So for a long time I've stuck with the classic fountain pens, Sheaffer and Parker and Waterman and the others. I'd seen the thousands of Jinhao fountain pens on eBay, and I always assumed they were junk, or at least poor quality. How in the world could they sell fountain pens from China for around $5 to $10 USD, including shipping? I decided to follow one of my own main mantras, "think for yourself," and I ordered a few. Why not? I picked up four of them for around $20. It took a long time for them to make their way to the U.S., between 3-5 weeks, but tracking information is provided, and once in a while I can sit back and drink a beer and see if a shipment has cleared through San Francisco. That is the key gateway, after which I can get excited about the arrival.
The long and short of what follows is that I was quite surprised by these pens. They are solid and balanced, with plenty of brass, and generally speaking they write very well right out of the box. If you forget any sort of stigma of a pen from China, these pens totally rock as daily writers. Read on for my experience with these pens.
The Jinhao pens pass my quick litmus test of quality for the following reasons:
- Weight is good
- Finishes are excellent
- Clips are tight
- Nibs are artistic and sprung properly 90% of the time
- Converters are included
- Caps clip on securely
The first pens I bought were the x450 series, and overall they may be my favorite.
I bought the medium and bold nibs, and I'm not sure I see a huge difference other than all the Jinhao pens I bought seem to write in the M/B range without being too wet and messy. To be honest I've come to prefer this because more metal on the paper generally results in smoother writing. I like fine nibs, but on lower-end pens fine nibs can be a gamble.
The x450 is, for me, the best value for the money. Good weight, a large nib, and some nice finger grips on the section. Sort of like mixing the comfort of a school pen with something more swanky.
Next up was the Jinhao x750. I like this one as well, though the style is a bit tame. At a whopping $2 more than the x450 I can't see much of a difference. The section is smooth and the lines are clean. A good writer. Just doesn't excite me very much. Note that on this one I had to run an X-acto blade down the slit once to increase the ink flow a bit. Nothing uncommon with new pens -- many of them have the tines too tight. After that it wrote great.
I guess the x250 would be on the low end of the scale at like $5. Again, not much difference in quality that I can see. I like these because they have the cool section ribbing. Balance is good, and the color/style selection is good. The nibs are smaller than on the x450 and x750, but not by a whole lot. These are closer to the #5 size, and I prefer the bigger nibs.
I had the most trouble with these, though still not much. The black one was pretty much good to go and works well. The golden one had a bum nib, with tines misaligned and a pit in one of the iridium balls. I aligned the tines, used a buffing wheel to work out most of the pit, and now it is a great writer. That one has a vacuum of some sort when posting the cap -- I have to twist it a few times to secure it in place -- but that isn't too bad. The black one posts fine. Not sure what is up with the tolerances that makes one of them hard to post.
The Springer Moment
Overall I'm extremely impressed with these pens and would recommend them to anyone wanting to try out fountain pens, or just to have durable daily writers. I find it comical that you could go into an office supply store and pay $5 to $10 on a junk disposable pen, or a boring Parker Jotter, or those pseudo-cool Tul things in OfficeMax. These pens give you a thousand times more value for the money, and they have matching rollerballs in almost every case. Plus I have to hand it to them for quality control. All but one of the pens had smooth nibs and great ink flow from the start. That is somewhat amazing in a world where around 50% of lower-level pens have poorly sprung nibs.