Those of you that saw my first impressions video of the TWSBI VAC 700 know that I instantly loved the pen as soon as I took it out of the box. Now that I’ve used it almost every day for the past few weeks, I think it’s time for a proper review! In case you haven’t seen my first impressions video, here it is:
Read on for my full review of this great pen!
The VAC 700 is the product of continuous support from the fountain pen community. I remember back when TWSBI were bringing out their first pens, and as a new brand they relied on word of mouth as the driving mechanism of their success. The Diamond series (530, 540, and now 580) have quickly become iconic pens for many, and have led to TWSBI bringing out the Mini, Micarta, and now, the VAC 700. Without the support of those on the Fountain Pen Network and others, TWSBI may have been a total flop.
But that’s enough history, for now let’s get to the pen itself! The VAC 700 is TWSBIs first vac filling pen. This means it has a huge ink capacity, and filling only takes a few seconds. Couple this with a great design, range of colours, and quality nibs, and you have a pen that’s pretty much the whole package. It comes in at a great price to boot: $80.00USD for a pen of this quality is money well spent, something I can say with confidence having used it for a while.
I’ve run an entire fill of Noodler’s Bernanke Blue through it, using it almost every day for University note taking and other general writing tasks. This ink goes very well with this pen, albeit with some slight feathering issues that are characteristic of the ink, further exacerbated by the relatively wet flow of the pen.
Box and Contents
I am always impressed by TWSBI’s attention to detail with their packaging. The TWSBI logo is embossed on the top of the box in red, and opening it reveals a well protected case containing all the goodies. A couple of instruction manuals are present as well, which also detail how to replace the O-ring seals on the pen. This is the same packaging that comes with the Diamond 5xx series of pens.
The clear plastic case is sealed with tape on the sides, and pops open to reveal the pen, held down with a couple of removable plastic brackets. On the bottom is a diagram of the pen, and removing the inner plastic piece from the clear case reveals the rest of the included accessories.
Alongside the pen, TWSBI includes a couple of spare O-rings, a spanner for unscrewing the filler, and a small vial of silicone grease. This means that you can maintain the pen for years to come without having to buy any extra bits and pieces; a huge plus!
The case looks good and won’t mess up the aesthetics of your desk if you choose to use it to store the pen.
One other cool side note is that, because the two fillers are designed similarly, Pelikan M### pens’ piston fillers can also be opened using the TWSBI tool.
A Closer Look
The pen is gorgeous and very well designed. The crown has the TWSBI logo encased in clear plastic, which is surrounded by a metal bezel. The clip is metal with a sandblasted texture, which looks great in my opinion. Other metal parts include the nib section collar, cap band (engraved with “TWSBI Vac 700 Taiwan”), filler knob collar, and the nib (of course).
The section and filler knob are also a slightly transparent, smoke coloured plastic. The inner cap is a slightly more opaque, colourless plastic, so you can see the nib even when the pen is capped (also great for spotting any potential leaks). The metal nib section collar solves the cracking issue that previously plagued the Diamond 530 and 540, so it also serves as a functional piece.
The entire pen body + cap is transparent. I have the clear version, but the orange, blue, and smoke versions are also similarly transparent. This allows you to see inside the pen, gauging ink level at a glance, whilst also letting you see the inner workings of the pen. It’s a very attractive setup! I highly recommend the clear version as you can see everything that’s going on in the pen, including the colour of the ink. However, the other colours are also great to look at.
The shape of the pen is cool too. The cap has a “diamond” pattern (hence the name), similar to the filler knob which has the same sort of pattern to it. The body, however, is smooth. The entire pen tapers towards each end (so it’s thicker in the middle), which looks great in my opinion.
The nib section is smooth like the body, and is raised slightly at the end so your fingers won’t slip onto the nib. An O-ring is present to fully seal the cap, a welcome feature.
Overall, this is a fantastic looking pen!
I’ve really enjoyed this pen for the past couple of weeks, more so than many of my pens. It’s rather large, especially when posted, but fits my hand perfectly. I would recommend this one for people with medium to large sized hands, as it’s pretty long even when unposted. For those of you with smaller hands I would suggest the TWSBI Mini, or find a way to try the pen before you buy just to make sure.
Many people wonder whether this pen posts well. It does! The cap latches onto the metal ring before the filler knob, so there’s no danger of twisting or pulling the filler knob when posting. I find it very comfortable when posted despite its significant increase in size. One odd thing however is the cap actually angles upwards slightly when posted, but you have to really look at it to notice at all.
Regarding the filler: it’s a very high quality vac filler that’s both smooth and precise. This pen holds a ton of ink. I’ve been able to write around 50 pages of writing and still have around a quarter of a fill left. Check out my impressions video or one of my filling systems videos for instructions on how to fill vacuum pens to their maximum, as it requires a little trick!
As with all vac filling pens, you have to unscrew the filler knob before use, otherwise the ink supply is cut off from the feed. For this pen, I have found that you need to unscrew the knob fully, then pull slightly to open the plug. There’s no danger of ejecting ink when doing this, as there are distinct stages to the filler knob’s movement. Once you pull the knob, it “clicks” into place. Any pulling after that will begin to retract the vac rod. Doing this only takes a few seconds once you get used to it, so it’s not really a nuisance.
Another reason I love this pen/ink combination is that I can have the pen uncapped for ages without any drying out. Some lecturers take long breaks between talking about stuff that’s actually worth writing down, and I haven’t been capping the pen during these breaks. In fact, I went up to 5 minutes without writing a single word and it still started up straight away. I also left the pen uncapped overnight by accident, and it was dry (of course), but a little coaxing and the ink flowed normally again.
For the first week or so I had a couple of drying issues, where something would block the feed (most likely manufacturing gunk) and it wouldn’t write for a few seconds. After the first couple of occurrences, the issue cleared up fine, but I would still recommend cleaning the pen before using it the first time. I’ve also had the very occasional false start, but after literally a millimetre it started up again. This was so occasional it didn’t annoy me at all.
The nib has been an absolute dream to use. So smooth (after a tiny bit of smoothing as shown in the above video) you’d think it was a much more expensive pen. In fact, this is one of my smoothest writers. The EF nib writes more of a fine to medium line, but that can also be attributed to the extra flow I adjusted it to have. I have been using this for all of my mathematics work, and I have had no problem writing very small numbers and letters in equations.
The cap unscrews with exactly one and a half turns, and the clip is very functional: firm but not too firm. I have had absolutely no leaks with this pen, even though I have had it knocking about in my bag the whole time, though this can be attributed to the ink shutoff feature.
Overall, I have found myself reaching for this pen the most, even over my Platinum President!
Even if you have many other pens, even if you have many vac filling pens, the VAC 700 is a must-have. The features are all there: good looks, functional design, great capacity filler, and fantastic nibs. Coupled with a very good price, you have a pen that is both great to use, but also not too hard on the wallet. I can’t hold this pen in a higher regard, it is really that good. I did give it some small adjustments, but that was only to suit it to my personal preferences, so don’t be concerned about that.
My recommendation is to just buy one, fill it with a favourite ink, and write away. You won’t regret it.