Review: Blissfully Wrong - The Jinhao X450R Fountain Pen

Jinhao X450RSometimes I just love being wrong. So much so, I'll happily admit it in public.

After my post a couple weeks ago on Esterbrooks, Mak, an acquaintance of mine in Hong Kong wrote to tell me that there were plenty of quality fountain pens still selling brand new under the $20 mark. Now, given that the list price of the Lamy Safari is $30 USD and the inexpensive but highly-regarded Waterman Phileas is $60 USD (though they can often be found for about $20 and $30 without converters), I was hard pressed to think of a single example. Even in the eBay "roll the dice, take your chances" game of slugging through remnants of estate sales, it's hard to find something that isn't scratchy, leaky, sac-less, ugly or just plain broken. I expressed my skepticism, but my friend apparently lives in quite a different world, one where good deals are far more common than in the far north of Canada. The next thing I knew, Mak had procured a little $10 gift for me and sent it on a journey half-way around the world.

While I waited for it, I couldn't help but remember one of my first fountain pens. While that "Asia Wood Stunning Pen" cost about $8, the seller insisted that adding a few no-name ink cartridges bumped the shipping price from $10 to $22. When it finally arrived, the cheap cap wouldn't fit snug, the nib was misaligned and scratchy, the "jewel" atop was a dollop of hot glue, and the splinters skirting every corner sent me running for tweezers. Straight into the junk drawer it went.

But, oh, was this one a pleasant surprise.

It's almost impossible to find information about the manufacturer of my new pen, but the ISellPens.com Jinhao page gives a clue as to its origins: "Jinhao is made in China and a relatively new company started by a previous employee of a major pen manufacturer." It came in a simple little unostentatious red cardboard box, but the pen itself was quite beautiful, and far more than what I expected.

The "Flaming Red" Jinhao X450R (or X480R -- the hand-written sticker wasn't very clear) is a full-size, weighty pen. Its internal metal barrel is covered by what seems to be a three-layer lacquered effect consisting of inside layers of deep red and amorphous black shapes, with an outer layer of subtle golden daubs, all building into beautiful translucent strata which catches and reflects the light. (Forgive my poor photograph, but good light is lacking here this time of year.) A fairly wide gold-plated band sporting a tasteful scripted "Jinhao" rims the cap, and smaller gold bands near the top and bottom of the pen are punctuated with polished rounded black tips. A gracefully curved two-tone clip sets off the bands and feels quite solid and well-constructed.

The snug cap removes with a satisfying click to reveal a black plastic section (the place where you grip the pen with your fingertips) that is shaped and etched with three flatter sections, allowing for a certain degree of ergonomics while writing, as well as letting the fingers "know" which way the nib it to be held, preventing rotation in the hand. Yet another gold band edges the top of the section, and then there is the intricately designed two-tone gold and silver nib.

The nib itself is quite large, in line with the rest of the pen. The gold and silver plating is etched with something akin to a Victorian filigree design near the edges, offsetting another "Jinhao" brandmark running vertically up the centre of the nib. Behind the nib, the feed is a standard comb-style, its black plastic styling fitting in well with the section design.

Jinhao X450RBut how does it write? Surprisingly well, it turns out. I drew up some good ole' utilitarian Parker Quink into the pen via the included converter, gave the nib a quick wipe, then put the point to some Rhodia vellum. The results were completely unexpected for such an inexpensive pen: a solid, wet, fine-medium line, delivered with an incredibly smooth nib. The flow started immediately, and demonstrated no skipping. The results were similar even in a Chinese-made Moleskine, with almost no bleed-through -- a rare thing for a wet pen. Only when used on cheap index cards was there any noticable feathering, which is no surprise. Writing with the nib upside-down also gives a steady, slightly finer line.

