So I wanted to post this on FPN, but they somehow screwed up my login so I can't post. So you guys get to see this first. Enjoy!
I tend to group my fountain pens into two classes: utilitarian and show. The utilitarian pens I use when I know I am going to be writing in less than ideal locations (dust, moisture, etc.). The show pens are for use mostly indoors, but they do get a lot of use too.
So this is a review on a utilitarian fountain pen, the TWSBI Vac 700. Having owned a TWSBI 540, I have been looking forward to their coming out with the Vac 700. I had bought the 540, a broad nib for it, and their inkwell in hopes that my purchases and others would fund their efforts to bring out the Vac 700. I always prefer different filling systems, and this one intrigued me.
Appearance and Design – Similar to the 540 in a TWSBI way. Sort of like a Vanishing Point looks like a Vanishing Point, this looks like a TWSBI. The necked body section is a little different, but it did not detract in my opinion. I got the Amber color, and it is pleasant to look at. I would have given it a 10, but I think the blind cap color/opacity is different enough to detract. As well, the clip is matte, but the rest of the metal is not. That struck me odd. 8 out of 10
Construction and Quality – As with the 540, this is a solid feeling pen. There are no seams I could see, nor any blemishes. Everything screws in as it should and the vac system feels solid and works well. If it is like my other TWSBI, a drop onto concrete won’t hurt it. 10 out 10
Weight and Dimensions – This is a solid pen. It may not take the manliness title as per a previous thread, but it is not small. Slightly longer than its 540 cousin, this is not a pen for those wanting a small pen. It is fine with me, so I give it a 10 out of 10.
Nib and Performance – It uses a steel nib; mine was purchased in medium. Like the medium nib in my 540, it is quite smooth and a pleasure to write with. This nib, however, is drier. Not enough to complain, but present. No flex of course. I filled it with Noodler’s Antietam and so far, writes well on different papers I have around. It should make a fine, all around every day pen. I’ll deduct one point as it is not as readily changeable as the 540’s nib. 9 out 10
On a side note with regards to having the blind cap screwed down or not and posting, I have learned that when the blind cap is screwed down, a finite amount of ink is left in the feed. But in this position, the pen is more immune to pressure changes and is ideal for air travel and such. Leaving the blind cap screwed off the threads keeps the feed open to the entire barrel of ink. This would be ideal for writing reams. I have gone up to one page of 8.6X11 without any issues; I’ll report later as I write more.
The cap also posts. Unlike the 540, it posts on the body of the pen, so there is no worry about affecting the seal by inadvertently twisting the posted cap.
Filling System and Maintenance – The vacuum system works flawlessly. As you press down on the plunger, the rubber seal reaches a belled area of the body and come down quickly. This creates the vacuum that then draws in about 1.1 ml of ink. If you want to fill it up completely, you have to use a technique I have seen used with other similar vac fillers where the air is pushed out by pressing in on the blind cap, inserting the nib into the ink, then completing the plunge (and avoiding hitting the ink well with the nib). I have done this and filled it almost completely.
TWSBI gives you a wrench, a small vial of silicon oil, and two extra o-rings for the portion containing the blind cap. With all this information, I’d give it more than 10 if I could. 10 out of 10
Cost and Value – I got this straight from TWSBI for 85 USD. It came in the fabulous TWSBI package made famous earlier and included the wrench, silicon oil, and two o-rings. When considering other fountain pens of similar filling systems, you have to stick mainly to vintage if you want to keep the price down in the same level. I am talking Parker vacumatics, Sheaffer snorkels, Parker 51s, and so on. While these pens are quite nice in their own right, the Vac 700 is easier to maintain (no sacs or pellets) and, in my opinion, sturdier. At this price level and performance, I’d have to give it a 10 out of 10.
Conclusion – This is a nice pen. The amber color is pleasing to me, its writing ability meets expectations, and I love the filling system. I do a lot of writing for my work, so I really use my fountain pens. I run my pens through rotation, but this one will be out longer than the others. Mostly because I’ll take it places I would not want to put my favorite 51 or snorkel into.
So my final rating would be 57 out of 60. Is this rating high compared to maybe a nice Maki style fountain pen from Platinum? Nope. I am not rating this pen against it, but more against its brethren such as the 540. This is an everyday pen, and a fine one at that.