Review: TWSBI Vac 700

TWSBI Vac 700 with Montblanc Burgundy Red

TWSBI is a brand that has a loyal following on the pen forums and their new releases are eagerly anticipated. I haven’t shared that enthusiasm despite having a couple of their pens. At least that was the case until I got the TWSBI Vac 700, which I love.

Why I Bought It

It’s a relatively large pen, which I like. It’s also a clear demonstrator so there’s a nice view of the ink sloshing around in the pen. Finally, the vacuum filling system is unique in my accumulation.

Where I Bought It & What I Bought

I bought the clear demonstrator with an extra fine nib from Goulet Pens. The pen came with the newer Jowo nib. Later I added 4 more nibs for the pen since it’s so easy to swap the nib. This gives me EF, F, M, B and 1.1mm nibs. None of the nibs require replacing the inner cap that came with the EF on the original pen.

  • Capped Length: 5.78″ (146.83 mm)
  • Uncapped Length: 5.20″ (132.28 mm)
  • Posted Length: 6.86″ (174.36 mm)
  • Diameter at Cap Band: 0.6365″ (16.16 mm)
  • Diameter of Barrel: 0.59″ (15mm)
  • Diameter of Section: 0.421″ (10.69mm) at top tapers to 0.3985″ (10.12mm) near nib

First Impressions

I wrote a more extensive fist impression back in February. I like the pen and the metal plunger bar doesn’t ruin the demonstrator effect for me the way a convertor does.

The vacuum filling system took a little getting used to, but it was kind of fun. While opening and closing the seal is straight-forward my initial curiosity caused a few minor ink accidents.

The pen wrote a little drier than I expected. Not poorly, just dry. The nibs seem to be more along the lines of Asian rather than European nib sizes.

Filling System

As mentioned, it’s a vacuum filler. It’s easy to use and one plunge gives me more than enough ink.  If you’re the type who wants a full pen it’s a bit more complicated. Brian from Goulet Pens has a video on getting a complete fill. See the links at the bottom of this article.

I find one cycle of the piston gives me enough ink. The photos in the gallery show the pen just after I filled it with one push of the plunger.

How I Use It

I use it as a daily writer with the extra fine nib, The pen is comfortable for long writing sessions. I use the pen unposted and it’s very light despite its size.

It’s also become my pen for ink testing, thanks to the five nibs. Typically I test the ink with all the nibs and then use the extra fine nib as my writer for the next day or two.

Swapping the nibs is easy, the entire section unscrews and is swapped. The inner cap doesn’t need replacement even though the nibs range from EF to 1.1mm. I do empty the ink back into the bottle before swapping nibs, This isn’t necessary to swap nibs but I do it because there’s still a lot of ink in the feed and I don’t want to waste it.

The Review

The pen comes in the typical TWSBI box. A cardboard box over a plastic case holding the pen. The case also holds a small amount of silicone grease, extra o-rings for the filler, and instructions. There’s also a wrench for removing the vacuum filler at the blind cap. Not elaborate, but functional and in keeping with TWSBI’s tradition of user serviceable pens.

TWSBI Vac 700

The Design

The pen is plastic but well made. It feels solidly built and is comfortable to hold. I don’t post my pens and the barrel is plenty long enough for me. The cap does post securely although it seems a little too back heavy. But that comes from someone who doesn’t post.

The screw cap takes about 1 1/2 turns to cap/uncap the pen.

The vacuum seal has to be opened for longer writing sessions. I get over 3 pages with the seal closed while using my extra fine nib. For longer sessions the seal is opened by turning the blind cap. I unscrew it until it’s just at the top of the threads, I don’t physically pull the cap up. I did pull it up slightly when I first got the pen which seemed to force a bit extra ink back into the feed or even out of the pen when closing the seal later.

I noticed a significant amount of ink in the cap at the end of the first day that I carried the pen out and about. While I didn’t notice any problems when closing up the pen I suspect that since I had the seal open a little too far extra ink was forced into the feed and it spattered out while the pen was being carried. This hasn’t returned since I just unscrew the blind cap and didn’t pull it up off the threads.

I wondered what would happen if I forgot to close the seal while carrying the pen. So I filled it with water, opened the seal a little more than normal, and carried the pen in my pocket for a day. No water leaked from the opened blind cap. The pen cap did have some condensation in it.

There doesn’t seem to be any silicone grease on the section threads, but I haven’t had any leaking or ink creeping along the threads.

Writing With The Pen

I find all the nibs to be on the thin and dry side, more like Asian than European nibs, which I like. Even though I said the nibs are on the dry side the flow is consistently good. It puts down enough ink to read and reflects the shading and line variation properties of the ink.

