Sunday, December 20, 2015

Baoer 507 fountain pen review

It's hard to believe I bought the Baoer 507 fountain pen over a year ago. It's been sitting ever since, patiently waiting its turn to be reviewed. Here it is, finally. I've been wanting to try it the moment I laid hands on its substantial heft, but kept delaying it.

Baoer 507 Fountain Pen

What is the Baoer 507?

The Baoer 507 is a fountain pen made by the Chinese Baoer company. If you're wondering how to pronounce "Baoer", you're not the only one. Is it bauer? Bower? Maybe someone can clear this up for me.

Baoer 507 Fountain Pen

Either way, Baoer is one of those Chinese brands (apart from Jinhao) which I'd heard of before. So one evening, while fishing for fountain pen deals on eBay, I came across this magnificent specimen featuring a copper embossed barrel. I placed a bid for $2.50 and promptly forgot about it. When the auction ended, I found myself with a $2.50 pen, including shipping. Delivery from China took a while, but I wasn't in any hurry.

Was the Baoer 507 worth my $2.50? You'll find out soon enough but I can tell you this much: it's some of the best $2.50 I've spent.


As with the Jinhao 599 before it, I don't remember if it came in a (cardboard) box or not. If it did, I must have thrown it away. For $2.50 I don't have any expectations as far as packaging.

Body, construction, and dimensions

The Baoer 507's main feature is its actual copper barrel, embossed with horses, Chinese characters, and other flourishes. It's obviously garish but also very Chinese. Not everyone's cup of tea, I'm sure. I wanted it when I saw it, for the novelty factor.

Apart from that, there's a piano-black plastic cap with golden band, finial and clip, as well as a butt-end from the same plastic material.

Here are the Baoer 507's dimensions:
Length capped: 135 mm / 5.4 in
Length uncapped: 122 mm / 4.8 in
Length posted: 165 mm / 6.5 in
Cap length: 57 mm / 2.25 in

Here are the weights for the Baoer 507, compared to other fountain pens I've tested:
Baoer 507 (with cap) - 34.6 g - 1.22 oz
Baoer 507 (without cap) - 21.7 g - 0.76 oz
Jinhao 599 (with cap) - 17.8g - 0.63oz
Jinhao 599 (without cap) - 10.5g - 0.37oz
Pilot Vanishing Point (with cartridge and blind cap) - 30.5g - 1.08oz
TWSBI 530 (no ink) - 25.7g - 0.91oz
Lamy AL-Star (with converter) - 21.8g - 0.77oz
Noodler's Ahab (no ink) - 18.8g - 0.66oz
Pilot Prera (with converter) - 16.1g - 0.56oz

Right off the bat you'll notice 2 things: its dimensions are very similar to the Jinhao 599 (an all-plastic pen) at double the weight. Its weight, in fact, is even greater than the Pilot Vanishing Point. This makes the Baoer 507 a very hefty pen indeed.

In terms of construction, the Baoer 507 seems to be pretty well built. There are no seams or rough edges, and everything is put together nicely. The piano-black finish is slick, while the golden trim doesn't look cheap, although it is a little more than I like.

Baoer 507 Finial

The main attraction is the copper embossed body and I think it matches the piano-black cap and end piece rather well, though I'm not so sure about the gold accents around the cap. The barrel isn't exactly naked copper, instead seems to be covered in a thin layer of lacquer or some such.

Baoer 507 Emboss

The cap features a gold metal band at either end, as well as a gold finial and a gold clip resembling those found on Pelikan pens. The gold band near the finial has "BAOER" inscribed.

Baoer 507 Cap

The cap is a snap-on affair and I'm particularly impressed by how securely and authoritatively it snaps shut. This cap won't come off accidentally. The downside is that it's hard for me to pop the cap off with one hand by holding the barrel in the hand and pushing with my thumb against the bottom of the clip. The reason is that the clip ends in a sharp point that will pierce the skin of my thumb before the cap breaks contact.

Speaking of the clip, it is rather stiff, with some pretty strong tension in it. While it is very secure clipped to a shirt pocket, it's not easy to clip it using one hand. Due to that tension, and how the clip makes contact with the cap (via a tiny metal ball), you will need to spread it apart using your other hand. Well, at least it won't come off easily.

How about posting the cap? Some pens work well posted, while others are better unposted. The Baoer 507 feels very well balanced in my hand, without posting the cap.

Baoer 507 In Hand Un-Posted

Due to the heavy weight of the pen itself, I found that posting the cap disturbs the balance and makes it top-heavy, so that doesn't work for me.

