This Just In: TWSBI Go x 2

TWSBI Go Fountain Pen - capped

TWSBI’s latest pen is called the Go which enters the sub-$20 category. I’m not a huge fan of TWSBI pens in general. I can see why people like them, but for me the quality issues I’ve experienced outweigh any cost savings. Plus, I’m not a fan of translucent pens unless they are clear. The TWSBI Go intrigued me enough to give TWSBI another go (sorry).

I had money in the PayPal account, and I haven’t bought any fountain pens this year. So, I bought two of them. I got the Smoke version with an extra fine nib. I picked a broad nob for the Sapphire model. Neither the sapphire color (a blue) or the broad nib are typical choices for me, so I put them both in the same pen. I’ll probably use it for testing new inks. While I have filled both fountain pens, I’ve only really used the extra fine TWSBI Go.

The TWSBI Go is a sub-$20 piston filler fountain pen that seems well made, although it is plastic. TWSBI has a reputation of making pens with a tendency to crack or leak. Their more recent pens have seemed to have fewer complaints (although it’s possible I just haven’t paid attention). This pen design seems to limit the opportunity for problems, although it is plastic (except for the spring and nib) and I can’t speak to durability. The nib is removable for cleaning or swapping, although I haven’t done it. I would expect frequent disassembly to eventually cause breaks or leaks. I haven’t removed the nib, and don’t plan to, so I can’t speak to how hard or easy this is.

There’s no clip, but a small roll stop is molded into to clip. The roll stop is also designed to allow a lanyard to be threaded through it. I guess a lanyard could be a thing, but not for me. It’s a small roll stop, so if the pen has any momentum it won’t stop the roll.

It is a chunky pen, which does appeal to me. The pen does post, although it’s long enough for me to comfortably use unposted. The cap is very light, so posting doesn’t affect the balance. I don’t post the pen unless I need a place to store the cap. Speaking of the cap, it’s a pressure fit cap which snaps firmly into place. There isn’t any cap band so cracking may eventually occur.

TWSBI Go Fountain Pens - springs

The spring is visible through the pen body which gives it a steampunk look. At first I was thinking this is more like a vacuum filler, but it is a piston. Rather than screwing the piston up to suck in ink, the spring raises the piston for us. So spring-loaded piston filler is an accurate description in my opinion. Filling the pen is simple. Unscrew the body to expose the piston. Immerse the nib in ink, push the piston down and then release it. While simple, I’m not sure it’s significantly easier than a screw piston. One-handed operation seems possible, although it’s risky. While the filling system is far from revolutionary, I do like different filling systems, and find this a fun addition to my accumulation.

The TWSBI Go stops short of being a pen I want to use. The extra fine Go shared my pen case with a Fisher of Pens Hermès and I always pick the Hermès over the Go unless I want a second color of ink. That said, both the extra fine and broad nibs are smooth writers and the pens written well. I still have concerns about the durability, although more because of past experience than any obvious issues. The TWSBI Go is an inexpensive pen, and if it cracks after a year of heavy use and abuse, I’d consider it money well spent and buy another.

TWSBI Go Fountain Pens - uncapped

This Just In: TWSBI Classic

I just received my TWSBI Classic today and wanted to post my early impressions. Really early, I’ve only had the pen a couple hours.

In the interest of time the photos are from my phone and it’s a picture of my article draft written with the pen. I usually don’t inflict my writing on you, especially since sometimes the words in my head appear differently on paper.

It’s a thinner TWSBI than usual, there’s a comparison photo in the gallery. So here’s the initial impressions and a camera phone gallery (double-click the photos for full size).

For some reason I want to call this the “Mini”, a pen I do not have. Hopefully I caught the only slip.

While I say the ink is Diamine Ancient Copper. It’s not. That was my plan but I picked up Diamine Oxblood instead. Long day, didn’t notice until the post went up and I was proofing it.

Write-up of first impressions
Diamine Oxblood ink. Not Diamine Ancient Copper like it claims to be,

TWSBI Vac 700 Oil & Lube

TWSI Vac 700
Disassembled with the TWSBI wrench and silicon grease.

I use my TWSBI Vac 700 for my ink sampling and with all the different inks, and multiple nib changes for each ink, the pen gets filled and emptied a lot. The Vac mechanism has easily gone through over 100 cycles even without considering pen cleaning. The filling rod was getting very stiff and sticking. I was afraid I’d break the pen or slip and send an ink bottle across the table or crush a nib.

I had put the pen aside until I had proper time to tackle the issue. In retrospect it wasn’t such a big issue. But it was the first time and I was hesitant.

First issue, what happens if I get the silicone grease in the pen? In a round about way it came to me that nothing would happen. A recent Goulet Q&A included a question about why metal pens couldn’t be converted to an eye drop filler yet the Vac 700 had a metal filler rod. I’d never though about it myself and basically the answer was what I expected. The metal used is picked to not react with the ink. What’s this got to do with silicone grease? Well, a bell went off and I realized silicone grease is used exactly because it’s inert when mixed with ink. While I wouldn’t want to shove it into the feed, or pour it over the metal rod there wouldn’t be a problem with just enough to loosen things up.

I used the included silicone grease and applied a little to the rod and worked the mechanism without taking the pen apart and that helped greatly, but it still stuck a little. So I opened the pen with the included wrench and applied a little silicone grease below the rear cap and worked the mechanism a few more times. The included silicone grease (from TWSBI, received with the pen) was in a dropper bottle so it was easy to just apply a little.

The only catch is to extend the plunger about half way and insert the seal into the pen before screwing on the rear cap. I screwed on the cap with the seal right against it and the seal was wedged into the top of the pen. No sense having to force it.

Insert the seal into the pen body before screwing on the rear cap

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.

Ink and Nibs

Photo of today's delivery

I just received my latest shipment from Goulet Pens, ink and nibs. It may have been rash but I decided that the TWSBI Vac 700 would make a good pen for testing inks. Rash because I’m not sure how much its quirks will annoy me, although those quirks affect it more as a daily carry than a pen that stays home. Plus, I’m just curious on how it will write with different nibs. The pen is comfortable to write with and the nibs are easy to change. Add ease of cleaning to this and it does seem like a good pen for ink testing. So I ordered some nibs giving me the extra fine that came with the pen plus a fine, medium, broad and 1.1 mm stub. The only one I ignored was the 1.5mm stub.

I also ordered a bottle of Pilot Iroshizuku Shin-ryoku (Forest Green). I went through my sample and decided it was a green I wanted around, and in a pen, all the time.

Since I was ordering I picked a few more samples (why not?) – Sailor Jentle Epinard, Sailor Jentle Grenade and Pelikan Brown.

The first ink for review in the TWSBI Vac 700 won’t be one of the new ones, instead I’ll be doing J. Herbin Lie de The’. An ink I wrote notes on awhile back but I need to revisit since I I think it’s better than I made it out to be.

Time to clean out some nibs and get them ready for ink.