If I had to mention a downside, it's that the pen is perhaps a little too wet for my taste: I can be a very fast writer, and on a small surface like a Moleskine page, my hand will occasionally cross the ink while it's still a little damp. (No such problems on larger pages, however.) Also, I should mention a warning passed on to me a few times now, that Chinese pen manufacturers often suffer through inconsistent quality control processes. For example, a friend of mine bought two identical Hero pens -- one wrote and performed beautifully, almost as well as his mint Parker 51, while the other proved scratchy and leaky. So while I can guarantee that this Jinhao works beautifully, I've seen or experienced no other from this maker.

I've temporarily lost contact with Mak for a while while he's travelling on a geographic survey in Tibet, so I'm not sure where to point you online at the moment for purchases of this pen. ISellPens.com has a Jinhao page with a few models of the X450 (mostly sold out), although I don't see my particular colour there. (The "Electric Red" seems to lack the layered fuzzy black shapes and golden overlay of mine.) Does anybody, possibly with a command of Chinese, know of any other non-eBay source for Jinhao. Or perhaps someone can clue us in on this mysterious manufacturer?

So, I eat my words: the inspirationally-named X450R is not only an attractive, solid, hefty pen --my favourite type-- but it writes well enough to find its way into my daily rotation. Not bad at all for a pen costing only $10.

I thank you, Mak, for this lovely little gift, wherever your travels have you now.

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There is a large variety of

There is a large variety of inexpensive fountain pens available in China. I suspect this is because there is a large enough market to make it worthwhile to manufacture them. The downside is that the quality does vary wildly. When I first arrived, I picked up a nice black and silver pen and a bottle of ink for about $2, and still use both to this day. I picked up a couple of other pens, and some blue ink that I was told was better, and now neither of the pens will work at all. I'm not sure if that's due to poor manufacturing or the ink.

LeAd ?

Dare I say, 'lead' (As in chemical symbol 'Pb')? You can get a DIY lead test kit at many hardware stores but it's more than 10 of those pens. But maybe you'd want to know what you're handling ?

What would lead have to do

What would lead have to do with it?

There might be lead in the enamel paint on the pen, although I doubt it, because lead paint would tarnish due to the acids in sweat.

It's 100% impossible that the ink would contain lead, because lead chromate/carbonate doesn't dissolve in water.

Come on, if you're reading DIY Planner and are seriously interested in personal productivity, you're obviously smart enough to figure this out yourself.

Thanks for the Heads Up!

On your recommendation I have just ordered one from a eBay dealer in China. I have bought pens on trips to China in the past and have been generally happy with the quality.

Take care,

John
Brampton, ON

Experience with Chinese pens

I have acquired a dozen Chinese pens over a few years from eBay and on-line dealers like isellpens.com and hisnibs.com and others. My experience firmly supports the footnote that the quality is inconsistent, although of the dozen or more I acquired only 2 had to be discarded. One of those, a Parker clone, literally unscrewed the wrong way and fell to pieces. Those that do work are rock solid and certainly an excellent value considering their costs. The other discarded one leaked due to a crack.

Another thing I might note is that they don't seem to take well to abuse (I try not to abuse them, but...). If ink dries in a Chinese pen, it might never work right again. A Lamy Safari, on the other hand, seems to be able to take any kind of abuse. (That's not a critique of the pens, however, one shouldn't let any pen dry out ... actually one expert recently told me to keep always at least a half-filled converter/reservoir in any pen, since they work optimally that way...)

I Have a Bunch of Inexpensive Chinese Pens, Love 'em

Of the 30+ inexpensive Chinese pens I have just one that is a bust. On this one, the nib isn't attached properly so it leaks. The rest are wonderful. All write well/smoothly, fill properly and I don't worry about dropping,leaving. I can buy 5 pens for $50 and use 5 different ink colors. Makes my note taking, journaling colorful. What cheap fun!

