The Hero 329 was my introduction into fountain pens as a young primary school student in Sri Lanka. The 329 is one of many aerometric filler, hooded nib fountain pens produced by the Hero Pen company. These are effectively Parker 51 clones though the 329 is more comparable to the Parker 21 in build and size.
The plastic body of the 329 makes it a light pen to use. When comparing to other Hero pens such as the 616, the 329 materials and build is of a significantly higher quality and feels much better in hand. The cap also follows the Parker 51 style, with a clutch mechanism that holds the cap to the body. It feels solid and confidence inspiring. The aerometric filler mechanism is sheathed in a thin metal casing. The material choices here follow the low overall cost of the pen. As with Parker pens, filling the 329 is an easy task, though it does require a few more presses of the bar than the Parkers, in order to get a good fill.
Much like many other Hero pens, the 329 puts down a fine line. The steel nib feels smooth in use and performs well with many different inks – Waterman, Parker, Diamine, Noodlers. My preference for wider nibs has seen the 329 relegated to storage but this review has reminded me why I loved this pen. If you are after a low cost hooded nib fountain pen I would most definitely recommend the Hero 329.
One of the reasons many of us love using fountain pens is the ability to choose from the many hundreds of ink choices that are available. Whether it its choosing from the colours of the rainbow, archival, waterproof properties or glow in the dark or UV inks the options and qualities are endless. Newcomers to the fountain pen world can find this choice overwhelming. It is with these thoughts in mind that I have decided to detail my beginnings when I too began chasing ink.
When I first began using fountain pens many years ago as a school student in Sri Lanka, my choices were somewhat limited both by availability and price. Hero pens and inks were the most common in the market and many a student can attest to the wonderful inky smell of Hero black and blue inks.
Parker pens and inks were what we aspired to owning. I have vivid memories of exploring my grandfathers’ study and finding boxes of Parker Quink inks along with his many fountain pens.
Years later as I ventured into the world of fountain pens once again I was faced with the choice that many a new fountain pen user faces. What ink do i choose? I began my search by researching, trawling the many pen blogs, and discovered many more along the way. My first ink bottle was a blue ink that i still love today – Waterman Florida Blue which has since been renamed Serenity Blue. It’s punchy vibrant blue colour and great flow and characteristics even on the cheapest paper has made it a goto ink whether I’m using a vintage Parker 51 or modern Lamy Safari.
Having discovered the world of inks I now wanted more. More colour choices to try, Blacks, Greens, Purples and Oranges. I came across Noodlers inks on the fountain pen network and discovered the saturated Polar black and Noodlers Blue.
Later I came across online traders such as Cult Pens and Anderson Pens I was able to try out the tried and true Diamine inks and discovered what have become some of my favourite Violet, Red and Orange inks.
My collection of inks grows every year, I have discovered what I like and more importantly what I don’t like in inks that I use. I know one thing for sure, this search for that next ink bottle is something I will never tire of because quite simply I love chasing ink!
Jinhao is on of the many Chinese pen manufacturers that seem to produce fountain pens at seemingly uneconomical prices. Johnathan Deans who writes the Fountain pen econonics blog wrote specifically about this topic of Chinese fountain pen prices. My search for low price quality fountain pens led to many a reviewer pointing to the x450 along with its cousins the x750 and 159.
I have to say I was surprised by the solid feel of the X450 in hand. Its an all metal construction (brass?) body and cap and feels heafty without being heavy. It comes with a clear Jinhao converter included, though as this a standard international style it can be replaced with something with a better build and capacity. The look and feel of the pen belies its sub $10 price tag. The nib is stamped “18ct gp” (gold plated?) but in fact it is a standard steel nib. As with many Chinese fountain pens the nib performance can be hit and miss, some have found their performance to be inconsistent but in my experience of three pens, the X450 is a wet writer. The nib used is a standard #6 nib and therefore replacement nibs are readily available from vendors such as Goulet.
