– Handwritten Review –
- Review Ink: Diamine Grey
- Review Paper: Rhodia Four Color Book
- 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:
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:
Once 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.
Onto 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.
Nib Performance & Filling System:
Another 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.
The 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).
Unposted, 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.
- Good price point for a vacuum filler
- Fun to use filling mechanism
- Nice packaging
- Good ink capacity
- Design is incoherent
- Nib/feed issues
- Cap posting makes the pen feel awkward
- Big step from the barrel to the grip
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.