The TWSBI Swipe

If you’ve read any of my other TWSBI reviews, you know that I really like their piston fillers. When I heard that TWSBI was coming out with the Swipe, I was skeptical. Why is this company that helped to democratize the piston fill fountain pen making a cartridge pen? What is this Tesla-looking clip? Why is the spring inside the converter? Why not just buy a Go? After reading and watching two reviews of the Swipe, and then buying one, my answer to these questions is why didn’t TWSBI make this pen sooner? The Swipe comes with two converters: one is spring-loaded and the other has a traditional twist mechanism. There is also a black ink cartridge included, along with a spring that holds the cartridge in place. All three of these are thicc, and standard international. I haven’t tested to see if these converters will fit in other standard international pens though.

By giving users a choice of cartridge/ converter style they can decide if they want to spend 4 more dollars for an Eco, 6 less dollars for a Go, or any dollar amount for some other cartridge/ converter pen. With the Swipe, TWSBI has offered an excellent starter fountain pen that is competitive (in price as well as usability) with the Lamy Safari, Kaweco Sport, and Pilot Metropolitan.

The grip section on the Swipe is comfortable, the converter is easy to clean, and the weight is light. I really like that the grip section is crystal clear. It extends far down enough that you can see into the converter, and you can see how much ink is left in the feed while cleaning. I got the smoke color, and that is transparent enough that I can see the whole converter. The cap has a very firm snap; I have splattered ink while uncapping this pen. The barrel is pentagonal shaped, which kind of acts as a roll stop. The clip is low profile enough that it won’t stop the pen from rolling on a low incline. The nib on the Swipe is the same nib that’s on the Eco, Go, Classic, and both Minis. I purchased this pen with an Extra-Fine nib, and it writes quite wet with Diamine Wild Strawberry.

The Swipe comes with the spring converter already in the pen. Unlike in the Go, the spring is inside the barrel of the converter. I’m not sure how the metal would do with ink in it for long periods of time, but if it were to be damaged the spring included to hold cartridges in place works as a replacement. TWSBI is also excellent about sending replacement parts, you just PayPal them $5 USD for shipping.

The spring converter takes so little effort to take apart, it’s wonderful. The spring keeps the piston seal at the back of the converter barrel, so when you unscrew the metal sleeve the rod comes right out. The spring slides out easily as well, you can just tap the converter barrel on a hard surface and the spring slides out. One thing that I didn’t notice until after I took the converter apart is that there’s a small agitator ball that can get lost easily. These converters are definitely some of the easiest on the market to completely disassemble.

The piston converter is a chonk as well. I used a syringe to fill this converter, so I can’t say how well it pulls in ink. The thing that I like about this converter is that the piston is able to go all the way back, so it can hold as much ink as is possible. I haven’t tried the included black cartridge yet, but it is substantial. This seems like an unnecessary amount of plastic, but this cartridge would be a good one to reuse multiple times. I inked the piston converter with Birmingham Chrysanthemum, which is less wet than Wild Strawberry. This ink works a lot better in the Swipe, is less of a gusher, and ink doesn’t splatter when I uncap the pen. This pen writes smoothly, and performs as well as every other TWSBI with this type of nib.

My takeaway from using the Swipe is it’s a great entry level pen. If you want to try TWSBI and don’t know where to start, try the Swipe. If you know you like piston fillers and want a solid pen, try the Eco. If you want a no fuss pen that’s easy to take apart and put back together, try the Swipe or the Go. If you want to try a TWSBI pen but have a $20 USD budget, try the Go. TWSBI has a great lineup of pens at $30 USD and lower, and now they really have a pen for any taste. The Swipe is available at your favorite purveyor of fountain pens.

Birmingham Pen Company Hydrangea

It’s late hydrangea season, which means there’s no better time to review Birmingham Pen Company’s Hydrangea ink. Here are some actual hydrangea bushes from my front yard in June, then August:

They changed to a dusky pink, except for the two pink flowers.

These flowers can change every year depending on your soil acidity and the weather. This year happened to be an exceptional bloom for the bushes in my yard, and the flowers have a nice gradient. Hydrangeas have a special place in my heart because they change with each bloom, and they can even change throughout the season. My mother liked to keep dried hydrangeas in a vase, and their dark purpley grey color reminds me of this Birmingham ink.

The Birmingham Pen Company is located in Western Pennsylvania, and endearingly call themselves “a tiny pen and ink manufacturer”. They make beautiful fountain pens in small batches, and have started manufacturing their own ink in 2021. Starting in 2018, they sold ink that was made in Europe and bottled by hand in Pennsylvania. In January of 2021, they decided to make their own ink. The Well Appointed Desk published an interview with BPC about this transition, which you can read here. The Birmingham name comes from the area of Pittsburg where BPC was originally located. That area of Pittsburg is called “Little Birmingham” after the city in England, because of all the manufacturing done there. Birmingham, England used to produce pens and nibs, which is a nice piece of trivia.

A swatch of Hydrangea next to its chromatography strip.

BPC’s Hydrangea is purple with some blue tones and a hint of pink shading. If you look closely at the June hydrangea photo, there are some purple flowers that match the color of this ink. The chromatography was not surprising. You can’t see in the above photo, but there is a light strip of black where I swabbed the ink, then it spread out to a light pink, then blue. I took a photo of Hydrangea next to some other purple inks that I have swabs of, and it’s kind of a cross between Sailor Manyo Nekoyanagi and Sailor Ink Studio #150.

Hydrangea has a lot more pink than in this photo, but I couldn’t color correct without throwing off the other inks.

Hydrangea is made with BPC’s Crisp formula, which means that it will perform well on most papers regardless of quality. Birmingham has been prolific this year with their ink output, and they’ve quickly become one of my favorite ink brands. They have several different glass bottle sizes (from 30ml to 120ml), so if there’s an ink that you really like you can get a large bottle of it.

I have Hydrangea in a Pilot E95s with a juicy medium nib, and they work well together. The ink flows smoothly and consistently, and has lovely shading on the right paper. To test the claims of the Crisp formula, I tested Hydrangea on Field Notes 70#, Doane, Nock, Apica Premium, and Tomoe River:

On Apica and Tomoe River, Hydrangea dried within 15 seconds. On Nock, Doane, and Field Notes Hydrangea dried within 5 seconds. As with most inks, you’re gonna get better shading on paper like Apica and Tomoe River. Hydrangea did quite well on Nock and Doane, and there was no feathering on either paper. On Nock, there was no bleed-through, but there was some on Doane. On Field Notes, there was considerable feathering and bleed-through onto the back of the page. Hydrangea (or any Crisp formula ink) is good to have if you frequently find yourself using a variety of paper. Since this ink dries pretty fast even out of a wet nib, it’s good for lefties. I purchased a 60 mL bottle of Hydrangea for $16 USD, and you can too here.