After hearing about some outrageously decorated pens by the Chinese company Jinhao, available for basically buttons and of good quality, I decided that I had to at least try one. Nothing actually with dragons with gemstones for eyes around the cap or anything like that, but something reasonably subdued. There are several people selling Jinhao pens on eBay, and many, many models – in the end I settled on the one below, a commemorative model of the “Long March” in a display box for £22.68 from the “Go To School” eBay shop. Including shipping from Hong Kong. That is really not a lot of money for a posh pen.
Most of the “commemorative” models appear to be pretty much the same pen, with different styling; there are assorted ones of years, and historical emperors and scientists and so on. I picked the above as it had only two colours and no swirls, gemstones etc, unlike most commemorative models, but was still reasonable showy. It took two weeks from the time of purchase to arrive, which seems quite fair for something coming by regular post from the other side of the world – I’ve had packages take longer than that to arrive from the US.
The pen came in an orange card packet – well, all right, it came in a Jiffy bag, but inside the bag was a packet – which has the Jinhao logo, some Chinese writing which I can’t read, and a picture of the Terracotta Warriors with an incorrect aspect ratio. (See photos 1 and 2.) Hmm. Well, it’s only the wrapper. Inside this is a solid little wooden box with more writing and a sketch of some of the marchers burnt into the wood. The inner lid has a map of the actual route of the March, and there was what looks like a Jinhao catalogue and a couple of cards (guarantee?) above the actual pen.
Construction and appearance
The first thing you notice is that this is a heavy pen. It isn’t as if you can’t lift it off the desk without a hernia, but it has a lot of metal in the construction. Don’t drop it on your toes if you are not wearing shoes, and don’t throw it around the room in frustration unless you want to break something. It isn’t especially huge or thick; almost exactly 14cm capped, about 16.3cm with the cap posted, and 12.2cm without a cap at all. The barrel is around 1.3cm in diameter at the largest point. This is only slightly bigger than a Safari, and smaller than the Schneider iD that I posted about earlier. The body and cap are smooth to the touch. In the hand it feels well balanced, though the cap is heavy – you might wish to write without it depending on your preference.
Nib and writing feel
I am not sure whether it has a broad or medium nib – the selling entry seems to say both – but it writes much like a typical Western medium (all manufacturers have their own special interpretations of what “fine”, “medium” and “broad” mean in any case). This is a bit fatter than I normally prefer but suits the pen itself, and occasionally I do like the indulgent feeling of writing with a fat nib. Whatever the breadth, it is a large gold-plated nib with some Chinese characters, a small picture of some mountains and “Jinhao” at the base. I must say that my nib seemed a little tarnished – it was not very shiny.
It comes with a Jinhao-branded convertor, which is fine with me. The first time I inked the pen (with Diamine Midnight – a lovely dark blue, incidentally) I was surprised at how wet it was writing. I had previously washed and flushed it thoroughly, and thought I might have overdone it with the cleaning, but assorted other things didn’t make any difference. After some experimentation, I believe that it is the convertor – the seal is not great, it feels loose, and it’s important to make sure it is plugged in properly. I have had this problem with some Lamy converters before as well. I’m not sure quite what type of convertor or cartridge this pen takes – it didn’t fit the Rotring standard international convertor that I had lying about unused, certainly, it seems to need a wider neck. This could be an issue in the future when it comes to spares.
Now, though, being a bit more careful when loading, it writes with a sane ink flow, and the nib is lovely and smooth. As I said above it is quite broad for me, about the width of a Safari with an F nib – comfortable for when one is journalling or writing letters, not so great for scribbling in one’s micro Rhodia pad, unless two words per page are fine with you. The weight makes writing feel a bit more meaningful as well, I find, even given that it is just the usual drivel coming out of the end.
I am happy with this pen, and while I’m not going to be putting it into my bag unless I am going somewhere potentially dangerous and wanting a concealed cosh, I will be keeping it on my desk and picking it up for random journalling and scribbles. It looks classy, it has a good “expensive” weight to it, it was good value, and it writes well. I would certainly be interested in buying more Chinese pens if they have such good price-to-quality ratios, even if it means waiting two weeks for deliveries. The only slight worry is the convertor/cartridge type; I shall have to do a bit more research on that point.