Friday, 11 September 2015



*If you have not already read my review of the Jinhao X750, please do so here, as I will be making reference to some of the previous observations (about Jinhao Pens) that I had made therein.


My first introduction to the Jinhao brand was when I stumbled upon the X750 in a Duyi Bookshop. I was impressed by the performance of the X750, and I grew to like Jinhao as a brand more and more. To me, Jinhao pens carry with it the promise of offering good writing instruments at very affordable prices.

(Jinhao's "Horse and Carriage" logo)

My fascination with Jinhao led me, no - compelled me, to buy a 159. About 6 months back, I purchased my 159 through ebay and paid only S$5.00 for the pen. If I recall correctly, even the postage (from Hong Kong to Singapore) was waived by the seller. The 159 took about 2 weeks to be delivered to me, and I was filled with anticipation to get my hands on it during those 2 (long) weeks of waiting.

The 159 did not disappoint, not in the least. I thought I already knew what to expect with the 159 (given my previous experiences with my X750), but I have to say, when I first wrote with my 159, I was once again pleasantly surprised by how good and smooth a writing experience I got from the 159.

Jinhao, is Han Yin Pin Yue for "金豪" which can be transliterated to mean "Prosperous". There is even a fountainpennetwork thread here which discusses the various different and possible meanings of what Jinhao could mean in English (one such alternate transliteration even states, jokingly, that Jinhao stands for "Gold Oyster").


The 159's barrel is made of metal (likely brass) and is coated with lacquer. It also comes with a screw-on cap (unlike the X750, which has a snap-on cap). The 159 can be posted, and the cap fits snugly onto the rear of the barrel. But the cap is extremely heavy and when posted makes the pen extremely long. Posting the 159 therefore makes it very unwieldy and difficult to write with (see picture below).

Much has been said about how the 159 resembles the Montblanc Meisterstuck (particularly the 149) (see Mr Brown's Fountain Pen Shootout video here, wherein he had compared both the 159 and 149 in unison). In this regard, I believe its more of a case of "the-ultimate-form-of-flattery-is-mimickry" rather than a sly attempt to dupe people into thinking or mistaking the 159 for the 149.

 (photo credit: The Pen Habit's video review of the Montblanc 149)

This is because there are very obvious differences that distinguish the pens from one another. For example, the 149 is a piston-filled fountain pen (see picture above - wherein a ink-viewing window is visible in the barrel of the 149), and the 159 is a cartridge/converter-filled fountain pen.

(but... even the converter was made to look like a Lamy Z24 converter)

Furthermore, both pens are marked with their distinctive logos - the Montblanc with its iconic white star atop the cap, and the Jinhao logo atop a "shield" on the clip of the pen.

As I said before (in my X750 post), the 159 looks undeniably classy and elegant. It looks impressive and expensive (even though it costs less than S$5!). Which is probably why scammers on carousell try their luck, hoping to trick an uninformed buyer into buying a 159 for S$150 (see picture below).

(Caveat Emptor - Buyer Beware!)

Besides the overall look of the 159, there are also some other minor details that I really like about the 159. For example, the very simple manner in which the model number is engraved into the silver ring at the end of the cap (see picture below). 


The nib and feed of the 159 are unremarkable (i.e. not particularly interesting or surprising). You get a shiny steel nib, with a nondescript black plastic feed.

(Nib and Feed are friction-fit and can be removed easily, making for easy cleaning)

The one thing about the nib, which continues to irk me are the words "18K GP" engraved onto the nib (as all other Jinhao nibs). I was under the impression (given that the 159 is sometimes regarded as a blatant ripoff of the 149) that this was another attempt by a Chinese manufacturer (which they are infamous for) to pass-off its goods for something it is not. 

But as Mr Goulet points out in his 159 review here this is not the case. Instead, as Mr Goulet explains, it is because Jinhao does in reality have "18K GP" (i.e. 18 Karat Gold Plated) two-toned nibs, and all their steel nibs are therefore first stamped with the words "18KGP".

