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Monday, July 4, 2011

The ultimate TWSBI review! Part 4!

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Well, we've made it to part 4 of the ultimate TWSBI review. So far this has been a fun, exciting, and informative challenge for me to write! Today's part is going to cover the most important aspect of a fountain pen. I hope you'll enjoy this as much as I have enjoyed putting it together. Be sure to subscribe so you'll know when the next part is coming out!

For those who may have forgotten, here's a quick recap with links to the other 3 parts. Make sure to go back and look at these if you haven't. There's a lot of essential information in them.

Recap of Part 1:
  • How did the TWSBI come about?
  • What is the TWSBI is all about?
  • What exactly is the TWSBI Diamond 530?

Recap of Part 2:
  • Packaging
  • Presentation
Recap of Part 3:
  • Appearance and design
Part 3 of the review is, to me, the second most important part of a fountain pen. The single, most important part of any fountain pen is:


Part 4:
  • The nib
  • How does it write?
  • Writing samples

"The nib" and "How does it write?" are two different things to me. The nib is what I'll cover first. I'm going to go over how it looks, and some of the other awesome features that TWSBI has integrated into the nib/pen construction.


The nib:

One of the important things to me in a nib is how it looks, and how it functions aside from being used for writing. Take for example, one of my favorite nib designs: The Pelikan Souveran series. Lovely looking nibs, and they unscrew to allow for the quick swapping out of different sizes and shapes. The TWSBI exhibits both of these features in certain ways. Let me talk on the design of the nib first before I begin on its function.

I think the TWSBI nib has a very nice design. Indeed, there is not much I'd do to improve it. My only gripe with it is such: It's a somewhat small sized nib in comparison to the pen. Take the below picture for example. My Pelikan M805 and TWSBI both next to each other. The pens are both the same size, but the nibs are not.



I personally think upping the size of the TWSBI nib would give the pen a more "balanced" appearance. This is not a major issue at all, but it would be a nice fix for future versions... That being said, the physical appearance of the nib is still very nice. It has an incorporated swirl pattern, the TWSBI logo, and the words TWSBI imprinted on it. I believe that these design elements give this industrial pen a light touch of elegance. I have a thing for two-tone nibs but this single tone steel nib is still lovely looking to my eyes. Photos again to help with the description:






Now I'll speak about the function of the nib. To say the least, TWSBI has once again outdone itself with this aspect of the pen. Let me point out my favorite feature of the TWSBI Diamond 530 nib:

It unscrews! I love nibs that can be changed out easily. Here's the part about the TWSBI that exceeds other pen maker's changeable nibs: Not just the nib unscrews, but the whole section of the pen. "What does this mean?" you ask. It means that you can change the nibs with ink in the pen, and not get ink all over your fingers! Take again, for example, the Pelikan Souveran, or maybe an Esterbrook. - To unscrew the nibs on those pens, you have to grip the nib. This means that your fingers will be totally ink covered if the pen is filled. I'll show more about this feature below with some pictures.

Here it is: The Diamond 530's nib and section unscrewed from the body of the pen. This feature makes the TWSBI a "semi-customizable" pen in a sense.

Another design feature that really sets the TWSBI apart from other pens in its price-range, is the neat case that each extra nib unit comes in. This plastic case allows you to store the nib with ink in it. This makes it so you can change nibs at work, at home, in the car (hopefully not while you're driving), and pretty much anywhere else!

Here's how the case comes apart. The plastic cap screws off of the red fitting...

Which in turn, unscrews from the nib.
Overall this little feature again puts this pen over the top in terms of attention to detail. I hope they keep this design feature in all of the future editions of the pen. It should be noted however, that this case only comes with extra nibs that are purchased aside from the pen.

Since we're talking on changing nib units and buying extra ones, I'll speak on another amazing "feature" that the TWSBI Diamond 530 has to offer. The nib units cost nothing more than $18.00 a piece + shipping! WOW! Can you believe that price? I was amazed at how inexpensive they were, which is why I bought a second one when I got my pen. Compare this to $150.00 +- for a spare Pelikan M800 nib, and I'd say the TWSBI has really got things nailed down!

