15 July 2020

Chinese Fillings

A common complaint among stylophiles in the last years was the lack of interesting filling systems among Western (and Japanese) companies. The situation changed a bit in the last years mostly through a handful of new and small producers (Conid, Masahiro, Edison, to name just a few).

Now, paradoxically, it is the Chinese --the People's Republic of China's-- industry the one rocking the boat offering more pens with self-filling systems. It looks like the Chinese industry –or at least part of it-- had really paid attention to the requests and complaints of the Western pen community.

The results vary. Some of those filling systems are copies of other previously developed and some are entirely original. Some work, some don't.

Here I am showing a very limited selection of these (relatively) new pens, but they show five different filling systems.

Five Chinese pens with five different filling systems.

Wing Sung 3013.

The Wing Sung 3013 is clearly inspired in the Twsbi Vac 700. The filling system is a plunger—that system invented by Onoto in the beginning of the 20th century, although nowadays might be better known in the hands of Twsbi (the above-mentioned Vac 700), and Pilot (Custom 823). Its capacity is 2.0 ml when optimized.

The Wing Sung nib can be replaced with a Pilot nib. The writing experience improves.

The nib of the Wing Sung copies the geometry of some inexpensive Pilot pens (Prera, Kakuno, Cocoon, ...), and in fact it can be replaced by a Japanese unit. The detail makes the Wing Sung more attractive.

PenBBS 492. Too often you need some additional tools to make the piston move along the barrel. Not a reliable system.

The PenBBS 492 (2020 edition) uses a magnet (a Neodymium magnet) to move the piston up and down along the barrel. This system is clearly not mature for its commercial use. The magnet will lose strength with time (and heat) to the point of not being able to to drag the piston to fill the pen. Sure enough, the pen can always be filled as eyedropper, but then the whole magnet system becomes irrelevant. The ink capacity of this pen is 2.6 ml.

PenBBS 355. This second version does work, not like the first release, whose rod would have problems disengaging the piston.

The PenBBS 355 is the Chinese version of the Conid Bulkfiller system at a fraction of the price. In essence, this is a piston filler in which the manning bar goes through the seal when not in use. The result is a very large ink capacity –2.7 ml on this case-- due to the very limited volume used by the filling system.

PenBBS 500.

PenBBS 500 or Twsbi meets Conid (thanks, Fudefan!). This pen's filling system seems to be original, although it truly resembles the system used by the maker Astra in the 1940s. It is a piston filler operated by a collapsible bar with the help of an integrated spring. The result, 2.0 ml of ink capacity.

The filling system works, but there are some rough edges. The rod end could offer more grip to be able to release it with just a finger. Now it is too smooth and you might need some rubber band or similar to ink the pen.

PenBBS offers very few variations on its nib points.

The nibs on all these three PenBBS pens are the same save cosmetic changes—made of steel, very rigid, limited inkflow...

Moonman T2. This pen is remarkably similar to the Stipula Tocco Ferro, but with a different filling system. The Moonman uses the so-called “Elastic piston”--a syringe operated with the help of a spring. This system is bulkier of than those previously described, although it reaches the very respectable volume of 1.5 ml.

Moonman T2. More than 50g...

The main inconvenient of this pen is, however, its weight of over 50 g. Its nib and feed, though, are compatible with those by Bock, and that makes this pen more interesting.

From my point of view, the first weak point of these pens is the nibs. On most cases, they are just correct and boring, and the brands do not offer any variation save that of a bent/fude nib (“calligraphic nib” is the name used by Chinese brands). The result is that most pens –particularly if of a single brand-- write almost the same, without any special flavor.

Japanese companies were blamed for making very good nibs in many different points that were implemented in boring pens with very unimaginative filling systems, mostly cartridge/converters. Now, the Chinese industry is doing the opposite—exciting filling systems and terribly boring nibs.

However, some of these filling systems are clearly immature for the market. Either they are insufficiently tested or in need of further developments; and some of the pens are almost prototypes with problems to be solved. But they show an interesting path to explore in the difficult task to keep fountain pens alive in this world of computers, and tactile screens.

Sailor Mini, 18 K (M) – Noodler's Beaver

Bruno Taut
Nakano, July 13th, 2020
etiquetas: China, mercado, PenBBS, Moonman, Wing Sung


Unknown said...

Bruno, I am pretty disappointed that you chose to use the term "Chinese Virus" here.

Kurazaybo said...

There are 1.1mm nibs, they just have poor availability. I have been trying to get one, got the link to an ebay seller but they do not ship to my country and so far I found out it was not the only seller with the same restriction.

I think TWSBI kinda started the movement towards pens of this kind (I see the "well it depens what kind you mean" coming), which brings me to the next point. It's curious how many of these pens don't actually say "Made in China" anywhere.

In the end I am glad to have such variety at a low price. I personally am interested in the PENBBS version of the bulk filler, and would have to think long and hard before purchasing a Conid. I wonder why these chinese filling systems seem kinda overengineered when the ink sac i siple and reliable. But I don't think we would be talking about this without the eye catching systems.

A sort of revival of eyedroppers and "demonstrators" is also going on, what do you think of those?

Bruno Taut said...

Thanks, Kurazaybo, for passing by and commenting. And thanks too for the information on the 1.1 mm stub nibs.

I agree with your on your appreciation on Twsbi being the company starting this trend of self-filling pens with the Diamond 530. However, there was a long gap between Twsbi's initiative and this new trend of mainland China's self-filling pens.

The debate between PenBBS's and Conid's pens is delicate. I am sure Conid is not happy about the Chinese company, and these copies disincentive further developments.

I have spoken about Taiwan-made Japanese eyedroppers on these Chronicles: https://estilofilos.blogspot.com/2019/09/japanese-eyedropper-today-ii-opus-88.html . I only know of Opus 88 making these type of filling system in Taiwan (and I might be wrong), though. I like those pens, as I said.

Thanks again.


Evan said...

Bruno, I’m incredibly disappointed to see you using this racist term for the global pandemic. No country owns a virus, and this sort of bigoted language has lead in the past towards very real violence towards Asian individuals.

You are harming other people, as well as your own reputation, by insisting on this language. It’s not too late to admit you were wrong and apologize. Better late than never.

Unknown said...

Damn it, it's not Chinese virus. It's Spanish virus! Haven't you heard the news? First the Spanish Flu, and now Spanish coronavirus.


George Kovalenko said...

You should call it the "Trump virus". ;~)



Tefolium said...

I heard that Gelin(WingSung 6x/6xx, WingSung 3xxx and 9xxx were licensed to different manufactors by Hero Industry) wanted to remake 258 Lucky mosquito/bee style , a fountain pen designed in 1958 with a little different snorkel filling, with snorkel filling.

Bruno Taut said...

Thank again, Tefolium, for the insight. Those details slowly structure the history of Chinese pens--a history in dire need to be written.



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