I was really tired when I wrote this review and when I wrote the writing sample. My god. I mean, even right now it’s 6 AM. What am I doing up? This is silly. Oh well. I bought the 961 pen from Teri at Peyton Street Pens. PSP’s one of the good ones. If at all possible, you should totally buy stuff from there. I just got another pen from there today! Some kind of school pen they sell in train stations in Germany.
The added benefit is that it comes with an eradicator stick, so I don’t have to buy them from Todd at isellpens and pay $3 in shipping. Where was I?
Oh right, the Duke 961. I like me some Duke pens. They’re a Chinese manufacturer of fountain pens that claim they have an R&D department in Germany. I don’t know if this is true, but some of the reports from their higher priced ($60 or so) pens are very good, so I might believe it. Despite this, even their cheaper pens are the best of the Chinese cheap pens, in my opinion, in almost every regard. I have a love affair with the Duke 209, yet to be reviewed, for example. This Duke, however, is not my favourite.
By the way, remember how I said that that Baoer pen was the best performing Chinese pen I owned? It’s kind of true true, but it got lucky, and it’s only because sometimes the Dukes can be temperamental, whereas the Baoer will take anything I throw at it. Anyway, let’s get into the review a little bit.
Performance: 7/10. The pen writes smooth, when it writes. It’s not like the Urban I complained about earlier which skips. I mean, when the 961 is writing, it keeps writing. But, it’s stupidly easy to clog and dries out quickly. This is mostly not a problem if you use the pen every day. But, if you keep it in a pen case filled with Diamine Oxblood to use on special occasions, don’t expect this bad lad to start up. Like, ever. But, once it starts up, no skipping.
It hits a medium-fine line, which is nice. A very inoffensive line, nothing worth noting there. I can write with the pen for only a little while because it’s painfully small. 😦
Appearance: 7/10. My favourite part about this pen’s appearance is its nib. It’s got pretty pictures on it, and it’s small, just like the pen. And the feed that feeds it (heh) is small, too. Adorable! The thing isn’t stamped with the clarity and definition of a western manufacturer, but let’s be honest: who looks that closely? I sure as hell don’t. In fact, if you open the pen and shove the cap in your pocket, it’s a good looking pen.
So we can see here that it’s got great looks to the layman. Until the layman sees the cap. Holy jeebus. That is not even Pilot Varsity level quality there. The edge of the cap sharpens to a point with no barrier or edging, and is unlined and unpainted inside. You can see it clearly in the above photo.
Now, when I first saw that, I thought I was making too big a deal out of it when it was so jarring to me, since it’s such a little thing. But then I looked at some of my other pens.
The other pens are smoothed on the edge, are painted inside, or have a plastic cap within that keeps you from looking at that ugly interior sheet metal they bought from the lowest bidder. The Nemosine Fission costs $30 and the Impressa costs $40, sure, but the 960 is the same price and the Baoer 79 cost me $3.19 on eBay including shipping. If they can do it, why can’t Duke do it on their other pen? Maybe dump some of the cheap “DUKE” engraving on the clip like on the 960 and put a little effort into making the pen not look like I did it in my basement. Anyway…
Build Quality: 5/10. At this price, it’s mediocre. The clip works, the pen doesn’t fall apart, but there’re little things that will remind you of cheapness. For example, the nib metal is so thin that it’ll get bent by a strong fart at 3 yards and won’t go back to its original shape. And, somehow, every single time you go to open the pen the barrel is a half turn off from being tight onto the section. And that’s in addition to the rough cap. And the pen is stupid tiny. It’s nigh on unusable for a large hand without posting, and I don’t post because I’m a good person. But, it’s all metal and it has a weight roughly equal to the larger Parker Frontier, with metal threads! Even though those threads don’t keep the pen closed.
Refilling and Maintenance: 7/10. It’s got a hole for an international converter/cartridge but a weird ass nib and a weird ass feed. Boom. 7/10.
Value: 6/10. It’s a meh pen at $12. It would be great at $8. I know $4 doesn’t seem like much, but imagine if a Parker Sonnet started at $150 instead of $100. It’s a whole different ballgame there. I just feel like the pen tried to upmarket itself from a cheaper pen, like a 209, but went classy in all the wrong spots.
Conclusion: 5/10. Still not an average. Ain’t nothing special about this pen. Get the 960 or a Parker Vector for this price.
Here’s some terrible writing.