PenBBS 355

Launched at the end of 2018, the PenBBS 355 model took the pen community by surprise! 🙂 There were only a few pieces sold out and I managed to acquire one via the official Etsy shop.

Advertised as being bigger than the PenBBS 456 and with a new type of filling system (at least in the PenBBS line-up of pens) the 355 sparked a lot of interest.

As you can see from the pictures I managed to acquire the “Galaxy” acrylic finish which I like a lot! Another important aspect was the new Medium nib that PenBBS started to produce and install on some of their models. A Western like Medium point meant that I wouldn’t need to swap out the standard PenBBS Fine nib.

We have the classic “cigar shaped” body with a generous metal cap band that has engraved the PenBBS name and the model of the pen “355”. The cap jewel is simple and it doesn’t have any ornaments. It is made out of the same acrylic plastic material as the rest of the pen.

The cap features the new clip design that was first introduced with the PenBBS 456. I like the design and it is functional; the “sword – shield” shape design integrates well with the overall pen.

The “galaxy” acrylic is beautiful and offers depth and beautiful patterns whenever the light is on the fountain pen. The section is simple; coned shape type with a good length of 2 cm. The diameter is also generous starting at the thinnest point at ~ 9 mm to a maximum of 11 mm near the cap threads. The section has the standard “lip” at the edge just above the number 6 nib, to stop the fingers of the uses to go over.

As with all the the PenBBS fountain pens, the 355 is a screw-on cap type of a fountain pen. The cap takes 2 full rotations to screw on the pen body. The cap threads on the pen body are polished and well done; there are no issues whatsoever. The pen cap has an internal “cap” to protect against ink starvation; from what I can see it looks not to be made out of the same acrylic material but a real internal cap added and screw in with the pen finial and clip.

The fountain pen is long enough not be used with the cap posted at about ~ 130 mm; the cap can be posted but I advise against it; the reason is the way the cap is sitting on the pen barrel; the inner cap threads are catching the metal ring at the end of the barrel and in time, they can be damage especially if force is applied. The cap also adds extra weight to the pen – about ~ 13 g.

One of the most important reasons for acquiring this fountain pen, was the new no. 6 Medium point nib! It has a new design – as you can see from the below images; the “M” for medium is ornate and we have “PenBBS” name below it and than “2005” and the place of origin – “Shanghai – China”.

The plastic feed is the standard one, used by PenBBS; it does the job quite well and I never had issues with it; the nib unit unscrews from the section as with all PenBBS fountain pens and you can remove the nib – slow and carefully so you don’t damage the feed thins.

I thought it would be usefull to do a side by side comparison with the PenBBS 456 model. While they are pretty similar in length, there is a difference when it comes to their girth, the 355 being a little more substantial than the 456.

The 456 has metal threads and the section has an “hour glass” shaped. The 456 feels also heavier in the hand but the metal parts are required by the vacuum filling system and they also add a quality feel to the pen.

Overall I like the 355 and especially the “Galaxy” acrylic; I will be hunting for other PenBBS models with this type of acrylic.

Using the “bulk filling” system requires practice as you will see in the below video; I also added the necessary steps in written formm below the video. The internal metal rod has a shut-off valve made out of rubber that can be used to seal-off the main reservoir from the smaller reservoir in the section; this can prevent leaks.

How to fill – PenBBS 355

  • Step 1: you unscrew the piston know counter-clockwise
  • Step 2: you pull out the metal rod until you feel the piston mechanism
  • Step 3: you turn the metal rod counter clock-wise to screw on the shut-off valve to the piston at the end of the barrel
  • Step 4: you can now move the whole mechanism and perform the ink filling like a normal piston filler; you push down to expell the air and submerge the nib in ink and than you pull out the metal rod to suck in the ink. The pen has a good capacity for ink – about 2 ml or more of ink!
  • Step 5: you pull the metal rod out until you feel and hear a “pop” which means the piston mechanism has been locked in place at the end of the barrel.
  • Step 6: you unscrew the shut-off valve from the piston by turning the metal rod clockwise NOT counter-clockwise.
  • Step 7: very important! make sure you place the nib over the opened ink bottle! The shut-offf valve will displace several ink drops from the main reservoir!

That’s it! This is more difficult to do with a non-transparent body but it gets easier with practice!

The “bulk filling” ink system is a little bit clunky; it gets difficult to operate especially with the non-transparent version of the pen so you need to be patient and careful. I think the main advantage versus a piston filler is that you have more ink space as the piston mechanism is not so big and it doesn’t take a lot of space. If you compare this ink system to a vacuum filler than the advantage is not so obvious as you can also get a good fill with a vacuum filler.

