Tag Archives: TWSBI

Customer Service in Various Forms and Speeds

Today is the story of two customer service experiences. One was oddly slow, one was surprisingly fast. One unfortunately necessary.

The Prodigal Knife Returneth
I’ve mentioned before the tale of The Phantom Knife and how I was dreading making an international call to find it. In the end, instead of calling, I made one last ditch effort to use the company’s website contact form. I kept my temper when writing (at least in my heart I believe I did) and whatever I wrote finally got a response.

They claimed they had some trouble with my email and had been trying to contact me. I do not believe this, but having been in Japan as long as I have, I didn’t make an issue of it and instead apologized for any trouble. They told me the old knife, a Benchmade Mini-Ambush couldn’t be replaced (it’s discontinued and they no longer make the parts for it) but they still would honor the lifetime guarantee and would be happy to send me the modern equivalent of that knife as a replacement if that was okay with me. I was like, well, um, I don’t, well, yes, that would be perfect.

A couple weeks later I received the replacement, a Benchmade Mini-Griptilian and it’s such a step up I almost feel guilty about accepting it (well, at least I would have if it hadn’t taken four months for them to answer an email). It’s already one of my favorite pocket knives. I like it better than my larger Griptilian (long story behind that one).

Once More Into The Mail
I’ve also mentioned before how the TWSBI Diamond 580 Black Rose Gold became my new workhorse pen and how I wasn’t a big fan of the TWSBI Mini, especially after having encountered two different quality issues with it.

Well, about a year after it was delivered and put to use, the new cap on my TWSBI Mini broke in almost identical fashion to the original one. (A crack around the top of the cap.) I emailed TWSBI about a possible replacement and they responded in about 20 minutes with assurances that a new cap would be sent. The next day the factory contacted me to let me know the new cap had already been sent.

None of this will cost me a single yen.

Blistering fast customer service, but it does pose a conundrum:

Is it better to have blistering fast customer service or is it better not to need it? (Answer: Yes.)

Although I still like the TWSBI 580 and, knock-on-wood, haven’t had any problems with it, I can’t recommend the TWSBI Mini for people looking to move up from cheap fountain pens or looking to try a smaller, more pocket friendly fountain pen. For the same money there are better choices.

As for me, I’ll probably clean the Mini up and try to sell it. At a used price, and with a brand new cap, I might be able to interest someone in it, at least for a year or so until the cap breaks again.


TWSBI Diamond Fountain Pens–The New Workhorse

I bought some pens from Taiwan that were designed with advice from all over the world. One of them fell apart almost immediately.

I’ve written before about how I’ve used Pilot Vanishing Point pens for decades. Last year, however, at the suggestion of some fellow pen addicts, I decided to try pens from TWSBI.

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.)

I ordered two: The TWSBI Diamond 580 Black Rose Gold and the TWSBI Diamond Mini Classic.

The TWSBI Mini (left) and the 580 (right).

The TWSBI Mini (left) and the 580 (right).

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.

You can see the damage. This is a but not a feature.

You can see the damage. This is a bug not a feature.

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.

The 580 nib (top) and the Mini nib (minus the hook).

The 580 nib (top) and the Mini nib (minus the hook).

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).

A dirty pen and whiskey in a dirty glass. Bad ideas ahead.

A dirty pen and whiskey in a dirty glass. Bad ideas ahead.