From deep within the “It’s not a knockoff, it’s an homage” files, I present the…
Jinhao 159 Fountain Pen
Filling System: Screw-Type Piston Converter (also takes Standard International cartridges)
About the Pen:
Do you remember the old Rocky & Bullwinkle cartoons where they would give each episode a normal title followed by a silly alternative title (such as The Flat of the Land – or – A Rolling Stone Gathers No Moose)? I feel compelled to do that here. So in the spirit of everyone’s favorite Moose & Squirrel, here is “Review: Jinhao 159 Fountain Pen – or – I Got Me a Big-Ass Pumpkin Pen.”
I’ve got several Jinhao pens in my collection (that I’m slowly getting around to trying). The few that I’ve tried so far have been pretty unimpressive. Until recently, neither the 159 or the x750 were in my collection. Both of these models typically get great reviews, so when the fine folks at Goulet Pens were running a “Free x750 with Purchase of any Jinhao” sale, I couldn’t resist. The color options are pretty limited, but I’m a sucker for orange, so
The 159 is arguably Jinhao’s flagship fountain pen. It’s styled after the Montblanc 149, although I think it’s safe to say that any similarities end with the size & shape.
Huge. Heavy. Eye-catching for sure (especially with this bright orange finish). And very much typical Jinhao. Just to show how freaking huge the 159 is, the below image puts the 159 (top) side-by side with a Conklin Duragraph, a TWSBI Diamond 580AL, a Knox Galileo, and a Pilot Metropolitan. Yeah. It’s big. And yeah. I told you I like orange.
In line with a million other Chinese pens, the 159 has a lacquered metal barrel and cap (probably brass). It’s longer than average and pretty fat. Add in the bright orange color, and I think it looks more comically gigantic than it does a classy homage.
Both the finial and endcap are tapered and rounded at the ends, giving the pen a torpedo/cigar shape. All the furniture is chrome/silver colored. The cap band has JINHAO stamped on one side and 159 stamped on the other.The clip is fairly simple and sports the Jinhao chariot logo. Other than the size and bright color, the rest of the design is simple and understated, which is good, because this pen does not need any bling.
The cap screws off the barrel, which is a nice touch. It does post, but that makes the pen very back-heavy.
The section consists of a smooth, black grip with a silver ring at the front end and silver coupler threads. I can’t really tell if the section is made of plastic or metal, although when screwing the section into the barrel, it sounds like a metal-on-metal connection, so I’m guessing it’s machined aluminum or some other light metal.
Finally, the 159 comes with a standard #6 medium nib. It has an interlocking pattern etched around the outer edge of the nib with the Jinhao name and chariot logo etched in the center. It also, in typical Jinhao fashion, has 18KGP etched in the nib, despite the fact there’s no gold-colored anything on it.
Build Quality (3/5):
The pen is mostly solid. It’s not falling apart or anything, but it’s very clear that the 159 is a mass-produced item, and I would suspect that “We Strive for Quality” is probably not hanging on a plaque in any Jinhao factory. Despite the high-end pen that the 159 is modeled after, the build quality, in my opinion, is pretty cheap.
One of the first things I noticed is that the orange lacquer is not evenly applied. There’s no way to tell this from my images, but if you look closely at the pen, you can see mottled areas of darker patches in the lacquer.
In addition to uneven application, the lacquer chips very easily. I baby my pens. In the time between opening the package and this review, the finial suffered a ding where the lacquer chipped away. I didn’t drop it or drop anything on it. There is no reason this chip should be there. It’s just there.
And one final gripe with the lacquer: my pen has a tiny fiber stuck in it. It probably either fell on the pen while the lacquer was drying or fell in the lacquer before it was applied. Either way, the combined issues with the lacquer are pretty disappointing for a flagship pen.
In addition to the poor paint job, the assembly leaves something to be desired. For example, the finial screws right off the cap because they only used a microscopic amount of glue to hold it in place. You can therefore easily remove the clip and the silver band between the cap and finial.
