I’ve been collecting pens for years, and I’ve gone through a bunch of ‘em, vintage and modern, cheap and expensive, common and obscure. Some have been bad, many have been excellent, and I’ve had fun and learned a lot. However, I always had this impulse somewhere in the back of my mind, this idea that I was someday going to find The Ultimax Pen — my perfect fountain pen (and ink) that I would always want to keep inked and nearby.
There were a long string of pens that came close, that might have been The One, but there was always something not quite 100%, some compromise, and some other pen promising some other feature or trait to lure me away. (Furthermore, I put at least as much time and effort into trying out inks.)
Well, I think I’ve finally solved it. The winner is a clear TWSBI Vac 700 with a fine nib, the matching Vac 20 ink bottle, and Noodler’s Texas Blue Bonnet ink.
If you read my review of the Vac 700, you know it impressed the heck out of me, and the Vac 20 bottle only made it better. The biggest lingering qualm I’ve had was the way the ink sometimes stopped flowing; then I had to jiggle the filler knob to get it working again. I finally removed the point seal from the plunger. That means I can keep the filler knob screwed down all the time, and it will write freely. This may not have totally solved the flow problem, but it has reduced it so much that I don’t find it a bother anymore.
The other half of the equation is ink. I like blue, and I’ve searched long and hard for the perfect blue ink. Texas Blue Bonnet has been one of my favorites for a long time: it’s waterproof security ink, shades fantastically, and is an attractive-yet-dignified dark(ish) blue color. My long-standing gripe has been that it’s one of the higher-maintenance inks and sometimes leaves deposits of blue gunk on nibs and feeds where evaporation occurs. The stuff can be cleaned off, but it’s worrisome.
Thanks to all the rubber O-ring seals, the TWSBI Vac 700 seals up very tightly when capped, and it can sit idle for very long times without drying out. Furthermore, I can easily disassemble it down to the bare nib and feed and drop the parts in a sonic cleaner, if I ever need to. If there was ever a pen made to handle a high-maintenance ink with aplomb, this is it.
The Vac 700 isn’t the most beautiful pen design, but it has grown on me. It’s solid, it’s well finished, and I really like the demonstrator aspect of it. It has a high-tech-gadget style that I like.
So that’s it! I don’t know where I go from here. I doubt that I’ve bought my last fountain pen, or tried my last ink. I do think it’s gonna be different from here on, though, because I’m not going to be looking for The Ultimax Pen anymore. I’ve got that.