Pen Class: Intermediate ($26 to $99)
Street Price:: $85
Body Material: Translucent plastic in Blue, Amber, and Smoke. Clear coming “soon.”
Nib Material: Steel
Nib Size: EF, F, M, B
Cap Type: Screw On/Off
Filling Mechanism: Vacuum-fill
Ink Capacity: 2.1 ml / 0.07 oz
Overall Weight: 32 g / 1.13 oz (empty) // 34 g / 1.20 oz (full)
Cap Weight: 14 g / 0.49 oz
Body Weight: 18 g / 0.64 oz (empty) // 20 g / 0.71 oz (full)
Overall Length Capped: 147.1 mm / 5.8 in
Overall Length Posted: 172.9 mm / 6.81 in
Body Length (not including nib): 110 mm / 4.33 in
Nib Length: 22.9 mm / 0.9 in
Body Length (including nib): 133 mm / 5.23 in
Cap Diameter w/o Clip: 16.3 mm / 0.64 in (measured at capband)
Cap Diameter w/Clip: 18.3 mm / 0.72 in
Body Diameter at Ink Window: 15 mm / 0.59 in
Body Diameter at Blind Cap End: 13 mm / 0.51 in
If this pen were a movie, it would be…
Vacuum Killer (2006)
Dan: 7.5 – The packaging for the TWSBI Diamond Vac 700 is exactly the same as that of the Diamond 540. I loved the packaging for the 540 and I like it here for the 700. The 700 is a Diamond Series pen so it’s to be expected that the packaging would be similar or even identical.
Eric: 7.0 - Yes, the packaging for the v700 is exactly the same as for the 540. It still has the same coolness factor that reminds me of Apple product packaging.
As I said regarding the 540′s packaging, if there’s not going to be wood or leather, then this is absolutely as good as it’s going to get. And it’s terrific.
Dan: 9.25 – I’ve been very excited about the Vac 700 for a long time. My excitement stems from TWSBI using a filling system first seen more than 100 years ago in an Onoto and popularized by Sheaffer and Eversharp. Pilot and Visconti have done vacuum fillers too, but no one has been able to do it as affordable as TWSBI.
The advantage to the vacuum filling system is that you can fill 90% of the barrel in as little as two strokes. The actual barrel capacity of the 700 is 2.1mL, so 90% of that is…well, it’s more than I’ll ever need! But, the process isn’t as simple as a piston filler, which is why the Vac 700 didn’t earn a perfect 10. As seen in the video, operating that second stroke has the potential to end in a mess and will definitely take some practice. None of that is needed with a piston. Anyone can operate a piston with zero practice. But, you’re also limited to only half the barrel capacity, so there are pros and cons to both.
One very cool feature that I was not expecting is the ink shut-off valve. When closed, this valve separates the barrel chamber from the feed. Yes, this does mean that if you never open the valve then the feed will run dry. But, I don’t think that will be much of a problem for most people. As you can see from the image to the right, I was able to fill a 5” x 6” sheet of paper with scribbles before the feed ran dry. When I opened the valve it only took 23.4 seconds for ink to reach the tip (yes, I timed it with a stopwatch!). So, if you know you’re going to be doing a lot of writing then open the valve. And have no fear, the cap will post just fine with the filling knob in the open position.
So far, this ink valve thingy may seem like just a hassle to some of you. But, it’s actually a very useful feature. By closing off the barrel chamber from the feed it prevents an increase in flow due to air expansion that can be caused by the heat of your hand while holding it or even when stored in a pants pocket. It will also prevent larger messes due to elevation changes, and I’m not just talking about flying. Have you ever taken an elevator up 30 floors? Or driven from Phoenix to Flagstaff? I have and I there was a present in my cap that I really wish I could have returned.
The shut-off valve feature won’t be for everyone and the method required for getting a full barrel of ink will be for even fewer people. For those looking for maximum ink capacity, a pen with a shut-off valve, or an affordable pen that pays homage to a vintage filling system, they will love this pen.
Eric: 9.0 - A vac filling system is something that should excite any Fountain Pen Geek. Put it in a translucent pen so that you can see it in action, and it gets even better. Add a shutoff valve and you have a pen that should at the very least be nominated for the Oscar in whatever category they use for writing instruments these days.
Prior to watching Dan’s video on how to completely fill the v700, the method I used required that I stand on my head while having the widow next door perform the chicken dance. The procedure that Dan shows us seems less strenuous, but since I manage to get 2ml of ink into my pen using my approach, I won’t actually need to try Dan’s way until early 2013.
