What’s With All These Chinese Pens? Meet the Wing Sung 601

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So for the last year or so, I’ve – plunged – neck deep into the world of Chinese pens. Actually, my first acquisitions of these Asian pens started probably 8 or 9 years ago. But only a pen here or there. And what I’ve seen over the last several years is a marked change in those products.

Used to be (and maybe for some brands, still is…) that the quality of the pen you acquired might vary from good to crappy. While it’s still true that one might still come across a crappy individual pen, for the most part, today the pens I’m seeing are generally of good to great quality. And when you pair the quality with price, you get…… wait for it…….value.

It’s that value proposal that has driven my interest for the last year plus. I think the same can be said for a lot of other people (read “pen” people). But if you you, like me, have had a keen interest in these types of Asian pens, you may have also noted that there’s a LOT of controversy attached to this subset of fountain pens.

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A Wing Sung knock-off of a Lamy Al Star. Not a fake. Patent violation though?

Specifically, many in the pen community see these pens as almost abominations. Pens and the companies that produce them, are seen by some (ok, maybe many) as industrial pariahs. That they simply exist in order to profit off of the work of other, “better” companies.

While I can see why some would make that argument, I don’t generally see them that way. I DO have a HUGE problem with fakes. But that’s not what these types of pens are.

— DISCLAIMER —

I don’t claim to be an attorney, and as such don’t claim to have intimate knowledge with patents, patent law, what’s legal and when, etc. So while some or many of these pens may be violating the law, I can’t and don’t assume that they are.

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The pens that I’m referring to are pens that I would call knock-offs, or in some cases homage pens. Pens that are produced to closely mimic or at least have lots of similarities with better known “main-line” pens, but aren’t pretending that they are, in fact, made by those other companies. And as of today, there are lots of these pens being produced. That brings us (after an overly exaggerated and un-needed rant) to the topic of this review, the Wing Sung 601

The Wing Sung 601 is a direct knock-off of the venerable Parker 51. And further, a specific 51 timeline. Initially introduced in 1941, the Parker 51 was totally unique. It featured a 14k gold hooded nib, a metal slip cap and a solid colored body. The pen was originally produced with Parker’s venerable “vacumatic” pump filler system. This system allowed the pen to hold an enormous amount of ink, as it’s body cavity contained the ink as opposed to a smaller internal sac. A spring loaded plunger pushed against a rubber diaphragm which, when released, created a vacuum that would suck up the ink into the body cavity. The pen was produced in this basic configuration until about 1948 when Parker introduced the “Aeromatic” filling system, a squeeze-type filling system.

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One of the things that makes this Wing Sung 601 so wicked cool (…to me anyway…) is that they’ve made this pen with a vacumatic style filling system. In fact, this is the only modern pen I know of, that offers this type if filling system. And it’s been done well. At least seemingly so on the front end. Time will tell. The only two differences visually between this filler and the one on the original 51’s is that the plunger here is aluminum instead of plastic, and the 601 has a hexagonal nut securing the plunger in place, versus the original which was reverse threaded into the end of the barrel. This requires a special tool to service the original 51’s. this one will require a simple small wrench.

The 601 is made with the same basic dimensions as the original Parker 51, the full size model, not the smaller “debutante” size .The pen is about 140mm capped and 150mm posted. While the original 51 sported a gold nib, this 601 features a stainless steel nib. Both are nail like in their writing attributes – very stiff. But smooth. Very nice writer, actually. I said earlier that the 601 was a knock-off, and it really is.

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Visually, the only two things that don’t look pretty much identical to the original 51 is that the jewel at the top of the cap on the 601 is metal instead of plastic, and the 601 sports an (very useful) ink window located just above the clutch ring.

I’ll state up front, I’m a big fan of the original 51. And having a new modern version available, whose quality seems to be approaching what the original offered, is very, very….very cool to me. Wing Sung, I think deserves a lot of credit here. They are not the first Chinese company to offer knock-off versions of the 51. The “Hero” pen company has been doing it for years, and I have some of their pens. None of those even comes close to the quality of this pen. Cheap, brittle plastic and horrible machining and production tolerances have plagued most of the pens I’ve ordered from Hero. Although I’ve only had this 601 for about 3 weeks, the difference in quality is quite apparent. At $16 dollars US, I’m calling it a winner.

