TWSBI Eco

TWSBI is the brand name of the Taiwanese firm Ta Shin Precision, a company that have had a history as an OEM (original equipment manufacturer), producing goods for other brand names. According to their web site, the name TWSBI is a (rather convoluted) amalgam of the Chinese phrases for Hall of Three Cultures, and writing instruments, and their stated misson is:

To inspire and recapture the romanticism of art and literature…starting with the pen.
TWSBI—Our Mission

… which, I’ll admit, all sounds rather romantic. In essence, they make affordable fountain pens, which—in general—have been well met by reviewers. In particular, their economy model, the TWSBI Eco has been praised for a consistently high standard of nibs, and the fact that it has a piston-filling mechanism (and thus, a relatively large ink capacity), for a low price-point (about $40.00 Canadian at the time of writing). The Pen Addict had this to say:

The extra fine nib in mine is firm and smooth, with little to no feedback, no hard starts, and no skipping. It is spot on, and a pleasure to write with.
The Pen Addict
Brad Dowdy, January 25, 2016
TWSBI ECO Fountain Pen Review

Whilst Ed Jelley was a little less effusive, but gave the Eco a thumbs up regardless:

So, a few months ago, a trip into Toronto took me into the wondrous Wonder Pens… as it does. And this time they just happened to have a display of TWSBIs on the counter, loaded with some new inks.

Of course, these had to be investigated, and whilst I don’t usually go for demonstrator pens, I was thinking of a new ink, and I like to match pens to ink colors, and… well… I wanted a brown, and I don’t have a brown pen, and a demonstrator isn’t really any color is it?

You can see where this is going can’t you?

I bought two.

What Do You get in the Box?

I don’t usually ask this question, the packaging—to me—is irrelevant; you mostly get a hinged box, with a pen, and maybe a converter and/or a cartridge, sitting on a littel cushioned board in the box. Or a variation on that theme, depending on how expensive the pen was. The TWSBI has been the first pen in my experience to pack a tool, and a bottle of lubricant in the box, along with instructions.

TWSBI Eco in the box (ink not included)

The little red tool (in the UK, we’d call it a spanner, in North America it seems to be a wrench), is for taking the pen apart to clean it, and the bottle contains silicone grease, to lubricate the piston mechanism. These are a nice touch, and whilst I haven’t had to use them beyond trying them out, the whole cleaning process seems pretty painless and straightforward.

TWSBI Eco, wrench and grease

The two pens I bought were both clear demonstrators, one with a bold, steel nib (which is filled with Sailor Jentle Blue ink), and one with a 1.1mm stub nib, also steel; and I liked the Noodler’s Golden Brown that was on the counter display so much, I bought a bottle of that too. Some of that went into the 1.1mm stub.

TWSBI Ecos, 1.1mm stub with Noodler’s Golden Brown, and a bold, with Sailor Jentle Blue; both in a clear demonstrator

Details

Firstly, these are big, chunky, fountain pens. Uncapped, they are a fraction more than 2.5mm longer (from tip of nib to the end of the piston knob), than the amazing Edison Collier. If you post this pen, the length becomes quite excessive, and to be honest, the balance is really quite poor with the cap on the back.

I’m undecided with regard to whether I like the hexagonal cap; I don’t think it’s hideous. It’s certainly smooth, sturdy and well made, with the red TWSBI logo embedded in the end… I suppose I don’t dislike it.

do dislike the filling mechanism. I don’t like piston-fillers. They’re fine on your desk, with access to a bottle of ink, and I suppose, being a demonstrator, you can see if the pen needs to be re-filled before you take it away from the desk, so there is that… but there’s no flexibility with a piston-filler. If you want to take it away for a couple of weeks, then you’ll need to take a container of ink. Forget cartridges, and forget re-filling on a plain, train, boat, or bus… unless you are veryvery, careful. And the TWSBI’s mechanism isn’t great. I fiddled a lot before I got a good fill.

The mechanism was smooth enough, and I don’t really agree with Ed Jelley about the knob being all that ugly. The whole pen isn’t exactly attractive, it’s a modern, clear demonstrator, which doesn’t speak class to me anyway. The only appeal a demonstrator has for me, is that I can put whatever color ink in it I like, and if it’s not too dark, I can probably see what it might be… and when it’s running low. But apart from that, I’m lukewarm on the whole clear demonstrator thing. Meh.

 

 

Metric (mm/g/ml)

US (in/oz)

Length Unposted:

131.6

5.2

Length Capped:

138.8

5.5

Diameter:

12.8

0.5

Length Posted:

167.5

6.6

Weight:

21

0.71

Nib Size:

1.1mm Stub / Bold

1.1mm Stub / Bold

Nib Material:

Steel

Steel

Piston-Fill Capacity:

1.76

0.06

The Nibs

As always, the most important part, is what the pen writes like, and that means it’s mostly about the nib.

TWSBI Eco, with 1.1mm stub, steel nib

I have come to the conclusion that it must be a pretty crap italicised, stub nib, that will turn me off; and here is where the TWSBI starts showing some class. The steel 1.1mm stub was silky smooth, straight out of the box, it was every bit as good as the Edison Collier, and at the time of writing, one Edison nib alone, is only about $10 less than an entire TWSBI Eco pen.

TWSBI Eco, with bold, steel nib

The bold nib was just as good; beautifully smooth, and a great writer from the moment the nib touched paper. My only criticism, if there could be one, is that maybe the bold nib is a little too wet. But I think that is probably unfair, for something that makes no pretensions about how bold it is. Caveat emptor, I knew it was bold when I bought it, no point in whining about it now.

Summary

Unless you’re really into shiny, demonstrator-type pens, you are not going to think much of the looks of the TWSBI Eco, and I’m not impressed by its filling mechanism, but I am impressed with the way it writes, and the quality of the TWSBI nibs. The writing experience alone is worth the price of admission, and I keep these pens constantly inked, and ready to use. They’re too much fun not to.

Addendum

Not long after writing this review, I added to the TWSBI Twins, and turned them into the TWSBI Trio (TWSBI Triplets?), with a white Eco, and a fine steel nib. More on that may come at a later date, but for the moment… damn, I don’t like demonstrators (but now I’ve got four including the Platinum Cool), and I’m not keen on fine nibs (but now I have four—three Platinums, and a TWSBI), and I love the lot. Bloody Hell, what’s going on?

But I still can’t stand piston and vac fillers… and now I have three, and I’m looking at a TWSBI Diamond 580AL (Aluminium).

I may have to revise my position on demonstrators… but the filling mechanism’s still annoying… I wonder if I could rip it all out and eyedropper the thing?

So far the best resource I’ve found on understanding TWSBI’s filling mechanism for the Eco, the 540, 580/580AL, or Mini, is a great video from Brian Goulet of the Goulet Pen Company. If you have, or want one of these pens, you should watch this video. Several times:

 

7 thoughts on “TWSBI Eco

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