Baoer 507 In Hand Posted

If you are still determined to post the cap, you'll be happy to know that it posts very securely on the end. The butt seems to be very well designed with this intent, and while the cap is secured via friction, it's a tight but smooth fit.

The Baoer 507 comes with an international piston converter. I will use this opportunity to once again express my displeasure with higher-regarded brands who refuse to include converters with their significantly more expensive pens.

Baoer 507 Fountain Pen Parts

One last thing I'd like to direct your attention to in the picture above is the metal threads of the section. Yeah, this thing is sturdy.

The nib

My Baoer 507 has a medium/fine nib, and it's quite pretty in two-tone iridium-gold. I'm not sure I fancy the font they used to inscribe "BAOER", though. There's no nib thickness designation. Also, I'm fairly sure the nib isn't real gold. Just saying.

Baoer 507 Fountain Pen Nib & Section

The section is black plastic with lengthwise grooves. While this marginally improves the grip, I think I would have preferred a glossy section. The section ends in a necked down gold ring/fitting.

Unfortunately I didn't think to take pictures of the feed, and it's pretty late at this point in the review, but you're not missing much. The feed is a standard finned plastic affair, nothing to get excited about. It does its job well enough.

But does it write?

I'm happy to say that I hit the jackpot with the Baoer 507. The nib is a hard nail, without any flex, but it writes very well and very smoothly.

Baoer 507 Fountain Pen sample

While the nib isn't marked, it feels to me like an Asian medium or a European fine/extra fine.

I loaded the Baoer 507's converter with Noodler's Heart of Darkness (my go-to ink for testing fountain pens) and it doesn't skip one bit. The pen and the ink are a very good match.

Once, I left the 507 unused for 5 days and it wouldn't start again. Priming it by twisting the piston and soaking the feed with some ink got it started again and it wrote without skipping a beat ever since. It looks like with regular use (daily or every other day) it won't dry out, which is pretty good, on par with pens 1-2 orders of magnitude more expensive. This tells me that the cap has a pretty decent seal.

Baoer 507 Fountain Pen sample

Bottom line is that the Baoer 507 writes a lot better than both the Jinhao X750 and the Jinhao 599 I tested previously, and almost as well as the Pilot Metropolitan. Now obviously, it's all in the luck of the draw. The problem with cheap pens is that quality control is hit-and-miss. So you might get lucky and score a sweet-writing nib, or less lucky with an atrocious nib, as was the case with the Jinhao X750. But for $2.50 it's worth the gamble.

Final words

I am pleasantly surprised by the Baoer 507. I bought it for the novelty factor of the copper embossed barrel, never expecting it to perform worth a damn. Well, it obviously exceeded my very low expectations, and then some! You just can't get a real fountain pen (with a metal body, tight construction, piston converter, and decent nib) for much lower than $2.50.

Baoer 507 Fountain Pen Uncapped

I highly recommend trying one, if the style appeals to you. You could try to snag one on eBay for close to nothing but with a long delivery time, or you could do me a small kindness and buy one from my Amazon affiliate link (I get a tiny commission of the sale with no cost to you) at a higher cost and potentially faster delivery, though it might still arrive from China.

Baoer 507 Fountain Pen Uncapped

Below is the full, unobscured writing sample for your perusal.

Baoer 507 Fountain Pen sample

Monday, December 14, 2015

OT: Stuff - how much is enough?

Some of you may have noticed that I haven't posted an ink or fountain pen review in quite a while. I even announced, some time ago, that I was taking a break from the whole thing. I'd reached my burnout point, after more than 4 years of doing this. It's surprising to me that it lasted so long.

You see, I'm "cursed" with both curiosity and the fascination for, well, almost everything. This means that I acquire new hobbies like a stray dog picks up fleas. Which is not as bad as it sounds, obviously. I happen to think curiosity is very healthy, and hobbies, as long as they don't affect others negatively, are generally a good thing. But while some people can stick with 1-2 hobbies all their lives, I am drawn to so many different ones, that sometimes it becomes overwhelming.

You might notice the OT (off-topic) in the title of this post. That's because sometimes I just feel like going off on a tangent, not necessarily bound by the topic of this blog - pens and inks - and this happens to be one of the few places where I can openly express myself on these subjects. So far, I have resisted talking about anything other than pens and inks. I've noticed that other stationery-inclined folks will blog/tweet/instagram on a variety of unrelated subjects but apart from Instagram (where I've been known to post random pictures), I've tried to keep it "clean". Until now, that is. Gradually, I will be changing the format a little, allowing for more diverse topics, but generally still focused on pens and inks. After all, I'm sure most of us have other interests outside the subject of this blog. Hopefully some of these will resonate with you.

