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!

Kinda Sorta Bujo-in’ With a Hobonichi Weeks

No, not one of those pretty, pretty bujos with the frilly flowers and brush lettering and stuff, because I can’t draw and all of my journal flatlays turn out like this:

Yes, that’s a mug full of wine because THAT’S HOW I ROLL.

(Also: please contribute donations to my campaign to help those afflicted with Instagram Wristlessness. As you can see, I contracted this condition myself after browsing through the #bujo tag for two minutes.)

My goodness, this wine is delightful. Darlings, you simply haven’t lived until you’ve come to Bulgaria and tried their homemade vino. Seriously, everyone’s father, uncle, grandfather, great-uncle, grandpappy, etc. has at least a few barrels down in the basement. And all of it is TASTY. Trust me: I’m from Oregon, the land of pinot noir and snobbery.

Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, I was about to tell you how I keep a bujo for work.

I started using this Hobonichi Weeks back in mid-December to keep track of work to-dos, but it took a couple of months for me to settle in and get comfortable. The result is a hybrid system that mashes up the seven-day spreads in the Weeks with Ryder Carroll’s version of the Bullet Journal system.

The first week shows the , ×, and > bullets from the Bullet Journal system in use. I also highlighted time-specific events like meetings with a fluorescent pencil.

By mid-January, I’d ditched the colored pencil, which streamlined the utensils I needed for planning down to a single multipen with blue and red ink. Events and other important bits are written in red, everything else is in blue.

The bullet system is simple:

  • To-do items have a bullet.
  • If a to-do item must be done on a certain day, I write it on that day. If not, I just write it in the current day.
  • When I finish a to-do item, I × it out.
  • Time sensitive events have a bullet and are written in red.

Every Monday morning, I migrate all the tasks I haven’t completed by marking them with > and copying them into the new week.

One of the things that always annoyed me about analogue planners is handling tentative items, like a task or event that hasn’t been finalized yet. I don’t like having crossed-out items or eraser smudges all over the place. This time around, I’ve been using post-it notes to keep track of items on the days they might occur. Once finalized, I remove the post-it note and write the item down in ink.

Of course, I still have the occasional cancelled task or meeting, but using post-it notes has reduced the number of crossed-out items considerably.

As a computer sysadmin/programmer/jack-of-all-trades, most of my big projects are tracked in an online ticketing system. I don’t usually bother copying those items into my planner. Instead, it’s been useful for tracking the smaller things that can sometimes slip through the cracks of the workday.

My work planner isn’t pretty, but it’s simple and it works for me. Now if you’ll excuse me, it’s 5:30pm in Bulgaria and I think I’ll have another mug of wine.

The Penton F20 Demonstrator Will Bring You a Barrel Full of Sadness

I don’t often come across a pen with no redeeming qualities, but the Penton F20 is one such example. I certainly won’t begrudge you if you decide to stop reading this now instead of wasting your time on this horrible pen, but for those of you who like a good pen rant, I’m about to tell you all the ways this pen sucks.

I ordered my F20 with excitement after my favorable experience with the Penton F10 demonstrator. And once the slow boat from China brought the F20 to my mailbox, things seemed to be going well as I removed the plastic wrapper and found a decent-looking pen.

Is this a rip-off of another pen’s design? I have no idea. It’s vaguely Prera-esque, though larger in size and with a different clip and cap band.

Design particulars aside, the F20 is a clear plastic demonstrator, with a clear feed and a steel nib.

It’s comparable in size with the Lamy Safari.

L to R: Kaweco Sport, Penton F20, Lamy Safari/Vista
L to R: Kaweco Sport, Penton F20, Lamy Safari/Vista
L to R: Kaweco Sport, Penton F20, Lamy Safari/Vista

The cap is clear plastic with silver metal fittings and no cap liner. Removing the cap requires a couple of complete turns, which I find annoying as I like to be able to uncap a pen quickly. The finial has visible threads where it screws onto the cap body, and this is where the clip is secured to the pen.

Penton should have left the clip off entirely, as it’s the worst I’ve ever seen on a pen. It measures less than an inch long, which is odd enough, and it’s far too stiff to be usable. I broke a fingernail trying to lift the clip just to slide a piece of paper under it, and I ended up using a screwdriver to pry it open. Its only functional feature is as a roll-stop.

The cap band is unoffensive, though the “Penton” branding is stamped upside down.

The plastic used in the F20 is thin and flimsy, and I found dirt-like specks embedded in several places. They proved difficult to photograph clearly, but I can see them and they drive me crazy. There are also machining marks and scratches all over the barrel.

Compared to the build quality of the F10, the F20 is a huge disappointment.

There’s a blind cap at the end of the barrel that holds a slim, silver ring of trim in place. The blind cap is secured with screw threads, and there’s an o-ring inside that keeps the F20 eligible for eyedropper conversion.

The F20 comes with a converter, though most of the marketing photos show the pen being used as an eyedropper. The converter appears to be a standard international size. I’ve used several converters from Chinese manufacturers, and this one is the worst of the lot. It’s poorly made, the parts feel wobbly, and ink quickly began to leak behind its piston.

The section is round and slim. I’d say it’s comparable in size to the section on a Pilot Metropolitan. The section is reasonably long, and the screw threads for the cap are gentle, so those of you with unorthodox grips can also subject yourselves to this terrible pen if you’re feeling masochistic.

In the hand, the F20 feels insubstantial and cheap. I suppose you could say it’s balanced, but there’s hardly any plastic there to balance. Anyway, I didn’t spend much time thinking about how it felt to write with the F20 because I could hardly get it to write at all.

The F20 comes with a generic steel “iridium point” nib, and the one on my pen is a very hard starter. Out of the dozen Chinese pens I’ve purchased so far, the F20 is the first pen that didn’t write perfectly out of the box. When I could get it to write, it produced a line in that middle ground between a Japanese and Western fine.

I’m not afraid to try tuning a nib on a cheap pen, and I spent 30 minutes with some micromesh and two different well-behaved inks (Pilot Blue-Black and Iroshizuku Yu-yake) and still couldn’t get it to start consistently.

After that, I was done. I’m sure a more experienced nib tuner could get this pen working, but after dealing with the annoying clip, the scratched plastic, and the janky converter, I’m not willing to spend any more time on a $6 pen when I have so many other, more compelling pens in my collection.

With the F10, Penton showed it can make a good fountain pen, but the F20 is a failure in nearly every way. I suggest you give it a hard pass, and spend your six bucks elsewhere.

This Penton F20 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.