Most Chinese pens have a Fine nib making them good for our planner purposes, and as Doug mentioned for even finer writing, with less ink flow, flipping the nib over usually works great.

isellpens.com is a good source and has a recent closeout on Wing Sung pens. I have a couple 712's and find them quite good.
hisnibs.com has a nice selection, my favorite is the Hero Accountant 237-1 an XXF nib. Speerbob ? and eBay seller, sells some Heros by the dozen. I have not bought from him, but have heard good reports.

I mention those other sellers as I have bought from them and they have been prompt and reliable. I don't get any kickback, nor am I friend, family. Just like their pens and service.

Speerbob is OK

I bought a pen or two from Speerbob (Bob Speerbrucker (sp?)) and he gave good service. I think he's in Singapore, but ships worldwide. He's well known on the pen boards. I'd recommend him.

I have a Hero 329 (not from him) that works well when it's freshly inked, although it tends to dry out rather quickly. It has a fine nib that's closer to an XF or XXF. Great for planners.

Walter

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"The only reason for time is so that everything doesn't happen at once." Albert Einstein and Buckaroo Banzai

isellpens.com is great

isellpens.com is a great site. Good prices, great service. I've purchased a Hero pen there and was pleasantly surprised. It works great for such an inexpensive pen. The only reason I purchased the pen is I needed one that would fit in the small pen loops in my planner. I prefer Lamy pens, but they were just too big to fit.

BTW, isellpens.com also sells Lamy pens for a great price.

-Kenny

I'm going to second the

I'm going to second the shoutout to both Hero and isellpens.com

I have both a Hero 200a and a 200c and both are wonderful writers. With Hero, the moment you step up to something with a 12 or 14k gold nib, you get a very good pen for under $45.

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"In some situations you need to ask yourself 'WWRD?' What would Riggins do in a situation?"
Landry Clarke -- Friday Night Lights

More on Heros

and isellpens.com I have a 200A, a very! nice pen for less than $25, not a hooded pen if they are not your type. Another hooded Hero that's a nice writer is the 110. $15 and a 12K gold nib. I like a very light pen and it is lighter than the metal 200A. What I started to do with isellpens is to read Todd's pen write ups and notice what he said. If he said something like ... a smooth writer from the start, or great value, great pen for the price ?... I would look for that phrase in other pens. I can't remember his exact words, but would copy them and then search his listing for those phrases. It doesn't mean the other pens are "bad", but it was a good start to find a nice writing, inexpensive pen.

I have also bought from cutepens.com their service was excellent. They use to have an eBay store and once they had a 8-9 pen "lot" of shop worn pens for sale. They said 1 or 2 might not work, kind of a grab bag thing. What a fun deal. All worked but one pen dries when capped. Guess the cap vent is too large. I might put a touch of glue around the clip and see if it helps as then pen wrote well and I wouldn't care if the cap looked a bit strange.

Inexpensive Chinese and Japanese are useful for our planner work. They usually have Fine, X-XXF nibs, you can find thin body pens, don't worry about loss, or using saturated, permanent inks.

I second that

I agreed with your support of isellpens.com. This said, cutepens.com has better prices and free wordlwide shipping, though it has a much smaller selection. I've used them both and I'm a satisfied customer for both.

"It's better to be a pirate than to join the Navy." -- Steve Jobs

Try the Platinum Preppy!

A friend just gave me several Platinum Preppy fountain pens. They come in different colors for about $3- $4 apiece and use Platinum cartridges. You can also use the Platinum converter for bottled ink, although the converter is about twice the cost of the pen. :-O

It writes a fine line (albeit a bit toothy on the one I just used) and have transparent barrels so you can see your ink level and color. Cute pen and cheap enough to leave in your planner or pen cup at work.

I saw them on www.swisherpens.com, www.pendemonium.com, and www.jetpens.com. Pendemonium even has a highlighter version of the Preppy. Hmm...