The acrylic knob of the metal rod, at least for my particular pen gets unscrewed from the rod too easily and you end up with the knob in your hand. I can pull out the rod by hand but it gets annoying after a while. Most likely an issue with the metal part inserted in the knob.

Manufacturer

PenBBS is a Chinese fountain pen community based in Shanghai. Two years ago they started to launch excellent quality fountain pens with various combinations of quality acrylics. Their line-up started with the PenBBS 323 and it includes the 267, the 308, the 309 piston filler, the 350 aluminium pen, the 456 vacuum filler, the 355 bulk filler, the 469 double nib eye dropper, the 471 eye dropper pocket pen and their cheapest offering the 322 Mian Mian.

Technical Specs

THE PEN

  • Material: acrylic and metal chromed accessories
  • Weight: 33 g / cap 13 g / body 20 g
  • Length: with the cap 146 mm / without the cap 130 mm
  • Ink filling system: PenBBS – “bulk filler” system
  • Ink capacity: ~ 2.5 ml
  • Ink protection system: yes, in the cap
  • Other: the cap can be posted on the pen body securely but it is better not to use the pen posted; the inner cap threads are catching on the metal ring at the end of the body and with time and pressure they can be damaged; the cap is a screw-on cap and it takes two rotations to be unscrewed.

THE NIB & SECTION

  • Manufacturer: PenBBS, China
  • Size: no.6 in a Medium point
  • Material: steel silver tone nib
  • Section shape: cone
  • Section diameter: ~ 9 – 12 mm
  • Section length: 2 cm

Colors

There are multiple variations based on various beautiful acrylics; it all depends on the stock available; PenBBS is producing limited quantities at regular intervals; make sure you access the official shops I listed at the end of article in order to see the available color combinations.

Writing sample

My PenBBS 355 fountain pen came with the new Medium nib; it is well polished but has a sweet spot that can create skipping if you rotate to much the nib. The width of the line is on par with a Western medium and the writing experience is excellent.

For the writing sample I used the Diamine Sargasso Sea ink.

I used in my writing sample 3 types of paper: a 120 gsm dotted paper by Mondi, 90gsm lined paper by Clairefontaine and the best paper for fountain pens – Tomoe River in 52gsm.

The paper used for the writing sample is 120 gsm and is produced by Mondy; the ink flow is a decent one with the Medium steel nib – medium to wet just how I like it.

Here is the Tomoe River paper writing sample with the same nib.

Here is the Clairefontaine paper writing sample with the same nib.

The pen is long enough to be comfortable without posting the cap; the shape of the section allows for multiple gripping points; you can even use the pen by holding it near the cap threads with no issues; and as I mentioned before the cap can be posted securely but I would advise against it as the cap adds weight to the pen.

PRO’s & CON’s – PenBBS 355 Fountain pen

The below pro’s & con’s are based on my own experience with the fountain pen; your experience may be different so please take the points as optional

PRO’s 

  • the quality of the materials used
  • the shape of the section – important for long writing sessions
  • the nib unit that can be unscrewed easily
  • the overall elegant & modern design
  • the acrylic finish
  • the price / performance ratio
  • the possibility of changing the nib with any compatible no. 6 nib.

CON’s 

  • the knob of the metal rod at the end of the barrel is getting unscrewed from the metal rod too easily; it looks to be a quality issue with the internal metal part. The rod can be pulled out by hand but can get annoying.
  • the ink filling system requires patience and practice and it is more complicated than a vacuum filler or a piston filler.

Final impression

So what is my final impression?! I do like the PenBBS 355 fountain pen; I like the form factor, the way it feels in the hand, the acrylic finish and the new Medium nib. I am not so keen about the “bulk filling” system and time will say if it is reliable on the long run.

If you are willing to practice with this ink filling system and you like the size of the 355 than it can be a good choice. If you prefer an easier way to fill in your fountain pen but like the overall design of the 355 than the PenBBS 456 vacuum filler can be an excellent choice.

I bought the fountain pen from…

I recommend only the official Etsy and Ebay PenBBS stores; you can find links for both of them below. Also I recommend to enter the Facebook group for the PenBBS fans and to follow on Instagram the administrator of the PenBBS shops so you are aware in time when batches of new colors are released, before they disappear :).

The price I paid for this pen: 44.99  USD with shipping.

Etsy PenBBS store

Link : https://www.etsy.com/shop/PENBBSOfficialStore

Ebay PenBBS store

Link : https://www.ebay.com/str/penbbsofficialstore

Facebook PenBBS Fan Group

Link : https://www.facebook.com/groups/207321843255119/

Instagram account

Link : https://www.instagram.com/beini_zheng/

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