Do you have an ink dependence? I can help...

TWSBI 700 Vac

I can't believe that I forgot to blog about this pen. I got it a couple of months back at the Raleigh Pen Show, and I've meant to write something about it since then. I found this pen at the Anderson Pens table, and the Andersons talked me into getting this beauty.

 I agonized over the choice of colors for quite a while (Smoke? Amber? Clear?) until Audrey asked "Why don't you like the blue one?" Uh. I don't know. I kinda love the blue one. It's red and blue. My school colors are red and blue. I got the red and blue one.

The packaging for this pen is a little over the top, but it is also pretty great. I don't have any better packaging from any of my other pens. (Of course, it's also one of the most expensive pens I have, but whatever.) It comes in a clear plastic case with a white base. The pen is supported by white plastic saddles with clear stays on top so that the pen is kinda suspended in the case. I feel confident that the pen is safe in there. It's also inside a padded brown cardboard box. Don't worry about having this one shipped. It'll be fine.

Inside that base (and I didn't discover this for a while) are some tools and supplies to keep the pen running smoothly. It comes with a little jar of silicone grease, a couple of extra o-rings, and a small wrench. I've not used the o-rings or the grease, but that wrench is very handy for taking the pen apart. It comes all the way apart pretty quickly, and that makes cleaning the pen really easy.

The build quality on this pen is superior. It is almost entirely plastic with chrome trim rings at middle, and at the ends. The clip is also a sturdy metal, but it's frosted instead of chromed. The plastic is hard, heavy, and sturdy. It's also very smooth. This looks great, but it means that I'm always wiping fingerprints off of it. The plastic on the cap is faceted instead of smooth, but it still collects fingerprints. This is something I'm just used to, but it could bother some folks. 

The body of the pen tapers towards the ends with the thickest area being just off of the middle. This creates a bit of a step from the thickest part down to the grip, and the threads there are a little aggressive. They are going to hold that cap on, but I have heard some say that they don't care for the way that the threads hit their fingers. It doesn't bother me at all, but perhaps I hold the pen further down towards the nib. 

Uncapped, the pen is about 1/4 inch longer than an uncapped Lamy Safari. Posted (and you can post this one) it is a bit longer than the Safari. It's a big pen, but it's well-balanced whether it's posted or not. That big metal weight from the chrome ring sits in the saddle of your hand, so it creates a pretty natural balance.

In terms of size, you might think of the Noodler's Ahab. It's just as big around the widest part, but a bit longer than the Ahab. I love a big pen, but I have pretty big hands.

One of the main features of this pen is the vac-filler. When you unscrew the back cap, it activates the piston. To fill the pen, you submerge the (giant) nib in ink, and push the piston down. That pulls a vacuum behind the piston, and when you get to the bottom of the push it hits a wide area and ink will be sucked into the vacuum. It works great if you have a deep ink well and plenty of ink. It doesn't work all that well for samples or shallow ink jars or low ink levels. For those, I just fill the chamber with a syringe. It's easy to slip a needle past the piston-head and fill it that way.

The other neat thing about this pen is that the piston has two parts. If you look at the break-down pic you'll see that there's a wide rubber stopper and a smaller one in front of it. When you screw down the crown of the pen it fits that smaller stopper into the end of the feed section like a cork. So, if you're flying or carrying it in a pocket you don't have to worry about ink rushing out of the nib and into the cap. That's a really nice safety feature. It does mean that if you're going to be writing a lot you'll need to open the crown a little to allow ink into the feed. I've found that I can write a page or so with a closed feed. After that, you need to open it a little. I'm not in the habit of frantically scribbling for pages at a time, so this never bothers me. I've found that the Vac 700 writes a little wetter with the feed open, but that it works perfectly well for a good amount of time with the feed closed, too.

This pen has a pretty huge capacity for ink. I am currently writing with a custom mix. I think it's Liberty's Elysium with a dash of Air Corps Blue Black, but I can't remember for certain because I've been using this fill for so long. It just doesn't seem to run out of ink.

So, how does it write? Well, this is the trouble. I bought the pen in a medium nib because Brian Anderson let me write with his medium, and it was great. A very smooth nib that was just right. Mine wasn't that great. It was smooth, but it was dry. I could write with it, but the ink color looked much lighter than it otherwise should have. I wasn't happy with that at all, and I tried to flex the sides of the nib as some suggested on the FPN. The nib it comes with is a Bock nib, and they're supposed to be good, and it's steel. I couldn't make it change at all. I finally just gave up on it and bought a set of nibs from xFountainpens. They were sort of for my ailing Ahabs, but they fit this TWSBI just fine. The nib in all but the break-down photo is the Knox F-nib. The original is the silver one shown in the break-down shot. 

That means that I can't tell you what the typical experience with the usual TWSBI nib is like. I can tell you that the feed seems really great, and that I've never had trouble starting the pen with the Knox nib in place. 

I've since talked the the Andersons, and they assure me that this was a problem with some nibs that went out on some 700s there for a while, but that TWSBI is willing to fix or replace them for free. I haven't done it yet, but I will be sending that nib off soon. 

  • Classy looking pen.
  • Cool filling system.
  • Huge ink capacity.
  • Should write very smoothly with it's original nib, but if it doesn't there are spares out there.
  • Nice color selection. 
  • Chrome and brushed metal furniture.
  • You can post it if you want.
  • Easy maintenance.
  • No non-plastic options. 
  • No non-translucent options.
  • Might be a little big for some.
  • Grip section might not be for some.
  • My particular nib wasn't great. 
  • Cost is a little higher than I would like.
  • Collects fingerprints.
So, the verdict is that I really like this pen. In fact, I recently got its little brother in orange (the 540). If you're looking for a large-ish pen on the medium-high end of the budget, then this might be the pen for you. I think that as long as the nib situation is a good one you're in good shape, and I'd certainly recommend it.

I just heard from Philip Wang (the Boss at TWSBI USA) and he writes that he adjusted my nib so that it will be much wetter. I'm eagerly awaiting a package in the mail!
Post Comment