FPGeeks ScoreCard TWSBI Diamond 540


Review Specificaitons

TWSBI Diamond 540 Review Specs

Pen Class: Intermediate ($26 to $100)
MSRP: $60.00
Street Price:: $50.00

Body Material: Plastic
Nib Material: Steel
Nib Size: EF, F, M and Broad
Cap Type: Screw On/Off
Post-able: Yes
Filling Mechanism: Piston
Ink Capacity: 1.5 ml / 0.051 oz
Overall Weight: 27 g / 0.953 oz
Cap Weight: 14 g / 0.494 oz
Body Weight: 13 g / 0.459 oz
Overall Length Capped: 142 mm / 5.59 in
Overall Length Posted: 175 mm / 6.89 in
Body Length (not including nib): 111 mm / 4.37 in
Nib Length: 19 mm / 0.75 in
Body Length (including nib): 130 mm / 5.12 in
Cap Diameter w/o Clip: 15 mm / 0.59 in
Cap Diameter w/Clip: 18.5 mm / 0.73 in
Cap Length: 60 mm / 2.36 in
Body Diameter at Ink Window: 13 mm / 0.51 in
Body Diameter at Blind Cap End: 11.5 mm / 0.45 in

If this pen were a movie, it would be…

Diamond Stud (1969)

Review Dealer Prep

Dan: 8 – The packaging for the TWSBI Diamond 540 fountain pen is absolutely fantastic! I’m so glad TWSBI came up with a packaging method other than just a box wrapped around a clam-shell case. So much thought and material went into the packaging that I don’t know how they’re selling this pen for $50 and making a profit. Their packaging is very Applesque in that it proudly displays the product under a clear case and I especially love that pen is perched atop two pedestals instead of nestled down inside of a box like most others.

I like to keep the boxes to most of my pens and while the small size of the TWSBI box may not give the same experience when initially opening it compared to something like the Delta Dolcevita, its size is more appreciated when having to store it. But, this case looks so good you may not even want to store and instead use it as a pen rest. That’s how good it looks. It’s not just pretty either. Under the white base is a compartment for the wrench and a small container of lubricant. I can’t count the number of times I “ooh’d” and “awww’d” while opening the packaging and discovering all the cool little bits of awesomeness inside. Hopefully, you won’t have to be a  manufacturing engineer to understand and appreciate what I’m talking about.

Eric: 7 – Yes, that’s it exactly, Dan, the packaging is very Applesque. If Apple were to sell pens, this is the packaging they would use. It’s not huge and it’s not wood and it’s by no means plush, so it’s not the same experience as, say, the Visconti Declaration of Independence packaging. But it stands so far apart from the usual pen packaging and is done with quality material and such attention to detail that yes, you’ll actually ooh and aah.

If a pen’s packaging is not going to include wood and/or leather, then the TWSBI Diamond 540 packaging is absolutely as good as it’s going to get. Great job, TWSBI.

Review Filler Up

Dan: 9.5 – The piston in the TWSBI Diamond 540 works just as well and is just as smooth as any other piston I’ve used. I think it’s probably also the easiest to operate as it requires very little effort. I don’t think I’ve ever had the piston stick after being left to sit for any length of time either.

One thing I really like about this pen is the integration with the TWSBI Diamond Ink Bottle. I talk a lot about how I don’t like propriety filling systems, and it doesn’t get any more proprietary than this. But, the usefulness of this system more than makes up for its limitations, which really aren’t all that limiting. The TWSBI adapter can be removed from the bottle so any pen can fill from the bottle.

As shown in the video, by removing the section and attaching it to the specially designed adapter on the ink bottle you can fill the pen without having to dip the nib in the ink. I love that I don’t have to clean the nib after filling the pen because it drives me crazy when there’s just that little bit of ink left on the nib that I can’t wipe away. Some people will think this is just a gimmick. While that’s a valid opinion, I see the ink bottle and adapter as more of a luxury item that improves the ease of use. And when added to the price of the pen still keeps it in the Intermediate class!

