Tag Archives: TWSBI

Lamy Al-Star Fountain Pen Review

Lamy Al-Star Fountain Pen Review

Lamy AL-Star
Fountain Pen

- Handwritten Review -

  • Review Ink: Sailor Kiwa Guro Nano Black
  • Review Paper: Doane Writing Pad

Lamy Al-Star Fountain Pen Review

Specs:

  • Description:  The aluminum cousin of the Lamy Safari
  • Nib: Steel nib, Fine, interchangeable
  • Material: Aluminum body with plastic triangular grip
  • Filling Mechanism: Proprietary cartridge/converter system
  • Weight: ~22 grams filled (Cap – 10g, Body – 12g)
  • Measurements: 6.1″ closed, 6.7″ posted, 5.2″ unposted, 0.5″ diameter
  • Ink Capactiy: ~1ml
  • Price: $50.00 US on Amazon (affiliate link)

Handwritten Review Scans:

Intro/About:

Lamy Al-Star Fountain Pen Review

The Lamy AL-Star (not this matte black one I’m writing the review with) was the second fountain pen I had ever purchased. It’s surprising that it’s taken me this one to review one. The AL-Star is nearly identical to the Lamy Safari, except it’s made from aluminum. I’m definitely a huge fan of the pen (I have three of them…) so enjoy the review!

Appearance & Packaging:

Lamy Al-Star Fountain Pen Review

If you’re familiar with the looks and packaging of the Safari, you’re not going to be very surprised here. The AL-Star looks the same, but is ever so slightly wider in diameter than its plastic counterpart. It also has the love-it-or-hate-it signature Lamy triangular grip. Being right handed with a normal tripod grip, I find the pen to be very comfortable.

Lamy Al-Star Fountain Pen Review

The difference between the Safari grip and the AL-Star grip is that instead of matching the body, all of the AL-Stars have a smoky transparent grey plastic grip, regardless of the color of the pen. I think the dark plastic looks great in pretty much every body combination (the sandy metallic tan doesn’t look so great in my opinion). I absolutely love the modern design that Lamy employs throughout their entire product line, and the AL-Star is no exception.

 

Nib Performance & Filling System:

Lamy Al-Star Fountain Pen Review

The AL-Star takes Lamy’s proprietary cartridge/converter system. For the price range ($37.00), it makes sense for the pen to have a C/C system. I’ve said it in other pen reviews, I really don’t mind the C/C system because it allows me to change inks more frequently. The AL-Star has an oval-shaped window in the body that allows you to see how much ink is left in the pen as well.

Lamy Al-Star Fountain Pen Review

The AL-Star takes the interchangeable steel nibs that are seen across most of Lamy’s product line. They can be hit or miss, but they’re really easy to swap out. The steel nibs aren’t bad writers at all, and are definitely in the middle of the road in terms of smoothness and flow. I like the interchangeable system, because it allows you to try new nib widths with a relatively low barrier to entry, and makes the pen very versatile as well. I found Lamy’s nib system to be hugely helpful in the beginning of my fountain pen journey. It really helped me to dial in my nib preferences without spending big money on a pen with a nib I may not be crazy about.

Feel:

Lamy Al-Star Fountain Pen Review

The Lamy AL-Star definitely has a more premium feel than the Safari. It’s slightly heavier too. The aluminum has a nice tactile feel, and it’s nice to pick up something that’s cool to the touch (at least in the winter it is…) that warms up in your hand. The fit and finish of the AL-Star is also top notch. I used to write with my Safaris and AL-Stars posted, but lately I’ve been doing so with the cap off. The pen is definitely a bit long at 6.7″ posted, but it’s not horribly off balance should you decide to post while writing.

Lamy Al-Star Fountain Pen Review

The AL-Star also has the triangular grip section as seen on the Safari. I personally find it to be comfortable, but others with non-standard grips may find it to be unbearable. The grip does enforce proper grip, and the nib is always going to be lined up properly with the page when you’re using the grip. Again, this helped me out quite a bit in the beginning of my fountain pen days. The feel of the body is nice, but the aluminum is not quite as durable as the Safari. The finish is definitely prone to showing wear, and I’ve heard stories of people denting the body of their AL-Star with abuse. I don’t mind when pens show wear, but if you baby the pen, I’m sure it will hold up just fine.

