Posts Tagged ‘Chinese fountain pens’

h1

Duke Guan Yu Calligraphy Fountain Pen

07/31/2016

Pen enabler extraordinare, Leigh Reyes, has written about the extra long Duke calligraphy nib for ages and of course she can do things with it that are both amazing and beautiful. When I saw one on eBay recently, resistance was futile.

History

Meet the Duke Guan Yu Calligraphy Fountain Pen. It has the Chinese warrior Guan Yu holding his weapon, a guan dao named Green Dragon Crescent Blade, on the cap. Also on the cap are four Chinese characters, “Zhong, Yi, Ren, Yong” for “Loyalty, Righteousness, Humanity, Valor.” Guan Yu was highly respected and eventually became revered as a god. Though Guan died in 220 CE, he continues to be honored and worshiped.

Form

The Guan Yu feels very well built and sturdy in the hand. It is mostly metal with chrome trim and weighs a substantial 40 g. The length is 145 mm closed, 125 mm without the cap, and 165 mm with the cap posted to the barrel. The balance is good so it can be used comfortably without the cap. Unlike many pens, the cap clicks onto the end of the barrel for a secure fit, ideal for those who like a long pen. However, posting the cap may overbalance the pen in a small hand. On the plus side, not posting the cap allows for a free range of motion that can produce a variety of line widths.

The barrel is a greenish turquoise like the green dragon for which the guan dao blade was named. GYT is engraved on the band along with three Chinese characters.

The logo used on the cap and clip is a crescent blade rather than the usual Duke crown. The whole design is thematic, consistent and very attractive.

The pen accepts International cartridges and comes with a screw type converter. Flow was inconsistent at first but settled nicely after a few practice marks. Writing was at its best following a fresh fill of the converter. At the very end of a fill, the pen skipped at times. Consider that an early warning that it’s time for more ink.

Nib

Sometimes this design is called bent nib or fude. Whatever you call it, the Guan Yu has a particularly long tip that makes my other Asian calligraphy nibs look puny in comparison.  It is capable of producing a stunning 4 mm line while writing a 1 mm line or even thinner when held at a more upright angle. That makes it suitable for writing as well as sketching. Hold it too upright and it will skip so it does have its limits.

Noodler’s Lexington Grey is a good match since it is more subtle than black and shades nicely enhancing line depth and variation. Just the thing for a very wide nib.

The pen has an overfeed, a strip of metal that goes over the front of the nib. It’s the first one I’ve used on a fountain pen though some dip nibs come with the enhancement. It’s designed to keep ink flowing to the nib and prevent skipping when a strong flow is needed. Given the amount of ink required for a 4 mm line, the overfeed is a a wise addition. It isn’t pretty, but it is useful.

The nib has a little flex to it probably from the length of the tip rather than by design. It takes a bit of effort to bring out the flex, but with a little practice, it is possible to mildly vary line width. I found that property more useful for drawing than writing.

Writing

The blue-green barrel closely matches Noodler’s Dostoyevsky so I used it for the first fill. A dark ink would make a very strong statement from such a wide line. Pale or pastel inks would show more substance. Dostoyevsky struck a nice balance between the pale and the dark.

If used slowly for a thick line, the paper becomes critical. Drying time can be significant on a coated paper. Rhodia worked well despite the heavy flow though there was some ghosting and a few dots of mild bleed-through. Midori Traveler’s Notebook with Tomoe River paper showed heavy ghosting and significant bleed through. Experimentation will reveal good matches of ink and paper for this very wide nib.

One note about using this calligraphy nib. Mine does not lend itself well to writing in the Chinese style of holding the brush upright. The more contact the nib has with the paper, the better the flow and the wider the line. A western style hold will produce a very broad line. The lower the angle, the better.

The Duke Guan Yu is an eye-catching pen and might get some remarks from co-workers or fellow patrons at a coffee shop. However, this is a pen that makes writing more fun than serious. It would be perfect for a doodle journal or to decorate paper margins turning something ordinary into something elegant. Then write in the center with a standard pen.

