Monthly Archives: July 2018

TWSBI Precision fountain pen & mechanical pencil review

A little bit of history  It’s probably safe to say that TWSBI is a Marmite brand; you either love ’em or you hate ’em. However, the Precision line is one that those who love TWSBI will warm to, but also something that those who currently don’t indulge in TWSBIfication (mainly due to their reported quality control issues) may want to give a chance, as this pen and pencil set are rather robust in their build and look likely to be reliable. We quite enjoyed them!

How it looks Some of us had our initial reservations about the fountain pen design, but it grows on you. The shape could be described as an “inverse hourglass” with a chunky middle section and thinner grip section and piston knob which almost gives it a “kit pen” aesthetic. The pencil design has more than a hint of Rotring about it, but this is in no sense a bad thing.

Currently the pen is only available in one finish, which is a matte grey brushed look. It is very smooth to the touch, however. The pencil is available in both silver and black but has a more metallic finish than its fountain pen counterpart, and also comes with a rather nice knurled grip. Those who really insist can also obtain a ballpoint in a similar body to that of the pencil, although we can’t imagine why you’d want to. The barrel on both the pen and pencil are faceted, which is a distinct design feature. Here it is compared to Daniel’s Montegrappa NeroUno Linea to show the facets:

How it feels  Because of the materials used to make these instruments, they can feel reassuringly heavy in the hand once wielded. Both the pen and the pencil are nicely balanced, however, and this gives for a nice writing experience. The fountain pen cap does post, with a firm push, but this may not be the wisest move, partly for the obvious reason of making the pen top-heavy, but also because an accidental pumping of the piston may occur – and that can get very messy (Scribble’s carpet is reportedly still recovering).It’s quite easy to write with both the pen and pencil for a long time without any sort of fatigue. This is especially pleasing considering that fountain pen is a piston filler, which leads nicely on to…

How it fills  Segues! The fountain pen is, in typical TWSBI fashion, a piston filler. This gives you plenty of ink and allows you to write for quite a while. Some people do have their reservations about piston fillers as they can require a bit more maintenance when cleaning, though it isn’t too much hassle truth be told – and as is the case for all TWSBI pens, the tools required are all in the box.

TWSBI Precision

The pencil refills are standard leads that you can buy from your favourite stationer – be it online or on the high street.

Crucially, how it writes  Both the fountain pen and the pencil both write very well. In part, the pencil performance is dependent upon what lead you have in it (partly the case with inks in the pen, though not to such an extent). Because both are well balanced, you do get a nice writing experience coupled with the nib/lead. The pen is available in all the normal TWSBI steel offerings, including stub nibs. We found no problems in terms of hard starts or skips with the pen. Our bleistift expert did notice, however, that the test pencil pushed-through rather more lead than is normal beyond the sleeve, which can increase the risk of snapping.

Pen(cil)! What is it good for?  This set would find itself fitting-in nicely in a business context, as well at one’s own table for personal use. The pen design aesthetic is somewhat similar to that of the famed Lamy 2000, but without the price tag (and gold nib, of course). The pencil’s echoing of (and in some senses improvement upon) the Rotring tradition would fit it for a design studio – if you can find one which still uses pencils.

Value For Money  Coming in at around £70-80 for the pen and mid £20s for the pencil, this may be an investment for some. But it’s a reliable pen, and a piston filler too, so it has the makings of a ‘workhorse’ pen which could end up paying for itself if used enough; no overpriced cartridges here, and less plastic waste too. The pencil is decent value, especially compared to the Rotring models it is apparently pitched against.

If this isn’t quite your cup of tea  There’s a lot going for this pen. If you’re looking for recommendations for something similar to this, first you’d have to consider which aspect(s) you’re most put off by. If it’s the piston fill, then look for a cartridge/converter pen (this could possibly push you into gold nib territory if you’re willing to spend a little bit extra – Platinum #3776 comes to mind, which is a fantastic pen). If you enjoy the design, the Lamy 2000, as mentioned above, may be worth looking into; this would set you back an extra ~£50 (almost twice the price of the Precision), though as is the case with the Precision, you’re looking at a reliable workhorse that is worth (to most) the investment and so you can find comfort in that fact – it also comes with a gold nib and is more streamlined if you enjoy the matte grey brushed look on the Precision that you also get on the 2000 but not the “inverse hourglass” shape. If the pencil doesn’t quite float your boat, Rotring really is the obvious place to look.

There are, of course, other pen models within the TWSBI line-up that may tickle your fancy…Our overall recommendation  The Precision FP is a good, reliable pen, which has the potential to become a trusty workhorse without breaking the bank. None of us had any problems in terms of the writing experience, and the only cause for concern were our own personal preferences when it comes to design. All in all, a thumbs up! The pencil is a slightly more mixed offering given the issue Matthias identified with excessive lead protrusion, but still great value for the price demanded.

Where to get one  TWSBI have plenty of retailers in the UK now, and they are not difficult to find on the whole, although new models can sell out quickly. Our test pen was contributed by the marvellous Write Here of Shrewsbury (who, at time of writing, have this pen on special offer!) while the pencil was procured in this case from the equally splendid Writing Desk of Bury St. Edmunds.

This meta review references:

Thanks to Write Here for sending a pen our way before their initial stock sold out!

