After my last huge post and a rather rough semester, it’s probably time for something a bit less esoteric. A simpler pen, a simpler review.
Jinhao pens tend to be fairly well made and they tend to more-or-less work out of the box–all for a decent price.
At first blush, the 51A looks like another Parker 51 clone. It’s even named the 51A.
The internals of the 51A are actually completely unique, at least compared to a Hero 616 or similar–pens that are literal copies of Parker’s design. So the 51A, in passing, looks very much like a Parker but it is superficial only. Jinhao didn’t just buy a bucket of nondescript 51 clone parts and cobble a “new” pen together.
The only reason I’m sticking-up for a $12 pen is because its reputation as just another cheap P51 ripoff isn’t fully deserved. This pen wrote out of the box. The same cannot be said about a lot of modern pens, both below and well above this price range. Yeah, it is clearly inspired by the Parker 51, but so was the Lamy 2000, Aurora 88, Waterman Taperite, Montblanc 14, Esterbrook Phaeton 300, OMAS 361, and . . . so. . .on. That’s not a measure of a bad or good pen–whether it writes or not is. And the Jinhao writes.
That’s not to say Jinhao hasn’t outright copied old pen designs–they absolutely have, and continue to do so. This just isn’t a great example of that practice.
And I am definitely not saying this pen is better than, or even equal to, a Parker 51. It’s not. But I don’t think its trying to be, either.
The 51A is very light. The metal cap shifts the balance rearward when posted, but it isn’t that heavy and it posts deeply and securely, which mitigates the balance shift. The cap operates on a clutch mechanism like a Parker 51 and it works fairly well. The clip does what it is supposed to do with little drama.
The pen’s body is wood–I think this one is peach wood, or it was sold to me as such. Apparently peach wood wands, amulets, and so on are believed to keep evil spirits at bay in Chinese culture. At least according to Wikipedia. I thought that was a neat tidbit and it would make sense to use peach wood to make things one would be carrying on their person. In any case, the wood wasn’t exactly smooth out of the box, but I polished it a bit with some micromesh. Now it is smooth and organic feeling and aging rather well. Of course, there are a bunch of different materials available besides wood.
It fills with a cartridge/converter system. Jinhao uses a system that is vaguely patterned after the standard international system and people have had success making standard cartridges and converters fit. The pen did come with a Jinhao-branded converter so I haven’t had to mess around with trying to make other converters work.
Interestingly enough, this model can optionally be purchased with an open nib, if one likes the pen but prefers a larger nib instead of the hooded design.
For the price, this is a decent pen. The fit and finish is good enough, the pen writes, and the 51A line has some interesting options. I think this is a nice beginner pen or a good choice for someone who likes the aesthetic but who does not want or cannot get a Parker 51. I think there are a few better choices out there for this type of pen, but there are many that are far, far worse.
- It works.
- For the price, the fit and finish is acceptable.
- The pen will always live in the shadow of the Parker 51. The brand as a whole isn’t exactly known for its innovative design and this pen is no different.
- It’s a pretty dry writer.
- It feels really cheap. The wood is super thin and feels fragile. The capping mechanism works how it is supposed to but it feels like you’re dragging a brick through a gravel parking lot the whole time. Little details like that. On the other hand I think I paid $12 (shipped!) for this pen and the price has dropped since then–so like I said, probably acceptable for the price but don’t think for one minute you’ll get a pen on par with a Parker.
There really are a million alternatives. Just find one that suits you at the price you like. I do not recommend Hero pens, but the following are closely related and great alternatives. In general:
- Parker 51. Yep, I’m still that guy–save those pennies and find a user-grade aerometric Parker 51. You’ll never need a different pen in your life, you can give it to your grandkids when you die. The P51 will live happily ever after that. I’m not even a Parker guy and I believe it–these are good pens with an entire industry built around ensuring that they are in use for another 80+ years.
- Lamy 2000 or Pilot Vanishing Point
- Aurora 98, International, or modern Duo Cart
Closer to the 51A price range:
- Kaco Retro. A relative newcomer, and a pen that cannot truly be called a knock-off P51. These are cool little pens and easily my favorite non-premium option in this list. Such a whimsical, cool design with performance to back it up. Only $5 or so more than the Jinhao and worth every penny. Highly recommended.
- Wing Sung 601. This is still the best outright P51 clone, in my opinion. Wing Sung, like Jinhao, likes to copy designs but they built a better pen than Jinhao in this case. Around $10 more than the 51A.
- Wing Sung 618. Still a weird design, but still an interesting pen. $10-$13 more than the Jinhao.
- Clutch-type, metal cap.
- Parker 51-style folded steel nib in fine.
- The pen can be purchased with an open #5 nib instead.
- Peach wood.
- Various plastics and other materials are also available.
- Filling system:
- Cartridge/converter system (technically proprietary but close enough to standard international.)
- Capped: 139mm
- Uncapped: 128mm
- Posted: 148mm
- Total: 20g
- Pen: 11g
- Cap: 9g
- Section diameter: