The Verdict: TWSBI ECO with J. Herbin Emerald of Chivor

TWSBI ECO with Emerald of Chivor ink

The pre-release photos of J. Herbin’s Emerald of Chivor ink were so dramatic that I was drooling over the stuff well before it was available for purchase. The reviewers often used folded nibs which brought out the shine and sheen in very dramatic fashion. I don’t own a folded nib so I knew that my results would be more subdued, but I still pounced on the ink as soon as it was available. I picked up two bottles as fast as my “BUY NOW” finger could hit “Enter.”

TWSBI ECO

There was a lot of chatter about the suspended gold particles in the ink, and speculation as to whether or not the particles could/would clog a pen’s feed. So I after I ordered the ink I spent some time thinking about the pen that I’d use it in. I decided to steer away from pens that were pricey or very dear to me, and knew I’d want to go with something replaceable, should there be catastrophic cloggage. One of my many Lamy Safaris would’ve been a perfectly fine candidate, as they aren’t costly, and nibs, or even whole pens, are easily replaceable without breaking the bank.

TWSBI ECO

But instead of going the Lamy route, I caved and purchased a couple of TWSBI ECOs— a white one with a bold nib and a black one with a medium nib. I initially decided to forgo the ECO as I wasn’t sure I liked the look, and was content with my 540s, 580s, Vac 700, Micarta, and Minis. That seemed like plenty o’ TWSBIs for one person. But then I got it in my head that an ECO paired with the Emerald of Chivor ink would be the perfect match, and my “no more TWSBIs” resolution evaporated, as many of my pen-themed resolutions seem to do.

TWSBI ECO

So…was that a good move?

TWSBI ECO filled with Emerald of Chivor ink

Hell Heck, yeah!

TWSBI ECO

The TWSBI ECO is a very reasonably priced ($28.99) piston-filler fountain pen available with EF, F, M, B, or 1.1 Stub mm nibs. I find the 1.1 mm to be a little too wide for my handwriting, but wanted a good amount of ink on the page so I opted for both the bold and medium versions. At the time of this review, I’ve only inked the pen with the bold nib and am very happy with the nib’s smoothness and wetness. My small handwriting is still legible and some of the dramatic characteristics of the Emerald of Chivor ink pop on the page, though maybe not as much as would be seen with a wider stub. It’s a good compromise for me—a good amount of ink, some shine, some sheen, and legible writing.

TWSBI ECO

The clear barrel allows for an unobstructed view of the gold sparkles in the ink. I may be easily fascinated, but I have to admit that this sight continues to dazzle me. A quick shake of the pen and the gold particles are resuspended so that they flow onto the page.

On Rhodia paper

On Rhodia paper, I see a good amount of sparkle, but not much of the red sheen. Still, the color is killer and there’s enough pizazz here to make letter writing or journaling, or even to-do lists, fun.

On Tomoe River paper

On Tomoe River paper is where this ink really shines and sheens. It’s hard to capture with my so-so camera and lighting, but there’s a lot going on on this page—red and gold and teal and blue. It’s pretty marvelous.

Tomoe River paper

I have two bottles and expect that this pen will be continuously inked until I run out. I can’t speak to how hard or easy it is to clean a pen inked with Emerald of Chivor as I haven’t done that yet, and it may be awhile before I do so.

TWSBI ECO

Maybe this Emerald of Chivor seemed too good to be true, or over-hyped, but I’m in love with it. It mesmerizes me in the pen and on the page. Especially as the days turn darker and grayer, the surprising pops of color and shine in the words I write make me swoon in an inky kind of way. And for me, the TWSBI ECO is the perfect vehicle—sturdy, transparent, easy to fill (and probably to clean), with an easy-to-swallow price tag—to lay down a smooth rich line.

I love it when a plan comes together.

A Rollercoaster Ride: The J. Herbin Refillable Rollerball

Sincere thanks to my friends at JetPens for making the purchase of the J. Herbin pen and ink reviewed here possible. There are no affiliate links, and I was not, nor will I be, monetarily compensated. This review reflects my experiences and observations with the J. Herbin products pictured here.

