Thursday, July 25, 2013

Fountain Pen Pouches and Cases

I have a few fountain pen cases. Here are the two I use most.

One is a single Parker pen pouch, bought a few years ago for £1. I think its made of bonded leather or PU leather and it can carry the largest of pens (in this case my Jinhao 159, which is the same size as a Montblanc 149.

The other I use most often is an unbranded triple leather case which has a magnetic clip. The leather it is made from is very soft. This has dividers, but they only go down for about an inch. This fits slim or medium sized pens.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Jinhao 159 Fountain Pen Review

This is another cheap Chinese fountain pens like the Kaigelu 316 I reviewed previously. I bought this one from a UK supplier for £9 including postage. It was supplied without a box, but with a screw type converter.

First impressions

This is a BIG pen. It is 15cm long capped, 13cm uncapped and 17cm posted. The barrel is 15mm at its widest and the cap is wider still. This pen takes its proportions and general styling from the Montblanc 149, but rather than being a fake this is a "tribute" pen. It carries no branding or clip similarities to the Montblanc, which is a resin pen compared to this one which is lacquered steel. The Montblanc is a piston filled pen, the Jinhao uses a converter or international cartridges.

Comfort and practicality

This pen is large and fairly heavy so you need to have reasonable sized hands to be able to use it. It is well balanced until you post it and then it gets a bit too top heavy.

Pens of this size will not fit many pen cases. I have heard that the paint is prone to chipping so I am carrying mine in a single Parker leather case which cost me £1 a few years ago. I think it was designed for a Duofold, it is certainly big enough to take the 159.

The nib

The nib is marked 18Kgp, but is clearly made of steel. As supplied it was a bit dry and tended to skip. I adjusted it slightly using SbreBrown's technique (video here - try at your own risk) and its now at the broader end of medium with no skipping and it will put ink on the paper without applying any pressure. The adjusting process has not made any visible difference to the nib. It probably only moved it a hundredth of a millimeter.

It is not the smoothest nib I have ever written with. There is some resistance on the paper, but there is no scratching and it is not off-putting. it may be that the weight of the pen is adding to the drag of the nib. With some care it would be possible to polish the nib and improve it further.

Pardon my poor handwriting, but here is a sample (ink: Diamine Onyx Black):


To me the question of whether a pen is any good is really down to how well it writes. This one writes acceptably well. I would say it was 75% of the way to being a very good pen, so on this basis I would give it four out of five stars.

Whether it is practical is another question. pens of this size tend to be bought as statements and mainly used for signing letters and contracts. Without the Montblanc logo I am not sure what sort of statement it is making.

If you want a very large pen it is well worth trying one of these.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Kaigelu 316 Fountain Pen Review.

I ordered this on Saturday and it arrived today (Tuesday) by air mail from Shanghai. The total cost was about £10 including postage, although the pen was not supplied in a box.

This pen is very similar to the Parker Duofold Centennial, but without any attempt to pass off as a Parker - there are no trademarks and the end cap has a kangaroo on it. It is a large and quite heavy pen

The finish was described as "charcoal". It is actually a glossy marbled effect which is quite difficult to take a photograph of. The nib seems to be partially gold plated. It writes quite well and the nib is at the fine end of medium (finer than my Jinhao 450, but not as fine as pens like the Hero). There is some resistance on the paper, but its not scratchy.

Overall it does not look or feel like a £10 pen (which would be something like a Parker Vector). The only down side is that it does not post very well. The cap fits on the end cap via the threads and I am not sure that will be good for the finish of the end cap or the longevity of the threads.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Should buy a wifi or a 3G cellular iPad?

Having had an iPad for over a year now I have some answers to this question.

I feel that I did the right thing buying the 3G version but with a couple of provisos:

  • You need to use a carrier with good coverage.
  • You need to have a longer term contract.

If you do this it will really liberate your iPad and allow you to use it in much more versatile ways.

My initial reason for buying the 3G version was the option of portability in the future and (importantly) having GPS for navigation, something that is not built into the wifi version. After buying it I got a T-Mobile (now Everything Everywhere) pay as you go SIM card and used that until April this year when I switched to the Three network.

These are my experiences of the two networks.


T-Mobile's charges had options of:

200MB for 1 day £2
500MB for 7 days £7
1GB for 1 calendar month £15

I always went for the 1 day option as it was usually for specific journeys I was going on the others gave far less bandwidth. Paymentis made from a balance paid by credit card and held in your account. Unfortunately the billing system did not seem to work reliably through the iPad so I sometimes had to log in from another computer to top up the account. This was extremely frustrating so i would always keep a reasonable balance in it.

Coverage was patchy and there seemed to be a lot of lag bringing up web pages. This might be DNS resolution, general latency or limiting of some sort. This test result from the app running on my iPad is typical of the performance I was getting.

Test Date: Mar 30, 2013 11:22
Download: 0.05 Mbps
Upload: 0.09 Mbps
Ping: 388 ms
Connection Type: Cellular

Disappointing, but for £2 per day its perhaps all that can be expected.


Because of the issues with T-Mobile I decided to try a different carrier. I use Tesco (on the o2 network) for my phone, but there is no 3G coverage in Cowdenbeath and some other areas I travel to so I did some checking and Three seemed to have reasonable coverage of these areas as well as covering my office and home addresses. I later found on a trip to orkney that o2 had no 3G coverage in Kirkwall, but Three did which was welcome but surprising.

I paid about £26 for 3GB of data to be used over three months and I am now ten weeks into this.

At the end of the three months it seems to offer the options of:

500MB for 1 day £2.99
500MB for 7 days £7
1GB for 1 calendar month £10
3GB for 1 calendar month £15
7GB for 1 calendar month £25

If you opted to pay on a contract they would provide 10GB per month for £15.

This test result is typical of speeds I am getting on the Three network:

Test Date: Jun 21, 2013 12:24
Download: 0.82 Mbps
Upload: 1.30 Mbps
Ping: 79 ms
Connection Type: Cellular

A lot of people will be disappointed by these figures, but what they don't show is the increase in speed of bringing up web pages which can be ten times faster than T-Mobile. I have also used it for streaming music to Spotify at higher bitrates and had no problems with buffering.

I also tethered the iPad using wifi hotspot on my mobile phone (Tesco/o2). The coverage and speed was better than T-mobile, but the inconvenience was too great as the wifi hotspot runs the phone down too quickly, I had to turn it on when needed and I have too little bandwidth on my phone contract to start sharing it on a regular basis.

Higher bandwidth plans

If you buy your iPad from Three their 24 month contract includes a higher limit of 15GB per month of data.

As a comparison:

24 months of their 10GB SIM only contract plan would cost £360
24 months of their 15GB iPad plan would cost £759 including an up front payment of £159, which after deducting the retail price of an iPad comes to £399

The advantage of this is that you are effectively getting the iPad on credit with monthly payments. You are also getting the higher bandwidth limit. The downside is that it will be locked to the Three network.

If I were buying a new iPad today I would probably opt to buy it through one of these mobile phone company schemes, probably through Three as I have had a good expereince so far.


Based on my experience the iPad is not really liberated until it has an always on cellular 3G connection. This means that you need a plan that offers more than one day's connection at a time. The choice of these is between pay as you go on a monthly basis or contracts that run continuously. These are cheaper in the long run.

This is based on my own experience. Yours may be different, especially in major cities where there is more congestion.