Why the heck should I pay fifty dollars for a cheap plastic pen?—those were my initial thoughts as I fresh review after review raving about how magnificent a pen the new TWSBI was. This was 2011, when the TWSBI Mini had just flooded the market, generating a parade of followers with size rivaling those of Pelikan’s and Lamy’s. Twenty-eleven was about a year after I had begun my fountain pen collecting journey, a time when I still put my fullest beliefs in solid, heavy brass-barreled cartridge/converter pens, when I believed every-bit that weight represented quality. So I brushed TWSBI aside as a fad, partly because I didn’t believe in lightweight pens, and partly because I was scared away by the numerous pictures and posts about cracking issues, and slowly waited for TWSBI to eventually disappear, bound to the obscure edges of the fountain pen world. But it always stayed, looming so strong in the distance, reviewers raved about the fantastic pens, and TWSBI’s pens showed up on list after list of must buy pens.
It would not be until 2014—a good three years later—that I would finally give in. By then, I had warmed to the idea of plastic pens. I had owned a couple plastic pens—namely a Pelikan and a Pilot 823—which I absolutely loved. I had slowly begun to understand the long-term value of a pen that was light and easy to wield, a pen that could beautiful dart between the purple lines of crisp Rhodia paper. It was November 1, 2014—that was the day I ordered my first TWSBI, a clear demonstrator 580. I had $50 in my Amazon account that was burning a hole in my pocket, and my qualms about the cracking issues had finally been set aside slightly by the commensurate posts about TWSBI’s great customer service. I figured there was nothing to lose in purchasing a TWSBI, and I figured if all went to hell, I could just return the pen on Amazon.
The pen arrived just two days later, peeking out at me with its yellow envelope. And I was blown away. Reading the reviews, I had always expected the TWSBI to made of cheap Bic pen plastic. I had expected the pen to be something that I would have to replace in about a year—a consumable pen, which I so much abhorred. But the TWSBI 580 was something of a next level pen. It’s plastic bore a sort of familiar heft, and the way the plastic was molded on the barrel—the absolutely striking diamond design—blew me away. I was startled by the creativity behind TWSBI, the idea to cut the barrel a certain way so as to add some depth to the basic cylindrical design that plagued so many other demonstrator pens. In the light, it resembled the crystal bases of whiskey glasses, creating a dance of light and reflections as I slowly turned the pen in the sun. And then I lost my TWSBI 580. Just a week later, it was gone. I set it down somewhere, and that was it. It was the first time I had lost a fountain pen, and the fact that it was a TWSBI, made it that much more heartbreaking. It felt as if I was just beginning to discover a pen that could very well be everything I was looking for—and then, it just disappeared.
Later that year, and into 2015, I would order a couple other pens—a Lamy 2K that was way overdue, a Visconti Homo Sapiens, among others—but I always felt my mind coming back to the TWSBI 580. Both the Lamy and the Visconti were absolutely fantastic pens—don’t get me wrong—but I always had this sense that TWSBI could do better—TWSBI could easily make the same pen at a far lower price. But I couldn’t bear—at the time—the thought of owning another TWSBI 580. The wounds of my loss were too fresh, the TWSBI was like a dog that had passed away—I couldn’t just go out and get one that looked just like it.
June 3rd, I finally ordered another TWSBI. This time it was a TWSBI Mini with an extra-fine nib. I knew I would love the TWSBI Mini because it had everything I loved about the 580 in a smaller—and postable—form factor. Like last time, the TWSBI Mini came two days later. I can confidently say now that the TWSBI Mini is my favorite fountain pen. Expensive pens like Viscontis and Pelikans are fantastic, but I’ve always been plagued with the fear of losing them, and thus those pens rarely leave the house with me. Chase Jarvis has said that, “The best camera is the one that’s with you”. Similarly, my great Holy Grail pens are fantastic, but—unlike the little TWSBI—they are never with me, and therefore the TWSBI is my best pen. It is pen that is available at a price point where it will always be with me. Furthermore the absolutely stellar customer support at TWSBI means that I don’t need to worry if any problems ever arise. I can’t think of a single other fountain pen brand—not even Pelikan or Omas—where I can personally e-mail the owner and immediately get a problem fixed. If purchases are a union of trust between the seller and buyer, then I have every reason to trust the people at TWSBI.
In a way, I feel inspired by TWSBI’s story. TWSBI began as a manufacturer churning out uninspiring, cheap unbranded ballpoint pens for other brands. But then TWSBI decided that it would create its own brand, that it would manufacture absolutely fantastic fountain pens at a low cost. TWSBI to me represents the classic story of trading financial security for passion. The people at TWSBI decided that they wanted to create something that absolutely delights and inspires its customers, instead of basic cheap ballpoint pens. Today, I would purchase a TWSBI fountain pen even if they weren’t good, knowing that I would be supporting a company that seeks passion. But TWSBI pens aren’t just good, they’re fantastic, which makes purchasing that much easier. And every time I pull out my TWSBI, I am reminded of the great quality and writing experience, and I’m reminded that if the desire to pursue a passion can create a fountain pen this great, then I have every bit the reason to pursue what makes me happy. In a way, TWSBI inspires me to ignore the basic securities and pursue—throw myself head-first—into whatever it is I love. And perhaps, just perhaps, I can create something as great as a TWSBI fountain pen.