Tuesday, March 31, 2015

My New Hero 359 “Summer Color” Lamy Safari Look Alike
I have been neglecting this blog! Unpardonable absence of more than two years. I am offering no excuses for nothing I say would justify the neglect of a blog on a topic so close to my heart.
But the sudden return to it was prompted by one pen. Something which was so unique and interesting I had to write about it. Not a costly pen. Not even an original design. The pen in question is a Chinese replication, a veritable rip-off   of one of my all time favourite, EDC (Every Day Carry) pen: Lamy Safari. I am really, really fond of Lamy. I’ve lost count of the number of Lamy Safari fountain pens I have gifted to friends, friends’ children and students. Lamy has also helped me convert many people to lovers of Fountain pens.

I came across this pen while searching the EBay for some Japanese pen. A bright yellow Safari look alike just popped out of the pages and grabbed attention. Further investigations revealed the same to be  a product from another favourite fountain pen company, Hero from China. I have very fond memories of Youth and Hero pens made in China. Our School insisted students use ONLY fountain pens for class work. In the early Sixties some decent Indian fountain pens were available in the market. These included the ‘President’, Indian made Pilot and Durex . One could also find a few ‘Swan’ pens and a few Parker, but they were well above the reach of Middle School students. Then came the affordable and smooth writing range of fountain pens from China. Many of the fountain pens were eye-dropper fillers and most had the problem of ink leak from the section-barrel joint. Youth and Hero, the more popular Chinese pens had sac filling and no leakage issues. On top of that they were extremely smooth writers with just the right amount of ink flow.  Even today, I have a soft corner for pens by these two Chinese companies.
No time was wasted in pondering over the Hero 359 Summer Color, for that was the name of the Safari look alike. One pen in the delicious looking passion fruit yellow was ordered from EBay. I expected delivery to take at least 10 days, but was surprised when it was delivered on the third day! A quick examination of the package revealed that the seller was based in my own city, Faridabad! The pen cost me all of Rupees 575 with free shipping!
The pen was packaged in one of those plastic blister packaging like the one used to pack cheap electronic goods like Memory Cards. All markings and labeling were in Chinese, at least I think so, except for the word “Hero”.
Overall Impression

The pen is a looker, no doubt. Almost an exact replica of the original Lamy. The length, breadth and style are very nearly the same as Lamy Safari. While Lamy has two rather flat sides for the barrel, the Hero has only one flat side.

The clip is chrome plated in contrast with black anodized ones of the original. On top of the cap, in place of a metallic screw with a slot on top, the Hero has a plastic top with the Hero logo on it. The weight is very slightly less in the Chinese pen.

Built and design.

Even though efforts were made to replicate the Safari as much as possible and in spite of the minor difference pointed out above, the Hero version looks what it is; an imitation, and a poor one at that. For example, the name Hero imprinted on the side in the same font as the Lamy, has a shoddy and shallow finish.
The plastic is also of much inferior quality and liable to get scratches easily.

After all, what can you expect from a copy that is less than one third the price of the original? I like the firm ‘click’ of the cap as it is pressed close, better than that of the Lamy. In fact, one of my pet peeves about the Lamy is the poor quality of the cap and they way it goes bad easily. The section and grip are almost identical copy. The nib is also copied from Safari but in steel finish compared to the black of Lamy.  The converter looks flimsy, though functional.

There are many colours, all bright and cheerful, not exactly the same shades as Lamy, but close matches, nevertheless.
Weight and balance
I loved the balance and the proportions. The cap is easily posted and with the cap in position, the pen rests well in our hand. I have rather small hands, but I find the pen comfortable to hold and write for rather long periods.
Nib and write Quality
Having used Hero pens extensively for a long time in the past, I had high expectations of the quality of writing, even considering the low cost. I am happy to say the pen did not disappoint me. The marking on the nib says ‘F’ and the pen is certainly fine, though a bit thinner than the European F and broader than the Japanese F. Writing is wet enough for my liking.

As for smoothness, if I had not known it is a Hero, I could have easily mistaken it to be a Lamy! So good is the smoothness of the nib. I’ve read poor reviews on the net, but all I can say is, I’ve been lucky to get a good piece.

I intend to buy a few more colours and other types of nibs like ‘M’ just to see how consistent the quality is.
Now for a few samples of writing in my terrible handwriting.