I started the fountain pen hobby over 4 years ago, at a point in my life where I realized that I could (and I should) indulge in some of the finer pleasures of life. To be honest, most people don't realize or appreciate the value of a fountain pen, even the most inexpensive one. They will be happy to write with the same wretched 2-cent ballpoint all the way to their grave. Me, I always held fountain pens in high regard. I was fortunate enough to learn how to write in a time and place where fountain pens were mandatory, and words were laid on paper in cursive.

For many years thereafter, for lack of personal resources, I succumbed to the dreadful ballpoint pen. The highlights of my handwriting "career" (or rather my school years) were few and far between, and consisted of short intervals when I managed to get my hands on an ink rollerball pen (one of the best ones, that I still love to this day, is the Pilot Precise V5). When I discovered fountain pens, many, many, years later, in my boundless enthusiasm I started this blog.

Now, many fountain pen enthusiasts are also avid collectors, and they will cheerfully spend hundreds and thousands of dollars on fountain pens. I'm a little different. Being generally thrifty, I don't like to spend a lot of money on stuff that I don't get to use. Sadly (or not), my profession does not require much writing, so I'm not able to make use of more than 2-3 pens at a time (even that is a stretch).

Another side of the hobby is the addiction aspect. Any hobby can turn into an obsession, and I don't want it to become that, for me. There's a little obsessive-compulsiveness in me, that I try to control. I have collected stuff in the past (stamps, for example) but I can't let it control me, because that is a distinct possibility. Some collections can never be completed, and that might end up driving me to distraction, which is not something I want.

You might begin to understand why I haven't, so far, accumulated a vast collection of fountain pens. If I had, most of them would sit unused, after the initial review. At the same time, you might understand why I'm not very keen on spending too much on fountain pens, while fully aware that quality increases with price. More than anything, I prefer value for money, and that's one of the reasons why a TWSBI is such a great bang for your buck.

Same goes for inks. While I enjoy the fantasy of owning shelves upon shelves filled with the best (and most colorful) inks money can buy, the reality is that I consume very little ink in my day-to-day routine. I already regret a lot of my bottled inks, when I could have bought a whole lot of ink samples for the money. Once I discovered ink samples, though, my desire to own a full bottle subsided to almost nothing. I'm convinced that the bottled inks I already own will last me the rest of my life, provided they don't dry out.

And yet, I am still drawn to certain fountain pens, and even more so, to inks I haven't tried yet. Sometimes I toy with the idea of buying just one more pen (that I don't really need). Just the other day I was ready to pull the trigger on two pens I'd wanted for a while. Good thing I paid heed to the rational side of my brain, which hinted I'd be $100 poorer and not necessarily happier.

Pens and inks are just one facet of this desire for more stuff. You might call it materialism and perhaps even despise it, but there's no denying that things - stuff - make a lot of us feel good, if not downright happy.

I mean, think about it. How many of us wished for this or that doodad when they were younger and barely had 2 cents to their name? Later, when you became financially independent, did you satisfy some of those youthful desires? I know I did. One of them was the desire to own a few decent fountain pens. Another (which I actually fulfilled in recent months) was to own a certain style of watch. I know I wanted that type of watch for almost 20 years, but always found it out of my reach. Then came a day when it finally came within reach, and I took the opportunity.

There are many more examples like that. Slowly, I've satisfied a lot of these cravings - relics from a past when I had too little to my name. Interestingly, one of the things that to this day I refuse to dabble into, is Lego. I grew up playing with a few Lego sets but always wanted more. As an adult, I could afford all the Lego I wanted, but I'm staying well away from that particular rabbit hole. I mean, what harm is there in buying a Lego X-Wing? But then I'd also want a TIE Fighter and the holy grail of Lego Star Wars, the Millenium Falcon. And why stop there? There are countless vehicles from the original trilogy that I would love to build and display. I can afford to fantasize about this occasionally, but then reality sets in and forces me to admit that I'd probably get bored of these sets soon after I finished building them.

