Asvine are not a new company as they have established themselves making pens for other brands in recent years. Now they have decided to produce their own fountain pen and rather than follow their local peers, it is an original design.
Before I go any further I need to get the elephant out of the room. China is not the only country where there are companies that produce blatant clones of other maker’s pens, however it is by far the largest offender. I am not talking being cigar shape or having metal work around them, but exact copies dimensionally and also often with bright work and colours also matched (and for those of you who are about to go ‘but the Sailor 1911 looks like a Montblanc 146’, MB took Sailor to court and were thrown out with having to pay all costs as the pens do differ and the cigar shape was actually first implemented by Sheaffer).
Skeleton pens are not new. Various companies have produced them for over 80 years and then you have the craftsmen, such as the late Henry Simpole, who create overlays. Even now Laban produce a demonstrator with the metal lattice work, however here Asvine have gone for their own shape, coloured transparent resins, and ….. a vacuum filler double reservoir system.
Available through Ali Express, Amazon, and Etsy, the pen presently comes in 6 finishes, with a mixture of chromium and gold skeleton frames. I went for the green under chrome (at the time I’m not sure the gold option was available, however this was my first choice regardless). I would suggest the colour is closer to a teal or turquoise and does match the marketing pictures.
The pen arrived in a generic plastic box surrounded by a branded cardboard one. First impressions were mixed, partly as it was cold outside and this pen will reflect the ambient temperature. The skeletal work looks well done and does not feel sharp on the edges. I describe it that way as there has been no attempt to curve or soften the holes in the overlay. The filler knob and cap do not feel or look cheap though the same can not be said for the transparent acrylic as it looks and feels brittle, however I must admit after a while I stopped noticing that.
The cap comes off in just over a turn and has a satisfying heft to it. The only branding is Asvine stamped on the band by the opening under the clip. There appears to be just a single thread for it so anyone with a high enough level of OCD to try and line the nib up with the clip may find annoyance as you can clearly see the nib at an angle. A downside to transparent caps.
The clip is of the t-bar type and works well, securing the pen in a jacket pocket without the risk of it sliding out, however it can be pushed sideways and this does cause an occasional issue. A couple of times I have found the clip at 20 degrees to the right as the nib has slid across the metal and resulted in it falling in to one of the gaps in the frame. This can’t be good for the clip in the long term, but just something you need to be aware of. Everything is fine in the other direction as the nearest hole is in the wrong position to cause the same problem.
One thing that has not happened to me which a number owners on forums have reported, is removing the cap to find the section also coming off as if the latter is designed to be removed for cleaning purposes. I’ve not suffered the same and when I tried to remove the section it refused to budge, staying firmly in place.
Finally with the cap, it will not post. With the length of the pen I can not see this being an issue, in addition to which the extra weight at the back would throw the balance right out and make the pen potentially unwieldy.
In the hand the pen offers a decent weight and balance. The section can feel slippery, particularly if you have slightly greasy fingers (guess who has just eaten a biscuit), however the pinched shape does mean a secure hold of the pen. The capping threads may be metal but they are wide and smooth, you actually feel the bottom of the skeletal frame more. The latter may be an issue to some people, but then the same would be the case with other similar pens such as the Laban Skeleton.
Flushing out and filling, the vacuum system works well, having a visible double reservoir. The seal at the bottom of the rod does a good job and I have seen no seepage in either direction. The knob at the back is a metal overlay over plastic and feels solid, as does the rod. The action moving the plunger back and forth was smooth. While the upside of the frontal reservoir is you can write for a while without having to unscrew the back, the down side is it still does not contain that much ink and as with most stopper restricted pens (both vac fillers and eye droppers) with the valve open the ink flow is just a bit too much. We are not talking fire hose here (unlike some other brands, including one rather expensive make) but you still could find paper being over-saturated with the result of feathering.
I am trying to work out who the nib comes from. On their marketing photos the pen shows a Bock. Here the patterning (with an italic A in place of the springbok) indicates it still could be, with the tines looking about the same, however the feed is different and there is a definitive sweet spot. Additionally it is rather wet. Not something of an issue as this is a medium nib, but if the same with fine or EF options I could see some frustrated new owners. Get the angle right and it is a smooth writer, slightly out and you struggle to get it to start. Which brings me to another thing which I think is paper type specific. Despite being a rather wet nib, at times I have found it to suffer from hard starting. I think this is just with some brands of paper though and may also be down to my light touch. I’ve not heard of anyone else complaining about this occasional problem.
The price is interesting. At just under £40 it is expensive compared to many other Chinese branded fountain pens, though not when compared to the likes of PenBBs, another company producing originals. Thing is though you do need to compare the price with the Laban offering as they are of similar quality in addition to which that pen uses a cartridge converter, considered a cheaper filling system. The Laban Skeleton starts at ~£155, so almost four times the price. With this in mind I do consider the Asvine v169 to be a bit of a bargain.
And here is the thing. The pen is not perfect, but it is good. As long as you find the sweet spot it is a nice writer, though possibly too wet, and it holds a lot of ink without exhibiting any real evaporation. Assuming you have no problems with the looks or the feel of the overlay then at £40 it is hard to argue with and the biggest issue may be that these pens sell out quickly when they become available.
- Original looks.
- Decent price.
- Good value for a vacuum filler.
- Large ink capacity.
- Double reservoir.
- smooth wet nib.
- Nib may be too wet for some people.
- Pen may be too heavy for some people (though I can’t see a way round his with an overlay pen).
- Vacuum filler pens are not the most practical for any real quantity of continuous writing.
- Cap will not post.
- Clip can get caught in one of the frame holes.
- Nib has a sweet spot and does not like writing outside of that.
- Occasional hard start.