As a fountain pen enthusiast, the wave of Chinese fountain pens presents a struggling dilemma that surround my ethical and moral standards. This wave enabled those who may be financially challenged and still desire to write with a fountain pen, to purchase a pen that would be a great daily carry. The problem arises when a person buys a fountain pen which is near similar or one of one copy of a known fountain pen. To my mind, the former is acceptable, because there are some design elements that were changed or introduced that are a product of identifying the faults of the original design. On the other hand, the latter is a little nuanced. The only qualification for these kinds of fountain pens is, as long as they do not pose as the original; with the brand or logo, then it is good with my standards. This brings me to a fountain pen that embraces the former concept.
This is the M&G AFPY 1706. At first glance, it is reminiscent of the Muji aluminium fountain pen, sans for the knurling, finish, and the end of the barrel. I found this fountain pen from a late night search in the listings of Ali Express. There was a sense of curiosity about this pen. I am aware about the company M&G and their products; their presence in my country's stationery stores are evident: from mechanical pencils, multi pens, and novelty ball points. In one of the stationery stores I frequent for price watch, they offer a slim hooded nib fountain pen with colorful designs. In my opinion, their slim hooded nib fountain pens are the worst; I do not have one, but upon observation, there is no way of removing the nib from the hood unless a resort to destruction which is minus points for fountain pens.
Looking at the seller's reputation and the product description, the seller looks to be a legitimate distributor of M&G products, having other M&G fountain pens in its listings. As to the product description, aside from the usual paying tribute on "how the pen is a contribution to the evolution of civilization", it looked plausible. With an add to cart, payment input, and half a month of waiting, I got the pen.
For a pen within the $10-20 range, I would expect at least a plastic box or a study cardboard box that comes with the pen. However, I did not expect the pen to arrive protected with closed cell foam with a precise channel for the pen, in a tin box, and an acceptable cardboard sleeve. The sides of the cardboard sleeve and the lid of the tin might have some creases and a little dent from shipping, otherwise the pen arrived in good condition.
One unique thing about this pen is the finish. Unlike the Muji fountain pen which has a matte bare aluminum finish, the M&G has a satin lacquered finish.
What strikes me curious, aside from the overall design of the pen, is the Lamy style nib of this pen. This trend has been present in almost all of the Chinese pen manufacturers. The shape of the Lamy nib is iconic, and seeing it in a Chinese fountain pen is interesting and a little controversial. It is interesting because Chinese manufacturers have replicated the manufacturing process and made the tooling to make Lamy style nibs. It is controversial because of the issue of intellectual property and riding on the status of the Lamy nib. While it is not an outright counterfeit of the Lamy nib, this illustrates the dilemma aforementioned.
The knurling on this pen is defeating and almost pointless. The intention of having a knurling is to have the ability to grip the pen without the additional rubberized material or the intricate grooves on the section. The reason why I described it as defeating is that the knurling was affected by the surface finish done to the pen. It appears that when the lacquer applied, this was also applied in the knurling, in such a way that the roughness of the knurling was diminished. What could have been done was to isolate the knurling when applying the lacquer on the pen. Likewise, when holding the pen in a long writing session, there is a tendency that the pen would slip down, losing the preferred handwriting position.
When it comes to threads, it would be ideal that the male and female threads are the same material: metal to metal, plastic to plastic. However, when the material of the threads are made from different material: plastic and metal, that pose an issue. This is the case in this pen. Cross-threading is possible if not imminent that the metal threads would burrow and create new threads contrary to the plastic threads. In addition, the plastic threads appear to be glued on the barrel of the pen, which would be problematic of one day the glue would fail.
I have to give credit to M&G. They could have gone the path of plastic with a metallic paint or foil, instead they made the entire pen in metal. Brass for the barrel, cap,and section; and steel for the nib and clip. The pen is of the right length for a medium sized hand. It may not be as light as aluminium, it is great that they did not cheap out on the material of the pen.
As it can be seen from the photo above (I apologize for the potato camera), that the whole barrel appears to be made from brass.
