Occasionally, something new comes along in the pen world which sets social media buzzing amongst the fountain pen community. Recently, we have had a new offering from Jinhao, named the X159.
This is not entirely new: there has long been a Jinhao 159 (without the “X” factor), which we might call an homage to the Montblanc Meisterstuck 149, but with a steel nib, cartridge-converter filling and a fraction of the cost. However, it was a heavy beast, being made of metal. I owned one myself. In the event it did not see a lot of use, on the ground that the ink flow in my model proved to be a bit erratic despite my efforts.
However, the new version, the X159 is different in many respects and offers significant improvements. Whilst similar in size and appearance to its forerunner, the main changes are as follows:
- It is now made of acrylic and is much lighter;
- It has a larger, number 8 nib;
- There is new, more subtle pocket clip;
- The grip section is much less tapered and does not end with a metal ring (colloquially termed a “rust ring”);
- The threads on the barrel, for the cap are now acrylic instead of metal.
These cannot be found in our shops but are available online. The prices on Amazon currently range from £7.49 to around £20.00 depending upon which colour, trim finish and nib size you chose. Nib sizes are Fine or Extra Fine. There is an option for gold or silver colour trim, the former having a bicolour nib.
I resisted the temptation to order one for several weeks, happy with my current line-up and convincing myself that the Jinhao could not possibly perform any better than steel nibbed pens that I already owned, such as my Onoto Scholar or the Otto Hutt Design 06 to name but two. Whilst the price was obviously not an issue, I did not want the added clutter.
However the temptation did not go away and I learned that a few friends had ordered one. Still curious to try one for myself, I eventually weakened and pulled the trigger. I opted for a black version, with silver coloured trim and a Fine nib, for a princely sum of £9.99.
With Amazon Prime, the pen arrived the following day. Inside the cardboard envelope, the pen was packed in a simple polythene sleeve inside a padded envelope. This was just enough to get the pen to me without damage and did not leave me with any unnecessary box.
In the flesh, first impressions were very favourable. The black acrylic body was smooth and glossy. Fit and finish all seemed good. The number 8 nib, being the first pen I have bought with one, was a good bit larger than the usual number 6 size and looked impressive and perhaps a bit more in keeping with the large girth of the pen.
The nib and feed.
I examined the nib under a loupe. The tines looked to be even, with good symmetrical tipping. There was a nib slit which narrowed down from the breather hole to the tipping at which point the tines were quite tightly together. Viewed from the back, the nib was not quite symmetrical to the feed, but this is easily adjusted.
I flushed the nib and feed in warm water to remove any residue of grease from manufacturing. The nib is easy to disassemble – a feature that I appreciate very much. You can unscrew the nib housing from the section. Once out, the nib and feed are friction-fit and can be pulled out from the housing, by gripping them together, perhaps with a soft cloth or tissue and pulling in a straight line, being careful not to damage the delicate plastic feed. Once out, you can lift the nib off the feed, and it is more easy to clean and adjust if necessary. I noticed that the ink channel at the top of the feed was cut quite wide and more like a trough than a slit. Good!
I had expected the nib to be a bit dry, having seen a video review by Stephen Brown. As a lefty-overwriter, my preference is for pens which lay down ink with little or no pressure needed. This can usually be achieved by opening up the gap between the tines at the tipping, just a very little until you can see a space, or daylight, between them.
This is a very useful adjustment. It is often easier with a gold nib than a steel one. There are various tricks to doing this, using brass shims to floss the nib, bending the tines up, or trying to wriggle a blade between the tines – all of which should be attempted with great care and with frequent pauses to inspect the nib under a loupe and to try writing with it again. Eventually, I had the best success by lifting first one tine, with my thumbnail, bouncing it up and down a few times – and then doing the same with the other. I then replaced the nib onto the feed, and pushed them back into the housing, carefully ensuring that the feed’s point was centred with the nib and that the tines were both level and smooth.
After flushing and drying the pen, I filled it with Montblanc Royal Blue. The large nib does need quite a full bottle to be able to immerse the nib for filling. My Montblanc bottle has the useful feature that you can tip it to make the filling area deeper. Before doing this, the converter did not draw up any ink leading me to wonder whether it was not pulling a vacuum. Note that the converter is like the Lamy ones, with a flat edge to hold rather than being round. Personally I do not like this feature as it makes the converter harder to twist.
Writing and performance:
Having adjusted my nib I then flushed, cleaned, dried and filled it, all of which took less than an hour. I was thrilled that it wrote superbly, as well as I could wish for. The nib was smooth, with good ink flow and lubrication. It is a firm nib. My fine nib writes a slightly wider line than intended by reason of my tine-widening exercise, but the end result, a medium-fine, is very pleasing. All in all, I was absolutely delighted.
It then just remained to do two further tests. One is to write for about a page of A4, to see how the feed keeps up, once the excess ink from filling the pen and saturating the feed, is used up. This is to check for “ink starvation” if ink is not being replenished from the converter. This (like opening the tine gap) is another tip I picked up from Stephen Brown’s videos. All looked good on this front. The final test was to check for hard starts. Leaving the pen untouched for 8 hours, revealed no issues. Later, when I could bear to leave it alone, I managed some longer intervals and again, there were no hard start issues.
Size and weight.
|Jinhao 159||Jinhao X159|
|Weight without cap||27g||18g|
|Weight of cap||19g||10g|
I have been really thrilled with the Jinhao X159. I think it is phenomenally great value. There is nothing else quite like it on the market. It could compete well with some pens in the £100.00 to £200.00 bracket. I hope that it continues to perform as well as it does now, and see no reason why it should not, with usual care and maintenance.
Indeed, so impressed and blown away was I, that I ordered a second one, this time trying a different colour, and with gold coloured fittings with a bi-colour nib and in Extra Fine. I opted for a blue and gold one. This cost just £7.99, firmly within “no-brainer” territory. There is also a Dark Blue version but this was priced around £20 and would come from the US, taking longer.
Once again, my pen arrived the following day. At first, it looked like I had got Dark Blue as it looked like navy, in artificial light. However, daylight revealed the colour to be a very pleasing blue-teal, which I am very happy with. I was excited to see under the loupe that the EF nib looked to be tuned to my liking, with the slightest of gaps between the tines, promising a good writing experience. After flushing the pen, I filled it with Diamine’s Conway Stewart Tavy, my go-to blue black. Bliss. This feels like its “forever ink.” The extra fine nib performs beautifully. In my notebook I wrote “I am genuinely over the moon at how good this pen looks, feels and writes and all for a £7.99 price tag.”