Saturday, November 8, 2014

TWSBI Diamond 580 Review

My sole motivation behind getting a TWSBI was to disassemble the pen and have all the fun, which I missed. And I got a clear demonstrator, packaged with a nice-looking wrench.


TWSBI (called Twiz-Bee) refers to San Wen Tong, i.e when TWS is spelled backwards and it means Hall of Three Cultures as per their website. BI at the end refers to writing instruments. Ta Shin Precision manufactured everything from toy lego parts to high-end writing instruments for several luxury brands (both American & Japanese) for well over 40 years. So that’s plastic, metal & precision, precisely what’s required to make and sell a nice writing instrument, under your own brand name. Which luxury brands? They don’t reveal those due to privacy agreements. I have reasonable doubt from various reviews, that one of them is Levenger. And TWSBI Nibs are said to be sourced from JoWo (earlier it was Bock & Schimdt), Germany (same as for Faber-Castell Design Pens).


An FPN member by the name of speedy started a post with a prototype development for an inexpensive piston filling fountain pen somewhere around late October, 2009. He clarified that he was a pen-maker and shared pictures of TWSBI 530 prototypes in this post. It showed a metallic piston system. And it became a popular brand within a short time-span.


That’s probably one of the great aspects of marketing. Inside a brown cardboard box, you will find the pen residing within a clear plastic case. You will instantly fall in love with the presentation part of it. For the lack of a better word, I call it The Apple packaging.
There is an instruction sheet on disassembly of the pen, highlighting the pen parts. Below the white pen-holding shelf, you will find the 7mm TWSBI wrench and a vial of silicone grease in two slots.


The build looks sturdy without adding much weight. Plastic economizes both cost and weight of fittings. This pen endorses practical utility rather than art with which you will probably associate a Pelikan or a Visconti. I do find an element of industrial look with the pen.
Most of it is visible engineering, while use of plastic is quite evident in its piston-system. The barrel and cap are made of thick polycarbonate, with a protective heat treated layer for increased resistance to scratches, along with the crystal transparence. The overall fitment is still an area of improvement. One of my experiences is with the piston knob, which does not tighten itself well, as the piston head is pulled back in.
The cap feels substantial and unscrews with a single turn, revealing a rather dagger-like nib. There is a metallic insert for the nib unit, supplying necessary chrome accents for the aesthetics. The piston knob has a rather broad ring making the mark for disassembly. Multiple polygonal planes orchestrate light effectively within, dazzling both the pen and the ink inside the barrel. The decagonal geometry also prevents an open pen from rolling away.
The cap has a wide chrome band carrying a laser engraved TWSBI on one side of it and DIAMOND 580 TAIWAN on the other, in three separate lines. Two concentric circles run on this band in the form of imprints. The finial carries a vibrant red & silver TWSBI logo of three pillars within a dome of transparent acrylic. The clip is spring-loaded within a visible system having a chrome tassie and it has a geometrical pyramid-like cut. The cap is heavy and has a smooth circular cross section which can roll the entire pen easily with its weight, until the clip restricts it. You can also observe the relatively greyish inner-cap, which prevents the nib from drying out.


As a piston filler, it does have a good ink capacity around 1.8~2mL. The knob unscrews with three complete turns and manages to draw ink quite efficiently from the bottle. The feeder hole is rather a channel to enable efficient ink suction. One of the improvements could be with the piston knob, which should increasingly tighten itself, as the piston head is pulled back in. Mine stays loosely fastened (after I applied some silicone grease on the piston head) and is directly proportional to the friction at the piston head.


For this phase, rather than learning from the manual, you can have a look at a 580 disassembly video. I like the one with gouletpens or srebrown. Make sure you thoroughly flush the pen with water before disassembling it.

  • Rotating the piston end-cap (knob) counter-clockwise, the piston seal (head) is lowered to a hinged stop inside the barrel. 
  • Fit the wrench on the connector threads, just below the metal ring on piston end-cap (knob) & it can unscrewed in a clockwise direction from top.
  • The piston mechanism has five different parts as you can see in the picture, though it’s not necessary to remove the rubber piston seal (or head) from the piston rod (spindle). The fittings of the mechanism can be made from higher grade material.
  • The nib unit can be easily removed by first unscrewing the grip section from the barrel
  • Since, nib is friction fit, you may remove the nib and feed from the unit, in case there is some heavy cleaning required (in case of a bad flow, sometimes the feed is coated with grease which restricts ink-flow). 
  • Make sure you apply an adequate amount of silicone grease to the sides of the rubber piston seal (you may ignore the bottom surface) before reassembly.


The nib/feed unit can be taken out or apart for cleaning purposes. The nib is stainless steel and has a rather small dagger-like design. It comes with four stock widths - EF, F, M, B and two special widths of Stub 1.1 & Stub 1.5. 

The tail end specifies carries the nib width while the name TWSBI along with the logo rest above the tail. There are some curves adorning the inside symmetry of the tines. To be honest it’s kind of a plain design with limited nib leverage. A black plastic feed with a feed channel for ink suction and the thin fins on the other side ensures a good buffer capacity and prevents hard-starts.
Earlier, TWSBI used to source its nibs from Schmidt and then Bock (it's now JoWo), which is incidentally the nib-supplier for Faber-Castell too. But it’s the alloys and then post-processing that can make a lot of difference even with steel-nibs.


The pen filled with ink, does have a good balance in terms of both weight and length. The pen is not meant to be posted. The grip is quite comfortable with a section around 1 cm thick. 
  • Uncapped Length ~ 13 cm
  • Capped Length ~ 14 cm
  • Nib Leverage ~ 2 cm
  • Overall Weight ~ 28 g (Cap Weight ~ 14 g)
Capped and uncapped and posted with a pelikan m805 runs below for your reference. A capped 580 looks similar to a m805.
Uncapped it obviously lacks the nib of a m805, although the lengths are well-matched.


It retails at around Rs 5,500 ($ 86) here and I got it from a local store at around $ 70. The problem with ordering it from TWSBI’s website directly is that apart from heavy shipping charges, there are unseen duties to be paid for. Given the fact that you could get one of the usual butter-smooth and more responsive steel-nibbed Faber-Castell pens at a similar or even lesser price, it’s rather a decision of piston vs converter. I hope that the retail prices will get evened out with demand.

OVERALL (4.6/6)

This nib is wet with a hint of feedback which is expected of fine nibs. I purposely used a less wet ink, since the pen runs smooth with wet inks. There is some line variation which is evident with thicker vertical lines. A complete absence of any perceptible softness in this nib, kills the responsiveness part. The fine nib lays a line which runs between Japanese Fines and European Fines.

Being a wet writer out of the box, the Fine nib puts a line which takes around 16-17 seconds to dry on MD Paper with Pelikan 4001 ink.


In case you find any ink trapped between the inner cap and the cap, a wooden pencil fitted with attached eraser, can help clean it. I have experienced this kind of leakage during air-travel. 

1. Take the wooden pencil (Standard #2) and insert the eraser-end into the cap.

2. Bend the cap in one direction, while putting pressure on the eraser in the opposite direction.

3. Slowly use the friction created by the eraser to pull out the inner cap.

4. Wash the ink out (Plain water is fine).

5. Re-insert the inner cap, and screw the pen back in, and it should friction-fit back into its original position.


Disassembly - gouletpens, srebrown

Thank you for going through the review.
You can find some more pen and paraphernalia reviews here.

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