Straight from the “What the heck was I thinking?” files, I present to you the…
TWSBI Diamond 580AL Fountain Pen
Nib: Extra Fine
Filling System: Piston
About the Pen:
I was in high school when Guns N’ Roses exploded on the scene. For some reason still unknown to me, I decided that I didn’t like the song Welcome to the Jungle. If I turned on MTV and that video was on, I’d immediately turn it off in disgust. One day I turned on the radio and there was this amazing song playing. I thought, “Wow! This song is great! I wonder who it is?” It turned out to be GNR’s Welcome to the Jungle. I was shocked. I didn’t understand how I could have possibly hated such an awesome song. I decided later that it must have been Axl Rose’s obvious jerkiness that turned me off. But before I digress too far, let’s bring this back around to the fountain pen review I’m supposed to be writing.
I did basically the same thing with TWSBI pens. Somehow, I got it in my head that I didn’t like the way they looked, that they were the ugly troglodytes of the pen world. Then one day, I happened across a random picture of this beautiful demonstrator fountain pen with vibrant orange parts inside. I thought, “Wow! This pen is awesome! I wonder what it is?” It turned out to be a TWSBI Diamond 580AL. I was shocked. I didn’t understand how I could have possibly thought these gorgeous pens were so gruesome. I decided later that Axl Rose must have had something to do with it. Jerk.
So after I got over my shock, I started hitting the pen sites to find out if all TWSBI pens looked this good or if it was just an anomaly. Keep reading to find out if I realized the error of my ways.
After approximately 14 seconds of research, I came to the realization that TWSBI makes a damn fine-looking pen. I beat feet to the GouletPens site to buy one, and found that the Extra Fine nibs weren’t available. So I waited. And waited. And waited some more. I started to get nervous. I knew it was a limited edition and would be discontinued at some point, so I started to fear that I missed my chance. But much to my delight, it finally came back in stock.
Given my newfound attraction for the pen’s design, the fact that I’ve never had a demonstrator or piston filler before, and my unbridled love for all things orange, I snapped one up as fast as I could.
And. I. Love it. Why? Because…
The TWSBI Diamond 580AL is a clear demonstrator pen with chrome accents and an aluminum piston and grip (the AL in 580AL stands for “aluminum”). The aluminum parts of my 580AL are orange, but they come in a few different rich & vibrant colors. I never considered buying a demonstrator pen before because they seemed boring compared to all those flashy, swirly acrylic pens out there. But I have to say, I actually love seeing the ink sloshing around inside the pen. It’s a nice splash of color, and it’s kind of relaxing to look at…it’s like a mini lava lamp. I like lava lamps.
The cap & body of the pen taper ever so slightly toward the finial and endcap. It’s a fairly chunky-looking pen; not very sleek, and although the look is classy enough for a business setting, the chrome hardware, shock of colored aluminum, and a reservoir of sloshy ink combine to create a very eye-catching design.
I will say, though, that the clear plastic body and the chrome accents of this pen are fantastic at capturing and showcasing your fingerprints. I find myself cleaning the pen with my shirt all the time.
The barrel of the pen has a faceted design to it, but the facets are not single panes running the length of the pen. It’s actually a criss-cross facet pattern that resembles a gemstone…probably where the “Diamond” part of the name comes from. The piston filling knob at the end of the barrel is also made from the same clear plastic, so in addition to being able to see the ink inside the pen, you can also see the entire piston mechanism and plunger, which is pretty cool. I like seeing the mechanics of the pen in action.
One touch that TWSBI included on this pen that I really like is that they put a rubber o-ring at the top of the barrel, just below the threads that the cap screws onto. This o-ring acts as a buffer and a seal between the cap and barrel. Apparently, the previous Diamond model (540) had issues with cracking, and this o-ring keeps you from tightening the cap too far. I imagine it also helps to create an airtight seal.
The section is a simple, tapered, aluminum tube, the same color as the piston mechanism. What’s different about the section is that it’s not attached to the nib & feed assembly, but instead slips over it. I don’t think I’d consider it a pro or a con. It’s just the way it is. I guess if the nib unit isn’t screwed in tightly, the section is free to rotate, which might make it hard to write if the pen turns inside the section as you’re holding it. But I haven’t had that experience. My nib unit is screwed in nice and tight, so the section stays put. Personally, I think it looks nice.
The cap is made from the same clear plastic as the barrel, but it’s smooth instead of faceted. Inside the cap is a smokey-grey inner cap that provides an airtight seal around the nib to keep it from drying out. I love this touch. I think every fountain pen should have one. The finial consists of a short, chrome disk topped off by a glass button containing a red and silver TWSBI logo. The finial secures a nice broad and springy clip to the cap. The chrome cap band is pretty wide. It sports two grooves engraved around the band near the top and bottom edges. Between those two grooves are the name TWSBI on the front and DIAMOND 580 TAIWAN on the back. At first, I thought these were laser etched, but if I look closely at them, they look more like they were screenprinted onto the band. Either way, they’re subtle and they look well done.
Finally, the 580AL has a simple steel nib. It has a small bit of linework engraved near the top edge, and the company logo, TWSBI name, and nib grade (EF in my case) engraved below the breather hole.
I’ve completely reconsidered my initial opinion of this pen’s design. I think it’s a beautiful pen: clean, unique, and eye-catching. It’s a looker.
Build Quality (5/5):
I think the 580AL looks great, but aesthetics are subjective. Some people are probably not impressed by this pen’s looks. And they’re
weirdos entitled to that opinion. What’s not subjective, however, is how well the pen is built. And this pen is definitely built well. It’s a solid and substantial pen. All the parts are machined well and assembled perfectly. Nothing is loose. Nothing rattles around. Nothing gives the impression that it’s about to fall off. The piston works flawlessly, and the pen drew up a lot of ink on its first fill. The piston knob turns easily, but not too easy: it takes a pretty deliberate twist to turn it. You don’t have to worry about accidentally bumping it and firing ink all over your notes or coworkers.
