I was looking through my personal records for last year, and I find that I got only six new pens. And two of those were unexpected gifts. Financial constraints make for less fun.
This year, though… actually, it’s looking only slightly better in the overall sense, and as far as pens go I don’t really expect to do much better. However, a recent windfall let me indulge curiosity if not greed, and I finally got around to ordering myself a TWSBI Eco. Here it is:
A clear pen from TWSBI? How unexpected!
For those who find themselves under the shadow of TL;DR, let me give the short opinion: good cheap pen.
Now, let me expand; I was pretty taken with the cost/quality proportions of the Pilot Metropolitan, as I went on about at some length shortly after being introduced. That sense has continued to the present, to the extent that it very nearly crept into my Desert Island Moderns list with pens costing a order of magnitude more. Cuddle that for context when I say this– the Eco is, at least at the end of a two-week engagement, possibly an even better bargain.
How’s that for praise? It’s an honest opinion, though. We hear, in fountain pen circles, people making noise about the “out of box” performance of various pens, usually in the form of complaints about having to do something to make a pen work properly. My experience may not be typical, but I literally did nothing to this pen ahead of filling it with ink and writing, and there wasn’t a second’s hesitation from the pen despite the lack of initial rinse. I got, for reasons too inward to mention, an extra-fine point, and it is as smooth as is in the nature of that size of tipping to be. Looking at it through the powerful loupe I use when checking out the progress of nib reshaping, I found the tines to be in impeccable alignment. The piston runs smoothly, without play.
…and that’s a big point. It has a built-in filler. The Metropolitan, for all its charms, is a cartridge pen; that has the possibility of convenience, sure, if one has easy access to Pilot cartridges, but even then refilling it requires reducing it to a heap of components. I do prefer a built-in filler, as prejudiced as that may be, and there sits TWSBI’s rather good expression of the twist-piston in a pen which, depending on where you look, costs the same as or only about ten dollars more than the Pilot. It is, frankly, a little hard to make out how this thing manages to cost about three-fifths as much as the Diamond without looking very closely.
This is why I don’t rely on my device for pictures. It’s like the camera I used for my old site (shudder).
The packaging is an element of it, being somewhat flimsier than the nice little Sleeping Beauty coffins the other pens come in. I suppose when viewed in multiples of a thousand, that wrench will show a saving over the flat piece of steel that comes with the company’s higher end units, too, but it will certainly work. Unlike my other favourite cheap pen, this thing comes with a maintenance kit!
In the pen itself, though, there’s only a couple of cost savings, and one of them is dubious. The big one is that the body of the pen is cast in a single piece– the clear components are in fact a clear component. That’s bound to save a little on labour as far as putting the thing together. Also, the point and feed are not set in a little collar to become a removable unit, as is the case with TWSBI’s other pens (and a lot of other, grander pens, too; Edison, Anchora…), but as set into the section individually in a very old-school manner. This saves a little on materials, but depending on whether TWSBI or the manufacturer is the one cramming things into those collars, I don’t know that it won’t run up the time for assembly slightly.
That’s not my look-out, though, and I’m quite willing to suggest that the fountain pen-curious look in this direction as a good entry to the life of the easy-writing scribbler-about-town. It’s not perfect, of course, and there’s a couple of things that will bear watching. Every TWSBI model has a certain number of ghouls attending to it, waiting for reports of plastic failure after the problems with the Diamonds (yes, even mine), so those who listen to the meeping and barking will likely be a little nervous. My own point of concern is the extraneous o-ring on the tail, which helps to secure the cap during writing– it takes a fair shove to engage the cap with it, and o-rings of their nature do not last forever.
The source of nebulous concern can be seen here, just inboard of the filling knob. Also to be seen, the usually hidden unmentionables of the piston mechanism.
However, I can put aside that sort of worry. It’s a piston-filling pen that costs less than US$30, and it at least feels as solid as a low-end Pelikan. I am toying with the idea of using it as the primary first-draft composition pen for my fictional pursuits, giving that elderly Sheaffer cartridge pen a rest after… gosh, is it two years on station? Possibly less. In any event, it may be time to set it aside for a while. It is, after all, a eyedropper in its current duty, and even more of a problem when reloading time comes around that a cartridge pen.
If I find troubles with the Eco, updates will follow. For now, though, I’m a happy writer.
Today’s pen: Eversharp Skyline
Today’s ink: Herbin Perle Noire