(I do however really like the designs along the nib wings, 
and the Jinhao "Horse and Carriage" logo)

This, I assume, is due to the manufacturers being indifferent (and/or too stingy to splurge on extra machinery) to having two sets of nib-presses to clearly distinguish their "non-gold-plated" nibs from their legitimate gold-plated ones. Therefore the (mis)representation is more so "unintentional" than "deliberate" on Jinhao's part.

I guess my gripe with this whole "18K GP" issue simply boils down to the fact that this would be another potential reason scammers (like the ones already on carousell) could use to cheat unassuming fountain pen beginners, into forking out more monies than would be considered a fair price.

Not to belabour my point any further, to round-off, I will just issue to all my readers (no matter how experienced a fountain pen user/collector you are) one final cautionary statement: never impulse buy a fountain pen, always do your due diligence first (especially online, where there is a wealth of helpful literature to help you come to an informed decision about whether to (a) buy a pen and (b) what price you should rightfully pay for it).


My 159 came with a nice, big and juicy No. 6 sized (medium) nib. As you can see from the picture above, the tines of my 159 came nicely aligned. I therefore did not have any problems with the dreaded curse of "poor quality control", which many mass-manufactured Chinese pens are afflicted with.

In fact, my 159 wrote wet and smooth right out of the box (inked-up with Pelikan 4001 Royal Blue). I did not have any issues with "skipping" and I found that the feed kept up nicely, and delivered ink at a constant rate, even when writing fast and furiously. 

For a S$5.00 pen, the 159 undoubtedly blew my mind the first time I put the nib down onto paper.

Recently, my wife had also purchased 3 bottles (60ml each) of Hero 204 Black Ink from taobao for me (I have difficulty navigating around taobao, given that it's entirely in Mandarin). From what I understand, each bottle cost about S$1.00 only (or about 4.5 - 5 Chinese yuan each). 

One should bear in mind that the Hero 204 ink is not an exceptionally good ink, in fact, when I inked up my 159 with it, I did experience a slight deterioration in the overall smoothness of the writing experience. This would be what ink aficionados would refer to as a lack of "lubrication" in the ink. 

Also, as with the other Hero inks I discussed (per my X750 review), the Hero 204 also has an extremely strong stench (i.e. the same smell as Chinese water-colour paint). For a more in-depth review of the Hero 204 black ink (with a better writing sample to boot) see bookworm2109's fountainpennetwork thread here.

(Please ignore the word "carbon" in the writing sample above - the Hero 204 is NOT a carbon ink)

Also, if you are not a fan of "shading" in your inks, then the Hero 204 is probably not for you. As you'll note in the macro shots of the writing samples below, you'll see some shades of grey amongst the stronger black lines.



A common theme that traverses all my posts is the belief that a good fountain pen need not be expensive, and conversely an expensive pen is not necessarily good.

"Good" being in italics because this of course is a matter of subjectivity. The Jinhao 159 is the epitome of this belief, for me at least. It is extremely cheap, and it delivers (for its price) an extremely good writing experience. 

(simply simple)

But of course for the price you pay there will always be limitations, that is to say:

1) The 159 looks elegant, but is not entirely an original and/or a unique design;

2) The 159 is smooth, but is not buttery smooth;

3) The 159 is made with good materials, but is not the best (i.e. lacquer versus resin); and

4) Jinhao is growing to be a "reputable" brand (but usually known for how cheap their pens are, or how closely their pens resemble their more famous counterparts), and is therefore not a "prestigious" luxury brand.

In summation, the 159 is definitely a pen that I would recommend. If you have low expectations for a S$5.00 pen, you'll be pleasantly surprised, and even if you had high expectations for a S$5.00 pen, your expectations will still be exceeded.

(Finally, if you would like to read a differing opinion on the 159, you can read Mr Ken Crooker's review here)

Sunday, 6 September 2015

Everyday Writers Part 1 of 2: TWSBI Diamond 580 (Clear Demonstrator) and TWSBI Mini

Hey everyone!

I know its been awhile since I last posted anything, I've been really busy at work and I do sincerely apologise. 

That being said, what got me back and passionate about blogging again would be the recent spate of comments that you guys have been leaving on my blog, and also some  of my amazing new pen acquisitions that have really got me motivated to write again! (Those pens will be covered separately in my subsequent posts.)

