Economical Links for 2017.10.20

niblinklove

Some links to the like-minded:

Ink Review: Five More New Colors From Monteverde (via The Gentleman Stationer)
Review: Kaweco Perkeo (Fine Nib) (via Hand Over That Pen)
Extra Fine fountain pen nibs – Writing robot & handwriting comparison (via the pen company blog)
THEY BUILT A ROBOT TO TEST NIBS WITH.
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Snap Judgments: Hero 1202 Demonstrator

Chinese pen manufacturers are on a serious clear demonstrator kick at the moment. For those of us with a thing for naked pens, this is our time! The Hero 1202 is one such pen, readily available on eBay for $3.78 USD (including shipping!) Let’s see if it’s the hero we need, or a villain in disguise.

The Hero 1202 sits in the smaller end of the size spectrum. It’s slightly shorter than the Pilot Metropolitan when capped and uncapped.

On the scale with a partial fill of ink in the converter, the 1202 weighs in at a feather-light 9g without a cap and 14g with. This lack of heft is due to the fact that the pen is made of very thin plastic, which makes it feel cheap and uninspiring. The barrel has a faint mold line, which is usually not present on quality pens. There are also a couple of tiny opaque blemishes on the cap near the band. Compared to the Penton F10, another Chinese demonstrator pen, the 1202’s plastic just doesn’t feel as solid. Of course, neither of these pens compare well against higher quality plastic pens such as the TWSBI ECO or the Lamy Vista, but at this price point that’s to be expected.

Chinese pen manufacturers are known for churning out thousands of low quality clones of popular name-brand pens. I try to avoid clones as much as possible, but I don’t think the Hero 1202 is a clone of an already existing pen. (Please correct me if I’m wrong.) It’s reminiscent of certain Sailor pens, though the overall design feels more like the epitome of the “generic fountain pen” than anything else.

The barrel end is plain, but it’s watertight, which ought to make the eyedropper fans out there perk up and take notice.

While turning this pen into an eyedropper is an option, it comes with a converter included. The converter appears to be the standard international size, but I haven’t confirmed it. A small metal spring inside the converter acts as an agitator. The body of the converter doesn’t hold much ink, but it works well.

The 1202 comes with gold trim on the cap and section, along with a matching gold nib. The cap screws on and off in 1.5 turns, and it has a simple stamped metal clip.

You can remove the clip by unscrewing the finial.

The clip is stamped with “HERO”. I’m not sure what method was used to color the clip gold, but it seems to be holding up so far without any chipping or tarnishing. In use, the clip feels surprisingly sturdy. It takes some coaxing to get the clip to open, but once in place it feels secure.

There’s no real cap band to speak of, though there are a couple of thin gold rings printed onto the plastic along with some brand and model markings. The printing is thin and beginning to wear off in some places.

Unscrewing the cap reveals a slim, round section with a translucent feed. I love, love, love these kind of feeds. Let me see my beautiful ink!

The section is 20mm long, with a very gentle step up to the barrel. There’s a thin ring of gold trim between the section and the barrel, which has unfortunately begun to tarnish with use. The cap threads are shallow and don’t get in the way of my grip. At only 8mm in diameter at its most narrow, the section is a hair smaller than that of a Pilot Metropolitan. This is definitely a pen for those who prefer thinner sections.

In the hand, the 1202 feels balanced, but it’s one of the rare pens that I prefer to use posted as it’s almost too light to be comfortable without the extra weight of the cap.

A gold colored steel nib sits in the business end of the pen. The nib is tastefully embellished with a vine-like design and Hero brand mark. While the nib is described as a fine, it’s more of an extra-fine, putting down a thinner line than my Pilots with fine nibs. I haven’t been able to find this pen with nibs in other sizes.

The nib wrote smoothly out of the box (or wrapper in this case), but it does have that feedback common to thinner nibs. The tipping is a simple ball and the steel nib is a nail, so expect no line variation here. While the nib is thinner than I like and does my handwriting no favors, it’s a surprisingly decent nib for a pen this price.

The Hero 1202 isn’t likely to wow anyone. It feels a bit flimsy and who knows how long the trim will last before wearing off or tarnishing. But if you like EF nibs or showing off your ink, this could be a pen to take a chance on since it’s so inexpensive. I’ve been using mine to play with temperamental inks like J. Herbin Rouge Hematite, and for that purpose I’m more than satisfied.

