Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Day Five: TWSBI Diamond 540 with Navajo Turquoise

For day five, I chose a sturdy workhorse of a pen, my new TWSBI Diamond 540 with an extra fine nib, filled with Noodlers Navajo Turquoise. This is one of the first four hundred Diamond 540s made (specifically, one of the first hundred with extra fine nibs), and I've already used it extensively, so there were no surprises. There is a certain pleasure in using a familiar pen, one you know just what to expect from.

Upon later reflection, evaluating any pen the day after my introduction to the Merlin Perfect seems unfair, so be sure to read my second test of a TWSBI, the earlier Diamond 530, to get a clearer idea of what this pen is really like. And, as you read on, note that even after having my expectations raised so high, I was pleased enough with the Diamond 540 to keep from utterly savaging it; not many pens would have fared so well this day...

Although the more I use vintage pens, the more firmly I am convinced that no modern pen can even approach what used to be taken for granted, I am still a big fan of TWSBI pens. They are relatively inexpensive, superbly designed, and sturdy. They work well and are dependable. If they were only fitted with a truly excellent nib, they'd be the equal of any pen in the world. But excellent nibs are not made any longer. Even decent nibs, by the standards of vintage pens, are no longer to be had. The best nibs available are distinctly pedestrian.

For a modern pen, the TWSBI has a very nice nib. Most of the time, I'm perfectly happy using my TWSBI, but this experience suffered by comparison with the truly amazing Merlin Perfect I used the day before, and the Eversharp Ventura I used only a few days before. Still, the TWSBI is a nice large pen, a piston filler that holds enough ink to write several chapters at once without pausing. It is designed to be fully user serviceable, and comes in a well thought out storage box that, deservedly, won an international design award.

It writes well if not exceptionally, and gives no trouble. TWSBI nibs seem to tend toward the dry, but not so much so as to be unpleasant. The extra fine nib gives a very fine line, which is useful either for marking up, or just for squeezing in a few words above the line, something that is often necessary when an alternate phrasing comes to mind, just too late. The clear body on the demonstrator model I used gives an excellent view of the remaining ink supply, preventing unwelcome surprises. It is also beautiful in its own right, and enhances the appearance of whatever colour of ink you load it up with.

The Diamond 540 is a good working writer's tool, a pen that might not provide much inspiration, but does get the job done without any fuss. I'd recommend any serious writer to have at least one on hand. It is possible to buy extra nib units for this pen, and the units are interchangeable, so you can use it with different nibs. On the other hand, it is such a useful pen, it is worth having more than one in different nib widths. Even as I discover just how much better a vintage pen can be, I'm still convinced of the value of my Diamond 540, and plan to get one or two more. They are relatively inexpensive, easy to replace or repair, and hold buckets of ink. In situations where you want something good enough to rely on, instead of just a throw-away pen, but still don't want to risk an irreplaceable pen, the TWSBI is the perfect choice.

Noodlers Navajo Turquoise is a nice, light turquoise blue that I enjoy using for many manuscripts. It is a bit drier than the wettest Noodlers inks, but still wet enough to make for an enjoyable writing experience. It is a bit light to read easily in dim light, but on the other hand, you can easily mark up an manuscript written in Navajo Turquoise using either the usual red or orange inks, or any darker ink, since that will stand out equally well. Only the most ardent fans of turquoise will want to use this exclusively, but it is a nice choice for variety. Personally, this is another of the inks that I try to keep on hand all the time.

Altogether on day five, I wrote 2,449 words, bringing me up to 10,620 words to date. Despite the problems, I've managed to stay on target so far, and even pull slightly ahead of where I need to be to finish without the necessity of struggling to catch up. I love taking part in NaNo, because I always learn a little bit more about writing, but this time, I'm learning a great deal about my pens as well. For all the drama, and all the work involved in trying to catch up, I'm pleased that I decided to do this.

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