I’m a big fan of TWSBI’s inexpensive range of fountain and ballpoint pens. In my opinion, they beat the competition from brands like Lamy (who seem to be unable to get even their flagship pen to write reliably) hands down. So when I heard about the new TWSBI Swipe on episode #471 of the Pen Addict Podcast, my interest was definitely piqued, and I pointed my browser toward the online presence of one of my favourite Toronto stationery shops.
Jon, Liz and The Team at Wonder Pens, like sooo many businesses, have soldiered on through the last 18 months, kept themselves functioning, and employing people over some hard times unique in modern memory. To me, this alone is pretty damn heroic, and I’m all for supporting guys like these whenever I can. Not to mention that they have always provided me with the very best of service, prices and delivery; what more can I ask? What more can anybody ask?
TWSBI was releasing the pen on July 29th 2021, so I waited until the day and placed my order for the Swipe in Smoke (Grey), as opposed to the Prussian Blue. They come with the usual array of Jowo, steel, nib sizes… Extra-Fine (EF); Fine (F); Medium (M); Broad (B); and 1.1mm Stub (1.1mm)—all of which I have found to be faultless out of a TWSBI box. I opted for the fine, and added a second of the new TWSBI spring converters. At the date of writing this post, Wonder Pens are selling the TWSBI Swipe for $35.25 Canadian Dollars (CAD), and the spring converter for $5.25 CAD before any taxes or shipping. It’s not strictly necessary to buy an additional converter, since—in North America—the Swipe comes with a little pack containing an ordinary piston-style converter; the spring converter; an international ink cartridge; and a spring (more on the spring in a moment). But I was interested in how good the spring converter might be, and fancied having a spare in the pretty ubiquitous international standard size to try in other pen/s. Tuesday 3rd August rolled around (Monday 2nd was a national holiday here in Canada, so no deliveries), and my package duly arrived. Wonder Pens were great with their shipping, and I have no complaints about Canada Post either. Unlike the United States Postal Service, who seem far more interested in sabotaging elections than actually delivering mail, but that’s another post… maybe.
I assembled my goodies…
The TWSBI Swipe in smoke, the little pack of converters, my spare spring converter, a bottle of Diamine Writer’s Blood ink, and a nice thank you for your order card from Dylan on the Wonder Team, which displayed the full Sailor ink range in the Wonder Pens catalogue.
In the aforementioned Pen Addict episode, Brad Dowdy discusses the new Swipe, and has a bit of a laugh at the expense of the spring included in the package. The idea of the spring is to put it into the barrel behind the cartridge, so that—if you drop the pen or something—the spring keeps the cartridge seated in the feed… no mess, no fuss.
Brad had a good old time laughing at the kind of people who drop their pens like that. “I’m not that person.” I think he said, or something similar. I agree I thought, in all the years I’ve used nice pens, I’ve never dropped one and needed something like this spring, but I could see how someone else might.
That afternoon, I left the house carrying my leather notebook with a nice pen in the leather clip, which has now worn a little loose, and dropped the pen onto the deck outside the front door. It landed butt-end down and bounced. The converter came off the feed and ink was all over the inside of the barrel, the cap, and leaking freely… quite a mess. I’ve never done that before, ever. I took it inside to clean it all, and promptly dropped the pen, nib first into the sink. Fortunately there was no lasting damage to anything, but I was beginning to see TWSBI’s point.
Anyway, the Swipe arrives in a neat little plastic box, surrounded by a decorative cardboard sleeve. This is definitely more minimalist than the packaging for any of TWSBI’s other pens I’ve seen so far, and is quite appealing on all levels.
The sleeve follows the outline of the box around its curved corners, and lets you know if the contents match your order…
Whilst the box is a lot smaller than those for the ECO or, say, the 580AL…
… and doesn’t include any foam padding or other unnecessary weight.
