Monday, June 29, 2015

Jinhao Baoer Lemi Hero Fountain Pen & Rollerball Review

All right, so I have another little collection habit ~ (who here is surprised, go ahead, raise your hand, it's ok ) ~and it's fountain pens! (& now, actually some rollerball's as well ~ more about those later)

I'm not talking expensive vintage fountain pens, either. (Although, to be fair, I do have a number of very beautiful mother of pearl dip pens, and carved bone crochet hooks, too.... huh.. )
Anyway, I'm talking about inexpensive, new, Chinese manufactured fountain pens.

I LOVE them! They are fun to write with, they look nice, and they are extremely ( and I should stress that in caps & bold ) EXTREMELY reasonable to acquire. My most expensive pen is a Jinhao 5000, and it came in at under $17, with free shipping. The next most expensive one runs me about $3.99 ~ least expensive ~ $.86 cents, WITH free shipping. :-D

Folks, that is some fun pen collecting at an even more fun price! My whole entire Chinese pen collection comes in at under $70, and I have a LOT of these pens. Why am I telling you this? Because you should know that you can buy these awesome pens for extremely awesome prices. It is a cheap, fun hobby, AND they don't take up a lot of space!

And since I have so many of these, and I do use them to write with quite regularly, I thought I might make up some reviews for all of them, especially since when I was trying to find reviews on many of them, there just weren't any to be found.

Ok, now on to the reviews. First, I am only going to review 12 pens in this post, & I will make reviews for more of them as I have time.  The reviews included in this post are:

Fountain  pens ~
Hero 125
Hero 9026
Jinhao 5000
Jinhao x750
Jinhao 250
Jinhao 15
Baoer 3035
Lemi 9086

Rollerballs ~
Jinhao 15
Jinhao 8 Horses Embossed
Baoer 9325
Baoer 3035


Hero 125 Fountain Pen Review

Check out the grip ~ isn't it pretty? It also has a partially hooded nib ~ which is nice. I never used to understand why anyone would want to hood the nib. In fact, I only bought fountain pens that didn't have a hooded nib ~ (back in the day, 4 or 5 yrs ago) ~ so of course, I was naturally a bit dis-enchanted with fountain pens in general for carrying around, and I figured it was just part of the game that the ink would dry out rather quickly. I thought that was simply a hazard of using fountain pens. (Much like the inevitable inky fingers after a session of refilling.)

I actually came into a hooded nib a bit accidently. I put a bid on one before I realized that it was hooded, and then I won the thing! :-D Of course, that was a most fortuitous and happy mistake ~ :-D
Anyway, all of that to say ~ hooded nibs can be your friend when dealing with fountain pens, as they work to keep the ink right up near the ditch of the nib, & protect it from drying out. And this Hero 125 has a beautiful grip and hood. You can use either pre-filled ink cartridges or the empty but fill-able & re-useable cartridge that comes with it.

The cap snaps on & off easily, & yet should there be a spill, you could probably rely on the cap to keep it under control till opened. The clip on the cap is not as easy to use, however. It would probably require a bit of pulling on to help it ease up a bit. 
The shape & design of the pen is quite nice ~ very classic. It fits quite well in my small hands as well as in my husband's larger hands. It doesn't cramp his fingers up trying to hold it.
Now for the writing. Ok, this pen is AWESOME to write with! Smooth & easy, she gives her ink up at the slightest touch. The nib is somewhere between fine & medium, and there isn't a scratchy bone in it's tines.
Yup, I LOVE it!
A writing sample, using Noodler's Navajo Blue, written on regular old plain jane lined school notebook paper. (Because that's what I had hanging around at the moment.)