Now, that being said about the price of the nib, it is a steel nib. Some people wish the pen had a gold-nib option. I personally wouldn't care for it. "Why?" you ask. Well, the fact is that gold nibs are really no better than steel nibs in almost every aspect. The only area where gold nibs sometimes win out is when a nib is bent and you need to get it burnished back into shape. Steel nib are not great for re-bending/burnishing. Another plus (sometimes) of a gold nib is the option to add flex. This is not a factor for most people since the average FP users prefers a "nail-nib" for everyday writing. For me, I prefer a slightly springy nib. Not "flexible" by any means, but not stiff either. Lucky for me, this feel is exactly what the TWSBI nibs provide. That leads me to the next topic in this review:


How does it write?

In a word - excellent! But one word isn't good enough for a solid review of this pen. I'll go into detail now, breaking it down into mini-categories for easier reading.

Smoothness: This is probably the first thing that everybody wants to know about a new nib. "Is it smooth?"
 - "Slightly toothy?' - "What's it feel like on paper?" While I can only give my personal experience with the two nibs I tried, I can say that from what I've read and experienced myself, the TWSBI nibs are sure to please nearly everyone in terms of smoothness. So far, they are the smoothest nibs I own! For me personally, they are almost the perfect nib. They are very smooth, like "butter" as many say, but they exhibit a perfect amount of light, gentle feedback that keeps things from slipping out of control. This is my ideal nib feel and the TWSBI nailed it down just right. No nib is actually perfect, but these came very close for me. My broad nib was even smoother than the medium, which was already very smooth. Overall I think anyone and everyone will be pleased with the smoothness of the TWSBI Diamond 530 nibs.

Flow: Another important factor in a nib. Again, questions like: "Is it gushing wet?" - "Bone dry?" - Just right?" are in need of a solid answer. My answer is again based only on my experience with my two nibs, and what I've heard about others. The flow is good. I won't say perfect, but very good. I think they'll beat any other $40.00 pen nibs quite easily. It really depends on which nib size too. My medium was about 5/10 on the wetness scale.  My broad is very wet. Probably 8-9/10 on the wetness scale. I love it. :) The wetness of these nibs however, depends on what writing pressure you use. This brings me to the next point:

Flexibility/Stiffness: This is an area where I was thoroughly impressed in. Mainly with my broad nib... Both nibs, medium and broad ( and I'm guessing all the other sizes too), had a very nice degree of springiness to them. No, they are not flex nibs. If that's what you're hoping for you'll probably be disappointed. However, if you're like me, wishing for a nib wish some pleasant springiness, you will be very happy with these nibs. The medium one has enough spring to make it provide very gentle line variation. The broad nib has even more spring. Enough were line variation fairly visible in normal writing. I love the broad nibs for the TWSBI! The slight spring makes the whole writing experience just awesome. One thing to keep in mind is that the springiness does increase the flow of the nibs. My broad nib, when used with moderate to heavy writing pressure, flows around 8-9/10 on the wetness scale. Without pressure it's about 5/10 on the wetness scale. Most people who write with moderate pressure will get around 6-7/10 on the wetness scale. This seems to be most peoples favorite flow anyway, so I see no problems here.

Overall: The TWSBI nibs are right on level (or above) with most other modern pens you could throw at it. I'd highly recommend the broad nibs for those who like wet, juicy, smooth, and springy nibs (like me). For everyone else, the other nibs are all excellent writers. I think these nibs are of equal quality with the rest of pen, which is of course, superb. As far as rating them goes, (which I know is very subjective when we're speaking on nibs) I would have to say it's easily 100/100 for the price range. For what a nib could be, I'll give it a 95/100! I love these nibs! Again, this really all depends on what you like in a nib, but for what I like, these nibs are near perfect. Now that we've talked about the way the nibs write, it's time for some:


Writing samples

I hope these writing samples will help you out somewhat. I wish I had one of each TWSBI nibs so I could give you a sample of all, but the medium and broad is all I have. I've also included a sentence of my Pelikan M805 XF nib. I thought this would be at least a decent reference... The paper is that Staples Eco-Friendly stuff. I just got it and started using it. I think its pretty nice stuff actually. :) I'll get a review of that out once this review is done... Remember that you can click on the picture for a super-sized view of it.