Pros:

  • Great design
  • Swappable nibs
  • Affordable price range
  • Premium feel over the Safari

Cons:

  • The grip isn’t for everyone
  • Aluminum construction doesn’t mean better durability

Conclusion:

Lamy Al-Star Fountain Pen Review

I love my Lamys quite a bit, so I may be slightly biased. The AL-Star is a winner in my book. Swappable nibs make the pen very versatile. The minimalistic design and clean aesthetics really resonate with me as well. The triangular grip may not be for everyone, but it can really help out beginners develop a proper fountain pen grip. I have around 6 Safaris and 3 AL-Stars, and I’m definitely going to continue to add them to my collection. I would definitely recommend this pen to anyone.

Gallery:


About these ads
TWSBI Mini Classic Fountain Pen Review

TWSBI Mini Fountain Pen in Classic Review

TWSBI Mini Classic
Fountain Pen

- Handwritten Review -

  • Review Ink: Pilot Iroshizuku fuyu-syogun
  • Review Paper: Kyokuto Cambridge 

Specs:

  • Description:  An affordable, easy-posting piston-filler from TWSBI.
  • Nib: Steel nib, Fine
  • Material: Plastic with metal accents
  • Filling Mechanism: Piston Filler
  • Weight: ~20 grams filled
  • Measurements: 4.60″ closed, 5.55″ posted, 4.25″ unposted
  • Ink Capactiy: ~2ml
  • Price: $50.00 US on Amazon (affiliate link)

Handwritten Review Scans:

Intro/About:

TWSBI Mini Classic Fountain Pen Review

Admittedly, I had written off TWSBI for a while. After a continuously cracking 540 and an inconsistent medium nibbed Vac700, I figured I’d hold off on TWSBI until they worked out some of the kinks that were widely experienced with their products. After seeing their many improvements from the 540 line to the 580 line, and the new Mini model, I had to give TWSBI another shot. The Classic color scheme (black and clear) made it that much easier to pull the trigger. Read on to see if the TWSBI Mini holds up to it’s competitors!

Appearance & Packaging:

TWSBI Mini Classic Fountain Pen Review

Unboxing a TWSBI pen is always a treat. The packaging is very “Apple-like”. It’s a white plastic base, encapsulated in clear plastic. The pen is suspended above the base on two pedestals. The plastic box is surrounded by foam and safely packed into a brown cardboard box, adorned with the red TWSBI logo in the middle. It’s really a great presentation. Onto the pen itself…The Mini is a sharp looking pen. The Classic has a black grip, cap and piston knob, with a clear barrel. It’s an awesome looking combo. My favorite part is the black grip section, that usually drives me nuts trying to keep clean on a demonstrator.

TWSBI Mini Classic Fountain Pen Review

The Mini is small, but not too small. I love the demonstrator barrel and the black with chrome accents. The red TWSBI logo on the cap adds just a splash of color that works well with the overall aesthetic of the pen. It’s a great looking little pen, and it looks awesome loaded up with some Iroshizuku fuyu-syogun.

Nib Performance & Filling System:

TWSBI Mini Classic Fountain Pen Review

I was pretty nervous for this part of the review. My first TWSBI 540 didn’t even write out of the box, and my Vac700′s medium nib skipped more than it wrote a solid line. I’m happy to say that there are zero issues with the Mini’s fine nib. It’s a bit on the dry side, but that’s not a complaint. It’s silky smooth and lays down a nice fine line. The nib on the Mini is a little bit smaller than the 5X0 and 700 series.

TWSBI Mini Classic Fountain Pen Review

The nib is a good size for the pen, and doesn’t come off as too small (I’m looking at you Kaweco Allrounder). It’s definitely one of the smoother steel nibs I have used. Before TWSBI entered the scene, a piston filler in a sub-$100 pen was a rarity. The piston operates smoothly and efficiently. It’s easy to get a full reservoir of ink, and it’s fun to fill too. A great nib and an awesome filling system…so far, so good.

