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PenBBS 380 - Twist and Shout


EDC
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Mostly pens
2K   5   2  
2019/01/27


It's no secret I like the PenBBS 350 aluminum pen, especially since I swapped a #6 M nib for the standard PenBBS one. It's a great writer and very comfortable in the hand.

I can safely say, however, I like the PenBBS 380 even more. And it comes with a sweet M nib. No nib swapping required.

Where I called the PenBBS 350 a full-sized pocket pen, the 380 comes off as nothing less than a luxury writing instrument.  It has the size, heft and design I associate with expensive Italian pens I don't own and probably never will.

Yup, It's Got Facets
Facets are cool. And spiral facets? Get outta here.

The ten facets both spiral and taper toward the end. The clip is planted squarely at the peak of two at the top but rests in the middle of one facet at it's base. Nice. When closed, the cap and body line up just as they should.

Hats off to PenBBS for designing and executing a heck of a pen.

Capped, the pen is 146mm, so just a hair shorter than the PenBBS 355 Bulkfiller. Uncapped, it's 128mm, again just a little smaller than the PenBBS 355. At 14.5mm at its widest point, it's bigger around than the 355. In that respect, it reminds me most of another favorite metal pen, the Namisu Nova.

Birds of a feather. Namisu Nova and PenBBS 380.

The PenBBS 380 uses the same quality converter as the PenBBS 350 (and 308). It works very well.

To the touch the matte aluminum finish is the right combination of tactile and smooth and the bead blasted finish of the clip (which I assume is also aluminum) magically transforms it it from coffinesque to sword-like. The clip fits the design of the pen. The section, body and cap all share the same finish.

The cap comes off in just under 3 turns, which is more than some may like. The threads are relatively fine, and like the PenBBS 350 there is a plastic insert in the cap to eliminate any metal-on-metal scratchiness. So far, I haven't had any issues with the thread insert in my 350 so hopefully there will be none here either.

There is a ledge in the cap to seal the nib which may be machined or could be a plastic insert, I can't tell. The finial and clip are held in place in the cap by a very sturdy looking Philips-head screw that I don't plan to mess with.

The cap and body fit flush so there is a significant step down from the body to the section. The edges are soft enough to not feel sharp when writing. The cap does post relatively deeply and securely enough, but it makes the pen larger than I like so I'm not tempted to write with it that way.

Inked, the pen tips the scales at 22.6g

The 380 has been released in black and silver finishes with either with either a standard (bent) PenBBS F nib or a rounded M nib.The F nib models come with a two-tone nib and a gold colored clip. The M nibs are silver, as is the clip. My guess is that the F-nib models (with gold clips) target the local China market while the M nib versions are geared more for Western consumers. 

The M nib is the same slightly pedestrian etched model found in the PenBBS 355 - to me the least interesting part of the design. Hopefully PenBBS will move to the stamped style they use for their bent nibs for their rounded nibs.

The pen also comes with a rollerball nib which adds versatility. I keep a rollerball on one end of my PenBBS 469 but that's as many as I need for now.

In the Hand

The PenBBS 380 is a great writer. It's just the right size and weight. The slightly larger barrel behind the section makes the pen feel substantial while the taper at the end gives it an agile feeling I really enjoy.

This is my second pen with a PenBBS "round" M nib. My first was the PenBBS 355. If anything, it's smoother and wetter than the 355, but that may be the Monteverde Horizon Blue ink I chose. (Shoutout to OCArt for planting the seed for this ink in this recent FPN thread about favorite new inks of 2018!)

At just under US$30 plus shipping on Taobao, the PenBBS 380 is one of the more expensive PenBBS pens I've bought. But it feels like more. As soon as I picked it up I was struck by the feeling that with a different pedigree, it could be a very expensive pen. Its both simple and stylish, modern and in line with the great pen traditions.

It would make an impressive introduction for someone new to fountain pens. And I think a great many pen enthusiasts will be knocked back by how cool this pen is. If your PenBBS experience to date has been largely acrylic, here's a chance to expand your mind.

Postscript

A helpful Reddit commenter pointed out the PenBBS 380 bears more than a passing resemblance to the Nakaya Decapod Twist. Indeed!

Nakaya Decapod Writer Heki-tamenuri (碧溜) (TW)

Not Italian, but I guess if you're going to make a study of an outstanding design, might as well aim high. Next time I'm in a Nakaya store, I'll going to handle this pen. But US$850?


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Created at: 2019/01/27, updated at 2019/02/02.
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More often that not, my desk is my pocket. But everyday desk items doesn't have the same ring.




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Calm Cornflower Crocodile
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2019/01/28
1  

Awesome. I'm excited to get one of these! Appreciate your review.  I'd say my 355 experience has been one of Jekyll and Hyde.  I have the Galaxy opaque model and all the mysterious clicks and pops and sticks trying to set that thing up with ink has been off putting.  That said, once it's filled with ink I LOVE writing with it. These faceted metal M nib 380s seem really ideal without the complicated filling mechanism.

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Mostly pens
2019/01/28

@Calm Cornflower Crocodile Thank you. I agree, the 355 is a wonderful writer once it's filled. Hats off to you getting the filling system to cooperate with an opaque pen! It's fortunate that the pen holds so much ink. Can you see the ink level at all?

I'm still amazed that the 380 is such a different animal. A couple of grams more weight, a narrower section, girthier middle and more aggressive end tapering make for different hand geometry. I really like the nimble feeling it offers.

Hope you enjoy your pen! I'd love to hear what you think once it's in your rotation. Black or sliver?

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Long time fountain pen user, sci-fi reader & tennis player
2019/02/11

Just finished my review of the Shadow (black) version.  I found the step on the barrel to be very sharp & reduced my writing experience a lot.  Otherwise a great new pen.

Prim Chestnut Dolphin
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2019/07/25
1  

I am thinking of doing a nib swap with this pen but my experience with the PenBBS Ixion Knock-off was really bad. The QC was terrible (off centered finial engraving) I also didn’t enjoy their razor sharp nib, so I tried to swap the nib but ended up breaking the feed.  The only way that I could salvage this pen is by modifying the #5 Jowo Feed Housing to fit in to the grip. This is also surprising because apparently PenBBS uses M6.5 Threads for their feed housing, which is more common in #5 pens rather than #6.

I really like the look of this pen. I don’t mind the “re-interpretation” of the design, but I have serious doubts with the quality and interchangeability. 

Meanwhile, I am sticking with Moonman, hope they keep up their good work.

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Mostly pens
2019/07/25
Prim Chestnut Dolphin, on 2019/07/25, said:
I tried to swap the nib but ended up breaking the feed.

PenBBS nib units can be a challenge to disassemble. There's a learning curve. Eventually, they all do come apart, but maybe not the first time you try. The trick is to not mangle the feed too badly when pulling the nib out of the collar. A few bent fins are almost unavoidable. They straighten pretty well.

My ritual is to first confirm that I can unscrew the nib unit from the section. Then I put the nib unit back in the section and pull the nib and feed out using the section for grip. Once the feed breaks loose, get it in far enough to unscrew the nib collar from the section. When the nib and feed are out, it's sometime hard to get the collar to unscrew from the section nicely.

Fortunately, PenBBS sells loose parts, so killing off a feed isn't the end of the world.

That said, I think the 380 would be an excellent candidate for a nib swap. There's certainly plenty of room in the cap? I think the pen would be excellent with a broad or stub nib. Is that what you had in mind?

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