Economical Links for 2018.02.23


Here are some links to the like-minded:

Pilot Petits: Mini but Mighty (via Fountain Pen Follies)
I found one of these in my Christmas stocking but haven’t had a chance to try it yet.
PenBBS – a review of a beautiful and inexpensive acrylic fountain pen (via Write eXperience)
I’m seeing more Chinese pens enter the market in the $30 price range — could this be a sign of an upwards price correction, or are these just “premium” offerings?
My Old Faithful! Diamine Majestic Blue (via Fountain PenArchy)
READ THE TASTING NOTES. (Also: pics or it didn’t happen!)
Ink Price Evolution (Japan 2005-2018) (via Crónicas Estilográficas)
This makes me glad I never got into Sailor inks.


The Merlot Incident at Tomoe River

It started with a question. “How does Tomoe River paper handle wine?” she asked.

Not beer? I thought to myself, as she’d written an entire book on the subject, but perhaps that meant she’d already splashed a frothy brew across pristine sheets sometime in her past. Her book was titled “Stuff Every Beer Snob Should Know,” after all.

But she asked about wine and Tomoe River paper, and I happen to have both, plus a willingness to make sacrifices for science.

For this experiment, I chose an unremarkable Merlot from a country that shall not be named. It would be a sin to waste good Bulgarian wine, and in my time here in Bulgaria, I’ve yet to encounter a bad one.

Wine in glass, I opened my Hobonichi Techo, which is filled with sweet, sweet Tomoe River paper, and applied the wine by dripping it onto the page. I apologize in advance for not having a control in the form of wine on a different paper. I’m a penster, not a scientist.

Upon application, the wine pooled on the surface of the paper in dark red blots. Dry time was very long, approximately 24 hours, but during the drying process, the color changed to a lovely dusky purple. There is some shading, but no sheen.

Closer examination reveals absolutely no feathering.

On the reverse side of the page, there is quite a bit of showthrough but zero bleedthrough. Some wrinkling is also present within the larger wine blots. The qualities that Tomoe River paper is known for appear to hold true with wine as well as ink.

Tomoe River paper truly is a marvel. Now go forth and pour yourself a glass of wine or several, and worry not about spilling your thoughts — or your wine — out on the page.

Economical Links for 2018.02.16


Here are some links to the like-minded, plus an announcement at the end that I’m pretty darn excited about.

Zebra V-301 Fountain Pen Review (via A Better Desk)
Not bad for a pen that costs three bucks.
The Wing Sung 3008 – An Economical Masterpiece (via The Indian Marmalade Company)
I think the Wing Sung 618 and 698 are better pens, but the 3008 is an interesting (and even cheaper!) option. Like the Zebra above, it’s priced around three bucks.
Diplomat Magnum SoftTouch Fountain Pen Review (via Pen Addict)
I didn’t know Diplomat made pens at this price level until now, so now I’m sharing that knowledge with you.
Fountain Pen Revolution Darjeeling | Fountain Pen Review (via The Pen Habit)
Ink Review: Monteverde California Teal (via The Well-Appointed Desk)
Ink Review: Monteverde Rose Noir (via The Well-Appointed Desk)
A pair of reviews from The Well-Appointed Desk. I’ve liked all the Monteverde Inks I’ve tried so far, and I think they’re reasonably priced.
Beaufort Obsidian Black (via 7heDaniel)
Beaufort is a Scottish maker of pen refills (think Parker-style rollerballs) but they’ve released a new line of fountain pen ink. Obsidian Black is a black ink with some interesting properties.

And now, a short announcement on the occasion of this blog’s one year anniversary:

I’m starting a newsletter called Penster’s Dispatch. If you like this blog and want to read more of it, consider signing up. There’ll be no ads or marketing BS, just a more intimate venue where I’ll write more commentary about inexpensive pens, plus some other musings that don’t quite fit on this blog.

(Confidential to those of you who’ve ever emailed me asking about my travels, motorcycles, or bourbon preferences: you really ought to sign up.)

I’ve been intrigued by the concept of “slow blogging” for a long time, and as someone who’s always needed a kick in the ass to write something, I hope this will get me started on all the writing I haven’t been doing.

As always, thank you for stopping by.

The Jinhao 991 Is a Wolf in Uni-ball’s Clothing

Sometimes a pen is just a pen. And sometimes a pen looks just like another pen, a rollerball pen, a pen made by a famous company, but when you take that pen in your hand and uncap it, you discover that it’s actually a fountain pen with a certain chariot logo stamped on its nib.

No, your eyes aren’t deceiving you, Little Red Riding Hood. It’s not a Uni-ball Vision — it’s a Jinhao 991. (Or as I like to do: take a deep breath, throw my head back, and howl “JINHAOOOOOOOOOOOO!” into the sky.)

