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.
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.