After my post about reproduction Chinese pens, my good friend Donovan of The Letter Writers Alliance (LWA to those in the know — including my father-in-law!), offered me three HERO 329 pens from China to review and giveaway. So, here goes:
This particular HERO pen is listed on Ebay as a “vintage” edition of the HERO line — a 329 with “horse head” designs on the metal cap. The price for these seems to be ridiculously reasonable and worth the gamble if you are at all curious about Chinese fountain pens (currently listed as a set of three pens for $15.90). There are, of course, issues with purchasing pens on Ebay from China and the potential for forgeries of knock-offs of copies… you get what I mean, right? If you do decide to venture into this obscure sub-category of fountain pens, be sure to check the sellers ratings and reviews. YesPen is considered one of the most reliable sellers for HERO pens.
The overall look and feel of these pens is quite comparable to the Parker 21 with the same basic size, shape and hooded nib construction. I choose to compare the Hero 329 to the 21 rather than the beloved Parker 51 because the nib on the Hero 329 is a steel or metal alloy and not made from 14K gold. Also, being a considerably lower price point, the plastic of the Hero 329 is more consistent with the school-quality Parker 21.
That’s not to say that I was not impressed with the overall look and feel of these pens. Initially, when I heard all the hullabaloo over the Parker 51 and its hooded nib, I didn’t initially see the appeal. I love the look of a fountain pen nib so why would I like to have it all covered up with plastic? Read on to find out more…
Inside of the pen is an aerometric squeeze filler. When you untwist the body of the pen from the nib section at the silver ring, you can see the filling mechanism inside. There is a metal bar over a clear rubber sac, encased in a metal tube. Squeeze the filler bar down and then insert the nib into an ink bottle and gently release to suck ink up into the sac. You may need to depress the filler bar one or two more times, slowly, while holding the pen nib in the ink to get the ink sac completely filled.
This is a fairly common filling system and it differs from the lever bar fillers on old Esterbrooks and other pens only in that all the hardware is discreetly hidden indise the pen.
Now, putting one of these pens to paper made me reconsider my opinion on the hooded nib debate completely. The smooth plastic barrel is comfortable to hold and its nicely balanced. And on paper, it was a smooth, easy writer. I expected the Chinese nibs to be a little scratchy or otherwise inferior but I have to admit to being pleasantly surprised with this particular pen.
I used this pen for most of last week, taking notes at work and toting it back and forth between home and the office. The pen did take a few abrupt tumbles. I leave my bag on the front seat of the car and a couple sudden stops caused the whole bag to catapult onto the passenger floorboard in a full 180 degree flip. When I pulled the pen out, post-tumble, there was a drop of ink on the grip area but I’ve had ink dollops inside my TWSBIs and other pens so I suspect it was the ill treatment. It wiped clean with a tissue and continued to perform admirably.
This particular model of HERO wrote with a line width very similar to my Kaweco F which is very satisfactory for me.
Of all the pens in the world, I’m not sure I ever would have chosen this particular model — horses are not of any special interest to me and reproduction Chinese pens are a curiosity to me but I might not have pushed over the edge to buy one had Donovan not stepped forward with her generous offer. That said, I am glad this pen came into my life. I really like it, it writes well and it has definitely convinced me to keep searching for the ever-coveted Parker 51. A pen that rights this well, with a 14K gold nib and better overall construction really would be a thing of beauty.
The tech specs:
- 17 gms capped and filled with ink
- 5.5″ long capped
- 4.875″ long without cap
- 5.875″ with cap posted
- Cap can be posted, just slides down over the end. Pen closes with a slight click, snap-type closure.
- nib is approx. F, not labelled that I could see
- Aerometric squeeze filling ink sac enclosed in pen
So, is this a pen you’d be interested in trying? I am giving away the black and burgundy HERO 329. If so, write a limerick, rhyme or haiku about pens or other office-y goodness in the comments to be entered to win one. The best comment will get first dibs on color. You can also wax poetic about Donovan for donating the pens or the Letter Writers Alliance. You’ve got until Friday, May 3 to dust off your poetic prowess. Pens at the ready!
FINE PRINT: All entries must be submitted by 10pm CST on Friday, May 3, 2013. All entries must be submitted at wellappointeddesk.com, not Twitter, Tumblr or Facebook, okay? Winner will be announced on Saturday. Winner will be select by random number generator from entries that played by the rules (see above). Please include your email address in the comment form so that I can contact you if you win. I will not save email addresses or sell them to anyone — pinky swear. Shipping via USPS first class is covered. Additional shipping options or insurance will have to be paid by the winner. We are generous but we’re not made of money.