Pen Review: Ranga Model 3 Oversize

  • Material: Ebonite
  • Nib: Steel. 1.1mm Stub
  • Appointments: Gold-colored
  • Filling System: Standard International Cartridge/Converter/Eyedropper
  • Length (Capped): 148mm
  • Length (Uncapped): 137mm
  • Length (Posted): 173mm
  • Section Diameter: 11.7mm
  • Barrel Max Diameter: 14mm
  • Cap Max Diameter: 15.7mm
  • Weight, Capped (with ink and/or converter): 26g
  • Weight, Uncapped (with ink and/or converter): 16g

Up to this point in my use of fountain pens, I have had the opportunity to use a few different brands of Indian-made pens. I have found nearly all of them to fall somewhere on the spectrum between lacking and unusable. In general, the quality of the workmanship is poor, the materials are cheap, and the nibs atrocious.  When compared to inexpensive pens from China, I think most of the Indian fountain pen industry still has a way to grow before they can meet even the same quality levels and pens from Hero, Jinhao, Duke, etc.

(Now, to be clear, I have not tried all Indian pen brands, and I’m sure there are brands out there that make quality writing instruments. My experience up to this point, however, has not been favorable.)

I do, however, have a dip pen from an Indian company called Ranga that I purchased very early in my pen-purchasing days. It uses a standard #5-sized fountain pen nib, and comes with an ebonite feed. As is common with Indian pens, the nib was very poor, but I replaced the nib with an Edison #5-sized steel nib, and I still use that dip pen today for ink sampling. It’s well-made and works wonderfully.

So, when I saw that Ranga was now making pens that utilized German-made Jowo nib units (in the standard #6 size), I decided to give their fountain pens a go. Jowo manufactures nibs for Edison Pens, TWSBI, Franklin-Christoph, and Goulet Pens…all pens and nibs whose performances I quite like. So, knowing that I would be able to avoid a poor experience with an Indian-made nib, I decided to take a chance and order the Ranga #3 Oversize in Red Ripple Ebonite from Peyton Street Pens.  (You can also order the pen directly from Ranga on eBay, if you are so inclined.)

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The Model 3 is inspired by the Parker Duofold, with a flat top and bottom. It comes in a wide variety of colors, in both Ripple and Mottled patterns, and in both polished and matte finishes. It’s a massive pen, comparable in size to the Visconti Homo Spapiens Bronze Age Maxi or the Edison Collier. The pen can come with either a gold-colored or a silver-colored clip.  And, I believe the nibs come in both steel and two-toned steel options. There are a lot of potential variations to customize the pen for the user.

I really enjoy the experience of handling pens manufactured from ebonite. You often hear pen collectors talk about the “warmth” of the material, and it’s true; there’s just something about the feel of an ebonite pen that lacks the cool hardness of an acrylic pen. Plus, ebonite is very much a throwback to the heyday of the fountain pen, when many manufacturers used Ebonite as the main manufacturing material. My only other experienced with ebonite fountain pens have been with a couple of Vintage Waterman pens. So, I was excited to get ahold of a modern Ebonite fountain pen.

P1000805

Of all of the Indian-made pens I have tried, I have found the pens from Ranga to be the most well-built–although this Model #3 does still lack some of the attention to detail you might expect in a pen of this price range. The pen is nicely turned and polished, but the material does have a little bit of pitting that shows through. I suspect this is a manufacturing flaw in the ebonite more than it is a flaw in the manufacturing. The threads are well-cut, but they hadn’t been cleaned when, and felt just a little “gummy.” (This was resolved with a light scrubbing and the application of a bit of silicone grease.) These are minor complaints that you’d only notice if you’re getting nit-picky.

The biggest issue for me was the top of the cap. The section above the clip was turned/cut separately from the bulk of the cap. Unfortunately, when assembled, it doesn’t line up perfectly, and there is a visible ridge between the two parts where the clip attaches. It is missing, say, the clean attention to detail you might notice from an Edison pen. (It’s also half the cost of any of the Edison production line pens–which don’t come in ebonite.) Nothing in the build quality of the Ranga is terrible, or even moderately bad. It’s just not quite as well-built as I would hope for an $80 pen.

The pen uses standard international cartridges and converters (both short and long), and can also be converted into an eyedropper. Due to the size of this pen, if you do decide to convert it to an eyedropper, you’d have enough ink to last you for a very, very long writing session. I haven’t measured it, but my estimate is that you could easily fit 4-6 ml of ink in the barrel of this pen.

I ordered this Model #3 with a 1.1mm Steel Stub nib. I’m not a huge fan of un-tipped stub nibs, so I’m not entirely sure why that was the nib unit I picked, other than perhaps I wanted to give stub nibs another chance. The tines were only slightly out of alignment, but it worked just fine after resolving that issue. Ink flow was moderate, as is common in Jowo nibs. I ran into no issues with hard starts, skipping, or ink starvation. I did eventually swap out the stock nib for a Goulet Medium nib, which brought the pen more in alignment with my personal preferences. If I had to do it over again, I would probably have just bought the pen with either the Medium or Broad nib

P1000796

Writing with the pen was an enjoyable experience. I did not use it posted (as doing so would have turned it from a pen into a baseball bat). The pen is quite light, and I found that writing with it for long swaths of time didn’t cause any fatigue. The ergonomics of the section are just a little bit off for my hand, though. I really like hourglass-shaped sections. This section is more conical, and tapers down to the very end of the section, where it flares out again rapidly. It’s not uncomfortable by any stretch of the imagination, but if I could make one recommendation, it would be to even out the transitions of the section just a little bit to make for a more gradual transition in the grip.