Here’s a quick video on the WingSung 601 to go along with the review.

Finally, here’s a great video review on this pen from a guy named chrisrap52 on YouTube. Chris’s channel is largely to blame for my recent addiction issue collecting Chines pens. He has a great channel, you should check it out.

Leather Notebook Cover From Galen Leather

“This folio cover gets 6 out of 5 stars.”

I’ve discovered some truths. Pen people are just cooler than most other people (Duh). And pen people in general, tend to share a lot of common likes and to a lesser extent , dislikes. One of the things that I think is a commonality among pen folk, is a like/love for leather goods. I love leather in general, always have. I grew up on a farm with horses and cattle. For me it started there. I even loved caring for leather, the feel of bridles and saddles as I cleaned and oiled them. The smell of the leather, the oils, the saddle soap. All of it.

My fountain pen addiction hobby has coincided with leather stuff. Directly related to pens are the cases and sleeves. Closely related are journals and the leather folios to house said journals. For some time now I have been looking for something i could carry a journal of some type and my tablet, all-in-one. Enter Galen Leather.

Galen is a leather company based in Turkey. They approached me about doing a review and offered to send me something that I thought would be useful to me. Big shout out to them for that, but I’m also a little nervous about situations like this. I don’t like to feel like there’s some unspoken thing….we send you something to review, you write a glowing review of our product. But the thing is, I can’t find anything negative about this product.

My credibility aside, keep reading.

Leather is expensive. What peaked my interest with these folks was initially their web site and their pricing. They have a LARGE selection of products, and their prices seemed more than competitive.  Shopping for leather goods on the internet, in my experience, can be kind of dicey. High price does not necessarily equate to high quality. Nor does a low price mean low quality. And anyone can make photos of a product look good. This stuff looked real good. It’s just dicey when you can’t see it, or feel it. Stiff or supple? Thick or thin? It’s tough.

I can only address the folio they sent me (the “Extra Large Moleskin Cover” in dark brown) but one dollar will get you ten – their other products are just as awesome.

Spelled:  A  W  E  S  O  M  E.

Here’s a video of the same folio I got:

The leather is heavy, and thick. Superbly designed and constructed. The edges are beveled and smooth. This is a folio cover that will last my lifetime and get passed on to one of my kids.

If you’ve seen the movie Spinal Tap, you’ll remember the Marshall amp that went to 11. Same thing here. This folio cover gets 6 out of 5 stars. Here’s some pictures of what I received:

 

 

Waterman Laureat…….Writing Under the Radar

Tonight’s focus is on a pen that I have a love-hate (actually more of a love-kind of dislike) relationship with, the Waterman Laureat. Here’s what I mean by love-hate. I love the way this pen writes. I mean LOVE the way it writes. Like butta. When inked, I can write with it for a bit, cap it, and then set it aside for weeks at a time. When I pick it up, uncap it and begin to write, it starts wet every time. I don’t own that many pens that I can store that long and stay “wet”. The hate part (again, hate is probably too strong a word) is that I just don’t like the way it looks. It’s just aesthetics. But, hey, did I mention how great this thing writes?

There’s not an enormous amount of information out there about this pen. In fact, prior to writing this, all I knew was what I could see looking at it.

  • It’s a metal bodied pen (brass I believe) with a lacquer paint finish.
  • Medium steel nib with gold plate.
  • Takes international cartridges.
  • It’s a Waterman from France.
  • It’s skinny. That’s an absolutely quantifiable term.
  • It’s ugly. At least mine is.

When doing my research I came across the following post at Ravens March Fountain Pens (http://dirck.delint.ca/beta/?page_id=5209 ). By the way, if you haven’t already, you should check out the Ravens March blog, it’s really good! This is simply copied from that site – no plagiarism intended.

Lauréat

Maker: Waterman.

