Fountain Pen Review: Wing Sung 618 Demonstrator

I don’t know what’s gotten into me lately but I think I was inspired to buy another cheap Chinese fountain pen from a photo on Economical Penster’s Instagram. All those demonstrators lined up made me weak. So I hopped over to Ebay and I bought a clear demonstrator Wing Sung 618 (approx $10.70) which is a weird attempt to copy the beloved Parker 51. I also bought a version in a pastel pink but it’s staying in the packaging because it turned out to be even more difficult to use as I’ll explain later.

Both pens came in the same packaging. Does it look familiar? It is a direct knock-off of the Lamy packaging for the Safari pens. They even clip the caps to the insert card inside just like Lamy. The diecut windows are the same as Lamy too. Weird to put a Parker 51 in a Lamy Safari box. Makes my head spin. I will deposit the box in the nearest recycling bin and we can move on.

Since there were probably few true Parker 51 demonstrators, its doubtful anyone would ever mistake this pen for a true vintage classic but the hooded nib is not something often found on modern pens and for less than $15, it was a gamble I was willing to take. I have a Wing Sung 698 that I love because I’m pretty sure the nib is a Pilot steel nib and its buttery smooth so I was willing to gamble on another Wing Sung pen on the chances that another pen would also have a super smooth nib.

The 618 also has a plunger/piston filling mechanism that is a bit janky and this is where the demonstrator model comes in handy over the solid colored plastic version. Being able to see how far I’d pulled the plunger and how much ink I’d filled was really helpful. The solid plastic was really hard to tell if I’d gotten any ink in the pen and it was possible to completely pull the plunger out of the back of the pen hence allowing the ink to leak (or flood) out the back end. The demonstrator allowed considerably more control since I could see how far I’d pulled the piston out without any unfortunate accidents. For -$15, I can’t complain too much.

The ink capacity is pretty substantial too though it took me awhile to make sure I got the mechanism properly reseated. The Wing Sung 698 is much easier to reseat and even has a bit of a locking mechanism that I think is an improvement over the actual TWSBI 580 it was aping.

The nib is fine and as smooth as I was hoping. Being able to see the ink color is also kind of cool.

As for knocking off Parker… well, I don’t quite understand the Chinese mentality behind taking design elements from other brands and using them as your own. You can either live with this or you can’t. The nib on this pen is so smooth that I am overlooking the blatant copyright infringement. I would MUCH prefer that they did something else with the clip.  The cap band is not true to a Parker 51 so they are not trying to emulate or convince anyone that this is a real NOS Parker so I don’t see why they bother with the clip? Do your own clip. If you want something that feels reminiscent of the time period, that’s fine but make it your own. I digress. I knew what I was getting into when I bought it. And the clip works just fine. I just feel a little dirty when I use it.

As for the hooded nib, other brands made hooded nibs though clearly the 618 is trying to replicate the Parker 51 and its other hooded pen designs as well. Since other pen manufacturers made hooded nibs in the 60s, I’m more inclined to overlook it had it been the only retro design element. But again, I digress. The actual nib is smooth and a little springy and a delight to write with just like the Wing Sung 698 (TWSBI 580 replica with Pilot nib).

So, all-in-all, despite being a blatant knock-off  of a Parker 51, the Wing Sung 618 did have the decency to choose a pen with perfect cigar lines to mimic. The cap band is a little beefy for the rest of the pen and the piston is janky but the nib more than makes up for its faults at it’s sub-$20 price. I’m on the fence as to whether I’d recommend the 618 or the 698 first if someone was looking for an inexpensive Chinese pen. For the filling mechanism, I’d go with the 698 but for looks, I like the 618 better.

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15 comments / Add your comment below

  1. I got the wing sung 618 demonstrator with a Fude nib custom made from someone on artsy and it was my first experience with them. I really don’t get the hooded nib but it seems to work pretty well. I was really liking for a wet Fude for drawing that had enough capacity to at least finish a drawing without having to change the cartridge. For $20(including the modification of the Fude nib), I have no complaints and I like it pretty well.

  2. Be warned, mine did leak a bit! Not too bad or anything, but it wasn’t left alone too long. I imagine if I had stored it and went on vacation the dark red ink I had in it would have made my pen tray look like some kind of terrible pen homicide had happened! Easily fixed by storing it upright and the ink capacity alone is making this my current permanent desk pen because I don’t have to worry about refilling. Too afraid to take it on the go though…

  3. I’ve decided to use demonstrators for the sparkly ink I’ve got. Seems it will be easier to see if the pen is clean. I won’t use the TWSBI 580 (Christmas Green Ana enabled me to buy from her blog), but the Lamy Vista and Pilot Plumix because they have the nibs I like for sparkly ink: italic.

    I’ll probably get the other two Plumix colors. I don’t need too many pens loaded with sparkly ink at a time.

    What is the reason you all use your demonstrators?

  4. I’m so glad to be an enabler for spreading more clear demonstrator goodness!

    Ana, I also struggled with my 618 until I got the hang of the locking mechanism. It is very similar to the one on the 698. When unlocked, the piston mechanism should stay in place inside the barrel and not unscrew itself outwards when the pen is being filled. (I hope that makes sense!)

