TWSBI Vac700 Fountain Pen Review 16

TWSBI Vac 700 Fountain Pen – Handwritten Review

TWSBI Vac700 Fountain Pen Review 6TWSBI Vac 700
Fountain Pen

- Handwritten Review -

  • Review Ink: Diamine Grey
  • Review Paper: Rhodia Four Color Book

Specs:

  • Description:  A super affordable vacuum / plunger filler from Taiwanese brand, TWSBI.
  • Nib: JoWo Steel, Medium
  • Material: Plastic with metal accents
  • Filling Mechanism: Vacuum filler
  • Weight: 32 grams
  • Measurements: 5.8″ closed, 6.9″ posted, 5.3″ unposted
  • Ink Capactiy: ~2ml

Handwritten Review Scans:

Intro/About:

TWSBI Vac700 Fountain Pen Review 16

I’ve been drawn to the TWSBI Vac 700 since its announcement last year. The filling mechanism was pretty much a necessary addition to my collection, being that I have no other vacuum fillers like this. After some back and forth with the Pilot Custom 823 at the LI Pen Show, I ended up with the TWSBI. After spending some time with it, it hasn’t really lived up to my expectations. More often than not, I’ll leave this one at home. While it’s not a bad pen, there are several things I would have done differently. More on this throughout the review.

Appearance & Packaging:

TWSBI Vac700 Fountain Pen Review 18Once you remove the outer cardboard layer, you are presented with the clear plastic case for the Vac 700. Immediately upon seeing the pen in case, I thought of the cryo-sleep chambers in Alien. The TWSBI packaging is very similar to the way Apple packages their iPod touches. I happen to like the approach, it’s presented in a very clean manner. The pen itself rests on two small pedestals. The packaging looks great, and does a good job of keeping the pen safe in transit. I appreciate the clean design approach to the packaging, it makes for a good first impression.

TWSBI Vac700 Fountain Pen Review 19Onto the pen itself. The Vac 700 is a big pen. It’s big in a weird way though. I definitely wouldn’t recommend posting it, as it makes the pen very long and very off-balance. I’m not a huge fan of how the Vac 700 looks. Something about the design of the pen just doesn’t work for me. There are several design features that clash with each other. The metal clip is the only textured metal on the pen, everything else is shiny and polished, except for the clip. The faceted tail knob just looks odd to me, and makes the pen appear cheap looking. The cap threads are big by comparison to other pens, and the step from the barrel to the grip is huge. The pen is okay at best in terms of appearance, personally I would have made the metal match and done something about the step in the barrel.

TWSBI Vac700 Fountain Pen Review 21

Nib Performance & Filling System:

TWSBI Vac700 Fountain Pen Review 13Another area that fell short for me is the nib/feed. In order to keep flow going, the tail knob has to be unscrewed, otherwise the vacuum filler shaft blocks ink flow into the feed. The internal gasket seals and ink never makes it to the feed. The nib is very hit or miss. It’s smooth, but it skips quite a bit. If you look at the handwritten review, you’ll notice that this paragraph is much lighter than the others. I’m not sure if it’s the nib, or the feed, but it’s pretty irritating. If the knob is unscrewed (open) to let the ink flow, and you’re writing fast, it does tend to rattle. If the pen is left to sit for a while, and the feed catch up, then it writes fine. It doesn’t hard start, but the flow is inconsistent. I’ll have to try flushing the pen again, but it still performs below other pens in my collection. It’s a shame, because the JoWo medium is very smooth, I just wish that it delivered the ink to the page better.

TWSBI Vac700 Fountain Pen Review 11The entire reason I bought this pen was the vacuum filling mechanism. You unscrew the tail cap, pull it out until it’s fully extended, put the nib into ink, press the plunger down, and let the ink suck up into the pen. The gasket inside the pen builds a vacuum in the tail end of the barrel when pushed down. The barrel flairs out internally, and when the gasket reaches the flair, the vacuum seal breaks, forcing ink through the feed and up into the barrel. It sounds very confusing, but it’s easy and fun to use. I like that the pen is a demonstrator, allowing the entire process to be viewed. The filling mechanism is the only thing I’m 100% happy with. It’s unique and fun, and even better that it comes at such a low price-point (for what it is).

TWSBI Vac700 Fountain Pen Review 17

Feel:

TWSBI Vac700 Fountain Pen Review 12Unposted, the Vac 700 feels great in hand. It’s a large pen with a sizable nib (#6), but doesn’t come off as being too big. The grip is comfortable for me. There’s a metal sleeve at the bottom that keeps inky fingers at bay and combats the dreaded TWSBI grip cracking that the Diamond 540 was prone to. It’s weighty, but not a brick, and the plastic has a nice feel to it. One thing worth noting is the large step down from the barrel to the grip. The diameter of the barrel is nearly 5mm larger than the grip  (2.5mm on each side). This doesn’t get in the way for me, but those who tend to grip the pen higher up may be thrown off by the step. There’s a metal ring on the back of the pen under the tail knob that the cap posts on, however, posting the cap makes the pen too back-heavy and too long for me. TWSBI Vac700 Fountain Pen Review 10

TWSBI Vac700 Fountain Pen Review 22

Pros:

  • Good price point for a vacuum filler
  • Fun to use filling mechanism
  • Nice packaging
  • Good ink capacity

Cons:

  • Design is incoherent
  • Nib/feed issues
  • Cap posting makes the pen feel awkward
  • Big step from the barrel to the grip

TWSBI Vac700 Fountain Pen Review 8

Conclusion:

The TWSBI Vac 700 fell short on a few fronts for me. The weird design, the off balance posting, and most importantly, the skip-prone nib and feed. The pen feels good in the hand and for a sub-$100 vacuum filler, it’s a good deal. I have to file this review under “at your own risk”. I’ve seen many positive reviews of the pen, and of TWSBI in general, but there are inconsistencies with the young brand. I think there are other pens within the price range that I would have been happier with.

