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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

TWSBI Mini Review





TWSBI announced their Mini a long time ago, and it has finally landed in my hands. I only received a limited supply of them, but still couldn't resist shooting a video because I knew how many questions I'd get about them and how they compare to the 540. In fact, I didn't even get any of the 'Classic' Minis, but had to Frankenpen one up to show what it looks like.

In the top video, I cover:
  • TWSBI Mini unboxing (0:20)
  • TWSBI Mini compared to 540 (1:58)
  • Aligning the clip to the nib when posted (4:33)
  • Mini, 540 Schmidt, 540 Bock nib comparison (6:22)
  • Hack swap of a 540 nib on a Mini (9:35)
  • Showing TWSBI Mini clear, black, and classic (11:00)
  • Filling the Mini (12:35, 14:20)
  • Removing the piston mechanism (13:20)
  • Showing ink capacity of the Mini (14:58)
  • Mini writing with EF nib (15:35)
  • Mini EF nib compared to 540 EF nib (16:40)

In the video, I use the following materials:

In the first video, I touched on the fact that I thought the 540 nib might fit on the Mini. I did a little further investigation, and it looks like it will work. I covered my findings in the second video, and I also clear up the difference between the older Schmidt 540 nibs and newer Bock nibs.

As always, I'm a retailer so take everything I say with that in mind. I carry these pens at my site GouletPens.com but they're available at other retailers as well as directly from TWSBI, too. You can also see writing samples I did of all the TWSBI Mini nibs (EF, F, M, and B) and how they compare to all the other pens I have in the Nib Nook.

TWSBI Mini Clear
TWSBI Mini Black

TWSBI Mini Classic


What do you think? I'd love to hear your impressions, let me know in the comments.

Write On,
Brian Goulet

32 comments:

  1. Nice review! Thanks for swapping in the stub nib unit; that was my big question about the mini. Looking forward to trying this pen, as the 530/540 never felt quite right to me. Love the threads for posting.

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  2. Glad to see that all of you came through Sandy unharmed!

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  3. Great review! I have a question about the stub nib unit you used. Was it a Boch nib or the older kind? The reason I ask is because earlier in the nib size comparison, the Boch nib on the 540 looked much larger.

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  4. Thanks! I knew there would be a lot of curiosity regarding the nib swapping, especially since the Mini doesn't have its own nib units available apart from the pens.

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  5. Definitely! We lost power for a week with Irene last year, and that was no fun. I'm glad Sandy missed us, but it stinks for everyone in NJ/NY who got the direct hit.

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  6. All of the TWSBI italics that have been made are Bock (I believe), the 540 wasn't available with an italic back when they were using Schmidt nibs. The italic 540 nib is bigger than the nib that comes on the Mini, but still fit in the cap just fine.

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  7. May I put in my two cents worth about nibs?

    As far as I know, Schmidt does not make its own nibs; it assembles nib units with nibs made by other nib makers like Bock or Jowo, which to my limited knowledge are the [only?] two leading nib OEMs.

    Bock is more well-known because they supply nibs to great names like Conway Stewart, Visconti, Delta, Sheaffer and maybe Omas [?] and Stipula [??] et al. Some even say to Pelikan but that is highly unlikely.

    Curiously, the TWSBI 540 feels very similar to my Omas[es], which are my absolute favourite pens of all. The only palpable difference is the flexibility or, more precisely, springiness of the nibs; Omas being more so. There is just the right resistance where you can feel the paper --not unlike driving a sports car where you can feel the road-- but unlike certain Japanese pens which are totally buttery smooth. Omas is, to me, perfectly balanced: not too scratchy [some like it] and not too buttery [... some like that], with just the right amount of feel; it is an uncanny balance. To each his own. But to compare a TWSBI to an Omas is, some high compliments and that says a lot about the TWSBI.

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  8. Nice review, as always, and nice pen from TWSBI...

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  9. Great review. I like the diamond barrel...sort of a cool 50s vibe to it. Thanks for the heads up on the nib. Was thinking of a medium but will probably order a fine to avoid the ink firehose effect. :)

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  10. I've swapped a nib from an older 540 and noticed the o-ring on the nib housing was quite a lot fatter than the one on the Mini and prevented it from seating easily. Could be different with more recent 540s I suppose, but I haven't checked.

    I really like the Mini so far. I like it more than the 540 and the 700 because of its pocketability. Thanks for the review!

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  11. So now TWSBI wants to sell me a half-gallon jug of milk for the price of a full gallon. Yeah - right...