(the superb attention to aesthetics is what makes TWSBI Pens so desirable)


In this post, I would like to share my experiences with my TWSBI 580 ("580"), and also the TWSBI mini ("Mini") which I bought for my wife as a Mother's Day present this year (both pens pictured below).

(my 580 on top - empty just after a cleaning, and my wife's Mini below filled up and ready to write!)

According to TWSBI's official website, the initials "TWS", was derived by reversing the acronym of "SWT". "SWT" was in turn then meant to be an acronym for the Chinese characters of "San Wen Tong" (or "三文通" which, according to TWSBI, symbolises the fabled "Hall of Three Cultures"). Lastly, the word "Bi" refers to the Han Yue Pin Yin word for "笔" ("pen").

If you are scratching your head wondering what all that means, simply look to TWSBI's corporate mission statement, which reads: "To inspire and recapture the romanticism of art and literature...starting with the pen".

Another thing that attracted me to the TWSBI branding was the fact that they are so proudly Taiwanese. Having been to Taiwan several times, and having stayed there for extended periods of time, I have a high esteem for their people, culture and identity. Much akin to the deference that many Asians commonly feel towards the South Korean and Japanese people.

Price and Where I bought it: 

I got my 580 from Mr Sunny Koh of,  for S$65.00 with another $4.00 for (local) postage. 

I bought the Mini from overjoyed's retail store at Golden Wall Centre (89 Short Street, #B1-08, Singapore 188216) for about S$52.00, when it was on sale (i.e. 20% off the usual RRP of S$65.00).

Other Features:

Piston-filling mechanism, no rear-blind-cap over the piston knob and comes with a screw-on cap.

(A) Aesthetics:

If you've read the other articles on my blog, you'll know that I am hugely inclined towards clear demonstrator pens. Needless to say, I am going to be unreservedly biased in my assessment of the overall aesthetics of these pens!

I love the look and feel of both the 580 and the Mini (since they are practically identical). 

Though the pens are comprised mostly of plastic parts, I have never once gotten the impression that the pens were cheap, light-weight or insubstantial. Quite the opposite actually. The pens feel surprisingly "beefy", adequately-weighted and also nicely balanced; especially so when writing.

The deceptively "light" look of the pens come from the fact that you hardly see any of the metal trimmings on the pen. This is because the silver accents of the metal parts blend in so naturally with the rest of the clear glossy plastic parts. One therefore tends to forget that that's where most of the pens' weight come from.

As the very first picture of this post shows, TWSBI's eye-catching red and silver trade mark is prominently affixed on the top of the cap.

Finally, as you'll notice, engraved onto the cap ring are the words "TWSBI", "Taiwan" and depending on the pen, the model of that particular pen (i.e. "Diamond 580" and "mini" respectively).

Given the clear body of the TWSBI pens, you can also "change" the colour of the barrel by simply filling the pen with any beautifully coloured ink of your choice!

(B) Disassembly and Cleaning:

(as you can see, there are many small and intricate parts in a TWSBI pen!)

Disassembling a TWSBI is easy (its putting it back together that's the hard part - I'll explain what I mean in greater detail at section (D) below). Everything screws into place, nicely. TWSBI even provides, with every one of its pens, a tiny spanner to unscrew the piston from the barrel of the pen. 

If you're interested in finding out how you go about disassembling a TWSBI pen, check out Mr. Brown's video here, Mr. Goulet's video here, and even TWSBI's official tutorial page here.

Because TWSBI pens are so readily broken down into its individual components, they are therefore very easy to clean. This is another aspect of TWSBI's pens that I find truly amazing. Not only is each and every part so intricately and meticulously fabricated, they also always fit back together seamlessly (if done right). This is another true indication of Ta Shin Precision's ("TSP") skill, craftsmanship and pride in its products (if you are interested to learn more about TSP, see Fountain Pen Economics' Brand Analysis blogpost here).

After disassembling the pens, just dump the contents in a bowl of water and let them soak for several hours. Once the excess ink has diffused into the water, take the parts out, wipe them off to dry (with a lint-free cloth), and you're ready to reassemble the pens and ink them up again!

