The TWSBI Vac 700 fountain pen is an affordable, good-quality vacuum filling pen. The sub-$100 pricing for this is reasonable considering its quality nib, simple but interesting design and mechanics.
The Vac 700 comes in a variety of different colours. There are the clear, plain transparent (demonstrator), Sapphire, Amber and Smoke grey.
This is a big pen that's longer when you have the cap behind. With the cap on, it measures 14.7cm. For those with small hands, I recommend check it out at the shop to see how it feels.
The Vac 700 is widest in width at the middle of its body, tapering down to each end at the bottom. The body is much thicker than the grip section.
Strangely, the metal clip is made of sandblasted texture while the rest of the metal parts of the pen are shiny. The TWSBI-logo is boldly embossed on the smooth-surfaced crown of the pen cap.
‘TWSBI’ and ‘Vac 700 Taiwan’ can be found imprinted separately on each diametric end of the cap's band.
Unfortunately for me, after a few months of usage, my cap broke. I didn't do anything special. Just one day, I took the pen out of my leather pen wrap and it was like that. What's amazing is it broke off cleanly at the part just above the cap's shiny band. And by sheer coincidence, TWSBI posted about the issue with their build quality six days ago on their blog. They offer a lifetime warranty so it should be alright.
And indeed when I contacted them, they promised and shipped me a new cap.
This is not an isolated problem as I found out after reading a few other customers with the same problem with different pen models too.
The bottom cap is faceted and also acts as the screw to the vacuum plunger within.
Other than the bottom cap, the entire body of the pen and its cap is transparent. This allows users to have a view of the interior of the Vac 700 and view the amount of ink remaining. This transparent design also provides users with an interesting perspective of how a vacuum filling pen operates, where the physics of air pressure sucking up the ink during refilling could be gleaned through movement of the piston within the lower half of the pen.
Its large build caters for a huge ink capacity so that regular users could dispense with the hassle of frequent refilling of ink. Furthermore, refilling is fuss-free and takes only a few seconds.
Twsbi actually has a dedicated refilling bottle called the Vac20 created just for the Vac 700. To refill, you just screw in the Vac 700, then proceed to use the vacuum plunger. After refilling, you unscrew the pen from the bottle and you're done. Compared to traditional methods of refilling where you dip the pen nib into ink, for this there's no need for any cleaning up after refilling.
This pen uses the vacuum suction for refilling.
First, you unscrew the tail cap to pull the plunger outwards. When you slowly push it back in, it will create a vacuum in the body. Just before the plunger is fully in, the vacuum breaks and ink will come rushing in to fill the vacuum. It's quite cool to watch the filling process and is a popular feature of this pen.
The Vac 700 has a moderate weight of 32g. That's heavier than my other fountain pens. This is attributable to its largely plastic body.
Its smooth-surfaced body renders it easy to grip on to the Vac 700 while writing, allowing users to enjoy greater control during usage.
Compared to the multifaceted TWSBI 530 with blunt edges around its body, the Vac 700 certainly feels much smoother to hold.
Some people may not like the grip area because the diameter there is much smaller than the barrel. For me it does feel a bit strange to be holding it. My finger tips are always on the screw threads between the grip and barrel.
My Vac 700 comes with a fine nib that glides smoothly over paper, hence rendering writing with it a relatively easy and pleasant experience.
Exquisite engravings as well as the TWSBI-logo engraving can be found carved into the nib of the Vac 700.
This fountain pen has the largest nib compared to all other pens that I have. It measures 2.4cm from tip to the end.
A plus point of the Vac 700 is that it requires minimal force exerted for a consistently good ink flow and uniform strokes.
There's an ink shut-off valve in the pen that gets activated when the tail cap is screw tight. This enables the plunger to block the back of the section preventing ink from coming in and going out. The advantage of that is you'll prevent ink leakage and is useful when traveling on planes where the air pressure changes. The disadvantage is when you write for long periods of time the ink will run out as it does not have access to the reservoir. So for long periods of writing, you'll have to unscrew the tail cap.
Here are some sketches I drew. The thin lines are from the Vac 700. I added thicker lines with a 0.8 Copic multiliner.
The nib is stiff and produces an uniform predictable line. Ink flow is good enough. Drawing with such a huge nib is surprisingly nimble.
Since the nib is long, those people who like to hold close to the drawing tip may not like this pen. There are two ways that I hold the pen. For more details, I would hold the grip. For bigger gestures, I would hold the barrel to extend the distance of my fingers to the tip.
All the sketches above are drawn with a Fine nib.
The TWSBI Vac 700 comes with an instruction manual detailing the disassembly procedure, as well as tools – spanner for unscrewing the filler and a small bottle of silicon grease, to facilitate disassembly and cleaning/maintenance.
However, for users uncomfortable with the idea of disassembly, cleaning is still possible. You just suck in clean water and expel the dirty water, and continue doing this until the internal is clean.
I like the TWSBI Vac 700 for one fact that it is so simple to use and refill, one plunge of the piston provides me with abundant ink. For my sketching purposes, it means that I don't have to refill ink that often. The large ink capacity is great for those who sketch a lot.
Additionally, the transparent/translucent cap of this pen allows the user to spot ink-leakages from the tip, as well as ink-stains within the interior so that the mess could be cleaned up promptly. However, it also means that any ink spots are easily spotted and unsightly. Usually I just leave the ink spots there as it's inconvenient to be cleaning the cap often.
The Vac 700 probably ‘brings out the kid within me’ as I find it fun pulling at the piston and watching the ink flow into the pen - A process that is impossible with many other opaque fountain pens.
All in all, i would recommend the TWSBI Vac 700 to fans of vac-filling pens seeking good value for money, users who are interested in viewing the inside mechanics of how vac-filling pen operates, as well as all other users seeking a fuss-free, simple pen that is easy to refill (especially if you get the ink bottle).
The biggest advantage to me is the huge ink capacity. So this pen is always the first on my mind when choosing a pen to bring for sketching on a holiday overseas. It minimises the inconvenience of having to refill the ink frequently as I sketch quite intensively when on a holiday.