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A Smug Dill posted a topic in Ink ReviewsLizEF's recent question/thread in this forum section – and the fact that I frivolously ordered and picked up 26 new bottles of different inks yesterday – have me pondering, how does one go about systematically reviewing inks, from planning to execution, so that the ‘work products’ out of the expended effort (and resources, including the inks themselves) are meaningful and useful? Yes, I've read the pinned topics at the top in the Ink Reviews section, including specifically ‘Suggestions For What To Include In An Ink Review’, and read many great and helpful reviews of different inks by esteemed fellow forum members, from which each I glean bits and pieces of what I want to know about an ink. visvamitra and crahptacular, as (notable, but of course not the only) exemplars of seasoned and thorough reviewers, obviously have well-practised procedures and systems for doing ink reviews. But do most of the rest of us just fill a (spare?) pen up with a new ink, start scribbling, and let our thoughts and impressions come to us? Right now I'm pondering buying extra pens – and other equipment and incidental consumables – for testing, but part of me thinks it's going over the top, while another part of me thinks it actually goes against the spirit of a user review, not the least in consideration of: Would my review have been the one-stop-shop that would have covered at least 90% of what I want to know about an ink, the next time I consider when, on what and in which pen to use a particular ink, or whether I want to buy more of it if (say) a special retail offer for it comes onto my radar? (Getting ink samples in retail or commercially is, for all intents and purposes, not an option readily available to Australian fountain pen users, so I'm always thinking of a financial commitment of A$15–A$45 a bottle of ink delivered.) In particular, it's almost as if the only ‘fair’ and meaningful way to test for ‘wetness’ is to use something like a cheap (Platinum/Pilot/Sailor) desk pen with EF nib – that I suspect none of us use seriously and frequently, not for any shortcoming in product quality – as a de facto standard (from the perspective of a particular individual reviewer) to see whether the ink flows decently down the feed and the slit, and to compare the line width laid down on a particular type (or even batch) of paper, since there is no practical, objective metric the average reviewer can use for measuring ‘wetness’ or viscosity, with or without a specific use case in mind. I'm not going to keep a duplicate or second unit of my ‘favourite’/‘EDC’ pen for ink testing and review purposes only, and I dislike flushing and cleaning a ‘fine’ fountain pen after 30 minutes of intermittent use during testing, and wasting time, effort and ink through inevitable unproductive loss in the process. In any case, I know from experience that, say, my two new Platinum #3776 Balance pens with F nibs (in the same model, just of different barrel colours) seem to behave noticeably differently, so it's just so difficult to isolate what is the characteristic of the ink itself (as opposed to variation in the nibs, pens, paper, ambient temperature, etc.) as opposed to making a forecast for a specific future use case. Then there are things that I'd like to know about, but not by engineering a situation where it could happen, just to see whether it does or not. For example, whether an ink would stain the white surface of my writing desk. I do have eight or so demonstrator pens, but I don't want to use them specifically to test whether an ink would stain a clear demonstrator, 1. because (I believe) nobody in his/her right mind wants to stain a clear demonstrator pen he/she owns and most likely paid for; and 2. choosing to use a demonstrator has inherent risk, and so I only buy cheap demonstrators (the most expensive being a clear Sailor Lecoule). I have no interest in whether an ink would stain a $200 Platinum #3776 Century Nice Pure, and I don't really want anyone else to have to find out through first-hand (but unwanted) experience either for the purpose of a review, either. How to strike the right balance of effort (and risk) against value (and meaning) in doing ink reviews still evades me.
I originally posted the following review in a discussion thread on the TWSBI Eco. It was meant to be a very short review, but it turned out longer, and I now think it makes more sense to put it here. So I've copied and pasted the text from that post, subject to minor edits. No photos, but there are plenty available of this much-awaited pen. Please note the inclusion of a Bonus category. The TWSBI Eco comes in black and white. I got the white version, with EF nib. Thanks to The Writing Desk in the UK for an excellent service (no affiliation). Design: 8/10 Simple, well thought out. For those, like me, who like to post their pens, the rubber ring at the end makes a lot of sense. Well thought-out. The plastic feels a little cheap, but at this price point, that is no problem at all. Appearance: 6/10 Without the cap, the pen is quite pretty, with a clear demonstrator barrel and solid color at the back (white in my case). Not mad about the cap, though: my wife's blunt comment was that it is very ugly. To me, it seems disproportionately thick/massive, and it clearly marrs an otherwise pleasing appearance. That's why I gave a modest 6/10 score here. Filling system: 10/10 A piston filler at this price point puts the tools you need to maintain it? Couldn't be better. The piston mechanism works beautifully. Nib performanc: 9/10 The EF nib writes smoothly, with a hint of feedback. No scratchiness. Excellent flow. Nib is stiff, with no flexibility to speak of; you could get some line variation if you abuse the nib, but it's a pleasant writing experience without doing so. Wetness is about 6-7/10. It is by no means dry, but could hardly be called a gusher. (I've been using Diamond's Carnival, part of the anniversary collection.) Writing experience: 9/10 I have been pleasantly surprised by this pen. It writes smoothly and pleasantly. The balance is excellent. It is large enough to use unposted, but is even more pleasant a size when posted. The cap is too light to affect the balance. I would have preferred a slightly girthier pen, but that's a small gripe and means it will suit a wider range of hands. WOOTB? Bonus: 5 This pen gets a bonus for Writing Out Of The Box without any modifications or work needed to the nib or any other part of the pen. I have become very annoyed at the number of new pens that need some sort of adjustment before they can be used properly (including some high-end brands), so any review I do from now on will include this question. Note: I have tentatively decided to award 5 bonus points to pens that just WOOTB, and zero to those that need work: this privileges writing experience over aesthetics, which not everyone will agree with. But to me, a pen is a writing instrument first and an item of beauty second, and if it doesn't work from the start then the final score should reflect that. Overall: 42/50 + 5 Bonus = 47 This is an excellent pen and is well worth the money. It knocks the socks off several much more expensive pens in terms of performance (if not beauty). I think it has real potential to knock the Lamy Safari or the Pilot Metropolitan off their pedestal as go-to entry level pens. But it is also a good choice for someone with more experience looking for a good daily carry pen. If you're looking for a thoroughly beautiful pen, look elsewhere. If you're after a decent-looking pen with excellent performance, then you should definitely consider the Eco.