Sunday, January 17, 2021

Newest Acquisitions (Virtual "Show & Tell") ~ part 137

In early December, I placed an online order for a new fountain pen with the good folks at Charals, an elegant gift shop/pen store located in downtown Vancouver. In less than 24 hours, my order arrived at my home via courier. Wow.

Meet my new TWSBI 'Vac700R' "Iris" fountain pen...

(all photos by Maja ~ please click on images to enlarge)

(Above: TWSBI 'Vac 700R" "Iris" model with Broad steel nib; notebook from

Capturing the rainbow-coloured iridescent metal trim and nib was a real challenge, so I apologize in advance for the quality of my photos. Funny thing-I didn't notice it at first, but the sunlight's shadows in the photos look like prison bars, which references back to 'Orange is the New Black", a comedy-drama set in a fictional women's prison. Cue "Twilight Zone" music...(lol)

I bought a TWSBI 'Vac700' fountain pen when it first came out in 2012 and was very happy with it, so I passed on buying the re-designed 'Vac700R' model (available only as a plain demonstrator with a monocolour nib and trim) when it came out in 2017.... but when I saw the brand-new (late 2020) Vac700R "Iris" model with its iridescent trim and nib, I couldn't resist buying it...

Both the TWSBI 'Vac700' and 'Vac700R' models are vacuum-filling fountain pens, which means that they only fill from an ink bottle, so if you're looking for a pen that uses ink cartridges, this isn't the pen for you (although you might be persuaded to buy it once you find out how much ink it holds--a whopping 2.4mL !)

The 'Vac700R' was so named because it was a re-design of the 'Vac700'. The re-design was done in order to provide "even more consistent ink flow when (the) valve is opened", according to TWSBI's official website.  "What valve??" you may be thinking. Well, both models have a ink shut-off valve which closes off the ink chamber and prevents the pens from leaking due to pressure changes (for example, in an airplane). To close the valve, you turn the barrel/turning knob clockwise until it's fully tightened. To open the valve and allow for a continuous flow of ink, you simply twist the knob counter-clockwise until it's loosened (do not pull back the plunger, though). It sounds complicated, but it really isn't.

There are some other differences, too. Anderson Pens nicely summarizes all the design changes:  

"The Vac700R fountain pen has been updated by modifying the 2 valves in the older version into one valve in the new model. The grip and feed section of the pen has also been enlarged and tapered, which combined with the valve modification, increased the ink flow of the pen by a small percentage. Because of these changes to the pens and nib units, the TWSBI stainless steel Vac700R replacement nib will fit only the new Vac700R fountain pen, and will NOT fit the older Vac 700 pens. If you own an older Vac 700 fountain pen, then the older style Vac 700 replacement nibs will fit your pen." (underlined part = my emphasis)

I missed the opportunity to acquire a Nemosine "re-entry" nib when they were still being made, so when I saw that the 'Vac 700R' "Iris" came with a lovely iridescent nib (see above), I jumped at the opportunity to purchase the pen (they seemed to be selling out quickly) and decided to "buy local". 

The entire nib isn't iridescent, just the upper part (a/k/a the "mask"); the rest of the nib is the usual silvery steel colour. It's such a cool-looking nib, but as far as I know, you can't buy these "rainbow" nibs separately, just the regular Vac700R monocolour steel nibs. The good news is that if you do want to swap in a replacement Vac700R nib, it's very simple--just unscrew the old nib unit (at the barrel threads) and replace it with another Vac700R nib unit. The plain (non-rainbow) Vac 700R nib units are sold separately and come in EF, F, M, B, and Stub 1.1mm nib widths

The iridescent coating is also used on all the metal trim (clip, cap ring, barrel ring) and even the small metal nib collar inside the section---a nice touch. Because of its iridescence, the metal looks different from different angles. I snapped some quick photos (above & below) showing this. Tip: to see super-zoomed-in versions of the images, left-click on a photo to enlarge it, then right-click & select "view image", then left-click again.

I realize that this bright, multi-coloured iridescent trim and nib might not appeal to everyone, but I like it. Interesting fact: no two Vac700R "Iris" pens are exactly alike in terms of the their trim colours and/or nib colours. I love that :)

The pen comes in distinctive white plastic minimalist-but-sturdy packaging (seen above), which TWSBI uses for their piston- and vacuum-filling fountain pens. These models come with a small metal wrench, two O-rings and a vial of silicone grease (all tucked into the underside of the box) that can be used to take apart the pens in order to thoroughly clean and lubricate them (instructions on how to do this are also included, of course).

I'm very pleased with my new Vac 700R "Iris". In addition to being an eye-catching fountain pen, it holds a ton of ink, and the large Broad nib on mine writes very well. It's a fairly long pen (13.4cm/5.28 inches from barrel end to nib tip; more specs here), so it can be used comfortably unposted. I'm so happy that TWSBI kept the Vac700R's nib size in proportion to the rest of the pen; full-sized fountain pens with small nibs are a bit of a pet peeve of mine.

I paid $120 CAD + tax, including free shipping to my home (via Purolator) for my pen. As of this writing, Charals is still open for in-store shopping from 10am to 5:30 pm Monday to Friday, and 10am to 5:00pm on Saturdays. Happily, their webstore is open for shopping 24/7 if you can't make it to their lovely shop. Many thanks to Al and Shelina of Charals for their always-excellent customer service!

~Review by Maja

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