Eric: 7.75 – No doubt about it, the TWSBI Diamond 540 has an excellent piston filling system. It’s not the absolute best piston I’ve used, but it certainly holds it’s own and has nothing to be ashamed of, especially considering the 540’s price point. When I use the 540’s piston, I get the feeling that it requires more turning than other pistons to go from one extreme to the other. This may be true, owing to the large ink chamber of the pen, it may be an illusion owing to the fact that the pen is a demonstrator and I watch the piston’s movement from start to finish.

As for the TWSBI Diamond Ink Bottle, I’m afraid I just have no use for it. It’s a nice bottle and I understand why some might like it, but I don’t have any complaints about putting my pen’s nib and a bit of the section into a standard bottle for filling and then cleaning up a little afterward. I actually like it if a little ink remains on the nib. And I can’t see myself moving ink from the perfectly good bottle in which it came to the TWSBI bottle and then having to remove the pen’s section for the best filling experience. Sure it’s different, sure it’s cool, but I’ll pass.

Review Test Drive

Dan: 8.75 – My test drive with the Diamond 540 was incredible. I filled it using the adapter on the bottle but then realized I couldn’t start writing until the feed was primed. Waiting for the feed to prime after the first fill is the only downside I can see to using the proprietary filling system. So, since I have zero patience I emptied the pen and filled it without the adapter, just like any other fountain pen. That went smooth and now I was ready to write.

The Broad nib that I ordered is very smooth and the ink flow suites me perfectly. I didn’t experience any hard starts or skipping whatsoever. I did notice a tiny amount of flex from the steel nib but just to the point where it’s more than being a soft nib but less than semi-flex.

Eric: 8 – The most difficult part of this Test Drive was deciding which color ink to use in the pen. After much debate, I finally opted for Waterman South Sea Blue. The pen filled just as it should have and after one quick swipe with a Kleenex, I was ready to take it for a spin.

No hard starts? Check. No hesitations? Check. No skipping? Check. Comfort? Check-check. Smooth nib? Weelll… yes, as smooth as you can expect from an over-the-counter fine nib made of steel. The flow seemed a tad dry, but I’m going to blame that on the fact that I opted for the fine nib.

I also noticed a little flex in the nib, Dan, but I’d probably describe it as a little spring. The nib is not a nail, that’s for sure, but coaxing obvious line width variation from my fine nib requires more pressure than I like to use.

Review Under the Hood

TWSBI Diamond 540 Review Under The Hood

Dan: 7.25 – The steel nib of the TWSBI Diamond 540 is very nice, even though it appears to be a bit small, but that’s probably just me. The imprint is deep and crisp making it very easy to see the TWSBI logo, the word “TWSBI” under the logo, and the scroll work along the tines. I also like that the size of the nib is marked just to the left of the word “TWSBI”.

If you make a habit of adjusting the flow on your pen or like to grind your own nibs then you’ll appreciate that the nib and feed on the 540 simply pull out of the section as two separate pieces. The plastic feed does a great job of controlling the flow and keeping it consistent.

Eric: 6.75 – A score here of 7 is probably the most I could give a steel nib, and the TWSBI nib would have received a 7 were it not for the scrollwork that looks more like an afterthought than a well-planned design. Other than that, this is a top-notch steel nib. The stamped TWSBI logo looks terrific, as does the name TWSBI just underneath the logo. The nib size marking is less sharp, but it’s nice to have for future reference. The feed caught my attention because under a 10x loupe, it makes me think I’m looking at a wonderfully angled, black-balconied highrise hotel somewhere in Dubai. Not that I’ve ever been to Dubai, but hey – I’ve seen pictures.

Review Performance

TWSBI Diamond 540 Review Performance

Dan: 7.25 – I mentioned earlier that nib seemed to have more flex than being called soft but not enough to be a semi-flex nib. After experimenting with it a bit in the Road Trip I would say that’s still accurate but it’s much closer to a semi-flex than I first thought. I ordered the Broad nib and was able to flex it to twice its width with reasonable effort. I still wouldn’t call it a semi-flex nib, but you can certainly add a little line variation to your writing with this nib. To be clear, don’t buy this pen because of whatever amount of flex you think it may have.