    Lori, I have a soft spot for demonstrators because I love seeing the ink inside the barrel. I also like using inexpensive Chinese demonstrators for temperamental inks like the sparkly inks you’re using. I haven’t personally had any problems with clogging, even with inks like Herbin’s Rouge Hematite, but if something were to happen, I wouldn’t be too sad about tossing a $10 pen instead of an expensive one like an Aurora.

    1. i just got a non-transpartent 618 and I can’t figure out how it’s supposed to work. The cylinder of clear plastic that fits over the cylinder with barber-pole type ridges (is this the “piston”?) won’t go all the way inside the bottom cap, so the barrel of the pen and the bottom cap don’t meet. I have never had so much trouble trying to figure out a pen before. I don’t dare try to ink it, because I am sure the ink will just go everywhere.

      Can you explain what you mean by the locked and unlocked positions? I am probably going to give up on this pen, but I thought I would at least try to ask for help. Thanks.

      1. There are grooves that the threads lock into in the rear piston section. You need to pull to “unlock” and then twist the piston to suck ink into the barrel. Once full align the grooves to the barrel end and push the grooves back into place to lock the piston.

  5. I was a little surprised and disappointed with the overall tone of this review. It’s true that the WS 618 does completely copy certain design elements (the arrow clip and the box being the most egregious), but between the screw cap, locking piston, and demonstrator body it’s hard for me to understand how anyone could take this as a straight up copy of a Parker 51. It’s worth noting that just about every single big player in the fountain pen game (including Montblanc and Aurora) has at some point released their own take on the tapered body, hooded nib pattern after the blockbuster success of the 51.

    On the filling system: I’d agree that the piston is not as good as TWSBI or other higher-cost counterparts, but it is mechanically identical to the WS698 and the locking mechanism is also the same. I’d argue that the ability to unscrew the piston assembly without any tools is a feature and not a bug, albeit one that long-time piston users need to adjust to since the industry standard up until now has just been using friction or extra slop to prevent the piston from moving during normal use.

    Ultimately I can’t speak to how Chinese designers choose what to design elements to rip off and what to build on. There is a lot to dislike about how things work over there (turning a blind eye to IP theft, protectionist government manufacturing subsidies, requiring foreign collaborators to share trade secrets as a prerequisite to play ball, etc.), but the fact is that between Wing Sun, PenBBS, and many others it seems like most of the innovation (along with a mish-mash of homages and clones) in the fountain pen space is coming out of mainland China. The fact that a $12 pen is competitive with Western offerings costing many times more is a thing of wonder.

    PS love the blog and I appreciate all the effort that goes into it. I hope I didn’t come off as angry or combative, that certainly wasn’t the intent. I just thought another perspective on the matter was in order.

    1. Thanks for the input. I must need to adapt to the 618 piston. I kept pulling it all the way out by accident and then not being able to lock it back into place. I did. It have the same issue with the 698. It locked into place easily and I didn’t seem to pull it out completely so maybe I got an earlier or later model? As for the design decisions, I merely wanted to address the topic. It’s a touchy subject no matter how it’s mentioned. But for $12, it’s a good deal.

  6. I take issue with your characterization of the 618 as a “ridiculous fake Parker 51 demonstrator”. What do the Chinese pen makers need to do to meet the approval of pen snobs? Parker 51s went out of production in 1972, so I guess if you can find a Wing Sung or Hero 616 from that era you could call it a knock off, otherwise lay off. Parker has been bought and sold three or four times since then and all its production lines long since disassembled and outsourced to other countries. They never even made a piston filler version of the 51 to my knowledge, or a production line demonstrator. So is a modern version of the Parker 51 truly a “knock off”. The Chinese pen companies have been releasing a lot of new designs and innovations in recent years, like the 698 which is by the way, not a knock off of the TWSBI 580– I own both and they are only similar in that they are piston filling demonstrator pens. With something as simple and utilitarian as pen design, a product can only be on the market so long before other companies will adopt many of its design elements. Its up to companies like Parker and Lamy to come up with new designs or keep up with quality control if they want to stay relevant in this market.

  7. I don’t agree that the Wing Sung 698 is “aping” a TWSBI 580 any more than the TWSBI is aping a Pelikan demonstrator. The Wing Sung 3008 (which is made by a different company!) is a lot more similar to TWSBI 580 though.

  8. The cap band is direct rip-off of the Sailor design — from 1911 series and low-end Procolor. So here we’ve got Parker 51+some TWSBI elements+Sailor 1911+Lamy packaging. Not great.
    I’ve got my own Wing Sung 220 River Dragon pen with design I can’t recall in other pens, and with a nib I can’t identify. Not willing to buy yet another 100500th pen with Bock/IrudiumPoint #5 nib, which are boring to use, I was interested in this — probably, Chinese one. I start to think that problems with filling system AND good balanced smooth nibs are common for Wing Sung. And I respect this Chinese company for good nibs quality control.

  9. I dunno what they’re copying, ripping off, or just plain stealing, but this pen is a real disappointment. I bought into the hype and ordered one of these and it’s crap. The instructions are in Chinese for one thing and the nib is tiny, dry, and scratchy. Save your money and buy some other Chinese knockoff.

  10. I’m sorry but I think it’s absurd to call Wing Sung 618 is a Parker 51 copy. This pen has literally one design element modeled after 51 – the hooded nib. Apart from that the 618 and 51 barely look alike. Even the clip, while Parker style, is not the one you’d find on the 51 (unlike, for example, Wing Sung 601 or 613 clips which actually are Parker 51 copies).

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