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  12. When you buy a shirt, does a Small cost any less than an Extra Large? I think the cost of the pen materials is a tiny part of the manufacturing cost. Most of it is in the tooling, R&D, the nib, etc. Unless you're talking about bars of gold, bigger is not the same thing as more valuable.

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  13. I believe you're right...I don't have absolute confirmation on this, but I think that Schmidt uses Jowo nibs for their assemblies. Bock and Jowo are the big companies, and from what I've heard Bock hasn't been on their game the last few years since there's been a change of command at the top.

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  14. I'm glad you like it! I do like this pen.

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  15. I like the medium nib, but then I like slightly broader lines than most. The fine nib is definitely the most popular in the TWSBI line.

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  16. Yeah, the o-ring is bigger, but you could always swap the o-rings if you want. I didn't find the bigger o-ring to be a problem when swapping, though. I agree with you on the size, this is a very pleasant pen to carry around.

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  17. Yeah, definitely. And when you're talking about portable things, usually you pay a premium for smaller things, think laptops and cell phones. Obviously, a pen is different, but I personally don't feel that TWSBI is scrimping anything with this pen over the 540, in fact kind of the opposite. They've made some improvements to it that I like a lot better than the 540, like the fact the cap posts without risking turning the piston knob. You're not getting any 'less' pen with the Mini.

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  18. Agree completely. And it's not like the concept of a smaller 'vest pocket' pen is new either. If we're looking just at cost of materials, it appears to me that the only difference between the Mini and the 540 is less than an inch of barrel material. Everything else is there, and as Brian mentions below, appears to be an improved design.

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  19. I totally understand your reasoning. But I was still hoping that it would be, just a few bucks, cheaper, just to make us feel a little better (since we are getting less stuff, you know)...

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  20. The obvious name for the inverted Classic is Nouveau.

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  21. I've noticed that all of them are essentially all out of stock, except the black in broad.

    Any idea when you'll be getting more? (I know you must get these questions all the the time and I'm sorry but I'm trying to see when I'll need to gather my funds :D )

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  22. Haha...why didn't I think of that? ;)

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  23. Yeah, we get asked every day...we should be getting more in a week or two, I don't have an exact ETA. We're at TWSBI's mercy with our stock, and we don't ever get as many as we ask for so we'll be out of stock a lot. I'm really sorry for that. This first shipment we didn't even get any Classics, I had to frankenpen a black and clear together to show what a Classic looks like in my video!

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  24. So as far as wetness or dryness, how does it compare to the other TWSBIs? More similar to the 540, or the drier Vac 700?

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  25. That's a shame seeing as how TWSBI has switched to Fedex shipping for all international customers, it makes it hard to justify buying one (The shipping/brokerage/extra charges price is as much as the pen itself) unless you can get one through a retailer who ships via USPS. They really should be giving more stock to you guys, hope that happens with the next shipment.

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  26. I only tested them briefly with Noodler's Black (to do the Nib Nook writing samples), so it's kind of hard for me to tell. They flowed well for me, I've only had one person tell me that the broad nib writes a bit dry, like the vac-700. My medium that I use personally writes like my 540.

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  27. I'm sorry for that....we should be getting restocked sometime soon. We ship USPS for everything and it makes international shipping costs a little less painful than Fedex.

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  28. Hi Brian & Rachel, my apologies if the answer is to be found elsewhere on your site, but I was wondering if you knew whether the TWSBI Minis come with a Bock nib or a JoWo nib? I thought it was Bock, but I'm trying to find a definitive answer....Thanks in advance!

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  29. The answer is both :P Some have Bock, some Jowo. They're all switching to Jowo, but for now they're mixed. You can tell which is which by the location of the nib size designation....if it's on the side of the nib to the left of the TWSBI logo, then it's Bock, on the surface of the nib just below the TWSBI logo is Jowo. Both brands of nibs on the Mini are supposed to write well though, it's only the larger #6 nibs on the Vac-700 that have been problematic and therefore prompted the switch to Jowo.

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  30. Thank you *so* much for the definitive answer! My particular TWSBI Mini has a JoWo nib on it. Nice writer!

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  31. You're welcome! I'm glad you're enjoying it :)

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  32. Excellent review! I just got myself a Classic and wanted to see how the other colors compared. I need to get another one for a new ink that I bought (J. Herbin's Anniversary 1670 Rouge Hermatite) and I'm leaning towards a black one for a formal look (like Mont Blanc). What would you recommend and which one is your personal favorite of the 3? :) Thanks!!

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