You may have noticed that I’ve been trying to reintroduce ink reviews on the site by - well, reviewing more inks. A couple things make this a challenge for me. First, I do use my pens regularly outside of the work I do here on this blog. I have a writing-intensive job with an output that regularly exceeds 20 (typed) pages per day, and the way I work/think involves a lot of longhand note-taking and sketching out ideas before I even start on the computer. These notes are frequently shared among colleagues, and handwritten markups of documents scanned and e-mailed to clients. That’s a long way of saying that whatever ink I use in my daily writers needs to be something that I know is reliable and works well on cheap recycled copy paper, which limits my opportunities to experiment with new inks that I don’t know much about, not to mention properties like sheen and shimmer.
At the same time, I don’t like to write ink reviews based on a swab and a couple lines of writing with a dip pen. That doesn’t give me any sense of how the ink truly “performs,” and whether it’s something I could legitimately recommend for daily use - which is what I try to keep the focus on here. But I also don’t want to ink one of my favorite writers up with an “unknown” ink and just have it sit indefinitely (or stain, clog, melt, etc. if the ink turns out to be not-so-nice). So what to do? Enter the low-cost tester pen.
Earlier this year I discovered Wing Sung demonstrators. These inexpensive Chinese piston fillers were some of the best cheap pens that I’d used to date, and that impression has not changed. Even better, Wing Sung continues to release a steady stream of new models, often sold in packs of four or five pens that gets the price down to a few dollars per unit. This eliminates any risk of testing out “higher maintenance” inks in my nice pens.
So right now I have a dozen or so Wing Sung demonstrators inked up with an equal number of inks I’m testing, sitting in a cup on my desk at home. Four of them are loaded up with various Colorverse “glistening” inks (Ham, Hayabusa, Brane, and Gluon). The rest contain various Noodler’s permanent and quick-drying inks and some highly saturated Private Reserve Colors. Surprisingly, the extra fine nibs on all of these pens are good writers, and I’ve found myself reaching for them at home quite a bit when I’m working at my desk there. If the inks turn out to be serviceable, I’ll slip one of the tester pens into my pen case and take it to work for the day, giving it a more extended “audition.” If I don’t like it, and it sits so long that it clogs or stains, so what? I’m liking my new system.
So Which Pens Am I Talking About, Exactly?
I’ve purchased all of my Wing Sung pens via Amazon, and the Sellers don’t always make the model number clear, so it can be difficult to know exactly which pen you’re buying. The piston fillers that hold the glistening inks are the Wing Sung 3008, which are sold in packs of four and feature different colored aluminum caps and trim. (I first learned about these because Ana had them at the 2018 DC Pen Show.) The rest of the pens are Wing Sung 3010 and Wing Sung 3001 demonstrators, which are cartridge-converter pens that feature a surprisingly good converter. (So good, in fact, that I’m going to see if this converter fits other pens. It seals really well, and includes a small spring in the barrel which breaks surface tension, ensuring good ink flow.)
So far, I’ve been pleased with all of these pens. Of course, at this price point I don’t expect them to last forever. In particular, the pistons and converters will eventually wear out, or the plastic will crack after repeated capping/uncapping. But in the meantime, enjoy them for what they are: fun demonstrator fountain pens that you can fill up with the craziest of inks, safe in the knowledge that if things don’t work out, at most, you’re out a couple bucks.
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