Things I like about the Hero 1202: smooth writer (for an EF) out of the box

Things I don’t like: thin plastic, poor trim quality

This Hero 1202 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 2017.10.13

niblinklove

Here are some links to the shark-minded…

monteverde monza / jinhao 992 (via winter sharks)
Read this before buying a Monteverde Monza. Asking $16 for a rebranded Jinhao 992 is pretty damn shady.
Jinhao 992 (modified!) (via flex & other follies)
Speaking of the 992, if you can get past its fragility, its ridiculously low price makes it a good pen to practice your nib grinds on.
review: twsbi eco (via winter sharks)
winter sharks was on a roll this week with the good content, like this review of the TWSBI Eco.
Monami Olika Fountain Pen Review (via The Poor Penman)
A nice review of a pen I’ve never heard of before.
Nib Newbs! Pilot Plumix (via Anderson Pens)
Jason and Kim get fancy with a stub Pilot Plumix.
Jinhao 993 – ‘The Shark Pen’ (via 7heDaniel)
If you like Shark Week, you’ll love this pen.

Let’s Talk About the Pilot Kaküno

The Pilot Kaküno is a pen that wouldn’t look out of place in the hands of a seven-year-old. It’s chunky and plastic. Its nib has a smiley face on it. Aurora wouldn’t make this pen, nor would Montblanc, and in a time when the majority of fountain pens seem designed for the boardroom instead of the classroom, the Kaküno’s youthfulness makes it stand out from the crowd. But can a pen for kids be any good? Let’s take a look.

The Kaküno has been around long enough that volumes have already been written about it. I’m not going to rehash all those reviews — if you’re interested in reading more, I’ve linked to several of them at the end of this post. Instead, I’m going to discuss my experience with the two Kakünos I own.

First, some basics if you’ve never seen this pen before. The Pilot Kaküno is a lightweight plastic fountain pen with a steel nib that takes Pilot proprietary ink cartridges or converters. The cap is clipless, but has a roll stop. The section has a rounded hexagonal shape, ostensibly for teaching children the proper grip.

Everything about the Kaküno is super kawaii. The packaging is colorful and easy to open, and the instruction pamphlet features cartoon drawings that are easy to understand even though I’m an American who doesn’t speak a lick of Japanese. And just look at these nibs…

THEY PUT A SMILEY FACE ON THE NIB.

This is what I look like whenever I see this pen:

Most people will either love how the Kaküno looks or hate it.

Back in Japan, Pilot sells the Kaküno in a wide array of color combinations. Unfortunately, they’ve chosen not to import all the available colorways to the US. Kakünos with light grey or white barrels and brightly colored caps can be found in the United States for less than $20, and often less than $12. If you want a different color, you’ll have to import it yourself, like I did with this clear version.

I just can’t resist a clear demonstrator.

The Kaküno is a compact pen, but when it’s uncapped, it’s comparable in size to the Pilot Metropolitan and the Lamy Safari/AL-star/Vista.

L to R: Pilot Metropolitan, Pilot Kaküno, Lamy Vista
L to R: Pilot Metropolitan, Pilot Kaküno, Lamy Vista

As an all-plastic pen, it weighs about as much as a feather in a gentle summer’s breeze, but don’t take that to mean it’s insubstantial. On the contrary, it feels well constructed. The plastic is comparable to the Lamy Vista’s, and far better than the dollar Jinhaos and Wing Sungs I’ve been playing with lately.

“YES THAT’S NICE, BUT HOW DOES IT WRITE?” I can hear you asking.

The Pilot Kaküno writes… okay.

I know that sounds tepid. But this pen can be a beautifully smooth writer, with a couple big caveats. First caveat: both of my pens needed their nibs to be tuned before they wrote nicely. The first Kaküno I bought had horrible baby’s bottom from the start. Bummer. The second Kaküno isn’t as bad; it writes smoothly, but still has an occasional skip, even with inks that behave well in other pens. Double bummer. I realize that two nibs is a small sample size, but I’ve never had this problem with other Pilot pens. Maybe the factory thinks little kids don’t care about the occasional hard start?

The second caveat is the hexagonal section. I use a traditional tripod grip, so much so that the Lamy Safari’s shaped section doesn’t bother me at all. But when I use my normal grip with the Kaküno’s section, the nib is slightly rotated to the left. This means that both tines don’t touch the paper evenly, and the nib is scratchy. I end up rotating the pen in my fingers, against the shape of the section, in order to find the nib’s sweet spot. I’ve found a grip that works for me, but it’s not comfortable for long writing sessions.

Based on my experiences, I can’t recommend the Pilot Kaküno to beginners as a first pen. However, I do consider it to be a good tinkerer’s pen. Like the nib but hate the section? Swap it into a Metropolitan or a Plumix. Or maybe you’re like me and really love how this pen looks and know how to tune a nib. It’s inexpensive enough to take a chance on, but I recommend trying one in person before you buy.

Some good reviews of the Pilot Kaküno:

Do you have a Kaküno? Did it write perfectly out of the box? Did I just get unlucky with these two?

I paid for both of my Pilot Kakünos with my own funds. My opinions on this blog are always my own. Please see my review ethics statement for more details.