I bought some pens from Taiwan that were designed with advice from all over the world. One of them fell apart almost immediately.
TWSBI is a Taiwan based company that used to produce OEM pens but then decided to design their own. To do so, they gathered suggestions from fountain pen forums (yes they exist) and then gave the forum members chances to comment on designs. (In fact, fans of their Facebook page still get a chance to comment on possible future designs.)
The results were a series of demonstrator (see-through) pens with piston filling mechanisms. (You twist the end to draw up ink and don’t have to mess with cartridges or converters.)
The 580 is a nice sized pen and because of its smooth writing M nib, it quickly replaced the Vanishing Point as my everyday workhorse pen. (It even appears on this blog along with the Vanishing Point.) Although I miss the nock mechanism on the VPs, and the ability to operate a fountain pen one-handed, I like the ink capacity of the 580. I was worried I wouldn’t like the Rose Gold, but once I had it in hand, I immediately liked the copper look of it.
Also, TWSBI includes tools that allow the user to disassemble and clean the pen. I haven’t done that yet, but I have had to replace the cap and the nib assembly on the Mini. (And the nib, but that’s not TWSBI’s fault.)
The Mini is designed for pocket carry. It is small, but the cap posts making it much longer and much easier to use. I also got it with an M nib and even though it’s smaller, I like the ink capacity.
The only thing I didn’t like was the cap. I noticed out of the box that the clip on the Mini moved side to side. I though it was simply too flexible but over time I realized that cap was cracked. Eventually it cracked all the way around the entire finial fell off.
I also noticed, after a couple rounds of inked fingers, that the MIni leaked ink. Careful inspection with a loupe revealed that the end of the nib assembly was cracked. I contacted TWSBI and without any proof–although I did offer some–they sent me a new cap and a new nib feed.
Unfortunately when I was reinserting the nib and feed, I didn’t set the nib correctly and when I put the new cap on I felt the nib go crunch and ended up with a nice hook nib. I ordered a new nib from a local vender, installed it correctly, and now the pen works perfectly.
Despite these issues, and stories of cracked plastic from other users, I recommend TWSBI pens for those looking to try a fountain pen for the first time and for those who’ve been playing with cheaper mass-market fountain pens and are ready to move up in quality. The customer service alone is worth the price and the risk. Also, if there are a series of common complaints, TWSBI usually redesigns the pen to fix the problem.
I’m not as big a fan of the Mini as I am of the 580. The Mini’s grip section is a bit too short and something about the balance with the cap posted doesn’t feel right. I am tempted to sell it and get a second 580 (either clear or orange).