It’s no secret that I love flexible nibs. In this day and age, it’s rare that we have to whip out our nibs for serious work. Many people, myself included, type more than scribble. So when the moment strikes me to lay down some ink, I do like having the tines flex and squeeze out some character. Now, before I get ahead of myself I am going to shoot this nascent dream down and unequivocally say that this nib in the Hero 395 is most assuredly not a flexible nib.
What it is however, is a very interesting soft nib with a pleasant tactile feedback that is wholly unexpected from an inexpensive Chinese made pen.
Hero 395 Soft Nib Fountain Pen – eBay
Right off the bat, you can tell this is a pretty unique offering. Chinese pens often try (too hard) to imitate European offerings with a slight tacky ostentatious garnish, but this is a legitimate original design (as far as I know) with some interesting aesthetic considerations. Obviously, as you can tell by the picture blow, the primary material used is this heavily patterned copper that is rolled into shape. I have a sneaking suspicion that the design is acid etched in and not stamped, but I can’t know for certain. However, regardless of the manufacturing process, this is a pleasant pen to behold.
On a related note, the copper body appears to have a very subtle lacquer or finish applied. I say this because the sheen is a smidgen unnatural, and I have yet to notice any tarnishing, which is something that runs contrarian to my experiences with copper tools.
The general finish isn’t rustic, but rather almost steampunk in nature. I am 100% smitten with it and I do wish more pens came this way. I get a sense that this is a relatively modern pen designed to look quite dated, and frankly, it works. The clip is also nicely finished which is unlike most inexpensive Chinese products. All in all, I think the design has a certain flair of congruence throughout with one major exception, which totally ruins it (more on this later).
The finial of the body – ridiculously nice aesthetic quirk. Whoever designed this should be in charge of the rest of the Hero line up!
Before I get into the nitty gritty and talk about the one major downside of this pen, I should point out that the filling mechanism is one of those legendary stiff press bar converters. It’s utterly useless and you should do what I did if you choose to grab the Hero 395: promptly rip out and replace the filling mechanism with whatever you have on hand. I recommend a nice Waterman converter.
Right. So the major issue. The grip section is designed for anemic babies. It’s so ridiculously small that it’s almost comical. The most amusing part of this is the transition into the barrel isn’t smooth and thus you cannot grip it comfortably, you have to grip the pen by the body. I can only speak for my own biases, but these are my experiences on the matter. If you own the Hero 395 and found it comfortable then… I don’t know what to say, really.
Can we also mention that it’s a gaudy chrome monstrosity that clashes with everything else? Why would you do this Hero? You were so close to a home run!
Compared to the grip section on a Lamy Safari, as you can see below, it’s quite ridiculous.
Lamy Safari Medium Nib Fountain Pen – Amazon
So yes, writing with it is not the most comfortable experience, but taking into account that it falls into the “fun” nib category and thus not really my first choice for an everyday weapon, I think it’s something I can overlook. Especially taking into account the price (sub $20) and the interesting nib.
Caveats first: this is a review that will get some criticisms, as some of you reading this may have had different experiences with the exact same pen. So yes, consistency is an issue with low end (and high end, looking at you Hero 100) Chinese pens, and thus, take my review with the understanding that your example may not reflect what I experienced.
The Hero 395’s nib is as close to a flex nib without being a flex nib. If it was an extra fine instead of a fine, it would surpass the Namiki Falcon in terms of line variation. I cannot express how effortless the spring in this nib is. The writing sample below is with standard writing pressure. I am not cranking down on it as it’s a steel nib and I don’t trust the tines to hold up.
This is an infinitely better option than the Noodlers I own (I even own the 3 tine one), as it’s simply natural. I don’t have to exert myself to crank out some flourishes and to me that is fantastic.
The tipping is relatively polished. It’s obviously not glassy smooth like a Sailor or even some of my Jinhao’s, but it’s pleasant and not at all jarring. The feed keeps the ink flowing until you flex it beyond what the tines can handle, and then it simply railroads. Absolutely zero issues with starting – this has been a textbook perfect pen from the day I received it.
Never even flushed it!
Sadly, my penmanship was utter garbage on the day I took the photographs and my streak of procrastination took hold, so I refused to retake a sample. Frankly, you get the gist of it anyway. It’s a relatively thick, flexy goopy line of goodness. Anyone with a spark of joy in their souls would enjoy writing with this.
Once again, these are my experiences with this particular Hero 395.
Wet. Wet. Wet. Probably my second wettest pen behind a custom eyedropper from India that doesn’t dispense ink, it leaks it.
I do wish that nib was available in a more ergonomic pen. Please let me know if you have seen it in anything else!
Ebonite feed as best as I can tell. Or some weird vintage plastic. I honestly have no clue, but it works. Interestingly the design is very vintage with its lack of underbelly fins. I kind of dig it. Sadly the chrome bullshit on the section brings me back to the 90’s.
So close and yet so far. Ultimately, that’s the reality of a lot of pens at this price point. I can point to my piles of Jinhao’s, Hero’s, and Baoer’s and tell you ten things I love for the ten things I hate about them. This is a sad reality of mass production and cost cutting measures. With inexpensive pens, they tend to recycle design/sections for multiple models (whether the design fits or not) to save on re-tooling costs, and it shows. This is a design and nib that deserves so much better, but sadly, Hero isn’t the most communicative company with its wielders of stationary, and thus I doubt we will see an upgraded model.
With that said, the Hero 395 is pretty damn unique – both from a performance standpoint as well as design. It’s a copper rolled body with an acid washed steampunk vintage vibe going, and a weirdly high performance nib that has no business being in a pen at this price point. Regardless of its failings, I think this is an obvious winner, and if you have tiny hands or complacent fingers, this could prove ergonomically sound, too, which would be pretty damn awesome.