The finial should not come off this easily. The end cap stays in place like it should, but not the finial.
The 159 comes with a standard #6 nib that can be easily removed and replaced with other #6 nibs. This is a win. I typically don’t like medium nibs due to my small handwriting, so it’s nice that I have the option to replace the stock nib with an EF, a stub, or whatever else I might want to use at the time.
I’m happy with the converter, which is a definite step up from typical Chinese pens. It’s Jinhao-branded, and the piston mechanism feels pretty sturdy. It doesn’t screw into the section, but it fits snugly, and I have no worries about it falling out.
The manufacturing of the pen is okay. The section and barrel threads are both made of metal, which gives a nice solid feel, although the machining isn’t perfect. I noticed the barrel inner threads have a lot of dings and nicks in them.
As I mentioned before, the cap screws onto the pen. Inside the cap, there is a black, plastic inner cap. This inner cap is what screws onto the barrel threads, and it does a good job keeping the pen from drying out.
For the most part, the pen writes pretty well, but there are two things I find annoying. The hard starts are annoying. And the inconsistent line from the nib is annoying.
I don’t like being annoyed. Especially when I’m writing.
It’s easily the fattest pen I own and it took a few minutes to get used to the girth. At first, I thought it felt like writing with a sausage, but I got used to it pretty fast.
It’s a pretty comfortable pen to hold and write with as far as weight and balance (as long as you don’t post it). I have smaller hands, but didn’t find the pen hard to use, and I experienced no cramping while writing. There is a bit of a step from the barrel down to the threads, but it’s not sharp at all, and I didn’t even notice it while I was writing.
I did find that the section gets slippery when writing for a little while, so that makes long writing sessions a challenge.
Writing Experience (3.5/5):
The 159 has a super smooth nib, and is an overall decent writer, although nothing about it is remarkable. It didn’t skip at all, but had plenty of hard starts. I think the worst part about it is that the line it puts down is not consistent. Sometimes it writes a little on the fine side, and at other times it puts down a sloppy, “mushy” line that’s closer to broad than medium.
I think if you have larger handwriting, this mushiness might not be that much of a problem. My handwriting is small, and it’s hard to write with this pen without my letters blopping into each other.
Now reverse writing, was much better than I expected. The line was fine and consistent, if not a little dry (the ink was considerably lighter). You could write this way for a while and the pen never ran out of ink…and it was actually pretty smooth. I think if I had no choice but to use this pen, I would just flip it over and write with the back side of the nib. (Note: The odd staining on the nib in the image below is from the Scabiosa ink. I don’t think I’ll use that ink again.)
I expected this pen to be a superb value at only $12.50, especially given the great reviews I’ve seen & read. But honestly, for a mere $2.50 more, you can get a Pilot Metropolitan, which is vastly superior in every way…and you can even pick what size nib you want, which you can’t do with the Jinhao.
With a mediocre build quality and a less-than-inspiring nib, the Jinhao 159 isn’t in the same league as other pens in the same price range. Pilot has a whole pile of pens in the $8 to $20 range that are more dependable and better built.
The Nutshell: Overall Score: 17/25
|Best Qualities||Worst Qualities|
|Super Smooth Nib||Questionable Build Quality|
|Good Reverse Writer||Inconsistent Line|
|Replaceable #6 Nib||Slippery Section|
If I were to create a list of adjectives to describe the Jinhao 159…”impressive” would not be among them. It’s not a terrible pen. It’s not a great pen. It’s simply a pen. It does its job by putting ink to paper, but there’s not much beyond that. It’s a smooth, comfortable writer with an inconsistent line and hard starts.
Personally, I can’t recommend this pen when compared to others in its price range; however, if you’re someone who prefers a thicker pen (I’ve heard tell that arthritis sufferers have an easy time with this pen), then the Jinhao 159 might be worth trying out. You can always swap out the nib for something you like better.