FPG Scorecard TWSBI Classic

Review Specificaitons

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Pen Class: Intermediate ($26-99)
MSRP:: $50 ($55 with Stub nib)
Street Price:: $50 ($55 with Stub nib)

Body Material: Resin
Nib Material: Steel
Nib Size: EF, F, M, B, or 1.1 Stub
Cap Type: Screw On/Off
Post-able: No
Filling Mechanism: Piston
Ink Capacity: 1.1mL
Overall Weight: 24.0g
Body Weight: 15.7g
Overall Length Capped: 137.3mm
Length Uncapped: 126.7mm
Nib Length: 19.1mm
Cap Diameter w/o Clip: 12.4mm
Cap Diameter w/Clip: 15.1mm
Section Diameter: 9.7mm
Barrel Diameter: 12.4mm

If this pen were a movie, it would be…

Citizen Kane (1941)

Review Dealer Prep

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Tim: 9 - I was happy to get my Classic just a few days after its release in late December 2013. I popped open the shipping envelope and out popped a neat little plastic box with a clamshell hinge and simple clasp. Inside is a dense foam insert with cutouts that hold the pen (with cap on,) a wrench and a little tube of silicone lube. There are 2 inserts floating around in the case with disassembly instructions. Another thoughtful touch is the diagram insert visible through the bottom of the case. It shows and lists all the pen parts, including numbers so you can tell how many parts there are without even taking the trouble to count them.

TWSBI specializes in thoughtful packaging- I use my 540 and 580 boxes to store spare parts and other odds-n-ends in my pen toolbox. Most of my pen coffins are just about useless beyond storing a single pen and a couple cartridges, and usually take up a ton of space while they’re being useless. TWSBI takes a decidedly different approach, and I really appreciate it.

The Classic box trades in the flashy wow factor of the 580 and Vac700 packaging for something better- even more usefulness after the pen’s out. With its hinge and sturdy clasp, the Classic box is perfect for holding various items once you remove the foam insert. It’s too short to hold a regular pencil that hasn’t been sharpened a buncha times, but there are tons of items you could put in there. I’ll refrain from listing them all.

Even more thoughtful: if you elect to put the box away somewhere, it takes up very little space. Well done.

Dan: 6.5 – The packaging for the TWSBI Classic is far less extravagant than what came with the Diamond series pens. Tim covered all the details well, so I won’t reiterate them.

Though, I will say there’s definitely no wow factor involved with the presentation of the Classic but there is a lot of practicality. The plastic walls of the case are stiff and create a sturdy box that, when combined with the foam interior, should protect the contents against all manner of evils during transit. The clasp is also secure and I don’t imagine it will accidentally pop open. Overall, the packaging is clean, simple, and functional. I’m sure it was cheap to manufacture which probably helped TWSBI hit their $50 price point.

Review Filler Up

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Tim: 9 - The piston action on the Classic is smooth and easy. Maybe it’s just because I couldn’t see inside, but it seemed there was less play in the piston knob than I’m used to with the 580.

This is the smoothest and most refined-feeling piston I’ve used on a TWSBI and it rates up there with the best pistons I’ve used.

As far as ink capacity goes, it’s hard to tell from looking at it how much the pen holds. My best experimentation put the effective volume of the Classic at about 1ml, maybe a touch less. My first fill of the pen lasted me almost a week, with the pen in heavy daily use writing wet, thick lines.

Dan: 8.5 – TWSBI has a reputation for making good piston fillers, especially for how cheap their pens are, comparatively speaking. The piston in the Classic is no different. It glides inside the barrel with just enough resistance to let you know you’re moving something. Piston travel isn’t quite as long as in the 540 (but it has the potential for the same amount of travel) and when combined with the smaller diameter of the barrel the resulting capacity is 1.0mL, compared to 1.7 for the 540 and 1.3 for the Mini. To put it into perspective, a standard international converter holds 0.8mL. While I would love to see a piston filled fountain pen hold significantly more ink than a cheap converter, it’s still more than enough capacity for the majority of users.

Like TWSBI’s other piston filling fountain pens, the Classic is fully compatible with their Diamond Ink Bottle. Simply remove the section, attach the pen to the filling nipple, and fill. Couldn’t be easier or cleaner.

Review Test Drive

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Tim: 7 - Capping and uncapping the Classic is a rather pleasant experience. One secures the cap to the pen with a single rotation. There is a satisfying sort of CLACK when the threads of the section touch the cap.