Backpedaling a little to watches... I'll admit I have a thing for watches. Not smartwatches - I detest those. Not luxury watches either - I can't afford them and they don't appeal to me anyway. What I like is functional watches. I only have 2, but the cheapest one (a Casio PRW-3500 - great watch if you love the outdoors; it saved my bacon twice when I was lost in the mountains) costs more than my most expensive fountain pen. Truth be told, I would love to buy more watches. I wear a watch daily, and I feel naked without it. At the same time, I'm painfully aware that I'm not really the type to wear a new watch every day. Even my outdoors watch gets very infrequent use. So I've decided that I'll keep adding watches I fancy to my Amazon wishlist, but at the same time I'll keep wearing what I already have, until the day when one of them dies, or I decide to sell.

So when do you decide you have enough stuff? I think I've reached (or am very close to) saturation point. In the year 2015 I've tapered off on gadget/doodad/widget purchases. I'm trying to get all the mileage I can from the stuff I already own. Take my phone, for example. In today's fast-moving tech lifestyle, a 2-year phone is ancient. Yet, I decided to squeeze as much as I can from it, for at least another year, or hopefully until it croaks on its own. The phone is as fast as the day I bought it, and apart from a couple of features that new phones have, it runs great. So I'm not gonna change it any time soon.

I'm aware that some people enjoy the minimalist lifestyle. They have very few material possessions, and their homes look sterile. I respect that, I really do. While that's not exactly my cup of tea, I've been thinking lately about ways in which to simplify my own life, first by refraining from buying stuff I don't really need, and second by getting rid of some of the stuff I'm not using anymore.

Slowly, I've been selling some of the things that have been gathering dust. I can tell you that it's kind of eye-opening to receive a fraction of what I paid for that thing, new. I guess it's better than the alternative - which is to hold on to it forever, and not using it.

I'm going to end this here, not before apologizing for the wall of text and my incoherent ramblings on random subjects. It feels, in a way, therapeutic. I wanted to get this off my chest for a while and I think I just did.

For those of you expecting more pen-and-ink related articles, I hope I won't disappoint you, because I have some new material in the works. A keen eye will notice, in the images accompanying this post, a couple of fountain pens that I haven't reviewed yet. One of them is slated to be reviewed very soon, while the second will arrive some time after the new year. Apart from that, I'm still planning to redo some of my old ink reviews. When all that is accomplished, I believe I might be on track for some brand new ink reviews.

So stay tuned and, if you've read this far, thanks for indulging me!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Noodler's Gruene Cactus Eel ink review 2015 edition

In the off-chance this review sounds familiar to you, let me tell you that I have, in fact reviewed Noodler's Gruene Cactus Eel way back in 2011 at the beginnings of this blog, which puts it more than 4 1/2 years back. The current review isn't about an updated ink formula, or a new bottle I purchased. It's simply an update to the original review, to put it in line with my current (2015) format for ink reviews, as far as the writing samples are concerned.

My ink reviews have understandably evolved since I started this blog and I've decided to re-do some of the inks for which I bought whole bottles. Since the reviews are essentially the same, I will just add some updated impressions, and showcase the 2015 edition of the writing samples.

Without further ado, here are my impressions of Noodler's Gruene Cactus Eel, in 2015. This time the ink went into my flagship fountain pen, the Pilot Vanishing Point with broad nib, and it's a good match, as you'll read below.

Noodler's Gruene Cactus Eel shading

Right off the bat, I was impressed with how smoothly Gruene Cactus Eel felt in the Pilot VP. Whether it's the broad nib or the better-than-average lubricating properties of the ink, it makes for very smooth writing indeed.

While in my initial review I was pretty ambivalent about the shade of green, this time I felt a much greater attraction to it and I really enjoy it now. The broad nib also helps bring out the excellent shading, which is always a plus. I have a vague suspicion that sitting in a bottle for > 4 years helped "mature" the ink, though I don't know how accurate that is.

I've been using Gruene Cactus Eel in the Pilot Vanishing Point for almost a couple of months now, refilling the converter as I run out, and I like it so much that I don't really feel like trying another ink for the moment. I've also noticed that it doesn't really dry out in the Pilot VP, nor does it skip. I've had skipping issues with other inks in the VP, to the point where I was afraid that there was something wrong with the nib unit, but Gruene Cactus Eel belies that.

This time I managed to do a comparison with other green inks I've tested over the years, so here's Noodler's Gruene Cactus Eel compared to Noodler's Hunter Green, Noodler's Marine Green, and Noodler's Green.

Noodler's Gruene Cactus Eel vs Hunter Green vs Marine Green vs Green

You'll notice how the latter 2 are more "foresty", while Gruene Cactus does, indeed, resemble a cactus, being lighter. I still prefer the darker greens, but the shading is excellent for all 3 inks mentioned.

