The PenBBS 456 is the latest model of the PenBBS line-up of fountain pens; it is also the first model of the Chinese pen community released with a vacuum filler mechanism which is the unique characteristic of this particular pen.
The design is the classic cigar shape, made out of quality acrylic in different color combinations with chromed metal accessories and a dual tone no. 6 colored steel nib, in a Fine point.
The particular model I have in my personal collection is named “Southshore” and it features a beautiful combination of blue and white nuances which make this pen an “eye catcher” for sure 🙂 The down-side of this color combination is that you can’t see right away the ink level in the main chamber, although in strong light the ink level is visible.
The cap features a large metal band which fits very well the overall design but also offers protection in time for the acrylic material of the pen. The PenBBS name, the model number “456” and the origin of the pen is engraved in the metal band – “Shanghai”.
All of the materials used to create this pen are quality materials and they feel solid; the rod of the vacuum mechanism is made out of metal – most likely steel and the acrylic barrel has metal re-enforced end points to assure against cracks in the material. The end-cap design is not the most elegant solution in my opinion but it handles well and integrates with the overall design of the fountain pen.
The section has an “hour glass” shape and it has a comfortable length – ~ 2 cm; writing with this pen is a pleasure because of the section shape despite the total 30 grams in weight which makes this pen one of the heaviest fountain pens in the PenBBS line-up. The body itself weighs 21 grams.
The metal clip of the cap has an interesting design – a shape of a sword – I would say; it is also functional and flexible enough without requiring a lot of effort in usage. The end of cap is simple without additional decorations.
The 456 features metal threads on the barrel; the cap is a screw-on cap and works well with the metal threads despite the fact that the inner cap threads are made of acrylic. The metal threads (I would say made out of aluminium) are not sharp and are very well processed. The cap unscrews in a one and a half turns which makes the pen suitable for quick notes and off course long writing sessions. As you can see from the pictures below, the cap can be also posted on the pen body securely and deeply. The cap doesn’t add a lot of weight to the pen body when posted, at least not for me, and the pen can be used comfortably even for long writing sessions.
The main advantage of a vacuum filler is its ink capacity and the shut-off valve; the 456 holds about 1.6 to 2 ml of ink from my observations. The function of using the shut-off valve at the end of the metal rod to isolate the section from the main barrel is handy when travelling via airplane or going to the mountains where pressure difference appears and can cause ink spills.
When PenBBS announced this model I immediately thought at another very well known vacuum filler – the TWSBI VAC700. Below you can see the visual comparison between the two fountain pens; in length they are quite similar although in girth the VAC700 is bigger than the 456. It remains to see if the 456 materials will withstand the test of time!
One important thing to be mentioned – the nib unit can be unscrewed from the section; the section itself can be unscrewed from the main barrel and the small ink chamber is much larger than the one on the VAC700 which means that in theory more writing capacity even with the shut-off valve screwed on. The feed of the PenBBS is quite decent in terms of build quality but fragile because of the numerous thins; you need to be careful when removing the nib from the nib unit; make sure you dip the nib in water long enough that it will reach the whole nib unit; the nib unit is made of clear plastic so you can see the water raising up along the nib. After that pull out gently the nib with two fingers on the side of the nib and not holding the feed itself or you will bent the thins of the feed!
If you want I can demonstrate this in a separate video; let me know in the comments section below!
The fountain pen came with the standard PenBBS no.6 steel nib in a dual-color tone finish. I don’t particularly like this nib because of it’s dry ink flow which transforms any ink color used in the pen; meaning the color is less intense than with a medium to wet ink flow nib like the JoWo range of nibs. I like a lot the PenBBS line-up of pens but I don’t like their standard nib 🙂 and I am always replacing it with JoWo nibs that I have in my collection.
The fountain pen came with a standard package – a nice box with a cardboard sleeve for extra protection; the pen itself was put in a “kimono” pen sleeve for protection. This is a feature offered by the seller and not necessarily by those at PenBBS at least from what I understood.
I don’t know a lot about PenBBS; I know that there are a strong pen community based in China; they started almost one year ago to commission fountain pens with different Chinese pen manufacturers; the quality of their pens is higher that the usual standard coming out of China and the price is also higher.
- Material: acrylic and metal chromed accessories
- Weight: 31 g / cap 10 g / body 21 g
- Length: with the cap 146 mm / without the cap 130 mm
- Ink filling system: integrated vacuum filler system
- Ink capacity: ~ 2ml
- Ink protection system: yes, in the cap
- Other: the cap can be posted on the pen body deeply and securely; the cap is a screw-on cap and it takes one and a half rotation to be unscrewed.
THE NIB & SECTION
- Manufacturer: PenBBS, China
- Size: no. 6 in a Fine point
- Material: steel dual-tone nib
- Section shape: hourglass
- Section diameter: ~ 10 – 11 mm
- Section length: 2 cm
There is a huge range of colors available for the PenBBS fountain pen models; it all depends on the production run. In the “I bought from…” section below you will find links to the Etsy and Ebay official shops for PenBBS and you will be able to see the range of color combinations. Unfortunately the 456 stock has sold out very quickly!
As I mentioned before for my 456 I replaced the standard PenBBS nib with a dual-tone JoWo nib in a Fine point.
The paper used for the writing sample is 120 gsm and is produced by Mondy; the ink flow is a decent one with the JoWo nib – medium to wet just how I like it. In the below images you can also see the difference in flow and color between the PenBBS nib – at the bottom of the page – and the JoWo nib.
In my writing sample I used Pelikan Edelstein – Tanzanite ink; an excelent blue-black I would say, very nice flow and color with the JoWo nib.
The pen is long enough to be comfortable used without posting the cap; the shape of the section allows for multiple gripping points; you can even use the pen by holding it on the metal threads without issues; and as I mentioned before the cap can be posted securely and deeply.
PRO’s & CON’s
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
- the quality of the materials used
- the shape of the section – important for long writing sessions
- the ink capacity – ~ 2 ml
- the vacuum filler system
- the acrylic finish & color
- the price / performance ratio
- the standard nib dry ink flow
My final impression is an excellent one! I am not regretting adding this PenBBS model to my personal collection. For 38.99 USD plus shipping you will get a decent, quality made fountain pen with a vacuum filler mechanism! This is the least expensive vacuum filler on the market right now. If the pen will hold the test of time we shall see but for the moment if you don’t like the standard transparent color of the TWSBI VAC700R and you want some color 🙂 the 456 is the best bet!
I bought it 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: 38.99 USD plus shipping cost.