Final Verdict: I like this pen a lot. I like it enough that I bought one for my Father for Christmas. (He always wanted to have an ebonite pen, and this was a great, affordable option.) I’m thrilled that Ranga is starting to build in such a way that Jowo nib units can be used in their pens. I just don’t feel like most Indian-made nibs are up-to-snuff. There are a couple of small details that keep me from fully loving this pen, but this one falls into my “strong like” category. And it’s one that I would happily recommend. I’ve enjoyed it enough, I’ve also got my eye on a few additional pens from Ranga…’cuz I love me some ebonite.

  • Andrea Kirkby

    I think you’ve chosen a great time to get a new Indian pen. I’ve been collecting Indian pens for about four years and in that time the industry has definitely changed. The big changes have been better nibs, and better feeds as well, plus a lot of pens now are made to take Jowo or Schmidt nibs or even Pelikan nib units.

    One of the difficulties facing the Indian industry till very recently has been that foreign brands are seen as the quality option, and so Indian pens have been without honour in their own land. (Quite right with regard to some of the cheapies – I have a Montex ‘Handy’ that is quite possibly the nastiest pen I have ever used.) That’s beginning to change – when I was in Kolkata I found a local journalist and photographer doing a story on Fountain Pen Hospital, and there’s a growing contingent of Indian pen collectors.

    You might like to take a look at Deccan pens from Hyderabad; their larger ebonite pens are gorgeous. And stop by the Indian pen forum on Fountain Pen Network if you haven’t already.

  • potter

    Great Review Matt, super quality and well presented thanks. I’m enjoying my Indian pens, mainly from Fountain Pen Revolution and ASA pens, I’ve found the ASA pens better value, but now I’ve got to go the ebay and find some Ranga pens, my wallet will complain…

  • William Eagleburger

    See my other comments on Youtube. I concur with you about the amazing feel of this ebonite. And it’s so light for such a large pen. Here’s a photo of mine below.

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  • Rajiv

    Fountain pens are not popular in India. In the last 17 years I have met only one other person who uses fountain pen, that too only for signing.
    There is no domestic market for fountain pens, even students don’t want them.

  • Rajiv

    Fountain pens are not popular in India. In the last 17 years I have met only one other person who uses fountain pen, that too only for signing.
    There is no domestic market for fountain pens, even students don’t want them.

    Ball pens are far better than fountain pens.
    >They are inexpensive, last for lot of time, you don’t get ink on your hands, no wasting time filling ink,you can carry extra refill if you want and light weight.

    Recently France’s BIC group bought remaining 25% stake in the largest ball pem manufacturer of India Cello for $74 mn.

    You can estimate the volume.
    Fountain pens on the other hand have no buyes, except the very rich people who buy to look at them rather than writing.
    In short, Fountain pen industry in India is Dead.
    Thank You.

    • R Nanjappa

      I totally disagree.
      I have been using fountain pens for over 60 years. And for the last 50 years, only Indian made pens. These have all been good. I still have good Indian pens which are more than 30 years old.
      The problem in India is that as a colony up to 1947, we got good English pens like Swan, Blackbird, Doric, Watermans, Parker, etc.So. we didn’t have to make higher-end pens. We got these pens till the early 50s. I used a Swan pen in high school. In the Socialist planning era, the govt. banned the import of these pens or made them costly. Indian companies then started making foreign brands under collaboration, or imitating them. Thus we had a Balakrishna Pen Depot in Bombay making ‘Wilson’ pens modelled on the Parker. And these pens were very good.Then we had smuggled Pilot pens from Japan, which were great favourites in mid-50s to mid- 60s. But throughout this period, there were Indian manufacturers who made good pens for students ( Plato, Writer, Camlin etc.) There have also been local manufacturers of good ebonite pens,

      The 70s brought on the cheap ball point pen era. But now, teachers are realising that the fountain pen improves handwriting, and there is a revival of fountain pens, but again of rather low-cost pens. But some of these pens like the ‘Flair Inky’ with their cartridge feeds are very good- comparable to Platinum Preppy, or even better.Indian companies are now making foreign brands in India : Luxor is manufactuing Parkers, and Flair is making Pierre Cardins. Somehow the average Indian has a fancy for ‘phoren’ [foreign] names and products. So it is difficult for an Indian brand to establish itself even in India.

      India has been making good pens-this is my experience of the last 5 decades. But many of these are local brands, and the makers are small outfits. The real problem is the nib: so far, there has really been no good nib made in India.

      The real challenge to the fountain pen in India is not from the cheap ball pen. No thoughtful person will support the disposable, but environmentally damaging plastic ball pens. The challenge is from vulgar computerisation to which even kids are exposed. This will seriously interfere with their ability and inclination to write- not just with fountain pen,but even with ball pen, pencil, anything!

      So, you may say writing is disappearing, not just the fountain pen! Most computer literate fellows can only scribble or scrawl !

      Don’t forget too: Indians are blind imitators and absorbers of foreign trends. ( which is the index of ‘modernity’ for them). Fountain pens will pick up here again, once the mass media report on foreign trends!

  • Mark Peacock

    Thanks for this review. Helped me jump into the 3/3C group buy that’s on FPN right now…