TWSBI Diamond 580 and 530


OK, the TWSBI Diamond pens are not very new pens but I’m reviewing them because of their popularity. Yes, TWSBI pens are pretty popular for their pretty designs and reasonable prices. Here I will review the TWSBI Diamond 580 and the TWSBI Diamond 530, the only two TWSBI pens which I have at this moment.


For those who didn’t know what TWSBI is: it is a Taiwanese fountain pen brand, and I think you can pretty much count on Taiwanese brands to provide good quality products. The name TWSBI is created in an interesting way – TWS is the backward initials of sān wén táng “三文堂”, which is Chinese for “Hall of Three Cultures”, while BI is the Chinese pinyin of 笔 (pen). Pretty grand! In English I suppose the most instinctive way of pronunciation would be something like “twis-bee” (rhymes with frisbee), thus the frequent misspelling of “Twisbi”.

20140720_135716I have two TWSBI pens, the 580 and the 530. The 580 is the improved version of the 540, which in turn is the improved version of the 530. I don’t have a 540, but many who do have mentioned that there hasn’t been much noticeable difference between the 540 and the 580. The Diamond 580, however, has had some slight modifications to the original 540 design, intended to improve the durability of the pen.

First, you may notice that there is an additional metal sleeve at the nib unit to reinforc
e the plastic section and prevent cracking, and some say, provide some grip while holding the pen. To me, I’ve been taking care of my TWSBIs very well, so it hadn’t made a huge difference. Also, I don’t hold all the way down to the metal part, so in terms of grip, I didn’t feel any difference.


Top: TWSBI Diamond 580 Bottom: TWSBI Diamond 530


There is also a metal trim ring added at the piston end of the pen and the inner metal sleeve removed, also to reinforce the plastic barrel and prevent cracking. Likewise, I hadn’t experienced any cracking of my pen, so it did not make a huge difference to me, but it is comforting to know that it should be more durable and will minimize any cracking accidents that might occur.


Top: TWSBI Diamond 530 Bottom: TWSBI Diamond 580

The caps of the 2 pens have also had a difference in the clip. In the old Diamond 530 clip, the metallic bevel runs constantly throughout it, while for the TWSBI Diamond 580 clip, the bevel ends in a Y-shape, making it that very slightly more appealing.

It kind of reminds me of expensive cars and their elegant metallic trims.

All TWSBI Diamond pens have screw-on caps, and they close very firmly indeed. Both the 530 and the 580 caps open up with 1 1/4 revolutions (approximately), so you don’t need to spend ages unscrewing them just to jot down a couple of words! The only downside I can think of is that the caps do not have something like a click-to-tell-you-that-it-is-fully-closed mechanism. While many screw-on caps don’t have such a thing, the TWSBI Diamond caps in particular could be further screwed tight by brute force, which I dare not experiment with, for fear of cracking the whole thing. It thus makes one unsure of whether this amount of tightening is actually sufficient to seal the pen or not.

20140720_140712Coming to the nib: I like the TWSBI nib due to its nice design, and on it there is the TWSBI logo engraved. The TWSBI logo looks really nice on the nib itself although I don’t like it in red at the top of the cap. The splash of colour seems to make the pen look slightly cheaper and less elegant, if you know what I mean. It may have done better using a more subtle colour instead.

On the TWSBI Diamond 580, the nib size is engraved in the middle of the base of the nib, below the TWSBI logo (left, EF). On the TWSBI Diamond 530, the nib size is indicated on the side of the nib (right, M). I suppose many pens have the nib size indicated in the middle, like with the Diamond 580, so it is easier to find it, while putting it at the side (like with the Diamond 530) makes it more subtle. I don’t really have a preference on this, it is hardly important to me.

Even though I had an M nibbed 530, I had gotten it ground into a 0.7mm stub by one of my fountain pen mates when I bought it from him about 2 years ago. I can’t really use this nib to judge the writing quality of the TWSBI nib. However, with the EF sized 580, you could experience some feedback due to the fineness of the nib. This, I am fine with, but when it comes to scribbling things down quickly, you wouldn’t want so much feedback on the nib. That could be sorted out by smoothing it out, but I choose not to touch it for now.


