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Twsbi - Vac 700 (Goulet Nib, Blue)


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TWSBI – Vac 700 (Goulet M nib, Blue)

http://farm4.staticflickr.com/3732/11346039556_ec1b75cfde.jpg

Specifications:

Length (capped): 145mm

Length (uncapped): 134mm

Length (posted): 174 (!!) mm

Width at grip: 10mm

Widest width: 15mm

Nib material: Stainless steel (Stock Jowo), gold plated stainless steel (Goulet)

Nib length x width: Jowo – 23 x 9mm, Goulet – 24 x 9mm

Introduction

My personal experience with TWSBI has been interesting. A Taiwanese company that has made impressive and rapid improvements in a somewhat slow moving and increasingly overpriced industry, TWSBI set out to make modern, well writing pens that are good value. My first TWSBI was a Diamond 540. I loved it – it was cheap, looked great and was a large capacity piston filler. But as time wore on, issues began to arise – a bone dry nib that went out of alignment too easily (Two issues that I see far too much with the other Bocks in my collection), a filling mechanism that required far more maintenance than my trusty Pelikan, and small cracks around the grip section. Towards the end of our relationship, the Diamond no longer set my heart aflutter whenever I picked it up like it used to. This all came to a head when the metal ring on the cap abruptly broke off when I twisted the pen too tightly. I guess some romances are doomed from the start.

This experience slightly soured my view on TWSBI, so I wasn't exactly eager to try the Vac 700. After all, it was awkward looking, had a similarly dry nib, and was a relatively expensive purchase from a company that I didn't have much faith in. One TWSBI Diamond 580, a Jowo nib change and a price drop later, the Vac 700 was suddenly a much more appetising proposition. How could I say no? I decided on the blue version.

Presentation

Unabashedly Apple inspired, the the Vac700 shares the same box with the Diamond series and my iPod Nano:

http://farm3.staticflickr.com/2894/11346049716_56103e3ea7.jpg

Underneath the white plastic insert, you get TWSBIs famous wrench, a bottle of silicon grease and spare O rings. You know, the kind of stuff that more expensive pens should include but never do?

http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7455/11346070424_c5b16924fa.jpg

The presentation is nice and fits with the overall modern impression of TWSBIs pens.

Appearance

http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7331/11346047636_2db1bb3ef8.jpg

TWSBI set out to make the Vac 700 clash as much as possible, and boy did they succeed. The cap jewel is TWSBIs usual bold red logo. On the business end, the clip clashes nicely with the smooth chrome of the rest of the pen:

http://farm4.staticflickr.com/3673/11346069094_75c585d4ca.jpg

The body gently tapers down to the end. Having a bulbous middle section means when you unscrew the pen, the barrel width clashes with the grip:

http://farm4.staticflickr.com/3784/11346065674_b8a3fabb4d.jpg

The faceted turning knob and cap are designed nicely to clash with the body, which is smooth. And finally, if you chose the clear demonstrator version, the dark ends of the pen clash with the clear middle of the body. In case you haven't picked it up, I'm not a fan of the appearance of this pen. Placing the Vac next to the Diamond, it's clear the Vac was intended to be the complement of the Diamond's design, to the detriment of the resulting overall look of the Vac.

The plastic itself is a dark blue, much darker than my Pelikan demonstrator is.

Build quality

While the jury is still out on the long term durability of TWSBIs current generation of pens, I have high hopes for the Vac. Like the Diamond 580 now does, it has metal rings to reinforce the plastic, including a ring in the grip section which was a hot-spot for cracking on my 540. The rest of the pen is thick, sturdy plastic that has no give when twisted or otherwise forced. Then again, Pelikan M2xx series do without the metal rings and do not suffer cracking issues, so perhaps TWSBI is using cheaper plastic? Either way it's difficult and pointless to speculate this early.

When closed, the pen is a sleek shape with a bulging midsection (Kinda like a pen version of my father then). When opened, the pen assumes it's awkward pose - The abrupt gradient from the middle of the body to the grip means I have to hold the pen tighter to get a more secure grip - and this means I'm pinching the already sharp threads very tightly. Annoying. And posting the cap just makes the pen look ridiculous:

http://farm4.staticflickr.com/3721/11346040006_6874634d3f.jpg

One curiosity of this pen, and vacuum fillers in general is that you must unscrew the blind cap a little to allow ink to flow through freely through the feed. While a minor inconvenience, it does mean that the pen is totally safe for flying. And as a bonus, TWSBI said you can remove the rubber seal at the end of the piston rod if you don't like unscrewing the blind cap. Personally, I've found the nib leaks ink into the cap when the ink reservoir isn't sealed, so I'll leave it on for the time being.

One issue I should point out is that I'm naughty, and frequently return unused ink to its ink bottle when I wish to change colours (I'll slap myself on the wrist later I promise), this is a very, very messy operation with a vacuum filler, with the feed section literally squirting droplets of ink all over the place, not an issue if you have good fountain pen hygiene, but I don't.

