Last year for Christmas, my fiance (then girlfriend) surprised me with tickets to my favourite hockey team, the Edmonton Oilers. It was going to be my first game in Rexall Center and I was super excited. Once I started to plan the trip, I remembered that there was a pen store (Stylus Fine Pens) in Edmonton and my excitement level sky rocketed. She was iffy for us to even go to the store since it took up well over an hour to get there, look around, and get back to the hotel/mall, but my persistence ended up winning out and it was well worth it. Now that I knew we were going their for sure, I had the task of deciding what I wanted to buy once we got there. What I should have done was just wait until I got there and bought what spoke to me the most, but what I actually did was browse their website, for many many hours over the course of the 2 months before the trip and made a nice little wish list for myself. The TSWBI Vac 700 was on that list, but not quite at the top.
As soon as we got in the store, I was blown away. Pens, ink, and paper were surrounding me and I could have easily spent hours in there. After doing my initial lap looking at every pen in the store, I was drawn to the Vac 700. They had all of the colours (clear, blue, orange, and smoke), all of which I would love to own, but I settled on the clear when a certain someone *cough* Jenna *cough* voiced her displeasure about the coloured ones. The friendly sales lady asked if I wanted to see it so of course I had to take her up on that offer. I didn’t ink it up in store, but I got to inspect the quality (not like I knew what I was doing) and was shown how to use the filling system, which was the first time I’ve seen it. After fondling it for a bit, I was sold. I took it straight back to the hotel and inked with my new ink, Private Reserve Blue Suede, and fell in love.
For the curious, I also picked up a bottle of R&K Scabiosa and a small Leuchtturm notebook. I would have bought more, but we spent 3 days at West Ed and the weekend was pricey enough to begin with.
The very first thing you notice when you see this pen is the unique look it has. It is almost entirely clear besides the trim. This is called a demonstrator, which means to can see the working parts inside of it and the ink sloshing around the barrel(my favourite part). The finial on the cap shows the TWSBI logo, which I find very attractive and not an eye sore or obtrusive at all. The cap has a semi-opaque liner that covers the nib when the cap is on. I would have preferred if this was clear like the rest of the pen, but it is not a huge deal for me. Apparently you can take it out to give you the look of a clear cap, but that will impact how well it seals. It seals amazingly well by the way. I had it inked for months without cleaning and it wrote perfect every time.
I have mentioned in the past that I like big pens and this one definitely fits the bill. It is long enough to fit in my hand perfectly. There is a decent little step down where the cap threads are, but they are not sharp and it is still quite comfortable to hold. The step down is required to allow the pen to fit into the TWSBI Vac-20 inkwell bottle as it threads directly in the bottle to help with the filling, but if you don’t use that inkwell, you may find it annoying. You might be able to use this pen posted, but it gets quite long and since you have to unscrew the back to write for longer periods of time (I’ll get to that later), you would have to use extra caution to not accidentally pull out the plunger.
When I was browsing the store and deciding which pen I wanted to take home with me, one thing that was remaining a constant is that I wanted a stub nib. Before this, all I ever used was my Sheaffer calligraphy pen, which is decent enough, but not the premium writing experience I was looking for. I asked if the Vac 700 came in a 1.1mm stub right away (that’s what I got) and was sold. Looking back, I really should have dipped the nib to test it out, but I got lucky in that it wrote perfectly when I got back to the hotel.
It writes super smooth, never skips, never catches an edge, and I don’t have to worry about the angle of the nib like with other stub nibs (unless you are doing calligraphy of course). The flow is almost perfect, but I think I could go for it being a touch wetter so it shows ink properties a bit better. Any ink that touches it shades like crazy, but sheen is a bit tougher to come by.
The nib is a #6 sized nib, so you can switch it out with any other #6 sized nib, such a Goulet nib. You can also purchase just the nib unit for the pen so you can swap them out easily without having to buy a brand new pen for a new writing experience. Since I am so happy with the stock nib that came in the pen, I don’t see myself ever switching it out unless I “needed” a finer nib in this pen. Since I am no longer in school and rarely need a huge ink capacity with my fine nibs, I will just stick with my fancy stub nib that gives my writing some flair.
The Filling System
Beside the unique look and great writing performance, the filling system is what really makes this pen stand out from the group. You won’t find many piston fillers in the sub $100 category, let alone vacuum fillers, so you know you are getting great value. For those of you who don’t know the difference, a piston filler is when you screw an end knob to draw ink into the barrel, which acts as the reservoir. A vacuum filling system is when you use a vacuum effect of pushing air out of the barrel with a plunger in an air tight manner, which then allows the air in the barrel to be replaced by ink if submerged in the bottle. This is just in my own words, so if you want a more in depth look at filling systems, check out Jono’s very detailed post over at Pentorium.
When I was looking at this pen online, I knew that it was a vacuum filler, but didn’t know what that meant. I could have done a quick Google search to find videos showing me how to fill it. It wasn’t a big deal getting the sales lady to show me how it works, but I am the kind of person who likes to be informed about these types of things before making a purchase.
One thing that you must keep in mind before purchasing is that since it is a vacuum filler, the ink in the barrel is sealed in there, which means it can’t get to the nib properly to write without additional prep work. In order to make this pen write for longer than what the feed holds, you must unscrew the end cap of the plunger rod enough so it spins around without going up further. This will open up a space between the barrel and the feed so the ink can flow as it is supposed to.
This can be a problem for some people. If you are using the pen for long writing sessions it should be fine, but if you just using it for quick notes here and there, it may get annoying to have to unscrew the back just so the feed can get re-saturated. Another potential danger is that if you accidentally pull on that rod while it is unscrewed, you could have a huge mess on your hands.
The benefit of this kind of filling system, besides it being cool and different, is that you get quite a large ink capacity at 1.5ml. It is pretty tough to get a completely full fill, but there are tools, such as the TWSBI Vac 20 inkwell, that will help with getting a better fill. Even with the 1.1mm stub, one fill will last me for months. Granted I don’t use this pen everyday all day like some people, a fill still lasts longer than most of my other pens.
This pen has surpassed all expectations for me. I had my TWSBI Mini before getting the Vac 700 so I kind of knew what they had to offer, but this hit all of the right notes for me. It’s large, writes well, has a cool filling system, and looks great. There has been some concern about the durability of it, but I have not seen any of those problems myself yet.
One thing that I have not mentioned yet is the price. If you are in the US, you can pick this baby up for $65 USD at most retailers. Up here in Canada, we are at mercy of the exchange rate a bit so you can find one for $85-90 (Wonder Pens) depending on if you want a stub nib or not. Once you factor in shipping, it is actually cheaper right now to buy from a store in Canada rather than going across the border to pick one up (shop local folks). I am really hoping the exchange rate eases up a bit because not only do I like buying pens from the US that are hard to come by in Canada, I am getting married down there next year!