Next up in my “Inexpensive Chinese Fountain Pens” series, I present to you…
Jinhao 189 “Great Wall” Fountain Pen
Filling System: Screw-Type Piston Converter
About the Pen:
In my recent eBay bender, I managed to pick up eight Jinhao pens, but this is the first one I tried. I’ve heard many good things about the Jinhao brand, and I was interested to see how their pens would perform. The 189 is one of their specialty pens, celebrating China’s most famous and recognizable landmark: The Great Wall. I liked that the pen was ornate without being gaudy. Most of the Jinhao pens I bought were in the $1 to $6 price range, so I had pretty high expectations for the 189, being that it cost nearly $10.
This is a pretty intricate pen, so this review contains a lot more pictures than I usually include. My apologies to those with limited bandwidth.
As I said in the introduction, the Jinhao 189 is a very ornate pen, but it isn’t gaudy or obnoxious. The cap is a plain, glossy black color (lacquer, I assume) with silver accents. The finial consists of a knurled silver cap with a rounded black button on the top. The clip, which is extremely stiff and practically immoveable, is also silver and sports a shield emblem with the Jinhao chariot logo imprinted into it. The cap band, also silver, has JINHAO engraved into the front and 189 engraved onto the back.
The nib is small, I’d guess a standard #5 in size. It has a simple design etched around the inside edge, with the Jinhao name and 18KGP imprinted in the center. I can only assume the 18KGP means 18 Karat Gold Plated; however, the nib is silver in color. Sooooooooo, I’m not sure if the gold plating is white gold, or if it’s got an additional silver-colored plating over the gold, or if it’s just a bunch of BS. Gold or no gold, the nib writes smoothly, so I don’t really have any complaints in that department.
The barrel has a finish that’s made to look painted. It kind of looks somewhere between brushed metal and wood grain. It’s unique, and very attractive.The designs on the barrel are created out of raised surfaces, giving the designs a carved-stone feel that goes nicely with the Great Wall motif. There are two square-wave patterns encircling the barrel: one at the top of the barrel, one at the bottom. Between them is a raised depiction of some sort of chest or display case with Chinese writing and other designs on it. I wish I knew the significance of this art so I could pass that along to you.
Update: Big thanks to reader Petre, who added some comments explaining that this shape depicts a Chinese Ding (this one a Fanding specifically). Dings were cauldrons used by the Ancient Chinese for cooking, storage, and ritual offerings to the gods or to their ancestors. For more information, you can follow the link provided by Petre below or visit Wikipedia. Thanks, Petre!
Below the design area, the barrel continues the black lacquered finish, tapering down to a simple silver end cap.
I think the Jinhao 189 is a really nice-looking pen. Despite the intricate design work and knurled areas, the overall design is a bit understated and classy.
Build Quality (5/5):
I think the entire pen is made of metal, with the exception of the knurled grip part of the section, which appears to be plastic. As a result, the pen is pretty heavy. The construction of the pen is excellent. All parts of the pen fit together well, and nothing is loose or rattling around. Both the section threads and barrel coupler are metal, and marry together very smoothly. The cap snaps on tightly. It’s maybe a little bit of a challenge to remove the cap, but you don’t have to worry about it coming off in your pocket and getting ink on your clothes.
The nib and feed are easy to remove from the section, making it possible to fully clean the pen and swap out the nib, if you so desire. Something I really like about this pen is that Jinhao chose to use a customized converter instead of the standard one you find on most Chinese fountain pens. The converter seems to have a slightly larger capacity than the standard one, and it has the nice brushed metal finish that you find on the barrel (except it is more gold in color, not the gray of the barrel). Stamped into the converter is the name Jinhao on one side and the chariot logo on the other. It’s not a huge difference from the standard converter, but it’s a really nice touch.
Overall, I have no complaints about the build quality of this pen. It’s solid and well made. And it feels like a high-quality writing instrument. I would have liked it better if the converter screwed into the section (I always appreciate that little extra peace of mind). But the section does fit snugly into the section, so I don’t think there’s any reason to expect that it might pop out at some inopportune time.
Hard starts. They don’t happen that often but they do happen, and that’s the one knock I have for the pen. If you’re writing a lot, the pen will move along with no skips or breaks in ink flow. But if you let the pen sit for a few seconds, you’ll experience some hard starts, particularly with ascenders for the first few words. It’s not a horrible flaw, but it does annoy me.
Otherwise, the pen performs quite nicely.
The physical design of the Jinhao 189 is fantastic. The knurled grip is comfortable and there are no sharp edges anywhere to be found around the section. I tried holding the pen in several different positions, and they all felt very comfortable. The only problem I had was with the weight of the pen. It’s heavy and not balanced very well. My hand got tired and started to cramp after writing with it for a few minutes. This was very pronounced when writing with the pen posted. Writing with it unposted improved the comfort level some, but it was still pretty heavy.
If you prefer a heavy pen (or if you have gorilla hands), you’ll probably be okay. But if you find heavy pens lead to discomfort, you won’t want to use the Jinhao 189 for extended writing sessions.
Writing Experience (4/5):
Other than the occasional hard start and the weight of the pen, I thought that the Jinhao 189 was a great performer. Ink flow was great, and the line was mostly consistent. The nib definitely writes like a medium, which I’m not crazy about in the first place. I have very small handwriting, and I noticed instances where the line would come out a little thicker, distorting a letter here and there. This was pretty rare, and if you have larger handwriting, probably wouldn’t be noticeable at all.
One pleasant surprise for me was how well the pen wrote in reverse (with the nib flipped over upside down). It puts down a splendidly fine line and the ink doesn’t stop flowing. Some pens are wicked scratchy when reverse writing, but not the 189…it was very smooth. For those times I need to write extra tiny text, this pen will handle that extremely well.
There are better pens out there, but there are also worse ones. The aesthetics of the Jinhao 189 are outstanding: It’s a good-looking pen. And the construction is top notch. There’s nothing outstanding regarding its functionality, but it is a solid performer. I think $9.50 is a reasonable price for what you get. It’s a pen that looks great and will last a long time, even if the writing experience isn’t going to drop any jaws.
The Nutshell: Overall Score: 21/25
|Best Qualities||Worst Qualities|
|Very Smooth Nib||Occasional Hard Starts|
|Fantastic Reverse Writer||Clip is Too Stiff to Use|
I think Jinhao did a really great job with this pen. There are a lot of nice touches, such as the chariot engravings, upscale converter, and super-comfortable grip/section. It’s easy to see they put a lot of thought into the design of the 189. The writing experience isn’t fantastic, nor is it bad. It’s just kind of somewhere in the middle. It will do its job, albeit unceremoniously. But for under $10, its at least a decent writer and a good conversation piece.