Michael Hsu has been building the OPUS 88 brand for over two decades by crafting each design to high standards. Since 1988, Michael worked as an original equipment and design manufacturing (OEM/ODM) supplier and has developed a reputation for excellence. This reputation is clearly evident in the fountain pens produced by OPUS 88. I reached out to OPUS 88 and they graciously sent me two pens for review. That’s right – this is my first two-part series! The first pen I will be reviewing is the OPUS 88 Koloro Red/Red.
Packaging: The pen arrives inside a black box with a brown slip cover. On the cover in gold lettering are the words “OPUS 88 Fine Writing Instruments” with a gold company logo. The inside box is black and textured, with a magnetic flip front closure. The words “OPUS 88 Fine Writing Instruments” and “Since 1977” are embossed in a grey/white color. Now for the good stuff. Inside, there is a black foam insert with cut outs to hold the pen snugly in place as well as a glass eyedropper for filling the pen. There is also a small instruction booklet and care guide.
First Thoughts: The pen’s two-tone color pattern really jumps out against the black foam insert. The body is an interesting matchup of red acrylic and brownish red ebonite, giving the pen a layered color effect.
Design: The body of the pen is made of translucent red acrylic, while the finials and cap are made of ebonite. The cap has a middle section of red acrylic which allows you to see the nib when the pen is capped. The overall shape is a hybrid of both the classic flat-top classic cigar shape designs. The pen gradually gets wider as you move towards the middle of the pen and reaches its widest part on the cap. The finials have a mostly flat end, but there is a slight rounding to them which I feel gives them a unique look. Additionally, the bottom finial has a silver ring where it meets the barrel. The clip, which is tight but easy to use and effectively holds the pen in place, is a teardrop shape and has a bit of decorative engraving on the sides. The screw on cap has “OPUS 88” engraved where a cap band would normally be. I really like that this engraving identifies the pen in a simple manner without being over the top. There is a slight step down from the barrel to the grip section, which is made from red acrylic. The threads are noticeable, but not sharp, and they don’t get in the way when writing, even when holding the pen higher up on the barrel. The grip section is smooth and flares out near the nib creating a finger stop.
Nib Performance: The Koloro line comes with a #5 stainless steel nib. I received a fine nib for this review and, in my opinion, it appears to write true to western fine. There is a small amount of scrollwork along the edges of the nib, and the word “OPUS 88” and “F” are engraved in the center of the nib. The pen wrote well right out of the box and gives a pleasant feedback as you write. I filled this pen with Aurora Black ink and it wrote fairly dry. I had a few hard starts; however, this resulted from not opening the ink valve on the back far enough before using the pen.
Filling System: This is where the pen gets really interesting. The pen is an eyedropper filled pen, but OPUS 88 took the eyedropper one step further by adding an ink shut-off valve. It is similar in design to many of the high-end Japanese eyedropper pens that cost hundreds of dollars. To fill the pen, start by unscrewing the grip section from the barrel. I found that opening the ink shut-off valve slightly makes it easier to fill the pen, as it moves the shut-off rod back into the barrel and allows the ink to more freely enter the barrel. Then take the glass eyedropper and fill it with your favorite ink, approximately 2ml, and squeeze it into the barrel. Contrary to ordinary eyedropper pens, there is no need to add silicone grease to the grip and barrel threads since OPUS 88 added O-rings to form a tight leak-proof seal. When you don’t need to write, you simply turn the shut-off valve clockwise until it stops to close the valve and prevent ink from reaching the nib and feed. This also prevents burps and leaks when the pen is jostled around. When you are ready to write, simply turn the valve counter-clockwise, which opens the valve and lets the ink flow freely. From my experience the tighter you close the valve, the drier the pen writes. The more open the valve, the wetter it writes. I also found that I could leave the valve open slightly so the pen was always ready to use, but this does potentially open the pen up for burps and leaks, so do this at your own risk.
Value: The retail price for this model is $93 USD. I think this is a really great value for a pen with a unique filling system, interesting materials and colors, and a huge ink supply. The acrylic feels sturdy and the ebonite feels warm to the touch, and I haven’t seen any other pens that have this unique combination.
Overall: In my opinion, this is a really awesome pen! I love the ink shut-off valve system as I have had a number of eyedropper pens burp and leak on me. The valve is a conscious and tactile step that makes you prepare yourself for the writing experience and then wind down when you are finished. I put this pen in my work bag, which is tossed around and jostled constantly and I have never had a single burp or leak. The combination of acrylic and ebonite is a perfect bonding of old and new and helps bridge the generations of fountain pen styles and materials.
Name: Opus 88 Koloro Red/Red
Design: Red acrylic and Brown/Red ebonite
Length: 142.7mm (5.62 in)
Posted: 158.75mm (6.25 in)
Diameter: 15.7mm (.62 in)
Weight: 22.6g (.8 oz)
Nib: Stainless Steel #5
Filling System: Eye Dropper with shut off valve
Pros: Huge ink supply, Ink shut-off valve to prevent leaks and burps, wonderful materials, unique design
Cons: You need to open the ink valve to get the pen ready to write
In the same price range/ ink supply:
TWSBI Vac 700R