(C) Writing Experience:

(Fine nib - TWSBI Mini)

From what I understand, TSP manufactures everything except the nibs on their pens; which are actually German-made JoWo (Steel) nibs. 

(the engraving of the TWSBI trade mark on the steel nib is simply beautiful)

It was therefore not surprising that my 580, fitted with a Medium nib, delivered an almost identical writing experience to my Lamy Vista (medium) and my Schneider iD (broad) pens (with only varying degrees of wetness).

My 580 is smooth. Lays down a wet line. Offers almost no flex (and therefore provides little to no line variation at all), and has a stiff and rigid feel when writing. Therefore, for the price you pay (S$65 for a piston-filler pen with a screw-on cap), and the writing experience you get, you are actually getting an extremely good-value-for-money deal!

There is a lot of positive literature online about how well the 580s write (for example see Chase McCoy's review on the penaddict blog here), and TWSBI has already garnered somewhat of a loyal "cult-following" amongst fountain pen enthusiasts.

(the reverse side of the Mini - gills on the feed)

As for the Mini, being a fine nib, it lays down an extremely thin and dry line (comparable to a "Japanese fine", which is surprising coming from an European nib manufacturer). Though I would often rave about the 580's smooth writing experience (and price-point), I was however sorely disappointed by the Mini's performance. 

On the Mini, the fine nib feels scratchy, rough and doesn't quite glide across the page as one would expect. My wife, whom I bought the Mini for, was similarly not impressed. I know my wife rarely uses her Mini, and if she does, its only to humour me. To date my attempts to convert my wife into a fountain pen user has been unsuccessful. She thus resolutely remains a (predominantly) roller-gel pen user.

Can the pens be posted?

Mini - Yes, superbly.
580 - No.

One of the things that I do like about the Mini, would be the fact that there are threads at the rear of the barrel, and allows the cap to screw firmly onto the back of the pen when posted (and not directly onto the piston-filler-knob). This, obviously, indicating that the Mini was designed and therefore meant to be posted when writing. This transforms the Mini from a "convenient-pocket-sized" fountain pen (i.e. in the same vein as the Kaweco Sport) into a full-length fountain pen (that sits comfortably in your hand).

(the 580 becomes impractically long when posted)

The 580, on the other hand, becomes impractically long and uncomfortably "back-heavy" when posted (see kencrooker's review of the 580 AL, wherein he had made the same observation). 

Further dissuading writers from posting the 580; the cap doesn't sit flush when posted, and gets "stuck" mid-way down the piston-filler-knob at the end of the barrel. There are also anecdotal recounts of how posting the 580 can therefore actually cause the piston-filler-knob to be inadvertently twisted while writing, and thus allowing for messy accidents. 

That being said, the 580 is perfectly weighted and balanced when "un-posted", and 580 users can go for long periods of time without experiencing fatigue and/or discomfort while writing (I once scrawled about 15 - 20 pages worth of text, while taking minutes during a meeting, and not once did my hand come close to cramping).

(D) General Comments:

As I had mentioned earlier, at section (B) above, after disassembly these pens can be extremely difficult to put back together again. I attribute this to the sheer number of tiny and intricate ("moving") parts that need to be fitted together perfectly during the reassembly process. However, I would also disclaim that my negative experiences with reassembling my 580 could, in a large part, be due to my own lack of finesse and experience (some 580 users even avoid this hassle entirely by almost never disassembling their 580).

TWSBI pens are also notorious for having extremely fragile plastic parts which crack and snap easily. This can happen if the pen is dropped, or if one were to apply too much force when writing and/or reassembling the pens (I found the black-inner-plastic components to be extremely thin and at times brittle during disassembly and reassembly). 

For brutes like myself, it would not therefore be a stretch of the imagination should these parts end up BREAKING. (In fact, this has been such a prevalent problem for so many people that there is even a fountainpennetwork thread sarcastically entitled "So, Has Anyone's TWSBI Not Broken?" - though the contents of which, from a cursory reading, have been generally positive and in support of TWSBI's products). Further, it is also quite telling when TWSBI's own youtube channel contains a tutorial for removing damaged and/or broken parts from its products (see link here).

