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Moonman M600s first impression

When it comes to fountain pens I have a strong set off aesthetic preferences. I'm not going to write about them in detail here, but one outcome is that the pens I'm drawn to tend to be either very old or very modern in style. One pen I've always admired from the former category is the Parker Duofold. However, Parker's list price has ensured that to date this admiration has been from afar.

Now, Chinese Duofold clones are not new: frankly people have been building cheaper copies of it since it was first released. As an exaple, I had a look at the Kaigelu 316, but I read that it is pretty heavy and poorly balanced, while I favour a light pen. In addition, they don't have the best reputation for quality control, leaving you with that cheap and nasty feeling.

Two new brands from China have been getting a lot of attention recently: Moonman and PenBBS. They are a step up from a lot of Chinese pens (from "disposable" to "affordable") and the word on the street is that they don't feel like cheap knock-offs. Then I saw that Moonman had a Duofold copy in a blue colour not unlike Pelikan's recent M800 ocean swirl (another pen with a list price to keep admirers at a distance). Priced at about twenty pounds I figured it was worth the gamble, so I ordered this pen about two weeks ago from Etsy. It arrived on Tuesday and I've been getting to know it since.
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My initial impressions have been really positive: the acrylic is nicely polished, all the gold trim looks decently plated (although time will tell on that score), the cap bands are seated nicely in the groves turned for them. Uncapping the pen takes 2 3/4 turns, more than I'm used to. I would rppefer this to uncap in 1 turn like my Pelikan M200, but it's hardly a deal-breaker. Capping and uncapping the pen feels similar to the Pelikan or my TWSBIs, not sloppy or low tolerance.

With the cap off I noticed a solvent-like smell, not very pleasant but familiar from somewhere. Where do I know that smell from? It comes back: the machine shop, turning plastic on a lathe. There's the same smell when I undo the barrel to access the converter, and looking at the finish on the inside of both I strongly suspect that they have been turned, not injection moulded. I was not expecting that at this price point. Unscrewing the barrel things wiggle a bit more than the cap, not a premium feel. But again, I'm not going to die in a ditch over it. The pen fills with an international standard converter, move along people, nothing to see here. At least its not proprietary.

And down to business: the nib. When I ordered I had a choice of fine, medium or "bent". The latter was quite tempting, but I went with the medium: I don't want no trouble. I think Moonman only do fine, so installed nib is from Jinhao: it writes a line roughly the same width as my Lamy 2000 medium, and the Pelikan M200 fine. Flow is about right, not too wet, not too dry, and the nib is smooth. All worked fine out of the box with no tinkering required, no hard starts, no skipping even if I really scribble. No drama, but maybe no fun either: I like the two-tone nib with the chariot on it, but it is a nail: no bounce to it.

Holding the pen in the hand, it feels well balanced. The section has some metal in it, with the rest of the pen being acrylic this tips the balance subtly away from uniform, biasing it towards the nib as things should be. The weight is good too: those who equate mass with quality will feel disappointed; I just feel the promise of extended writing sessions without fatigue. The section tapers in, then flares towards the nib: as pleasing to the eye as it is on the fingers. I have no issues taking notes for an extended period with the pen; weight, balance, length and girth are perfect.

I write without posting; if you must post you might be advised to skip this model. It does post, but not very deeply and it does not feel terribly secure.

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Standard rogue's gallery, top to bottom:
Lamy 2000
TWSBI Eco
Moonman M600s
Pelikan M200
Parker 51

Overall im very happy with the Moonman M600s. I love the acrylic (I've not even tried to take a detailed photo of it, I have neither the equipment, nor the skill), I love the style and the ergonomics are spot on for me. I had my reservations: that I might think it a poor imitation of the real thing, but it feels much more expensive than it is. I'll update this thread with any observations from using the pen longer term, but for now I might even go as far as to recommend it.
 

nemo

Cheaper than ink
That's a great review, James. Thanks for putting in the effort!

Not being a huge fan of either homage pens nor Chinese pens in general, I understand that they do have their fans and a place in pendom. My only issue with Moonman is the model number, being an owner of several "true" M600 Pelikan pens, to me it's like Hyundai coming out with a 450SL or 911S named model.
 
That's a great review, James. Thanks for putting in the effort!

Not being a huge fan of either homage pens nor Chinese pens in general, I understand that they do have their fans and a place in pendom. My only issue with Moonman is the model number, being an owner of several "true" M600 Pelikan pens, to me it's like Hyundai coming out with a 450SL or 911S named model.


Thanks, I'm pretty new to the review business so if there's anything I can do to improve I'd appreciate the feedback.

My opinions on these design copies are a bit odd: I don't feel nearly as negative about it as, for example, the Hero 359. The way I see it, I was never going to drop 300 pounds on a new Duofold, so Moonman haven't done Parker out of a sale. The Hero is much a genuine attempt to steal Lamy's lunch, hence my greater animosity. I wish the Chinese manufacturers would come out with something more original; I'm seeing evidence that they can turn out a decent pen for a good price. All that's missing is the effort in design.

