Friday, February 5, 2016

TWSBI Classic Review

Are you familiar with the Crazy/Hot Scale (its been around for a while but was popularized on "How I Met Your Mother")?  It is a very useful social rule that goes something like this: the more attractive a person is, the more crazy they can be and have people tolerate them.  This means that people like Kate Upton and Brad Pitt can be pretty much straight up bonkers and they get a pass, while the rest of us, the less beautiful people, we have to either have some modicum of self-awareness and restraint OR we have to bring something else to the table.  Suffice to say, in dealing with people as I have grown up, the Crazy/Hot Scale has come to explain a lot of otherwise mystifying social interactions.  Why is my male friend tolerating this bullshit from his girlfriend?  Oh...because she looks like THAT.  Why is my neighbor allowed to yell at everyone, barbecue smelly beasts at 12:30 at night, and park his car on his front lawn?  Because at one time he was probably damn handsome.

The TWSBI Classic is the pen equivalent of the Crazy/Hot Scale.  It does one thing so well, so incredibly great that for a second, you are willing to look past its one million flaws and just go with it.  Justin Verlander, I can never know how you felt, but I can at least, in some ways, imagine.  You think to yourself--this is going to work out, I know it's a bunch of work, but it is going to go right I can just feel it.  Then you come to your senses and you realize, nothing is worth this amount of bullshit.  Suffice to say, FUCK THIS PEN.  

Here is the product page.  Here is a video review.  Here is a written review.  No link here, you probably deal with enough headaches in your life.  Here is my own little pain in the ass:


Twitter Review Summary: That's it...get the fuck out.

Design: 0

Let me just get to the point--this is a piston filler pen that requires you to dunk the entire nib and a portion of the grip into the bottle of ink to fill the pen.


Yes, you read that correctly, you are dunking the end of the pen that YOU HOLD into the bottle of ink every time you need a refill.  TWSBI, this is the pen equivalent of sharpening the handle of a knife and leaving the blade dull.  It is stupid.  It is messy.  It is unintuitive.  But there are a few pens out there that do this.  The big difference here is that the plastic collar around the nib leaks like crazy.  Eventually mine just broke completely.  This is a terrible, terrible design.  Simply put, fuck me in the fill hole. 

Fit and Finish: 0

In the flashlight world, the lights that are made like this--with cheap materials and o-rings aplenty as a way to make up for poor tolerances--are sold at Home Depot on Black Friday for a buck.  But for some reason, in the pen world, this shitacular fit and finish is tolerated.  I say "tolerated" because there are folks in the pen world that have sworn off TWSBI, but some haven't.  They have a reputation for making stuff that just breaks and, as par for the course, mine broke.  Right around the nib there is a collar of black plastic.  That collar, without ever being touched, broke.  

But that's not all.  The piston filler is a disaster.  First, the piston filler is hard to use.  Its virtually impossible to fill the entire ink reservoir.  It is also hard to tell when it is full as you can't see the whole thing due to a TINY ink window.  A standard cartridge fill would be much, much better.  Second, the pen has threading all over the place, one set to unscrew the tail cap (to again twist to pull up the plunger) and another to remove the tail cap entirely to work on the guts of the pen.  When I first got the pen I was instructed to apply silicone grease to the actual plunger piece, which I did.  It then prompted felt off.  I had to make a tool out of a paper clip, tape, and a piece of wood to get it out.  This is after they gave me a wrench in the box.  Which, by the way, is a piece of garbage.  In fact, the entire kit is WAY TOO complicated and all of the constituent elements are garbage.  There were times when I just couldn't get the thing back together because of the bidirectional threading on the tail end of the pen.  I had to just let it sit, semi-assembled and come back later.  SHIT, SHIT, SHIT.


The tale of woe continues.  The cap doesn't really post.  It is sort of like that person on the couch next to you during an important televised sporting event--inert enough to be annoying when they get too close, but mobile enough to jostle you and spill your drink at the exact wrong time.  It just stinks.

And like with a good infomercial, wait, there is more.  I have had piston fillers before, but this one was just a mess.  It was impossible, literally impossible, to refill the pen without getting ink on your hands.  A brain surgeon, at the top of his or her game, with all of the dexterity in the world, couldn't do it.  I thought initially it was bad technique (so I watched the awesome video from Goulet Pens) and nailed that.  The reality is, this thing is as water tight as a sponge--touch it and it leaks.  

Frankly, the TWSBI Classic is going to take the crown from the Gerber 600 as the worst made product I have reviewed.  It is excrement.  

Carry: 2

Surprisingly for all of the leaking and ink mess, the pen never did what the Karas Customs EDK did twice--kill a shirt.  I was always worried, but it never happened.  I wrote with the pen in harsh environments and I was fine.  It's a good size and the clip ain't bad.  The pen sucks, but the clip is fine.

Appearance:  1

This is the pen equivalent of a Potemkin Village--it appears all serious and impressive, but upon closer inspection you realize it is a mirage.  


All of the stuff that should be metal is plastic.  All of the parts that should be precision fit are covered in o-rings (seriously, what the fuck TWSBI?  Upgrade your machining).  The plastic is especially cheap feeling, perhaps because it is so thin or brittle.  Screwing in the cap was also something I was a bit fearful of as it creaked ominously each time.  This the pen version a cheap stripper, this thing looks okay from very, very far away.  When you get up close...phew it is a mess.

Durability: 0

I am fairly certain TWSBIs are made from the same material that Inspector Gadget's mission disks were made of--they are designed to disintegrate.  If the pen didn't ship broken, it broke the second I took it out of the box.  I thought it was a little thing, but as it turns out, the whole pen is rather rapidly falling apart.  

Writing Performance/Refill: 2

Ah...the siren's song.  This is the equivalent of Brad Pitt's abs or Kate Upton's breasts.  This is the thing that lures you in and makes you think, for a brief second, all of the pain and suffering is worth it.  This pen, for which I chose a steel 1.1 mm stub nib, writes like a dream--a lucid, graceful, smooth dream.  I was absolutely addicted to writing with it.  I scrawled notes everywhere.  I wrote out to do lists over and over again and I am NOT a to do list person.  I hand addressed all of our Christmas cards (did you notice Andrew?).  It is an intoxicating experience to write with this pen.  Too bad the rest of it is all hangover.  Like worst hangover ever.  Like wake up in Vegas with a face tattoo and a tiger in your hotel room caliber hangover.   

Balance/In Hand Feel: 1

One thing that happened while I was using this pen is that I noticed that while it looked substantial, it didn't feel substantial in the hand.  That was the big deal for me, the thing that made me think, initially, that this was not the pen I thought it was.  It's just too light for how it looks and because of the weird cap, clip, and finial on top it's out of balance.  Add to that a cap as wobbly as drunk doing field sobriety tests, and you have a recipe for underwhelming in hand feel.  This is just not right.  I like the lightweight, but it seemed oddly distributed in hand.  After a few hours of use I wanted to either take the cap off or switch to a different pen.  I realize that few people write for hours now, so I don't think it is fair to dock the pen more than one point, but it is something to note.  I'd much prefer the unabashed featherweight appearance of something like the Lamy Safari to this pen.  

Grip: 0

On a different pen without the feed hole at the base of the grip, I'd give this shapely form a two, but as it is, I was constantly getting ink on my hands.  This isn't to say that I need to have pristine hands after using a fountain pen.  I get that it is impossible to avoid some ink, especially with a non-cartridge design, but this was insane.  Every use resulted in stained fingers.  Personally I really like my Pilot Iroshizuku, but some folks thought I had an accident or something.

Barrel: 1

Hex barrels are great--they don't roll but are still comfy in the hand.


My big beef was the fact that the barrel was flimsy.  It creaked like an old ship at sea during a storm.  Every squeeze or grip resulted in some kind of noise.  And the barrel didn't do well when it had to interact with other parts--the threads were sloppy.  Finally there is the fact that everything here is just cheap--cheap plastic, cheap thin o-rings, cheap chromed parts.  It looks nice and in theory the hex barrel is great, but as applied here it is something of a whiff.

Deployment Method/Cap: 0

I have always preferred cap less pens for fear that the cap would get lost.  The TWSBI Classic is exactly that fear embodied.  Because the machining tolerances are less precise than a kindergartener's outside the lines coloring, TWBSI resorted to using o-rings (shitty o-rings) to keep parts in places that are supposed to friction fit together, like the cap and barrel when the cap is posted.  Unfortunately, they don't work.  The cap was constantly wiggling around and falling off.  No amount of force that I felt comfortable applying could keep the cap put. And if you lose the cap with this leaky mess, your done, just throw the pen away.  Actually, even if you DIDN'T lose the cap, just throw this pen away--it's not worth it.

Overall Score: 7 out of 20

After the sixteenth time that your supermodel date throws soup on your shirt and storms out of the fancy restaurant you are in because, how dare you, you said hello to the waitress, you realize that, well, even with that much beauty there is a limit to what you and your dignity can tolerate.  Even supermodels can break the Crazy/Hot scale.  It takes a long time, a very long time, but it can happen.  And after a month and a half of use, where there were three or four times when the piston fell out or couldn't be reseated even with the terrible wrench they send you or the entire cap is filled with ink when it is opened up, the TWSBI Classic broke the pen equivalent of the Crazy/Hot Scale.  If you are tempted to buy this or any other TWSBI, please email me and I will send you, via email, either a punch in the face or a kick to the nuts, for free.  Both will serve you better than this pen.  

The Competition

This pen is so bad that the only real competition is either that cursed gold that burned your hands from Harry Potter or getting your fingers shut in a car door.  Those are the only two things I can think of that we're as difficult for my hands to deal with as this piece of shit.  This is an awful pen.  And I know, given TWSBI's reputation, that this pen while bad is nothing out of the ordinary for them.  Yes, they give you mechanisms and designs that usually cost four times as much, but there is a trade off and here the trade off is not worth it.

Just to make sure I wasn't crazy (and because I have always wanted on) I ordered an Edison Pearlette with a Stub Nib and bottle fill and guess what?  It's awesome.  Still messier than cartridge fill, but nothing like the Exxon Valdez that is the leaky TWSBI.


  1. I actually really like when you're disappointed with a piece of gear - I get to be amused by a witty diatribe, and it doesn't make me go out and buy more stuff.

    1.'s not like last year where I was pointed at the IRJ+TT Ti Shaker in a few months. -_-

  2. One of my favorite reviews! What did you really think? Ha!

  3. I have a 580AL with a fine nib I sent to Mike M. for tuning, awesome. I ordered the 1.1 stub nib for it...disaster. Gonna send it in as well. I ordered and use the Twsbi bottle to fill it up no problem no mess. Take nib off, snap on then up the ink goes. No mess.

  4. I take it that you were not impressed. haha. love it!

  5. I'm sure you had a great time writing this (too) clever review of TWSBI, but I own 6 TWSBIs and it's not because I don't like them. I LOVE them. And I don't have to dunk it the way you do. I just do it like a normal pen/person. But my experience is that MOST piston pens have to be dunked beyond the nib if you're going to get a good seal.

    Your opinion is your opinion, but I love my TWISBIs, especially the Classic.

    1. The busted piece at the end of the pen is one problem. The poor tolerances and cheap materials, as evidenced by an embarrassing number of o-rings, is another. These are not well made things. They might be good for the price, but I'd rather twice as much and get a nicer pen.

  6. This review is freaking hilarious. I think I'm still in the stage where this pen hasn't exceeded the crazy/hot scale.I have been waiting for the past month for a replacement for the cap that broke while I was cleaning it... What can I say? I like the looks of the pen.
    Anyway, thank God for my Pilot Metropolitan. About a quarter of the price of the Classic, and I'm pretty sure you could shoot it out of a gun through a wall and it would still write.