The world of fountain pens is amazing and Pilot Custom 92 with TWSBI 580AL are great examples of how pens can be so similar but also so different at the same time. For someone who is not a pen aficionado, they might as well seem same, apart from different colors of the barrels. In reality, the only thing they have in common is the filling mechanism.
I will spoil the fun and tell you right away, I love them both, but if I were to choose only one I would go with the Custom 92.
Pilot Custom 92 vs. TWSBI 580AL
Size and Weight
|Diameter – Body||13.3mm|
|Diameter – Grip||10mm|
|Length – Body||130mm|
|Length – Cap||60mm|
|Length – Overall||142mm|
|Ink Capacity||1.95-1.98 ml|
Pilot Custom 92
|Diameter – Body||11.7mm|
|Diameter – Grip||9.75mm|
|Length – Body||122mm|
|Length – Cap||64mm|
|Length – Overall||136mm|
|Ink Capacity||1.28 ml|
From the tables, it might look like they are similar, but when you hold them both Pilot feels much smaller and lighter. This is just a preference, but if you don’t like light pens TWSBI will feel better in your hand. It’s also worth nothing that TWSBI has a larger ink capacity.
This is something which surprised me the most. I would expect that much more expensive Pilot would dominate TWSBI, but it’s not so easy.
First, TWSBI is heavier, which gives a feeling it’s more solid and better built (or maybe it really is more solid and better built?). I prefer lighter pens, but that’s just how it is.
Second, the plastic on TWSBI feels sturdier and looks better. I might be wrong about it, but it almost feels like TWSBI used thicker plastic compared to Pilot. In the past TWSBI had problems with cracking, but I hear about those problems less and less. On the other hand, I have never heard about cracking problems with Pilot’s products.
TSBWI claims they use “polycarbonate with a protective coating heat-treated onto the pen. Which allows for the plastic to have a hard shell, scratch resistant, and clear crystal look.” It’s probably a marketing bullshit but my TWSBI is over 1-year-old, I bring it with me everywhere and carry it without a case, and as you can see it holds up well. As far as I remember, TWSBI offers a limited lifetime warranty, Pilot doesn’t.
Third, aluminum elements make TWSBI 580AL feel more sophisticated. When I hold the pen with an aluminum grip I feel like I am holding something more valuable and more sturdy.
That being said, Pilot Custom 92 is far from cheap-looking or cheap-feeling. Plus, the orange demonstrator is beautiful. The pen is also more subtle, it’s less heavy compared to TWSBI, both weight-wise and design-wise.
Filling Mechanism and Cleaning
Both pens are piston-fillers but, again, they are some differences.
- TWSBI holds more ink
- Pilot’s mechanism is much smoother
- TWSBI can be easily dismembered
Thanks to the smooth mechanism which always works perfectly Pilot is not as annoying to clean as you might think. Each time it fills the chamber fully and with most inks all you need is 3-4 rounds of filling with water to get the pen clean. Pilot’s mechanism is better than Lamy’s in Lamy 2000.
On the other hand, if you like to change inks often, TWSBI might be a better choice. It takes a few seconds to unscrew the piston and wash the pen with tap water, just like your typical cartridge-converter.
Nib and writing experience
I don’t like German stainless steel nibs. It’s not a secret that TWSBI uses Jowo nibs and I am not a fan. I can’t explain it, tho. Just nothing beats Japanese nibs for me. There is nothing wrong with TWSBI’s nib. My EF unit is smooth with a bit of feedback. Not too dry, not too wet, but writing with the Pilot gives me more pleasure.
The reason may be that the Pilot’s gold nib is a bit springy, and that makes writing so much better. Plus, the FM nib is a pure perfection when it comes to the line width. It also lets you control the width to some extent. With less pressure, the pen writes drier and finer, with more pressure the line becomes closer to the typical medium.
One thing to note here is that Customs 92 (and 74, since they use the same nib) are probably designed that way. Everyday writing requires a little more pressure than you might get used to. If you just touch the paper with the nib it feels dry. I tested other Pilots 92 with FM nibs and all of them required just a bit of pressure to write wetter. In the end, I love it (mind I like dry writers), but I know some people don’t. In that case flossing the nib fixes the issue.
Pilot Custom 92
Photos courtesy of the Goulet Pen Company
And the winner is…
As I said, the winner is Pilot.
It’s very hard to say which pen is definietly better. I prefer Pilot because the nib is amazing. There is one big “but”, though, the price. Here in Taiwan Pilot Custom 92 costs as less as $100, about twice as much as TWSBI 580AL, and a few bucks less than Pelikan m205. At this price Pilot Custom 92 with 14K gold nib is a no-brainer and I can’t imagine anyone who wouldn’t just add 50-60 bucks and get the Pilot.
However, for unknown reasons, Pilot in Europe and the USA has a ridiculous pricing strategy. Some of their pens, including Custom 92, are overpriced. Custom 92 in the USA typically costs about $220. Recently it’s getting better (like on Jetpens), but this pen is not worth 220 USD. If I couldn’t order Custom 92 on Ebay or Amazon, where it’s cheaper, I would never buy it.
For about $60 you can get TWSBI 580AL, one of the best piston filling pens on the market, and with the rest of the money, you could still buy LAMY 2000.
To sum it up,
If you can buy the Pilot at its Japanese price, go ahead, it’s a better writer, and it beats all the pens I have mentioned (it writes better than m205, Lamy 2000 and TWSBI). But it’s not worth $220 USD.
If you can’t buy the Pilot at its “normal” price, get yourself a TWSBI 580AL. It’s a great pen, you won’t regret.