The pen is comfortable to hold. My fingers do touch the threads slightly, but they aren’t sharp so I don’t notice them.

Despite its size, it’s relatively light. My hand doesn’t feel fatigued after using the pen awhile.

Cleaning The Pen

The pen is easy to clean. With some inks I just needed to repeat a few filling cycles with water. For a thorough cleaning the section can be removed so the nib/section with a bulb syringe and the barrel can be flushed. If really needed, the pen can be completely disassembled , although I’ve yet to do so myself.

Inks Used

Since it’s my standard ink test pen my resent ink notes have used it – J. Herbin Cafe Des Iles and Lie De The’ along with Diamine Strauss. I didn’t have problems with any of the inks.

Wrapping Up

I really like the TWSBI Vac 700. Part of the fun was the learning the quirks of the vacuum filling system. I have no desire to completely fill the pen, which means it’s extremely easy to fill and still have three times as much in as a typical convertor.

The Vac 700 comes with silicone grease, a wrench and extra o-rings. So I assume there will be wear and tear over time which will require maintenance. But the pen has been great out of the box.

My main hesitation with TWSBI has always been two things. First, they’re described as great pens for the price. And second, they have great customer service but it seems to be needed a lot. While neither is necessarily bad, both also sound a lot like back-handed compliments. For me, the TWSBI Vac 700 is a fun pen to use, a good writer, and a great value at $80. No customer service needed, I can see why people like TWSBI.

Additional Viewing

Goulet pens has a few videos about this pen.

Swapping Nibs

Getting a Full Fill

Removing the Vacuum Filler O-Rings – To avoid needing to open the seal. Not something I tried, I like seal.

This Week’s Ink – March 17, 2013

A ay late this week and a lot more pens inked at the moment. Saturday was the Long Island Pen Show so there I didn’t get to checking my pens until today. I also inked up a lot of pens late last week. Most are only partially filled but they’ll still lat awhile.

The first two are pen show acquisitions and the third is a new stub grind from Richard Binder.

Pens ink this week 1 of 2
Sample List 1
Pens Inked This Week 2 of 2
Sample List 2

Sunday Notes and Links

This has nothing to do with fountain pens, but I’m a fan of Ian Fleming/James Bond and found this true WWII story fascinating. via DF

Edison Pen is running another group buy this year. I do want to add another Signature Line pen this year and this would be a way to save some money. Plus, I don’t have a Morgan. If the Mottled Green/Black ebonite gets selected I may jump on board. But it’s significantly  behind in the voting.

Ink Nouveau has a video on using vacuum fillers. While the vacuum fill is a bit quirky, at least on my Vac 70, I’ve gotten used to it and really like it.

Gourmet Pens has an extensive review of the Airmail 444 Eyedropper pens. While there are some cons, there are more pros than just the $19 price.

Franklin-Christoph has released two new colors for the Model 29. The Radiant Red will get everyones attention.

From the Pen Cup has some nice photos of the Lamy 2000 Makrolon. I’ve never really been a fan of the Lamy 2000 bug, but these pictures have me reconsidering.

Recapping My First Pen Show

Photo of my pen show haul

I just got back from my first pen show, the Long Island Pen Show. The photo above shows my new additions. All-in-all it was an enjoyable day.

I left on time with 24 oz. of fresh brewed coffee for the two hour trip. I arrived shortly after the 10am public opening and was a bit surprised that initially there wasn’t much of a crowd and there were several empty tables. But vendors were still arriving and setting up. Before long the tables were full and the crowd had grown. Since this is my first show I can’t compare it to any others. I’d estimate there were 40 – 45 tables (most – vendors had more than one table). I’m guessing, but vintage tables seemed to considerably outnumber modern.

So how did I do on my pen show list?

Upon arrival I decided to do a quick lap around the room to get an idea of what was there. When I got to Richard Binders table I saw his list wasn’t very long so I added my name and went on to continue browsing, A couple hours later the factory medium nib on my Conway Stewart Marlborough Vintage had been stubbed and adjusted. I’m using it to write the draft of this article and the pen now writes as good as it looks.

CS Marlborough with Binder Stub Nib

While I did a lot of browsing, all my purchases came from Anderson Pens which had a entire row of tables to themselves, just inside the door.

I got my third list item first since that was the easiest – a Delta Vintage in Green with a Fine Nib. It’s a small pen and I’ve been hesitant on small pens since I’m finding some of them less comfortable to use these days. But this one seemed comfortable and I’m lacking in green pens despite it being my favorite color, so I bought it.

