I’m not sure whether to include these pens in my “Took a Flyer” file or my “Impulse Buy” file. I guess I’ll copy this review and place it in both files. Like I really have files.
Think Pens Couture Fountain Pens: Vacation & Violino
Price: $45.00 each
Filling System: Cartridge/Converter (Standard International)
About the Company & Pens:
Okay, so I’m going to do something a little different with this review and look at two pens instead of just one. Although the two pens have different designs, they employ the same “guts” internally, and they are part of the much larger “Couture” line of pen designs. The problem with Think Pens is that each model has a limited lifespan, so instead of reviewing each pen separately and have them discontinued at some point, I thought it would be better to review them together to represent what the larger Couture line of pens is like.
Think Pens is a sub-brand of the American luxury pen maker Krone. Where Krone-branded pens are typically limited edition and quite expensive, their Think Pens brand was developed as a way to produce collectible, well designed pens that are also reasonably priced. The Vacation and Violino are both part of Think Pens’ Couture lineup. The materials used are pretty basic (likely to keep costs low): acrylic barrels and caps, basic stainless steel nibs and feeds, generic converters (Standard International), nice-but-simple clips, and simple (cheap) furniture/accents.
Otherwise nondescript, Think’s Couture pens stand out because of the bold and attractive acrylics they use. The acrylics are designed in-house at Think/Krone, made in Italy, and turned in Asia (again, to keep costs down).
Fountain pens make up only about 5% of Think’s business (95% is made up of rollerballs), so all their fountain pens use the same #6 medium, stainless steel nibs. The nibs are branded with both Think logos (the name and giant T). They seem really similar to Jowo nibs, so it wouldn’t surprise me if they sourced them from the German nib giant.
The designs of these two pens are very different. I think the Vacation is much nicer to look at. Both pens are made from acrylic, and are therefore very lightweight. The acrylic consists of dark green/creme swirls (Vacation) and a brown/creme striated pattern that resemble a wood-grain pattern (Violino). There isn’t much intricacy in the design of either pen. But that’s okay, as it lets you focus on the nice acrylics.
Vacation: The barrel and section are a little chunky, but easy to grip and write with it. The barrel is made from a single piece of acrylic, widest in the middle (about an inch from its mouth), tapering down toward both ends, and is rounded off at the end. There is a brass coupler in the opening for screwing the section into. This provides a metal-on-plastic thread coupling that I’m generally not fond of; however, the pieces screw together very smoothly with no wobble or cross-threading, so I’m not overly concerned that this will lead to a problem.
The Vacation’s section is short and fat, made from the same acrylic as the barrel & cap, and it has a raised lip on the forward edge for keeping your fingers in place. I’ll talk more about this lip a little later.
The few understated adornments the Vacation does have are on the cap. There is a somewhat wide, chrome cap band a few millimeters from the cap’s opening. It’s just a plain band with the THINK logo etched in very fine lettering.
I really like the clip, which is made from a single, molded piece of metal. It attaches to the cap using a second piece of metal that acts as its spring. The attachment piece goes straight into the cap through a slit, and is attached inside the cap with a screw.
The finial is a simple, convex button that has the Think Pens large T logo etched into it…or more specifically, the negative space around the T has the etching, meaning that the T itself is formed by the shiny, non-etched area.
Violino: Honestly, I think the Violino is a homely little pen compared to the Vacation. It has a similarly chunky barrel and section, but has separate pieces for an end cap an finial. They’re made of an ugly gray plastic that, in my opinion, detracts from the appearance. The same gray plastic is used for the section.
The finial and end cap are separated from the nicer acrylic by simple, thin chrome bands. Where the Vacation’s cap band sits several millimeters from the cap’s opening, the Violino’s cap band is right at the opening. The clip on the Violino is also fairly lousy compared to the Vacation…at least in the looks department. It’s made of folded metal instead of the single, molded piece of the Vacation.
Build Quality (4/5):
The overall build quality of these pens is pretty good. The pens are very light, but they feel sturdy. The fit and finish are excellent. All the threads marry up perfectly, screwing together nice and smoothly, with no friction or wobble.
There are a few things that annoy me, though. The clips on both pens are a slight bit crooked. If I look straight at the caps with the finials pointing up, the bottoms of the clips are slightly more to the right than the tops. Both clips are like this, even though the designs of the clips and caps are very different. Must be something with the manufacturing of the spring portion of the clip or how they’re attached to the cap that does it.
