Inexpensive. Chinese. Classy. Dependable. Bigfooty. It’s the…
Yiren 856 Fountain Pen
Nib: Medium (#5)
Filling System: Standard International Cartridge & Converter
About the Company & Pen:
Yiren has probably become my favorite Chinese fountain pen brand. It’s not just because their pens are attractive and work well (they are…and they do). It’s also because the Yiren (or Yeren…or 野人) is the Chinese Bigfoot (or Sasquatch…or Skunk Ape). Yes, I know. I mention that every time I talk about Yiren pens. And I will continue to do so every time from here to eternity. I like fountain pens. I like bigfoot. It’s a match made in heaven. Deal with it.
Yiren, and their sister brand Bookworm, are made by the Nanchang Yiren Pen Company from the Chinese town of Wengang. Yiren refers to Wengang as the “pen capital” of China. I can neither confirm nor deny this claim, but it sounds like a logical place for a pen company to be located.
The Nanchang Yiren Pen Company was established in 2005, and they make a variety of different types of pens, including rollerballs, brush pens, gel pens, and—of course—fountain pens. Although a number of Chinese pen brands have found their way into mainstream fountain pen retailers, I don’t know of any that sell Yiren pens (of course, Amazon and Aliexpress both sell a few, but I think that goes without saying…except I did say it…deal with that, too). I typically find the best selection of Yiren pens on eBay, although I have to say that the models offered seem to come and go. I reviewed their 823 model a while back, but that’s gone out of production. They have a handful of nice-looking models, but the bulk of their pens seem to be geared toward students (they’ve also recently jumped on the “Let’s make a Lamy Safari Clone” bandwagon along with Jinhao and Hero). I suspect a large part of their business is producing promotional pens, where people/businesses can order white-label pens with their logos on them.
While some Yiren models appear to be unique, they do seem to have a good number of clone pens. The 856 is one of them, being a nearly identical carbon copy of the Wing Sung 3203 that I reviewed some time ago. There are a few small differences, but the pen was clearly more than just influenced by the 3203.
Because I gushed over the Wing Sung 3203, you may not be surprised to hear that I really like the looks of the Yiren 856, too. The entire pen body and all its furniture have a shiny, gunmetal finish. The cap, finial, and end cap all have perfectly smooth surfaces, but the barrel has a uniform grid pattern of perpendicular lines that extend straight down the length of the barrel and around its circumference. These lines are very thin and shallow, making them appear very faint.
The cap has a sleek and simple design, with all its parts having the same smooth finish. The body of the cap tapers down slightly from the mouth toward the finial, which is set off from the cap by a thin, smooth clip band. The finial is completely unadorned and flat on top. The center band has the name “yiren” engraved in cursive on the front and “856” engraved on the back.
The clip is a simple, folded-metal design that’s very common with inexpensive Chinese pens. The clip has a gentle bend at the top where it attaches to the cap, then tapers down to a rounded point, where the metal folds back under itself to form the fabric grabber part (I have no idea what that’s actually called, but “fabric grabber” sounds pretty intense). Sometimes these folded pieces yield sharp edges that I fear could tear pocket fabric, but this one is nice and smooth. The Yiren logo is engraved on the surface of the clip near the top. It’s an odd-looking logo. I have no idea what it’s supposed to be, and it’s noticeably different than the logo engraved on the nib. They need a new logo.
The Yiren 856 has a very small, nondescript end cap. It’s a short button-shaped piece. The outer edges taper down from the barrel to the end. In slight contrast to the flat finial, the end cap has a concave surface that slopes inward to a…I don’t even know what to call it…it slopes toward a center point in a sort of reverse apex. I only mention this tiny detail because I love how the light reflects off it.
The section is the one body part that doesn’t have a gunmetal finish. In fact, it’s the only piece made from plastic (other than the feed, of course). The surface has a knurled pattern etched (or molded) into it, giving the pen a little extra grip (although not quite as much as I would have expected). The end of the section is adorned with a gold-colored ring and lip that really looks out of place with the rest of the pen. I wish they made this ring in gunmetal to match the pen. That would have looked spiffy.
And finally, we come to the nib, which is a pretty standard #5, two-tone Yiren nib. I actually really like the design. It has some very nice scrollwork around the edges, the Yiren logo just below the breather hole, and the name YIREN etched just below the logo. There is some gold plating around the outside of the scrollwork and over the logo (see how the logo looks different on the nib than it does on the clip?). While the gold matches the ring on the section, I don’t think it matches the gunmetal finish. They should have made the section ring match the pen body and left the nib plain silver (steel) in color.