I confess that in the process of cleaning my 580 recently - I broke the feed section (picture below), and which would therefore explain why I did not include any writing samples with this post.

That being said, TWSBI has also garnered a reputation for having excellent customer service (which is honestly not uncommon for a Taiwanese company) and generous warranties on their products. 

Further, TWSBI is also known for being extremely prompt in replying customers with any such complaints, and thereafter making haste in sending replacement parts out to such customers in a matter of days (via post), after having received such feedback.

In relation to my own damaged 580, I have written to TWSBI and (if what I've read online turns out to be true and accurate) I should be expecting to hear back from them soon.

Besides breaking easily, TWSBI pens can also be laden with nib and feed problems out-of-the-box. See this other fountainpennetwork thread, with the comments therein suggesting TWSBI pens to be more of a "hit-or-miss" type of product. I, in my humble opinion, would agree, since my own experiences with TWSBI pens have been 50-50 in this regard. In reality, my 580 has been simply fantastic (albeit now broken), while the Mini turned out to be a disappointing purchase.

(E) Conclusion:

All things considered, I would still highly recommend getting a TWSBI pen. 

For its reasonable price, superb writing experience, detailed craftsmanship and beautiful aesthetics (check out the entire range of colours available). 

TWSBI pens are definitely a great investment. Plus, the risk of getting a dud would undoubtedly be offset by TWSBI's willingness to rectify and/or replace their products when it fails to hit the mark (although you would have to sacrifice some time, effort and monies to get any such replacements).

As an aside, TWSBI has also recently introduced its cheaper range of ECO fountain pens (S$38.00 from / US$28.99 from Goulet Pens), which would again be a strong incentive to give this Taiwanese company a chance to impress you!

Monday, 25 May 2015

Double Review: Schneider iD Fountain Pen / Lamy Vista


(Top: Lamy Vista, Bottom: Schneider iD Fountain Pen")

I have wanted to do a review of the Lamy Vista ("the Vista") for a very long time. Chronologically, it was the second pen that I've ever owned/used (the first being the Waterman Hemisphere). It was a valentine's day gift from my wife and it has a sentimental message engraved into its barrel. 

You can therefore expect that my review of the Vista will be a tad bit biased (read that with a healthy dose of sarcasm). 

Why? Not just because it was a gift, but more so because it became my personal gateway-drug into the world of fountain pens. I liked the way it wrote and that convinced me that fountain pens were the most superior writing instrument, and that therefore fountain pens were the only writing instrument that I would ever want to use from then on. The Vista has therefore set me down the very expensive and obsessive journey of fountain pen collecting. 

I also thought it appropriate to do a double review of a very recent addition to my collection, the Schneider iD Fountain Pen ("the iD"), this is because  both pens are:

(i) German-made, 

 (very similar steel nibs)
(ii) have steel nibs,

(the Vista has angular grooves on both sides, while the iD only has it on one side)

(iii) have ergonomic grips/grooves carved into the grip section of the pens, and

(iv) both are what I would consider very good entry level fountain pens for the recently initiated.

(1) Schneider iD Fountain Pen

(1)(a) How and Where I Got it:

Overjoyed was having a sale the week before Mother's day, so I headed down to get my wife a present (I ended up getting her a TWSBI Mini) and while I was there I also picked up the iD for myself.

I got the iD because it came with a Broad nib, and I had been wanting to get a Broad nibbed pen for awhile now, simply because I didn't have one in my collection up till then.

It normally costs S$28.90 but because of the sale, I received an additional 20% off and paid only about S$23 for it (great value for money!). Given how comfortable this pen feels in my hands and how well it writes, even if I had gotten the iD at its full retail price, I would still consider it a great-value-for-money fountain pen!

There is a dual-sided iD rollerball/highlighter version as well (aptly named "iD Duo"), see link here (which also costs S$28.90).

(Finally, a quick shout-out and thanks to the staff at Overjoyed, they were extremely helpful and friendly! And I must say that Overjoyed is VERY well-stocked with Fountain Pen and Art supplies!)

