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Penbbs 355 First Impressions


taike
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PenBBS has rolled out another new pen. The new PenBBS 355 is interesting from a couple of angles:

  • It's another larger pen. It's big and substantial in weight.
  • It sports a new filling system - one capable of holding a lot of ink.
  • The 355 has new nib options, including a western M.

1901060238PM.jpeg

 

Bulk Filling System

Pen makers have been thinking about ways to make pens hold more ink for a good long time. Makes sense. One of the more ingenious approaches appeared in 1898, in a U.S. Patent issued to one George H. Means.

 

US610818-0_edit.png

His invention improved on the piston fillers of his day via a system to disengage the piston from the plunger shaft once the pen is filled to store the shaft in the body. Sweet.

 

Richard Binder talks more about the mechanism on his blog.

 

I don't have a better name for this filling system so for now I'll use the one Conid uses for their very well regarded pens.

 

Trouble in Paradise?

 

For this filling system to work, you have to be able to easily and reliably engage and disengage the piston from the shaft. And there's the rub. With the 355 it's easy to get the two locked together so that getting them disengaged after filling the pen with ink becomes challenging if not impossible.

 

I'd heard that the pistons in PenBBS 309 piston filling pens sometimes stick in the barrel and require a bit of work to dislodge so they move freely. Yup. The piston was stuck in my pen.

 

Fortunately, the pen is easy to take apart. You don't get a tool like with TSWBI but it's not hard to find one that works. Once I got the back off the piston assembly, it was simple enough to get the piston unstuck. I applied some silicon grease and put things back together. A little more than finger tight seems like enough.

 

1901051121PM.jpeg

 

In theory, the filling drill goes like this:

  1. Unscrew the blind cap and pull out the shaft until the threads at the end of the shaft come in contact with the piston. Continue turning the shaft counterclockwise to thread the head of the shaft into the piston.
  2. With the shaft and piston engaged, fill the pen as you would any piston filler.
  3. When the pen is full, turn the shaft clockwise to disengage the head of the shaft from the piston and push the shaft back into the barrel of the pen.

Easily said.

 

As it turns out, if you seat the head of the shaft snugly into the piston and then fill the pen, the action of drawing ink into the barrel tightens things up. Then there's the issue of the ink. When the pen's empty it's simple to see the threads on the shaft. You can see what's going on. When the pen's full of ink, not so much. In fact, not at all.

 

So there I was, a barrel full of beautiful Sailor Jentle Nioi Sumire ink and no where to go. The piston and shaft were locked together tight. Turning the shaft turned the piston instead of disengaging the shaft. It got to the point where I wasn't sure if I was even turning things the right direction.

 

Back to square one.

 

I took the mechanism apart again, disengaged the shaft and piston and put the pen back together again.

 

I then got some water and practiced.

 

The trick it turns out is to not thread the shaft fully into the piston. That and get good enough to do it with your eyes closed.

 

A Good Sized Pen

Capped, the pen is 147mm, Uncapped, it is 132mm. Inked and uncapped, it is getting toward 20g, my current favorite pen weight.

 

PenBBS_355_capped_full_scale.jpg

 

Size-wise, the PenBBS 355 is very similar to the PenBBS 456. I like the size.

 

PenBBS_355_456_comparison.jpg

 

Down to the Writing

 

1901060125PM.jpeg

 

The new PenBBS M nib has round tipping compared with the bent tipping PenBBS used on previous nibs. The PenBBS M is on the finer side of M nibs I've used.

 

PenBBS_355_writing_sample_01.jpg

 

As a writer, the PenBBS 355 more than holds it's own. The M nib wrote perfectly out of the box. No tuning required. It's smooth and is by no means dry. The sweet spot is big and friendly.

 

In short, the nib performs very, very nicely. I've been waiting for more nib choices from PenBBS for a while now.

 

In the hand, the 355 touches all the right bases. It's big enough to write with unposted. (The cap does post but I can't see why I'd write that way.) I like the weight. The section is comfortably large. While the cap threads are on the sharp side, that's not a deal breaker by any means.

 

Less tapered at the ends, I like the styling of the 355 more than the 456. Obviously PenBBS is famous for amazing acrylics, but I'm a little off that bandwagon. I like the simplicity of a straight transparent demonstrator. PenBBS does a great job. The capliner, for example is clear unlike the smokey liners TSWBI uses.

 

Style-wise, holding up the 355 next to my TWSBI 580, I think I still prefer the latter. As good as it is, the 355 is a bit plain. The coffinesque clip is kinda meeh. But I'm being picky.