If pressed, I might confess that I prefer a vac filling system to a piston system. The fact that TWSBI has produced an excellent vac filling system in a less than $100 modern fountain pen is noteworthy, newsworthy and very nearly miraculous. There are many reasons to want a v700 in your collection, but topping that list is the filling system.
Dan: 9.5 – The Vac 700 scored so well here because it successfully fulfilled my high expectations. It also wrote amazingly well out of the box. My excitement and hopes for this pen were probably as high as they’ve ever been for a pen. And the Vac 700 didn’t disappoint. I was wondering if I had made the right decision to go with the Sapphire and as soon as I saw it I knew I had. The pen is large and fairly heavy which felt great in my hand. I also had a lot of fun operating the filling mechanism and exploring every inch of the pen.
What I was most worried about, though, was how the nib was going to perform. Considering the horrible experience I had with the two nibs on the Micarta, I was just hoping the Vac would write! Boy, was I in for a surprise. The Vac 700 that I received has one of the smoothest Fine nibs I have used in a long time. The flow started out slightly wet with a saturated feed from being filled, but once the feed ran dry and the shut-off valve was opened the flow became slightly dry. More on this in Performance.
Eric: 8.5 - As is my habit with all new pens, I flushed the v700 with a very dilute solution of dish soap followed by several gallons of water. Perhaps I am exaggerating when I say gallons, but the filling system is so much fun I know I flushed much more than was necessary.
I filled the pen with You Know She’s a Cool Tokyo (iroshizuku tsuki-yo) and took it for a spin. I was not disappointed.
My broad nib was very smooth and the flow was just as I like it, ever so slightly on the wet side. The pen glided on the page and brought an instant smile to my face. I experienced no hard starts, no hesitations, and no skipping.
Being a #6, the nib is on the large size, which puts on a nice show. My fingers complained a bit about the section, threads, and steep step to the barrel, but I decided to ignore this until the Road Trip.
I found the v700 far too top-heavy and un-balanced to be used while posted. This makes no difference to me as I’m not one to generally post. However, if you are in the Must Post camp, be sure you are also a member of the I Love Top Heavy faction.
Dan: 8 – This isn’t the first time we’ve seen a #6 sized nib in a TWSBI and I sure hope it’s not the last. The stainless steel Bock nib is available in extra-fine, fine, medium, and broad sizes with stubs coming sometime in the future. As with all other TWSBI nibs, this one is as stiff as a nail. But, at least it’s smooth.
The nib design is exactly the same as every other TWSBI nib with a large TWSBI logo in the center, their lettering underneath, and the nib size stamped into the left side near where it enters the section. I could really do without the scroll work that follows the profile of the tines because it looks like a cheap afterthought used to fill space. The injection molded feed seems happy below the nib and appears to be doing its job.
Eric: 6.75 - The #6 nib is impressive, especially when compared side-by-side to the #5 of the TWSBI 540. As with other TWSBI nibs, the stamped TWSBI logo looks terrific, as does the TWSBI name. I am unable to garner any affection for the scrollwork found on the nib. I have to believe it is generic (rather than specifically designed to compliment the TWSBI logo and name) and to my eye, it’s out of place.
As with other TWSBI nibs, the width of the nib (in my case, B) is unobtrusively etched on one side. This is very helpful and all too often overlooked.
Just as I noted regarding the TWSBI Diamond 540, the feed of the v700 is beautiful to examine under a 10x loupe.
Dan: 8 – I tested the Vac 700 with several different inks and on multiple types of paper. For the most part, it performed extremely well. But, I did experience problems while using Diamine Black.
The problem was that if I let the pen sit for as little as 2-3 minutes, capped or uncapped, it would have serious hard starting issues. I would have to rub my finger or a paper towel over the breather hole and down the slit to get it to write. Once it was writing it wouldn’t have any hard starting issues. It was only after it sat for a bit, and it didn’t matter what orientation the pen was resting in when not in use. Nib up, nib down, lying on its side – didn’t matter. The only thing that made a difference was changing to a different ink.