My 2015 conclusion is that I enjoy Noodler's Gruene Cactus Eel a lot more the second time around, but I'm sure the pen also makes a huge difference. The water resistance is still a sore point but whacha gonna do now.

So here are the updated writing samples on photocopy, and Clairefontaine 90g paper, respectively.

Noodler's Gruene Cactus Eel on photocopy

Noodler's Gruene Cactus Eel on Clairefontaine

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Noodler's Bernanke Blue ink review

This, my friends, will be my last new ink review for a good while. I have reached the last of my ink samples and, after blogging about fountain pens and inks for more than 4 years, I will be taking a break from it all to focus on other, unrelated, projects.

I wish I could say I saved the best ink for last, but alas it's not the case. My opinion of Noodler's Bernanke Blue started out on a very positive note but quickly plummeted as I continued to use it in my Pilot Vanishing Point with broad nib.

Noodler's Bernanke Blue with Pilot VP

Bernanke Blue (leaving aside the attempted political statement) is yet another specialty ink in Noodler's seemingly unending arsenal of "curiosities". This particular ink's strength is the ability to dry extremely quickly on paper. If this ink was conceived as quickly as it dries, I can begin to understand why it is so bad otherwise.

I could just tell you to stop reading at this point and simply skip this ink, but if you're curious to find out why I didn't like it, keep reading.

Bottle and pricing

Bottle capacity: 90 ml / 3 oz
Price: $12.50
Price / ml: $0.14

Color and saturation

The only positive thing about Noodler's Bernanke Blue (it's all downhill from here) is the gorgeous blue color. It's saturated and vibrating, resembling Baystate Blue to an extent, except a bit subdued. When I first started writing with it I thought "Wow, this is going to be an amazing ink!". Sigh. If only.

Here is Bernanke Blue compared to Noodler's Baystate Blue and Private Reserve Electric DC Blue, two blue inks that are fairly similar in vibrancy and saturation.

Noodler's Bernanke Blue vs Noodler's BSB vs PR Electric DC Blue


Despite what you might see in the comparo above, Noodler's Bernanke Blue is flat, without shading, when written with a fountain pen.


Here's where the problems start. This ink feathers like crazy on cheap paper. It goes, in fact, a little beyond that, because it feels like writing on blotting paper. It just goes right through the paper and spreads evenly in all directions.


If you thought feathering was a problem, wait till you see how it bleeds. I've never seen an ink penetrate cellulose as strongly as Bernanke Blue. It feels almost exactly like one of those alcohol-based felt-tip markers (the Pilot VP's broad nib helps).

The sample below was written on Clairefontaine 90g paper, in other words very good, thick, fountain pen-friendly paper, which has withstood everything I threw at it - until now. This ink penetrated not only through what you see, but in places where I pressed harder it went through the next sheet. I did use a broad nib, which partly contributes to this state of affairs, but still...

Noodler's Bernanke Blue bleed

Flow, lubrication, and smoothness

While initially Bernanke Blue flowed well and was very smooth, it quickly became apparent that I was having issues with the Pilot Vanishing Point. There were hard starts to be had, as well as a lot of skipping. It got so frustrating that I simply cleaned out the pen despite not being empty, then threw out the remaining ink from the sample vial.

Drying time

The flagship feature of Noodler's Bernanke Blue is its very short drying time. So how did that go? Quite well in fact. On cheap paper it dries virtually immediately, within 1-2 seconds. On Clairefontaine 90g it took about 1 second longer but that's still fairly short. Impressive? Well, it's oh-kay, but unfortunately this one "trick" doesn't make up for all the other drawbacks.

Smearing when dry


Water resistance

Another disaster. In what is quite atypical of Noodler's inks, Bernanke Blue has zero water resistance. My 1 minute test (under flowing water) was probably overkill but as you can see in the sample at the end of the review, in contact with water it obfuscated, dissipated, and blurred to oblivion.


So should you bother with Noodler's Bernanke Blue? A resolute no. Yes, it is a beautiful shade of blue. Yes, it dries fast. No, everything else. The shortcomings of this ink are disastrous and simply not worth it. There are much better blue inks out there that take an extra 1-2 seconds to dry but are so much more bearable in all other aspects.

Following are the two samples on photocopy and Clairefontaine 90g paper, respectively.