I won’t call the Uni-ball Vision an iconic pen, but it’s ubiquitous enough that even I recognized the 991 as a rip-off as soon as I opened the mailing envelope it arrived in. (This 991 was part of the same order as the Jinhao 992 I reviewed a while back, so I failed doubly so at my stated goal of avoiding clone pens. I really need to look at the pictures in these eBay listings more closely!)

Since this is a clone pen, I’m not going to bother commenting on the design aspects of the Jinhao 991 other than to say it’s a plastic pen with a metal clip and a steel nib. The proportions of the pen are long and slim, and it’s comparable in size to the Lamy Safari.

L to R: Kaweco Sport, Jinhao 991, Lamy Vista/Safari
L to R: Kaweco Sport, Jinhao 991, Lamy Vista/Safari
L to R: Kaweco Sport, Jinhao 991, Lamy Vista/Safari

The 991 is available in a variety of colors, both solid and translucent. I chose the clear frosted version. The plastic feels nice and sturdy, and I didn’t find any bubbles or blemishes other than some faint molding marks. There were no cracks of any kind when I received the pen, nor have any cracks appeared in the several months since.

The cap snaps on and off from the barrel, and it can be easily and securely posted. A “Jinhao” wordmark is stamped on the clip.

There’s a liner within the cap to help keep the nib from drying out.

The 991 is a cartridge/converter pen that comes with a piston-style converter. The included converter appears to be standard international size, but I can’t confirm that as I haven’t tried converters from other brands in this particular pen. Jinhao converters have performed well for me, and this one is no exception.

There are no metal parts in the section or barrel and the barrel is watertight, so the 991 is a candidate for an eyedropper conversion.

The section is slim, on par with the Pilot Metropolitan. It’s round in shape and has a slight lip where the nib meets the feed. The section is generous in length and smooth overall, so it should be suitable for those who like to hold their pens higher up. As someone with a standard tripod grip and small hands, I found the 991 to be very comfortable, and nicely balanced despite its light weight. When I use it unposted, as is my preference, the pen is the perfect length.

Let’s discuss the business end of the pen: the nib. The 991 shares the same nib as the 992, and I’m happy to report that the nib on this 991 is just as good as the ones on the 992s I’ve tried. It might be a steel nib on a cheap pen, but it’s a lovely writer: smooth, with excellent ink flow. The nib comes in two sizes, EF and F. The F nib on my pen produces a line between a Japanese and Western fine, with no line variation due to the round tipping on the nib.

While doing research for this post, I discovered that there’s another version of the 991 with a hooded nib. If you have this hooded 991, I’d love to hear your thoughts about it.

I purchased my 991 on eBay for $3.60, including shipping. Suffice to say, the nib itself is worth the price of admission.

The JINHAOOOOOOOOOOOO 991 is howlingly good nib trapped in a meh body. If you can get over the fact that it’s a clone, it’s a nice, all-purpose pen, suitable for writing a long letter, loaning to a friend, or trying out some temperamental inks, at a price that won’t make you sad if something bad happens to it.

Dear Jinhao, if you’re reading this, please make a pen with the same nib and feed as the 991, and put it inside an original design of your own creation. All the pieces are there, just waiting for you to make something special.

This Jinhao 991 was paid for with my own funds. My opinions on this blog are always my own. Please see my review ethics statement for more details.

Economical Links for 2018.02.09


Here are some links to the like-minded…

The Ultimate Guidebook for Chinese Pens (via Frank Underwater)
Exactly what it says on the tin. Frank knocks it out of the park with this comprehensive guide to Chinese pen manufacturers. A must read if you are interested in Chinese pens!
Initial Impressions: Wing Sung 618 and Wing Sung 698 Piston Fillers (via The Gentleman Stationer)
The Gentleman Stationer finally dips a toe into the seedy underbelly economically sensible part of the fountain pen pool. Come on in, the water’s fine! 😛
Fountain Pen Revolution Himalaya | Fountain Pen Review (via Pen Habit)
Swirly plastic pens from India, with modern “flex”.
Buying a New Pen: Some Decision-Making Tools (via Writing For Pain and Pleasure)
Some great tips here, especially if you’re thinking about buying a pen that costs more than a latté.
Renovating A Brass Delike Alpha (via The Indian Marmalade Company)
I’m not a fan of this Kaweco Sport clone, but I do love the DIY ethos shown here in hacking one.
Maruman Reccer Memo Pad Review (via The Pen Addict)
This looks like a nice pocket notebook with excellent paper.
Berlin Notebook assaulted! (via Fountain Pen Inks & Bleach)
I’ve heard good things about these inexpensive, but fountain pen-friendly pocket notebooks, and it looks like they can handle almost anything you throw at them.
Krishna The Earth (via Wondernaut)
A non-IG ink with IG-like properties. Curious stuff!