Faber-Castell E-Motion fountain pen review

A little bit of history  Faber-Castell is a well-known brand, but their mid-range fountain pens are too often overlooked. Many of us are already fans of the E-Motion, and when Executive Pens Direct offered a rather attractively-finished parquet black version to test we certainly weren’t going to miss the chance.

How it looks  It’s a tricky finish to capture on camera, but it looks decidedly smart. The pen itself is as sturdy-looking and ergonomically-shaped as ever. There’s no mistaking it for any other pen, really.

How it feels  Well weighted, and poised to write. That shiny section offer more grip than you might expect, too.

How it fills  This a straightforward cartridge/converter number, and that seems to work well.

Crucially, how it writes…  The pen looks great, but writing performance is what really seals the deal as far as we’re concerned. Faber-Castell use #5 Bock steel nibs in many models including this one, and that’s a promising starting point but their quality control and fitting are second to none. We find these nibs write reliably, and smoothly, without exception – this is as good as a steel nib can get, essentially!

Pen! What is it good for?  This pen would definitely not look out of place in a board-room, but there’s nothing to stop you using it anywhere else. Some of us already own an E-Motion of our own and have found the design robust and reliable – including that big spring clip.

VFM  Very good indeed; around £80 is typical for this handsome, well-made pen. The nibs are excellent, and the body is likely to last for a few decades with normal use too. ‘Nothing to complaint about there.

If this isn’t quite your cup of tea, but almost…  Then there are plenty of options. If you like the sound of that smooth steel nib but this material doesn’t quite do it for you, then the pure black or wood-finish versions of the E-Motion are worth a look. If the shape doesn’t quite float your boat, there are several other Faber-Castell fountain pens which use the same nib – even down to the super-affordable Basic. If you love the shape but would prefer a gold nib this is a little trickier, as the company saves gold for its up-market Graf von Faber-Castell range, presumably upon the numerical advice of neighbouring aristocrat Count von Count. But a Bock #5 from Beaufort Ink should fit, and even a JoWo #5 can be made to play nicely with a bit of careful fettling.

Our overall recommendation  This gets a unanimous thumbs-up from all our reviewers; a nice to pen to use, attractive to look at, and great to write with. We think the price is about right too.

Where to get hold of one  This is not the most difficult pen to find, but since ours was donated by Executive Pens Direct, and they’re selling it for a rather reasonable £78, we’ll include a link to their page here.

This meta-review references:

Thanks to  Executive Pens Direct for the sample.

Divine Design Eyedropper fountain pen review

A little bit of history  Before there were pistons, vacuums, pneumatic blast-poppers or funky crescent levers, there was but one filling system – the humble eye-dropper. Like its fellow Taiwanese offering from Opus 88, the Divine Design Eyedropper goes back to the  roots, albeit with a syringe rather than a pipette in the box. It is apparently only distributed within the Iberian peninsula at present (for reasons we can’t quite fathom, but there it is), but of course that geography neatly includes the marvellous, and they know a thing or two about interesting pens.

How it looks  Very plain and straightforward: black cap and ends, transparent barrel, undistinguished clip. This is either helpfully minimalist, or a bit boring, according to taste – but we all agreed that this much ink sloshing around inside was a pleasant view.

How it feels  Unposted, it’s a fairly big pen, but not oversized – so comfortable for most hands. That cap does post, but this makes it a bit top-heavy in our opinion(s).

How it fills  Here is this pen’s first party trick – no less than three filling options. Why you’d put a puny cartridge in a beast like this is hard to imagine, but it’s nice to know that the capability is there for real emergencies. The box comes with a decent converter, which is considerate, but also somewhat redundant – because this thing is made to be filled to the brim. Open the barrel, which has nice long threads and an o-ring already fitted – and you can get a whopping 4ml of ink in there, which is enough to write for days.

Crucially, how it writes…  Here is the pen’s second party trick; it takes a JoWo #6, and fpnibs stock a lot of those. For fun, and to make interesting photographs, we went for one of their colour-lacquered offerings, but any of their steel options would do – or you could even push the boat out and choose a gold upgrade. We’ve yet to encounter the JoWo #6 which  writes badly. The purple lacquer did start to wear off once it reached its fourth reviewer, but the tip carried on writing just as well.

Pen! What is it good for?  It’s probably just the thing for when you don’t need to show off, but do need to write for a long stint without refilling. There are other ways to achieve that aim, but let’s face it  – this solution is a tenth of the price of a Conid.

VFM  With the nib and a bit of VAT inside the EU (for the time being, at least) this comes to about £45. Not dirt cheap, but pretty fair value for a useful pen, if not the glitziest. The box includes a syringe, converter, and instrucciones (in Español), so it covers all the bases and  even provides a diverting translation challenge if, for some inexplicable reason, you’re the sort of fountain pen enthusiast who knows everything apart from where the ink goes.

If this isn’t quite your cup of tea, but almost…  Have a shop-around for eye-droppers. They are making a gradual comeback – take the Opus 88, for instance.

Our overall recommendation  We like the way it works, for the most part, even if we’re not all blown-away by its plain looks. A safe choice as long as you don’t insist upon posting all your caps.

Where to get hold of one  Direct from is probably the simplest route.

This meta-review references: