Saturday, August 13, 2022

Newest Acquisitions (Virtual "Show & Tell") ~ part 416

Better late than never! Meet my PenBBS '355' (improved version) "Misty Mountain" fountain pen, which I got almost exactly two years ago:

(please click on images to enlarge)

The pen fills via a very interesting ink-filling system-- it uses a bulk-filling mechanism. It's a clever system, but some buyers of the original version of the pen had problems using it, so PenBBS revamped the mechanism and released the new and improved version of the pen in 2020. This newer version of the pen is the one being reviewed today (and I talk a lot more about its bulk-filling system at the end of this post).

The filling system bears a strong similarity to (some say "ripoff of") the filling system used by the CONID (I nearly wrote "COVID" lol) Bulkfiller fountain pen. This kind of system, however, has been around since 1898. This is long before CONID came into existence (let alone the fact that CONID stopped taking orders in November 2019), so if you want buy the PenBBS '355' completely guilt-free ---and at a fraction of the CONID's price--- you can buy it online for less than $50 USD shipped. I paid $48.99 USD shipped for mine from PENBBSOfficialStore in Shanghai, China on

I'm a big fan of PenBBS fountain pens but I chose this particular acrylic because it shares its name with the Misty Mountains from 'The Hobbit' and the 'Lord of the Rings' books. The mountains are right in the center of this map and they're significant in J.R.R. Tolkien's novels because they were the ancient realm of the Dwarves (and featured prominently in "The Hobbit"--Bilbo found the One Ring there) and the site of Gandalf's
🧙 fateful battle against a Balrog 👹 in the the first "Lord of the Rings" book. Interestingly, there's another acrylic called "Smog" that the '355' comes in, and the name made me think of 'Smaug', the famous dragon in "The Hobbit". Hmmmm....

Anyway, enough ruminating about Middle Earth ....Back to the pen!

"Misty Mountain" is a nearly-cylindrical (the barrel has a very subtle taper to it) demonstrator fountain pen made of clear acrylic with both light blue and darker blue swirls in it. I've seen photos of different examples of this model with the same resin, and I'm pretty certain that no two pens look exactly alike. I think that's very cool.

Some specs (from the seller's etsy page):
Length: 147mm
Cap Diameter: 15mm
Barrel Diameter: 14mm

The pen is 17.2 cm (nearly 7 inches) when posted, but
at 13.1 cm from nib tip to barrel end, it's not a small pen uncapped so I always use it unposted. The pen feels really good in the hand unposted, with a nice section diameter (12 mm at section threads, 11.5 mm just below the threads) and a nice weight to it (16 grams without the cap; 28 grams including cap). All in all, a very pleasant fountain pen to hold and use.

The cap band has "PENBBS" engraved on the front and "355" on the other side. I have a hard time remembering some pen model numbers, so I'm sure glad they put the model number on the cap band.

Aside from the fact that the pen's nib is two-tone, it's exactly the same nib that's on my PenBBS '352'. It has some nice scrollwork engraved on it, "PENBBS" & "SINCE 2005" in block letters and (below that) "F" & "China" in cursive. At the time I bought it, the pen was available with either an Extra-Fine or Fine nib, so I chose the Fine (there's now a Medium option available). The pen wrote very smoothly right out of the box and laid down a true Fine line.

The nib is a #6 size nib but it's a couple of mm shorter than a #6 Jowo or Bock nib. Normally this isn't a big issue, but the PenBBS cap doesn't have enough "head room" to accommodate these other nibs - something you might want to keep in mind should you be contemplating a nib swap.
The only replacement nib I've heard that fits in this pen without any modifications is a Platinum '3776 Century' nib (old-style--I'm not sure about the newer ones) but that's a pricey nib swap.

The double-ended-sword clip is simple but elegant-looking with its beveled edges, and it clips onto things securely, without being overly-tight. It's the same clip that's found on some other PENBBS models, like the '352', '456' and '480'.

I love that the same material was used throughout the pen, including the cap top. So pretty....

The top the cap is very gently sloped, whereas the bottom of the barrel isn't. Neither cap top nor barrel bottom have any ornamentation, which I think suits the simple look of the pen. Also, I like seeing all the inner parts of a demonstrator pen, so I prefer demonstrators that don't have a lot of unnecessary adornments on them. That's just my personal taste, though.


As mentioned earlier, the pen is a bulk-filler which, incidentally, isn't the same thing as a vacuum filler---vacuum fillers fill on the downstroke,whereas bulk-fillers fill on the upstroke. Basically, the bulk-filler filling method works like a medical syringe, but with a twist (literally!)...

I looked at some online photos of the older (unimproved) filling-system for this model and those pens had plastic blind cap threads vs. the metal ones (in the photo above) that the improved version has.

On their etsy sales page for this model, PenBBSOfficialStore states: "Please read the instructions before placing order." This kind of worried me before I ordered the pen because I thought the improved filling system was really complicated... but it's actually not. Here are those manufacturer's instructions for the improved version of the '355' that came with the pen (click image to see enlarged view):

Basically, you unscrew the blind cap (piston knob) at the end of the barrel, pull the metal piston rod up all the way, then turn the blind cap counter-clockwise to engage the rod with the threads on the piston head. Fill the pen by immersing the nib fully in bottled ink, then draw up the ink as you would with a syringe. Finally, turn the blind cap clockwise to disengage the rod from the piston head, push the rod all the way down (towards the nib end of the pen) and screw the blind cap back down. This last step should be done over a sink or with the nib wrapped in a tissue as a a bit of ink might come out.

Note: The pen has an ink shut-off valve that prevents ink in the barrel from getting to the nib and feed, which is handy if you're taking the pen with you on an airplane and want to avoid ink leaks due to pressure changes. The valve also helps prevent the ink from "burping" when the pen is in use. The two drawings on the very bottom of the instructions (ie. above the words "PENBBS 2020") show how this works.

There are several PenBBS models that use a vacuum-filling system, but as far as I know, only the '355' model and the '535' model (a Limited Edition made for the Year of the Ox) are bulk-fillers. The '535' is a longer, showier pen with a wavy body, a rose gold-coloured nib and matching trim, a fancy filial, and built-in rollstop made of labradorite stone. Very different than the '355' models!

Final thoughts: The '355' model comes in a large variety of colours (20 at last count), both demonstrator colours and solid colours. It's a big, handsome fountain pen with a large ink capacity (over 2.2 ml of ink ) that looks great, feels good in the hand, and fills easily.
Usually pens with mismatched nib and trim colour drive me crazy, but this one has silvery trim and a two-tone (silver- & gold-coloured) nib, so it doesn't really bother me. In fact, there might be a reason for adding a bit of gold colour to the pen:

Far over the misty mountains cold
To dungeons deep and caverns old
We must away ere break of day
To seek the pale enchanted gold.

(excerpt from "Thorin's Song" in the novel "The Hobbit")


(photos & review by Maja)

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