A Chinese product that really distinguishes itself from the cheapness of its competition. Enter PenBBS:
There are so many numbers, and I don’t know if there is any logic to them. This is the 309, in the Smog acrylic (54), with a stock silver-coloured fine nib (SF), making the full name of my model the PenBBS 309-54SF. There are gold trims available on some pens, and nibs come in EF to M; as far as I know, there are no broad nibs available.
I want to say, right off, that PenBBS pens are everything I hoped TWSBI would be. Yes, ultimately they are still inexpensive, and not every part is made with the same care (I’ll explain in a bit), but these are much better pens than my stupid crackable Vac 700, which I have given up on.
I like the huge range of materials PenBBS works with. They do share suppliers with some of the other Chinese pen makers, so you’ll see familiar colours elsewhere, but they make extremely well-designed models that feel solid in the hand, with a nice weight. They are also easy to take apart to clean.
In the picture above, from left to right, we have: cap, nib collar, feed, nib, plunger, barrel (this unscrews near the top into the section and the body proper), and the piston (which also unscrews into the differential screw and the knob itself). There is no inner cap, but a reduced-diameter portion helps act as a further air seal, resting against the section when fully closed.
The acrylic is not perfect, and stains easily, though it never seems to build up too much. The first ink I put in this pen was Lamy Vibrant Pink, and everything was pink for a while, but as I put in things like Iroshizuku Chiku-rin and Kon-peki, the barrel would change colour to match. It’s most noticeable in the section, but nothing seems too permanent. The reason the section is this stained is due to the weak nib collar, which developed a few cracks upon repeated dissembly — entirely my fault, really; the pen does not often need cleaning this thorough.
I left this pen alone for three months and it worked absolutely fine when I took it up to write again. The nibs (JoWo #6, easy to swap) have generous amounts of tipping, and the most common model (to my experience, anyway) has a kind of “Pilot Waverly” fude-ish tip that somewhat mimics a brush when held absolutely vertical. The feed presents no problems at all, producing a juicy line, and the nib itself was easy to grind into an EF CI. (Yes, I couldn’t resist.)
I highly recommend these when they pop up on Etsy, where PenBBS’s official store resides. They can also be found on eBay, and should cost you under £25, depending on colour and trim. Between the TWSBI Eco and this pen, there is no doubt: go for this one.
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"Tell us when you first noticed the sky. / Tell us when you first noticed that the sky was beautiful." Incredibly moving lines from Yoko Ono, from her collection "Acorn". Up close, this tiny italic reveals tons of imperfections: dodgy spacing, inconsistent slant, and varying x-height. But the tiny cursive italic nib on this pen was ground by myself, and I'm quite proud of how well it works even if my calligraphy isn't yet up to scratch! Pen: PenBBS 309 Smog, self-ground EFCI Ink: Pilot Iroshizuku Chiku-rin Paper: Fabriano EcoQua 4mm dot grid #fountainpens #fpgeeks #penandink #calligraphy #handwriting #italic #cursive #roman #yokoono #poetry #quotes #penbbs #smog #pilot #iroshizuku #chikurin #fabriano #ecoqua #practice