Eric: 7.5 – The pen performs very nicely, indeed. It never complains, never skips, never takes vacations and is always ready for more. The dry-ish flow that I noted during the Test Drive did not translate to any sort of problem. The pen all but laughed at me when I tried to write faster than the ink would flow. This pen also supplies the single most important performance attribute: Zero Frustration.

Review Design Notes

TWSBI Diamond 540 Review Design Notes

Dan: 8.25 – You can take one look at the Diamond 540 and see that it’s pretty but when you really get up close you can start to see that a lot of time was spent on the design of this pen. The diamond shaped facets on the body give the pen a unique look and feel. I don’t think I’ve seen a fountain pen shaped quite like this before. The cap was designed to seal tightly to prevent the feed from drying out or ink from leaking due to temperature or pressure changes. Not to mention that anyone can easily take this pen completely apart and put it back together. You don’t see manufacturers give you the instructions and the tools to do that. It’s very apparent that the Diamond 540 was designed with a purpose: to be practical, yet beautiful.

TWSBI is well aware of the areas they need to improve. If you’re familiar with the 530 you can probably spot some of the differences in the improved 540. The most noticeable probably being the increased ink capacity. TWSBI also increased the thickness of the twin o-ring piston seals, redesigned the area on the barrel near the section where the o-ring sits to allow for a smoother feel when removing and attaching the cap, and a slight redesign to the clip to ease the tension a bit.

Eric: 8.25 – The TWSBI Diamond 540’s design is both beautiful and well thought out. The metallic TWSBI logo in a sea of red at the cap’s top may not be as recognizable or have as much history as the famous white star, but it’s strikingly attractive in appearance and in its contrast against the clear demonstrator pen. The clip is handsome, well made, has beautiful lines and is in perfect proportions. The cap band is wider than I like, but it’s devoid of gaudy decoration and fits the pen well. The barrel sports elongated facets that are reminiscent of the pen’s namesake; a diamond.

It is equally evident that the pen was designed not just for good looks and function, but also with user serviceability in mind. Other pens do that, yes, but TWSBI takes the idea a step further by including not only enough silicone grease to last a decade but also a wrench designed specifically to remove the pen’s piston. I didn’t notice either of these items in the last white star product I purchased.

Review Detailing

Dan: 7.75 – While TWSBI can certainly design things to look pretty they seem to struggle a bit with durability. Either that or TWSBI customers are some of the most vocal customers I’ve ever seen. TWSBI recently had some issues with the section cracking which led them to redesign the injection molding process. The piston unit has also gone through 5 different iterations because of various issues. But, TWSBI listens to their customers and are very active in fixing any problems that arise. That’s why they made the 540 and that there has been 5 different iterations of the piston.

Other than those quality issues, the fit and finish is spectacular; it kind of has to be since it’s a demonstrator. The plastic and metal accents are all polished to a high gloss. The section is really the only part that I can find any evidence of the injection molding process. Well, that and the end of the piston knob. There are no loose of flimsy feeling pieces. Overall, the TWSBI Diamond 540 is an incredible pen for the money.

Eric: 8 – TWSBI certainly pays close attention to detail, starting with the pen’s packaging and continuing to the pen itself. You’re right, Dan, with the exception of the two seams on either side of the section and the small, unpolished dot at the end of the piston turning knob, this pen shines. I would have scored this category very slightly higher had my TWSBI Diamond 540 not come with instructions for the TWSBI Diamond 530. TWSBI verified with me that they did not re-print the instructions since they are identical for both pens. However, because of the problems associated with the 530 (which led to design changes), I’d prefer to have instructions indicating that my pen is what the cap band proclaims it to be; a 540.

Review 21 Minute Road Trip

TWSBI Diamond 540 Review Road Trip

Dan: 7.5 – The first thing I noticed during the Road Trip was how heavy the cap is when posted. I bet Eric won’t be able to stand it for more than a few seconds. But I was fine with it after a few minutes as I normally write with the cap posted. The polished body and section sure look nice but become slick when my hand started to sweat, but no more than any other fountain pen I’ve used. The overall size and weight of the pen felt very good in my hand and I only started to notice a hint of fatigue as I approached the 20 minute mark. The nib and the feed work very well together and never left me wishing for more.

