1. The Moonman Wancai
Four days ago, the in-house label of Shanghai Jingdian launched a cute little pen called Wancai (丸彩). The pocket pen costs ten dollars for an acrylic one with Chinese nib, and fifty dollars for an ebonite one that also upgraded to a Schmidt nib. Almost all the release s under the Moonman brand have been selling well, and the Wancai is no except. In fact, the Wancai is doing even better: only four days after its debut, 528 pens have already be sold through 121 individual orders, according to Taobao’s record. That’s an average of 4.3 pens per order!
The defining part of a Wancai pen must be its form factor—3.6 inches in length when capped, which is even shorter than a Kaweco Lilliput (3.8 inches). And on the contrary to the modest feeling of the Lilliput, the blunt lines on Wancai have rendered it a noticeable existence in hands, or in a pouch. The Wancai takes international cartridge, and I am curious whether a short Kaweco converter could fit in.
The basic acrylic model offers four colors: a clear one, two vintage-coke-bottle-alike one, and one that is deeper in green, which is already sold out. The basic models all come with a similar gold-plated nib similar what we have seen in Moonman M2, and could be easily converted into an eyedropper. After using the M2 for a week, I have to acknowledge that these Chinese nibs are pretty good.
The Wancai’s luxurious variants are all made in Ebonite imported from Japan, according to the company. I am not a pro regarding grading Ebonite, but these materials look pretty classic. The nib unit used here is a #5 Schmidt nib in silver. No weight information is offered for the Wancai pens, but these ebonite ones look quite sturdy in pictures. But the primary downside for the Ebonite Wancai is that it could only be used as a cartridge pen. I am wondering why the company neglected this feature since all it needs to do is to have an O-ring in the back of the nib unit to seal the ink chamber (see Opus88 Demonstrator).
But being an ebonite pen that could not be eyedroppered is not the endnote for this news. The promising formula presented here is a straightforward carbon-copy of a design from Japanese pen maker Helico (諏訪 匠).
This fact was first revealed by one of the Wancai’s buyers in the review section of the product. Although I didn’t know the Helico brand before, after several searches and clicks… I believe I over-anticipated the Moonman.
I know that everyone in the pen world copies or borrows ideas from everyone else in the industry. This is also a great way to see the resurrection of certain discontinued mechanism or materials and let more people experience more. But the problem with the design of this Wancai is that it is plainly repetitive.
On a clear spot of its landing page, the company claims that this is a patented design that they got from a pen pal—Ok, I will dig into that later.
2. KACO SKY, now in aluminum
Earlier last month, KACO introduces the aluminum version of its SKY fountain pen, the SKY Metal. First in red, then a black one was added.
It costs around 16 dollars under current currency rate. The CNC machined body boosts its weight to 25 gram, similar to a Kaweco AL Sport or an M&G gel ink pen (just for lolz). The Metal also differentiates from its predecessors by using a packaging box that also doubles as a desk storage gadget. Besides, a long Schmidt cartridge was also added to this lovely white box.
On paper, the Metal looks amazingly good, and the company isn’t asking too much for these upgrades from SKY II’s Makrolon. But I will probably hold myself on this one since they didn’t improve the design of SKY’s lifeless clip and at the same time, forgot to sustain the SKY II’s black nib here.
An aluminum pen indeed lasts longer than a plastic one, and it deserves more practical features rather than a new box. Just a little example: an AL Sport shares the same visual design as a Skyline or Classic Sport, but Kaweco added an inner band made from plastic inside the cap to prevent two pieces of metal scratching over each other.
Although KACO marketed this pen a lot and called it the all-new SKY, to me, it seems to be a pilot project that tests the outcome of using aluminum for a student pen.
3. Tang Fountain Pen, now Tang Roller Ball
Tang FP launched an exciting product—a replacement section that transforms your Tang fountain pen into a Tang roller ball that also uses Schmidt refill.
The 8-dollar-section comes in the same aluminum styles that match Tang’s previous metal pens, while also compatible with its original acrylic ones. The message from the company is clear: turning your fountain pens into a different style of writing instrument.
There is apparently a small scale trend going on—not only Tang, Kaweco just did the same to one of its lead-holder for the Chinese market. Here in the US, during the past Baltimore Pen Show, I found Micheal from Fat Boy selling a converting kit, and Diplomat debuted its Aero Feltpen and Fineliner, whose nib section should be compatible with an Aero fountain pen.
If you are reading this article, chances are you have at least a dozen of fountain pens, and some of them may even be the same model. Thus it make sense for the company producing complementary parts that turning the fountain pens not in use into other pens. Would this trend be so strong that in the future companies just don’t develop new ball-point or rollerball deviants but instead make them all modular?
4. A follow-up for Wing Sung, PenBBS, and Live in You
Wing Sung: No news for the quality issues of its 601, and no news for the so-called Wing Sung Balance.
PenBBS: Some samples of its draw-filler (previously called as Vacumatic filler in my post) were sold last month, but there is still no information for its release, along with the PenBBS plunger filler. I did see many PenBBS ink products last weekend at Baltimore, credit to the Vanness Pens.
Live in You: The MiTu series got a new caramel color. But there is no Future pen on sale now since the first batch of the Future series went out quickly! Eason Ji, the owner of the company, told me that the second batch would be in store next week.
(Also related to this, I made a huge mistake last Saturday by hitting the post button of one draft and caused turbulence within my subscribers, and I am really sorry for that. The article of concern is an interview I did last month with Eason, in which he asked many my questions for the Live in You. I would publish that soon, but now, extra credit to Matthew for pointing my error out! )
Translation and Links:
- Wancai: 丸彩
- If you want to go deeper to see these company’s products or even try one out, you can refer to my guide of purchasing Chinese pens here.
Update 04/21/2018: I have found the author of the featured picture of this blog post! Well done Jansin!