Look up in the sky! It’s a Parker Sonnet! No, it’s an homage! No, it’s a blatant Chinese knockoff called the…
Baoer 388 Fountain Pen
Filling System: Screw-Type Piston Converter / International Standard Cartridge
About the Pen:
Somewhere between homage and counterfeit lies “blatant knockoff.” I don’t own a Parker Sonnet, and even I can’t deny the uncanny resemblance between the Baoer 388 and the iconic Sonnet: from the shape of the section, to the rounded off barrrel, to the simple gold cap band, and all the way to the looks-like-they-stole-it-from-Parker arrow-shaped clip. Blatant. Knockoff.
How does the Baoer 388 compare to the Parker Sonnet as a writer? I have no idea. And that’s not the point of this review. Now that we have the “evil twin” business out of the way, I’m going to review this pen for what it is: an inexpensive, but usable Chinese fountain pen.
It’s a nice-looking pen. It should be, I guess. It’s a smaller pen, both narrower and shorter than a Pilot Metropolitan, but not quite in the Pocket Pen category. The finish is a really beautiful blue and black tiger-stripe pattern, although the blue is very dark, so you need to look closely or under a strong light to really see the pattern. At first glance, it looks like solid black or dark blue.
The entire pen appears to be made from brass. The cap and barrel look like they’re painted and lacquered. The barrel tapers to a rounded end. The cap has a small, gold-colored finial with a shiny black circle/button at the top.
The clip and cap band are both gold-colored. The clip, as you might expect, looks like an arrow. The cap band has Baoer etched into one side, and 388 etched into the other. And speaking of the cap, it doesn’t post at all. I generally don’t post any caps, so it’s not a problem for me. But I wanted to mention it because it’s something that really bugs some people.
The section is very simple, tapering from the barrel toward the nib before flaring outward juuuuussssst a tiny bit where it rests against a gold-colored ring.
The nib is a typical, #5 Baoer nib. This one is two-tone, and sports the usual Baoer name etched below the breather hole and a nice, simple arch design etched around the outer edge.
Build Quality (3.5/5):
Overall, the Baoer 388 is a decent pen. The finish and gold-colored hardware are beautiful. The barrel and section threads are machined perfectly, screwing and unscrewing very smoothly. The clip is springy, tight, and easy to use without injuring yourself.
I do like the converters that Baoer packages with their pens. They’re sturdier than the average Chinese converter, and I believe they also have a slightly larger ink capacity.
Despite the general nice build of the pen, it has several issues that I find annoying enough to call out.
The arrowhead part of the clip is shaped by folding the metal backward, so there is a rough metal seam that rests against the cap. Of course, it scratches the nice finish. The good thing is that the clip doesn’t wobble around, so you have to lift the clip to see the scratch, but I’d be concerned that the seam might catch on or rip the fabric of a pocket.
I had a little issue with the nib and feed. So I flushed the pen when I got it, inked it up, and wrote a bunch. Everything lined up fine and it performed well. Then, I disassembled it to give it a full cleaning, and I could not, for the life of me, get the nib and feed back into the section correctly. The feed would go in, but the nib would only go in a little bit and get lodged.
The cavity in the section looks round except for one small indentation that doesn’t really match up at all with the nib. Some pens have a slightly wider portion cut out to accommodate the thickness of the nib, but I didn’t see one. It took about ten tries.
Finally, I just put the feed in by itself and held it under a very bright light. There was a tiny, barely noticeable void off to one side of the feed, and I figured that it was for the nib. Luckily, I was right, and the pen went right back together. Incidentally, that first indentation I saw lines up with the TOP of the nib. I don’t think it serves a purpose, but it can be useful for reassembly.
And the last thing I want to mention is that the cap requires a lot of force to remove. I didn’t actually fling any ink around when uncapping it, but it was something I worried about. Because of this, I’d be afraid to use it anywhere I wouldn’t want to make a mess (like work).
The ink flow in the Baoer 388 is fantastic. It writes right away without skipping or hard starting, even if left uncapped for 60 seconds.
My only complaint is that the line of ink the nib puts down is inconsistent and sometimes mushy. The edges of my line are uneven and not well defined, even on smooth Rhodia paper. And some strokes come out fatter/sloppier than others.
This pen is really great to write with. I had no cramping or other discomfort at any time, even after writing multiple pages of text. And despite the section having a smooth surface, it never got slippery as I wrote.
Writing Experience (3.5/5):
Other than the inconsistent and mushy writing line, I really can’t complain too much about how the Baoer 388 writes. I have small handwriting, so the inconsistent line is more noticeable than if I were to have larger handwriting. It’s a true Medium nib, and I really wish they had the option for a Fine nib.
The nib is super smooth, and it never skips or hard starts. It just keeps chugging along.
Reverse writing is pretty scratchy, but it puts down a very nice, fine line.
Note: As you can see in my writing sample, I was clearly unhappy with how the pen writes…but looking at the sample now, it’s not that bad. I must have been in a “I want to write tiny” sort of mood. I wouldn’t say the nib is spectacular, but it’s not as bad as this sample would indicate.
For just over $5, the Baoer 388 makes a great everyday pen. It’s a very pretty, well made pen that writes great. If you have larger handwriting and prefer Medium nibs, then you’d probably love this pen. If you’re looking for a crisp writer, though, then this pen would probably give you fits.
The Nutshell: Overall Score: 20/25
|Best Qualities||Worst Qualities|
|Smooth writer||Cap takes too much effort to open|
|Very nice finish & hardware||Mushy, inconsistent line|
|Comfortable to write with||Hard to reassemble nib/feed|
The Baoer 388 is a really nice little pen. The fit and finish are outstanding, and it looks and feels more expensive than it is.
For me, I’d classify its Medium nib as “decent.” It’s okay…it does the job. But I prefer finer nibs that write with a more consistent line. The look and performance more than make up for the inconsistency, though. So if you’re in the market for a nice-looking, dependable pen that you can use every day, the Baoer 388 is a great option. Especially for the price.