Thursday, March 10, 2011

Diamond in the Rough

I made brief mention yesterday of a new pen in the household, the gift of a visiting pen enthusiast from Tokyo. The very handsome gift is a TWSBI Diamond 530 and completely new to me. To say the pen is new shouldn’t imply that it’s one fresh off the company’s drawing boards, The Taiwanese company began production of their own fountain pens in early 2010. Before that their business was focused on supplying other fountain pen brands in the area of metal stamping, metal turning and plastic injector molding. For many years they made OEM writing instruments for well-known brands. The Diamond 530 is their first fountain pen under the name TWSBI.

The unusual name, pronounced 'Twiz-bee' is a puzzle made up of the first letters of the company name in Chinese reversed. San Wen Tang becomes TWS, but in a hard to understand twist, they added the Chinese word ‘BI’ explained as referring to writing tools. Thus, TWS plus BI gives us the name. I may have been wandering up the wrong alley, but among the twenty characters for ‘BI’ in my dictionary of Chinese characters none of them refer to writing tools. Lots of reference to noses, tails, eyebrows and art but nothing about writing tools.

What is special about the design of the TWSBI Diamond 530 is how the company sought suggestions, preferences and recommendation from fountain pen enthusiasts around the world. They posted on the Fountain Pen Network the idea that they were designing a new pen and would appreciate input about what people liked and disliked, what troubled them in other pens, as well as what impressed. The feedback became an important part of their design specifics.

No question they came up with a solid product, handsome in the traditional sense yet modern in a clear demonstrator body with visible black mechanics. The Diamond 530 is a large pen, comparable to the Pelikan 800 or the Pilot Custom 823. It has a heft to it that makes me wonder how well it suits a writer with smaller hands. The injection mold clear plastic body works well with the black piston filler providing good contrast along with the stainless steel clip and trim. My favorite touch is the silver on red seal at the top of the cap. Elegant, I’d say. The nib is stainless steel and naturally lacking the flex of gold, but there isn’t stiffness enough to make the flow of writing uncomfortable. Mine is a medium nib and satisfactory thus far. I expect that continued use will add some flex to the nib and bring it gradually closer to the feel I prefer. I have heard complaints of leakage from the piston seal, but TWSBI reports that the newer 1.5 model has an improved seal.

In some ways it isn’t altogether fair to attempt a definitive review of a new fountain pen when the experience of writing with it is still green and inadequately shaped. It’s very possible that a feeling or opinion might change after the pen has gone through a few dozen pages and a few refills. Despite that qualification first impressions have their value as well. At this early stage the Diamond 530 is a pleasure to use, producing the kind of fluid line I like and the feeling that performance will get better as the nib gradually shapes itself to my hand.


  1. It will be interesting to hear about your future relationship with this new pen company. Knowing about your passion with pens and ink, I am sure this won't be the last pen you will own from this new company.

  2. Aha! You've discovered the "Twiz". This is such an amazing fountain pen for the money... it's hard to describe. It's by far my favorite and the best pen in my modest collection. I can't afford a Pelikan but when I hold the Twiz, that's how I imagine an M1000 or M800 would feel. And it writes like a champ too. Mine's an EF, though I hear there's really no big difference between the 3 nib sizes.

    Speedy, the fellow who makes them, is working on a successor and also a vacuum filler version. Can't wait for those!


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Oak Hill, Florida, United States
A longtime expat relearning the footwork of life in America