Recommendation: For the filling mechanism, yes. For everything else, maybe not so much. 

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25 thoughts on “TWSBI Vac 700 Fountain Pen – Handwritten Review”

  1. I feel the same way that you do about the nib, Ed. The feed is actually fine, but they’ve had some problems with their nibs. I’ve had both of the Medium nibs, and I’ve not been happy with either of them. If you want this pen to really sing, check out the #6 nibs from Knox (or maybe the Goulet nibs, though I haven’t tried them, and they’re JoWo nibs). They’re inexpensive, and they look great. I’ve tried several Knox nibs on this pen, and they make this pen one of my favorites.

    1. Thanks for the suggestions! I know TWSBI is kind of all over the place in terms of quality control and user experience. I’m going to look into some vintage flex nibs for it, but in the mean time I’ll check out those Knox! Any good place you would recommend to pick them up?

      1. I’ll probably end up grabbing a few of those Knox nibs, thank you for the link!

        If I find something that works out better, I’ll update the review.

    1. Thanks for the kind words. They’re a young brand and I like what they’re trying to do, but it’s the second pen I have from them that has fell a bit short of my expectations. I’m going to look for a vintage flex that’ll fit, hopefully that will work out better.

  2. Excellent review Ed. I don’t have a Vac myself, only the 540/580 which I’m pretty happy with. It was very interesting to read your review of this pen though – most things I’ve heard have been positive but then I’ve heard a few people say they had dry nib issues but no one has elaborated much so it was good to read your explanation. That’s a shame huh? I’m relieved my TWSBIs are okay. I always recommend the 540s/580s to people but I guess that’s because I’ve not encountered any issues with them so far. Anyway. I’m rambling. Well done.

    1. Thank you! I have a 540 in which the grip has cracked three times. They were quick to send out replacements, but it’s just a bummer when they keep breaking. There’s also a crack developing in the body where the piston knob is, which could be a real mess if it makes it to the ink reservoir. When I got the 540, it barely even wrote, so I swapped the nib with a spare Franklin Christoph I had, and now it writes well.

      You’re right, it is a shame. There are just a few minor details that could be improved and the pens would be really great!

  3. Ed, excellent review as always. You do such a through job. I wonder if there are dramatic differences in the manufacture/quality control with this brand. Some seem to really like this pen and others not so much. However, I must admit, the vac draw system is very appealing.

    1. Thank you! I think it’s that some people can overlook flaws at the price point that TWSBI offers their products at. Everything is relatively affordable, and their customer service is on-point making it easy to pass by design and product flaws. I really like the filling system, and I’ll be purchasing a replacement nib to try to get this pen back into rotation.

      Thanks for reading!

  4. I actually really love the way the Vac700 looks, especially with the juxtaposition of the faceted cap and smooth body and the brushed clip and the other smooth metal parts. Just a difference in taste, I guess?

    I have only ever had small problems with feed issues, and my EF nib has performed wonderfully! The only issue I ever have is when I forget to either screw or unscrew the little vacuum cap to free the feed, but other than that, the flow has been great with all the inks I’ve thrown at it.

    1. It’s definitely just a matter of personal preference / taste! While there’s nothing wrong with it, I guess I would have liked something different.

      From what I’ve read, some people have great experiences, others not so much. Glad you’re enjoying yours!

  5. I have a Vac700 as well, and agree with you on all points. They really should have consulted with an industrial designer for this item, because the overall design is quite poor for a $85 pen. It seems like they just decided a vac filling system would be cool, and put the design by the wayside. Also both nibs I have for the pen are terrible! I ended up putting them both to the side and now switch between a Knox K35 EF and a Nemosine .6mm stub. One day I’ll get around to selling it.

    1. It’s a shame to hear this, only because I think the Vac 700 is only a few features away from being a great pen. The filling system is pretty great, I just wish the pen around it was on the same level.

      How’s the Knox nib? I’ve been back and forth on picking one up for a few weeks now.

  6. I know this review is rather old now, but do you know if you had a Bock nib or JoWo nib? I’ve read they switched them to fix the dryness issues. Thoughts?

    1. I think that was only a problem with the medium nibs. I had both, and I didn’t like either of them all that much. Both were too dry for me.

    2. In don’t remember. I got rid of the pen shortly after reviewing it. Honestly I’m not a huge fan of TWSBI. The mini is cool, it’s an okay writer, but I think there’s much better out there in the price range.

  7. I agree – the Vacuum fillers should never have been released until the ink delivery system was refined. I made a mistake when they were introduced – heard about the vac system – never had a vacuum filler – got all hot and bothered – the pen let me down!

    1. I had too many issues with the design of the pen. I recently purchased a Pilot Custom 823 – it’s much more refined and feels great. It’s a good bit more expensive, but in my opinion it was totally worth it.

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