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Let’s be blunt. China has a bad reputation in the pen world for supplying little but cheap blatant clones. It is not the only country to do this, but it is the main offender. This is what spurred me to write my articles on UK sold fountain pens for under a fiver and the follow up post. Recently Ania over at Penchantink has reviewed three Chinese originals, each costing under a fiver. She has now leant me these pens, so here are my views.

I will look at these pens in the same order as Ania. These will not be full reviews as I need to get them back to her, or more accurately (if you’ve read Ania’s article) to stop her daughter hassling her for one of them. In advance, to save repetition, all of these are of a similar size and narrow width plus have metal bodies.

Hero 001

Described by Ania as ‘The 360’, this pen is unusual for having a double sided nib. The only previous example of this I am aware of was the Parker 180, released back in 1977 and dropped by 1985, but there it was a different tipping size on each side, here it is more a single blob split in to four, appearing to double the sides you can use.

If you were to just to pass this pen to someone they may not notice how it is different from the norm. Sure there is a piece of plastic on top of the nib, but it does not look like a feed. Writing with it is both interesting and disappointing. I am not sure if you are meant to be able to use the sides of the nib as well as the front and back, but regardless you can. Do not get carried away though, this is not a pen that can be used from any angle, aside from four sweet spots covered by the two splits it will not write.

The gap between the two nibs.
The traditional split in the nib.
Not the clearest of shots but it was very hard to focus zoomed in this far with my USB microscope.

Now if I were to assume you are just meant to use the front and back, like with the Parker 180, then you get a scratchy fine experience, not pleasant at all. However if you rotate the nib 90 degrees, so you use the split between the two ‘nibs’ then you get a medium line and a slightly smoother write but with skipping, which suggests the pen was designed just for two sides. Finally, hold the pen at 90 degrees, like a ball point, and you can actually get a fat line, but again with lots of skipping.

The filling mechanism is the old school side bar aerometric filler. I found myself having to swap inks (as I ran out of the original fill) and this implementation filled well but proved to be a pain to clean out, so if you were to get this pen I would suggest sticking to just the one ink.

So my thoughts. An interesting but flawed concept which was unpleasant to use.

Lanbitou 3072

This pen has an interesting textured finish reminding me almost of crinkled foil. Uncapped the metal on the section reminds me a little of a the Sheaffer Tanaris or PFM. It is well implemented so you can not feel where the metal starts and the plastic stops, making it comfortable to hold.

The writing experience is smooth if you find the sweet spot. Slightly off angle and it is scratchy and unpleasant. To be honest this is not that different from using a Lamy 2000 and once you find the right angle then this is a surprisingly enjoyable pen to use.

The filling mechanism is the modern Jinhao style converter, meaning this pen will not work with standard international cartridges. Just something to be aware of.

So my thoughts. Personally the pen is not my style and also too thin, but assuming you can find the nib sweet spot I do not think you will regret getting a 3072.

Luoshi 3859

Nib closed.
Nib out (you may need to open the picture directly to see the difference).

Probably the most interesting of these pens as this one is a retractable, though it has a pull on/off cap to seal it. This is long enough for you to be able to close the pen with the nib still out. Visually it is a pleasing transition from pink to blue with rose coloured fittings. The cap is clear, allowing you to see if the nib is out or in. The click/nock mechanism is satisfying to use and while it does not push the nib out that far it is still enough. Note there is no inner cap or lid so leave off or lose the plastic cap and the ink will evaporate.

The writing experience is scratchy. Sure this is an EF nib, however looking through a loupe and you can see the tipping as been poorly cut. I suspect this pen just needs a few seconds with micro-mesh to sort that out though the width might increase. As this is not my pen I am not going to try.

The filling mechanism is a slide converter, so not a large amount of ink but it does its job. The only catch is you must fully remove the inner workings from the pen to refill and after that it is pot luck what the nib position will be in with relationship to the clip. Neither myself nor Ania have managed to get the nib to line up despite many attempts. This does mean that part of the time you re-assemble the pen, go to use it, and promptly find the clip digging in to your hand, meaning you have to take it apart and re-assemble again.

So my thoughts. Despite Ania’s daughter really liking this pen it is little more than a gimmick. Sure it is fun to pop out and retract the nib, but there are too many flaws in this pen for me to take seriously or to even consider recommending it.

Final Thoughts

I am glad Ania gave me a chance to try these pens. I know she had fun looking at what was available on Etsy and also what was different, however I would suggest two of the three pens are non starters, and the other whilst decent enough is no better than many in my review mentioned at the top, and in fact some of the British store bought pens are better. Still it does show that Chinese pen makers can produce some original and near original designs, which in itself is a good thing.

Writing Samples