Left: TWSBI Diamond 530 with ground stub Right: TWSBI Diamond 580 with original EF nib


Overall, the TWSBI Diamond pens can be everyday writers in my everyday carry pouch. They are reliable, sturdy pens with large ink capacities, allowing you to write more between refills. What’s more, being a transparent pen should help in ensuring a thorough wash when you change inks! I do recommend everyone to have at least one of these. They’ve also come up with the TWSBI Mini, which is the pocket-sized version for those who prefer smaller pens.

20140720_135654You can get a TWSBI Diamond 580 with EF nib on Amazon, or if you prefer other nib sizes, here they are:
TWSBI Diamond 580 F nib
TWSBI Diamond 580 M nib
TWSBI Diamond 580 1.1 stub nib

Written and stored under Fountain Pens, Pen Reviews, Reviews. Tagged with .

Stabilo point88 mini sporty colors (and a mini giveaway for readers living in Singapore)


20140706_130326Hey now, call it a mini, cos you know that you will…

Other than a pen addict, I am a colour addict as well, and nothing can be more fulfilling than to receive a sponsorship from Stabilo in the form of COLOURFUL PENS. Hey now, look up! You wouldn’t want to miss this set of Stabilo point88 mini goodies!

I’ve done a review of the Stabilo point88 before right here, so you already know my opinion on it way before this review. This “mini” version of the point 88 is pretty much similar to the “adult” (hehe) version of the same, but the awesomeness is now packed in a little sporty-looking plastic bottle.

Note: you cannot put water (or ink, if you prefer) into the bottle and drink from the mouth at the top. Tried and tested, by yours truly. It just won’t work. Don’t try it at home (especially with ink).

In it is a bundle of 18 differently coloured point88 minis. Just look at the wonderful colours available…


If you observe the tag that comes along with the bottle, it actually shows all of the 18 colours in a nice sequence. So I arranged the pens in the same sequence and it looks pretty cool:


Stabilo seems to favour more of the cool colours, so you see more blues and greens in the series, and only a few hues from the hot range of the rainbow. My preferred colours are actually everything except for green, so I expect to use a good 75% of the available colours there! Well, actually the greens are pretty nice too:


Look at the top row of colours! Bright, hot, vibrant. The second row of colours are just perfectly matched (pinks and purples). The third row of blues are cool, and then there are one too many of the greens, but that’s alright, I can try drawing nature stuff with them. The colours you see here are slightly enhanced and contrasted, as the lighting in my room where I took this picture isn’t so good. For instance, on paper, the yellow and leaf green are pretty bright and less legible. The colours in the orange column (second) are less glaring on paper than on this photo as well. But overall the hues are quite representative of what you’ll get in real life! Which is pretty awesome, isn’t it?

20140706_132018I bought a clip-on macro lens for my phone camera so I decided to show off what amazing things it can do. Actually, there’s nothing particularly amazing, but just check out the high zoom level on a written word by this pen. No feathering of ink! It shows through a bit on the other side of lousy A4 printing paper, but does not bleed through. Great for writing on both sides of the sheet! Nope, I did not test it on tissue paper.

I also zoomed in on the pen nib. I never really know what material su20140706_132120ch nibs are made of. But it looks like some plasticky thing. It’s imposed on a metal tip, which gets a little tarnished over time, but that’s no big deal.

Sadly, I couldn’t find my old “adult” point88. I think my mum took them when I wasn’t looking and just didn’t return them. But I found my Pen 68 which I placed over the set of point88 minis to show you how much the difference in lengths of the pens is. In short, this Pen 68 is able to span across all 18 of the point88 mini pens, with some leftover length at the ends for about 3-4 more pens!


Some numerical dimensions of the poin88 mini:

Length capped: 11.8 cm
Length uncapped: 10.8 cm
Length posted: 13.2 cm
Diameter: 0.75 cm

If you’re one of those who has a pencil case that doesn’t fit long pens and rulers, this may be a great writing tool to bring around. But who needs a pencil case, since these minis have already its own sporty bottle to store them! Just hook them to your bag while you’re on the go!


Little Schwans on the Stabilos.


By the way, if you’re living in Singapore, or intending to give a friend who lives in Singapore a nice little treat, I’m offering 3 promotional codes for a 10% discount off your shopping cart when you shop at Stabilo Shoppe’s website. They only ship to Singapore for now, that’s why I’m opening this giveaway up to those living in Singapore only.

It’s easy to do this: Send me an email with the subject “I want to shop at Stabilo Shoppe”, tell me your name, where you’re from, and what you would like to buy from the website, and I will reply the first 3 eligible entrants with your promotional code (which will be valid until 31 July 2014). This giveaway ends July 17 2014, or after all 3 promotional codes have been emailed out, whichever comes earlier.

Good luck and good fun!

Written and stored under Giveaways, Other Pens/Pencils, Pen Reviews, Reviews. Tagged with .

Pilot Metropolitan Fountain Pen


Oh me, oh my! How lucky I am to find this beautiful tiger of a pen: the Pilot Metropolitan fountain pen. I went on a visit to a pen shop as I hadn’t been there for a long time, and I really hadn’t planned to buy anything at all that day.

I mean, really.

I promise!

But well, maybe my subconscious had actually thought, “How nice it would be to buy a nice, new, inexpensive fountain pen, eh? How about that?” so when I browsed up till the Pilot section of the shop, this nice little pen totally caught my attention. I had to request to touch and feel it. Actually, up to this point, I hadn’t imagined what the price of this pen would be like, as it looked moderately premium and felt pretty solid and decent in the hand. When I flipped the price tag over, I was stunned. It was just a mere twenty-odd Singapore dollars! How can this pen pop up just like that, how can it read my subconscious mind, knowing that I wanted a nice, new, inexpensive fountain pen? How?


I actually hesitated for a moment before getting this pen. I set it back down on the glass display top, and stared for a long time at its other-coloured counterparts. There are Purple Leopards, Brown Snakes, and this one and only White Tiger. Then there are other non-animal prints like dots, circles and all that. Seeing how the White Tiger seemed to be the most unique pen in the display case, I decided to pick that design. Another important reason is that I really like white pens. I guess at that time, there was no better choice!

The next step was to decide on the type of nib. The sections of the Pilot Metropolitan are all the same black type, so I could really choose any available nib (plus section) I wanted. The White Tiger originally came with an M nib. Then I noticed that another pen comes with an F nib, and I thought I should just get that one. Finally, as this pen came out of the box with a CON-20 converter which I really dislike, I got a CON-50 one to go with it.

20140614_230459I like how the nib is tapered gradually so the overall nib part is long and sharp. The design on it is really simple: it has the words “Pilot <F> Japan” to indicate the brand and the nib size, and a series of parallel strokes in threes along the two tapered sides of the nib point. Even though simple, it gives a little bit of character to the nib.

Being a Japanese F nib, the line that comes out of the pen feels more like an EF. It is somewhat scratchy sometimes, I’m not sure why. I suppose it is because of dust and other gunk being trapped in between the tines. Out of the box, the nib actually doesn’t feel all that much scratchy, although there is some feedback. It is not easy to get very fine nibs to be very smooth.

Here’s a writing sample:


Pilot Metropolitan, with an F nib and Aurora Blue ink.

For me, F or EF nibs are good for writing not too quickly or heavily, as brisk and firm strokes increase the amount of feedback and scratchiness you will experience. These may be good for casual writing, drawing or sketching. I wouldn’t use this for signing either, as I like my signature to have thick lines made by a B nib or an italic or oblique nib. Also I tend to sign quickly, so the quick strokes won’t be comfortable with a needle-like point like an F or EF.

Some numerical information of the pen:

Length capped: 13.9cm
Length uncapped: 12.7cm
Length posted: 15.3cm
Diamater at widest point: 1.8cm (which is where the base of the cap is)

The pen body is slightly tapered at both ends, the thickest point being somewhere around the middle, where the cap opening is. It is overall medium-light – not heavy at all, but not too light either. It is middle-heavy and the cap comes off by pulling and not twisting. If you post the pen, the weight of the cap is added on to the top end of the pen and kind of balances the weight distribution across the whole body. I’m not crazy about posting caps, so I don’t, and personally I am comfortable with the weight being more concentrated in the middle of the pen.

20140614_230621There is also a strip of design running around the middle of the pen, where the cap ends and the body starts. On my Pilot Metropolitan, the design is of grey tiger stripes, that’s why I call it the “White Tiger”!


This is a nice and elegant pen which is very worth its price. I do encourage everyone to get a pen like this. This will make a very good beginner’s pen as well, due to its low cost.


Written and stored under Fountain Pens, Pen Reviews, Reviews. Tagged with .

Guest post: Urushi and Lacquering Techniques

(Note: I have invited Martin Pauli from ManuPropria to do a guest post on my blog and share his great knowledge on Urushi and the art of the Japanese lacquer. This post is written by Martin Pauli himself, with some very minor edits on format and punctuation by me.)

First I would like to thank Maybelline for her excellent post and event on my fountain pens.

I would also like to express my appreciation on all your positive comments after visiting my website.

I allow myself to write down some information on urushi lacquer for those that are not too familiar with it.

Urushi is a precious natural material and is the most important material in Japan lacquer art.

Only 150g of sap can be collected from each mature lacquer tree over ten years old.

In comparison to the world’s annual yield of diamonds which is about 30 tons, only 1.5 tons of the internationally recognized highest quality Japanese urushi can be obtained in a year. Last February I had the chance to pick up 1.5 kg of finest “sakari urushi” harvested in late Summer 2007 in the mountains of Nagano, Japan.

Today in Japan, 90% of the urushi lacquer used is Chinese origin, processed in Japan because it cost only 10% of Japanese urushi.

The difference between Chinese and Japanese urushi is that Japanese urushi is highly transparent and much more liquid than Chinese, which on one hand allows to brush on thinner coats, which is important for stability, on the other hand it is possible to add more color pigments as a result to have more brilliant colors.

Urushi is very robust. An urushi-coated bowl can withstand the extreme temperatures of being used for hot soup every day.

Its chemical resistance is also so high that even aqua regalis (nitrohydrochloric acid) which melts gold cannot erode it.

Urushi has a hardness of 6 on the Mohs scale, which is the same as that of glass or a stone.

Lacquerware pieces have been found that date back 7000 years and the fact that they survived shows how durable urushi is.

In Japan urushi is derived from Rhus vernicifera tree.

Urushi differs from other varnishes and paint media in that it sets much harder and is resistant to abrasion, all common solvents and even high concentrations of acid. These properties have led to its use as a decorative and protective coating on a wide range of artistic and utilitarian objects, as well as on architectural structures.

It can be successfully applied to a variety of substrates, including wood, metal, basketry, leather and textiles, and can be built up into layers of sufficient thickness for carving. Urushi is not drying in the air as other lacquers do but hardens under moist warm conditions. Therefore urushi artists use a drying chamber „furô“, a chamber, with a constant temperature of 25 to 28°C and humidity of 65 to 80%.

Coloured urushi is made by the addition of finely ground pigments, but until the 19th century the palette was limited by the fact that urushi reacts with the majority of pigments and turns black or grey.

Before c. 1840 the main pigments used in urushi ware were „shû“ cinnabar for red, orpiment for yellow and lampblack or iron salts for black.

Azurite was occasionally used for blue and indigo for a darker blue, a mixture of indigo and orpiment or gamboge was used to make green.

A red or reddish yellow was sometimes prepared from an extract of afflower and a brownish red from red ochre.

Brown is made by mixing a lower proportion of cinnabar with the urushi, although with Rhus a deep, lustrous brown can be produced simply by using multiple layers of lacquer. In the late Edo period the Japanese broadened the palette by developing several new colors or shades, including a good white, which was made by mixing the finest transparent urushi with ground shells or lead white.

A wide variety of techniques and materials are utilized in the manufacture of urushi ware, but since the majority differ only in final finish, they are usually treated in seven major groups: carved, incised, inlaid, sprinkled, painted, dry, and gilt.

Two or more techniques may be used on the same object, for example shell inlay may be combined with carved urushi or hardstone and bone with painted or gilt urushi.

All of these techniques, with the exception of dry urushi, are mostly carried out on wooden substrates. However, metal can be decorated with painted, carved or inlaid urushi, leather with painted and overlaid urushi and basketry with painted, overlaid or moulded urushi. The durability and finish of urushi ware is dependent on the quality and preparation of the substrate, and it is this more than any other factor that determines the quality of the finished product.

To produce the finest urushi fountain pens, many stages of coating and polishing are required, with a drying period of one to five days between each one.

For lacquering Manu Propria fountain pens in my atelier, the finished ebonite parts undergo a minimum of 19 working steps

Urushi lacquering rough steps

  1. Suikomidome: raw urushi „seshime urushi“ is applied on the ebonite body.
  2. Suikomidome: a second layer of raw urushi „seshime urushi“ is applied on the ebonite body.
  3. Shitanuri: the first layer of black „nakanuri urushi „lacquer“ is applied with a brush evenly on the surface, then dried in the furo for 48 hours
  4. Shitanuri-togi: smoothening surface with a fine charcoal
  5. Nakanuri: repeating process 3 and 4 fife times
  6. Uwanuri: a layer of „kuro roiro urushi“ high quality urushi is applied with a brush, then dried in the furo for 24 hours
  7. Uwanuri-togi: grind and flatten the surface with charcoal and water.
  8. Uwanuri: repeating process 6 and 7 two times
  9. Roiro sumitogi: smoothening surface with fine charcoal or abrasive paper and water
  10. Dôzuri: the surface is smoothed by polishing with a polishing paste a mixture of oil and tonoko powder using a soft cloth.
  11. Roiro migaki: rubbing „uwazuri“ highest quality and transparent Kijômi-urushi on the surface, whiped off with a special paper, dried in the furo for 24 hours.
  12. UwazuriRepeating process 5 times
  13. Roiro-migaki: micro polish with rapseed oil and finest polishing powder „migako“ and finger tips.
  14. Roiro migaki: rubbing „uwazuri“ highest quality and transparent Kijômi-urushi on the surface, whiped off with a special paper, dried in the furo for 24 hours.
  15. Roiro-migaki: micro polish with rapseed oil and „migako“ and finger tips.
  16. Roiro migaki: rubbing „uwazuri“ highest quality and transparent Kijômi-urushi on the surface, whiped off with a special paper, dried in the furo for 24 hours.
  17. Roiro-migaki: hard polish with „migako“ and the palm of the hand or soft deer skin
  18. Roiro migaki: rubbing „uwazuri“ highest quality and transparent Kijômi-urushi on the surface, whiped off with a special paper, dried in the furo for 48 hours.
  19. Roiro-migaki: hard polish with „migako“ and the palm of the hand or soft deer skin

About maintenance of an urushi pen

Its been noted, that urushi gets brighter and more transparent with the time and it gets harder with every year.

A urushi pen should be used every day but kept out of sunlight to prevent of the color pigments to fade.

With the time scratches will appear as on every material less hard than diamond but this is one aspect that improves the beauty of urushi lacquer objects.

A good example to explain this is a lacquer called “Negoro Nuri”

Red lacquerware with an undercoat of black lacquer covered by a coat of red lacquer or vice versa used as vessels for food and drink offerings to the gods and buddhas, tableware and drinking vessels, tea utensils, and stationery came to be known as negoro.

This appellation originates from Negoro-ji, a temple in Kishu domain (now Wakayama Prefecture) that was extremely prosperous from the Kamakura to Nanbokuchō period.

During the siege of Negoro-ji in 1585 by Toyotomi Hideyoshi (1536–1598), the temple was set to flames and the artisans who escaped purportedly spread the lacquer technique of negoro to various parts of Japan.

After long years of use, the red lacquer on the surface of negoro ware wore away to reveal a black layer underneath. These lacquered objects, which revealed their beauty over time, were highly prized by tea practitioners and art aficionados.

Negoro—which possesses the mystique of a solid, practical form, the distinctive colors of red and black, a soft lacquered surface, and the warmth of a wooden base—embodies the beauty of early Japanese applied art.

Today negoro objects fetch highest prices on auctions, many of them more than 1 million dollars.

Negoro 2 Negoro 3 Negoro 4 Negoro1


Written and stored under Fountain Pens, Guest posts. Tagged with .

Winner of the OFP 100K giveaway~

Aaaaaaand, the winner is…


Congratulations! You have been selected on one of your tweets which is eligible as a winning entry. Here’s the comment which was the compulsory field to enter the raffle…


That means, you’ll be getting the Manu Propria Tamenuri fountain pen, all to yourself! I already hear sighs of envy from multiple others who weren’t as lucky as you!

But wait…

1. Please leave a comment on this post to acknowledge winning the raffle, and
2. Reply to my email that I’ve sent to you to inform me of your mailing address

Gotta do both of the above by 30 April 2014, if I don’t receive either one or both of them by then, you’ll have to give up your prize to another person!

For all others who did not win: don’t worry, try your luck again at the next raffle! Meanwhile, thank you very much for showing such great support, with the 78 nice comments, multiple tweets and retweets, and so on.

I’ll be overseas for the next week or so, so I may not be available to talk pens over here, but I have an interesting guest post by Martin Pauli of Manupropria about Urushi coming up soon. Stay tuned!

Written and stored under Fountain Pens, Giveaways.