A beautiful piston-fill fountain pen with red accents
I recently purchased the TWSBI Diamond 580 AL in the Rose colour. I was going to pass on this release - as the pen is just a different coloured 580 AL and rose red isn't my style, but once I saw the pen in person at Charals in Vancouver, I couldn't resist. The colour was less rose than I had expected based on the internet pictures and more deeper red. I quickly decided that it would fit more with my style, though I am unlikely to tell non-pen people the name. As I have several TWSBI pens, I chose to purchase the pen in the new to me 1.1mm stub nib to round out my collection.
As my regular writing preference is for a Fine to Extra Fine nib, this was quite a change. While I do own a couple of stubs, I am less comfortable with stub and italic nibs than fine nibs - mainly because my small handwriting becomes a big blob. In this case, I felt that such a beautiful pen deserved to have a spectacular ink to add some creative flourish to the nib. After looking at the pens, I took home a brand new, sealed box fountain pen.
All of the TWSBI 580 AL lines of pens are presented nicely. They come in a clear and white plastic case with rounded corners and slide together with a design that would make Steve Jobs proud. The bottom of the case contains a wrench and silicone grease to maintain the piston mechanism nicely.
The 580 ALs are clear demonstrator, piston-fill fountain pens with aluminum sections at both the grip and piston sections. TWSBI has been issuing annual releases of these pens with the aluminum sections treated to a particular theme colour. This time, TWSBI calls the shade Rose, but in reality, it is a dark metallic red. This colour pops in person but is not too bright. I felt this colour nicely complemented the red finial with the TWSBI logo. The furnishings on the pen are silver, and the trim contrasts nicely with the red sections. I like the way the grip section tapers nicely to the nib and creates a comfortable hand hold without any significant steps.
As with all TWSBI fountain pens, the piston filling ink reservoir is enormous, and the transparent body allows you to see the ink sloshing around. Pairing the choice of pen colour and ink offers lots of exciting ways to change the look of the pen. The nibs are steel and have a black plastic feed, which is a little less pretty than the clear feeds that Wing Sung are putting into their similarly styled 698. Also detracting from the beauty of the pen is the inner cap - which is a smoked grey colour and not completely clear. This detail obscures the nib slightly when capped.
The steel nib, in silver, is a number 5 nib and with the 1.1mm stub nib has a wide, flat tip with no tipping material. The nib size is well balanced aesthetically with the rest of the pen. The pen is on the larger sized, which is good as the cap is better not posted. The cap can be pushed onto the back of the piston plunger, but this makes the pen very unwieldy and long and is a recipe for disaster if you bump the cap, as it could move the plunger and expel ink. The plunger does not lock, as the Wing Sung 698 does.
Piston Filling Fountain Pens
As mentioned, TWSBI 580 AL fountain pens use a piston filling mechanism to collect ink. A piston fill pen utilizes a plunger on the inside of the pen barrel to pull ink into the vast space inside the pen. A knob at the end of the pen controls the threaded piston. Screw the piston all the way towards to the nib, dip the entire nib into a bottle of ink and then unscrew the knob to draw the piston back to the end of the fountain pen. A significant amount of ink is brought in. While this system requires a bottle of ink to fill, there are no ink cartridges to dispose of and you do not have to disassemble the pen to load. As the TWSBI is a demonstrator, the added bonus is that there are no internal parts containing the ink - it is all within the barrel of the pen, which is very beautiful.
The TWSBI 580 AL is a beautiful pen. Uncapped, it is well balanced and holds a ton of ink. I filled mine with Robert Oster's Tranquility as I thought the lovely aqua colour would go well with the red of the pen sections. Being an acrylic and aluminum pen, it is ideal for extended writing sprints and is very pretty sitting on a desk in a way that many other more expensive pens are lacking. I usually love writing with TWSBI pens but think I made a mistake with the 1.1mm stub nib on this pen.
The 1.1mm stub on this pen is not good. The nib hard starts, which means it usually takes me a stroke or two (or three) to lay down any ink on the page. Then, when the ink does flow, it erratically flows like a fire hose! I have to be careful to let the ink dry before turning the page or attempting to do any corrections. In fact, in my Rhodia Webbie, I could see the ink of my handwriting pooling on the surface of the paper until it dried! I am using Robert Oster ink in this pen, and I have found that these inks have good flow, low bleed and are overall very well behaved inks. I do not believe the inks contribute to the nib problems as I have used this ink before without any issues, though admittedly in less broad nibs.
The Robert Oster ink is beautiful though, when finally dry, and enjoy changing my usual writing style to play with the stub nib - the broad nib is very interesting and seems thicker than my Lamy 1.1mm stub. My recommendation (that I didn't follow myself) is to open any stub pen in the pen store and do a dip test. It may give you some ideas about how good the nib is, especially if you are purchasing broader nibs. And while this Rose coloured pen is truly beautiful, especially when filled with a complementary coloured ink, the hard starts make it really hard to start to love this pen.