Here is another pen that I bought while on holiday in Italy. Except that this one was bought on ebay and has just arrived in the post, four weeks later.
“What were you thinking, ordering pens online while away on holiday?” you might ask. I had taken a new Wing Sung 601 demonstrator with me on the trip, and was delighted with it but still had the urge to have one in a colour seen on a friend’s Instagram post (@jonr1971). I think it is called Lake Blue although the names of the colour descriptions can be a bit puzzling.
Appearance and Design.
This is the Wing Sung model that looks very much like the well loved, vintage Parker 51, with a slip-on metal cap with arrow pocket clip and the distinctive hooded nib, but in stainless steel rather than gold. I will not argue the rights or wrongs of this being a Chinese version of a classic Parker pen. It does not claim to be a Parker and is named Wing Sung (written in Chinese characters) 601 on the front of the cap band, with “Made in China” at the back. Unlike the Parker, it has six ink windows in the barrel, which are hidden when the pen is capped.
Construction and Quality.
I was very impressed with my first, demonstrator version. The materials and finish all seemed commendable. I recall that the nib needed just a slight tweak to align the tines for smooth writing. On my new one, again the materials and finish all seemed to be to a good standard. There was no issue with the tines being uneven, but the nib was not quite symmetrical with the black plastic feed. As the nib is hooded, this is barely noticeable unless you look closely (which I did). It does not seem to impair the ink flow, but it would be nice to remove the nib and line it up centered around the feed.
Under the blind cap, you have a metal plunger rod, to operate the vacumatic filling system. At the foot of this rod you have a black, hexagonal nut, which you may unscrew to remove the whole filler unit. The nut looks like black metal but I have heard that it is plastic and therefore gets chewed up and deformed if you use a metal wrench on it. Best to use plastic on plastic. I have not tried removing it yet.
Weight and Dimensions.
I would call this a medium-sized pen and fairly light. Closed, it measures about 138mm. Uncapped, it is about 127mm long, which many would find long enough to use unposted. However, I prefer the look, feel and weight of the pen with the metal cap posted, which increases the length to 147mm. I do not find it to be unbalanced as the cap posts deeply and securely and I then grip the pen a little higher up.
Uncapped the pen weighs around about 12.5 grams (including some ink in mine). The cap alone weighs 7.5 grams and so capped, or posted the total is 20 grams, which is still on the light side.
Nib and Performance.
The nib is a Fine, or possibly Extra Fine. I could not see any marking on the visible part of the nib. Being so small, and with only about 2mm of nib protruding under the shell, it is firm and does not provide any significant line variation. Like a rollerball, it does not give much character to your writing. But on both of mine, the ink flow has been good, giving sufficient lubrication to the nib to allow for effortless writing. Being a Fine nib, it does not have the smoothness of a generously tipped broad nib but it is smooth and also has sufficient “tooth” to enable the pen to cope with ease on smooth papers without any skipping. You might find that you need to rotate the pen a little to find the “sweet spot” and with a hooded nib, it is not so easy to see how your pen is rotated, when you are writing. It helps to post the cap with the arrow clip in line with the nib to see the alignment of nib to paper in the writing position and make adjustments as necessary.
I did test my first nib with Conway Stewart Tavy, blue-black ink by Diamine and was pleased to find that it wrote well in all directions, never skipping and needing no pressure. I had the same success with Waterman Mysterious Blue in my latest pen.
Filling System and Maintenance.
This is a vacumatic filler; you immerse the nib in ink, press and release the spring-loaded button a few times, expelling air and allowing ink to be drawn into the reservoir. In the demonstrator version you can observe this fascinating process, with the ink level rising a little higher in the reservoir with each press of the button. “I pressed down down down and the ink went higher” as Johnny Cash might have sung. In the non-demonstrators, it is not so spectacular but you can easily check that you have a good fill using the ink windows.
As for maintenance, the pen is not easy to flush. I experimented first with water and found that pressing the button repeatedly does not expel all the water from the pen. If this were ink, and you were changing colours, you could contaminate a bottle of ink with the ink residue from the pen. So, to clean the pen you therefore need to unscrew the shell, pull out the nib and ink collector unit (which is friction fit) from the barrel and then rinse out any residue.
I have not yet found a way to separate the metal nib from the collector unit. I tried pulling it out but it would not budge and I was wary of distorting either the nib or the fins on the collector and so suspended my efforts. The little nib is just too tiny to get a hold of, even with “grippy material”.
When pushing the collector back into the barrel, it is necessary to line it up so that, when the shell is screwed back on fully, the protruding lip of the shell will end up precisely in line with the nib. This can be done by marking on the barrel, the position where the nib needs to be, or just by holding the barrel horizontal in one hand imagining that the top is the 12 o’clock position. You soon find out if you have got it wrong; if the nib is not in the right place, look at which direction it needs to be moved and by roughly what distance. Repeat as necessary.
A little silicone grease on the plastic threads is a good idea. One of my 601’s actually came with a little container of grease and so you are encouraged to disassemble and maintain your pen.
Cost and Value.
These can be found new on ebay for prices of around £10, and so come in well under the price of a Lamy Safari, currently about £17.00 here in the UK. That is excellent value for a vacumatic filler fountain pen.
I enjoyed my first 601 sufficiently to want to buy another. The familiar design is obviously well-known and loved. It is great that these are now available with a Vacumatic filling system. The fine nib combined with the large ink capacity, mean that you can write for ages on one fill. Whether you chose the demonstrator or ink windows version you can see when you are getting low on ink and top up accordingly.
It is probably best not to change ink colours too frequently unless you are prepared to disassemble the pen for cleaning first. Another option is to decant some ink into a receptacle with a pipette or syringe and to fill from there, rather than from a bottle to avoid the risk of contaminating the rest of the bottle.
As a smart, classic and reliable pen, light enough to carry in a shirt pocket, I can see how it can become the daily writer of choice. This is a pen that you will want to show people.