I have used BILT note pads for the sample writing, but soon plan to switch to a better quality paper like BILT 80 GSM Bond or something similar.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

My Kaweco Sport Ice Green Fountain Pen

I am returning to this blog after a rather long hiatus. I’ve no excuses or explanation to offer. My life is like that. Something catches my fancy and I might spend days after days pursuing it and then suddenly I might lose interest in what has just been the centre point of my life.
This is about my new acquisition.
Kaweco is a very reputed German manufacturer of writing instruments. The Company started production in 1883 and has been making some remarkable fountain pens, pencils, ball pens, etc. The reputation of Kaweco as makers of fine writing instruments rests mainly on the top line of its products, mainly the Allrounder and Student versions. The newer Dia series have also earned a name for themselves.
However, it is the Sport model in different materials like plastic, Aluminium or carbon fiber that have acquired a somewhat cult status due to their cute design and colours. I was delighted to find the Kaweco Sport ICE version in striking colours available for sale on Flipkart in India. Though the Kaweco had been on my wish list for a while now ever since I had seen one in a pen store in London, somehow I never ended up buying one till now. Seeing them on Flipkart prompted me to order a green pen with a medium nib straightaway. As usual with Flipkart, the delivery was much earlier than the promised date, in this case 15 days. Hats off to Flipkart!

The pen comes in an unimpressive packing almost like the Noodler InkRoller Ball Pen. The black thin paper cover in black failed to impress and I am sure it can offer little protection. It looks more at home for housing some antiseptic skin cream than for a fine writing instrument. Once you open the top, the pen wrapped in a cheap plastic wrapper slips out.

The pen itself is a looker. Very cute design with a cap covering almost the whole pen. The open unposted pen is just 4 inches and the cap is 2.75 inches long. The cap and nib section are the same colour, in this case brilliant green. Kaweco Sport Ice is a transparent pen often referred to as ‘demonstrator’ in pen jargon. The rest of the pen is clear white.

The diminutive dimensions of the Sport Ice is deceptive. Once you post the cap, the pen is 5.28 inches long and feels comfortable in the hand. I have rather small hands and I often write with the larger pens without posting the cap. For me, therefore, the Kaweco posted is as good as other pens unposted. And very light too. The grip is the right size for the way I write and I feel very comfortable with the pen. Just to test, I wrote almost continuously two A4 size pages. I felt no fatigue or discomfort and that is when I have not written nonstop so long in a while.

Now the nib and its flow. The nib is a steel Medium one with the characteristic round emblem of the Kaweco Company stamped on it prominently. It is firm with little flex or pliability. Writing is smooth enough for my taste, though not in the class of Lamy or the Namiki Vanishing Point. I have heard some writers complaining of certain indefinable ‘chalkiness’ but it is OK with me. I find that nibs which are a little resistant tend to improve my handwriting. As such I am a lazy person and my writing is hurried. With an ultra smooth pen I tend to hurry along and in the deal spoil my writing.

The ink is through the standard International Cartridge, one supplied with the pen.  It fits in nicely when pushed against the nib section.

The inkflow is nicem neither too much nor too little: the right kind of flow I like. I must confess that I like the flow slightly on the more side than on the less. If ink flow is considered a conyinuum0 refresenting no flow and 10 complete gushing, then My preference would be 6 rather than 4. You know what I mean? This pen I consider 6.

Unfortunately, Flipkart does not stock the separate clip designed to go with all Kaweco Sport models. Clips are sold separately for about $2.5. I have to order it sooner than later. Because without it I cannot carry it in my pocket and the beautiful pen might remain in my brief case escaping the public admiration it richly deserves. Every time I take it out to write it turns many heads and more often than not at least a few people will stare at it and some bold ones may ask to see it and enquire about its origin and place of purchase.

A sample of writing with Kaweco Sport Ice Medium nib

Now the final word. Is it at the price it is sold on Flipkart worth it? Flipkart sells the pen at Rs.1183, which is actually less than the price in the USA rupee equivalent in US$. Consider this. For a few Rupees more I can get a Lamy Safari or a TWSBI Diamond 530. I would any day prefer the writing of TWSBI over the Kaweco. Safari is another class and one cannot compare it with Kaweco or for that matter with TWSBI. But I like the feel of Sport Ice in my hand better. 530 is a rather big pen and I have to hold the cap in my hand rather than post it. That apart, the Kaweco Sport Ice is a beauty and I am not sorry I bought it. Will I buy another Kaweco? Well I might try the Dia before I answer that.