Posted in Pens, Reviews, Stories

Kaigelu 316A

Company Back Story

Kaigelu is a brand of Lanxivi, a subsidiary of Shanghai Hero Pen Company. Hero has been manufacturing “high-quality” fountain pens since 1931. Initially known as Wolff Pens, they changed their name to Hero in 1966. Their pens are renown for their quality in Asia and are extremely popular with users in China and India.

I consider Kaigelu to be a “high-end” Chinese manufactured pen. I call them high-end because the typical Chinese pens sells for $7-$10 and this one sold for $26.

The Kaigelu 316 was initially released in 2014, and closely resembled the Parker Duofold Centennial. The pen is available in a variety of color schemes; however, I was interested in two, a golden brown/grey swirls called ‘Tiger Eye’ and white/black swirls called ‘Century Stars.’ I choose the white/black swirl. I am more inclined to say it resembles marble or pearl.

The pen is made of an acrylic celluloid (so they claim), something you don’t often see in contemporary pens. The celluloid has a lot of depth and complexity plus to my surprise it is semi-transparent. The pen clip, cap band and other accents are gold plate. The cap band contains an imprinted design with black inlay. The cap is topped with a jewel containing a kangaroo surrounded by a wreath, both in gold plate.

My pen is model 316A, the “A” designation I believe indicates a newer model, incorporating improvements over the initial pen. The seller called mine an “office gift pen.” I did a Duck-Duck-Go search and all of the 316 pens I found had black blind end caps and a black section, while mine has blind caps and section made of the same material and color as the pen. Maybe it is a “special edition.”

Other reviewers mention their pens are too heavy, tipping the scale at 46g, while mine weighs in at a mere 28g with converter. As I prefer pens with some heft to them, 28g is perfect. The pen feels solid in hand, and the construction seems sound.

The seller claimed it came with an iridium nib but it is stainless steel with gold plated accents. A kangaroo like the one in the jewel on the cap, scroll accent work, and the name “Kaigelu” is etched on the nib. The section is metal or brass, gold plated with “Kaigelu” and the model number etched into the opposite side.

The nib is labeled as Fine and it writes accordingly on 100gsm or better paper. On cheap paper the ink will flow.

The converter is attractive as far as converts go. It screws into the section but doesn’t appear to hold as much ink as other converters and contains a steel ball. I assume this keeps the ink “stirred, not shaken” which makes the pen rattle. The pen also accepts international converters as well as long international cartridges.

Vital Statistics

  • Capped length 137mm,
  • Barrel diameter is 13mm,
  • The cap diameter is 15mm,
  • Pen and converter weigh in at 28g,
  • The cap weighs in at 10g.

Cons

My complaints are: removing the cap did require 3 full turns, unscrewing the barrel from the section took a week (ok I exaggerate a bit), and the rattle the pen makes because of the steel ball in the converter. This is a feature to keep the ink from thickening up – a common occurrence for ink in Asia because of the heat and humidity.

Opinion

Unlike the experiences reported by others, the pen did not leak, it is not too heavy, the nib did not require smoothing or other fine tuning. I like the feel and weight of it in my hand. It wrote smoothly when I initially inked it up. I like it and for a mere $26 you can say I love it. Would I buy another – absolutely, maybe the tiger eye pen next.

In short, I liked the pen

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Posted in Pens, Reviews

Conklin Duraflex Elements “Fire” Limited Edition

Inspired by the wonders of nature, the Conklin Elements fountain pens feature semi-translucent bodies in dappled patterns aptly named Earth, Water and Fire. The Duraflex Elements are an extension of the popular Duragraph line. I got a deal on the pen at $39, it is discontinued by Conklin and available at most online pen dealers for $56. Of the different elements I though the “Fire” model was the most attractive. Considering the price I paid, this pen qualifies as a budget friendly pen.

My Pen

The pen ships in a clamshell box with an outer cardboard sheath brightly colored based on the “element” and printed with the Conklin Duraflex Elements label. The box itself has a cream faux suede interior, plus 2 ink cartridges and a converter.

First Impressions

I opened the box and was immediately struck by the color, it is as impressive as I hoped. The pen is partially translucent because of the dappled finish on a clear resin. The cap is removed with two quick twist (one complete rotation), revealing a stainless Omniflex nib, a plastic feed… wait the nib has wings? The pen feels good in hand, there is a pleasant balance without posting the cap. Capped, the pen measures 140mm, 13mm across the barrel and tips the scale at 24g (0.85 oz) with an empty converter.

