The next entry in my “Cheap Chinese Pens I Got from eBay” series is the…
Duke Uranus M25 Fountain Pen
Nib: Extra Fine, Steel, Hooded
Country of Origin: China
Filling System: Piston (push type)
Appearance: 8 / 10
The first thing I noticed about the Duke Uranus M25 is that it’s a really tiny pen, similar in size to a Jinhao 611. It’s short and thin, and probably fits in with the bullet/missile style of pens that have been popping up. Its design is simple and classy, if not slightly understated. The top of the cap and end of the barrel are tapered to a rounded end that culminate with a small chrome button, which I think is a nice touch. The clip has a simple design, but it’s extremely tight and won’t clip to a shirt pocket without a fight.
The pen’s design is not a flashy one, but there are two things that I really like about it:
- I love the Chinese writing down the side of the cap. In general, I think Asian writing is beautiful to look at. I have no idea what any of it says, but I think it’s pretty.
- I like the nib and section. It has this shark-like shape to it…I think they call it a cayman mouth style. I think it’s kind of cool looking.
Build Quality: 8 / 10
The cap and barrel seem to be made of some lightweight metal. It could be brass, but I think it’s more likely aluminum. The section is mostly metal, too, I think, but the coupler threads that attach to the barrel are plastic, so it makes screwing and unscrewing the section feel slightly cheap.
The pen comes with a push-type piston converter. It’s very common among inexpensive Chinese pens, but it’s the first time I’ve ever used one. Seems cheap, but it works fine. It includes a small ball (glass or plastic, I can’t tell) in the reservoir to agitate the ink to keep it from settling at one end of the converter or the other. It’s a very nice touch. Because the nib & section are so small, I had no problem filling it from a sample vial. The converter worked perfectly to fill the pen.
Nib: 10 / 10
The nib was supposed to be Extra Fine, so I expected it to be on par with the Fine nib on my Pilot Metropolitan. But the line put down by the M25 is a little heavier than the Metro. I’d probably classify it as a Fine. My handwriting is very small, and I hoped for a true Extra Fine, but I was somewhat disappointed in the line weight from this pen. It’s possible that the ink I’m using (Diamine Oxblood) is contributing to that.
Other than the thicker-than-desired line weight, the nib performs wonderfully. It’s a SUPER smooth writer. Most F and EF nibs give some feedback (or are downright scratchy), but this nib glides over the paper with ease. It’s also a pretty wet writer for an EF (which might also contribute to the thicker line weight). I encountered a few skips, but nothing too out of the ordinary.
BUT WAIT…on a whim I attempted some reverse writing (flipping the pen over and writing with the back side of the nib). Holy cow…it’s perfect! The line weight is super thin, and because it’s a wet writer, it never runs out of ink. Writing like this has its cost though: it’s pretty scratchy. I may whack it with a little micro mesh to try to smooth out that side of the tines…but the nib isn’t replaceable, so if I mess it up, I’m stuck with the results.
Because the section is hooded, only the very tip of the nib is visible. There is no way to remove/replace the nib (there are probably special tools that might allow this, but you can’t just pull it out if you need to give it a good cleaning or to swap it for another nib).
Comfort: 8 / 10
I’ve written several pages with this pen today, and I’ve had no hand cramps. The open end of the barrel flares out a bit, and if you run your finger over it, it feels a little sharp. But, when writing, it’s not noticeable at all. The finish of the cap and barrel is a little slick, and the pen has slipped out of my hand a few times. Because of this, it’s probably not a great pen for travel.
As I said earlier, this pen is tiny. People with larger hands might not find it comfortable. You can post the cap, but it’s not a secure fit and the cap will come off while you’re writing. I have small hands, so I have no problem writing with it un-posted. If shorter pens don’t work for you, you won’t like this pen.
For the sake of comparison, here’s the Duke Uranus M25 (second from the top) alongside a Noodler’s Ahab (top), a Pilot Metropolitan (third from top), and a Monteverde Invincia (bottom):
Overall Score: 34 / 40
At first, I considered the Duke Uranus M25 to be a decent pen. But now that I’ve discovered how well it writes when reversed, my satisfaction with the pen shot upward. It’s a nice, classy pen that is capable of writing as a Fine (normal) and as an Extra Fine (reversed). The nib is butter-smooth under normal use and puts down a pretty consistent line. This little $6 pen performs very well, and is an exceptional value.
Update (10/1/14): I kept finding small dots of ink on the pad and desk after using this pen. Finally saw it happen around the fourth or fifth time. It was happening when I removed the cap. That small jerk the pen gets when it releases from the cap flings a small spray of ink. Kind of annoying, especially if you’re using bulletproof ink in your pen. I started uncapping the pen slowly and carefully, and the problem hasn’t repeated since.