The cap on this pen is just about as perfect as you can find on a plastic pen. I’ve already mentioned the awesome inner sealing cap, but there are two other attributes that make this cap a work of art. First, the clip is perfect. It’s tight and springy enough to hold the pen in your shirt pocket, but it’s flexible enough to pry it open it easily. You can safely clip this pen to any piece of fabric without lacerating your fingers. The second great thing about this cap is how well the threads marry up to the barrel threads. I’ve found that some plastic pens don’t have well-aligned threads and it sometimes takes a few tries to get the cap screwed onto the pen. But the 580AL cap screws on and off perfectly. It only takes about one full twist to secure and the threads catch properly every time, without fail.
TWSBI has a wonderful philosophy on pen ownership. They believe that you should be able to fully disassemble your pen, clean everything completely, and make any repairs or adjustments that might be necessary over the lifetime of the pen. Each 580AL pen comes with its own wrench and full instructions for disassembly and reassembly. TWSBI makes it easy to keep your pen in tip-top shape for many years of use and enjoyment.
To put it as simply as possible, the 580AL is a rock solid performer. This pen writes beautifully every time I pick it up. Never skips. Never hard starts. Never burps ink onto the paper. It wrote immediately upon inking, and it hasn’t stopped since. It puts down ink every time I touch it to paper. I even ran a little experiment where I left the pen uncapped for 60 seconds then tried writing. I expected a hard start, but the 580AL wasn’t having any of it. It wrote immediately with nary a hiccup.
I’m extremely happy with the performance of this pen. Nothing is worse than trying to write something down before you forget it only to have your pen fail to write. I haven’t had that issue at all with the 580AL. This pen is definitely worthy of being an everyday carry (EDC) choice.
I’ve been using this pen quite a bit over the last couple weeks, trying my hardest to find flaws with it. It looks great. It’s built well. It’s proving to be the most dependable pen I own. There must be something wrong with it, right? Well, I comfied up on the sofa with an adult beverage and wrote out a few pages of text to see if I would experience any hand cramping or fatigue. And you know what? I didn’t. The pen is fairly chunky. It’s substantial without being heavy. And it’s very well balanced when un-posted. I wrote quite a bit: I kept going until I filled up two A4 pages with writing, and never felt any discomfort.
The only caveat I’d like to mention is that you really don’t want to write with this pen posted. First of all, the cap is pretty heavy, so if you post it, the pen becomes unwieldy and back-heavy. It’s really not comfortable to write like that. Also, the pen is a piston filler, so if you post the cap, you’re posting onto the piston filling knob. It fits very tightly, and it takes a little effort to remove the cap from the knob. You can probably see where I’m going with this. If you twist the cap at all when trying to remove it, you will turn the knob. If you retract the piston, you’re fine. If you extend the piston, you’re going to shoot ink all over someone or something. So my advice is to never post the pen. It’s too unbalanced to do that and you have a 50/50 shot of making a mess.
Writing Experience (5/5):
The overall writing experience with the TWSBI Diamond 580AL is phenomenal. It’s comfortable to write with, has a huge ink capacity, and never skips. I purchased the pen with an EF nib. It’s extremely smooth and puts down a very consistent line. Something I noticed when writing is that the pen isn’t very picky about the writing angle. I wrote with this pen at a table, on the couch, and in bed, and the writing was consistent across all settings. Some of my pens don’t write very well when I’m sitting in bed…they prefer that I sit at a table or desk. The 580AL offers a nice experience in that regard because I know I can use it anywhere, whether I’m sitting upright at a table or slouching back in bed.
Clocking in at $60, the TWSBI Diamond 580AL is not an inexpensive pen. There are far less expensive pens that will write almost as well. But I’m going to go ahead and call it an excellent value, anyway. There are so many great things about it, and it just works wonderfully. It’s not a finicky pen, so you can carry it around and use it in any setting. It’s a very high-quality piston-filler with a huge ink capacity, so you don’t have to refill it very often. It can be fully (and easily) disassembled, properly cleaned, and adjusted. And did I mention that it always writes?
All that aside, there is one fantastic feature that greatly increases the value of this pen. I mentioned earlier that the nib unit is removable. Well, for $20 each, TWSBI sells separate nib units in all the popular grades: EF, F, M, B, 1.1 mm italic stub, and 1.5 mm italic stub. So I can buy a stub nib to go with my EF and I essentially have two pens for a total of $80. Plus, if you drop the pen and wreck the nib, it will only cost you $20 for a replacement. Drop a Pilot or Pelikan like that and you’re sending it in for an expensive repair because they don’t sell the nibs separately.
The Nutshell: Overall Score: 25/25
|Best Qualities||Worst Qualities|
|Never skips or hard starts||Posting? Just don't|
|Can be disassembled & fully cleaned||Fingerprint magnet|
|Swapable nibs FTW!!!|
Sorry if this turned into a big TWSBI gush party, but other than the fingerprints and the fact that posting the pen is wildly impractical, I can’t find anything about this pen to complain about. I can deal with fingerprints and I don’t usually post pens, anyway. I’ve got quite a few fountain pens, but so far, none of them provide as nice a writing experience as the Diamond 580AL (I would say the Pilot Metropolitan and Wing Sung 3203 come close, but they’re still not on the same level). I’m definitely going to pick up another nib or two for it, and I may even get another whole pen just because of how great it is.
It took me a little while to try a TWSBI, but I’m so happy I did. It handled everything I threw at it and it hasn’t complained once. It’s an obvious winner.