The TWSBI Vac 700 is a vacuum-filling fountain pen that costs about $65 in the USA and £55 in the UK. It’s available with nibs from extra-fine to broad plus 1.1mm and 1.5mm stubs. The one I’m reviewing has what is becoming my favourite kind of nib, a 1.1mm stub. All Vac 700s, like most TWSBIs, have transparent bodies, in this case clear, orange, smoke or blue.
Apparently TWSBI are discontinuing the Vac 700 but for now they’re still quite widely available so I wanted to get this review out while it was still possible to buy one. (It’s going to be replaced by a ‘mini’ version.) (Edit: Margaret from Goulet Pens left a comment, below, to say that the clear version is going to continue to be available.)
What is a vacuum-filling pen, you might ask? Brian Goulet has a great little video showing how it works. Basically, you unscrew the knob at the end of the pen and pull out the piston. Pushing it back in creates a vacuum in the barrel and so just as the piston is almost completely back inside the ink gets sucked in in one big gloop. It’s a lot of fun. Of course, as the vacuum is being created air is being pushed out. This has interesting consequences when you’re trying it in a completely full bottle of ink. I wouldn’t recommend that. Luckily no-one was home and I was able to clear up the mess before it was discovered.
Before I bought my own I’d heard that the Vac 700 was a very big pen. It’s actually about the same size as a TWSBI 540 (just a little longer, unposted) which is to say not exactly small but certainly no monster. It’s a comfortable length and it’s neither too heavy nor too light. It’s a good size for getting on with the business of writing.
An interesting aspect of the filling mechanism is that when the piston is fully screwed back down it seals off the ink in the barrel. I would think this would make this pen ideal for taking on planes but it also means that no ink gets through to top up the feed. I thought my pen was broken because it kept drying out. It turns out you need to unscrew the piston just a little while writing. It’s designed this way and there’s a soft little click when you’ve pulled it out enough. It’s fine but the piston knob moves around a little bit when you’ve done that and that can be occasionally distracting.
The cap screws closed and pushes on to post. It posts quite well and doesn’t unduly unbalance the pen but it does make it very long. The clip works well and is very plain. To my eyes, it’s as if TWSBI had forgotten all about the clip until the very last minute and had to stick something on quick, off the shelf.
The nib is larger than the 540’s and looks fantastic. The nib on mine is smooth and wet and consistent. I now have three TWSBIs with 1.1mm stubs and they’re all wonderful. Definitely one of my favourite nibs.
The Vac 700 is one of those pens that expects the user to put some effort in. The filling system is possibly a little gimmicky but it’s fun and it holds approximately half a bucketful of ink. Regular readers will know how much I love to see ink sloshing about inside a pen and the Vac 700 is perfect for that. Having to unscrew the end during use isn’t great but if that means I can take this pen on holiday with me then that’s okay!
This pen is all about vacuum filling. It’s even in the name. If you put that to one side, though, you still have a great pen. It’s a good size and it comes with a wide range of nibs, all of which have a good reputation. If you like this style of clear pen and you want something a little different, I highly recommend you snap up a Vac 700 while you still can.
You can find some more reviews of the TWSBI Vac 700 on Pennaquod.
Note: Reading around various reviews it looks as if the earliest versions of this pen had some issues with the feed, which led to it having a poor reputation. I think those issues were soon sorted out and certainly my pen has had no problems at all.