Nib

I received a predictably good Jowo nib on my unit. What interested me however, was comparing it to the Goulet nib. The Goulet nibs are also made by Jowo and I expected the Goulet nib to be a rebrand of the Jowo nib that shipped with my Vac 700 – but to my surprise they are definitely different nibs.

http://farm6.staticflickr.com/5529/11345965045_6acb0990dc.jpg

http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7407/11346112203_605c1a327c.jpg

Not that the visual differences really matter, but both nibs taper to the same angle. The Goulet nib appears to be the same width Jowo nib, and the flares are cut differently too. The Goulet nib also has a flatter top section where the nib rests against the of the feed – the Jowo nib on the other hand is uniformly round, and fits the native Vac feed better:

http://farm3.staticflickr.com/2879/11346110103_d6cdcbb301.jpg

Writing with the nibs is different too. After much comparison, nib swapping, and getting a friend to double check to confirm that it wasn't a figment of my imagination, I feel confident to say the Goulet nib is stiffer, and is wetter. Neither nib has any hard start or skipping issues (anyone else find it depressing that in 2013 it's a pleasant surprise to find a pen that never does either of those things?). Overall it's impossible to say if I prefer one to the other – the stiffness of the Goulet nib means you need to be more judicious about how you hold the pen to get its sweet spot, but when you do the pen is smooth, lush and wet (I swear I don't write erotic literature for a living). The Jowo nib, as pretty much everyone who owns a Diamond 580 will tell you, is lightly springy, reliable, and also smooth.

So if the Goulet nib doesn't necessarily write any better than the stock nib, why buy the Goulet nib? Well aside from having a spare, very reliable #6 nib, consider the fact that we are living in the fountain pen equivalent of a post apocalyptic world. When was the last time you physically saw another fountain pen out in the wild. Not often? If wearing the Goulet Pens logo on your pen can help raise some awareness of fountain pens and support a fountain pen retailer, then I think that's a fine reason to use this nib.

Drag Test/Writing sample:

http://farm6.staticflickr.com/5548/11346107933_7e67f2b433.jpg

Overall 3.5/5

A vacuum filler for around $65? With a good Jowo nib? Bargain. However, as a flagship for TWSBI I find it lacking – your more expensive pens should not be so thoroughly upstaged by a cheaper model. But with this and TWSBIs speed of innovation in mind, I can confidently say that the next version of the Vac will probably be an extraordinary pen.

The Good:

+ Flushing a vacuum filler beats the hell out of flushing a cartridge converter.

+ Well made.

+ Includes extra seals and silicone grease.

+ With recent price drops, it's great value.

+ Able to post the pen deeply with the blind cap unscrewed a little.

+ Can seal up the ink reservoir for flying.

+ TWSBIs customer service is second to none.

The Bad:

- Awkward looking, made somewhat embarrassing by the fact the pen is large and noticeable.

- I found the pen uncomfortable to hold, but others do not, so be aware this may be a problem.

The Ugly:

- The TWSBI Diamond looks better, is more comfortable to hold, has a similar ink capacity and is $30 cheaper.

Comparison

With the TWSBI diamond of course:

http://farm4.staticflickr.com/3787/11346067324_7bba01b735.jpg

http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7293/11345967275_216fd3751d.jpg

http://farm6.staticflickr.com/5525/11346068464_4cab0109bb.jpg

 

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Nice review! It is a really weird/clashing pen. I find it to be a really enjoyable pen to write with though, and I love the vacuum filler.

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Nice review! It is a really weird/clashing pen. I find it to be a really enjoyable pen to write with though, and I love the vacuum filler.

I like the Vacuum filler too. Now if it looked more like the Diamond, I would be absolutely in love.

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Interesting pen, thanks for the review.

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Thanks for the review.

I bought mine directly from TWSBI, so mine does not have that beautiful 2 tones nib. Instead, mine is the 1,1 stub, clear demostrator. IMHO, it works perfectly, soft and wet, a delight. My recommendation is to buy the filling bottle, which allows to fill the complete body of the FP instead of the 2/3 that I got using a regular bottle of ink.

To me, a very good choice, and a spectacular price/quality relation. In fact, I have a 580 waiting for me, but it is still resting in its box, meanwhile I enjoy this one.

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Fun read. Thanks.

Still on the fence whether to get one of these...was thinking a blue one as a dedicated BSB pen.

I think it's a good buy, especially for a first vacuum filler! And I keep a white lamy safari for BSB, But i find the Ink badly behaves on all my paper so I dont really use it much

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I'm excitedly waiting on one of these from Pendleton with his flex modification! Thanks for your review!

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Great review. The Vac is on my Christmas list. Love the Goulet nib swap. You can also go with the complete rhodium nib I suppose. Thanks and Merry !

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I found this works well enough with the knox nibs from xfountainpens. I picked up a stub and a xf to supplement the fine nib mine came with.