Hero 9026 Fountain Pen Review

Check out the lines on this baby! Can't you just envision the chromed out fenders of a '51 Chevy?
Boy, I sure can!
And the nib is hooded with a fish mouth. I like it!
It makes me think of a fishing trip in an old pick-up or something. (Yah, yah, I knooooww, '51 Chevy was a sedan. So what, don't mess wit my vision, eh?) :-D

I like the grip, it's comfortable, with three indents for gripping, and those lines on the grip aren't an issue, they are comfortable.  Writes smooth & easy, ink flow is moderate, nib is somewhere between fine & medium.
The cap snaps on & off easily, & the ink source can either be converter cartridge or ink cartridges, so it's easy to use.
It's not too small or too big for my husband's big hands and my small hands ~ a nice sized pen.
It has all the quality I've come to expect from Hero pens.
This is a writing sample done in Noodler's Army green, again written on that plain old lined school paper.  In fact, all of the reviews today are going to be written on that lined paper.
Cuz' I'm a little cheap. Or lazy.  Or yah, maybe both.
Maybe I'll pull out the heavy 100wt cotton or linen paper one of these days ~ but not today. :-D

Jinhao 5000 Fountain Pen Review

Ok, so this is my most expensive pen ever. It even cost more than my mother of pearl with real gold nibs dip pens. (How can that be, you may ask ~ I am quite good at  bargain shopping, I may answer ~ )
Get ready for this ~ it was a whopping $16.20!!
Yes, I know, that's quite a bit when you normally pay $1 -$4.
But I splurged, because I REALLY liked the whole dragon cut-out design.
Was it worth it?
Yeah ~ if for nothing else than it's a gorgeous pen ( I still cant believe I got it at that nice of a price!)
The cap snaps on & off nice & easy, the grip is easy for large or small hands, the cut work  dragon design doesn't affect balance or writing ability, & the nib is beautiful to look at. The clip on the cap is easy to use, not too tight. It's a converter cartridge or ink cartridge ink system, & the one provided is a little bigger than you get in the usual pen.
But uh-oh, can you feel a ~HOWEVER~ coming on?
Yeahhhh, so if you look at the writing sample, it was having flow issues to begin with, and then I had to jimmy the nib a little in order to improve the ink outlay. I will say this ~ the nib is smooth as butter, it's just frustrating to have to jimmy it around when you pay a 4 to 15 times as much as you do for any of the other Chinese pens. For some reason I expected ALLLL the bells and whistles to be ringing if I paid that much for it.  I mean, If an $1.25 Jinhao, Baoer, Shanhai, Hero, etc, etc, can work beautifully on the first try, I think it's reasonable to expect the $16.20 to work EXTRA special on the first try.  Call me a cynic.
Here is a writing sample ~ you can see the ink flow issues, as well as the outlay issues ~ it looks scratchy and sad. It WASN'T scratchy, but it sure skipped around making it look as though it were.
All in all, I still like this pen for it's style and cool factor, and once fixed up, it wrote quite nicely, & to be totally fair, other ~ name brand ~ pens that look this awesome will cost a heck of a lot more than $16.20......buuuutttt....yeah. 
So it was worth the price, but be aware ~ you may need to fix it a little.

Jinhao x750 Fountain Pen Review

First ~ sorry about the ink on the nibs ~ that's the ~in-use~ look. :-D
Why is it in use?
Because I love it SOOO!!
This pen is one of my all-time FAVORITES!!!
 (And actually, I should note that I've only met one Jinhao that I wasn't totally impressed with...yup, you guessed it, that expensive red dragon 5000 up above....)
 The Jinhao x750 comes in several styles, but this one is a favorite ~ it is a fat, heavy stainless steel beauty, rather elongated bullet shaped.  It feels nice to hold, and the brushed stainless is sleek and clean.  The nib is a full-on medium, maybe even large. The ink outlay is wet & consistent.
 I suspect that the moment you ink this pen & start writing, you are going to suddenly have an urge to fill up an entire sheet in large, scrawling script, with little doodles here & there. It's true, it happened to me.  :-D
 The cap snaps on & off with ease, and yet is on to stay ~ it posts nicely, and the weight is still balanced very nicely, posted or not. The clip works beautifully, just as a clip should, ( not too much spring, not too tight) & the grip is comfortable. It comes with a re-fillable ink cartridge, or you can use pre-filled ink cartridges in it. It also sports a beautiful, fat nib, with a cool Jinhao horse & cart design engraved.  You will LOVE this pen!! And it can be yours for around $3 to $4 ~
Writing sample in Noodler's Army green, on ~ you guessed it! ~ that same old plain jane ruled school paper.