When filled with Visconti Black, Noodler’s Navajo Turquoise, Waterman Blue-Black, or Edelstein Sapphire, the pen would write as soon as the tip touched the paper, regardless of how long it sat. Even with the hard starting issues of Diamine Black, the flow with each ink was always consistent. Well, let me clarify that. After the first fill the feed is saturated and the pen would write slightly wet whether the shut-off valve was opened or closed. Once the extra ink in the feed was used up and the feed was no longer saturated, the flow became much drier, like going from a 7 to a 4. This is actually very common with all fountain pens after first filling them, but I don’t think I’ve experienced such a drastic change in flow from any other pen. The change in flow was easily noticeable but it was never so dry that the pen started to skip or have starting issues. As far as the smoothness of the nib goes, it was as smooth as I could hope any Fine nib could be.
Eric: 8.0 - The TWSBI Vac 700 performed very nicely on nearly every paper I had handy. On my daily paper, Rhodia, the v700 was a dream. On HP copy paper, on Clairefontaine, and on G Lalo, the pen was exceptional, providing feedback where I expected it and extreme smoothness where I thought it might.
The only paper that presented a problem was a rather thirsty card stock that I have. I knew beforehand that the paper would literally suck ink from the pen, but wow – it was like a sponge! To its credit, the v700 was only too happy to provide as much ink as the paper requested.
I have yet to experience a skip, a hard start or even a hesitation with the v700. The pen writes every time I touch it to paper, no questions asked.
Dan: 7.5 – TWSBI has done an exceptional job designing this pen to be functional. That’s evident in how well the vac filling system works. But, they could have improved things in a couple of areas aesthetically.
One of my favorite design decisions that TWSBI has made is that the barrel is smooth while the cap and filling knob are faceted. To me, this is much more comfortable to hold and looks better than just a faceted barrel like the 540.
I would have liked the clip to be the same polished chrome as the other pen in the Diamond Series. I think it make it easier to recognize as a Diamond Series pen and would probably look better with the other chromed hardware on the pen. I understand why TWSBI made the decisions they did regarding the clip and discuss that in Detailing.
Speaking of the clip, it’s a solid design with a strong spring in the cap to provide good tension but not so much so that it’s cumbersome to use. The shape of the ramp on the underside of the clip really helps with being able to clip the pen with one hand, despite the amount of tension it has. In daily use over the past few weeks with this pen I’ve felt confident that whatever I clip it to, the pen will stay there until I remove it. That might sound like a basic feature of a clip but you’d be surprised how many poor clips I’ve run into.
One issue I do have with the design of the Vac 700 is the section and its transition to the barrel. The section has a small diameter that doesn’t change. I really think that if the the section increased in diameter as it approached the barrel it would be much more comfortable. There’s also a bit of a step from the threads to the barrel, which definitely doesn’t help in the comfort department. I’m usually pretty tolerant of these things but since I hold this pen near the end of the section / on the threads it’s constantly in my face.
Finally, just so everyone knows, the cap does post. It attaches to the ring at the end of the barrel and not on filling knob. There’s enough space between the filling knob and inner cap that you can open the valve without there being any interference. Whether or not you post this pen is a personal preference, but TWSBI did take it into consideration with their design.
Eric: 8.0 - I find the v700 very pleasing. I like the smoothness of the barrel and the fact that it tapers. The facets on the cap and turning knob ensure I don’t forget I’m using something from the Diamond line.
The v700 scored major points for being completely dismantle-able. With the notable exception of Noodler’s, I can’t think of another pen manufacturer that goes to such great lengths to assure that the end user can service the pen. TWSBI goes so far as to include silicone grease, spare o-rings, and the one tool needed (a wrench) with the pen. This speaks volumes to TWSBI’s commitment to customer satisfaction.
While I appreciate the manufacturing difficulties that led to a sand-blasted clip, I’m still unable to fully embrace the look. The shape and the function of the clip are terrific, but I find the finish to be an eye-sore. I’ve convinced myself to accept the finish by keeping in mind that it matches (sort of) the finish of the text on the cap band.
A review of the v700′s design would not be complete without mentioning the large threads and steep step of the section. Although my fingers find them slightly uncomfortable while writing, I will learn to live with them. But still, there is something unrefined about their shape and size. I like a pen that is just as good looking uncapped as capped, and I think that mark has been missed with the v700′s section.
Dan: 9 – The detailing on the Vac 700 is absolutely superb! The only trace of the injection molding process I can find is on the section threads where it would be very difficult to remove. Every other piece has been polished to perfection, even the inner cap is without flashing.