J. Herbin Rollerball
J. Herbin Rollerball and Larmes de Cassis ink cartridges. LOVE the little tin.

I’ve read a number of reviews on the J. Herbin Refillable Rollerball and they run the gamut from “The ink flows very well…” to “The nib is very scratchy and thin.” Five star reviews versus one star reviews. Hmmmmm. Time to check it out for myself, I thought, so I added one to a recent JetPens order.

The J. Herbin Refillable Rollerball takes short international ink cartridges rather then traditional rollerball refills, which makes the pen a bit of a novelty. This appeals to me as I’ve accumulated a decent-sized stash of cartridges (okay, a lot), as I usually fill my fountain pens with bottled ink. Having a non-fountain pen to use them in seemed like a cool alternative.

J. Herbin Larmes de Cassis cartridge
Initial writing sample with J. Herbin Larmes de Cassis ink

I popped in one of the J. Herbin Larmes de Cassis (Tears of Black Current Purple) cartridges and started writing on my Levenger Vivacious Circa paper. The ink flowed without much delay, but the color just didn’t do it for me— much too light and washed out looking— significantly paler than the label on the sweet little cartridge tin led me to believe. But was this because of the pen or the ink?

J. Herbin rollerball
Disassembled, with a Levenger Cobalt Blue cartridge installed

After installing a Levenger Cobalt Blue cartridge and scribbling a bit, I was in business. The ink flowed easily, the rollerball felt smooth, and the color was rich and readable. Really nice.

Levenger Cobalt Blue writing sample

On the very smooth Vivacious paper, I’d estimate that the line runs about 0.6 mm, very close to that put down by a Schmidt P8126 refill— my choice for my ever-expanding collection of Retro 51 Tornados. It felt as smooth and free-flowing as the Schmidt refill, as well. Five stars!

Unposted vs. Retro 51 Tornado
Unposted vs. Retro 51 Tornado

Unposted, this pen is small, just 3.8 inches (98 mm). You really do need to post the cap to use the pen comfortably. The cap posts quite securely so this isn’t really an issue. Once posted, the pen measures 5.5″ inches (139 mm). It’s compact, for sure, but not too small. You can see that the posted length is a little bit longer than a Retro 51 Tornado.

Posted vs. Retro 51 Tornado
Posted vs. Retro 51 Tornado

The downhill slope of rollercoaster ride occurred on Day 2 of use, when I grabbed the pen to jot down some notes and had trouble getting the flow going. Aargh. I scribbled on a sheet of the Vivacious paper, but the results were not great. Sometimes the flow was fine, other times it seemed to dry up. Hmmmm…one star.

Scribbling to prime the pen
Scribbling to prime the pen

I then discovered that scribbling on more common (printer) paper did the trick and good flow was ultimately achieved on all types of paper. Really smooth with “just right” wetness. Five stars.

So, you can see, there is some touchiness with this pen. Thus the mixed reviews.

Day 2 writing sample
Day 2 writing sample, after priming

My experiences confirmed that there are a few caveats to successfully using the J. Herbin Rollerball— little tricks to get five star, rather than one star, performance:

  • Use richly colored inks for best readability. Because of the relatively fine line, pale ink looks weak on the page. (Duh.)
  • Realize that there may be some differences in performance based on the paper  you’re using. Flow appears to be most consistent on “cheaper” (less coated) papers, but is a-ok on good paper once flow is established.
  • Storing the pen with the tip down alleviated the need to scribble on paper to prime the pen after a period of non-use. After doing so, the pen wrote very well on even my best paper, even after sitting unused for a time.

J. Herbin Rollerball

I will admit that the J. Herbin Refillable Rollerball took me on a bit of an emotional rollercoaster ride, with both high and low points in performance. But ultimately, by following a few easy tips, I’ve been enjoying this pen and look forward to plowing through that healthy stash of small international cartridges. I’ve declared 2015 to be the year that I “use things up,” and this pen is a small step in the right direction.

J. Herbin Rollerball

The J. Herbin Refillable Rollerball is available at JetPens for $8.75, with J. Herbin cartridges priced at $5.50. While not ideal for use in this pen (in my opinion), I plan to use the Larmes de Cassis cartridges in some of my fountain pens to see how it looks with different pens/nibs. Stay tuned for an update on the outcome of that experiment.