The Lauréat was one of Waterman’s nearly-fine pens of the 1990s; not one which lay on the bottom of the heap, but which was not out of reach of the average buyer.  Like the Super Master, it is less notable for its superb writing abilities than for its power to resist damage.  It is reasonably close in looks to Waterman’s iconic Le Man series, a move likely aimed at the same sort of combination of vanity and inability to either scrape up money or justify spending a lot on a pen which Parker served with its 21.

The Lauréat in use is something like the Expert II; the point is of very similar construction and performance.  It is perhaps a little better balanced, and is a somewhat more slender object overall.  The cap-station on the tail is another echo of the Le Man, and while it doesn’t have an actual gripper mechanism like the more expensive pen, it does make for very secure posting.  It is wide enough in the body to avoid my frequent accusation of over-slimness, and balances well with the cap posted or set aside.

Update: I’ve been shown a pre-1990 catalogue showing that this model and the Super Master were both in production at once, at least for a while.  It thus is not only of the 1990s, as the first sentence indicates, but also a little bit of the 1980s.

Production Run: c. 1985 – c. 2000

Cost When New: Based upon someone else’s public remembrance, it was $125 in 1992, but this seems too much based on the overall feel of the pen.  A 1999 catalogue shows it at $85.00 which seems nearer the mark (for modern values, try this calculator).

Size: 13.8 cm long capped, 17.0 cm posted, 12.4 cm uncapped.

Point: Plated steel.

BodyBrass, generally lacquered.

FillerCartridge, capacity approx. 0.6 ml or 1.4 ml (international pattern).

 

 

 

 

Rhodia Web Book

Well, once again, I’ve gotten behind on updating things here. But thanks to the Karen and the fine folks at Exaclair,( www.exaclair.com ) I got a really neat journal to review, the Rhodia Web Book. If you do a search for these journals, you’ll find a lot of reviews….but, well, here’s another one.

First a note about how I use journals. Typically, I utilize two journals at any given time. I usually carry a small journal for work notes & “to-do” lists with me all the time. For daily “writing”, that is, documenting everything my 4 kids destroyed on any given day and my thoughts pertaining to the upcoming WWF Ultimate fighter match between Sarah Palin and Tina Fey. These journals are usually a larger 5 x 8.5 inch Moleskin style books.

This particular journal is 3.5 x 5.5 inches. It’s also a Moleskin style, but Rhodia has far surpassed the venerable Moleskin at least in terms of quality. This one is orange (I think they make a black one as well) and has a cool “rubbery” feel. The Rhodia logo is embossed on the front cover, which I know some people won’t like, but I think is pretty cool. Consistent with this style of journal, the Rhodia features a pocket integrated into the back cover, and a silk-style ribbon for a bookmark. But it’s the paper that is the star here. It features 90g super smooth paper with 22 lines on each page. There is a small Rhodia logo in the bottom right hand corner of each page. This journal handled my fountain pens and various inks better than any other journal I’ve ever used, save one.

Figure 1 the Piccadilly Primo

The Piccadilly Primo Journal. Though in fairness, the Piccadilly’s paper is so heavy, that it results in a thicker journal than I want to carry with me daily. That being said, some pens and inks still bled though the Rhodia. Still, it’s far superior for fountain pen use compared to any others I’ve tried in the Moleskin style.

Figure 2 Front page of ink samples

So, for the Pros and the Cons:

Pros:

  • Looks and feels good. I like the “rubberized” cover – may sound silly, but it just feels good.
  • The paper is just fantastic. Smooth to the touch and to write on.
  • Construction quality is top notch. Mine gets tossed around and occasionally rides in my hip pocket. It’s held up very well.
  • It’s unique. You just don’t see that many folks carrying around a bright orange journal.

The Cons:

  • Really, only one complaint, the price. You can find these online from about $14.50 up to as much as $18 plus shipping. There is a local pen shop here in Lexington that carries them for $15. I guess you can argue that you get what you pay for, and in this case, it’s true. Compared to the real Moleskin, it’s a superior product. Further, if you’re like me and usually use fountain pens, this journal will out-perform any other journal in it’s class (at least all the ones I’ve tried thus far, ie Moleskin, Ecosystem, C.R. Gibsons Markings). However, If you’re a ballpoint, rollerball or gel pen user, you won’t see as much of a difference.

Overall, a fantastic journal!