Recently I purchased a Laban Mento fountain pen in striking “Terrazzo Pumpkin” plastic. I knew in advance that its nib was damaged beyond reasonable repair. I sought advice on FPN about replacing the nib and learned three things: first, that isellpens.com offers a complete replacement nib/feed/section for the Mento for just $10, second, that Goulet Pens sells No. 6 nibs that are a perfect fit in the Mento, and third, that the Jinhao 159 nib is the same size and that its feed is the same as that of the Mento.
Armed with that information, and finding that the nib/feed/section from isellpens.com was only available in black (my pen has a color-matched section), I ordered a No. 6
two-tone steel 1.1mm stub nib from Goulet Pens ($15). I also decided that I should try the Jinhao 159 since so many people speak highly of it. I found one for sale on Amazon for $6.69 including mailing cost from Shanghai.
The nib from Goulet Pens arrived very quickly and only a few minutes’ work was required to install it in the Laban Mento – a perfect fit – and it was a joy to write with. I normally favor vintage pens that are considerably smaller than the Mento, but it has become a daily carry pen.
A couple of weeks later the postman delivered the Jinhao 159.
Having never seen one in person, I excitedly opened the package. There is was, bright red (it comes in a number of colors) and obviously styled by someone familiar with a Montblanc 149. I inked it and the medium steel nib was as smooth as silk, right out of the package.
Since the Jinhao purchase was a by-product of the Mento repair, and since both looked so much like the MB 149, I decided to do a side-by-side comparison.
Jinhao 159 Laban Mento Montblanc 149
Length 5 3/4″ 5 7/8″ 5 3/4″
Grip Diameter 1/2″ to 7/16″ 1/2″ to 7/16″ 1/2″
Weight 1.7 oz 1.0 oz 1.1 oz
Nib Steel Medium 1.1mm Goulet Steel Stub Gold Fine with some flex
Cost $6.69 $120 $594 (and up)
Filling System Cartridge/Converter Cartridge/Converter Piston
Appearance The three pens are essentially the same size. The Montblanc is the most elegant with its black finish and satin gold hardware. The Laban is available in a number of colors, most of which are not so “bold” as this Terrazzo Pumpkin. Its hardware is bright chrome. My red Jinhao is flashy, no getting around it! It is available in black and several other colors, but the chariot logo on the clip will always be there, and I would prefer less bling.
Weight: I personally prefer a lighter weight pen. The Jinhao is significantly heavier than the other two. Without its cap posted the Jinhao is OK, when posted it is well-balanced but far too heavy for me.
Comfort: I like to hold a pen that has a relatively smooth transition from barrel to gripping section. The Laban and Montblanc both have fine plastic threads at the base of their barrels, with no step-down from the barrel to the threaded area or from the threads to the gripping section. The Jinhao has coarser metal threads that step down slightly from the barrel, but no further step-down from the threaded area to the gripping section. The difference is noticable, but not uncomfortable. The Montblanc’s gripping section is a straight cylinder, while the Jinhao and Laban both have slightly tapered grips. Both shapes work fine for me
Writing Impression Because of the wide variation in nibs, it is difficult to say which pen writes “best.” All three write quite well, and each has its own feel. The Montblanc’s gold nib has a modest amount of flex and yields a very confortable writing experience. The Goulet 1.1mm stub in my Laban is firm and smooth. The stub gives interesting line variation. The Jinhao’s steel medium nib is smooth and firm.
It would be easy to fit the Jinhao with a Goulet nib if one preferred a stub. Goulet’s steel nibs only cost $15, so this is not an outrageous idea.
Other The Laban has a spring loaded clip which is a nice feature that the other two don’t have. The Montblanc’s piston filler has an enormous ink capacity, while the other two have the typical cartridge/converter capacity that we see in so many modern pens.
Conclusions I like all three of these pens. The size is good in my hand; they all write well and are comfortable to use; yet each has its own character. The Jinhao is a real bargain at $6.69. It is a little flashier than the other two, but I did choose the red, after all. Without the cap posted its extra weight is not really an issue. You will have to decide for yourself if the Laban is almost 20 times, or that the Montblanc is nearly 100 times, the value of the Jinhao.