“How much pen can you get for less than $2 including shipping from China?”
Today we’re going to find out! I previously ordered one of these inexpensive Chinese demonstrators and was very impressed with the nib and writing experience. But Chinese pens are infamous for inconsistent quality control and looser manufacturing tolerances, so getting a quality pen may be a fluke. Nibs especially suffer from this.
With that in mind, I ordered a half dozen Wing Sung 3003 pens (EF nib) as freebies to give to friends and coworkers interested in trying a fountain pen. Each of them cost just $1.20 or $1.40 off eBay, including free shipping from China to the US (about a month to arrive). I had low expectations: “If just 4 of these are solid after tuning the nibs, that’s a deal.”
I quickly dip-tested the 3003s to check the nibs and adjusted the tines under a 30x loupe. Please bear in mind that I’m quite nitpicky about nibs. Out of 6 nibs, here’s the results!
- To my surprise all (6/6!) put down a reliable, solid line without skipping, and the feeds were quick to soak up the excess ink from dipping. You definitely won’t see burping or blotting from these.
- 3 of the nibs arrived with the nib very well-aligned and were delights to write with. One was incredibly buttery smooth after a slight tweak to alignment. One was just a touch broader than the others — more like their F than EF nibs. One had just a hint of pleasant feedback.
- 2 of the nibs arrived with tines slightly out of alignment. They wrote smoothly but with either a little more feedback than I’d like or a hint of scratch. After adjusting the tines under my loupe, one felt lovely and the other was pleasant but still had a tiny hint of scratch. That suggests a slight irregularity in tipping material that can be corrected with Mylar film.
- 1 nib was poorly aligned out of box and unpleasant to use. After aligning the tines, it was pleasant to use but might have benefited from a little treatment with Mylar as well.
That’s actually a much better track record than the European JoWo and Lamy nibs I’ve used -there’s a rumor that Wing Sung uses nib manufacturing equipment from an old Pilot factory, and on the basis of this and experience with their other pens, I’m inclined to believe it! The worst of the lot was still smoother than a Lamy F or EF. The Wing Sung nibs are generally be well-polished, well-aligned, and smooth-writing but aim for a touch of pleasant feedback. They remind me a bit of Platinum steel nibs but a little smoother and less wet. The steel also has a touch of softness and may give a little line variation – though not as much as the “softer” fine nibs Wing Sung makes. They may not be quite as consistent as Pilot nibs but these are winners.
What about the rest of the build quality though?
Solid, for the price. They are light at 17g total, balance well both posted and unposted, post firmly, have functional clips, and have push-caps that seal with a satisfying click. The flaws seemed fairly minor:
- The bodies on 4 out of 6 were quite tightly screwed in and require a little force to unscrew the first time.
- One of the converters didn’t move very smoothly, but was functional.
- The caps appear to have an inner-outer cap system to help prevent leaks and keep nibs from drying out, but I’m not convinced it’s functional. The section doesn’t appear to actually quite meet the inner cap rim — but the outer seal is tight enough that I’m not worried.
- If you plan on swapping the converters, they take a bit of force to pull out the first time – but I doubt most people will, and a tight seal avoids leaks and burping.
Compared to the Platinum Preppy and Pilot Varsity, these definitely feel more like a “real pen” and don’t have that disposable feel. The plastic doesn’t have have give to it though — it doesn’t feel fragile but might be brittle against impacts, moreso than the denser resins used in higher end demonstrators such as the TWSBI 580 and the Wing Sung 698.
Well, I tend to lean towards more conservative styles but the bright and colorful demonstrators have a fun playfulness to them that reminds me of the early iMacs without the “cutesy” element. Oh, and the signature transparent feed is quite lovely with ink in it! But it’s a cheap pen and not likely to win any design awards.
For just $2 you can get quite a bit of pen from China! I found myself reaching for my initial Wing Sung 3003 far more often than I expected to. Clearly it was no exception – while Wing Sung is known for their flagship 698 demonstrator, their quality control seems as good as European pens.