Noodler's Bernanke Blue on photocopy

Noodler's Bernanke Blue on Clairefontaine

Monday, June 29, 2015

Jinhao 599 fountain pen review

This was a long time in a-coming but here it is: a review of the Jinhao 599 fountain pen I picked up on eBay almost a year ago for $2.75, including shipping from China. If you're looking for a similar bargain you might have to do what I did: watch several auctions at once and place minimum bids on the ones that are closing soon. Eventually you'll win a pen.

Jinhao 599 Fountain Pen

What is the Jinhao 599?

Apart from the obvious - a fountain pen - the Jinhao 599 is very clearly a Chinese clone of the German Lamy Safari / Vista. My copy is transparent smoke plastic, which puts in it line with the Lamy Vista.

Jinhao 599 Fountain Pen

The 599 isn't an exact replica, and that is also very obvious. However, plenty of design cues were poached straight from Lamy's classic line of fountain pens. More on this later.

Why would anyone, then, buy such an imitation? Well, the answer that comes to mind is that the Jinhao 599 is very cheap for a fountain pen, rather understated as Chinese pens go, and comes with a international sized piston converter, which can't be said for the Lamy Safari family.


I'm afraid I don't recall if the pen came in a box or not. I believe it was inside a rather cheap-feeling cardboard box which I disposed of shortly.

Body, construction, and dimensions

My Jinhao 599 is, as previously mentioned, made out of transparent smoke-colored plastic. There are other variations out there, in a multitude of colors. I was also surprised to find out recently that there's a version made entirely out of metal (brass if I'm not mistaken), but covered in glossy paint, such that it resembles the plastic Lamy Safaris are made of. Those metal 599s look so good in the eBay pictures that I was tempted to buy a whole dozen of them in all the colors.

Here are some dimensions for the Jinhao 599:
Length capped: 137 mm / 5.4 in
Length uncapped: 129 mm / 5.08 in
Length posted: 165 mm / 6.5 in
Cap length: 65 mm / 2.56 in

Here's the weight, compared to other pens I've tested:
Jinhao 599 (with cap) - 17.8g - 0.63oz
Jinhao 599 (without cap) - 10.5g - 0.37oz
Pilot Vanishing Point (with cartridge and blind cap) - 30.5g - 1.08oz
TWSBI 530 (no ink) - 25.7g - 0.91oz
Lamy AL-Star (with converter) - 21.8g - 0.77oz
Noodler's Ahab (no ink) - 18.8g - 0.66oz
Pilot Prera (with converter) - 16.1g - 0.56oz

As you can see, this is among the lightest fountain pens that crossed my path. I don't mind that, it actually feels good to pick up.

Jinhao 599 Fountain Pen Posted

The body construction looks very decent, and there are no blemishes or sharp edges. It feels very well machined. The Chinese have really got this inexpensive manufacturing down to a fine art. Of course, there are controversies regarding this, but let's not go there.

The resemblance to the Lamy Safari/Vista is strong, as mentioned. Unfortunately I don't have my Lamy AL-Star anymore, to compare, but the cross-section of the body is almost a mirror image to the Lamy: a flattened circle. The Jinhao log is embossed at one of the ends, almost in mockery to Lamy's identical design.

To add insult to injury, the Jinhao's section is also triangular, same as the Lamy's trademarked one. Some people don't like the feel of the triangular grip but I like it just fine.

The cap is slightly different, with a shiny flat black and opaque finial holding the clip. If there's one thing that distinguishes the Jinhao 599 from a Lamy, it's the clip. Compared to the Lamy's thick wire clip, the Jinhao's is rather pedestrian, in the form of a flat chromed blade with rounded edges and a slightly curving tip. It's also split along the middle and features a tiny logo which I believe resembles a horse-drawn cart. Like the Lamy, the Jinhao's cap is snap-on.

Jinhao 599 Fountain Pen Uncapped

The cap posts firmly and securely on the end of the barrel.

Jinhao 599 Fountain Pen Posted

Finally, the section is separated from the barrel by a chrome trim ring, again deviating from a Lamy.

The Jinhao 599 one-ups the Lamy family by including an international piston converter (it also accepts international cartridges). It's not the highest quality but it does its job. In contrast, a Lamy converter costs almost twice as much as what I paid for the 599 itself, and is also proprietary, meaning that it only accepts Lamy converters and cartridges. Now that's what I call value!

Jinhao 599 Fountain Pen Uncapped, Barrel Off

Jinhao 599 Fountain Pen component parts

A closer look at the nib

The nib, along with the feed, also differ from those in a Lamy pen. They are, in fact, quite pedestrian, and look like any other nib and feed you've seen before.