Walter

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"The only reason for time is so that everything doesn't happen at once." Albert Einstein and Buckaroo Banzai

*Really* cheap pens

This article inspired me to check out the cheap Chinese pens on eBay. And I mean cheap! Cheaper than gel pens, cheaper than Bi cs! I picked one pretty much at random -- never heard of the brand, never heard of the dealer, but they had tons of feedback, almost all positive, and at that price, it wouldn't hurt if I was ripped off or the pen was total crap.

Well, it took a Long time coming, 27 days from bought to pen arriving, but that's not wildly unreasonable for something shipped from Hong Kong.

The pen itself? It's very solid, nice and heavy and balanced in the hand. Attractive enough in an inoffensive way. Black lacquer, gold plated bands and ends clip and whatall. The plating doesn't have quite the perfect finished smoothness I'd expect on a quality pen, but it's quite acceptable for a 'use all the time' casual pen. Gold & silver (colored) nib with some filigree engraving.

What matters most, though, is that it writes like a dream. I got the medium point, because I like TO WRITE EMPHATICALLY, and even on really crappy suck-up-the-ink paper the ink flow keeps up with not a skip or light spot. Of course this means it doesn't dry instantly, so a left-hander might find it smeary, but I don't have a problem. Writing with the nib upside down lays down a much finer line, and still no skips. It writes, and I'm not lying, much more smoothly than the Waterman I paid nearly $200 for.

One other point it scores an A for: the cap slips into place smoothly and rock-solid when you post it. Okay, this may not bother other people, but I always post my caps to avoid losing them, and so many caps are a bit 'wiggly' when posted. I know it's a tiny thing, but it drives me batshit to try to write and have the cap rock back and forth. It feels like someone tapping irregularly on your pen as you write - grrrr! (The Waterman I mentioned above is especially bad for this, no matter how tightly I try to force it on. After a few minutes writing I have to fight the impulse to throw the cap on the floor and stomp it to death.) This pen? No need for any effort -- slide the cap on, it feels almost like dropping it in place, and it settles as if welded in place. Not a wiggle, not a jiggle.

I love it.

And what did this pen cost me?

NINETY NINE CENTS

Plus a mere $5 for shipping halfway round the globe.

I think that's a stunning value.

Purple Jinhao Pen

I just received a purple jinhao pen from Hong Kong. It is a lovely purple lacquer with a "jewelled" cap. The price was similar to what you paid - 99 cents for the pen and $7.99 for shipping and handling. It is a totally cool pen!

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Live Well, Laugh Often, Love Much!
Carol-Sue
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www.xfountainpens.com is also a Jinhao fountain pen distributor

I purchase a Jinhao fountain pen from www.xfountainpens.com a few days ago. I'm very pleased with the quality of the pen as referenced in the article. The selection was somewhat limited but they claim to have plans to add more items in the future.

Me too. I bought a 250

Me too. I bought a 250 Jinhao from www.xfountainpens.com for 10.00 and that included shipping. I got it this afternoon, popped in a generic black cartridge I had laying around and began practicing my cursive. It's a hefty, big barrelled pen--heavier than my Waterman. I really like it.

I'm going to stash my Waterman for awhile and use my Jinhao for everyday use.

Cheers!

Site where you can purchase this pen

www.xfountainpens.com

The pen is called the Scintillo X450. :-)

Jinhao fountain pens

Hi There I would like to endorse everything said about Jinhao. I am a collector of their pens and have around 37 different models of theirs. I can say without fear of contradiction that they are the smoothest writers that I can find anywhere, they come complete with a convertor and can be purchased at my favorite ebay site which is gotoschool888 I find they are about the nicest people to deal with and their prices of pens and shipping costs are just unbelievable. Regards. Bryan

Jinhao Ink Cartridges

Bryan - I received my beautiful Jinhao pen but failed to purchase ink cartridges at the same time. I went to Office Depot to find ink for it. I read in the booklet that it takes Parker cartridges. The sales guy tried to fit a Parker and it was too big to go in the barrel. So, I went to Hobby Lobby and purchased International ink cartridges. The image in the booklet isn't very clear and I can't tell how to insert the ink - which was a little one about 1-1/2" long. That didn't work either. From the picture I think it takes one quite long. Can you help me find the cartridges? Thanks a million! Cherri

