I thought a while ago that I might be in the market for a new fountain pen. It was something of a 'slow burner' of a thought, having rattled round my head on and off for weeks, especially as the last time I'd lifted a fountain pen in anger was at school, where five years of furious note-taking, day-in-day-out had, metaphorically, beaten any enthusiasm I'd had for fountain pens out of me.
Now that I'm getting older, I wondered if it might be possible to learn to like them again, and to see if I could enjoy using a fountain pen for pleasure; I'll be ordering the pipe and slippers later!
I'd also begun a brief dalliance with a Moleskine notebook and I'd read that some users like to use a fountain pen with theirs, so I began looking around for something I thought I might like that would work with the 'skine.
It would have to be cheap as money is tight at the moment, it should have a pleasing grip (something my childhood Parkers and Sheaffers never had), and it needed to be something I could research online as my last remaining local pen shop closed down last year.
Enter the Hero 329. I'd read about it in connection with Moleskines and was impressed both by its price, and by what other enthusiasts were saying about its performance, so I set about trying to locate one for sale in the UK. If it hadn't been for the wonderful chap who runs Andy's Pens I might still have been looking. There were a few 329s on eBay, but the majority of examples I would have to import. Andy on the other hand, had a variety of 329s available for sale on his website (in the Vintage Pens section) and was very helpful in talking me through my first purchase.
The 'beast' soon arrived in the mail - an 'old stock' but brand new 329 in black with an F nib, and it was soon put through its paces filled with Aurora Black ink; a wonderfully opaque and velvety black ink by the way.
So, what did I make of it?
The short answer is - I loved it, absolutely loved it! I must have as I went back to Andy for another three, and a couple of Hero 616s for comparison; at around £7.00 apiece it would have been rude not to! The model I'm reviewing here is the old style Hero 329 (circa 1970s) with the rounded back end and 'Star Trek' arrow symbol above the nib. Now let's consider the 329 in more detail...
Dimensions are as follows:
Length (capped): 139mm
Length (uncapped): 120mm
Length (posted): 146mm
Weight (filled): 16.4g
Barrel diameter: 11mm
Nib: Fine, though with this being a Chinese made pen it equates to somewhere between a Fine and Extra Fine western nib. Feels very smooth straight from the box and produces a very nice wet line.
The cap is brushed steel with a chromed clip, which has the word 'HERO' stamped into it. Beneath the cap is a gold-plated hooded nib with an iridium tip, very reminiscent of the old Parker 51, which the 329 emulates. The barrel unscrews to reveal an aerometric (squeeze) filler system, which to be fair holds a decent amount of ink. A very thin metal clutch ring where the two sections of the barrel meet breaks up the overall black of the barrel nicely, and provides a biting point for the cap, which is pleasantly secure when posted and a reassuringly good fit when the pen is capped.
The only thing I had to compare my first 329 with was a Parker Reflex (M nib) which, to me, was like writing with a house painter's 2" emulsion brush! There's nothing intrinsically wrong with the Parker, but as you may have guessed I'm not a great fan of Medium nibs, neither am I much enamoured of Parker Quink ink - Quink Black is grey, I'm sorry but it is, and for that I don't like it, hence my changing over to Aurora Black which is most definitely BLACK!
Compared to the Parker, my Hero 329 put down a lovely fine line and was very pleasant to write with. As with most fountain pens it did take a while to get used to the feel of the 329 and there was a tiny amount of scratchiness about the nib until I got it bedded in, after that it wrote as smooth as you like.
Since that first day, my Hero 329 has tackled a variety of papers, including Moleskine, without bleed or feather and has given me no cause for complaint or worry - it does as its told and always performs. The paper used for the test in this review is 80gsm Pukka Pad Vellum paper - nice and smooth with a slight tooth, perfect for fountain pens.
For the price (£7.00) the Hero 329 is an excellent investment for the novice fountain pen user, those on the go who can't bear to be without 'wet' ink, or just about anyone who likes fountain pens. Mine has travelled all over the place with me without leakages or other problems, though I have yet to take it anywhere by air.
At a Glance:
Model: Hero 329 (old style)
Colour Choice: Black, Red or Green, all with brushed steel cap
Available from: Andy's Pens in the UK or HisNibs.com in the US
Price: £7.00 at Andy's Pens; $15.00 at HisNibs
Nib: Extra Fine - Fine
Filler: Aerometric (squeeze)
Ink: Bottled ink only (no cartridges) as the filler is non-removable
Overall Rating: 5 out of 5