The original TWSBI Vac 700 was an interesting pen. It came in well under $100 and offered a massive ink capacity with the unique vac-filling system, which was, and still is, fairly uncommon. The only other modern pens I can think of with a similar system are the Pilot Custom 823, the Visconti Power-Filler System and the Conid Bulkfiller (the latter two being fairly close to a vac system but with each manufacturer putting their own "twist" on it).
TWSBI has been teasing the Vac Mini for quite some time. Years, in fact. I remember seeing a mention of it a couple of years ago on the TWSBI Facebook page and people went ga-ga over it. Now, a couple of years and several teasing posts later, we have the TWSBI Vac Mini.
I loved the original Vac 700, but it was a huge pen, it didn't post and it was just not practical for daily carry given it's size and shape. I eventually sold off all of my Vacs (I had three at one time) and patiently awaited the smaller Vac Mini. I had hoped it would come in at around the same size as the Diamond 580, but the Vac Mini came in closer to the size of the TWSBI Mini, which is their first foray into the "pocket pen" world.
What do I like about the Vac Mini? Well, it's a demonstrator, which I'm a sucker for. And it's got that cool vac-filling system, which I think is wonderful especially considering the fact that the pen comes in at just $65. The Pilot 823 is at least a couple, if not a few times that price. And the Conid and Viscontis are in another league entirely. Also, my pen came with a Medium TWSBI Steel nib and it wrote wonderfully right out of the box. Most modern steel nibs offer this same performance so it's not a surprise, but it is nice that it wrote so well without any tuning or tweaking. The pen holds a massive amount of ink for its size, making it perfect for heavy note-takers or journal writers that need a lot of ink in their front pants pocket.
But that's kind of where the joy ends for me. I mentioned the size already and that I had hoped it would come in smaller than the 700, but larger than the TWSBI Mini. It didn't. It's just too small to use comfortably without posting. TWSBI has remedied this, sort of, by giving the option to post the cap. However, you have to thread the cap onto the back of the barrel to post and for me, this wasn't a pleasant experience. The threads felt chunky and I had problems with the pen wanting to cross-thread. Also, if you don't screw it on just right, you end up with the clip backwards so it hits the webbing of your hand and you have to unscrew it and try again to get the clip to align with the top of the pen so it's not hitting your hand when writing. And, the whole process of unscrewing the cap to uncap the pen and then screwing the cap to post the pen and then unscrewing the cap to unpost the pen and then screwing the cap to recap the pen is just tedious.
When I think of a "pocket" pen, I want something that is easily carried and deployed for jotting a quick note or taking down a phone number. The process required to make this pen "write ready" is cumbersome and detracts from the "pocket pen" aesthetic.
Speaking of aesthetics, TWSBI did a nice job on this pen for the most part, but with one glaring issue. First, the barrel is lightly faceted with a perfectly smooth filler knob. The facets are subtle and you don't really see them, but you can feel them and they keep the pen from rolling off a desk when laying uncapped. TWSBI maintained their "red dot" branding at the top of the cap and used chrome accents throughout. The clip is the same ol' TWSBI clip. It's functional, but mine has a bit of side-to-side play which makes it feel cheap. The cap band is huge and chunky and, in my opinion, out of place on this pen. Something a little smaller and more subtle would have been better here. They maintained the aesthetic at the end of the pen with a nice chrome ring at the base of the filler cap. But then they added threads and an O-ring which just cheapens the whole thing. And finally, the text on the cap band is chunky, uses too many fonts and feels very cheap and out of place. There are at least three, maybe four fonts on that one cap band. None of them are cohesive and the whole thing just looks chunky and childish. I realize this doesn't have anything to do with the pen itself or its writing abilities, but I would have preferred something more subtle and a little cleaner.
I've been a fan of TWSBI in the past. I think they make great pens at a great price. They offer their new Eco piston filler at under $30 which is a steal for that particular pen. And, in my opinion, the Eco is a far better value than the Vac Mini. If you must have a tiny TWSBI to carry about, go for the standard Mini. It doesn't offer the excellent vac filling system, but it will hold plenty of ink and will save you a few bucks over its more expensive cousin.
If TWSBI could make a 580-sized pen with the filling system and shape of this Vac Mini, I'd be all over it. Until then, this chunky little ink tank is a catch-and-release and is on its way to a new home as we speak.
Let me know your thoughts on the Vac Mini below!
Thanks for reading,