Another great thing that I would give M&G credit is the design when it comes to the cap. Compared to the peculiar design of the cap of the Muji, in which the cap must be aligned to the burrowed channel of the section and in the barrel with the fluted sides of the cap, M&G's approach was simple. For the section, make it a pull cap; for posting on the barrel, extend the barrel and make a provision for the cap. In my opinion, this is a great approach to a simple design theme with simple and intuitive solutions.
When it comes to the reservoir system, it is great for M&G to include a converter, which should be a standard issue on all fountain pens and not a separate purchase. However, their choice for a converter is not necessarily good. This kind of converter is similar to the Parker piston filler converter, apart from the screw type piston converter. To fill this converter with ink, you dip the converter or when attached to the section in ink about a third of the way, and pull the tab to activate the piston. This is type of converter is next to the aerometric system that I have negative opinions about. Even if it is attached to the section and inside of a bottle, it can be a challenge to pull the tab to draw ink.
As to the cap, it is a moment of close but no cigar. The reason why I am critical of the cap are two fold: it makes the fountain pen primed and ready for writing, and it is the fourth part that the ink may interact. With this pen, it is good that M&G placed a plastic sleeve that would protect the sides of the brass cap. It would be great if they have extended the plastic a little to protect the rivet that is holding the finial. Another issue that I had with this pen is the riveted finial. There are times that the ink would suddenly drop from heat, or if the pen was rattled in a bag pocket. It is imperative that the ink would be wiped and the cap cleaned immediately to prevent a chemical interaction between the bare metal and the ink. This would mean that the cap must be disassembled and cleaned, with a riveted finial, it would be difficult to clean.
The writing experience was a journey. When I got this pen, I inked it with Noodler's X-Feather. I know, there would be problems with X-Feather given that its consistency is a little thick from the typical fountain pen ink. For a time, it worked well; good ink flow, well lubricated, and writes every time when uncapped. After some time, it began to hard start, and at times I have to flood the section and drop some ink from the nib. It returned to its good writing performance. With some thought, I decided to change the inks to have a consistent pen for everyday use. After a good flush and clean, I inked it with Diamine Teal. It wrote great and consistently.
While the designation of the nib was EF, it wrote more of an eastern fine. It is smooth with a little feedback. It was a great experience from there until one time, the pen does not write. At first, I thought it was a hard start problem, so I flood the section and let a drop flow similar to the X-Feather, and it worked again. It was good sailing after a week, and it started to hard start yet again. In this instance, I would usually flood the section and let the ink drop again, instead I pulled the nib and feed out of the section, and replaced the nib with a consistent writer. From there it was a winner, no hard starts.
Would I recommend this pen? Should you buy this pen or get a Muji instead? Well...
It is affordable and it has some weight into it, but given the problems on the knurled segment, the cap, and the possible nib replacement (if you purchase one that does not have the problems I encountered, well good for you), it may be better if you would purchase a Muji instead of this one. In addition, the Muji fountain pen's reservoir system conforms to the standard international specifications, thus a Schmidt converter may be used as a reservoir system. Unlike the M&G, unless you found a cartridge or a converter which is slim enough to fit the diameter of the threads, you are stuck with the given converter and constant refilling.
However, if you are the kind of person who likes a challenge and likes to figure out solutions to problems, and purchasing a Muji fountain pen would be difficult and takes a trip to Japan, I would recommend this pen to you. With the latter, not all Muji stores carry a fountain pen in their stationery section. In my country, the Muji stores here do not have a fountain pen, it was only during a trip in Osaka that I got to purchase one. With the former, I see a solution with the knurling by using a 1000-1200 grit sandpaper, wet sand, and applying light to moderate pressure to remove the lacquer and bring back the texture of the knurling.
If you want an affordable slim pen, you have an extra genuine Lamy nib laying around and the factor about the knurling is not an issue, this pen would be good for you.
My plans for this pen is to strip off the lacquer and the paint, revealing the brass, and painting this black and blue using a solution similar to the ones used in guns, or maybe one of those multi colored finishes when heat is applied. If I have the equipment, I would change the plastic threads and make a metal female threads.