I did make one stupid mistake. The pens doesn’t come with a convertor and it’s too small for a standard size convertor. I had planned to work through my various cartridges with it. But since I was at a pens show I really should have looked for a Monteverde Mini convertor, which apparently fits, to see how well it fits. The first ink in this one was Pelikan Brilliant Green cartridge. Although I haven’t actually used it yet.

Delta Vintage Green with Fine Nib
Delta Vintage with fine nib

Then it was time for my first vintage pen. There were several Parkers and Esterbrooks to choose from. I was in a green mood I guess, because I was drawn to several green Esterbrooks. I ended up picking this one because of its fine, firm nib.

Esterbrook Dollar Bandless with 9555 nib
Esterbrook Dollar Bandless with 9555 nib

When I got home I looked up the 9555 nib and found it was a “Firm Fine – Gregg Shorthand”. I purposely din’t ask too much about the pen, I was looking for a pen I liked and didn’t want to be swayed by history. Brian did mention it was a Bandless. I did some quick research and found it’s a dollar pen made for a short time just before WWII. Finally, something in the house that’s older than me.

Those were my only pen purchases. I did get some ink. Montblanc Burgundy Red and Irish Green. The now discontinued Bordeaux and Racing Green where two of my favorite inks. While not the same color, the new inks looked good on the swabs.

I did see some Faceted Vanishing Points but didn’t pull the trigger. None really caught my attention and I didn’t want to buy one just to be able to check a box off my list. I did see that it will be comfortable enough for me (the modern ones are too) so at least now I’d be willing to buy one online if I see one I like. Otherwise it will be back on my list for D.C. and I’ll search harder.

I compared the Pelikan M800 and M1000. I like them both but the M800 was a bit more to my liking, mainly because of the nib. I suspect I’ll add one eventually. Maybe I’ll win the Tortoise that FP Geeks is giving away.

I did see the Delta 82’s. The pen looks great but I’m passing for now.

I didn’t compare the Montblanc 146 & 149’s. I’m sure they were there but I didn’t see them. I have to admit, I didn’t look very hard or ask if anyone had them.

While there were Edison production line pens there I was more interested in the material for the Signature Line pens. I have Signature Line pen on my list for this year. I’m sure Edison Pens will be in DC so I can see the selection there. Also, as expected, no Nakaya’s so I’ll wait until DC.

Wrapping Up

I’m happy with my first show and it was a good day. I was able to restrain myself and stick to my list. I even decided to wait  and see what other VPs might be out there, It’s very unlike me to show that much restraint when I have pen money in my pocket. But the promise of the D.C. show makes it easier to show restraint.

Just looking up the Esterbrook information has me hooked. It gives me some focus and a starting point, rather than just reading a bunch of information. I wanted to limit myself to one vintage pen and pick one strictly based on whether or not I like it, rather than a specific model. Buying it in person also avoids potential disappointment when the pen arrives.

Now that the show is over (for me that is – it runs through Sunday) I’m really looking forward to the Washington D.C. show.

Pen Show List (My First)

My Pen Show List

I’m looking forward to the Long Island Pen Show this coming weekend. It will be my fiirst pen show. I’ll only be there a day but I’m also planning the get to the DC show in August for several days with a trader pass. So this weekend will let me get my feet wet before jumping into the deep end.

The March Bad Cartoon at Fountain Pen Geeks addressed the Evolution of Pen Show Preparation. Despite being my fist show, I seem to be exhibiting none of the beginner traits and many of the Advanced traits. A good sign?

Here’s my pen show list..

  • Acquire my first vintage pen. Parker 51 seems like a requirement so I’ll seek it out. Esterbrooks are also top of mind, mainly because of the nib assortment and they happened to get mentioned on recent podcasts.
  • Look for Faceted Namiki Vanishing Points or Pilot Capless pens. These are vintage too, but I’ve wanted to see them since I got my first modern Vanishing Point so it’s a separate want.
  • Delta Vintage Green Fine Nib – These pens look great in pictures and seem like a good value. If they live up to expectations and I find a fine nib I’ll be getting one. Speaking of Delta, the Fusion 82 intriques me too and I’d like to see and hold one, but a purchase will wait.
  • I want to see the latest Gate City Pen, the Readyfill although I probably won’t add one to my accumulation. I suspect the pen will be too small for my taste.
  • Everything else on my list (except the Vac 20 bottle) are just things I want to get my hands on to see and compare. Some things, like the Edison Pen materials may not be in Long Island but they’re on the list anyway.

Of course, I’ll be browsing everything and building a wish list for the future. Hopefully I’ll avoid being a kid in a candy store and consume things as I find them.

Update: The results are here.