Saturday, 20 February 2016

More eastern "Duofolds" - Jinhao and Kaigelu

I've written about my Ranga 'Big(ger) Red', and I also have a couple of Chinese pens that take their inspiration from the Parker Duofold. I present: the Kaigelu 316 and Jinhao Century.

(There should be a photo here. Bear with me, my camera is playing up today.)

The Kaigelu is a bit fatter and slightly longer: 139 cm when the pen is capped, against 132 for the Jinhao. It's also a lot heavier.  Both are cartridge/converter pens and came with converters - if I recollect correctly I bought both of them direct from China, via ebay.

Both share a family resemblance. Both are slightly streamlined, both are served up within black parentheses, both have a double cap ring (which I suspect is actually a single metal cap ring with a painted black hollow in the centre: I haven't scratched it to find out), both have a barrel end ring, and a flared section with a metal ring at both ends. Both are in quite colourful and slightly pearlescent marbled acrylic. In both cases, judging by the weight, the cap ends and barrel ends are painted brass, rather than acrylic (which leads me to worry that they may need repainting at some point.)

Both have the company logo on the top tassie. The Kaigelu has a slightly more de luxe approach, with the eponymous kangaroo in a sort of laurel wreath under a 'crystal' dome, while the Jinhao has a 'silver' inset with a horse chariot in low relief.

I do think these two logos are pretty lame. The chariot, like the Faber Castell knights, is really too busy to be an effective logo, and on the tassie here it looks rather like a squid that's drunk too much and got amorous with a discarded hub-cap. The kangaroo... well, that's just silly. (Mind you, you could say the same about pelicans, but nobody ever does.)

Anyway... the nibs. The Jinhao has a fairly small gold plated nib. Well, it says '18KGP'. It doesn't really look like it any more. It's a nail, and rather dry.

The Kaigelu's nib is ... blimey, twice the size! Nearly two and half centimetres of length outside the section, with a two-tone decoration. It looks cute, but the plating hasn't been particularly well applied, so that it doesn't quite tally with the engraved lines. And lke the Jinhao's, while it's an effective nib, and works, and isn't scratchy, it's a nail. No bounce, no spring, and absolutely definitely certainly no flex. Don't even think about flex.

The Kaigelu is also top-heavy. I don't write with it posted, and it's still top-heavy, as well as just heavy. If I had larger hands, it might not be such a problem for me, but I do find a bit wearing for continuous writing. And it blobs a little, occasionally, though that's a vice that an awful lot of my pens have had. (Silicone grease sorted it out, but it turns out it reflects a basic engineering fault and can be remedied either by replacing the nib unit with a Bock, or by a bit of nail polish:

So I hate these pens, right? - Well, actually, no. The acrylic is just gorgeous, pearlescent and deeply coloured. While the nibs are not the best in the world (hey, I haven't tinkered with them - they might make great medium cursive italics) the pens write fairly reliably and have no vices apart from that little blotting by the Kaigelu (only when I used it with Waterman's violette).

Plus, the price when I got mine was incredibly cheap - I think I paid £14 for the Kaigelu and rather less than that for the Jinhao. And that's one heck of a lot less than the going price of a Parker Duofold, which is, at the moment, about £250 from most UK retailers. If you can still get these pens at a good price, they represent really good value.

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