(1)(b) Impressions / Aesthetics:

I would describe this pen as a "chunky" pen. It feels big and is therefore easier to grasp between your fingers. Plus the iD has a rubberised grip which is soft and comfortable to hold. There is also a groove on one side of its grip section (comes in both "right handed" and "left handed" versions) which helps you position the pen when you grasp it so that the nib point always hits the paper at its "sweet-spot" (i.e. making sure the writing experience is smooth and without any skipping).

The cap comes with a peculiar metallic loop sticking out of it. I assume its so that you can attach it to a lanyard, wear it around your neck, and have it at your disposal at all times. The cap snaps on tight and I don't foresee any problems for people who want to use it with a lanyard.

The barrel of the pen is also translucent black, it allows you to see the cartridge you may have in the barrel, but not the actual ink level that's left in the cartridge itself.

(1)(c) Feed / Nib (Writing Experience):

("B" engraved onto the left side of the nib)

As mentioned, the nib is a nice juicy "broad". There is a "B" engraved onto the side of the steel nib.

The iD also accepts standard international cartridges and converters and according to Archer's Rantings' Blog, the iD can be converted into an eyedropper pen with no trouble and leakage issues (I personally have not tried to do so). In Archer's Rantings' Blog, the author was also able remove the nib and feed from the grip section, which will make cleaning a lot easier once I figure out how to do so too.

Also, you may want to check out Ordinal's blog post with a review of the iD here.

Overall, I have absolutely no qualms with the writing performance of this pen, in fact I was pleasantly surprised with how well it wrote. Being a broad nib, I of course expected the writing to be very wet and I like how succulent the line that the iD lays down; all done with ease and without any skipping. I must say too that the rubberised and ergonomic grip makes this pen extremely comfortable to use, even over long periods of time.

If you note the picture of the writing sample above, I noted that according to the iD's description on the overjoyed page, it came with a cartridge of Schneider's Royal Blue Erasable ink. However, I was unable to "erase" what I'd wrote even after trying vigorously with a rubber eraser. Unless I am doing it wrong, I am not quite sure if the ink truly is "erasable".

(2) Lamy Vista:

Firstly, I wish to state that the Lamy Vista, the Lamy Safari and the Lamy Al-Star are more or less the same fountain pens (I have tried all, and the writing experience does not differ at all, except with the Al-Star being perceptibly heavier and feeling more rigid given that its barrel and cap are made entirely of metal).

In reality, the Vista is the clear demonstrator version, the Safari being the coloured plastic versions and the Al-Star being the aluminium versions of the same pen design. However, as I've discovered, some websites simply list the Lamy Vista as being a "Clear Plastic / Transparent" Safari.

(2)(a) How and Where I Got it:

From the official Lamy boutique in Orchard 313 shopping centre. Believe it cost my wife about S$50.00 (with a free engraving service). I subsequently purchased the Z24 Lamy converter from Evergreen Bookshop (Raffles One branch) for S$8.00.

(2)(b) Impressions / Aesthetics:

I personally love clear demonstrator fountain pens, and I simply love the way the red end of the converter looks in the clear plastic barrel.

The only thing that kind of irks me is the 2 slots that have been cut out of the barrel (see picture above). I would understand the need for the 2 slots on the Lamy Safari (as mentioned earlier) due to the fact that the Safaris have opaque coloured-plastic barrels and therefore having an ink window is crucial and convenient. However, on the clear demonstrator Vista, the 2 slots seem rather pointless to me and simply prevents the Vista from becoming an eyedropper pen (which I would love!).

Note: that there are people who have successfully converted their Vistas into eyedroppers. See Analog Dog's blog here. Basically, it is possible to swap out your Fountain Pen Vista's barrel for that of the Rollerball Vista's Barrel (which does not have the ink window slits cut out of the barrel) and thereafter applying some epoxy / sealant to the end of the barrel (where there is a tiny air hole). I personally do not know where in Singapore I'd be able to get my hands on a spare Vista Rollerball barrel and at this juncture, I would not want to spend anymore money on my Vista, unless I want to risk it becoming a S$100+ fountain pen (as I foresee having to buy another Vista Rollerball just for its barrel).