Build Quality (4.5/5):
While the design of the pen is almost identical to the Wing Sung 3203, the fabrication is nowhere near as nice. The grid pattern of the Wing Sung looks molded into the material. If it is engraved, at least they took the time to bevel the lines to give them a nice, refined appearance. The grid pattern on the Yiren was obviously engraved/etched after production, and no more work was done to them.
Despite the less-than-refined fabrication, I think this pen is very well made and put together. No parts are loose or shaky. The section and barrel threads marry together flawlessly.
The fit and finish, I would say, are also very good. The pen’s body consists of a lot of separate pieces that were assembled together. The cap’s body, finial, clip band, clip, and center band are all separate pieces joined in an assembly. Likewise, the body consists of separate barrel, end cap, and threaded coupler. These parts all line up fairly well, although if you inspect them under a loop, you’ll see that the alignment tolerances aren’t perfect: The seams between pieces are not perfectly uniform. Although, again, these are so minute, you need a loupe to see them.
The converter has a snug and secure fit into the section. I have no worry that it might dislodge if I were to drop the pen or randomly hurl it across the room in a fit of rage. Just kidding. I’m far more apt to throw my food…or a beverage…or a coworker than I am a nice writing instrument.
The cap snaps onto the section very securely, with a nice, firm click. But it can be removed easily, too. With some Chinese pens, the caps attach so securely that you really have to yank on a cap to remove it. But the Yiren 856 cap comes right off when you want it to. The clip is springy, and I have no doubt it can hold the pen firmly in your pocket during normal wandering around at work (sitting at your desk, walking to lunch, yapping at the water cooler, attending boring meetings, etc.). It’s not the tightest clip out there, so if your job consists of grappling your coworkers or running obstacle courses, you’d be best served leaving the 856 on your desk during these types of activities.
I first inked this pen about six weeks ago. As I write this, I’m nearing the end of my second fill, and this pen hasn’t given me any trouble. As I started my written review (which I always do with the actual pen I’m reviewing), this pen had been sitting unused for about two weeks. I uncapped the pen, and it wrote immediately with no issues.
The only time I experience any breaks in the ink flow is when I leave the cap off for more than 45 or 60 seconds, then I’ll get a hard start while the ink re-flows back down the nib. But that’s something pretty common across most fountain pens, so I don’t consider it any sort of issue or anomaly.
Given how narrow the section on the 856 is, I expected to get some hand cramping during longer writing sessions. But to be honest, I haven’t experienced any cramps at all while using it. I attribute this to the knurled pattern etched into its surface. This pattern provides a decent amount of grip, and I find that I keep a pretty light hold of the pen while writing. So no cramps!
I’d still prefer a slightly wider section, but this one works well for me.
I do want to mention that there is a pretty sharp step on the barrel where it meets the cap. Fortunately, the section is a good length, so my fingers rest forward of the step…I don’t even notice it’s there. If you tend to hold your pen higher up the barrel and away from the nib, you may find your find your fingers resting on this step. If so, it will annoy you.
The Yiren 856 is a fairly short pen, and it doesn’t post securely. So if you have large hands, and you need to use longer pens or pens that can post, you might not enjoy using the Yiren 856.
Writing Experience (5/5):
The nib on the Yiren 856 is very smooth and consistent, with just a tad of feedback. The pen is very comfortable to write with, and it always lays down ink. I haven’t had any issues with ink flow…it just keeps writing. You can’t leave it uncapped for more than a minute without expecting a hard start, but anything under 45 seconds or so and the pen doesn’t skip a beat (see what I did there?)
Kind of hard to argue with the value of this pen. I spent just over $7 on it (including shipping). In return, I got a nice, professional-looking pen that puts down a fine and consistent line, and it does so with no skips, hard starts, or other complaints. It’s a great pen for taking notes, and it looks a lot more expensive than it actually is.
The Nutshell: Overall Score: 24/25
|Best Qualities||Worst Qualities|
|Always writes||Section could be beefier|
|Great looking pen||Fit of the individual parts isn't perfect|
|Comfortable to use despite the small section||Not quite as nice as the Wing Sung it's modeled after|
As I always say, the world of Chinese pens is an adventure. Sometimes you end up with a frustrating pile of crap. Sometimes you get a handful of meh. But sometimes, you get a really nice writing instrument for a fantastic price. The Yiren 856 definitely falls into that category.
I’ve used several Yiren pens, and I continue to be impressed with their offerings. They don’t always have a lot of models available, but the pens they do have always look nice and perform well.
Granted, this pen is a clone of another pen and it’s not done as well as the original. Still, I would go so far as to call the Yiren 856 a great workhorse pen. I also think it would make a nice and classy, but inexpensive, gift for a boss or coworker due to it’s excellent performance, good quality, and low price.