Fountain Pens

Beware the Hooded Nib

I didn’t want to call out any particular pen today, though my image shows a Jinhao 699. The problem I’ve been observing spans multiple value brands from China, including Jinhao and Baoer. There are some nibs out there that should be avoided. Let me explain.

Most of the Chinese pens you’ll find for sale in the West come with a Medium nib. These nibs aren’t bad at all, but usually require five to ten minutes of fine tuning before they are particularly practical and enjoyable to write with. I’d already mentioned previously that the Jinhao broad nibs are, in my limited experience with them, not worth the extra effort or expense to procure.

But what I hadn’t talked about yet are the finer nibs often available on Chinese pens. Namely, the Fine and Extra Fine nibs. The problem isn’t the nib itself, which would benefit from tuning just like the Medium nibs do, but that they are shrouded by a nib hood that is glued onto the section of the pen so that you can’t take the nib and feed out to tune them.

It’s been my experience that some Chinese pens write better than others as they arrive, unmodified, in the mail. Some don’t write at all. All of my pens, save for one (an 89 cent Hero 007), worked fine after a few minutes spent on nib tuning. Many particularly cheap ones now write particularly well after a few minutes of tuning. To buy a Chinese pen that cannot be tuned is pretty much a guarantee that you’re going to get a pen that will never write nearly to its potential, and there’s a good chance that it might not write at all because of a simple issue that could be resolved were the nib hood not in the way.

If you want a Fine or Extra Fine nib, that’s great. My advice would be to buy the pen with a Medium nib and then swap in a nice aftermarket nib. Yes, that nib will likely cost more than the pen. Unless there’s a non-destructive way to get those nib hoods off, I’m suggesting that fountain pen newbies avoid Chinese pens with hooded nibs.

Is this the good shit?

No. Glued-on hooded nibs are not the Good Shit. They are just shit. Avoid them.

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