My Guan Yu came from an eBay seller in China. If you prefer Amazon, I found three offers: here, here and here. The Duke 209 Calligraphy Bent Nib has a smaller tip so look closely if you want the same nib I purchased. Leigh has the Confucius model with an extra long nib in a bamboo design. There is a black Confucius model as well.

This might not be a go-to pen, but it sure is a kick to use when you just want to play around with ink and pen in a bold and color filled way.

 

 

Advertisements
h1

Sunday Links From An Asteroid To Starbucks To The Queen

05/22/2016

A few tidbits…

h1

A Trio Of Chinese Fountain Pens

07/29/2013

It’s easy to find a great pen if you have a big budget but finding a good pen under $35 is a lot more challenging. There are a number of choices but quality varies as does buyer satisfaction. Recent positive comments about Chinese pens, piqued my interest so I finally took the plunge.

The most discussed names were Jinhao and its sister brand Baoer. They offer pens at the right price point to satisfy the most frugal buyer and a number of users were quite happy with them. So I chose two models to test build quality as well as their stock medium and broad nibs. The pens were inexpensive from an eBay seller but the seller posted inaccurate photos. Caveat emptor. To test consistency between pens, I purchased the same model but from a different seller. That third pen came with a custom grind allowing me to test a new source for italic nibs.

These are the pens tested:

  1. Jinhao X750 Shimmering Sands with a stock broad nib
  2. Baoer 507 Eight Horses in bronze with a stock medium nib
  3. Baoer 507 Eight Horses in copper with a custom cursive italic nib

Both models accept converters and International cartridges which is convenient. The snap-on caps click confidently so there is no doubt when they are secure.

My initial impressions are included in the pen photos but my opinion has changed over time as reflected in this review.

Jinhao X750 Shimmering Sands Broad Nib

Jinhao X750 Shimmering Sands

The Jinhao X750 Shimmering Sands is an attractive chameleon going from near black to rainbow sparkly depending on lighting conditions. It measures 5-1/2″ capped, 6-1/4″ posted, 5″ unposted, and weighs 37g. The chrome appointments suit it and highlight the clear colors of the barrel.

Jinhao X750

Jinhao X750 barrel

It has a very solid feel and a hard plastic non-slip grip. The length and balance are sufficient to use the pen comfortably without posting.

Jinhao X750 Broad Nib

The large nib has a decorative but shallow imprint. That size at a low angle reduces contact with paper and can interfere with ink flow. The more upright you hold the pen, the better. Even at the perfect angle, some skipping occurred. The slit gets awfully narrow as it approaches the tip which could restrict the flow and the pen skates at times which could be another factor. Gently opening that slit might improve the flow but it is easily overdone. The pen still writes so it isn’t horrible, but as an out-of-box test, it was a disappointment. Given the much better performance from the medium nib, Jinhao does know how to make decent ones. This broad just isn’t up to my standards though an ink with a wet flow does improve performance. Noodler’s Turquoise has been the best to date.

Baoer 507 Eight Horses Medium Nib

Baoer 507 Eight Horses Written Sample

The Baoer 507 Eight Horses model comes in three colors, bronze, copper, and silver. It is 5-3/8″ capped, 6-1/2″ posted, 4-7/8″ unposted, and weighs about 32g. The nib is smaller than the Jinhao but two-toned and more deeply etched. The converter is better constructed than the Jinhao and contains a silicone ball to keep ink flowing. This is a handsome if slightly heavy pen. Fit and finish are as good if not better than any pen I’ve used in the price range.

Baoer 507 Eight Horses

Baoer 507 Eight Horses Calligraphy and Seal

There really are eight horses cavorting over a field and a poem in Chinese characters across the top. It even has an artist’s seal just as you would find on a Chinese painting. The design could have been garish but it isn’t. For an inexpensive pen, it is remarkably attractive.

Both the Jinaho and the Baoer are more visually appealing than many low priced fountain pens but they need to write well, too. The best indicator that the Eight Horses medium nib qualifies for a recommendation is that it has seen regular use in my journal. It’s a bit chatty but not squeaky and has a tiny bit of feedback though not enough to be distracting. Line width is closer to Western standards than Japanese. The flow has been good with both Iroshizuku and Diamine inks though on occasion it will start a bit hard. Warm, dry weather might be a contributing factor so it shouldn’t be marked down for that.