The Vista also uses Lamy's proprietary cartridge / converter systems, which Stationery Traffic has expressed great disdain over (because the tapered end of a Lamy cartridge traps ink and makes it very difficult to clean / swap inks). I noted too Stationery Traffic's dislike (or rather his "hatred") for the Safaris, as he's had scratchy writing experiences with almost all the nibs / Safaris he's purchased.

(2)(c) Feed / Nib (Writing Experience):

That being said, there is ALOT of praise for the Lamy Vista / Safari / Al-Star online. Many enjoy the way the pen writes and have made the Vista / Safari / Al-Star their everyday carry pens ("EDC Pens"). A lot has also been said with how easily the Lamy nibs are interchangeable (similar to the Platinum Preppy, you simply slide the steel nibs on and off the black plastic feed section).

Check out StrangeKnight's very detailed review of the Vista here

For me personally, I like the way my Vista writes. I do not have trouble holding the triangular grooves on the grip section and I find the Vista a pleasure to write with even during long writing sessions (I once wrote 20 pages non-stop at a break-neck-pace while at work and I had absolutely no problems whatsoever). 

(3) Final Thoughts / Combined Conclusion:

I think both pens make great introductory fountain pens for someone who is just starting to appreciate using and collecting them.

I don't think it would be fair to compare the writing experience of the Vista and the iD given that one is a medium nib and the other is a broad nib respectively. In summation, I will just say that both pens write smoothly and that I like the way both pens perform; there are no starting issues or skipping during mid-writing.

Overall, I think it all boils down to the price at this stage.

If you are able to get the iD from Overjoyed during a sale (which I hear is about to happen again very soon) then I think paying S$23 for an eyedropper convertible pen is extremely good value for money. Whereas, I think paying about S$60 (Vista & an additional Converter) of course would make a lot less sense in comparison.

Saturday, 9 May 2015

Review: Pilot Metropolitan (and a surprise find: a Pilot Hi-Techpoint V5 Eyedropper)

(1) Pilot Metropolitan:

The Metropolitan has been strongly recommended and raved about by Mr. Brian Goulet of the Goulet Pen Company (see Ink Nouveau videos here and here). In his 2012 Youtube video Mr. Goulet said that it would become "known as one of the best starter pens out there in the fountain pen community". In my humble opinion, I think his prediction was spot on.

See also The Pen Habit's Youtube video here, where he goes into detail of his dislike of proprietary converters, which I do agree with to a certain extent - I will talk more about this later below.

(Pilot's proprietary squeeze converter)

Lastly see also Peninkcillin's very detailed review here (where there is a comparison between the Prera and a "M" Nib and "F" Nib Metropolitan).

When I first started getting into fountain pens, I had heard so many good things about the Metropolitan, i.e. how cheap and solid it was, and how smooth it wrote. I had wanted to get one for the longest time, but it somehow was never one of those pens that I "hunted" for. It was more of a "if-I-see-it-I'll-get-it" type of pen for me personally. I wasn't excited about getting it, but somehow I felt that no respectable novice fountain pen aficionado could call his collection complete without a Metropolitan.

(a) Price and Where I got it:

(photo from, but I believe this is the Terminal 3 outlet)

I bought it from Relay Bookstore in Changi Airport's Departure Terminal, Terminal 2 (only accessible after you've passed through immigration) for S$30 (on it is going for US$15). I was able to get it on a recent business trip to China.

I think it would be an appropriate point here to say too that the Relay Bookstore in Changi Airport Terminal 2 is FANTASTIC because:

  • It is open 24 hours a day (only the Terminal 2 branch);
  • It carries a large variety of fountain pen brands (Lamy, Faber Castell, Pilot (even the high-end Namiki Maki-E series of fountain pens), Cross, Parker and Caran d'Ache) - there may be more as I am writing this based solely on my own sketchy memory;
  • It usually is cheaper than other boutiques / stores in Singapore (I suspect this may be the case as it is a "tax and duty-free" zone as the staff do check your flight details prior to your purchases) - for example I bought my Franklin Covey Lexington from Times Bookstore for S$33, but I saw it at Relay going for about S$28 and I also bought a bottle of Waterman Ink for S$13.80 when I saw it going for about S$16 outside (if I am not wrong ... at the Waterman counter in Takashimaya);
  • It has great packaged deals - there was also a "Pilot Metropolitan" gift pack which comprised of the (i) mechanical pencil, (ii) ballpoint pen and (iii) fountain pen for only S$59 (it is normally S$20 - 30 each). There were also packaged deals / gift sets for Faber Castell, Parker and almost every other brand sold in the store. With the prices in Relay being generally cheaper than anywhere else in Singapore, the packaged deals are even more value for money!

(b) Impressions and Nib:

I have to confirm what a lot of other bloggers / vloggers have already said about the Metropolitan; it is great value for money (it comes with a squeeze converter), it feels great in the hands (comfortable with a healthy heft to it) and it writes smoothly.

My Metropolitan came with a Japanese "F" (fine) nib, which makes it an "Extra Fine" nib in comparison to other continental / western fountain pens. For me, this has been great because I had been looking for a very fine pen for awhile to stave off feathering on cheap paper. Currently this is the thinnest / finest nib that I have in my fountain pen collection (see writing sample below).

(c) Finish: 

"Black Crocodile" and the body of the pen is made of metal and coated with a matte black paint finish. The cap is a snap-on one, and the pen is tapered at both ends. Undeniably, this is a sleek looking modern pen.

(d) What I Like about the Metropolitan:

  • The Nib and Feed are friction-fit, but if you'll notice in the picture above, the nib has a "locking" mechanism to keep it in place (the extra protrusion at the end of the metal section of the nib sits into a groove in the plastic feed), this ensures that the nib is always centred and in the ideal position when you push it back into the grip section of the pen. For me this was ingenious - if you've struggled to get the sweet spot on another friction fit nib/feed, you'll know what I mean;
  • The grip section of the pen is made of plastic and not the same "matte black" metal as the rest of the body, I like this because it doesn't cause the pen to become too slippery when I am writing for long periods of time, as compared with an all metal grip; and
  • The Metropolitan clearly has a lot of care and attention put into its quality, precision of manufacture and aesthetic finishes.

(e) What I Dislike about the Metropolitan:

Only really 1 thing; the proprietary squeeze converter that it comes with, which is opaque. 

You can't see how much ink you have left in the converter, and as I've mentioned several times this really, really, really irks me. I hate not knowing how much ink I have left in my pen before I take it into a meeting with me and with this converter there is no way that I can check; even if I were to open the barrel up and take a peep inside the pen.

Also, in a regular twist converter (like any other regular standard international converter) it is easy to give it a little twist to push ink down into the nib and feed to saturate it when the pen is a tad bit dry. However, you don't often have that level of precise control (i.e. how much or how little you want to saturate the feed) with a squeeze converter. As has happened to me, I have accidentally squeezed too hard and had a drop of ink drip out from the feed and nib.

At the moment I have the squeeze converter swapped out for a regular Pilot ink cartridge (and which I am hoping to be able to swap out for a CON-50 one day soon, for more information on Pilot Converter's see the GouletPens' blog post here), which I got from a Pilot Hi-Techpoint V5 pen (see picture above). At least now I can monitor how much ink I have left since the cartridge is transparent. 

(2) Pilot Hi-Techpoint V5 Cartridge / Eyedropper Pen (see picture below)

This is also an opportune time for me to segue into the other cool discovery I stumbled upon while I was in China!

In Singapore the Pilot Hi-Techpoint is as common as dirt. 

I dare say that every single office in Singapore would have at least 1 (if not a 100) of these. However, all the ones I have ever seen are disposable (see picture below, i.e. where the ink is enclosed in the body of the pen itself and which will have to be thrown away once the ink has been used up), and I have never seen one with a refillable cartridge system!

I was able to convert one of them to an eyedropper with the same "Platinum Preppy" trick; silicone and a rubber o-ring (see picture below). Which is super cool too since it comes with a little clear window for you to monitor when your ink is low!