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Pen Pit Stop : TWSBI VAC mini


namrehsnoom
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Pen Pit Stop : TWSBI VAC Mini

 

Welcome to the Pen Pit Stop. Here you will find reviews of pens that already have some mileage on them. More specifically, these reviews are of pens that are in my personal collection, and that have been in use for at least a year. I thought it would be fun to do it this way – no new & shiny pens here, but battered vehicles that have been put to work for at least a year. Let’s find out how they have withstood the ravages of time.

 

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The fountain pen that arrives at the pit stop today is the “TWSBI VAC Mini” demonstrator (clear version). This is the only vacuum filler pen in my collection, and for that reason alone precious to me. Fortunately, it’s also a really good writer with an excellent nib that wrote smoothly right out of the box. I bought this pen in April 2016, and it has been in use for almost 6 years now. This pen is in my regular rotation, typically filled with a colourful ink that brings life to the transparent barrel. Let’s have a closer look at it.

 

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Pen Look & Feel
My TWSBI VAC Mini is the clear version demonstrator. I love the minimalistic looks of the pen – it’s just transparent plastic with silver accents. I find it quite an elegant and aesthetically beautiful pen – in contrast with the more garish-looking coloured demonstrators that TWSIB has heaps of (not a fan of those 😉 This is a fairly minimalistic pen without much in the way of ornamentation. Some subtle branding is present, with the TWSBI logo on the finial, and a faint engraving on the cap spelling “TWSBI” and “VAC mini Taiwan”

 

The pen has a screw-on cap that unscrews with 1.5 rotations. It can be posted by screwing the cap on the threads at the end of the barrel. One thing I noticed: when posting the cap, it sometimes misaligns on the threads, resulting in a crooked post (to show this, take a look at the picture with the posted pen in the Safari comparison below). Just something to be aware of. I typically use the pen unposted, so it’s not an issue for me. The silver-coloured M-nib on my pen writes really smooth, and is a true pleasure to use. 

 

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The VAC Mini is a vacuum filler – which is a really cool way to fill up a pen with ink. You unscrew the end cap, and pull out the piston rod. Next, put the nib in the ink bottle and push down the plunger – this creates a vacuum in the top part of the barrel. Near the nib unit, the ink reservoir flares out (indicated by the arrow). When the piston passes this point, there is a direct connection between the top and bottom parts. Now air pressure pushes the ink inside the barrel, equalizing pressure on both sides. Really neat!

 

With the end cap screwed down, the plunger seals off the nib unit. In this position, no ink can flow to the nib. To use the pen, you need to unscrew the end cap a bit, allowing ink to flow from barrel to nib unit. You have to be aware of this – it happens more often than not that you’re writing with the pen, only to have it stop after a few lines. Darn… forgot to unscrew that end cap!

 

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The pictures above illustrate the size of the VAC mini in comparison with a standard Lamy Safari. The VAC mini is certainly not a large pen, but it’s not too small and can easily be used unposted. 

 

Pen Characteristics

  • Build Quality :  the pen is well build, and still looks great after almost 6 years of use. The plastic used for the transparent parts is still shiny and unscratched. Mind you – I treat my pens with respect, and always use a pen pouch when carrying them around. But still, the pen has aged gracefully.
  • Weight & Dimensions : the pen is on the small side, comparable with a Pelikan M200/M400. It feels a bit heavier though, probably due to the metal used for the piston rod. For me, the pen is comfortable to use unposted (where it is a little bit smaller than a Pelikan M200/M400). But if you have larger hands, it’s probably best to use it posted. When posted, it’s exactly the same size as a posted Pelikan M200/M400.  
  • Filling System : this is a vacuum-filler pen, that can only be used with bottled ink. A rather unique filling system – I’m glad to have a pen of this type in my collection.
  • Nib & Performance : the silver-coloured steel nib is well-proportioned for the size of this pen. The M-nib on my unit writes like a dream, and produces a wet and well-saturated line. I also appreciate the fact that replacement nib units are readily available. 
  • Price : I paid 69 EUR for the new pen (including taxes). Given the build quality of the pen, and the cool vacuum-filler mechanism, I’d say this is very good value for money.

 

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Conclusion
The TWSBI VAC mini Demonstrator is a really nice-looking minimalistic pen, that beautifully showcases the inks you fill it with. I love the smooth nib on my unit that worked perfectly out-of-the-box. For me, size and weight are just perfect - a very comfortable pen for longer writing sessions. 
The crucial question is: would I buy this pen again? To this, my answer is a resounding YES. This pen totally fits my taste, and is also a very smooth writer. And that vacuum-filler mechanism is just so cool ! 


 

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Thanks for the review - I've had a Vac Mini for a few years now, and just recently added to it a Vac 700R.  Though the smaller pen is definitely more 'pocketable', I think I enjoy the larger pen more - I find the shut-off valve in my Mini gets a bit 'sticky', and can interfere with ink flow to the nib.

 

Fantastic filling mechanism on these pens, though - and they hold a huge amount of ink.  Vac fillers to me are worth it, if nothing else, for the 'novelty factor' of seeing them fill with ink!

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thank you - as always truly appreciate this type of review when the new pen novelty has worn off a little.  it's the sort of thing i go looking for before purchasing new pens.  i have the 700r in use for 3 years now, no material defects however not even close to how clean you have kept your vac mini.  

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I accidentally bent the clip out a bit from normal pocket use and it's now slightly rattly and loose and as far as I can tell, impossible to get back tight again. I can't get the finial to unscrew, so it's either in way too tight, or assembled with adhesive.

 

Either way, bummer. The pen is now obnoxious to use.

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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  • 2 weeks later...

The step up does not look so bad too compared to other TWSBIs

http://img244.imageshack.us/img244/5642/postcardde9.pnghttp://img525.imageshack.us/img525/606/letterji9.png
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On 2/19/2022 at 3:20 PM, namrehsnoom said:

The pen has a screw-on cap that unscrews with 1.5 rotations. It can be posted by screwing the cap on the threads at the end of the barrel.

Thank you @namrehsnoom for this 6 years in use report!

I'm looking forward to how mine will look in 5 years ...

 

I have bought mine with an EF nib and, because it was so unbelievably smooth (indeed, EF = smooth!), I bought an F spare nib a bit later. However, I'm unable to make the F nearly as smooth as the EF was out of the box. Strange things happen.

 

I use mine for drawing only - the EF nib with its little bit of line variation is simply great.

 

The Vac mini is a tiny bit too short to be comfortable for me, I always need to post it. The only negative is in the posting, as the threads allow two positions: one with the clip aligned and one not aligned. That's sad!

(closing the pen with the cap also has 2 positions, but I don't care)

One life!

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 2/19/2022 at 10:27 PM, Honeybadgers said:

I accidentally bent the clip out a bit from normal pocket use and it's now slightly rattly and loose and as far as I can tell, i

Did you contact TWSBI? I've had very good luck with their customer service people, at least in the States.

Festina lente

Optimism kills

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Just a note to say thank you for the "long term perspective" on this pen. The idea of reviewing pens that have been used for a while is great. AND, your comments were/are interesting. I may have to go back and begin using my TSWBI 580 with a Pendleton BLS stub nib.

Please Keep On Writing! And reviewing.

“Don't put off till tomorrow what you can do today, because if you do it today and like it, you can do again tomorrow!”

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