Posts filed under Hero

Hero 529 Fountain Pen Review

The world of inexpensive Chinese fountain pens is something I've recently fallen into, and I've had mixed results so far. My most recent impulse buy is a Hero 529 fountain pen. For less than $3 (sometimes less than $2), you get a fountain pen shipped from China. There's something completely unbelievable about that, but it's the real deal.

So, what do you get from a $3 fountain pen? Well, not much.

When you consider the functions of a pen, a few things that come to mind are: it writes, it's comfortable to hold, it keeps ink from drying out when not in use, it clips to a pocket, and it's reusable. Lots of pens cover these basic characteristics. But there's another characteristic that many of my favorite pens have that's difficult to quantify: they're delightful to use.

That's where the Hero 529 falls short and the main reason it will probably not see very much action after this review. It's not fun to use, and it actually detracts from my writing experience. These are harsh words for a pen, and I should probably back them up. So, here we go.


The Hero 529 is black -- I never saw any other options in my search. From what I can see, it's also only available in a fine nib. The material of the body and cap is cheap plastic. Each part of the pen has a slightly different shade of color, adding to the low-quality look. The metal clip is silver and actually does a good job as a clip, but it also looks like plastic.

The main thing that does it for me is the silver label on the cap of the pen. I was really disappointed when I realized it wasn't a sticker that could be removed. I'm not sure why it's there. In the top part of the rectangle are Chinese characters, and the bottom part says "fountain pen" in a script font. Why? The pen would look a bit classier if the silver stamp wasn't there.

There's also a plastic gem in the top of the cap that feels a little loose to the touch.

Uncapped, the grip section is textured in a hatch pattern, although it doesn't really provide any real grip. The texture is very slight. The nib is hooded by the end of the grip section, which gives it a unique look.

Overall, it looks like a $3 pen, and that's fair. No problem.


The pen writes fairly smoothly. I'm sure that a little nib smoothing would help a bit, but I'm not really interested in working on it.

It's a very light and narrow pen and handles well either posted or unposted in my hand.

The nib can be finnicky regarding the angle of attack. I have to be very mindful when writing with this pen of whether I'm holding it at the right angle. If it changes by a degree or two, it skips and stops writing.

Again, it works, but not in a way that makes me want to continue using it.


This is a perfectly good pen for $3, and I'm really impressed that a functional fountain pen can be made at that price.

Unfortunately, this pen just isn't enjoyable to use. It asks a lot of the writer and introduces constant distractions and speed bumps along the way. There's nothing wrong with buying a $3 pen just to experiment, and I certainly don't feel like I wasted my money. I'm just disappointed that I now own a pen that I'm certain will never be used.

It's fun to experiment with different pens, but every now and then you end up with a dud. I guess that's just part of the game. At least I have plenty of other delightful writing instruments to use instead. After all, it's not fair to hold a $3 pen to high standards. In this case, you definitely get what you pay for.

(You can find more from Jeff online at Draft Evolution, Twitter, and

Posted on June 25, 2014 and filed under Fountain Pens, Hero, Pen Reviews.

Review: Hero M86 Chinese Calligraphy Pen

This review is by Kalina Wilson, who can also be found at

Once again, my review is inspired by an Urban Sketcher.  This time, it's the wonderful Tia Boon Sim of Singapore and her use of the Hero M86 Chinese calligraphy pen.  The pen has a beautiful and solid (albeit heavy) black and silver body.  


See that bulbous cap?  It's too heavy for the pen, and doesn't post well.  Hmm.  At least it's stylish.

The only source I know of for these pens is  Scroll down towards the bottom of the linked page to find it. Right now it's selling for $12.88 plus shipping.  

This pen has a bent nib which is sometimes referred to as a "ski jump" nib.  Due to the bend the line is generally quite broad; however, when you tip your hand forward (bringing the pen into a more vertical position, up to a right angle from the page), you get a fine line.  Additionally, as also works with other fountain pens, inverting the pen results in an even finer line.

The first two writing samples are on Aquabee Super Deluxe paper which is fairly toothy, and shows the lines available by changing the vertical angle of the pen.   (Sorry for the blur.) The third sample is on smooth "Pen Sketcher's" paper.  Also see Tia's video demonstrating her use of the pen; it's subtle, but you can see that she changes the pen's angle to the paper quite a bit and also uses it in the inverted position for awhile.

Linevariationontooth   Linevariation   Writingsample

I believe it's because of the strange way you need to hold this pen to achieve line variation that it has such particularly idiosyncratic results.  Tia achieves gorgeous fluidity in her sketches using this tool (this is one of my favorites of hers - so beautiful!).  That's Tia, though.  In my hand the pen produces a very different style.


The Hero M86 is so unlike other pens that it takes special attention and practice.  Luckily it's a lot of fun, as well!

As for ink, I took no chances and filled up with Noodler's Bulletproof .  Use an economical ink in any case because you can blast through it fast with this pen. 

The pen comes with a pump filler ink reservoir. This brings us to the pen's one major flaw that I've found, besides the minor annoyance of not being able to post the cap:  ink flow has been inconsistent.


Sketchcrawl-oldtown1 Often I need to open up the pen and manually push the slider to force ink towards the nib, being careful not to push too far, which would flood ink onto my hands and paper. I haven't heard of others encountering this problem with the Hero, so it may depend on how you hold the pen or it could be a manufacturing issue.  Tia recommends moving the ink pump very quickly in order to reduce air bubbles.  Following that advice reduced but did not eliminate my ink flow problems.  See her discussion here; note that my ink reservoir is the one she states is newer, printed with "Hero" rather than "Made in England".

Like most other fountain pens and brush pens, this pen doesn't do well in a Moleskine sketchbook or, indeed, on any paper that has a non-absorbent coating.  The copious ink just pools up.  Toothy watercolor or mixed media paper has a strong effect on the line, but it takes the ink well.  In general, an artist may need to be a little more selective about paper when using this pen than they would when using a standard fountain pen like a Lamy Safari.  My accounting ledger paper resisted the ink a little bit which resulted in some smudging and a greyer tone, but other than that the effects were nice.

Crema This is an exciting pen for artists.  I highly recommend the Hero M86 for anyone who desires great variety of line and loves to discover new possibilities in their tools... as long as they are willing to spend some time getting to know the pen and don't mind working around the unpostable cap and potentially unreliable ink flow.

Thanks to Tia for showing her gorgeous sketches made with this pen at last year's Urban Sketchers Symposium... and to my partner Mike for putting the Hero M86 under our Christmas tree!

Posted on January 10, 2011 and filed under Calligraphy Pens, Fountain Pens, Geminica, Hero, Pen Reviews.