Review: PenBBS 309

I’ve been impressed by the fountain pens I’ve bought from Chinese brands lately, and my most recent purchase – the PenBBS 309 – is no exception. It’s a piston-filling pen that writes smoothly and reliably. At its price range of $15 - $25 (for most designs), it’s a candidate for one of the best entry-level piston fillers.

PenBBS 309

As with the other Chinese pens I’ve bought, I ordered my PenBBS 309 from eBay. It arrived in a simple, black gift box. As you can see in the picture below, the box got a bit battered from the journey but it served as good protection for the pen.

PenBBS 309 box and packaging

The pen I bought is made of transparent resin with white swirls. The specific model number is 309-54SF. The material itself is beautiful, with the swirls going around the cap and barrel cloyingly, adding to the appeal of the demonstrator pen.

The 309 is available in a variety of colors and designs. There are plain ones and multicolored ones, in both demonstrator and opaque styles. There’s a color combination to suit every taste. Some of the more appealing designs that are in demand go for prices higher than $25.

The clip, cap ring, and the slim band near the piston knob provide some tasteful chrome accents to the pen. The cap ring is simply engraved with the words “PenBBS” and “309” as well as a small logo. The clip is strong and provides enough tension to securely attach the pen to one’s pocket or to a page.

The pen is medium-sized and is comfortable to hold and write with. It is similar in size and dimensions to the TWSBI Eco and Lamy Vista when capped and uncapped. The picture below shows the 309 in comparison to other entry-level pens. From left to right, these are: the Lamy Vista, PenBBS 323, PenBBS 309, TWSBI Eco, TWSBI Diamond 580 AL.

Capped: Lamy Vista, PenBBS 323, PenBBS 309, TWSBI Eco, TWSBI Diamond 580 AL

Uncapped: Lamy Vista, PenBBS 323, PenBBS 309, TWSBI Eco, TWSBI Diamond 580 AL

When posted, the PenBBS 309 is just a tad shorter than the TWSBI Eco and the Lamy Vista. (The PenBBS 323 doesn't post at all while the TWSBI Diamond 580 AL doesn't post securely, hence they weren't included in the comparison picture below.) I don’t usually post my pens, but I find that the 309 is still well-balanced when posted.

Posted: Lamy Vista, PenBBS 309, TWSBI Eco

The piston mechanism works well and moves up and down the barrel smoothly. The piston knob moves away from the body of the pen as the piston is lowered. Once ink is drawn into the barrel and the piston is fully retracted, the piston knob closes securely. There is no lock mechanism as with the Wing Sung 698, but it is unnecessary. The knob stays closed even when writing with the pen posted.

The 309 has a steel #6 nib. It comes in a unit together with the feed. This is the same nib found in the PenBBS 323 (reviewed here) and the PenBBS 350 (reviewed here). The tip of the nib is slightly upturned, and it delivers a smooth and pleasant writing experience. It is marked “F” for fine, but it writes closer to a European / Western medium nib. The writing sample below is written with J. Herbin Bleu Calanque on Maruman Mnemosyne paper.

PenBBS 309 nib unit, barrel and cap

PenBBS 309 writing sample

In short, the PenBBS 309 is an affordable, attractive, piston-filling pen that delivers an enjoyable writing experience. For this alone, this is a pen worth keeping in one’s pen case. But with its myriad colors, I can see how this has become a collectible pen with some popular designs selling out quickly despite commanding higher prices. Whether you buy pens to use or to collect, the bottomline is: the PenBBS 309 is not to be missed.