Feel:

TWSBI Mini Classic Fountain Pen Review

The TWSBI Mini is a smaller pen (I mean, it is called the Mini), but I wouldn’t call it miniature. Unposted, it’s a bit too small to comfortably write with. The coolest part about the feel of the mini is how the pen posts. The cap actually screws onto the back of the pen, making a super secure post that doesn’t interfere with the piston knob. The screw cap greatly helps in improving the rigidity of the pen while writing. Posting the cap makes the pen an ideal width for me. Balance is great and it’s not too light or too heavy. If you are familiar with the Sailor Sapporo, you’ll be right at home with the Mini.

They’re practically identical in size, weight, and proportion when both pens are posted. My one issue with the feel of the Mini is the metal ring at the bottom of the grip, closest to the nib. The ring has a slightly sharp edge to it, and the way I grip the pen results in some discomfort over time. Choking up on the pen a bit solves the issue, but it’s not ideal for me to change my grip to use a pen. Other than the metal ring, the TWSBI Mini feels great in hand.

Pros:

  • Improved design (grip ring) prevents cracking
  • Great looks
  • Unique packaging
  • Smooth, consistent nib
  • Great value

Cons:

  • The grip’s metal ring prevents cracking, but it may be uncomfortable for some.

Conclusion:

TWSBI Mini Classic Fountain Pen Review

I would say that I am 99% happy with my TWSBI Mini. The nib is much better than the last generation of TWSBIs I’ve owned, and they have added a metal ring to the grip to prevent cracking (although it’s a bit sharp). The Mini’s great looks and feel, coupled with it’s affordable price make the Mini an awesome pen for both beginners and collectors. The Mini did a great job at changing my mind about TWSBI. The Mini is a great little pen, that I would definitely have no hesitations recommending. Good show TWSBI, good show.

Gallery:


Sheaffer Snorkel Review 5

Vintage Feature: The 1950s Sheaffer Snorkel Fountain Pen

Sheaffer Snorkel Review 2Sheaffer Snorkel Admiral and Saratoga
Fountain Pens

- Handwritten Review -

  • Review Ink: Sheaffer Peacock Blue and Iroshizuku Fuyu-Syogun
  • Review Paper: Maruman Mnemosyne B5

Specs:

  • Description:  A highly collectable (and reliable) vintage pen with the most advanced filling system to date.
  • Nibs: 14k gold, open-style – Admiral is an all gold medium nib, Saratoga is a two-toned medium nib
  • Material: Plastic with metal accents
  • Filling Mechanism: Snorkel fillers

Handwritten Review Scans:

Intro/About:

Sheaffer Snorkel Review 1Comparing and reviewing vintage pens can be a bit weird. The problem is the varying conditions an old pen can be in, repairs that have been done to the pen, and a vintage pen may not contain 100% original parts. This is more of a feature than a formal review, and keep in mind that your mileage may vary greatly when buying a vintage pen. That’s not to say that a great vintage pen can be purchased, and I really like both of my Snorkels.

Appearance:

Sheaffer Snorkel Review 5Onto the pens at hand… I currently have two Sheaffer Snorkels in my collection, a grey Admiral and blue Saratoga. The Admiral has a 14k gold nib, that is open-style. Some other models of the Snorkel come with a tubular nib (referred to as ‘closed’). The Saratoga model also has a 14k gold nib, but it’s two-toned; a feature which I really enjoy the aesthetics of. The Admiral is Canadian-made, and when I purchased it, it was pretty much in New-Old-Stock condition – still having the sticker denoting nib size on then grip of the pen. Both pens write exceptionally well and have a solid place in my rotation of pens. The Sheaffer Snorkels are on the thinner side, but still have some decent heft to them. Compared to a Lamy Al-Star, they’re about the same length.

Sheaffer Snorkel Review 6When the pen is capped, it’s quite unassuming. The body is very plain, with a 1/4″ gold cap band. The only markings on the pen are the subtle stamping in the body stating the country of origin and the brand, and “Sheaffer’s” is stamped into the gold clip. Later models have a white dot on the top of the clip, which Sheaffer used to denote their premium pens. The white dot was also used as a mark of quality. I really like the simple style of the Sheaffer Snorkels I have, knowing that under the plastic shell is the most mechanically-complex filling system to be in a fountain pen.