Eric: 7 – The TWSBI Diamond 540 is certainly a get-the-job-done workhorse type of pen. I think it is especially suited to note taking, whether in the boardroom or the classroom.

You are correct, Dan, I tried to start the Road Trip with the cap posted and I couldn’t even leave the driveway. Talk about a heavy cap! I could find absolutely no balance with the pen posted and removed the cap before I had written the fifth word. Once free of the top-heavy load, the pen completed the 21 Minute Road Trip in a dignified manner. I noticed early on that the pen’s comfort leaves a little to be desired, but never did the pen skip, hesitate or even threaten a hard start. I cannot call the Road Trip an amazingly wonderful experience, but I can’t complain much either. Except for the hint of hand discomfort after five or six minutes of non-stop use, the pen proved quite capable of taking you where you need to go.

Review The Checkered Flag

– Best value fountain pen on the market
– Ease of dis-assembly
– Customer service

– Only available as a demonstrator (as of January 18, 2012 – but soon to change).
– The jury is still out on whether durability issues have been resolved.

Famous Last Words:

Dan: If you do any research on the TWSBI Diamond 540 you’ll probably see some of the issues that people have had with their pens. But, don’t let that deter you from buying this pen. TWSBI has the best customer service I’ve ever seen from any company in any industry. If you have a problem they will fix it, and usually free of charge. Bottom line: this pen needs to be in your collection.

Eric: After my lackluster experience with the TWSBI Diamond 530, I did not expect to fall in love with the TWSBI Diamond 540. But oh yes, this pen is staying in my daily carry case.

Other Known Reviews:
Office Supply Geek
Seize the Dave
Fountain Pen Network

This pen was provided for review by TWSBI.

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  • http://www.miano.tv Director Bob

    I'm almost embarrassed to say that this is one of my top six favorite pens… And certainly my cheapest "great performer." Every time I reach for this pen – no matter how long it's been sitting around – it works flawlessly. Regardless of price, this is a perfect writing tool. I would recommend it to anyone looking for their first fountain pen as well as any pen lover who needs a dependable, consistent performer.

  • http://fpgeeks.com Eric Schneider

    Hiya Bob!

    No reason to be almost embarrassed. This pen is terrific for all the reasons you've stated and more. Mine has certainly worked its way into my heart. I'm just sending it out today for a grind-to-stub. The pen hasn't even left yet and already I'm anxious for its return! =)

  • Sayon

    You guys have an awesome site and write some great reviews. I plan on buying a twsbi 540 within a day or two. I have had my eye on it for awhile and this review sold me on it!

  • http://www.soliloquyinblue.com Michelle Smith

    I am definitely thinking about getting a 540 one of these days. Or maybe a Vac700…

  • http://monkeyphotomcr.blogspot.com/ John the Monkey

    I find it hard to think that anyone would regret purchasing one of these – I bought a 530 from someone who was upgrading to a 540, and I love it to bits.

    In buying the pen, you're supporting a company that listens to, and values its customers too, as well as seeming to like the same sort of nifty stuff we like. "Capless pens? Vac fillers? Neat!"

    I'm really excited about TWSBI's upcoming products, and seeing where they go next.

  • Walter W.

    Argh! Never attempt to post the cap on a TWSBI 530/540.

    They haven't been designed to be posted. You will only damage them. They are also balanced to be used without the cap.

    • http://fpgeeks.com/ Dan Smith

      They haven’t been designed to be posted. You will only damage them.

      Where did you get that information? The cap post just fine. How will that damage it?

      They are also balanced to be used without the cap.

      Not for me they aren't.

      • Walter W.

        FPN and another blog. If I remember it well, speedy talk about it in the initial phases of development.

        The cap goes over the piston knob, not over the barrel. You scratch it and make it susceptible to crack.