The pen trim is chrome with a simple tear drop cap clip. The cap ring is engraved with “Conklin” on one side and “Duraflex” with moon shapes on the other. The barrel is etched with the collection name “Duraflex,” “Limited Edition” and “1505 of 1898.” Indicating I have pen 1505 out of the 1898 they produced.

Performance

Time to ink up the pen with Waterman Serenity Blue ink and see how well it writes. It started writing immediately, better first impression than with the All American. The nib is stiff, but writes smooth otherwise. I was unable to get the line variation expected with a flex nib.

Then I began noticing the ink bleeding on the paper. I know it is not quality paper but none of the other nibs, Fine, Medium or otherwise have bled on this paper. The ink flow is out of control.

Well . . . I would beg to differ, as mentioned this nib is stiff. Getting any flex out of it requires a good amount of pressure contradicting the Omniflex literature. That said, all I’ve gotten so far is too much ink.

Opinion

As Captain Lee would say, “Once is an accident and twice is a pattern.” Conklin disappoints me yet again. I really like the pen but hate how it writes. I’ve read other reviews involving Conklin Omniflex nibs and I’m not the only person with the same issues. Some reviewers replaced their Omniflex nibs with standard Conklin nibs as the solution to the problem.

If you like this pen or it’s cousin the Duragraph, make sure you DO NOT choose an Omniflex nib.

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Posted in Pens, Reviews, Stories

Scrikss 419 Piston filler

Company Backstory

Scrikss is a pen manufacturer based in Istanbul, Turkey – established in 1964. Yup they make fountain pens in Turkey. The company name is of Spanish origin, derived from the word ‘Escriure,’ which means ‘writing’ in the Catalan language.

During the Spanish Civil War, Scrikss started producing fountain pens in Albacete, Spain. In the late 50s, rights to the name Scrikss are sold to a Swiss company. Subsequently, all rights to the brand are sold to Turkish investors and Scrikss Maden ve Plastik Sanayi A.Ş. is born.

Since 1964, the company has been producing Scrikss ballpoint pens in it’s factory at Bahçelievler, followed by fountain pen production in 1966. Except for the nib, everything relating to the fountain pens was manufactured domestically in Turkey.

In 1974, Waterman agreed to a deal licensing the production of the Jif-Waterman fountain pen, cartridges and ink to the Scrikss company in Turkey. Jif-Waterman is credited with the first commercially successful ink cartridge, which was made of glass ink cartridges in 1936.

My pen a Scrikss 419

Scrikss pens are not generally available in the US; however, they can be found on eBay and at the odd pen retailer. In 2020, Scrikss re-introduced the 419 model with new colors, a piston filler, and an acrylic resin barrel. I picked up a red one because it was cheaper ($28 vs $32) and I don’t have a red pen.

First impressions

The pen came in a big box, trying to make a positive impression I guess. The pen itself is very light, topping the scale at 11g (or 0.40 oz). Not a surprise as it is only made of resin. Capped, the pen measures 125mm while the barrel is 11mm across. A couple twists (one complete rotation) removes the cap revealing a gold plated Scrikss medium nib with a plastic feed – pretty standard stuff. The cap band is gold plate and tapers down to the barrel, with the name “Scrikss” repeating on the band. The cap clip is also gold plated with a large “S” within a crest.

The pen comes with a piston feed, meaning it doesn’t accept cartridges or a removable converter. Simply turn the end-cap on the barrel and a piston moves down the ink reservoir. Dip the nib into the ink and turn the end-cap the other way, and the piston retracts filling the pen with ink. When the piston is fully retracted the cap fits snuggly against the barrel. Sorry I am the vintage pen guy and I got the biggest kick out of this feature. Plus the barrel nearest to the section is clear acrylic so you can see the ink reserves.

All inked up, time to apply pen to paper, it instantly began writing. I was surprised at how well the medium nib did on cheaper paper. There are far more issues with my bad handwriting than the pen. Because it is a medium nib the ink dried noticeably slower than let’s say the Conklin All American with a fine nib. Both test I used Waterman Serenity Blue ink.

