If you've never had the pleasure of owning a TWSBI pen, I hope that this review can change your mind. For the money, they're nearly impossible to beat. They feel great, write well, and offer one of the most economical ways to try out a true piston filler mechanism. In a word, TWSBI pens are fantastic.
The most recent TWSBI that I've fallen in love with probably won't surprise many of you — the 580 AL. My first TWSBI was a 540 in Amber, so it seemed fitting that I should pick the orange version of the 580 AL. Yep, I'm pretty happy with my choice.
If you follow TWSBI very much, you'll probably know that the orange model of the 580 AL was limited, and they're pretty much sold out at this point. I bought my pen from Pendleton's Pens, and it looks like he still has some of the orange in stock. If you were wanting one of these, I'd hop to it. And if you get one of these pens, you get a huge advantage over the stock TWSBI because it's been pre-tuned by Mr. Pendleton to his signature BLS — Butter Line Stub — grind. This is probably half of the reason I love this pen so much (possibly more than half).
Before I get into the delicious nib, let's take a look at the outside of the pen. The 580 is a full-size pen. It's mostly demonstrator, but the grip section and piston mechanism is aluminum. In the case of my pen, the aluminum is anodized orange, which looks fantastic next to the clear plastic. Like all other TWSBIs, the plastic body is fairly high quality with a great feel to it. The clip is a little weak, but I've come to expect that from the brand. It works fine, but don't expect it to perform at a tactical level.
The 580 is a great length for me unposted. You can technically post this pen, but it becomes comically large at that point. Unlike the 540 before it, the 580 has a bit of shiny trim around the grip section and the piston knob. The shiny metal does a great job of offsetting the clear plastic and subdued aluminum. When you throw in the fact that I have some shimmery blue ink in the pen, the 580 is visually stimulating. You can't shake the impulse to pick this thing up when you see it. For me, it's a great design and aesthetic.
Like I mentioned earlier, this is a piston filler fountain pen. All that means is that the back of the pen has a knob that you can twist to operate the piston filler. Basically, the body of the pen acts like a giant cartridge converter and can hold a large amount of ink. I haven't measured it exactly, but I'd guess it holds around 1.5 ml of ink. And, you always have a very clear view of how much ink you have left as this is a demonstrator body.
The "Elegant Butter-line Stub / Cursive Italic" nib
Ah, the nib. This grind is Pendleton Brown's signature style, and I love it. Basically, it's a mix between a stub and cursive italic, or a cursive italic with "soft" edges. For anyone new to nib grind magic, stub and italic grinds give a nib a nice variance of line width when writing. Generally, a stub grind is much smoother on the paper since the corners of the nib tip are "softer," or ground down a bit. The stub is smooth, but doesn't afford you as much line variation, nor is the variation as crisp as the italic. On the other hand, the italic grind creates sharp lines with more dramatic line width variation. On the downside, they usually have a small "sweet spot," and if you stray from that, then the nib feels scratchy and might even hang on the paper in extreme cases.
All that to say, the BLS grind is a perfect marriage of the two styles. It provides an elegant amount of line variation while remaining incredibly smooth and effortless. If you're new to custom nib grinds, I'd highly recommend trying this one first. You can buy one of Pendleton's pre-tuned TWSBIs, or you can send in a pen of your own for him to grind. Definitely check him out for nib work — he's super nice and he got my order out to me extremely fast. He even sent me an email with a picture of the pen and a writing sample before he shipped it.
I chose a medium nib with the BLS grind for my TWSBI 580. In case I forgot to mention it earlier, I love this nib. It's smooth, right between wet and dry, and provides fantastic line variation. It's not crazy like a flex nib, but it's also not as subtle as my fine Franklin Christoph nib. I really like the medium nib range for this type of grind, although I might need to buy a broad nib now. You know, for science.
The TWSBI 580 is a fantastic pen that I highly recommend. It's Brad's #1 pick for the "Top 5 Fountain Pens $50-$100" category, and it performs at a much higher bracket if you ask me. With that in mind, this BLS nib grind takes the 580 to another level of bliss. If you're in the market for a TWSBI, check out Mr. Brown's selection, or send him a pen of your own to try out some of that buttery goodness.