Thursday, January 28, 2016

Review: TWSBI Vac Mini Fountain Pen - Broad @CouronneduComte @TWSBI

Thanks to La Couronne du Comte for sending this pen for review and giveaway! Stay tuned for Serious Nibbage, where we'll give this pen away!
Review: TWSBI Vac Mini Fountain Pen - Broad @CouronneduComte @TWSBI
Review: TWSBI Vac Mini Fountain Pen - Broad @CouronneduComte @TWSBI
ABOUT

Body Material: Plastic
Trim: Metal
Cap: Threaded
Posting: Yes, threaded
Length (capped): 124.8 mm/4.91''
Length (uncapped nib-end): 115.1 mm/4.53''
Length (posted): 151.7 mm/5.97''
Barrel Diameter: 13.3 mm/0.52''
Section Diameter: 10.0 mm/0.39''
Weight (all): 24 g
Weight (cap): 9 g
Weight (body): 15 g
Nib Material: Steel
Fill type: Vacuum-filler
Nibs Available: XF, F, M, B, 1.1 mm stub
Price: € 69,00
Ink Capacity: 2 ml
Where to buy:
Code: GOURMET10 for 10% off your purchase!

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PACKAGING
Review: TWSBI Vac Mini Fountain Pen - Broad @CouronneduComte @TWSBI
As you  might know, I don't like packaging. If a pen has to be packaged, at least it should be minimal and useful. TWSBI presents the Vac Mini well. There is a small, firm cardboard box with the TWSBI logo in red on top.
Review: TWSBI Vac Mini Fountain Pen - Broad @CouronneduComte @TWSBI
Review: TWSBI Vac Mini Fountain Pen - Broad @CouronneduComte @TWSBI
Inside the box, a clear plastic case is padded in a thin layer of foam on all sides. There is a user guide on top: how to fill, carry, use for longer writing sessions, warnings, and spare parts information. This is all useful information, especially if you are a new user.
January 8. 2016 039
The plastic case is taped shut (and that stuff is not easy to remove). Like with the TWSBI 580 AL, the lid can be removed completely. The pen sits on two display stands, which looks really nice, but it's a pain to reassemble.
Review: TWSBI Vac Mini Fountain Pen - Broad @CouronneduComte @TWSBI
Review: TWSBI Vac Mini Fountain Pen - Broad @CouronneduComte @TWSBI
Underneath the white section labelled TWSBI, TWSBI includes a plastic-covered metal wrench, two spare O-rings, and a small bottle of liquid silicone grease. (Fun fact: this wrench also opens the Pelikan Souverän M800 and M1000 pistons.)
Review: TWSBI Vac Mini Fountain Pen - Broad @CouronneduComte @TWSBI
Review: TWSBI Vac Mini Fountain Pen - Broad @CouronneduComte @TWSBI
I like the efficient use of space - not much is wasted. The plastic case is more than enough protection, so the foam and outer box doesn't seem necessary. The box does allow for easy storage, and all the packages look consistent. Recyclable, reusable.
Review: TWSBI Vac Mini Fountain Pen - Broad @CouronneduComte @TWSBI
APPEARANCE
Review: TWSBI Vac Mini Fountain Pen - Broad @CouronneduComte @TWSBI
The Vac Mini is a pretty cute pen. It has a round body and tapers towards the slightly rounded off ends. The finial has the chrome on candy-apple red TWSBI logo, with a clear dome over it. I love this finial. I think it's really pretty, and when a bunch of TWSBIs are lined up, the finials look really cool.
Review: TWSBI Vac Mini Fountain Pen - Broad @CouronneduComte @TWSBI
The clip is attached internally, through a small slot that is very clean cut, so it looks clean and well done. The clip is plain and simple, with no markings. It has a sloped ball on the underside. The center band is located on the end of the cap. It is fairly wide and shiny and is laser engraved with TWSBI, Vac Mini, and TAIWAN.
TWSBI Vac Mini Cap Band
There are two thin black O-rings: one at the end of the section thread/beginning of the barrel, and one at the end of the barrel. Both appear to assist in capping and posting the cap. The vacuum-filling knob has a metal band to identify it. The threads and rod inside are visible. The cap and barrel are clear, and are slightly faceted - sort of like the Diamond 580 but it's less obvious. The cap has a grey inner cap, which is one of the more tasteful ones I've seen on a clear pen. (The worst being like those on the Platinum Balance/Cool.)
Review: TWSBI Vac Mini Fountain Pen - Broad @CouronneduComte @TWSBI
The section is a little thinner than the barrel, is round and straight to the nib. It ends in a slightly flared metal band that is smooth and flush with the plastic. This is clear, so you can see the nib collar inside. Inside the barrel, the vacuum seal can be seen, as well as the metal rod that works it.

This is not a bad looking pen. I think the plastic looks a bit cheap, especially when it's been handled for awhile, because it gets a bit greasy. It doesn't have the same glittery quality the Diamond 580 seems to have, unless I've completely lost my mind...? It looks well made - not premium or super fancy, but there's no weird edges or gaping holes, so that's pretty decent.