Opinions

Other then the lack of weight to the pen, I really liked it. I enjoyed how the pen felt in my hand, I am not one to post the cap but the size was good. The lack of weight does give it a cheap feel, but I’m am biased towards pens with some weight to them. Added bonus, my wallet liked it! Would I buy another? Well let’s say I was searching for other models they offer and their Heritage Black GT caught my attention. The bad news is I could only find it at a pen dealer in Romania, selling for $178. I am adding the Black GT to my wish list of pens.

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Awesome little, great pen!

Posted in Pens, Reviews, Stories

Conklin “All American” – yeah right

I decided to add some variety into my collection and acquired some contemporary pens. As I didn’t want to simply invest in good quality expensive pens, I thought I’d make things interesting and challenge myself to find budget friendly decent pens. Today I present the first in that group. It has a MSRP of $95, generally retails for $76 but I got it for less than half that price, at a mere $35.

The Company

The Conklin company was established in 1898, and. Came to prominence when Mark Twain began his relationship with them in 1903, becoming their spokesman. During the Great Depression, Conklin launched a collection that was priced to be affordable to the public – The All American. This collection was offered in a variety of sizes, filling mechanisms, and finishes.

Fast forward to today, inspired by the original depression era models, Conklin has developed a new All American collection. These pens are crafted from handmade European high-grade resin, but it is named “All American!” OK, well anyway, I picked one up at a significant discount in the Yellowstone resin. The modern Conklin Company is part of the Yafa Brands group, having been revived in 2009.

The Pen

The first impression was OMG this is a “fluffy” pen (we don’t use the adjective “fat” in this family, we don’t want anyone or thing to develop a complex). It is by far the fluffiest pen I have. The Conklin website doesn’t provide dimension so I will. Capped the pen is 5-5/8” (142mm) long and the barrel has a 5/8” (16mm) diameter. Did I mention it is a heifer, weighing in at 31g. As for the overall appearance it is a BEAutiful pen. The pen has decent weight to it, which feels good in my hand but posting the cap on the end makes it feel very awkward. Overall the pen feels solid like a quality product, but damn it is fluffy.

Oh and did I mention the walls of the pen barrel are a whopping +3mm thick.

I can’t stress how BIG this pen is. Now I have short stubby fingers so this is NOT the pen for me or anyone with small or dainty hands. I know sounds like I just contradicted myself.

The pen included an ink converter which screws into place. A feature I really like. It sports a German made JoWo #6 steel nib, they also offer an option to choose the JoWo Omniflex steel nib. Did I mention the pen is called the “All American?”

(L-R) Phileas, All American, Meisterstuck, Hemisphere

Performance

Let’s take it for a jot. Got out my bottle of Waterman’s Serenity Blue – the general purpose ink of choice. In went the nib, down to the section and I gave the converter a twist, expecting to hear it bubbling as the plunger descended but nothing. This is odd, I reversed the plunger and no ink. Hmmmmm. Did this three times, same result. So I got out two backup converters and got the same result. Are you F@&$ing kidding me? The damn thing won’t ink up. To say I am annoyed is an understatement. I know I normally focus on vintage pens with ink sacs but I used converts in my Hemispheres and Phileas for over a decade so I know how they work.

I hate to admit defeat so after pouting for a couple days I took the nib and feed out of the section. Eyeballed each for defects then put it back together. Tried to ink up the pen again and SUCCESS it took ink. The nib is stiff, not an Omniflex. I’ll let you know if it leaks.

Opinion

There are many comments in the FPN forums bashing Yafa Brands and retelling horror stories about their support. I chose to ignored the “negative Nancy’s” and learned the hard way. Sorry to say this pen is not the pen for me. I know lots of people prefer fluffy pens, sorry they are not for me.

If you have had a different experience or a strong opinion about Yafa Brands or if you are interested in buying a fluffy pen. I’d love to hear about it – don’t be shy.

Revision/Update

After using this pen exclusively for a month it has grown on me. Still feels like I am writing with a cucumber but I’ve grown to appreciate the feel for the nib. It is doing a fine job on cheap paper, I also used it to create a sketch in a 100 gsm art book with textured paper. The difference in nib performance between the cheap smooth paper and the more textured sketch book paper was significant. Cant say I will use it for sketching any time soon. Back to the update, overall I am pleased with the pen, the size is still an issue but that is lessening with each passing day.

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