Jinhao 599 Fountain Pen Nib & Section

I have no idea what size the nib is. It feels somewhere between a medium and a fine. Let's say Japanese medium or European extra-fine.

The nib is engraved, rather delicately and precisely, with the word "Jinhao" and "18KGP" below that. If the 18KGP is meant to signify a gold nib, that must be a joke because this nib is quite hard and stiff. Besides, the price point invalidates the presence of a gold nib.

Jinhao 599 Fountain Pen Nib & Section

If you're wondering whether the nib and the feed can be pulled out easily, well, the answer lies in the image below. Yes, they can be pulled out with your fingers.

Jinhao 599 Fountain Pen component parts

But does it write?

I wasn't too impressed with the Jinhao X750's performance when I reviewed it the first time or the second time around. This made me a bit wary about the 599. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that it wrote quite well, considering the price point and how hard the nib is.

The nib is smooth and the tines were well aligned right out of the gate. If the ink is primed correctly, it doesn't skip at all, and writes consistently, although it does seem to prefer better quality paper. I used Noodler's Heart of Darkness in it and I have to admit that, perhaps due to the thinness of the nib, it doesn't come out as dark as I would like. I'm guessing another ink would do it more justice.

Here's a sample written with the Jinhao 599 on Clairefontaine 90g paper.

Jinhao 599 writing sample

Final words

Being 95% satisfied with the Jinhao's 599 performance, I plan to make it my permanent work instrument, replacing the Kaweco Sport Classic that I've been using for so long. I'll probably change the ink with something else, but I'm looking forward to using this pen in an official capacity. It also helps that the design is very understated, as Chinese fountain pens go, since they usually tend to be gaudy and flamboyant.

What more is there to say? The Jinhao 599 was one of my best purchases and I can't recommend it highly enough, especially at this price. If you are patient you too can snag one for less than $3, shipped. It's well worth it. There's always the chance that quality control is spotty and your version might be a dud, but hey, at least you're not spending dozens or even hundreds of dollars on a pen that won't write out of the box.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Diamine China Blue ink review

I bought this sample of Diamine China Blue some time ago because I was attracted by the exotic name. It wasn't too bad looking either, judging from other reviews I'd seen. I tested it in my Kaweco Sport Classic with broad nib and eyedropper conversion.

Diamine China Blue with Kaweco

Bottle and pricing

Quick note here. To my dismay, when I was putting this review together, I noticed that Diamine has increased their ink prices across the board, by roughly $2 per bottle. While still relatively inexpensive, I'm a bit saddened that this happened. Here are the new prices then. Notice the price per milliliter jumped by $0.02.

Bottle capacity: 80 ml / 2.7 oz
Price: $14.95
Price / ml: $0.19

Color and saturation

Diamine China Blue is a medium saturated blue, quite similar to denim. It looks darker when freshly written and still wet, but it resembles a faded pair of blue jeans when it dries.

In the comparison below, Diamine China Blue is set against Private Reserve Invincible Aqua Blue, and Waterman Florida Blue. These are the closest colors to China Blue that I could find among my previously reviewed inks, especially PR Aqua Blue (which is discontinued). Notice how China Blue is just a little less vibrant than Waterman Blue and perhaps a fraction warmer in tone.

Diamine China Blue vs PR Invincible Aqua Blue vs Waterman Florida Blue


Diamine China Blue shows a fair amount of shading, even though it might not be apparent at first. Your results may vary, of course, but a thicker nib will bring our the color variance nicely.

Diamine China Blue shading


I'm a little on the fence here. Diamine China Blue seems to be causing a tiny bit of feathering on cheap paper with the broad nib but I'd wager that doesn't happen with a medium or thinner nib on the same paper. That's definitely not the case on Clairefontaine.


While it doesn't outright show through on cheap paper, China Blue exhibits enough ghosting to be iffy on this type of paper, provided you want to use both sides. I still do though, but it's mostly for jotting down random notes, so it doesn't matter to me.

Flow, lubrication, and smoothness

Diamine China Blue is very smooth in the Kaweco Sport. It is also rather wet, which probably contributes a little to the small amounts of feathering and ghosting. As mentioned before, it looks much darker when it is freshly laid on paper but lightens up as it dries. In general I like that in an ink, because it's almost like it has two personalities.

Drying time

On cheap paper Diamine China Blue dries almost instantly, aided perhaps by the good absorption rate. On Clairefontaine it took close to 1 minute to dry completely, although in fairness that's what usually happens with a combination of broad nib and wet ink.

