Next up in my “Inexpensive Chinese Fountain Pens” series, I present to you…
The Dikawen 821 Fountain Pen
Filling System: Screw-Type Piston Converter & Standard International Cartridges
About the Pen:
It’s no secret that I love Chinese fountain pens. They’re typically inexpensive and they offer some really fantastic designs. Sure, some of them flat-out suck, but I enjoy the adventure of trying them out and finding the gems amid the duds.
I was drawn to to the Dikawen 821 by two things:
- I just loved the juxtaposition of the dark, marbled wine-colored barrel against the milky-white color of the cap. I’ve seen plenty of silver-capped and gold-capped fountain pens, but I’ve never noticed a white-capped one before. I thought it looked classy in the pictures.
- The second thing this pen had going for it was that it was made by Dikawen. I recently reviewed the Dikawen 839, and absolutely loved it. If the 821 were to look as good as it did in pictures AND write as well as the 839, buying one was a no-brainer.
The Dikawen 821 is a real chunk of a pen. It’s big, fat, and very heavy (there’s got to be a quarter-pound of brass in this pen). There is no taper to the barrel: it’s a true cylinder shape. Even the end cap has a uniform diameter. Due to its size and coloring, it’s a real attention-getter, but I don’t find it gaudy.
The barrel is a dark, marbled wine color with an exceptional finish. Very pretty. No blemishes in the finish whatsoever. The cap has a milky-white colored plastic over the brass. It has a series of wavy lines molded into it for a really nice texture. All the furniture is gold-colored, including the clip and finial. I have to say that I find it to be a very handsome pen. It would look right at home sitting on the mahogany desk of a business executive.
Like the rest of the pen, the section is made of brass. It’s painted black, which matches the end cap and button at the top of the finial. The tapered section also has the cap’s wavy line pattern etched into it, giving just enough texture so it doesn’t get slippery (which metal sections often do).
Many fountain pens provide the brand and model etched (or engraved) into the center band. The Dikawen 821 also has these engravings, but they appear on the band at the bottom of the pen, just above the end cap.
I really dig the clip on this pen. It’s pretty broad (and quite springy). What I like most about it is the design that’s engraved in the top of the clip. At first glance, it just looks like some simple scrollwork. But after really looking at it for a minute, I think it’s supposed to represent a dragon’s head (although the nose more closely resembles that of a pig rather than any reptile I’ve seen). Pig-nosed dragon aside, it’s a darn fine-looking writing instrument.
The nib and feed are relatively simple. The two-tone, #5-ish nib has some simple scrollwork on it. The feed is interesting as it has a smooth bottom surface. No fins like most fountain pens have.
Build Quality (4/5):
I only have one complaint regarding build quality, and that’s with the gold-colored furniture. The gold coloring must be some sort of paint or plated metal. There are several instances of brassing/scuffing to the gold finish, other small blemishes, and a large nick in the cap band where the engraver must have whacked it. It’s a pretty small complaint, as these marks don’t affect the pen’s structure or writing ability. But they do cheapen the appearance a little, so I think it’s worth mentioning.
Otherwise, the pen is rock solid. Everything is tight, well machined, and assembled well. No parts rattle, shake, shimmy, or give any indication that they may fly off, crumble, or explode. The barrel and section threads marry up perfectly (I do love me some nice, smooth metal-on-metal thread action).
Something I really appreciate is how easily the pen disassembles and goes back together. It took me about 30 seconds to have the nib and feed removed from the section and the rest of the pen broken down for cleaning. I was able to reassemble the entire pen in about as much time. The nib and feed went right back into the section, fitting perfectly. Some pens are like a puzzle trying to put them back together.
If nothing else, the Dikawen 821 is a consistent writer. It always writes. Never skips or hard starts. The nib puts down a lot of ink, and it shows off the ink very well. Right now I’m using Sailor Jentle Miruai, which isn’t really known for shading. But I’m getting some decent shading and some great dark-red sheen on both Rhodia and Tomoe River paper. This pen lets the properties of the ink really shine through.
If you’re one of those people who finds ink sexy, you’ll probably enjoy writing with this pen.
No complaints. It’s a heavy pen, but it’s fairly well balanced when it’s not posted. I find the pen quite comfortable to hold, with no hand cramps along the way. The pen is designed to post, with the cap fitting perfectly over the end cap; however, it becomes absurdly heavy and unwieldy if you do so.
I assumed the pen would be really back-heavy with the cap on the back, but what I actually found was that as I was writing with it posted, the pen would slip down in my hand toward the paper. Gravity was killing me. I had to remove the cap from the back of the pen. It feels perfectly fine when the cap is sitting on the table, but I wouldn’t recommend trying to write with it posted. There is a pretty big step where the cap attaches to the barrel, but I found it high enough that I didn’t notice it while writing.
Writing Experience (4/5):
The overall writing experience of the Dikawen 821 is excellent. The nib is super smooth, even when reverse writing. I find the nib to be too broad for my taste, at least for daily use. It would make a great pen for signing documents (when I’m President, this pen will definitely have a place in my “signing things into law” rotation).
Despite being broad and wet, the line it puts down is pretty consistent. And like I mentioned earlier, it always writes. Even if left uncapped for a minute, it starts right up and glides along the page. I’d give it a full 5 points if the line were finer, but I have to knock off a half-point because it’s not the best pen for people with small handwriting.
At just under $10 (including shipping), the Dikawen 821 is a very good value. It’s not quite as spectacular a writer as some of my other pens that cost less, but it’s still provides a very enjoyable writing experience.
It blows away the Crocodile NC64 in build quality and performance and costs half the price. It does cost a few dollars more than some other comparable Chinese pens, but given the nice nib, solid construction, and the elegant appearance, I think it’s worth the money.
The Nutshell: Overall Score: 22/25
|Best Qualities||Worst Qualities|
|Very smooth nib||Weighs as much as a small cat|
|Consistent & dependable||Low-quality finish on furniture|
|Darn nice looking|
If you like smooth nibs that lay down a ton of ink, I think you’d really enjoy this pen. It’s a dependable writer that looks great and works all the time. I can definitely recommend it.