NIB & PERFORMANCE

The steel nib is a broad. It has a single slit, a round breather hole, and is engraved with: TWSBI, the logo, the nib size, and some flourishes.
Review: TWSBI Vac Mini Fountain Pen - Broad @CouronneduComte @TWSBI
Review: TWSBI Vac Mini Fountain Pen - Broad @CouronneduComte @TWSBI
I flushed the pen with dilute dish soap (and water) before inking. The nib wrote quite well out of the box, although it isn't my favorite steel broad nib ever. The nib is fairly smooth, offering very little feedback. Ink flow is consistent, but I find it a little dry (even with the knob open). The tines are a bit snug, as seen through a loupe. The nib does not skip or hard start. It cannot really tolerate any pressure - it dries out quickly.
January 8. 2016 042
Since the nib is a bit dry, drying times are relatively quick. I also find that ink flow keeps up with fast writing. Unfortunately, the feed dries out eventually during long writing sessions (again, with the knob open). It took quite a few taps on the nib to get the ink flowing again - annoying and inconvenient, especially as I imagine many people will be interested in this pen for note taking/ For such a dry writer, it shouldn't be running completely dry, and the nib and feed are set properly. Insufficient air exchange? I have seen others suggest removing the O-ring from inside as a fix for this, but then why is it there?

The vacuum-filling system works well - without added measures, the barrel fills about halfway with ink, once the feed has been saturated (typically after one or two plunges). Couple the pen with the Vac20A bottle and you should be able to fill your pen completely.

IN HAND

This clip is quite springy, with decent tension. It slides easily with the sloped ball at the end. Be careful releasing the clip - if you let go, it snaps pretty hard against the cap. Probably not a wise thing to do with a company in which the pens have a history of cracking... Although I like the spring of the clip, the clip itself wiggles side to side a bit, which is annoying. It doesn't wiggle while I wrote, but it moves so easily if touched. It should be tightened.
Review: TWSBI Vac Mini Fountain Pen - Broad @CouronneduComte @TWSBI
The section is a decent length, and not too thin. The threads are not too sharp, and the metal band is flush with the plastic. I find it quite comfortable - a bit more of a curvy shape would be ideal, but this isn't that uncomfortable. It's not too slim, at least.
Review: TWSBI Vac Mini Fountain Pen - Broad @CouronneduComte @TWSBI
Review: TWSBI Vac Mini Fountain Pen - Broad @CouronneduComte @TWSBI
Review: TWSBI Vac Mini Fountain Pen - Broad @CouronneduComte @TWSBI
Unposted, for me, this pen works out pretty well. It's well-balanced, not too thick, and not too heavy. The only problem is it's a little short. This cap can be posted by threading it. The nice thing is the length becomes more comfortable. It ends there for me, though. The clip does not align with the nib, so it always feel like the clip is pulling the back end of the pen, and it feels a bit off balance.

After being disassembled, the clip could then be aligned with the nib when it was posted - so you could always do that. However, I spent weeks with this not disassembled so it was rather annoying. Having the clip align with the nib helped keep the clip out of the way, and it felt a little better.
Review: TWSBI Vac Mini Fountain Pen - Broad @CouronneduComte @TWSBI
Review: TWSBI Vac Mini Fountain Pen - Broad @CouronneduComte @TWSBI
If you have larger hands, the clip faces into the web of your hand and may sit against it, in an uncomfortable way. There's nothing terrible wrong with this, it's just that it doesn't feel quite right.
Review: TWSBI Vac Mini Fountain Pen - Broad @CouronneduComte @TWSBI
The convenient thing about the posting is you can still leave the filling knob open while the cap is posted. Make sure you have the knob turned half a turn (at least) if you're writing for awhile.
Review: TWSBI Vac Mini Fountain Pen - Broad @CouronneduComte @TWSBI
PROS & CONS
Review: TWSBI Vac Mini Fountain Pen - Broad @CouronneduComte @TWSBI
OVERALL

I'm probably going to ramble forever here. I like a lot about this pen: the nib is quite pleasant to write with - it could use some tweaking to make it a little wetter, the pen is pretty - I love clear pens, it has a large ink capacity for such a little pen, it has a unique filling system (at least compared to a cartridge/converter), it's relatively affordable, it's easy to disassemble completely and maintain yourself (and all the tools required are provided), and it's a great way to learn about your writing instrument.

A lot of the reasons I don't care for this pen are aesthetic: the plastic looks cheap and lacks the brilliant shine and glitter the 580 has, the threads are so obvious, and the amount of times I have cross-threaded the cap ... sigh, the O-rings look funny on the barrel, the engraving of Vac Mini on the center band looks so childish to me - like a childish font that doesn't match the rest of the fonts. Moving on.

Personally, I still like the 580 best and wouldn't bother with any of the others. I just hope the one I currently have (the 580 AL-Purple) doesn't ever crack. I'm rather underwhelmed with this one, especially because the nib dries out completely (at least six times while drafting this review). It's not a terrible pen, it's just that I'd rather take the € 69,00 and get a 580 or something else entirely.

I received this pen free of charge for the purposes of this review. I was not compensated monetarily for my review. Everything you've read here is my own opinion. There are no affiliate links in this review.

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GourmetPens by Azizah Asgarali is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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