Jinhao 250 Fountain Pen Review

Another fat, heavy beauty that inspires lovely flowing script!
A nice grip, with a medium-large engraved gold & silver (18 kgp! ;-D) nib & a sleek, classic pen design. The cap snaps on & off nicely, & posts just as nicely. The clip is a tad tight, however, and will need a bit of pulling to make it more useable. 
It comes with a converter cartridge that you can fill on your own or you can use pre-filled ink cartridges. 
Writing sample done in Noodler's Army green.

Jinhao 15 Fountain Pen Review


Baoer 3035 Fountain Pen Review


Lemi 9086 Fountain Pen Review



Jinhao 15 Rollerball Pen Review

This pen

Jinhao 8 Horses  Embossed Rollerball Pen Review

This pen

Baoer 9325 Rollerball Pen Review

This pen

Baoer 3035 Rollerball Pen Review

This pen


Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Kimono in Wool, Silk & Synthetics ~ What's the Difference?

Hello! Today I'll tell you about some different fabrics that most kimono are made of, and some of the pro's and cons of each. Let's start out with wool.
This adorable chrysanthemum and arabesque print that my daughter is wearing is made of wool. Wool?, you might say ~ That sounds itchy!
Well, let me tell you about Japanese wool ~ it's not itchy. It IS sometimes blended with silk, which makes it even smoother, and it is absolutely NOTHING like the course wools or tweeds that your brain automatically conjures up. In fact, if you didn't KNOW it was wool, you probably wouldn't even guess it.

See how it drapes? I'm telling you this isn't your everyday wool.

However, although it's not your everyday wool, because of it's extraordinary nature, wool kimono actually makes a great deal of sense for everyday use. It breathes well, it will keep you warm, it is durable, you can find wool kimono for fairly cheap prices, and best of all? You can wash wool kimono. Yup, it's true ~ toss it in the wash on cold/cold, put it in the dryer on NO HEAT fluff, take it out just before it's completely dry, hang it up for a few hours, and voila! your kimono is fresh and ready again! My friend, that is LOW maintenance for a kimono ~ ;-D


Not only that, but wool is versatile ~ Say you decided to go hime ( that means to use western wear in your kitsuke... I'll cover that in another post ~ :-D ), wool is easy and versatile. It looks just as great with a turtleneck & boots as it does an obi & tabi.

Also, wool kimono can come in prints, like this one, or it can come in weaves, like the one below.
Isn't this apple weave fun?

These weaves are pretty impressive, when you think about it ~they were dyed prior to being woven completely (that is what gives them the slightly ~off~, not quite crisp~ lines). That process is called ikat, or kasuri weaving. If you google it, you will see that it is quite a process.

This apple design is actually a rather unusual example of it ~ plaid woven apples in bright red, green, yellow and white, on a navy background!

You can dress it up or down, too. One small caveat about wool, however ~ it isn't very formal. So if you have a tea ceremony or a wedding or funeral to attend, wool is not going to fit the bill. It's too casual for that. On the other hand, we don't drink tea, and there just aren't that many formal Japanese weddings and funerals going on around here. In fact, I imagine that even if you live in Japan, you won't be going to a wedding or funeral everyday. As such, wool kimono is a smart investment. 

And here is an example of silk kimono. "Ahh", say you ~ "why didn't you wear wool, you just went on & on about how ~everyday~ it was, and here you are, going to the library in SILK? What gives?"

"Well", say I, "There is actually a LOT of vintage silk kimono out there. How else are we supposed to utilize / (justify!) this ridiculous amount of wafuku, if we don't dress up in it? Plus, the library is a safe, clean bet. Silk won't be ruined here."