        And, if having an extremely top heavy pen, with the center of gravity offset as much as two inches doesn't bother you, then you will love absolutely 100% of the pens ever made. Lucky you.

        • http://fpgeeks.com/ Dan Smith

          FPN and another blog. If I remember it well, speedy talk about it in the initial phases of development.

          I'd really appreciate it if you could get me a link. I have a hard time believing TWSBI would design a fountain pen to specifically not be posted. I'll contact Philip as well.

          The cap goes over the piston knob, not over the barrel. You scratch it and make it susceptible to crack.

          I don't think I ever said the cap goes over the barrel. How would that even be possible?
          And what would I be scratching? The piston knob? How? The threads inside the cap are made from the same material as the piston knob. I don't think they would scratch anything.

      • Walter W.

        A sample of comments taken from FPN :

        the TWSBI was not meant to be posted, which is why posting it would throw it off balance.

        the TWSBI is one of the larger pens out there and is meant to be used unposted

        Twsbi 540 (this pen is not meant to be posted…makes it unbalanced)

        I don't post my TWSBI as it makes it a little too unbalanced for me to cope with

        I find the TWSBI to be to big for me posted, but perfect unposted.

        I tried posting the TWSBI but found that it really threw off the pen’s balance.

        I like to post my pens, but this TWSBI feels better unposted

        I have posted it, I swear that I will never post it again!! (ink all over clothes)

        My only criticism is that the pen is a bit unbalanced when posted

        the pen is … too heavy and long and awkward when posted

        the right length, girth and weight to use unposted.

        I have a fine nib and always use it unposted- the balance is much better that way.

        I find the pen is only balanced for me when unposted

        The pen is so well-balanced when unposted, and feels so poorly balanced when posted, that it seems as if designed to be used unposted.

        • http://fpgeeks.com/ Dan Smith

          I asked you to provide a link. All you did was copy a bunch of comments, none of which appear to be from Philip or Speedy, or at least it's impossible to tell. Since you didn't provide any reference links all I really know is that you just typed all these comments. None of these comments support your stance that the 530/540 should not be posted. The only point these comments make is that a lot of people don't like the balance when it is posted, which is trivial because posting it isn't a right or wrong thing to do. It's a personal preference. If this pen was truly not meant to be posted then the cap or piston knob would have been designed so that it would physically be impossible to post.

          • Walter W.

            Contact Speedy.

            Meanwhile, I will give you what you want : "You are right. The TWSBI Diamond has been designed to be posted and you can comfortably do so, without any inconvenience."

  • Andrew

    No higher than a 7 on a virgin steel nib???

    Have you tried the CdA Ecridor? Mind you it is a ~$200 pen, but still…

  • Jay Pulli

    I really wanted to love this pen but put it away after two nib tries, M and B. The nibs just feel too hard and require too much down force to get the ink to flow. Maybe it's an adjustment issue, I'm not a nib master. Maybe the nib metal is too thick? I do applaud the company for their effort to produce this pen. I'll probably buy their next release, just to see if it's different.

    • http://fpgeeks.com/ Dan Smith

      I'd say you most definitely got a bum nib. In my experience the nib is quite soft, taking little effort to start writing. I'd definitely talk to TWSBI and your issues. You can contact them at info@twsbi.com

      • Jay Pulli

        I have two nibs, both behave the same. I give twsbi an email, thanks.

  • riffraff

    I have three daily go-to pens on my desk. A Parker 51 medium with Noodler's Heart Of Darkness, a TWSBI 530 bold with Private Reserve Spearmint, and a 540 medium with vintage Sheaffer Peacock Blue.

    I think my other pens are planning an uprising!

  • Cavbaby4life

    I love my TWSBI 540 except for the nib. My Kaweco writes smoother than my TWSBI, but I still love my TWSBI.

  • http://monkeyphotomcr.blogspot.com/ John the Monkey

    Dan, Eric – TWSBI have shared this article on their facebook page, I notice – hopefully that means some more folks discovering FPGeeks.

