My email inbox gets a plethora of interesting pen related questions, and I spend a good deal of time crafting thoughtful responses to each person who writes to me. A lot of times, the questions I get are good ones that I feel are worth sharing with you! I’ll be posting highlights of some of my more interesting email questions every Mailbox Monday. These are some emails of mine from the past week or so:

Hi Brian, I am looking to get another EF pen. I was thinking the a TWSBI 580 or perhaps the 700, but wanted to get your thoughts. I prefer my pens to be fine. For example the Lamy EF I have is not nearly fine enough. Are the TWSBI 580 or 700 a good choice? I don’t want to spend too much if I don’t have to. Any other recommendations?

The TWSBI 580 EF is a bit thinner than the Lamy EF, see my writing sample here:

It’s not a jaw-dropping difference though, they’re both German nibs. Lamy makes their own and TWSBI’s is made by Jowo. The finest nibs I know are Japanese EF’s, so those made by Pilot, Platinum, and Sailor. The Pilot VP EF and Platinum 3776 EF are incredibly fine, but then they are gold nibs and a bit more than the TWSBI ($140+). But the Pilot Prera fine is actually incredibly fine as well, and about the price of the TWSBI. I would just go mess around in the Nib Nook for a while and see the writing samples I’ve done, you can compare them to the Lamy and TWSBI EF’s.  

Of all the different papers I’ve tried thus far, my favorite are the 90gsm Rhodia and the Apica Premium. Do you know if they (or any other brand with similar paper) produce loose leaf versions (preferably with holes) of their products? I would want it in A4, B5, or something in that range.

Unfortunately, I’m not aware of any loose sheets in either Rhodia or Apica at all. The Rhodia Premium tablets are top staplebound but the sheets are microperforated, so you can tear them cleanly out of the pads. No holes though. Apica Premium is great paper, but only bound, and not even perforated. The best option I know is to go with a premium laserjet copy paper, such as HP 32lb. Premium laser paper. 

With Father’s Day / Birthday just around the corner I would like to put in a gift request to my family for a new pen, preferably one that costs around $50 or so (including the cost of a converter). I had originally put the TWSBI 580 on my gouletpens wish list (assuming it is back in stock soon), but have some concerns that it 1) might be too bulky diameter-wise (ala AL-Star) for both holding and fitting into shirt pocket nicely, 2) have too wide a grip, and 3) cleaning it might be more trouble than it’s worth (I watched your video about taking it apart and putting it back together).  Please let me know if these concerns are warranted.

Can you recommend any other pens that would fit the bill?  I would want it to have a Fine nib.  I don’t need flex in the nib as I don’t necessarily need color/width variation in my writing.  I had thought about the Sheaffer 100 (in brushed chrome), but I have seen some mixed reviews on it based on the grip becoming slippery after a short time of use and that the clip is so stiff that it’s hard to secure to shirt pocket, so not sure if that is still an option or not.

If you think the Al-Star is too thick, the TWSBI 580 definitely will be. It’s as big as the Al-Star, and the grip is round, so it will seem even thicker in the grip than the Al-Star. It is a great pen though! Cleaning the 580 isn’t too bad. I show how to take it apart, but that’s not something you do every time you clean it. For regular cleaning, you just fill/flush with water like you would any other pen. 

The Sheaffer 100 is a nice pen, thin and heavy, but it does have a slick metal grip, which isn’t the best for writing for long periods, I’ve found. It’s fine for relatively quick notes though, a couple of minutes at a time. You probably wouldn’t want to hold it during an hour-long meeting though, it’ll get slippery. 

One of my favorite pens is actually the Pilot Metropolitan, it’s pretty thin, metal, good weight, writes well, and is only $18.95 (with a converter)! I think that pen could be everything you’re looking for. It does only come with a medium nib, but it’s a Japanese medium, so it’ll write like a European fine (or maybe even finer). You can see how it compares to a Lamy nib in my Nib Nook.

You could also try the Platinum Plaisir, but it’s going to be pretty light as well.

I just bought a bottle of Noodler’s Bluerase from you and when I tried the marker tip that came with it, I saw that it was much finer than the one Nathan was using in his pen in the video he made on the ink. Do you know if I can get hold of a wider marker tip that will work in the provided pen?

Noodler’s used to include a chisel-tip highlighter with the Bluerase, instead of the marker tip that comes with it now. I’m not sure why the change happened, but the good news is it’s easy to change it out. Both pens are made by Platinum, the one you have now is the Platinum Preppy Marker. But it’s basically the same thing as the Platinum Preppy Highlighter, the only appreciable difference is the tip. You can actually get replacement highlighter tips that will fit in your pen, to get that thicker tip. It’s easy, you just pull the marker tip out, and put the chisel tip in! 

I watched your reviews on the Webbie notebooks vs the quo vadis habana. I like the slightly larger size of the habana but do you think the 5.5mm ruled Habana is too small for everyday use? I would use the journal for taking notes and meetings. I’m using a red n black notebook now which I assume is around 8mm ruled.

I personally find 5.5mm just a bit too small, unless I’m using a fine or extra-fine nib. I personally enjoy mediums and stubs, so I seldom enjoy writing on paper with such narrow margins. I personally prefer the Webbie for that reason, but you could always try drawing out a few lines on a blank piece of paper at 5.5mm just to give it a shot for yourself. The Habana is a great journal, but it’s really more for those who write small. 

Thanks for taking the time to read my emails! I’d love to hear what you think in the comments. I’ll be compiling this coming week’s emails into next week’s Mailbox Monday post!