JINHAO PENS

Hi there I am sorry you are having a problem getting cartridges, when i have bought my JINHAO'S from gotoschool on ebay I have always received the pen with a convertor inside which of course is better than using cartridges, I am gald to say that I have never had any problems with the 40 or so Jinhao's that I now own and use, I really dont think you will have a problem in finding cartridges its just a case of try one and see. Let me know if you cant find anyregards. Bryan

Jinhao

I too have bought a few Jinhao pens from gotoschool. They always came with converters installed, which I've found to be compatible with both Parker & Cross converters. I've never tried to use a cartridge with these pens as I am addicted to several of Noodler's colors...

The short International cartridge is correct.

The narrow end of the international cartridge plugs into the section (the part that holds the nib). There may be sufficient room in the pen barrel to store another cartridge back to back with the cartridge plugged into the section. The ink cartridge page on the xfountain website says that their cartridges also fit a long list of pens, and those listed use the short international cartridge.

You should be able to find Pelikan or short Waterman cartridges. The long Waterman cartridge may fit. Private Reserve also sells ink in this cartridge. Parker, Sheaffer, or Cross cartridges will NOT fit.

Hope that helps.

Walter

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"If you tell the truth you don't have to remember anything." - Mark Twain

Parker cartridges for Jinhao pens

I had the same issue with some of my Jinhao pens. The Jinhao cartridges are about 5mm shorter than the Parker Quink cartridges but I have recently been able to find Parker Quink mini cartridges which fit into the few Jinhaos that do not accept the full length Parker ones. These mini cartrtidges are now freely available and a search on eBay will also produce results. The downside of course is that the ink only lasts for half the time of the full length cartridge.

Jinhao Fountain Pens

Three months ago I discovered the Jinhao Fountain Pens. In the past I used the Waterman and Parker Fountain Pens. However, I have been impressed with the Jinhao Pens I have ordered. I received my most recent one this past week. It has abalone inlays, and I cannot say enough about how smoothly this pen writes. For my Japanese Language class I went on Ebay, and was able to find 5 Chinese made fountain pens for under $20.00 (3 were Jinhao). I also purchased 3-other finer Jinhao pens, and I start each day deciding which one to carry with me. Apart from a Japanese made fine-nib pen the remaining future purchases, will be Jinhao. The pens are both attractive, eye-catching and write very smoothly. I currently use Parker Quink Ink, however, I am looking into purchasing Noodler Ink.

JINHAO FOUNTAIN PENS

I HAVE OVER THE LAST COUPLE YEARS BOUGHT MY CHILDREN, GRAND CHILDREN AND SOME FRIENDS THESE JINHAO FOUNTAIN PENS. FROM THE PRETTY DIFFERENT COLORS, TO THE DRAGON WATCHING PRECIOUS STONE. THEY HAVE ALL BEEN GREAT GIFTS AND EVERYONE LOVES THE WAY THEY WRITE SO WELL.I USE A BLACK AND SILVER DRAGON, ONE WITH BLACK INK, ONE WITH BLUE. PLUS I HAVE A COUPLE OTHERS I USE. I ALSO FOUND IT EASIER AND SAVES THE CONVERTER TO USE A SYRINGE TO FULL THEM. I CAN NOT RECOMEND THEM HIGHLY ENOUGH. I GOT THEM FROM E-BAY. MY DOCTOR HAS QUITE AN EXPENCIEVE COLLECTION OF FOUNTAIN PENS, HE WAS VERY IMPRESSED WITH MY DRAGON PENS. I AM GLAD SOMEONE ELSE HAS FOUND AND LIKES THESE LITTLE TREASURES FROM CHINA.
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