 

Recommended?

 

Sure. If not just for the nib alone. And to experience the filling system. Once you get that mastered, you'll have a good-to-great writer that holds a ton of ink. I'm not tempted to swap out the nib on this pen and that's a good thing.

 

In the pantheon of PenBBS pens, the 355 sits close to the top but isn't head and shoulders over it's mates. I think perhaps I was expecting it to be. Time will tell. It may grow on me.

 

I paid a bit under US$28 + shipping from Shanghai Jindian on taobao.

 

 

More photos and comments here.

Edited by EDC
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“I then got some water and practiced. The trick it turns out is to not thread the shaft fully into the piston. That and get good enough to do it with your eyes closed.”

 

What great advice! Thank you for relating your experience and investing so much time in this review. It sounds especially useful for people with opaque barrels.

Reviews and articles on Fountain Pen Network

 

CHINA, JAPAN, AND INDIA

Hua Hong Blue Belter | Penbbs 456 | Stationery | ASA Nauka in Dartmoor and Ebonite | ASA Azaadi | ASA Bheeshma | ASA Halwa | Ranga Model 8 and 8b | Ranga Emperor

ITALY AND THE UK

FILCAO Roxi | FILCAO Atlantica | Italix Churchman's Prescriptor

USA, INK, AND EXPERIMENTS

Bexley Prometheus | Route 54 Motor Oil | Black Swan in Icelandic Minty Bathwater | Robert Oster Aqua | Diamine Emerald Green | Mr. Pen Radiant Blue | Three Oysters Giwa | Flex Nib Modifications | Rollstoppers

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Thanks, very useful review. It's an interesting pen, I chased the 308 and 309 but ultimately it came down to "do I want a clone of another pen?" and the answer was "nope"; this one has the advantage of not being a blatant copy of a Sailor, particularly with respect to the nib, although I found the upturned nib interesting people seem to swap them. The other things that killed the previous models were the colours, too horrible or too bland, and the fact that I have been able to get tried and true used pens from known brands for about the price of these, and a couple of icons for twice. Lastly, for me it comes down to reliability and durability, something that also made me stop following TWSBI.

 

$28 is no longer cheap, try on a whim territory, but I salute them for trying.

"The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt."

 

B. Russell

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Thanks, very useful review. It's an interesting pen, I chased the 308 and 309 but ultimately it came down to "do I want a clone of another pen?" and the answer was "nope"; this one has the advantage of not being a blatant copy of a Sailor, particularly with respect to the nib, although I found the upturned nib interesting people seem to swap them. The other things that killed the previous models were the colours, too horrible or too bland, and the fact that I have been able to get tried and true used pens from known brands for about the price of these, and a couple of icons for twice. Lastly, for me it comes down to reliability and durability, something that also made me stop following TWSBI.

 

$28 is no longer cheap, try on a whim territory, but I salute them for trying.

 

 

I'm not to bothered by the cloning, but I agree about everything else. The Chinese pens' bodies are improving and match the price or more, but the nibs though reliable writers aren't that interesting yet.

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Muddy, good question. This thread (below) contains some possible answers: more heavily finned feeds, possibly an extra layer of air insulation, 2 ml as a smaller volume of ink to deal with than 3 or 4 ml.

 

As for the design copy discussion, I’ll quote something from a previous review — “The cigar-shaped design is based on the ogiva, or ogee, or pointed arch, found in architecture. When this torpedo shape is applied to pens, the fountain pen universe thinks first of Montblanc or OMAS or Sheaffer or Sailor. But the designers for these companies all based this shape on something, and that something was the pointed arch. The German pen companies, the Swiss, the French, the Americans, the Japanese, the Chinese – they’re not ripping off each other. They’re ripping off Italian architects of Gothic cathedrals, who ripped off architects from ancient Persia, Greece, and China.”

 

https://www.fountainpennetwork.com/forum/topic/321214-burping-in-eyedroppers-or-piston-fillers/

Reviews and articles on Fountain Pen Network

 

CHINA, JAPAN, AND INDIA

Hua Hong Blue Belter | Penbbs 456 | Stationery | ASA Nauka in Dartmoor and Ebonite | ASA Azaadi | ASA Bheeshma | ASA Halwa | Ranga Model 8 and 8b | Ranga Emperor

ITALY AND THE UK

FILCAO Roxi | FILCAO Atlantica | Italix Churchman's Prescriptor

USA, INK, AND EXPERIMENTS

Bexley Prometheus | Route 54 Motor Oil | Black Swan in Icelandic Minty Bathwater | Robert Oster Aqua | Diamine Emerald Green | Mr. Pen Radiant Blue | Three Oysters Giwa | Flex Nib Modifications | Rollstoppers

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Very good review. It is great to have a relatively inexpensive pen with such filling system and ink capacity. However, I wonder why eyedroppers with large capacity burp while these don't, or do you have any experience of the pen with large ink capacity burping?