I hope this writing sample was able to show the line variation in both TWSBI nibs. I do not know the mm ruling size of this paper but if I find out, I will post it.

That pretty much sums things up for this part of the ultimate TWSBI review. I hope you've enjoyed this very important information on this amazing pen. I also hope I've covered this aspect thoroughly enough. I know the nib is the most important part of a FP to most people. If I've missed something or forgot some key information - Let me know. I'd absolutely love to hear you thoughts on this review. Please drop me a comment below and tell me what you think. :)

Keep on the watch for part 5!

Part 5:
  • Filling mechanism
  • Mechanics/functionality

I'm going to do some fun stuff for this part. I'll get a video up of how to take the piston apart, filling instruction tutorial for beginners, and more. Be sure you don't miss it - subscribe now!

Regards,
777 - Tyler Dahl

19 comments:

  1. Shubhangam AgrawalJuly 4, 2011 at 9:34 AM

    Great review :) Planning on buying a 540 when it's out

    ReplyDelete
  2. Glad you like the review!

    I'm sure you'll love the 540! I was to impatient to wait for it... I'm going to skip the 540 and wait for the 550 (aluminum piston version). The 540 is to close to the 530 for me to justify buying it. ;)

    Regards,
    777 - Tyler Dahl

    ReplyDelete
  3. I love that you can remove the entire section because I can just fill the pen with a syringe through the opening. I know, it's sacrilege but it's less messy than filling it the usual way.

    ReplyDelete
  4. David in JakartaJuly 5, 2011 at 6:12 AM

    I've held this pen in person. The nib is too small IMO. (Nice observation Tyler.)

    Another (major) flaw is that the cap posts on the filler knob, so there's a good chance of the knob being turned resulting in an inky mess. There are many good reasons for posting fountain pens. Unfortunately I feel it is impossible to regularly write posted with this pen.

    All that said, the TWSB 530 is well made and an excellent value if you can tolerate the issues mentioned above (many do). I may still buy one for my collection now that it seems all the filler bugs have been worked-out.
    in the current models.

    An alternative  might be the Lamy Vista. - also a demonstrator, pretty large pen, many swappable nib options (try the 1.1mm - nice), a cartridge/converter filler (I prefer to syringe fill), same/lower price, and available many places over-the-counter. The Vista has a press-fit cap, not screw-on.

    Rgds, David

    ReplyDelete
  5. Hello Freddy, good to hear from you. :)

    I would agree with your excellent aesthetic opinion. I prefer the larger nib because it puts my fingers further away from the paper. Both of them do look pretty good though!

    I hope they come out with the 540 soon so you don't have to wait much longer. It's starting to get pretty intense now. :)

    Regards,
    777 - Tyler Dahl 

    ReplyDelete
  6. Well, I wouldn't say it's sacrilege to fill this pen with a syringe. If that works for you, then do it! :)

    I've found that by filling the pen once, then turning it nib-up and squeezing the air out, I can re-fill it and get the thing 99% full every time. Of course, like you said, it is messier than using a a syringe. :)

    Regards,
    777 - Tyler Dahl

    ReplyDelete
  7. Great review, Tyler!  I agree with your observations about the nib.  In holding and writing with the pen, my experience has also been that the nib size is a bit too small and results in the pen feeling slightly off balance.  

    I love the writing sample with the B nib!  I was too slow in getting one for myself!  =)

    ReplyDelete
  8. Hey David, good to hear from you as well. :)

    Yes, the nib is a tad small for me as well. It's not a problem, but I'd love a bigger one if available...

    The filler knob posting thing is to me (no offense intended here) sort of a misnomer. When I say that I mean the following: I've posted the cap on my TWSB and tried to get ink to come out to see if I could prove the posting flaw. I was unable too without being unreasonable. The filler know has to be turned over half a turn before it even engages the piston. Also, my cap kept slipping of before it even began to turn the filler knob. Basically, you have to post the cap really hard, and turn it more than half a turn while putting it on and off to get any ink to spill.

    These are of course my experiments only but if the other pens are the same, I'd find it hard to believe that someone would accidentally spill ink by posting the cap. 

    On that note, the pen is to large to post for most people anyway. I like it un-posted but, a deeper posting cap would be nice, I do agree you on that.