The price point of the X450 means that I didn’t mind trying my hand at some nib grinding. Some sandpaper, nib smoothing kit from the Andersons and half an hour later i have a wonderful medium custom italic / stub nib. The pen that I liked is now one that I love. A year on the lacquer has chipped in some locations on the body and the gold coloured plating. The X450 has been in continuous daily use as my work pen and i don’t see this changing.
The Lamy Safari is one of those fountain pens that is on many recommended pens lists for first time fountain pen users. The Safari is also the pen that was my re-introduction into the world of fountain pens. At the time I chose a blue Safari with a standard medium nib. They come in a myriad of colours from charcoal black to the demonstrator model in the form of the Vista. I would go on to own three Lamy
Safari’s in my collection in various nib configurations. This particular model has the 1.1mm stub nib in charcoal and is one pen that in regular circulation.
Appearance wise the Safari is not a pen that will draw attention. The ABS plastic construction means that the Safari is a light pen. It is also durable, I have owned the first of my Safari’s for close to 8 years and it is still going strong. The standard configuration of the Lamy Safari is a medium nib, it also comes pre packaged with a Lamy blue cartridge. For those looking for the versatility of changing inks i would recommend spending the extra and purchasing a Lamy Z-24 converter.
One aspect of the Safari that may cause users to either love or hate the pen is its grip section. It forces the user into a standard tripod grip. While this has not caused me any problems (I am a left handed underwriter) some users may find this annoying to the point of hating the pen. This may be of particular problem to those with left handed hooked writing positions.
Performance wise the 1.1mm stub writes extremely well. Paired with Diamine Violet, it is a smooth writer. The Safari nibs across the range from extra-fine to 1.9mm stub are made of steel and hard as a nail. This lack of line variation in the standard medium nib is one reason i chose to change to the 1.1mm stub. The wider lamy nibs (1.5mm and 1.9mm stub) are known to be somewhat dry. This may be alleviated by saturating the feed manually by twisting the converter.
In conclusion the Safari is one of my tried and true fountain pens. It provides consistent, reliable performance at an accessible price for almost anyone. Its these attributes that may the Safari a pen that is always inked and in my regular rotation.
In this day and age with our smart phones and tablet computers it would appear that fountain pens would be well and truly consigned to the pages of history. While it is true at the fountain pens did indeed see a significant drop in popularity with the introduction of the cheap and cheerful ball point pen, recent times have seen a resurgence in the use of fountain pens and ink. My own fountain pen journey began quite a few years ago. In Sri Lanka primary school students ‘graduate’ from using pencils to using fountain pens before transitioning to ball points. My first fountain pen was a hero, a smaller clone of the classic Parker 51 fountain pen. I have memories of inky fingers, stained white school shirts and bent nibs. I also have fond memories of watching my Grandfather using his Parker 51 of the beautiful penmanship and forbidden treasured pens and inks in his study.
That was my earliest encounter with fountain pens, but like many of us I too moved on from pens and inks, onto ballpoints, rollerballs and not thinking about pens in my daily life. Pens became yet another tool to be used and disposed of when empty. I had almost forgotten about fountain pens and and switched to using ballpoints exclusively. Around 9 years ago i rediscovered the wonder of fountain pens and inks. My return to that world began through on of those great first fountain pens – the Lamy Safari. The Safari gave all the benefits of a fountain pen in a German engineered plastic body without an exorbitant price tag. I rediscovered why these pens were so ubiquitous and popular for so long.
Fountain pens require little or no pressure to put ink on paper. I take a ridiculous amount of notes in my work and this feature has meant that i no longer get strained hands after long spells of writing. They also have opened me up to the world of inks, a world of almost infinite choice of colours. The refillable nature of ink pens also means that they are re-usable. In today’s disposable society it feels good to minimise waste and refill pens from an ink bottle. The reusability of ink pens also means that they will all likelyhood out last my lifetime. I have also discovered the collectability of fountain pens. The world of vintage fountain pens offers a great range of pens that have lasted lifetimes and still function today. In the years since my return to fountain pens i have added many vintage and modern fountain pens to may daily use collection, each with its own character and feel.
So if you are feeling curious i say go forth and explore, a wonderful world of pens and inks await.