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Thursday, July 14, 2011

The ultimate TWSBI review! Part 5!

We're starting to wrap things up here. Part 5 is pretty much the last important part of the review. Not that part 6 will be unimportant. It just won't be as much so. I don't have as many pictures for this part of the review. What I do have (and why it took me so long to do part 5) are two full video tutorials for you!

As I will continue to do - Here's a re-cap of the 4 previous parts of the review:

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

  • Packaging
  • Presentation
  • Appearance and design
Recap of Part 4:
  • The nib
  • How does it write?
  • Writing samples
I highly recommend you go back and read these if you haven't. The rest of the review will make a lot more sense if you do. Also, be sure to subscribe so you don't miss the next part!

Today's part of the review is:

Part 5:
  • Filling mechanism
  • Mechanics/functionality

I'll waste no time in moving right in. :)

The TWSBI, in my opinion, is once again the best functioning pen ever made for under $100.00. It utilizes a piston filling mechanism almost identical to those found in the Pelikan M800 and M1000. Since getting my TWSBI I have become a piston filler addict! I love how they work, especially in a demonstrator. For me, a piston filler is basically ideal, but I thought I'd give a pros/cons type of thing on it anyway. I'm going to compare it to the most common type of filler in this price range ($100.00 and below): a cartridge/converter (AKA c/c filler).

Pros of a piston filler:
  • Holds a huge amount of ink. Especially if you're used to c/c fillers.
  • In the case of the TWSBI - It is fully serviceable by the user! No need to send your TWSBI off for routine maintenance. :)
  • Again in the case of the TWSBI (a demonstrator pen) - The piston filler is a lot more fun/cool then a c/c filler.
  • Can be cleaned extremely easily and quickly. This is a huge bonus for me.
Pros of a c/c filler: 
  • Easy and cheap to replace.
  • You can change inks more often in them as they run out quickly. This is not a plus for me but it is for some...
Cons of a piston filler:
  • If you like to change ink often, you may not like the large capacity.
  • If the mechanism were to break, it would be more expensive to buy a replacement piston than a c/c filler. Then again, it's a lot less likely to break than a c/c filler.
Cons of a c/c filler:
  • They will eventually fail and need to be replaced. Usually much sooner than a piston.
  • They do not provide as much fun/enjoyment as a piston filling system does. To me, c/c fillers are a bit boring...
  • They hold (especially some like the pilot VP varieties) very little ink. This means that you'll be filling more often and getting inky more often. For most users this is a downfall. Don't get me wrong, there are some big converters, but most that you'll get in a $150.00 and below pen are the small kind.

That's all I can really think of. For me, the good of a piston filler far outweighs the bad. I personally have a distaste for c/c fillers. I've never liked them and never will. This is why the TWSBI was such a welcome pen in my "flock". A pen for under $100.00 that's not a c/c filler!?!? TWSBI got it right on this one! Some pictures of the piston mechanism just for fun:

Piston fillers are just really cool looking. Especially in a demonstrator.

You can see the piston head, the piston rod, and all the other cool parts up at the top. To me, having a lever filling a c/c filling demonstrator is sort of a waste. I tihnk demonstrator should be reserved for interesting filling systems such as: pistons, vacumatics, lever-fillers, and button fillers. I think those pens have enough of an interesting mechanism to deserve a demo body. Also, all of those fillers, if you'll notice, have the filling system incorporated into the body of the pen.

Here's the piston nob with the piston rod coming out into the knob chamber.

Overall, piston fillers are cool, fun, interesting, and work extremely well too!

Now, another huge feature of a piston filler, specifically on the TWSBI, is the ability for the average user to service it without assistance. The TWSBI comes with all the necessary tools to take apart, and perform routine maintenance on the piston. This feature completely won me over to this pen.

One small problem however, is that there is some slight confusion on how to take apart he piston. There is in fact, a right and wrong way to re-assemble the piston. I decided to make an entire video for this part of the review (Actually two videos. See the part on filling.). I hope it will solve any problems you might encounter while re-assembling your piston!

I think that's about it for the filling system. I'll give it again a solid 100/100 for its price range. For what a filler could be, I'll still say 80/100. This version of the piston (the 530 version) is not perfect. Apparently if you're rough on it, you'll experience leaking. I've never heard of a case of this but speedy says it's true so I'll trust that. Also, I prefer a brass piston mechanism (like the Pelikan M800). It adds some nice weight to the pen and has a longer lifespan. Still, I don't think you'll ever have any problems with the TWSBI piston. Plus, I'm certain that if it ever failed, TWSBI would replace it free of charge. Overall, I love this pen's filling system. Even more so than ever, I really dislike c/c fillers. I've rid my collection of all of them... Did I forget to tell you that I love piston fillers. ;)

Now on to:


This will cover all of the little details of the pen. Things like: how the cap screws on, what's the clip like, how tight is the piston, how do the nibs unscrew, etc. I'm going to inevitable miss some stuff so bear with me. I will do my best though!

First thing I want to do is show how to fill the pen. This is the second video I made for this review. This is why it took me so long to make part 5. Two videos!

Now I'll talk on some specific details, and in no particular order...

The clip: I think the clip on this pen is great. It's a bit tight but certainly not to much so. It a steel folded construction though it will be solid brass in future versions of the pen. I do wish it had a little less play side-to-side. It's not much at all but I wish there was none. Also, I'm a fan of spring loaded clips like vintage Sheaffers or some modern Watermans.  Overall though, an excellent clip.