 

I only suggest if you do so that you be careful not inserting and removing the third party nibs too vigorously, because the curvature that fits over the feed is slightly different. But no problems for me :)

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Nos,

Well done review. I also recently purchased TWSBIs, three of them: a 580, a 700, and a Mini (all with fine nibs). I agree with your assessment of the 700 design, but even the 580, with no ability to post the cap, seems a little awkward to me. But, I will adjust. Such beautiful writing pens won't be tossed aside because of a little required adjustment. Actually (for me), the Mini, posted, is the most comfortable of the three.

I have a question. For cleaning purposes, I disassembled Parts 2-6 of the 580. When I had everything back together, I was still able to, with very little effort, turn Part 6 (the plastic Grip). Part 4 is screwed on tight, and the instructions state not to overtighten this part. I don't know if this spinning (actually, slow turning) was possible before I disassembled the pen. But what I did notice is that the parts diagram shows an "O ring-Grip - Part 5, between Parts 4 and 6. I don't have one of these, and it is probably the reason why Part 6 is able to turn. Do you have such a "spacer" on your 580? Can you turn Part 6 of your 580?

 

Edit:

 

After watching the following video and once again disassembling the 580, and using strong light and a strong magnifyiny glass, I can see that the O ring is there, Guess the O ring just isn't enough to secure Part 6.

 

http://www.inkonhand.com/2013/11/adding-the-o-ring-to-your-twsbi-580/

 


Thanks for the help, and for your very thorough review.

 

Edited by therecorder
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I've used the 540 and the 700 and like both. I haven't quite made it to the 580 yet. I agree that the 700 isn't as attractive as its smaller cousin, but I do find the thing quite comfortable to hold.

Proud resident of the least visited state in the nation!

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Nos,

 

Well done review. I also recently purchased TWSBIs, three of them: a 580, a 700, and a Mini (all with fine nibs). I agree with your assessment of the 700 design, but even the 580, with no ability to post the cap, seems a little awkward to me. But, I will adjust. Such beautiful writing pens won't be tossed aside because of a little required adjustment. Actually (for me), the Mini, posted, is the most comfortable of the three.

 

I have a question. For cleaning purposes, I disassembled Parts 2-6 of the 580. When I had everything back together, I was still able to, with very little effort, turn Part 6 (the plastic Grip). Part 4 is screwed on tight, and the instructions state not to overtighten this part. I don't know if this spinning (actually, slow turning) was possible before I disassembled the pen. But what I did notice is that the parts diagram shows an "O ring-Grip - Part 5, between Parts 4 and 6. I don't have one of these, and it is probably the reason why Part 6 is able to turn. Do you have such a "spacer" on your 580? Can you turn Part 6 of your 580?

 

Edit:

 

After watching the following video and once again disassembling the 580, and using strong light and a strong magnifyiny glass, I can see that the O ring is there, Guess the O ring just isn't enough to secure Part 6.

 

http://www.inkonhand.com/2013/11/adding-the-o-ring-to-your-twsbi-580/

 

Thanks for the help, and for your very thorough review.

 

 

 

 

Hi therecorder,

The plastic grip you see is indeed meant to rotate, it's not affixed to anything. I found it not to be a problem if you tighten the barrel just enough to make sure the grip doesn't move freely. And speaking of which I just snapped the feed on my 580 by checking it. Guess Twsbi still hasn't ironed out those plastic issues yet.

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I'm curious why you would spend $80 on a pen that you think is ugly.

Learning from the past does not mean living in the past.

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I'm excitedly waiting on one of these from Pendleton with his flex modification! Thanks for your review!

Have you used the Pendleton 580 yet? I'm considering one myself and I'd like to have your opinion.

Franklin-Christoph, Italix, and Pilot pens are the best!
Iroshizuku, Diamine, and Waterman inks are my favorites!

Apica, Rhodia, and Clairefontaine make great paper!

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Because it feels and writes very well and nicely?

Good answer, I suppose. But I'm sure there are many pens that write beautifully that the OP might find beautiful. I was just curious.

 

I have a Vac 700. I love it...both the looks and the works. :)

Learning from the past does not mean living in the past.

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Good answer, I suppose. But I'm sure there are many pens that write beautifully that the OP might find beautiful. I was just curious.

 

I have a Vac 700. I love it...both the looks and the works. :)

I think your original question had an adversarial tone and no question mark, so I wasn't sure what response you required. I like many of my pens, if you want a written version of a pen I really like the appearance and performance of, there's a review I did of the Platinum Shoji, which remains one of my most favourite pens. Looking at the pen cup on my desk, other pens that I like the look of and think write well would be the Vanishing point, Custom Heritage 92, Lamy 2000, the Diamond 580, the Sailor Pro gear demonstrator, Sheaffer intensity (Mine's the cornflower blue version), and my blue Pelikan m205 demo. But there are plenty of pens that I don't like the look of but also write well, like the Twsbi Vac 700, but also the Parker 25 - it looks faintly like a metallic rectal thermometer, but it has a strangely amazing nib. Same for the Sheaffer Agio I have.

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No intent to be adversarial. So sorry if it came across that way. It's just that you spoke in such strong terms about how ugly you thought the Vac was. I was just curious why you bought it.

Learning from the past does not mean living in the past.

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