Stock Nibs

The two stock nibs I tested worked well at a 45 degree angle but also did well with a more upright hold suited to writing Asian characters. The broad nib won’t tolerate much rotation but the medium has no such limitations. For most writers that won’t matter. The medium has a more consistent flow than the broad but it also has the converter with the ball which might account for some of the difference. Any shortcomings like inconsistent flow would have benefited from adjustments but could improve with continued use. If you are good at tinkering with nibs, those skills should come in handy.

If you want your pen to work well from the start, buy from HisNibs.com. The site states that “Every nib that ships from His Nibs is closely examined under high magnification and tuned or adjusted if needed.” The site offers both the X750 Shimmering Sands, aptly renamed Starry Nights, and the Baoer Eight Horses along with a good selection of other models from Jinhao. Buying from Norman is more cost effective than buying an inexpensive pen through eBay that either needs a professional adjustment or is a disappointment that never gets used. You might get a great pen that works perfectly from an eBay seller, so if you are a gambler, go for it. Otherwise, invest in the sure thing.

Baoer 507 Eight Horses Cursive Italic

Baoer 507 Eight Horses Custom Cursive Italic Sample

The custom cursive italic from Goa Yong is a whole different matter. His package was a treat to open with its personal letter, and goodies including a postcard and green tea bag to enjoy with my “10000 Year Pen”.

The modified Eight Horses has an average ink flow and is closer to a straight italic than a stub. The lack of tipping material keeps it from being a cushioned, any-angle-writer, but a lubricating ink makes that less apparent.

Baoer 507 Eight Horses Custom Italic Nib

For someone new to italic nibs, the moderate flow will make writing more controlled so that’s a plus. It also makes small lettering possible which is another advantage. The degree of line variation will give any handwriting an appealing look and can improve legibility. The sharp corners work best on smooth paper so Clairefontaine and Rhodia are ideal. As with many italic nibs, writing more slowly solves most problems. With the right ink, it might even perform well on Moleskine paper. A light hand is best, otherwise it will dig in too much, but that is true for a lot of italic pens. Yong included a bit of special paper with which to smooth the nib. However, it would be all too easy to ruin it, so I have set that aside for now.

De Atramentis Aubergine is pictured on Rhodia, but Stipula Sepia is in the copper Eight Horses today. Neither has produced feathering even on cheap copy paper. Maybe it’s something about the sharp corners that limits the flow and maybe the paper isn’t as awful as it seems. Regardless, it’s a benefit worthy of note.

Baoer 507 Eight Horses Italic Closeup

This pen has wheedled its way into my summer rotation which around here is a form of praise. It’s a pen worth considering if calligraphy nibs are of interest. Yong modifies a number of Chinese pen models so if an Eight Horses doesn’t appeal to you, perhaps another style will.

Matching Inks to Pens

If you like matching inks to pens, the pale bronze Eight Horses is lovely with Iroshizuku ina-ho. Purchasing a bottle is a must for me now. It is also pretty with purple ink as its current mate, Diamine Violet, proves. The copper model looks good with Diamine Golden Brown, Noodler’s Golden Brown, Private Reserve Copper Burst, J. Herbin Cafe des Iles, J. Herbin Terre de Feu, Stipula Sepia, De Atramentis Sepiabraun, and Diamine Dark Brown. Some deep purple inks suit it as do a few reds including Noodler’s Red-Black, Diamine Monaco Red, Sailor Red-Brown, and Parker Penman Ruby. The X750 Shimmering Sands works with most colors though brown might be less than exciting.

Too much information?

Well, this is a three pen review. Besides, each pen was different and just in case I didn’t make it clear, I like all of them. The Eight Horses with its smaller nib and lighter weight edged out the X750 but my fondness for Chinese Brush Painting might have been an influence. Then, again, it might be my frugal nature and delight with a pen that well exceeded my expectations. How often do you get to say that in a review!

Links

Baoer at His Nibs

Jinhao at His Nibs

8 Horses

X750 Shimmering Sands/Starry Night

Italic nibs on eBay and Fountain Pen Singapore (fp-writing)

%d bloggers like this: