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Shallow Examination

Posted by Dirck on 9 May, 2012

…and I mean that in more ways than one.  But let me start in the appropriate place; my TWSBI Vac 700 arrived yesterday.  I’m going to offer a few preliminary observations, which is all I really can offer at this point.  Not only have I not had a chance to run up any photos, I’ve had possession slightly less than 18 hours, and several of those were spent pinned firmly under the feathery rump of Hypnos; anything more than preliminary observations would be slightly fictional.

Now, given yesterday’s overflowing good spirits, you might expect me to come over all prickly, to seek faults and generally try to return to a neutral balance.  This was, indeed, very nearly the thing that I was going to do, and I had come up with many clever plays upon the word “disappointment” (e.g. the flavour of the box’s filling was disappoint mint– ho ho).  However, since I’ve had just sufficient time to examine the reasons behind this initial stance, I dismiss it.  The primary reason for disappointment was, as one should expect, elevated expectations.  I worked myself up to the point of expecting so much out of the pen that the absence of eerie glowing emanations shining out of the parcel was a let-down.  Is this a lesson I have known before?  Oh, yes.  Will I firmly take it on board this time?  I’m reasonably good about this sort of thing most of the time… but I expect there will be lapses in the future.

A more firmly-established problem came with the filling of the pen.  Here, again, expectations play a role.  I’ve got some fully functional Sheaffer vacuum pens, and I think I know how the platform should function, and the intake of ink was slightly less than I believed it should be.  However, the volume is hardly insufficient– about 1.4ml– and since that’s about two-thirds the total interior space I rate it as good enough.  That, however, was not the real problem that arose upon filling.  The pen was, to put it bluntly, not writing well.  This is a serious problem, and not one I’m quick to forgive in a new-made pen.  It is the sort of thing I can address, but not everyone else can. I’ve heard other people complain about this in various models from TWSBI, but I hadn’t run into it myself, and it was indeed a bitter disappointment.

However… I could not really work out why it was so hesitant to put ink on paper.  The symptoms were consistent with the “baby bottom” problem, but a gander through my splendid new loupe didn’t show that as the case.  A bit of a head-scratcher, and while a few other remedies suggested themselves, I let reflection have a go first.  This morning, a possibility occurred, and it proved out.  It seems that the Vac 700, or at least my Vac 700, doesn’t like Diamine Prussian Blue.  Given a couple of different Pelikan inks, it’s running quite happily.

Other, less windy observations– it’s frickin’ huge, to one who is used to a more human scale of pens as appears in most vintage examples.  It is also relatively heavy, but not the sort of fraudulent heaviness I so frequently decry in modern pens.  The weight comes from the necessary thickness of material in the barrel (vacuum Sheaffers always worry me in this regard), not pointless add-ons and hidden ballast.  Its cap will post, and in fact does so very readily; it appears, despite maker’s suggestions that it’s not a good idea, to have been designed with the habit in mind.  I’m not sure how well I’ll adapt to the shut-off valve, a feature harkening back to the earliest vacuum-filling pens; the need to twist the tail a little to begin the free flow of ink seems very archaic, and given the performance of the Diamond series while flying (pens with a much less convoluted feed, too) it comes across as not just belt and suspenders, but little bit of tape around the waistband as well.  My great fear, the sharp-looking step on the barrel which the cap butts up against (yes, yes, a picture would be nice; how about looking at one on TWSBI’s site?) does not interfere with one’s grappling of the pen, at least if one is using anything like the recommended grip.

So, at first flush… or possibly second, I guess, I’d recommend it.  I’ll have more to say with a full review at some point in the near future.

Today’s pen: Parker Duofold
Today’s ink: Wancher Matcha


One Response to “Shallow Examination”

  1. […] is rather different.  I’ve gone into that on both the page for today’s pen and a previous entry here, so I’ll not repeat, but that difference makes for somewhat easier operation in the newer […]

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