Isn't homeschool amazing? You can dress up in your lovely kimono, go to the library, do your school work, and look completely amazing doing it the entire time! Well, that's what my daughter & I think, anyway. :-D

Back to my original point. The library is a perfect place to take your silk wafuku, because as long as you don't splash around in the koi pond, (only looking! :-D) your kimono is safe!
Annnnddd that's the one downfall to silk. It's true. Silk is beautiful, it breathes as well as wool (ro & sha breathe even better!), it always looks so CHIC, and of course, the formality level can be anywhere from everyday tsumugi to the very most formal kakeshita & uchikake for your wedding!
But you must be ohh so careful with it.
Isn't her obi beautiful?

This is what I mean by silk being versatile. The kimono she is wearing here is called a komon. A komon generally has small print all over the entire kimono. That is the lowest level of formality in silk kimono (still more formal than a wool kimono, however), yet just the addition of an obi with gold & silver threads can up the formality just a bit to make it appropriate for quite a few activities.  The reason it is the lowest level of formality is because the pattern didn't have to be matched at the seams, painted on after construction, or any of that more time consuming stuff. So it is considered a little cheaper. As you can see, however, komon are definitely not cheap, it is all relative to the most intense workmanship of highest degree. So yes, komon are less work than say houmongi (another level of formality / design in kimono), however, they are still a beautiful silk garment that is versatile and can be worn very regularly.

Adding an urushi woven haori can help  up the ante a bit with regard to formality as well.

Here is a sort of close-up of the urushi weave. It is a circle with arabesque flowers. ( They look like lotus to me, sort of like looking through a moon gate into the pond... well, that's what I think of when I see this.)

So you see, wearing silk to the library is a great idea! Especially if you have a komon you 've been wanting to spice up a bit. Being homeschooled doesn't hurt, either. :-D

Ahhh, and here we have a polyester or synthetic kimono. I think this is also what is called an odori kimono, because it's hitoe, synthetic, and seems to have large sakura on it. Odori means that it was used in a dance, or for performing. My understanding is that when there are large sakura or huge bold designs on synthetic, unlined kimono, it usually means it's odori.

According to some kimono enthusiasts, odori kimono shouldn't be worn to anything but festivals, but other kimono enthusiasts say that an odori can be used in place of it's regular counterpart for most informal occasions. It's probably a bit like running around in a tutu & leotard, or a flowing lyrical dance costume.  My thought on the subject is this ~ if you live in an area where no-one will know the difference, it won't make any difference ~ but just to be safe, don't head on in to a Japanese event in one, unless you are one of the dancers. Again, around here, we just don't have any Japanese Events, except for our one Sister Cities event in July. And that would call for a more formal silk houmongi ensemble, anyway.

Ok, so there must be a good reason to own one of these, right? Of course there is! First, let's be honest, it's really pretty! The designs manage to follow the body line in such a way that it looks very feminine & beautiful. They are perfect for dancing!

They are also very festive, and let's not forget that synthetic fabric factor. They are actually washable! This very kimono is an example of that! When I received it in the mail, I was so disappointed, because it had several bad-looking blots on it that looked like sauce of some sort. But then I noticed as I examined the fabric that it was a synthetic, so I got out a washcloth, got the corner damp, added just a touch of Dawn, and dabbed it on the blots. They all came off! AND no stains from the water, as would happen with silk. Eventually, I got really brave and just washed and dried the whole thing, and it came out BEAUTIFULLY!

So now you can begin to see the beauty of a synthetic kimono! Are they as breathable as silk? No. Are they as formal as silk? No. Do they in general have all that desirable handwork? No.
BUT ~ Can you wash it? YES!
That's a pretty big attraction!

And one last thing ~ it's not terribly obvious that it's a synthetic kimono from a distance. Well, sort of. But anyway, there are a lot of benefits in using a synthetic kimono.

In the end, for me, Silk trumps wool, and wool trumps synthetic, but synthetic trumps no wafuku at all, and still has a valid place in my collection. ~ :-D