I like the TWSBI pens. I think TWSBI is a cool company that’s been doing a very good job designing really nice pens that many of the times outperform European pens that cost over twice as much, and sometimes a lot more.

So the pen currently known as the 580 started life as the 530 (I think) The model number got upgraded as they developed the pen and their manufacturing processes. Lots of the parts are interchangeable, and the pens I use are usually cobbled together from different models. I use the 5X0 designation for all these pens. It’s pronounced Five-EX-tee. You’re welcome.

My first TWSBI was a 540. It was a last minute pen show grab. I think it was at the 2012 Baltimore Pen Show, back in the day when it happened in Downtown Baltimore in the building that used to be the Masonic Temple. It’s an amazing building, built of stone, with gorgeous details everywhere you look, from the hallways to the art on the walls, to the pipe organs in multiple rooms(!)

Anydangway, I remember feeling conflicted. I hadn’t bought a pen at the show, and I was very curious about the TWSBI. I also hadn’t spent more than $50 on a fountain pen yet.

I made a snap decision and went over to see Lisa Anderson. I grabbed the 540, I don’t remember what nib. Might have been a 1.1mm stub. Maybe it was a freakin’ medium and I got the stub later. I like the earlier stubs on the TWSBIs, back before they switched to Jowo nibs. They don’t have the (relatively) big rounded corners at the business end of the thing. They seem crispier to me, and mine has a pleasant feedback to it that I can only describe as scrubby. I like it, and you can’t get these nibs anymore.

 

Oh, nibs. We have to talk about the nibs. The range you can buy from TWSBI is pretty good, although you can’t really get a 1.5mm stub anymore. That’s a shame. I’ve swapped nibs out of Minis and Classics and the ECO– the 5X0 nibs look different, that’s cause for the other pens TWSBI uses a nib with the shoulders kind of bent back. Don’t worry about that, they fit in the 580, and they use the same housing and feed. The 5X0 feed should work in the ECO too– these guys aren’t dumb, they reuse parts from pen to pen when they can.

After some experimentation, I can tell you that the smaller-profile nibs from the Mini and ECO will fit in the 5X0, but you can’t put the 5X0 nib into an ECO. It won’t go back deep enough into the section. Don’t take my word for it though, mess around with your pens.

I did one time hack a Zebra G nib into a 5X0. It was awesome, but I had to cut the b’Jeebers out of the thing. After a while the tip corroded and I couldn’t write with it at all anymore. I’ve done it once or twice since, but I’ve since found other ways to scratch muh flexy itch.

I found it!

Now, The Problems with those 5X0s. Back in the day I had all sorts of trouble with parts cracking on my TWSBIs. I ran through a series of sections, barrels and caps. TWSBI was very tuned in to the issues with these parts and sent me replacement parts, kind of a lot. Their current processes are much improved, and I don’t hear about these pens breaking much at all anymore.

The other problem is a little more serious, and to me it’s a fairly nasty design flaw.

The feed housing TWSBI uses is a standard kind of a feed housing, and a guy who knows what he’s talking about told me it comes from the nib manufacturer. None of this is a problem. The trouble comes when the design of the pen uses the threads on the nib housing to attach the section to the rest of the pen. Nowadays when I break a 5X0, it’s this very spot. It’s hard to know how hard to screw the section on– if you go too hard you’ll bust the thing and you won’t be able to use it until you replace the feed housing.

OK

Not OK.

So– if you’re reattaching the section on one of these babies, go easy or you’ll be waiting on a replacement. I avoid this by having spares around. You get a spare when you buy a nib unit for the 580 or a Mini or a Classic, and probably some other pens too.

 

I was glad to see the ECO sidestep this little peccadillo, and that alone leads me to speculate that the ECO may be an all-around better pen. It’s no replacement for the 580 though, the faceted body and other design touches, namely the cap and piston knob, make the 5X0 a far classier looking pen. I like the ECO a lot, but it’s the most vape-esque fountain pen of all time (change my mind.) It may be better but it doesn’t look better.

Anydamnway, these are nice pens. The piston is smooth and they hold a whole mess of ink. I find myself using newfangled sheeny and sparkly inks in my TWSBIs, as I’ve got parts for ‘em if something melts or explodes.

I like:

  • The Overall Aesthetic
  • It holds a ton of ink.
  • Plentiful Parts

I don’t care for:

  • the Achilles’ feed housing

Bang for the buck: real nize

Special out of the box: it is if you likeada TWSBI, I s’pose.

Looks: like a Pelikan M205, but nice.

Writes: depends on the nib, knock yourself out!

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