    I would also agree that the Lamy Vista is a fairly good pen. Still, when compared with the TWSBI, I think it's blown away. :) I'm really not a fan of c/c fillers but that's totally personal opinion. :) I know some people have unscrewed the nib and used a syringe to fill their TWSBI's to max capacity. Might work for you. I dunno...

    Regards,
    777 - Tyler Dahl

    ReplyDelete
  9. Thanks kp! Glad you're liking the review so far.

    It seems like pretty much everybody wishes the nibs were large. I think this might be something to perhaps upgrade in a later version of the pen. It's not to small, but bigger would be nicer. :)

    Yea, it looks like  almost everything is sold out now until the 540 comes out. I hope you're able to get a B nib eventually!

    Regards,
    777 - Tyler Dahl

    ReplyDelete
  10. Excellent. When I first got mine, I left it unposted because it felt too heavy and I was scared about the piston/turn thing. After a bit of practice writing, I found that if I moved my grip farther back on the barrel, not only was it easier to hold while posted, but my control increased, too. It was a matter of finding the right spot to place my fingers as the fulcrum so the rest of the pen balanced the way it should. As for the piston turning, all I had to do was learn to pull the cap straight off the barrel instead of twisting it off. It's like driving a stick shift--each car has its' own quirks and you have to learn your way around them and work with them rather than condemning them for not being some other way.

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  11. I totally agree with you Karen. I don't mind quirks in my pens. Especially when they're unique to my specific pen. It makes them fun and original somehow. :)

    Regards,
    777 - Tyler Dahl

    ReplyDelete
  12. I've been enjoying your review until you got ot the nib. 100/100??? I have 3 TWSBI pens and the variability in nibs is astounding. 2 of mine are dreadful and have both been replaced with decent nibs.
    The third, a broad is really quite nice.

    The TWSBI pens are pretty good, bu the nibs really disappointed me - the caveat might be that I don't have or use any other cheap pens except one lamy safari that has a nib that truly shames the TWSBI nib.

    For the TWSBI nib, I would give 50/100 absolute maximum. They really let down a pretty decent pen.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Well, I'm really sorry to hear of your bad experiences with the nibs... Mine were both perfect for me.

    I have a suggestion, if I may be so bold. :)

    Why not send the bad nibs in to me for a tune-up? I do nib tuning for very cheap (only $15.00 a nib) and can make these "nightmares" write quite nicely for you.

    If you're interested, shoot me an email to 777penrepair@gmail.com

    Regards,
    777 - Tyler Dahl

    ReplyDelete
  14. Thanks for the offer Tyler - might take you up on that, but I have a couple of M600 nibs that I had lying around fitted in them that write sublimely, so I'm pretty happy at present.

    The broad is a really nice nib and not as stiff as the mediums and it's line witdth is a good approximation to a european medium.

    As I said, I have rally enjoyed the review.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Ah, that's pretty neat - fitting the m600 nibs in to the TWSBI! I heard of a few people doing that. It's a bit to expensive for me (at about $150.00 a nib for Pelikans) but I'll bet it really ups the TWSBI. :)

    I love my B TWSBI nib. It does have that nice spring to it... Quite nice!

    Regards,
    777 - Tyler Dahl

    ReplyDelete
  16. Dang, Tyler, you know I like fine nibs generally but AS and you got me with the "slightly springy" broad.  Now, when the 540 comes out, it looks like I'll have to invest in a broad nib to go along with the fine I plan on getting in the pen itself. LOL.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Hehe, sorry Freddy. well, no maybe I'm not... ;) Those slightly-springy nibs are just so awesome!

    Now here's an idea for you Freddy - Get the B nib only and send it in to me. I can grind it down to a fine for you! The you get a slightly springy fine nib. Just a thought...

    Regards,
    777

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  18. Oooo, just a very GOOD thought.  I'll e-mail you when I get the pen. ;-)  Any scuttlebutt about when the 540's are due to come out?

    ReplyDelete
  19. I hear only a month or two. That's not for certain at all though...

    Whenever they come out, it'd better be fairly soon. I think we're starting to go crazy...

    Regards,
    777

    ReplyDelete