Hero 86 Calligraphy Pen

Don't get bent out of shape by this one 

The Shanghai Hero Pen Company is one of the oldest and largest pen manufacturers in China. Founded back in 1931 when Communist China nationalized foreign holdings, Hero began as the "Huafa Pen Factory" in the original Parker pen factory of Shanghai and has grown to become the major supplier of fountain pens throughout Asia.


As such, Hero designs and manufacturers a tremendous range of different pen models.  The Hero 86 is one of the calligraphy styled pens that uses a rather novel and versatile nib design. There's not many pens that allow you to write a dramatic range of line thicknesses with a single nib.  However, this nib design is really more suited to the drawing of Chinese characters and makes for an "odd" experience attempting to write the lettering of Western languages.

First Impressions (4/5) 

When you first look at the pen, the design is rather striking. You have this semi-bulbous cap with chrome accents and a nicely tapered barrel that finishes off in a bold chrome tip. There's a decent heft to the pen, so it feels like it is substantial and well made. And generally it is. The black cap and barrel with chrome accents looks good. It reminds me of a modern Southwestern style, especially with the imprints on the chrome accents. "Hero 86" is engraved on the cap ring, in both English and Chinese characters.



Fit and Finish (3.5/5) 

The bulk of the pen is made of black plastic. It's a decent grade, though--the pen feels well made and the barrel is nicely joined to the metal tapered end piece. The cap threads are all plastic as well, but they are well machined and fit snugly. All of the parts fit together tightly. Two things that annoy me: 1) The clip, though spring loaded, is rather flimsy and 2) the nib collar has started rusting/pitting after about 6 months. Also, the cap does not post, due to the extreme taper of the barrel. It is quite heavy compared with the rest of the pen, so posting it would create an uncomfortable imbalance anyway. 


Nib and Writing Quality (3.5/5) 

The nib is obviously atypical, with a bizarre upturned tip making it look like the pen was dropped. Fortunately, the composition is gold plated stainless steel, so it doesn't pit like the collar. The writing characteristics are strange. Essentially what you get with this pen is an "inverse" stub: wide horizontally and narrow vertically. This makes it difficult to write small, when leveraging the wide end of the nib. Also, without the crisp chizel shape of your usual stub nib, this nib has a tendency to leave jagged edges to the line. As far as advantages go, the really cool thing about this pen is that you can write with many different thicknesses depending upon the pen position and angle. When you want to write predominantly small, inverting the pen (feed bottom facing up) works pretty well. It is smooth--not much different from a stiff fine nib. But unfortunately the up turned design creates a tendency for the nib to run dry after being idle for about a minute. This is annoying, as you often have to prime the pen to get it going again.

Value (3/5) 

This was not an expensive pen at the time I bought it and I think you can still get it for less than $14 at ISellPens. I find the rapid drying out of the nib to be an annoyance, the cap clip has good spring but should track straight (not wobble), and the nib collar should NOT rust after a few months of use. They could have at least used a little stainless steel. For these reasons, I'm not rating the value any higher than 3 out of 5. 


Summary (3.5/5) 

It's more of a novelty pen, IMHO. I can see using it for artwork or just doodling, but it's not a good every day writing instrument. Probably the biggest obstacle is the fact that the nib dried out so quickly. If it stayed moist about twice as long, then it could be a contender for daily writing. Although called a "calligraphy" pen, you would not write traditional calligraphy with it because of the "reversed" line effect. Anyway, if you're interested in one I'd hold off until you've got another pen in mind and then get the Hero 86 without added shipping cost.