I did think the model number thing was interesting. Pinch the design from one company and the name from another. But a rose by any other name...
 

tankerjohn

A little poofier than I prefer
Great review James! That's a fine looking pen. IMHO, the Duofold is kind of the Rolex Submariner of pens; its an influential design that has been copied to some extent or another by everyone else. At this point, its just classic and timeless. I do kind of wish Moonman hadn't used an arrow-shaped clip. That's probably taking the Parker inspiration a little too far. But I agree with you that its not the same as the more direct Lamy and Parker 51 knock-offs. The chariot nib is very cool and speaks to authentic Chinese history. I'd like to see more of that sort of thing on Chinese pens. PenBBS has done a great job of coming up with original designs. As far as the name - sorry Pelikan, come up with something less generic than the letter "M" and a few numbers if you don't anyone else to use your designations. Do you know how much stuff has been called "M1" over the years? Helmets, rifles, tanks, etc. Moonman probably could have come up with a better name, but M600 doesn't bother me.
 
Nice review, and you have built an interesting and diverse collection, nice job.

Never been a real fan of the current Duofold, they just seemed a lot of money for a quite ordinary cartridge/converter pen as compared to MB or Pelikan when I thought I was buying something with a bit of 'engineering' to it.

Looking closely at your Eco, there is a thread elsewhere on the interweb about cracks in the sections of Ecos, some people say it is down to manufacturing, others say that the cracks are due to the incorrect reinsertion of the nib and feed by the user. You need to be very precise when you are putting the nib back, my advice would be to leave it alone in the first place.


It could be just down to the light, but can I see a small crack in your section? Try rubbing your thumbnail over it to see if it catches.
 

nemo

Cheaper than ink
... sorry Pelikan, come up with something less generic than the letter "M" and a few numbers if you don't anyone else to use your designations. Do you know how much stuff has been called "M1" over the years?

For years, Pelikan has used this designation:

Mxxx = Mechanik-Füllhalter (mechanical fountain pen)
Pxxx = Patronen-Füllhalter (cartridge fountain pen)
Rxxx = Roller (rollerball pen)
Dxxx = Druckstift (mechanical pencil)
Kxxx = Kugelschreiber (ballpoint pen)

The 100, 150, 200, 300, 400, 600, etc are the sizes. It has a purpose. I'm sure Moonman had a purpose in mind, too. :001_rolle
 
I do kind of wish Moonman hadn't used an arrow-shaped clip. That's probably taking the Parker inspiration a little too far.

I agree that the clip is one of the more blatant "borrowings". However, clip design is one of the areas where I'm most picky, so I'm just glad that they used a design I find acceptable. For example, I can't stand clips with a ball at the end: don't ask me why, i just can't. Which ironically rules out getting a vintage Duofold! I see a lot of otherwise solid pen designs spoiled by generic cheap stamped metal clips, it just spoils the whole look of the pen for me. And I think we can all agree it's better than the clip design on the crocodile 806:
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Image taken from an eBay listing.
 
For years, Pelikan has used this designation:

Mxxx = Mechanik-Füllhalter (mechanical fountain pen)
Pxxx = Patronen-Füllhalter (cartridge fountain pen)
Rxxx = Roller (rollerball pen)
Dxxx = Druckstift (mechanical pencil)
Kxxx = Kugelschreiber (ballpoint pen)

The 100, 150, 200, 300, 400, 600, etc are the sizes. It has a purpose. I'm sure Moonman had a purpose in mind, too. :001_rolle

The Moonman models I can find advertised today are:

N2, S3, M2, M600, M600s, C1, M100, M200, N3, Wancai mini and the 80s. If they have a purpose in mind, I must confess that it is hidden from me.

It more reminds me of the vintage Conway Stewart numbering system, not the order and method of the excellent Pelikan system.
 
Nice review, and you have built an interesting and diverse collection, nice job.

Never been a real fan of the current Duofold, they just seemed a lot of money for a quite ordinary cartridge/converter pen as compared to MB or Pelikan when I thought I was buying something with a bit of 'engineering' to it.

Looking closely at your Eco, there is a thread elsewhere on the interweb about cracks in the sections of Ecos, some people say it is down to manufacturing, others say that the cracks are due to the incorrect reinsertion of the nib and feed by the user. You need to be very precise when you are putting the nib back, my advice would be to leave it alone in the first place.


It could be just down to the light, but can I see a small crack in your section? Try rubbing your thumbnail over it to see if it catches.

You know, I think you've just put your finger on what I don't like about the modern Duofold. That really resonates with me.

Good spot on the TWSBI, it's right where the injection moulding seam is, so I can't be sure, but it does look like a crack. I'll keep an eye on it.
 
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