symbol is on the back of the hexagonal cap in red.

Overall pros and cons:

Pros:

-Huge Ink Capacity

-Inexpensive ($30)

-Writes Well

-Comes with a stub nib

-Demonstrator lets you see the inner workings

Cons:

-Slick Grip

-Unsatisfying Cap Posting

-Need to take extra caution not to expel ink from the nib with the piston system

-Very lightweight (depends if this is a pro or con)

Rating: 4.5 Stars

I recommend it for people looking for a good pen to start their fountain pen experience or looking for a fun pen to play around with/demonstrator. it is also a good stub for beginners in calligraphy.

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Lamy Vista

The Lamy Vista fountain pen is an affordable, durable, and well writing fountain pen that is good for beginners. Costing roughly $25, the Vista is a clear plastic demonstrator fountain pen that has the same design as the popular Lamy Safari and the Lamy AL-Star.  On the body of the pen are two windows that show the color of the cartridge better then the clear pen does. These windows have no material in them, they are just open. The grip section is round with two flat areas where you place your thumb and index finger while writing. This creates an incredibly comfortable grip that I absolutely love. The nib is not very flexible, and with an extra fine nib, the lines written by this pen are incredibly clear and crisp. I found two downsides to this pen. First, without the cap posted, the pen is unbearably light. For me, I despise writing with light pens, and if that is the same with you, you should keep the cap posted at all times. Second, the ink in the nib leaks constantly. I have only seen the nib clean once, and that was right after I opened the box. Fortunately, this does not mess with the writing quality, it just makes the nib look bad. These are small downsides, though, and  they don’t really matter that much. The clip is a long, heavy duty wire that is stretched into a long, half oval shape. This makes a modern looking nib that is quite effective. Overall, I give this pen four stars. I do recommend it to beginners, but if you are not a beginner buy other pens before this one.  FullSizeRender (23)FullSizeRender (22)FullSizeRender (18)