I was surprised to find the Classic will not post. More on that later.

The Classic slurped some ink and I set to writing. It started out pretty dry, but as the feed saturated it got better. My 1.1mm stub did what stubs do, smearing that ink around creating the thick and thin lines we stubhavers all love. All in all it was a nice test drive.

Dan: 7 – Becoming familiar with a new TWSBI is always a good time because I love to see how much they can deliver for $50. Glancing over the pen I was happy to see and feel a high quality writing instrument. The piston operated smoothly without sticking and I couldn’t wait to ink it. Nib performance has always been an issue with TWSBI’s pens and I was relieved when the fine nib in my Classic was smooth with slightly wet flow. It was about as perfect as I could ask for from a pen out of the box.

Review Under the Hood

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Tim: 8 - The Classic sports the same nib as the TWSBI Mini. As such it is not large at all, but looking at the pen uncapped, there’s a very pleasing pattern, leading the eye from the step down from the barrel to the section, and then again from the section to the nib. A larger nib would spoil that effect and indeed would look out of place on the Classic.

When I first inked the Classic, and started to write, I half-composed a song lamenting the TWSBI pen, first gen, dry nib blues…. While that’s a catchy title if I’ve ever written one, it’s not quite appropriate. Out of the box I’d say the Classic warmed up to about a 5 on a wetness scale of 1-10, with ten being the very wettest.

The ink window of the Classic is a nice little feature, although it’s not as useful as some other ink windows I’ve seen, and a major contrast to the all-ink window design of the 580. Narrow as it is, it’s possible to tell that the pen is in fact inked. It is difficult to tell how much ink is actually in the pen until it’s almost empty. It’s also difficult to tell how thorough of a fill you may have achieved as the reservoir is mostly invisible. The Classic ink window reminds me of the Lamy 2000’s in that its useful for telling if a pen is inked, empty, or nearly empty and that’s it. Those are, however, three important things to know, so it is nice to have.

Dan: 8.5 – The TWSBI Classic comes with a stainless steel nib available in EF, F, M, B, or 1.1 stub sizes. The JoWo made nib is a #4 unit, the same size as that found in the 580 and Mini. If you can remove the nib and feed from the black plastic collar you can swap it for any nib from the other two pens. However, a simpler solution is to swap the entire nib/feed/collar unit.

This smaller size nib fits well with the thinner design of the Classic. The section is narrow and uniform in width and leads to a crystal clear ink window before arriving at the barrel threads. The transition from the section to the barrel includes a mild step that shouldn’t bother most people and contains an o-ring that provides a positive seal between the cap and barrel.

Review Performance

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Tim: 8 - The Classic does a decent job of laying down ink when you want it. I used my Classic while taking notes on a book I was reading- it would sit uncapped for a few minutes sometimes, and that is when I’d experience some hesitation getting rolling. My best use for the Classic will be for relatively uninterrupted writing.

When writing longer passages, the feed has no trouble getting the nib all the ink it needs. After some unintended but necessary tuning, I got my Classic writing very wetly (I’d say an 8 or 9 on the 10 is very wet scale) and the feed ably supplied a ton of ink- if the feed can handle the 1.1 stub with this volume of ink, I daresay it will perform as ably with any of the other nib widths you may want to try.

Dan: 7 – Given my past experiences with TWSBI pens I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from the Classic. I was hoping for a great writer but I fully expected it to need some serious tuning. I can’t tell you how delighted I was when I inked the Classic for the first time and discovered the fine nib was as smooth as any fine nib I’ve ever used!

Flow was also dialed in and while I initially thought it was right in between being wet or dry, the more I use it the more I think it’s just a hair more dry than it is wet. It’s certainly nothing to be concerned about. I prefer flow to be just a tad dry in my finer nibs as it allows the true width of the nib to show through. I can’t stand EF or F nibs that are so wet that they write a size fatter than they really are. Some may not prefer the slightly drier flow, but it’s far easier to increase flow on a dry nib than it is to decrease flow in a wet nib.

Inking the Classic was a problem free affair but I did notice the piston’s stroke seemed a little short. I adjusted the piston unit to get a longer stroke (which I demonstrate in my disassembly video) and increased the filling capacity to around 1.1mL. TWSBI makes all their piston units in-house and this one was as smooth as any piston filler I’ve ever used.