The cap: A pretty decent cap if I do say so myself. :) It takes exactly 2 full revolutions to remove or replace the cap. This a bit much but it's most certainly not unbearable. Near the end of the last turn it really tightens down with a rubber-gasket type of feel. I hope that makes sense... :) Some really dislike this as they use the clip to open/close the cap. They fear it will pop the clip right off. I do not fear this for two reasons: 1 - the clip is stronger than that. 2 - I don't sue the clip as leverage to close/open the cap. I like the firm closing as it really seals it against ink spills. If ink ever did leak out, it wouldn't leave the cap, that's for certain. Again overall, a very nice cap.

Piston function: The piston functions very well. I can't say completely flawless but near perfect. No problems even worth reporting. I have found it get's tight, not stiff, but tight after a while. It's not the piston gasket that causes this but the piston knob. Some silicone grease would do the job. An easy fix thanks to the included TWSBI wrench and silicone grease bottle.

The changeable nib units: An excellent touch for this pen. I love em'. I have a M nib that I ground to a stub and a B nib that I ground to a CI. Both lovely and I can now change them anytime with great ease. It's very nice to be able to swap nibs so easily on this pen. I've already talked about the nib in Part 4, so go back there for more detail on that.

The gripping section: Again, not to much to note here. Comfortable to me. Thinner than my Pelikan M800 but not too thin. Some people think it's big. I call it medium sized. It slightly flares out near the nib to prevent your fingers from slipping on to the nib. I like this feature. Pens that don't have this always leave me with inky fingers... :)

I can't think of any more little details for now. If I do, I'll add them on later. Let me know if I missed something vital. As far as ranking goes: probably 90/100 for a pen of its price range. There are some other pens withing this price range with a few better features. They also have many worse features. For what a pen could be: probably 70/100. It has faults, but I've never had a problem with any of them. Overall I love the function/mechanics of this pen and wouldn't change much even if I had the opportunity to.

That really sums up this part of the ultimate TWSBI review. I hope that once again you've enjoyed this thoroughly. It's been challenging but we're almost done now. Just one more part to do after this one! Please leave me a comment and tell me what you're thinking. I really want to hear! Did I miss something? Did you love it? Hate it? Do tell, I'd be more than happy to answer questions too. You can always send me an email anytime.

Keep your eyes open for part 6 of the review! Subscribe today so you don't miss out!

Part 6:

  • Overview/re-cap of previous parts
  • A conclusion/thoughts on the TWSBI Diamond 530
Keep watch for that last part. It's not going to be as picture heavy as previous parts but it will be just as important. Again, subscribing will keep you informed on when the next part comes out and all of the other cool new things coming up soon.

777 - Tyler Dahl


  1. I'd like to thank you for the disassembly video most of all, and especially for the running commentary.  Your comments help to spread insight that otherwise would have to be learned (if at all) through trial and error.  I knew that getting it together would be the hard part, but now I feel confident that I can break it down to give it a good cleaning & greasing and not worry that I can't get it properly aligned again. --- Oh, and when I push the air out like you were showing, I just put a tissue around the base of the nib so I don't need worry about ink accidentally spraying all over.  I also like to push the air out occasionally as the ink level drops; this keeps the pen writing wetter and darker.

  2. Well, I'd like to thank you for being first to make a comment. :)

    I'm really glad the video was helpful to you. That's what I was hoping for when I made it. Let me know how it goes when you finally decide to do it. And feel free to email me with any questions you might have.

    Good idea with the tissue. Why didn't I think of that? :)

    777 - Tyler Dahl

  3. Shubhangam AgrawalJuly 14, 2011 at 8:42 AM

    Love your review, I myself am waiting for the imminent 540 to be released, when I will grab one ;)

  4. So glad you like the review!

    I was to impatient to wait for the 540. Plus it's a tad more expensive. However, I'm starting to think of getting one now just cause of the bigger ink capacity... :)

    Enjoy yours when you finally get it!

    777 - Tyler Dahl

  5. Well, I can't exactly call the 530's capacity HUGE but it's certainly bigger than a converter. And let's not forget that the next version, the 540, will add 1/3 extra capacity, plus a brass mechanism. Oh and also +$10 to the price :)

  6. The TWSBI review just keeps getting better with each part, Tyler.  I, too, am looking forward to getting a 540 and your videos relieved quite a bit of anxiety about taking the pen apart.  I may have to get an extra nib just to have you make a cursive Italic for me. ;-) 

  7. True, not HUGE but still very big. Plus, I was introduced to fountain pens with all c/c fillers and a Parker 51 Aero. Both hold decent amounts of ink but the TWSBI holds at least twice as much as either of them. :)

    I'm going to hold out for the 550 aluminum ones... *drool* They all look so great!

    777 - Tyler Dahl

  8. I'm glad to hear that the videos are helpful. I think they make more sense than the TWSBI ones since those ones have no sound except for music... :|

    I'd love to grind you a CI on your 540. :) They better get that pen out soon!

    777 - Tyler Dahl

  9. I have to say, your video about how to align the piston is excellent! Thank you very much for this jewel. I originally thought I'll cross this bridge, when I'm there, but having you cross the bridge for me is a relieve.

  10. Thank you! You're most welcome for the video. I was happy to make it. I noticed people were confused by the original TWSBI-made video so I thought this would be a useful addition to the TWSBI Diamond knowledge-base. :)

    777 - Tyler Dahl

  11. I would like to ask you if there is a possibility to fill the pen only from a half of the ink capacity? Or do you have to fill it completely up?

  12. Hello there,

    You can fill the pen up to whatever capacity you like within it's size of course. You can fill it 1/4 way, 1/2 way, 3/4 way, or all the way. Any amount you want to put in you can. :)

    777 - Tyler Dahl

  13. Awesome review!

    I pre-ordered the 540. Can't wait!


  14. Yea! It's gonna be out real soon. I don't think there's ever been such a hype about a new FP as this one... TWSBI doing a great job. :)