    On the great posting debate, I weigh in on "not posted", but then I only post compact pens (like the Kaweco Sport) so could be deemed an unreliable witness :)

  • writingrav

    I absolutely love this pen and it has quickly risen to be my go to everyday pen. However, I agree that it cannot safely be posted. Once posted the cap does not come off easily, causing one to twist it a bit in removing it and therefore also to twist the piston resulting in ink splotch release.

    • http://fpgeeks.com/ Dan Smith

      You're right about that, when posted it can be difficult to remove the cap. I've found that if twisting the cap is required to remove it, twist it in a clockwise direction, that way the piston won't extend and push out any ink.

  • http://www.pretenseofknowledge.com/ Speedmaster

    Fantastic review!

  • http://peninkcillin.blogspot.com/ Peninkcillin

    Omigosh the 530 with a broad nib and Waterman Havana is heavenly! The nib is buttery smooth and draws a nice wet line. I am in awe of my 530, never had any problems with it, but it does have the 1.5 piston. I don't see any reason to buy a 540 at this point.

  • archlx

    The weak point of TWSBI is the nib quality. When got my 530 with M nib, the first thing was to throw away the nib. Even after aligning the tines and smoothing the tips, the nib was scratchy like hell. I was ashamed to request a replacement nib. This is the reason why TWSBI 530 isn't my favourite pen. I would be interested in buying a 540, but I don't trust the nibs provided with TWSBI pens. Much more than with other pens, getting a good nib with a TWSBI is a matter of luck. I don't know what can be done to regain the trust in TWSBI nibs.

    • Kates

      I believe that TWSBI has recently started to QC every single nib they sell, so hopefully this won't be a problem in the future.

  • Antonietta

    Glad you guys reviewed this pen! Eric, excellent choice of ink! I narrowed it down to diamine asa blue and waterman south sea blue. The asa blue won out, and it is a fabulous combination!! (hint try it!) I'm switching over to the south sea blue tonight..

    My one, well two, gripes with the TWSBI are the top heavy posting, and that i'd prefer the pen to be a bit heavier and more substantial feeling. Loving the piston fill… next on the list a pelikan! haha

  • Kates

    Nice review! I've been reading about this pen since the 530 came out and had to get one once the colored 540s arrived!

    Just received my 540 smoke with a fine nib a few days ago from Goulet Pens. I have no problems at all with the nib right out of the box – it is smooth and certainly wet enough. The fine is definitely a "western" fine – almost a medium. From what I have read, the colored 540s are all shipping with the new Bock nibs.

    Regarding the cap, I can use the pen both unposted and posted (although it is a bit awkward when first posted).I think the pen is slightly large for someone with small hands who is used to smaller pens (M205, lamy 2000), but I'm going to give it some more time to see if I adjust. I also notice that the grip can be slippery depending upon the state of my hands.

    The ink capacity is fabulous and it is quite easy to fill. Despite the size, it can even fill from an ink sample vial with a little jiggling.

    Overall, I very much enjoy this pen, although I might have to get myself a 540 mini once they come out!

    • http://fpgeeks.com/ Dan Smith

      You should have plenty of time to save for a 540 Mini since they won't be out for a few months. I know I'm already stashing back spare change for one.

  • Rob Gibbs

    I now have 2 of the 540s and think they are a great pen for the price………………will be keeping an eye out for new TWSBIs as they launch

  • Jim

    Just curious why used a Waterman bottle in some of your photos?

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  • Charlie Perkins

    I have the 540, with B and Italic 1.5 nibs. The Italic was great out of the box, maybe even wet. After three days and maybe 8 Clairfontaine pages later, the nib dried. Plenty of ink, just very dry. The writing looks ok, but does not feel smooth. I switched out for the B. it was dry from the beginning. Since the feeds are also switched, I don’t understand the problem.

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  • Nathan

    I know this is an older review but wanted to thank you for it. I just ordered this pen from TWSBI’s website based off of your review. It’ll be my second fountain pen, with my first being a pen made by Franklin-Christoph with the input of admins of a wet shaving community I’m a member of. I’m very much looking forward to receiving it!

  • Ingeborg

    Does anybody have a 540 for sale? :D