Some Things Are Way Harder Than They Should Be
Moby Dick: The great, white whale who for so long eluded and tormented Captain Ahab, invading his dreams, becoming the subject of his infamous obsession, and eventually leading to his demise. We all have one, don’t we? That one thing that’s always on our mind…that just eats at us night and day until we capture it, defeat it, or figure it out.
For some in the fountain pen world, the white whale is a rare pen model, color, or date of manufacture (or a combination of all three). For me, it’s about 1/100 of a penny’s worth of plastic: a simple fountain pen feed.
Okay, so maybe I’m not quite as obsessed with the feed as Ahab was with Moby. But the damn thing is just about as elusive as that pudgy, white pain in the @$$. And while trying to track down spare feeds, I discovered a network of deceit that rocked the very foundations of everything I believe. Yeah, yeah, I’m exaggerating again.
What follows is my tale…
Where it All Started
A couple weeks ago, I was cleaning my Monteverde Invincia, and when I removed the nib and feed, the little stem on the back of the feed snapped off. While very tiny, this little stem is vital to the operation of the pen. There is a small channel cut into it that extends into and through the feed. This channel is what draws ink from the cartridge or converter (using capillary action) and supplies it to the nib so that ink actually transfers to the paper you’re writing on.
Because the Invincia cost me $80, I wasn’t very happy. I didn’t know if I could find or buy a replacement. A lot of pen brands use proprietary parts, and there are a lot of styles in the “standard nib” world: #6 nibs, #5 nibs, flex nibs, and hooded nibs are all very common and use different feeds.
A Quick Quest for a Matching Specimen
I’ve taken apart enough pens to know that the Invincia uses a pretty standard #6 nib and its feed is a common style. So I started looking for another pen I could cannibalize for its feed. I know many Jinhao pens and the Noodler’s Ahab (wild coincidence) use #6 nibs, so I started with them. The Ahab feed was completely different, so that was out. But the second pen I opened up was a Jinhao 159, and…ding ding ding, I had a winner! The feed was identical.
So from the evidence I collected up to this point, I concluded that this must be a common feed and I should easily find them online to purchase a few for spares. I was right on the first count, but wrong on the second.
The Search Began
I searched high and low for these things, and repeatedly turned up empty. Google was a bust. Amazon was a bust. I finally found a listing on eBay for “10PCS Jinhao X450 fountain pen tongue For many series can be changed.” Tongue? That’s what they call a feed in China? Okay. Being that these were for the X450, I figured I’d better verify before buying them. I have two X450s. I grabbed one of them, cracked it open, and discovered that YES, it also used the same exact feed as the 159 and the Invincia. Happy Day! So I plunked down the $3.50 for the 10 tongues and waited.
Good God, They Don’t Fit! And Speaking of Fit…Counterfeit!
The feeds came in from China about week later. Of course, they didn’t fit the Invincia. And of course, they didn’t fit the 159. I had inked up the X450 that I checked before, so I grabbed my other one, and son of a b!7¢&, it had a completely different feed in it. And of course, the feeds I just got from China didn’t fit that one either. So I got these ten tongues sitting there and they don’t seem to go into anything.
And now I’m wondering why the heck my two X450s have different hardware in them. More on that in a minute.
I’m writing this rant/story to help others who may encounter this problem, and hopefully prevent them from having to go through the same annoying steps. So I’m going to break from my story to point the differences in these feeds and explain why they won’t work.
- The biggest problem is the width/diameter of the stem that extends from the back end of the feed. This is what broke off my Monteverde feed, and it’s purpose is to draw ink from the converter or cartridge. This stem slips through a tube at the back of the grip section so it can contact the ink. The stem on the imposter feed is too thick to fit into the tube in both the Invincia and the X450. This single attribute makes the feed incompatible with the pens. It simply cannot be inserted.
- The fins are thicker on the imposter and spaced farther apart. This may or may not make a difference, but it could potentially affect ink flow.
- The feed is about 1 or 2 mm shorter than the real deal. Not sure if this would make a difference, but it might lead to poor or not enough ink flow to the nib.
- The tapering of the feed’s nose is different. This might also not make a difference, but when combined with the differences in fin size and overall length, my hopes would not be high.
- The backstop is not in the same place, although I think this wouldn’t make a difference, as it would only lead to a little more of the stem extending into the ink reservoir.
- Basically, the position of everything on the rear half of the feed is in a different place. Again, it might not make a difference. But really, I think these were made for a different pen.
Back to the Story: Finally! Sources Secured!
After striking out with the eBay tongues, I wrote a note to Yafa (the company that makes Monteverde) to see if I could buy spares through them (I probably should have just done that first, but where’s the fun in that?). And I also hit the Internet again, trying to find another source, just in case. Finally, after going through about 47 different search terms, I found a pen kit dealer that had them. Well, I assumed they did. Their picture was extremely low resolution, but they did provide measurements that seemed to match. So I ordered a feed from them for $1.25 (plus like $6 shipping…yikes!).
The wonderful folks at Yafa sent me a new feed free of charge. And just as wonderfully, the feed I got from the pen kit dealer was also a perfect match. Now I have a replacement AND a spare. Phew!
Now About that Imposter Jinhao
So I pulled apart my two Jinhao X450s to try and figure out what’s going on. On second thought, let’s back up a bit first.
Like I said, I have two X450s: a red one with a medium nib, and a black one with a fude calligraphy nib. I used the red one several months ago, and found it to be pretty terrible. The build quality was bad with several parts of the pen rattling. It was also a very disappointing writer, with a mushy nib and poor ink flow. I just thought it sucked.
But once I compared the guts of the two X450s, I found that the sections and feeds are different. The standard Jinhao feed has a flat bottom, and the hole in the section is shaped to fit it (with one flat side and a slight cutout to accommodate the nib). My black X450 is correct. But the red X450 has a round feed and an irregularly cut hole in the section with no special cutouts for the feed or nib.
Due to the poor quality of the red X450, I did suspect that it might be a counterfeit. Now I’m sure it is. Why would anyone counterfeit a dirt-cheap pen? Then again, people counterfeit the Hero 616, which is $1 knockoff of the Parker 51, so I guess making fake $7 pens is a bit of a step up. Regarding the X450, besides the feed and section, you’d never know it was a fake. The other parts all look perfect.
Which Pens & Where to Buy
So in the event you are in need of a spare feed or two, I can at least point you in the direction of a seller for this specific one. It is a standard size, and seems to be used a lot. Here are the pens this feed fits (not an exhaustive list, just ones I’ve personally verified):
- Conklin Duragraph
- Duke 116
- Jinhao 159
- Jinhao X450
- Jinhao X750
- Jinhao Ancient Silver Chinese Dragon
- Monteverde Invincia
- Nemosine Fission
- Nemosine Singularity
And you can buy the feeds from PenKits.biz for $1.25 each, plus shipping.
Final Note: I think I did finally identify the manufacturer (or maybe the distributor) of these feeds. It’s a Taiwanese company called Aquarry. They don’t have prices or any way to order, although I did find an Alibaba listing for a bag of 5,000 feeds. I will not be ordering that many; however, I did send a note to Aquarry to see if they’d sell them in small quantities (like 50 or 100). It’s currently the Chinese New Year, so I may not get a reply for a couple weeks, but if I find anything out, I’ll update this post.