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I wonder why eyedroppers with large capacity burp while these don't

 

 

My Koloro has never burped. :D

"Simplicate and add Lightness."

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That is why the piston head clicks and locks into the block in the back of the pen. With it clicked into place it shoundn’t spin when screwing the rod into or out of the piston head. Mine should show up in a few days and should know more then.

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What does it look like posted? I use my 456 posted all the time

 

I'm not that thrilled with the scrollwork on the new nib. The old nib was more handsome, but in need of some more QC.

 

is it wrong that I was hoping the filling lock system was more of a ripoff of conid?

Edited by Honeybadgers

Selling a boatload of restored, fairly rare, vintage Japanese gold nib pens, click here to see (more added as I finish restoring them)

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Ink capacity is a little over 2 ml. The video review by Alanlight, in another FPN thread, offers a detailed analysis of ink capacity.

Reviews and articles on Fountain Pen Network

 

CHINA, JAPAN, AND INDIA

Hua Hong Blue Belter | Penbbs 456 | Stationery | ASA Nauka in Dartmoor and Ebonite | ASA Azaadi | ASA Bheeshma | ASA Halwa | Ranga Model 8 and 8b | Ranga Emperor

ITALY AND THE UK

FILCAO Roxi | FILCAO Atlantica | Italix Churchman's Prescriptor

USA, INK, AND EXPERIMENTS

Bexley Prometheus | Route 54 Motor Oil | Black Swan in Icelandic Minty Bathwater | Robert Oster Aqua | Diamine Emerald Green | Mr. Pen Radiant Blue | Three Oysters Giwa | Flex Nib Modifications | Rollstoppers

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Thank you Bobje! 355 Galaxy and a Koloro, both with shut-offs, and I'm good for travel.

"Simplicate and add Lightness."

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Karmachanic, did you ever swap the Bock italic nib onto a Penbbs pen?

Reviews and articles on Fountain Pen Network

 

CHINA, JAPAN, AND INDIA

Hua Hong Blue Belter | Penbbs 456 | Stationery | ASA Nauka in Dartmoor and Ebonite | ASA Azaadi | ASA Bheeshma | ASA Halwa | Ranga Model 8 and 8b | Ranga Emperor

ITALY AND THE UK

FILCAO Roxi | FILCAO Atlantica | Italix Churchman's Prescriptor

USA, INK, AND EXPERIMENTS

Bexley Prometheus | Route 54 Motor Oil | Black Swan in Icelandic Minty Bathwater | Robert Oster Aqua | Diamine Emerald Green | Mr. Pen Radiant Blue | Three Oysters Giwa | Flex Nib Modifications | Rollstoppers

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Karmachanic, did you ever swap the Bock italic nib onto a Penbbs pen?

 

 

I'm not Kamachanic, but I had no problem swapping Jowo #6's into a PenBBS 323 and 456. I have also used a Bock #6 in place of a Jowo #6. You just need to be careful when pulling the nib out of screw in unit. The fins on the PenBBS feed are fragile.

Edited by Driften
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I think only the 308 has fitment troubles. It's the only one I own that has issues with a JoWo nib.

Selling a boatload of restored, fairly rare, vintage Japanese gold nib pens, click here to see (more added as I finish restoring them)

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That is why the piston head clicks and locks into the block in the back of the pen. With it clicked into place it shoundn’t spin when screwing the rod into or out of the piston head. Mine should show up in a few days and should know more then.

 

1901070158PM.jpeg

 

Bingo! That's exactly how it works. The lip on the bottom of the piston snaps into base and the piston is held firm.

 

Problem solved. Thank you.

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Problem solved. Thank you.

 

Until it wears out and no longer 'clicks' in place.

"When Men differ in Opinion, both Sides ought equally to have the Advantage of being heard by the Publick; and that when Truth and Error have fair Play, the former is always an overmatch for the latter."

~ Benjamin Franklin

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Karmachanic, did you ever swap the Bock italic nib onto a Penbbs pen?

 

I purchased a spare nib thingie, and was able to remove the nib, and replace it with a Bock on that feed.

"Simplicate and add Lightness."

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