If you believed they put a man on the moon, then you’ll believe that
Moonman Majohn is back at it again with another bold shot across the bow of Big Pen. I’ve gathered a few pieces from Majohn’s line-up for ‘research purposes’ in order to see what roughly $30 will get you for a clone pen these days. Let’s take a look.
Starting with the simplest: the Majohn C4 Eyedropper pen. This is a simply-styled clear acrylic pen with a short clip and a huge ink tank. The pen ships with a steel #6 nib that writes smooth, bordering on glassy with premium paper. You can also switch the nib out with any JOWO compatible nib & feed unit. Which I did, several times, before settling on a standard fine nib for every-day use.
The C4’s shining feature is the segmented eyedropper tank. Making up about 1/3 of the total structure of the pen, the ink tank is quite large. There’s room for roughly one sample vial’s worth of ink in the main compartment, with a smaller sealed compartment just behind the feed. The metal rod that runs through the center of the pen operates a sealing gasket that allows ink to refill the feeder compartment when opened. With most of the ink in a closed chamber separated from the feed, the pen is theoretically safer to travel with. I’ve also experienced far less ink “burping” as compared to open eyedroppers, where a mass of ink will come through the feed and drip into the page.
Overall the C4 is a great little pen for around $30. A fun pen to tinker with, even more so if you happen to have a few extra #6 nibs on hand. Look for it on eBay, or wherever you shop for imported pens.
Okay so a while back Majohn (Moonman) released the A1; a blatant Vanishing Point clone that was about the most… faithful recreation I’ve ever seen right down to the nib mechanism and sturdy *click* sound. It’s a near perfect match.
The pens have an identical feel in the hand, and a great writing experience out of the box. The extra-fine-ish steel nib is mostly smooth with a little pencil-y bite on some paper. The A1 was (and continues to be) available to the US market for about $30, roughly one fifth the price of Pilot’s Vanishing Point. Well, whilst I was hemming and hawing over how to unpack that particular can of worms, Majohn went ahead and made a Decimo clone. They made the A2.
The A2 is a slimmer, faceted version of the A1 that is slimmer, lighter, and made almost entirely of plastic on the outside. Inside you’ll find the same clone nib and feed unit that are compatible with Pilot cartridges and converters. It ships with a standard Pilot-style converter, a spare empty cartridge with a small plug, a metal cartridge cap, and a pipette.
Having only written with a standard Vanishing Point before purchasing either of the Majohn mimics, the A2 is surprisingly light. The slimmer barrel makes it a lot more comfortable to write with than the A1, which can feel a little chunky in comparison. Presumably this is about the same difference as exists between the Vanishing Point and some Decimo models, though I am yet to spend the roughly $150 to answer that particular question. Speaking of questions…
Is it okay to buy these?
Believe it or not, I’ve been really conflicted about the relative morality of supporting knockoff products in the pen industry for a while. Unfortunately individual actions rarely lead to systemic change, so I’m not going to ask anyone reading this to boycott Chinese knockoff brands, or go out and buy an expensive Pilot in solidarity. Instead I’m going to tell you about an exchange I recently had with a coworker, and some personal insights that colored my recommendations in that moment.
A little while ago, a coworker approached me after a team meeting. They had recognized the orange Vanishing Point I was using and wanted to know what I thought of it. I was honest; I told them that I loved the pen because of its novelty as much as its quality, but it was an expensive piece. Not really something I ever feel comfortable recommending. But my Vanishing Point had a secret. My Vanishing Point was equipped with the Moonman EF nib unit, making it much more useful for work notes than the original medium gold nib which has been ground to a juicy stub by Custom Nib Studio. I told my coworker this, told them of the features and similarities between the VP and A1, and sent them an eBay link after the conversation ended. It’s a lot easier to pen-able someone when the price tag only has two digits. But should I have? Should I be supporting brands that copy the designs and IP of large corporations and sell them at a fraction of the price? In this case, I’m fine with it. Let me explain.
To be clear, I do not condone design theft. If there was a factory out there turning out injection molded copies of Franklin-Christoph or Schon DSGN pens I would be of a different mind. But, as with all things mankind has observed, Brands exist on a spectrum. The thing about Pilot is that they aren’t a mom ‘n pop pen maker. Yes, they have artisans and creators making beautiful pieces under the Namiki brand. They also sell enough G2s in a year to buy out every pen at every table at any given pen show. When it comes to the greater economy of pens, Pilot is The ManTM. What the A1 and A2 have done is demonstrated that the pens that have cornered a segment of the market can be produced and made available for a much lower price.
And that’s what it comes down to, really. Dollars and sense. I love talking about pens and showing people new and interesting pens and answering any questions I can about them. But when it comes time to suggest to any individual that they should spend close to two hundred dollars on a pen (in this economy? In any economy?), I still feel like that’s a big ask. At the end of the day the classic, stylish, functional Pilot Vanishing Point just pushes the limits of accessibility for the average user. Pieces like the Majohns we looked at today offer an affordable entry point to the wider world of fountain pens, and that is an objectively good thing.
For a closer look at the Pilot Vanishing Point & Decimo, take a look at this wonderful article from Kimberly over at penaddict.com which was coincidentally published right as I was finishing this.
All product mentioned in this article were purchased by The Poor Penman for the purpose of review. All opinions are my own.
4 thoughts on “Over the Moon – Majohn Fountain Pen Review”
Thanks for your thoughtful discussion on the ethics on copying. In this specific case, I remember reading somewhere that Pilot had patents on the VP design, which have expired fairly recently. This is why for a long time since its release in the 60’s VP was unique in the market.
TBH I haven’t gone through the process of fact checking, but if the above is true (that there was a patent which is now expired), I personally don’t have any issues cheaper replicas or even direct copies. Patents exist with a duration in order to provide the original inventors sufficient incentive and financial return on their products and ideas, while also expiring so that the inventions can benefit the broader market and are not monopolized. Generic medicine is the same idea. You made the point above that Pilot makes enough money in general, but specifically, I’m sure they have made enough money on the VP specifically to have been many times over their original investments, and am OK for this to be more accessible to others.
For Mahjohn specifically, while they will not earn the reputation of “innovation” for what they have done here, being able to mass produce faithful and high quality replicas is a skill in and of itself, and the world needs such produces just as much as the innovators.
Hope this helps to further alleviate any internal conflict you may have!
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Thank you for your review!
One question: does the nib seal on the A1 and A2 works well at preventing ink drying? Any hard start after a day or two? I own a Lanbitou 3088, clone to another capless-style pen, that fails at this job even for half an hour. I do not recommend this pen despite the nib being fantastic.
One information: there is a steel nibbed Pilot Capless available for around $80. Although officially not sold out of japan (i’ve read), I found it is available on the zone and on the bay. Maybe the best alternative to the expensive Pilot Capless is the cheaper Pilot Capless 🙂
(english is not my primary language, forgive any mistake)
Thanks for the review. I am very interested in the C4. As for your conundrum. I have a handful of Wingsung pens. Admittedly I am impressed. I also am a Pilot fan, having a handful or Preras. I do not approve of design theft but that has not stopped me from buying the pens. If the knockoff is that impressive I look for a deal on the original. All the best.
Thanks for a great review. Given the faceted VP is out of production and won’t return anytime soon, I have less issue with ordering an A2. The faceted Pilot VPs fit my hand perfectly, so hoping this can be a good work substitute, especially with the EF nib.