Next up in my “Inexpensive Chinese Fountain Pens” series, I present to you…
Baoer 79 “Skywalker” Fountain Pen
Filling System: Screw-Type Piston Converter
About the Pen:
I was very excited to get this pen. It’a knockoff of a much more expensive (and famous) German pen, and I’ve only heard good things about its performance. For $5, it seemed like a no-brainer. When it arrived, I was impressed with its seemingly fantastic build quality. It looks and feels like a high-quality writing instrument. I inked it up with some Noodler’s X-Feather and went on a little writing excursion. Turned out to be more of an adventure than I expected.
The Baoer 79, or the “Skywalker” as it is nicknamed, is a really good-looking pen. The whole pen appears to be made of metal. The cap and barrel have a matte black finish to them, with a series of silver lines forming a grid. If I had to guess, I believe the silver grid lines are the metal of the barrel showing through…that they are not covered in the black matte finish. The final effect is pretty striking, and the lines are crisp and straight (not always what you’d expect from an inexpensive Chinese knockoff pen).
The external accents are silver, including the clip, the very thin cap band, the threads on the endcap (more on that later), and the top of the cap that houses the finial. Speaking of the finial, it consists of a clear glass globe (or bubble, or dome, or something). It gives the pen a pretty classy appearance, in my opinion.
One aspect I didn’t expect was the finish on the section and barrel coupler. Like everything else on the pen, they’re made of metal, but they have a black nickel finish that I just love. It’s very sleek, and makes me wonder what the pen would look like if all the silver accents were black nickel instead. Hmmmm.
The barrel tapers down a very elongated, bullet-shaped endcap. The cap is widest in the middle and tapers slightly to both ends, giving the cap a bit of a submarine shape.
Finally, the nib is a standard #5 steel nib (billed as a Medium). Nothing too special about it, except is seems to be ground a little finer than most Chinese M nibs. I had heard that this pen writes closer to a fine, so I couldn’t wait to get to writing to see for myself.
Build Quality (5/5):
As I mentioned before, the build quality is outstanding. The feed and converter are pretty standard issue (i.e., nothing special), but the main components of the pen have a nice heft to them giving the pen a very sturdy feel. The parts are assembled well: nothing is loose or wobbly. You definitely don’t get the feeling that the pen is going to fall apart on you at any time.
One thing I always look for is how the threads on the section marry up to those on the barrel coupler. Sometimes with cheaper pens, the threads don’t align very well, which gives the pen a low-quality feel. And nothing is worse than a plastic section screwing into a metal coupler (yuck). I’m happy to say that the Skywalker threads marry up perfectly. They give that nice, smooth metal-on-metal feel (and singing sound) that I like so much. And did I mention the black nickel finish on both? Stellar!
The cap screws on rather than snaps. I’m kind of torn on this. On one hand, it gives the pen a more high-quality feel. But on the other hand, a screw-on cap requires threads on the barrel that can feel sharp to your fingers when writing. The threads on the Skywalker are not sharp; however, the silver lip at the edge of the barrel is sharp, but I’ll discuss that more in the Comfort section. What’s really nice about the screw-on cap is that it also screws onto the endcap for posting. I’m pretty sure that was “borrowed” from the original German pen, but it’s a nice, unique touch nonetheless.
I really like the clip on this pen. It’s springy enough to open up with your fingers, but sturdy enough to hold it in place in a pocket or pen sleeve. If you put it in your shirt pocket, it’s not going to fly out on its own.
The converter is a simple, push-on type. It would have been nice if it screwed into the section, but I don’t think you have to worry about it coming loose during normal use.
So I gave the Skywalker a good cleaning and loaded it up with X-Feather ink from Noodler’s. X-Feather is supposed to be excellent for writing on lower-quality paper without feathering. I chose X-Feather because I was working on a review of the Kyokuto F64° line of notebooks and found some of them to feather pretty badly with regular ink. X-Feather does, in fact, behave better on low-quality paper…but it did not write well in the Baoer Skywalker. Not at all.
With X-Feather, the Skywalker suffered from a lot of skipping and hard starting. So much so that the pen was pretty much unusable with Rhodia and Kyokuto paper (although it worked wonderfully on Maruman paper). It did write a wonderfully fine line, though. Closer to F than M. I was very happy about this aspect, but not with the skipping.
Because of the unique ink qualities, I blamed the poor performance on the ink rather than the pen. I first tried to floss the nib with a brass sheet, but that had no effect. So I disassembled the pen, gave it a good cleaning, and filled it with De Atramentis Steel Blue ink. It worked a lot better in that it eliminated the skipping, but I found that it still suffered from a lot of hard starts. (The shading of this ink is beautiful, by the way…check out the writing sample below.)
While I was writing, I wanted to see if I could get any line variation out of it, so I put a little pressure on the nib. The good news is that it spread out a bit and gave me nice variation. The bad news is that it never really went back to where it started. I didn’t put enough pressure on it to spring the nib, but that little bit of pressure turned the M/F nib to a regular M. It also writes a lot wetter now, too. That would have been a great thing if it solved the hard-starting problem, but it didn’t. I was really disappointed with this turn of events.
Is the Baoer Skywalker a comfortable pen to write with? Well…it can be. I found the screw-on posting to be a pretty cool feature, so I started writing with the cap posted. It wasn’t very balanced, though, with quite a bit of weight at the rear of the pen. My hand cramped up while writing more than a few sentences. So I started writing with it unposted. Two improvements occurred: My hand stopped cramping and the pen produced fewer hard starts. So that was a vast improvement.
The only other issue I had with comfort was with the lip at the edge of the barrel just below the section threads. It’s pretty sharp. Baoer did a nice job with the section, ensuring the cap threads are not obtrusive or otherwise uncomfortable, but they blew it with this lip. If you set your fingers against it while writing, it won’t take long before it gets uncomfortable. If you can keep your fingers off that lip, you’ll be fine. But I wasn’t able to do that and the lip caused some discomfort.
Writing Experience (3/5):
The writing experience isn’t bad, but I can’t help but feel disappointed. The line went from nice and fine to a clear medium with only a slight bit of pressure. The line also suffers from hard starts, even when writing unposted. I would not be able to use this pen for fast writing. Maybe I got a dud nib or feed. The good news is that the pen takes a standard feed and #5 nib, so there are replacement options out there that I can try. If I’m in the mood for a medium pen, the Skywalker would do a decent job. But if I need to write fast, write small, or write for an extended period of time, the Skywalker just isn’t going to cut it for me.
I’m still going to rate the Skywalker very good for value. The construction and appearance are fantastic for a $5 pen, and there are undoubtedly ways to improve the ink flow and nib performance with some tuning. If you’re into experimenting a bit, you could definitely do worse.
The Nutshell: Overall Score: 19/25
|Best Qualities||Worst Qualities|
|Great Construction||Skips & Hard Starts|
|Awesome Looking||Uncomfortable Barrel Lip|
|Nib Begins as a F/M||Nib Is Easily Convinced to Become Medium|
There are plenty of inferior pens out there that will cost you as much—or more—than the Baoer 79 Skywalker. It’s a super solid pen and probably can be a nice writer if you take the time an effort to adjust some things. If you prefer a medium stroke and can live with random hard starts, then you’d probably be extremely happy with this pen.