As I said in an earlier post I seem to be veering towards a sub collection of metal pens, particularly brass pens, so it was no surprise when I saw the PenBBS 350 that the moment they came back into stock I ordered one.
For anyone not familiar with Chinese pens, PenBBS is the Chinese equivalent of the Fountain Pen Network and from what I can gather they originally produced some inks (on my shopping list) and have since moved on to fountain pens; so this is the first of three reviews I will be writing looking at the different PenBBS pens I own.
Before I move on I feel I should take a moment to discuss the Namisu Ixion, another brass pen I own. Yes, you could say this pen may have been inspired by the Ixion but that’s as far as it goes; this is the pen the Ixion could have been but never was.
So, moving on, PenBBS have put a lot of work into this pen, both the design and the presentation. When I ordered the 350 I expected it to come in a small black box as my other PenBBS pens had; but not so, this pen arrived in a bespoke PenBBS sleeve and inside the sleeve was an opaque plastic box containing both the pen and the ballpoint adapter.
The thoughtful thing about this adapter is that it is designed to work with your existing converter, see what I mean when I say someone sat and thought about this; you own the pen, you own the converter and presumably a bottle or two of ink so why should you have to go and buy a ballpoint refill that probably won’t come in the colour you want when you could just pop in an adapter and your ballpoint is now running on your favourite colour/s.
As you can see the brass has been lightly lacquered to give it an aged look; this has the added advantage of making the surface of the pen easier to handle as polished metal pens can sometimes be slippery and difficult to hold especially the nib section, my GvFC E-Motion is like trying to handle oiled glass.
I was surprised how much I liked the lacquered finish as initially I wasn’t sure when I saw it on eBay; the pictures didn’t really bring out the intent of the lacquer; but it is much nicer than the Delike and it is also a lot thinner than the Delike (for more details see the postscript at the end).
When you look at this pen you can see it was designed by someone who uses fountain pens and knows what is needed. Once you remove the cap this pen becomes balanced with the barrel tapering slightly away from the point where it attaches to the nib section and the nib section is short and tapering with a lip above the nib to rest your finger against. This design shifts the centre of gravity to a point where it balances the pen making it easy and comfortable to write with. Which is quite an achievement given that this is a brass pen weighing in at around 58gms (including cap). Given this I’m not sure posting the cap is a good idea as this will make the pen back heavy and will make it harder to write with.
The nib itself is a size 6 and when you look very closely at the tip of it you will see it is very slightly upturned, however, as it is a standard size 6 it should be possible to swap it out for your favourite type of nib. The only caveat I would place on this is do your research first not every nib will be the right size, some forum feedback is that, in some PenBBS models other nibs can be slightly too long for the space inside the cap.
Before you decide to swap the nib try it out, I’ve found the PenBBS nibs to be very smooth and a pleasure to write with; so, my advice is don’t rush to change the nib but if you do want to it might be wise to ask for expert advice from someone like fpnibs.com; they are really nice people and very helpful when I was thinking of a nib swap on a Ranga pen.
Finally, at around $20-25 (US) it is definitely one of if not the best brass pens available at the moment; its excellent value for money and if the brass version is heavier than you prefer then there is an aluminium version which comes in a range of colours. In short, this pen or any of the 350 range will make an excellent addition to your collection and at its price point owning several for either work or personal use or both is perfectly possible.
Just before I started to write this review I got real curious about polishing this pen and decided I would try a patch test, so I stripped the pen down.
A word of warning it’s much better to remove the nib unit inside a plastic bag as the O rings sometimes ping off, they’re small, they’re opaque and they’re really hard to find; I found out the hard way!
Back to polishing, with the pen in pieces I taped up the threads to protect them and reached for the Autosol polishing paste and a rag (2500 grit paper on standby) and worked a small area of the barrel. It took very little effort to start to remove the lacquer with just the polish and a cloth, in total I spent around forty minutes polishing all the brass sections of the pen.
I’m very pleased with it and I’m looking forward to seeing it mellow with age.
Disclaimer: This pen was purchased with my own funds at retail price. The opinions expressed in this review are my own; and I am not connected with either the retailers or manufacturers in any way.