Surprize Of The Year 2019

What surprized me last year was a pen, the Platinum Carbon Desk Pen, and a year on from that and it’s time to write about what surprized me in 2019 and once again it was a pen, the Helix Oxford fountain pen.

Most of us remember the Helix Oxford brand from our school days when it was the standard stationery tin you bought at the beginning of the new school year containing a ruler, protractor, pencil, eraser, compass etc. 

So, I was hit by a wave of nostalgia when I saw the fountain pen on display in a local bookstore and before I had properly considered the merits of buying this pen I had enquired about the price and was paying for it, the grand sum of £6.99GBP.

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As packaged.

I’m not sure why I bought it, there was just something about it that ticked a subconscious box and when I got it home it joined the large pile of ‘to be reviewed’ items that are balanced very precariously around the desk like a miniature Room Of Requirement. 

A few weeks later and several minor landslides of notebooks, pens and other assorted items of stationery revealed the forgotten pen and after clearing up I decided to take it out for a spin.

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Fully unpacked.

Before I continue, I’d like to take you on a quick tour of the pen. The pen is Chinese made and has a metal cap and barrel and as far as I can tell the section is made from resin (but I could be wrong). The nib is approximately a small size 5, it is slightly smaller than a TWSBI Eco nib but not enough for me to think it is a different size and is rated as a Medium. 

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Size comparison with a TWSBI Eco

All of the fittings are chromed, the section is black with a raised chrome band at the nib end which gives you somewhere to rest your finger, so it doesn’t slide on to the nib or require an uncomfortably tight grip. The barrel and cap are finished in Oxford blue and the finial on the cap has a matching Oxford Blue insert.

The clip is engraved with “Helix Oxford”, which is the only external branding and the only other branding is on the nib which has “Helix” engraved on it.

Whilst this pen has a click on cap the cap does hide a secret; the secret being a very tight slip and seal insert, very similar to those used in Platinum fountain pens. 

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The inner ‘slip & seal’ type cap.

Next I disassembled the pen and tested it with a standard converter and whilst it fits the section the internal size of the barrel is too small to accommodate a standard converter, but I will keep looking for one that fits.

At this stage it’s worth pointing out that, at a glance, it looks like this pen comes with standard short cartridges, but it doesn’t. Whilst they are very similar to standard short cartridges these appear to be the Chinese equivalent. The good news is the pen takes standard short cartridges and mine has been running well for some time on Diamine cartridges.

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Cartridges, left – the supplied cartridge / right a Diamine standard short cartridge.

Moving on the important bit, the nib. As I said, above, the nib is rated as a Medium and having spent some time with it I would say it is on the finer side of Medium but definitely still a Medium. It writes very smoothly and the ink flow is consistent and I have not experienced any skipping or hard starts even when I have deliberately left the cap off for a couple of minutes to see what happens.

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The Helix nib.
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Side view of the nib and feed.
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The feed and tines.

All this sounds good so why is it a “Surprize”?

Well it’s simply this. I didn’t expect to find such a well-made and elegant looking fountain pen in a local bookstore at such a low price. It’s fair to say that what I expected was a pen that worked but didn’t wow me; well I was wrong this pen did wow me.

What your £6.99GBP buys you is a very nice fountain pen; it is good looking, well made, and the finish is as good, if not better, than some pens I own that cost a great deal more. It is well balanced and very comfortable to use; and is a pen you could happily take to a meeting at work or the coffee shop to jot down ideas but either way what you have is a very nice pen that performs well.

In short, this pen delivers everything I didn’t think it would; which is why it is my “Surprize Of The Year 2019” and my recommendation if you need and inexpensive but reliable pen.

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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.

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