Smearing when dry


Water resistance

This isn't a water resistant ink and it shows. My standard test which exposes the ink to water for 1 minute didn't wipe it out completely, and there are still faint traces of it on paper, but I wouldn't expose it to moisture.


Diamine China Blue is a fairly run-of-the-mill blue ink, well behaved overall, with no single feature standing out but that's just fine because it makes for a reliable ink. The blue color is pleasing, dependent on your tastes of course, and you can definitely use it in an official capacity. Just make sure to use it on higher quality paper because it doesn't play very nice with the cheap stuff. Personally I'm not big on blue inks, especially since I prefer even more personality (read deeper shading and unique tone) but I can still recommend China Blue without any reservations.

Below are the two samples on photocopy and Clairefontaine 90g paper, respectively.

Diamine China Blue on photocopy

Diamine China Blue on Clairefontaine

Sunday, May 31, 2015

J Herbin Vert Pre ink review

This will probably be my last green ink review for a while, so I present J Herbin Vert Pre, reviewed in my Kaweco Sport Classic with broad nib and eyedropper conversion.

J Herbin Vert Pre shading with Kaweco

Bottle and pricing

Bottle capacity: 30 ml / 1 oz
Price: $11
Price / ml: $0.37

Color and saturation

I'll say this from the get-go: Vert Pre is a type of green very similar to the other J Herbin green ink I reviewed (of which I own a bottle), Vert Olive. The only major difference between them is that Vert Pre is slightly less saturated and lighter than Vert Olive. Otherwise, all features apply to both equally. At this point I could just call it a day and refer you to the Vert Olive review but I'll keep going.

The best way to tell the difference between the two is to imagine Vert Pre as lime green, and Vert Olive as olive green (as the name actually translates).

Below is a better comparison between the two inks, as well as Rohrer & Klingner Alt-Goldgrun, which is somewhat similar to the two, only darker and avocado-ish.

J Herbin Vert Pre vs J Herbin Vert Olive vs Rohrer & Klingner Alt-Goldgrun

Whichever variation you prefer, J Herbin Vert Pre remains in good company and is a beautiful ink on its own.


J Herbin Vert Pre features very nice shading, almost on par with Vert Olive. It's probably less only due to the fact that it's lighter in color. To benefit the most from the shading I would recommend a broader nib, but only on good, fountain pen-friendly paper.

J Herbin Vert Pre text shading with Kaweco


Unfortunately I forgot to mention feathering in my copy paper written review, but here it goes. Vert Pre is a wet, watery ink and because of that it feathers a fair amount on cheap paper. It can't be helped, but in this respect it behaves very similarly to Vert Olive, as well as a couple of other J Herbin inks that I didn't particularly enjoy: Diabolo Menthe and Bleu Azur. If you don't use this on cheap paper you'll be fine though, because this is definitely a non-issue on good stuff, such as Clairefontaine or Rhodia.


Linked to the above point, being a wet and watery ink, J Herbin Vert Pre will bleed on very cheap paper, especially if both sides are written. In my copy paper review I stated that it only ghosts a little. This is true on the condition that you only use one side of the paper. As soon as you start writing on the reverse, though, things change. The cheap paper acts as a saturated sponge and spreads the ink throughout the fibers, causing it to both feather and bleed significantly.

Flow, lubrication, and smoothness

J Herbin Vert Pre flows really well - flawlessly in fact - through the Kaweco's broad nib. Apart from that, it bears stressing once again that this ink is pretty wet.

Drying time

Drying happens quickly - almost instantly - on cheap paper. On good paper the situation is reversed, and it usually takes around 30 seconds for it to dry completely, accounting of course for the broad nib.

Smearing when dry


Water resistance

As is the case with all the inks in this "series", J Herbin Vert Pre is completely non-water resistant. Keep it far away from any form of moisture.


J Herbin Vert Pre is another hit in J Herbin's "hit & miss series". OK, I made this up but you know what I mean: I didn't enjoy the light blue inks in the family but I adore the greens. It's a gorgeous ink with a unique color and great shading, which flows well and performs nicely on good paper. The only caveat is that I wouldn't recommend it for cheap paper, at least not with a broad nib. Should you buy it? A resolute yes! The only question remains: this or Vert Olive? Personally I'd still pick Vert Olive by a slim margin.

Following are the two handwritten reviews, on photocopy and Clairefontaine 90g paper, respectively.

J Herbin Vert Pre on photocopy

J Herbin Vert Pre on Clairefontaine