Just like the plastic parts, the metal bits have been plated and polished to a brilliant shine, save the clip. The finish on the clip, love it or hate it, has been applied very well and is uniform over the entirety of the clip’s surface. The clip is forged from beryllium bronze, the only material and method available that could achieve the clip design, including the shape and mechanism structure. To keep the sharp edges of the clip design TWSBI had to skip the polishing process, which would be required for a shiny chrome plating. Instead, TWSBI chose to mediablast the clip to get an even surface roughness, then finished the clip with a rhodium plating. Rhodium gives the clip that attractive silver color and adds to its durability. I would like to thank Speedy for giving us such detailed information about the reasons behind the clip design and would also like to point out that this is a very expensive piece to manufacture. Based on the performance of the clip, I would say it’s worth it.
Having taken the pen apart, I know how many pieces there are, but it feels solid throughout. Tolerances are very tight; there’s no wiggling or play where there shouldn’t be any. It’s really hard to believe that this is an $85 pen.
Eric: 9.5 - In usual TWSBI fashion, the detailing of the v700 is outstanding. Through careful study of the pen with a 10x loupe, I can find only a very slight trace of the manufacturing process on the end of the turning knob.
While the clip’s finish may not be to my liking, there can be no doubt that the clip is extremely well made.
My one complaint – and I believe it belongs here in Detailing – is that the turning knob is much darker in color than the rest of the pen. So much so, in fact, that it looks out of place. I assume it is a question of material thickness and I would have preferred a thinner wall to accommodate color matching even if that would have required a clear insert within the knob for proper function.
Dan: 7.5 – The TWSBI Vac 700 was a complete joy to use on my Road Trip across three different pads of paper. I fueled up with Visconti Black, one of my favorite inks, and started my journey across a Rhodia No. 13 lined pad. After covering the front and back of one sheet I moved to my Moleskine Star Wars notebook and filled an entire page alternating between all caps and cursive. For the last leg of the trip I returned to familiar territory: my Rhodia dotPad. The Vac 700 traversed each type of terrain as expected and I couldn’t have asked for a smoother ride.
I extended my Road Trip to a solid 30 minutes and not once did I have to open the shut-off valve to dip into the reserve tank. I wanted to see how far I could make it with a saturated feed and I easily made it through the whole Road Trip without the feed drying up. Even with the slightly wet flow the Fine nib gets great MPG!
The round barrel made a big difference for me in that the pen feels much more comfortable. The weight of the cap when posted really helps to settle the pen into my hand and gives it a more preferable balance than writing with it not posted. The one thing that did bother me was the thin section and large step from the section to the barrel. I didn’t really notice how distracting it was until about halfway through the Road Trip. For daily use of quick notes this pen is great, but if I sit down to journal or write a letter, I’ll reach for something different.
Eric: 8.0 - My Road Trip with the v700 was extremely pleasant. The pen is fun and exhibited no inclination toward skipping or hesitant starting.
I almost always accomplish my 21 Minute Road Trips by listening to an audio book and writing sentences as I hear them. One indication of the pen’s performance is whether or not I find myself interesting in the story being told or distracted by pen misbehavior. The v700 behaved so well that I became thoroughly absorbed by what I was hearing, which bodes well for those hoping to use the v700 for note taking in class or in meetings.
Near the end of my Road Trip, my fingers were no longer willing to let me ignore the threads and large step upon which they were perched. My thumb, especially, was uncomfortable.
Within three minutes of completing the Road Trip, my hand felt no fatigue and was actually suggesting that we go back for more.
Affordable Vacuum Filler
Holds a Year’s Supply of Ink
Filling Can be Clunky when going for max fill
May be Top Heavy when Posted
Large Step from Section to Barrel
Famous Last Words:
Dan: The TWSBI Vac 700 has fulfilled every desire I had in a modern, affordable vacuum filling fountain pen. It is a solid piece in TWSBI’s lineup and increases the customer’s options for filling systems. It’s constructed just as well as pens costing hundreds of dollars more, backed by excellent customer service, and is challenged in serviceability by only Noodler’s pens.
Eric: If your pen collection does not yet include a vacuum filler, I highly recommend the v700. If your collection already includes one or more vacuum fillers, I highly recommend the v700.
As much as I like the v700 (and I like it very much), if you made me choose my favorite TWSBI, I think the Diamond 540 would have a slight edge. That’s likely due more to an emotional attachment to the 540 than with any failing of the v700.
This pen was provided for review by TWSBI.