The caps have some sort of design to help seal the nibs and keep them from drying out. I can’t tell if there’s some sort of sleeve inserted into the cap or if the acrylic is just thicker up there. My first problem with this feature is that it doesn’t work. If I let these pens sit for two weeks, they don’t write. I have to prime the feed and write quite a bit before they stop skipping. My second gripe with this feature is that you can see it through the Vacation’s cap. The acrylic is partially translucent, so looking at the cap, you can see through the open end, but not the finial end (and if you get ink splattered in there, like I do below, you can see that right through the thinner walls of the material.
Given that it doesn’t stop the pen from drying out, I think they should have not bothered with it, and let the cap have a nice, consistent look from end to end.
What I do like about these pens is that they can be completely disassembled for cleaning. Once you remove the converter, the nib housing unscrews from the section, then you can slide the nib and feed out from the collar and clean everything very well. I really appreciate the ability to tear apart a pen.
Most of my pens can sit unused for a couple weeks and write immediately. Not these. If I let one of these pen sit for two weeks, it won’t write. I have to prime the feed, and it will still skip all over the place for a couple minutes before it settles down. Priming the feed is fine with a converter, but if you’re using this pen with a cartridge, you might not be able to get it to write again after it sits unused for any length of time.
When writing long-form, I’ve found that if I pause for a few seconds, I’ll get a hard start. I hate that.
I’ve found that once the feed is nice and juicy, or if I’ve just filled the pen, it will write very well, although random hard starts to pop up occasionally.
The weight, size, and shape of these pens are fantastic. They’re very light and writing is effortless. I do have one gripe, though: The section on these pens is just too damn short. The barrel threads that attach the cap are right behind the short-ass section, and my fingers rest on the threads. Luckily, they’re not sharp at all (actually can’t even tell they’re there), but in order to comfortably grip the pens, I have to hold them way up close to the nib.
The Violino section is pretty much uniform in the way it tapers from the barrel to the nib, but the Vacation section flares out a bit at the nib. When I write, the pads of my fingers rest on this lip, and after a period of writing, it gets a little comfortable. In fact, after a few minutes of writing with the Vacation, my fingers hurt from the lip. I wish the sections were just a little bit longer on these pens.
Otherwise, I don’t experience any other discomfort or cramping. I like the girth and weight of the pens.
Writing Experience (3.5/5):
When the ink gets low in these pens, they hard start a lot. If you are familiar with my reviews, you’ll know this drives me crazy. I want to fill my pen and then not have to futz with it until it runs out of ink. With the Think pens, I find myself priming the feeds a lot. Also, these “medium” nibs are a lot closer to broad in my opinion. They put down a lot of ink, so you have to refill the pens fairly often. And I think this has a lot to do with the general hard starting, as I’m not sure the generic feeds can fully keep up with the ink flow needed by these broadish mediums.
Although there is nothing remarkable about these nibs, I will say that they are extremely smooth and consistent writers (if they are made my Jowo, then this is no surprise). There’s a slight bit of feedback with them, but they’re smooth as silk.
There are a number of pens in the $45 range. While the Think Pens Couture lineup offers an overall nice writing experience, I just don’t think these pens are on par with similarly priced pens from Platinum, Faber-Castell, TWSBI, Conklin, or Monteverde. The acrylics are really nice, but they just seem to slap in generic nibs & feeds without really giving any thought to the overall writing experience. It’s really unfortunate, and I think this puts them behind the competition at this price point.
The Nutshell: Overall Score: 18/25
|Best Qualities||Worst Qualities|
|Pretty acrylics||Prone to drying out fast|
|Very solid build quality||Hard starts when the ink level gets low or after sitting for a while|
|Smooth, consistent nibs||Only comes in medium nib|
If you’re in the market for a lightweight pen with a nice, medium nib for less than $50, and you don’t mind a few hard starts, then the Think Pens Couture line might be worth checking out. But if you like finer nibs, or if you’re pinching pennies and want to make sure you get a rock-solid performance for your $45, then I think there are much better options.
Honestly, the biggest drawback for me is the nib. If these came with F or EF nibs, I have to wonder if the performance would be better. I guess if you have a spare Goulet or Nemosine #6 nib laying around, it would be worth trying to see if it improves the writing experience. But out of the box, these medium nibs leave a lot to be desired.