Nib Performance & Filling System:

Sheaffer Snorkel Review 3The Sheaffer Snorkel is one of the most mechanically-complicated fountain pens, and has kept that honor for over 60 years. To fill the pen, you have to unscrew the tail cap, until the snorkel tube is fully extended from underneath the nib. Once fully extended, the tail cap is pulled out. When the pen is “fully-extended” – you have to submerge the tube into the ink you wish to fill the pen with. It is not necessary to put the nib into the ink – making for a mess-free fill. When the tube is submerged, you must depress the tail cap back into the pen body. The internal sac is compressed with the downward motion, and when the tail cap is all the way back in the pen, the vacuum is released, sucking ink up through the snorkel tube and into the internal ink reservoir. After the pen is filled, the tail cap must be screwed back in, and the snorkel is retracted. It sounds very complicated, but it’s an easy and fun way to fill a fountain pen.

Sheaffer Snorkel Review 9

Feel:

The pen is long enough to write with comfortably when un-posted, but posting doesn’t throw off the balance or feel of the pen. The Sheaffer Snorkels are nicely weighted and well balanced. The grip on the models I have is ribbed for extra grip, and the metal flair at the bottom keeps ink off of your fingers. The transition between the grip and the section is smooth, and the threads are hard to notice when writing. Both the Admiral and the Saratoga are identical in the body and cap, the only difference being the nib. Both pens are comfortable and durable, although they are a bit slimmer than most modern fountain pens.

Sheaffer Snorkel Review 4

Availability and Price:

Sheaffer made the snorkel fill models for around a decade, and they are by no means limited edition. It’s relatively easy to find a snorkel in great condition that has been professionally restored. There are several people and websites that do Snorkel restorations, most offering warranties on their work. While not the cheapest entry into vintage pens (Esterbrooks can be had for surprisingly low prices), a user-grade pen in working condition can be found for around $60.  A fully restored, like-new pen and pencil set can be purchased for around $95, ready to write. AndersonPens.net offers restoration services and usually has a few nice models in stock.

Sheaffer Snorkel Fountain Pen Review 124

Pros:

  • Affordable entry into vintage pens
  • Fun to use filling mechanism
  • Widely available
  • Nice weight and balance

Cons:

  • More complex to restore on your own
  • More moving parts = more to go wrong

Conclusion:

Sheaffer Snorkel Review 11I’m by no means an expert on vintage pens, but I really like my two Sheaffer Snorkels. They’re great workhorse pens that come in a variety of body colors and nib types. Most of them have been in service for 60 years already, and I’m sure that if properly taken care of, they can easily go another 60 more. The filling system is really cool and fun to use as well. It’s definitely worth having a specimen of the Sheaffer Snorkel in your collection as a part of fountain pen history.

Recommendation: Absolutely.

Pilot Iroshizuku ku-jaku Fountain Pen Ink Review 8

Pilot Iroshizuku Ku-Jaku – Handwritten Ink Review

Pilot Iroshizuku ku-jaku Fountain Pen Ink Review 8Pilot Iroshizuku: Ku-Jaku

- Handwritten Review -

Goes on blue, dries green. Ku-Jaku (meaning “peacock”) is another great ink offering from the Iroshizuku line. At first, it’s very blue, but once it settles into the page, it’s a nice shade of blue-green. Like the rest of the Iroshizuku line I’ve sampled, the ink performs well. It writes smoothly, shades nicely, and has great flow. It’s similar to Diamine Eau de Nil, which is one of my favorite inks. I like the color and performance of this ink, but given that they’re so close  in color (and the price difference), I’d have to give the edge to the Diamine.

Pros:

  • Nice Color
  • Mild Shading
  • Smooth

Cons:

  • It’s a tad pricey

Thanks for reading and enjoy the review!

Pilot Iroshizuku ku-jaku Fountain Pen Ink Review 1

Pilot Iroshizuku ku-jaku Fountain Pen Ink Review 2

Pilot Iroshizuku ku-jaku Fountain Pen Ink Review 3

Pilot Iroshizuku ku-jaku Fountain Pen Ink Review 4

Pilot Iroshizuku ku-jaku Fountain Pen Ink Review 6

Pilot Iroshizuku ku-jaku Fountain Pen Ink Review 7

Pilot Iroshizuku ku-jaku Fountain Pen Ink Review 9


More Iroshizuku-related Posts:

 

 

 

 

 

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.