The Swipe is not as big as either TWSBI’s Eco or the Diamond 580AL…
… but it’s bigger in the hand than many of the common, premium pens, you’ll see online or in the shops. So, for those of us with larger, possibly less dexterous, hands and digits, its’ rounded, hexagonal barrel, is easy to grip.
The units listed above are all in millimetres by the way… very typical of me to screw up a figure; sorry.
The pen cap is a bit of a departure from TWSBI’s usual styling.
The clip in particular is considerably different and, I could understand, might easily fall into the love it or loathe it category for pen fans.
I think it works, in that it’s not what I’d call elegant, but it’s functional, firm, and suits the aesthetics of the pen. It’s early days, it’s appeal may grow on me. Maybe. The cap is a clip-on affair, which is also a bit of a departure from the threaded Eco and TWSBI’s other budget-conscious lines (and I’m getting used to it, slowly), but still carries the TWSBI logo in traditional style.
The barrel curves nicely down into the section and forms a very comfortable grip.
The section itself is smooth, and suits my larger hands and fingers very comfortably indeed, even after more than an hour of solid note-taking. The business end of the Swipe culminates in a beautifully smooth, and excellently quality-controlled, fine, steel, Jowo nib (read this and weep Lamy).
At this point, I’ll interject my only negative for these early-day impressions of the TWSBI Swipe. The section, where it joins the main barrel, is showing some flex, and makes interesting crackling noises when I apply any degree of pressure.
This may or may not turn out to be an issue, but if it does, you will read about it here.
Filling the Swipe
The pen came fitted with the spring converter, which was handy because this was the filling method I most wanted to try.
This is a simple push converter—pushing down expels air, and allowing the plunger to be pushed back up by the spring, draws ink through the nib and feed when submerged. I flushed the pen and converter with clean, tepid water, a few times, then drew ink up from a new bottle of Diamine Writer’s Blood.
I love the shade of this deep red ink, and the spring converter pulled a good fill each time it was used. Checking the inter-webs, I notice that Goulet Pens have listed some capacity values for each of the filling methods for the Swipe. They list the maximum ink capacity for each as:
To me, this offers the best of all worlds for convenience of filling and carrying capacity. Great idea, and—from what I’ve seen here, providing there are no long-term issues (I’m still thinking about that crackly feed/barrel joint)—this makes an amazing travel pen.
When we can all start travelling again of course.
What Does it Write Like?
Firstly… it wrote… pleasantly; no skips; no hard starts after being left on the desk uncapped for a few minutes; it wrote fast, and scribbled madly. It did not miss a beat, not once. It was also very smooth; especially for a fine nib.
Symbols and scribbling…
And notes for work…
The swipe did not need any kind of intervention with the tines, the breather hole, or smoothing. It was a writing pleasure straight out of its’ minimalistic little white plastic box. TWSBI continues to have an unbroken record in the high quality of the nibs that I have experienced on their pens. But it’s not just the nibs is it? In order for a pen to write, and write well, there has to be a smooth continuous flow between ink storage, feed, and nib. TWSBI have always seemed to get this just right, no matter the price-point of their pens. That’s not something that even high-end manufacturers can always claim to achieve. Granted, this was good quality Clairefontaine, bright white, 90gsm paper, and Diamine are a great ink manufacturer, so we may just have a winning trifecta here. Time, and wider use will tell me more, but I suspect that they will only tell the same story. My solitary concern is still that crackly plastic.
This is another winner from TWSBI—provided the manufacturing quality holds true over continued use, and I’ve no real reason to believe it won’t; just a niggling concern. The Swipe comes in at a few dollars cheaper than the Eco, so as a starter pen that gives the buyer a choice between the convenience of cartridges, converters, and an eye-dropper capacity, this pen is truly amazing value.
Do you love or loathe the clip? Do you care? For less than forty bucks Canadian, you have a great fountain pen, with all possible methods of filling at your fingertips; buy one. I might buy a Prussian Blue in extra fine next, or maybe I’ll hang on and see if they expand the range.