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.