The clip works well, keeping the pen from moving about without being too difficult to place with one hand. The cap threads on and off quickly with only one revolution and is not designed to post. I find it annoying that TWSBI completely removed the ability to post the cap on this pen. The Classic will suit users who prefer thin and light pens and I even found it comfortable for moderately long (~10 minute) writing sessions. I think the ability to post would make this pen more appealing to a larger user-base.

The takeaway here is that the nib performed exceptionally well, but you might have to deal with a few annoyances in other areas.

Review Design Notes

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Tim: 7 - One thing I noticed, the conservative style of the Classic actually gets more attention than most of the fancier looking pens I sometimes carry around. When I whipped the Classic out at the bank and later at the greeting card store I got “nice pen” comments from perfect strangers. Not bad for a pretty unassuming looking black pen.

As I mentioned before, the lines and contours of the Classic are quite pleasing to the eye, with the cap on and off. One tiny quibble would be the business parts of the pen: the section threads. While they are attractively finished in a shiny chrome, it looks a little busy. I daresay a slip cap would have afforded the Classic an uncluttered transition from barrel to section and a look that was more, shall we say, classic. This is a minor issue, and only brought on by the name TWSBI chose for the pen. The issue of course disappears when the cap is on.

With the notable exception of the Mini, and possibly the Micarta, TWSBI seems to be an anti-posting kind of pen manufacturer. Sure, ‘til now just about all their pens would post, but hardly comfortably. Initially I thought the Classic would be different.

Looking at the slender profile of the piston knob I thought to myself, this should post nicely, and perhaps deeply, and it’s a good thing because it’s not a particularly large pen. To my great surprise, the cap did indeed fit handily over the piston knob, but found no purchase on the rear of the barrel. It was not nearly as dramatic as a bayonet-stabbed note reading ‘No Posting’ found protruding from my front door, but I got the message.

As a result, I often found myself holding the cap in my right hand while writing with the Classic with my left. That is just goofy, and definitely my own fault, but in my mind a two-handed pen is just a few drams short of crazy. I generally prefer to take things as they come, without assigning expectations, but I’ll just come out and say it: I wish the Classic would post. It’s small enough to use posted, and the cap isn’t the behemoth we’re used to on our 580s and VAC700s- the pen would maintain decent balance.

Dan: 8 – The Classic’s design features a slimmer profile that reminds me of pens from the ‘40s and ‘50s when pens weren’t the size of baseball bats. The cross profile of the pen is similar to a squircle except the rounded edges don’t transition as seamlessly into the flat sides. The pen is the widest near the cap band and tapers slightly to each end of the pen.

twsbi classic fountain pen review fpgeeks-52For the first time, TWSBI has integrated an ink window into one of their pens. It’s a useful feature that’s part of the section and is only visible with the cap removed, keeping the exterior lines nice and clean.

As Tim mentioned, I too wish the cap would post. I have no issue with TWSBI intending for the user to not use the pen posted, like on 580. But, let me make that decision instead of designing the possibility out of the pen.

Review Detailing

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Tim: 8.5 - The Classic looks great. Its chrome-finished plastic parts are easily mistaken for metal until you look at the threads with a loupe. Especially well-executed is the exterior of the cap band that also houses the cap threads- it has the look of a machined and highly polished piece of metal.

The resin body has a deep luster, with no signs of manufacture at all.

From arm’s length the pen looks flawless. Up close and louped-up the only rough spots are the section threads, so overall the Classic gets high marks for detailing.

Dan: 6.5 – The resin cap and barrel is finished with a smooth, glossy finish that is contrasted with shiny chrome hardware. I didn’t notice any imperfections even when examining the pen with a 10X loupe.

However, the fit of some of the parts left a little to be desired. There was a small gap between the piston knob and the barrel when the knob was fully closed. While the gap didn’t affect the functionality of the pen, it was rather unsightly. The gap was the result of the black plastic piece inside the chrome knob not being inserted far enough into the knob. The fix was fairly simple, but shouldn’t have been necessary.

The rest of the pen was properly assembled with each piece fitting tightly. The end result is a solid feeling pen.

Review 21 Minute Road Trip

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Tim: 8.5 - For my road trip I settled in with my Classic inked up with Diamine Eclipse and sat with some nice lined Sustainable Earth Bagasse paper and a passage from Nassim Taleb’s Fooled by Randomness. I had a great time.

One thing I noticed after about 3 minutes of writing was that I was indeed holding the cap in my right hand. Doh! I put it down and got back to work. My Classic wrote with a nice wet line through the entire road trip: exactly Zero hard starts, hesitations or dry spells.

