Happy fountain pen day everyone! I hope you get the chance to enjoy your pens today. I thought I’d celebrate with a review of one of the more interesting fountain pens that I have: the PenBBS 535 Pen of the Year of the Ox.
I like pens with interesting filling mechanisms, and I’ve purchased pens from PenBBS before and really enjoyed them so I decided to give this unusual (and inexpensive) pen a try. What’s unusual about it? Well it’s a long pen with an uncommon silhouette, a filling mechanism that doubles as an ink stop, and it has a gem as a roll-stop.
Let’s start with the pen body. It’s long. A Lamy Safari/AL-Star is 13 cm long uncapped. The PenBBS Year of the Ox is 15 cm long uncapped, and about 16 cm long when you unscrew the blind cap to allow for ink to flow (more on that later). That means that it holds a massive amount of ink (make sure you love the ink that you plan to use in this pen), all of which you can see since the main body part is transparent. The cap, blind cap and grip are black with rose gold detailing which is very attractive, and the cap and nib have special Year of the Ox inscriptions (2021 is the year of the ox in the traditional Chinese calendar). I have no idea why this wavy, long silhouette was chosen for the pen, but it reminds me of a bamboo stalk, particularly when capped, and I quite like it.
There is an engraving of an ox head on the rose-gold coloured steel nib, and the pen cap has a rose-gold coloured medallion on it with an engraving of an ox in the middle and “PenBBS 2021 Year of the Ox” engraved around it.
The grip section is surprisingly comfortable to use, as at first glance I was worried that perhaps it would be too narrow for comfort. There’s a slight step at the end where the threads go, and you can see from the picture below that there are very few threads for the cap. This is the weakest part of this pen’s design. While it makes gripping the pen very comfortable (no threads in the way), it makes capping the pen a hassle at times. It’s easy to miss the threads and have the pen not be properly capped. The cap itself is unlined and very short, particularly when compared to the long pen body. It is designed this way so you can post it on the back using the threads and the bottom of the piston.
You can see the threads on the piston below. Apart from checking that the cap can be posted in this way, I chose not to post this pen. It’s not that the posting affects its balance, as the cap is light and doesn’t weight down the back of the pen, but that the threads are so short and shallow that it’s not worth the hassle to use them to post the cap. Plus, I don’t post my pens’ caps anyway.
You also can see the filling mechanism in the previous photo. This is a little complicated to understand and hard to explain, but there’s a good video here showing how it works. You basically twist the piston nob to engage the piston mechanism and fill the pen with ink, and then twist it in another direction to disengage the piston and just allow the plunger rod to move.This allows you to return the piston to place, and is also the mechanism you’ll use to unscrew the piston blind cap and allow ink to enter the transparent chamber at the top of the pen and into the nib. I know this explanation is confusing – please check out the video to see the mechanism in work. It’s pretty easy to get it going once you’ve seen someone demonstrate it to you.
Is this the most convenient filling mechanism? No, not by a long shot. But it fills the pen entirely in one shot (something you can’t get with most converters), and allows the pen to have a really large ink capacity. This and the very decent nib turn this pen from a novelty item into an actual workhorse. This is a pen that is a joy to use, and you can use it for pages and pages of writing.
The Year of the Ox pen comes with a labradorite roll-stop, which is very cool looking and ensures that each and every pen is unique. I have no idea why labradorite was chosen, but I like its colour and I think that it works well with the rose-gold on the pen. It’s also what inspired me to fill this pen with Pilot Iroshizuku Ina-Ho.
To start writing with the Year of the Ox pen you need to unscrew the piston until ink can enter the small chamber near the pen grip. You can see the mechanism at work here:
The RF (round fine, or just simply fine) nib is smooth but not glass smooth, and if you plan on sketching with this pen, flipping the nib gives you a very good extra fine line. The nib and the ink capacity really make this pen something you can probably use throughout NaNoWriMo without having to stop for refills.
I wasn’t expecting much from the PenBBS 535 Pen of the Year of the Ox, because it really does look like a novelty pen. But somehow, the pen’s design, it’s weight, it’s large ink capacity and its good nib make for the ideal workhorse pen. This is a pen that’s fun use and fun to have lying around on your desk. Just be sure to fill it with an ink you really love, because you’re going to be using it for a while…
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