Way back in 2013, I wrote my first review for Brad on this site. It was a review of one of my favorite pens at the time, a TWSBI Mini. The first generation of Mini, like the larger 540 and 580, were mostly plastic and sometimes had issues. Luckily, I've never had any problems with my TWSBIs, and I still really enjoy them. Now, here we are almost 4 years later and I have my second TWSBI mini, but this is the new AL Special Edition Blue.
Like the original, the size and form factor are stellar. It's a small pen, but behaves like a full-length pen when you post it. It was a delight in 2013, and it's still a delight today.
If you're unfamiliar with the Mini AL, it's a small piston-filler demonstrator (apart from the section and piston mechanism, which is aluminum) fountain pen that comes in a variety of nib sizes. Another fun thing about TWSBI is that you can swap out the nib units if you want another size without buying another pen. For the price, the TWSBI is one of the most affordable ways to try out piston fillers. And, they're just loads of fun.
The Mini AL is largely unchanged from the original, apart from the aluminum parts that were swapped in to provide a higher-quality good. It's a great pen that feels steady in the hand and writes beautifully.
The pen feels sturdy and well-made. I couldn't always say that about the plastic model, but the AL model is stout. The plastic is sparklingly clear, and the chrome and aluminum accents give it a classic and distinguished look. Being plastic and aluminum, it isn't very heavy. This makes it ideal for long writing sessions, because it won't tire your hand.
There's a small bit of branding found on the band of the cap that indicates the TWSBI brand and model, and there's the iconic red and silver TWSBI jewel in the finial. And, of course, you can see your ink sloshing around in the reservoir, which is always fun.
The piston mechanism is smooth and sure. Like every other TWSBI, they provide a small container of silicone grease for doing your own maintenance, but that's really something that you'll need down the road. Out of the box, the pen works flawlessly. I don't have an exact measurement, but I estimate this pen can hold about 2 ml of ink.
The cap fits snugly on the pen when closed, and the clip has a nice spring to it. It's not too tight, but it gives easily enough to make clipping onto things an easy action. Some pens lean toward the "too strong is better" camp when it comes to clips, and I appreciate the balance this Mini achieves in that regard.
When writing, the cap can be posted to provide a more comfortable pen length for writing. Posting is very stable since the cap screws onto the back of the pen. And, the cap threads onto the pen without affecting the piston knob.
When capping or posting the pen, both ends feature a small o-ring at the base of the threads that provide a very snug seal when screwing down the cap. It's a nice feature that adds a level of quality and security to the pen.
The pen looks and feels great, but how does it write? Like a champ.
I've always had really good experiences with TWSBI nibs out of the box. I'm sure there are some duds out there, but you can generally expect good things from the TWSBI nibs. This EF is no exception. It's smooth, crisp, and reliable.
The line width that this pen lays down is smaller than most of my other German EF nibs. It's closer to a Japanese F, which is fine in my book. The line is also very crisp and well-defined. There's no burping or feed problems when writing, and the ink flow is very consistent without being dry.
The nib writes well from the start with no stuttering or skipping. Even after being uncapped for a while, it only takes a couple of light strokes to get the ink flowing again.
The steel nib is very rigid, which means there's no flex to speak of. If that's what you're looking for, you'll have to look somewhere else as TWSBI nibs are known to be very stiff. It's a reliable, good writer, and that's what matters!
Overall, the TWSBI Mini AL in Blue is a solid iteration on an already great pen. The added aluminum parts not only increase the quality of the pen, but the aesthetic as well. It costs a bit more than the regular Mini, but it's well worth it. The blue edition will likely sell out soon, but there's always the standard silver AL! For most other piston-filler pens, you're looking at spending well over $100, so the price point (sub-$70 range) of the TWSBI Mini is unbeatable, especially considering the quality you can expect from them.
(JetPens provided this product at no charge to The Pen Addict for review purposes.)
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