My hand started to feel a little fatigued about a third of the way through. A quick shakeout and a chair height adjustment and I was back at it. I ended up doing one more shakeout during the course of the road trip. When my timer beeped I quickly shut it off and went back to finish with the passage I was copying.

Dan: 7.75 – For the Road Trip, I decided to switch ink and fill the Classic with Sailor Bung Box Sapphire. I then grabbed a few sheets of Rhodia, Whitelines, and a scrap of Tomoe River paper. The pen performed flawlessly across all three types of paper and flow was now slightly more wet thanks to the different ink.

Flow was consistent and I never experienced any hard starts, skips, or other writing issues. I really enjoyed writing with the Classic but it’s not a pen I’d select for journaling or letter writing. The Classic is just a bit too thin to be comfortable for me when the writing session gets beyond 10 minutes. If I needed a reliable pen that could disappear in a pocket, the Classic would be a great choice, as long as I wasn’t going to be doing a lot of writing.

Review The Checkered Flag

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Pros: Cons:
Build quality Inability to post
Conservative styling Conservative styling
Brilliant colors
Nib performance

Famous Last Words:

Tim: The Classic is a really nice piece of work from TWSBI. Its conservative styling adds another dimension to the TWSBI product line and it’s going to be a very good fit for many people who think transparent pens are weird. I’d say this pen is a no-brainer for a lover of conservative pen styles who doesn’t post their pens. If you absolutely must post when you use a pen, then the Classic isn’t for you. That’s the only possible deal breaker I can see here.

The Classic is a solid value at $50. It’s well made and works like a fountain pen should. It compares very well with pens in its price range with one notable exception. Inasmuch as it’s smaller overall, has a smaller nib, smaller ink capacity and won’t post, I think the 580 is a better value than the Classic, and also overall a better pen. That said, you will have a hard time finding a value comparable to the Classic outside the TWSBI line.

Dan: I’m always excited to receive a new TWSBI because I like to see how much they can deliver for their diminutive price tag. The Classic didn’t disappoint, but it also didn’t blow me away. Maybe it’s because after they’ve shattered my expectations so many times before (530/540/580, Vac700, and Micarta) I’m now desensitized to the effect and expect more.

The Classic still manages to deliver quality and features that you’d usually have to spend $100+ to receive. While the Classic’s size and shape won’t be comfortable for everyone, it does offer an alternative for those not interested in demonstrators or for someone who wants a thinner, lighter pen. The Classic is a well made and reliable fountain pen that compliments TWSBI’s product line. It fills in a small gap that makes the brand even more attractive to new fountain pen users or those who don’t have a budget for more expensive pens.


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  • Brent

    Great review guys. I had just my mind set on not getting the classic (I just bought a rose gold 580 :x) and now you guys are tempting me again! Hopefully I can hold out until the Vac Mini comes out…

  • edjelley

    Nice review!

    I don’t have the Classic (and probably won’t be getting one, not my style), but I too was glad to see the fine nib actually working out of the box on my Mini. My first 540 didn’t even write and my medium nibbed VAC700 skipped and was super inconsistent. Really glad they resolved the ever-cracking grip sections and barrels too.

  • Jon Rabbett

    Great review guys. I’ve never written with a stub nib but I’m seriously tempted to get this with the stub. I never post my pens so I’m not bothered that it doesn’t post.

  • PeppWaves03

    Man, I can’t wait to get my classic tomorrow. I really think TWSBI hit a sweet spot with this one.

  • Kai S

    A very well thorough and balanced review. I can see some people new to the fountain pen hobby picking this one over other current offers as their first TWSBI.

  • pelahale

    I agree with you Dan that the inability to post cap totally ruins this pen – what a waste. Like the others here, I anxiously await the mini-Vac – Philip W claimed it would be out by now, so maybe by Spring?

    • http://fpgeeks.com/ Dan Smith

      I anxiously await the mini-Vac – Philip W claimed it would be out by now, so maybe by Spring?

      Hopefully. But haven’t heard anything. I know I’ll definitely be getting one.

  • knitting chick

    Great review! I just recently found your site, and started using a 580 with an EF nib. I LOVE that pen and it posts just fine for me. I’m trying to restrain myself from buying more nibs and an ink bottle ;-)

  • george c

    Thanks for a great review. I have a bunch of TWSBIs. Am going to order a Classic today.
    Regards,
    George