In blog terms, things have been rather quiet for some time, here at Slightly Unnerved Towers. Work and family commitments have conspired to leave me without the time or creative energy to maintain anything resembling a decent output of material. I’ve been trying to overcome this inertia for a while and get my blog back up and running and thought that Fountain Pen Day would be a good point from which to kick start things.
Happy Fountain Pen Day!
For my first offering in a while, I thought I’d ease myself in gently with a short piece on a recent acquisition – a turquoise TWSBI Eco.
I have something of a soft spot for TWSBI pens to the extent that I own 5 in total – a Vac700, two Diamond 580ALs, a Diamond Mini, and now an Eco.
The Eco is TWSBI’s entry level pen (it’s the cheapest one available), retailing at around £30 here in the UK and at a similar dollar price in the US. I got mine for £27.99 from Cult Pens, but it’s pretty widely available. To put it in context, that’s around half the price of a TWSBI Diamond 580. On the face of it, a card-carrying piston filling demonstrator for less than £30 seems pretty reasonable, but…
What do you get for your money?
The pen comes nicely presented in a plastic box, which also includes a natty red plastic wrench and a pot of silicon grease and some instructions for servicing the pen, should you feel brave enough.
The pen itself is a clear demonstrator with the colour accents limited to the cap and the piston knob. I chose turquoise, but you can have black, white, clear and lime green as well. Unlike more expensive TWSBIs, the barrel and section are a single unit. You can switch nibs, but here it’s a matter of pulling out the nib and feed and friction fitting the replacement, rather than modular approach you get with other TWSBIs. The sections of my other TWSBIs have solid inserts in them, so it’s actually quite a nice change to have an unobstructed view of the feed here.
There’s a decent range of nib options available from extra-fine, through broad to a 1.1mm stub. A replacement TWSBI unit will cost around £16.50. I read somewhere that it’s a #5 nib, so in theory you could use a non-TWSBI nib if you were so inclined. I haven’t tested this out, though.
There’s a small step down from the barrel to the section, but I didn’t find it affected the comfort of holding the pen or that it was at all intrusive. Even if your grip comes to rest on the cap threads, these are not at all uncomfortable.
The profile of the barrel and section is circular and contrasts nicely with the hexagonal cap and piston knob. The cap has a single chrome band around it where it screws onto the section. As with other TWSBI’s this is etched with “TWSBI” and (in this case) “Eco”. The clip is functional if not overly exciting or inspiring. Provided they do what they’re supposed to I don’t get too excited about clips.
The TWSBI logo appears in the cap finial. In this case it’s a simple red plastic insert with the logo in relief, rather than the more elaborate affairs you find on more expensive models. I’ve always like the design of the logo and the way it’s incorporated into this pen is very effective.
What’s it like to use?
My overall experience of the Eco has been good. The Eco comes in at around 14cm capped and 13 cm uncapped. It sits comfortably in my hand and I’ve had no issues with the performance of the nib or the filling mechanism. A quick check on Goulet Pens’ Nib Nook suggested that the Eco nibs would tend towards the finer side of their gradings and so it has proved. I ordered a medium nib and it’s finer than some fine nibs that I have. That said it has written well from day one, with no hard starts or skipping. It’s a reasonably wet writer and the feed seems up to the job of keeping the ink flowing.
The piston mechanism is arguably not as refined as you would find on a more expensive pen, but it does its job perfectly well and without fuss. So far, I can’t find any reason to complain about it.
All-in-all, there’s a lot to like about this pen. Aside from getting a proper piston filler for less than £30, it’s really comfortable to write with. In my experience, the nib unit performs well. Due to the filling mechanism you get a decent amount of ink in each fill. Not so good if you like to switch inks frequently, but great if you write lots.
There are obvious compromises in design and materials compared to other, more expensive TWSBIs, but I think this pen should be judged on its own merits and not just seen as a poor cousin. I’m almost tempted to say I prefer it in use to the Diamond 580. The Diamond 580 is a nicer looking pen (particularly in orange), but it has always felt a little awkward in my hand.
A couple of asides
- I wrote the notes for this post in a Fabriano EcoQua exercise book and was really impressed with the quality of the paper. I suppose that shouldn’t have come as much of a surprise given the manufacturer, but it doesn’t automatically equate to a positive result when it comes to fountain pens. There was no hint of feathering or bleedthrough and just a little feedback from the nib.
- The elephant in the room when it comes to the TWSBI Eco is the Wing Sung 698. From what I can see it’s “inspired” by the TWSBI Diamond 580, but at a fraction of the price. From reading a couple of reviews it seems that the nibs are generally reliable, with not too many duff ones. Of course I now have to get one, just to see what it’s like.