Katherine: The 149, like its little brother the 146, is a very classic style. As I mentioned in our review of the 146, I find the design inoffensive but a little boring.
Pamela: I am not a huge fan of cigar shaped pens. Despite my appreciation of the 146 proportion and finish, I found the 149 to be “too much.” It’s a BIG pen! It’s has a great classic, vintage feel, just not my cup of tea.
Franz: Oversize pen alert! Here’s a big one. The Montblanc Diplomat 149 is a simple black pen and is quite pleasant to hold. The resin is smooth, and scratch resistant. Its iconic torpedo shape speaks to me. I’ve been aware of this pen ever since I started using fountain pens but I’ve only seen and held one in person two years into the hobby. I had to have it!
Carrying over from our review of the Montblanc 146, the Montblanc Diplomat 149 is part of the Meisterstück line (Masterpiece) and was first introduced in 1952. It is a piston-filled pen which contains a large ink capacity. The number of the pen meant that: 1 – Meisterstück Line, 4 – Piston-filler system, and 9 – nib size.
The Business End
Katherine: The nib on Franz’s specimen, like the other Montblanc nibs I’ve tried, is fantastic. It gets the job done smoothly and flawlessly. The pen is smooth without being glassy, with just enough character not to be boring. I suppose having a grind by Masuyama-san doesn’t hurt either. 🙂
Pamela: Montblanc and Masuyama? Yes please! The nib is a joy to write with and as always, smooth.
Franz: The medium 14K nib of this 149 was a very smooth and juicy when I bought it in January 2015. This was the third Montblanc nib I have written with and so far Montblanc is 3 for 3 in terms of nib quality. I loved the nib’s springiness which gives the writing some character. At the 2015 LA Pen Show, I had Mr. Masuyama turn this nib into a cursive italic and it has been one of my favorite nibs ever since.
Write It Up
Katherine: While the nib on this pen poses no problems… the size of the pen does. This pen is quite the monster for me. It’s a little too long and a little too girthy to be comfortable. Small hands, huge pen… just ain’t a fit. 146, please!
Pamela: The pen is really unbalanced for me due to my grip and the length of the pen. I felt that my hand fatigued more easily using the larger 149. This pen gave me hand muscle quite the work out.
Franz: During my journaling, the 149 was comfortable for me for the first ten minutes. As I wrote longer with it, my hand felt a bit fatigued. The grip section is about 13 millimeters and it’s one of my wider pens. Lengthwise, I prefer to write with the cap posted but it’s not as secure as I want it to. There was a moment when the cap came loose.
(Daily use at work/home, at least a day or two)
Katherine: Honestly, I didn’t even try. I borrowed Franz’s pen for a week, but found that it never left my desk. It’s just barely comfortable for me to use, but certainly isn’t a size that I’m comfortable putting in my pocket. Not to mention, it doesn’t fit any of my pen cases. Womp.
Pamela: The pen is not a shy one. It’s also far too large for me to carry around without being stopped for brandishing a weapon. This pen stayed in my backpack as I transported it around, however, it was bit too heavy and large to be an EDC for me.
Franz: I’ve used the 149 in rotation at work for quite a while now, and it’s great for quick notes and perfect for signatures. I appreciate the quick uncapping with just one rotation of the cap, as well as the medium cursive italic nib that writes well on the office copy paper.
Final Grip-ping Impressions
Katherine: This feels like a pretty short review for me. Take everything I loved about the 146… and resize it to be too big for my hands. Sadness. The 146 is a perfect size and weight for me, versus the 149 feels like I’m out to club someone. Maybe some baby seal stationary. (That’s gotta exist, right?)
Pamela: I agree with Katherine that my review of the 149 is shorter than usual. The 149 is a great pen for those who love GREAT (big) pens, enjoys the quality of Montblanc nibs and has the “paws” proportional enough to use larger pens comfortably.
Franz: Talk about iconic! Yep, the Montblanc 149 is one of the most recognizable fountain pens. As evidenced from both ladies above, this pen isn’t for everyone. But one should at least write with it for a period of time and decide for themselves. The 149 fits right at home in my bear paw. Even though it can get tiring for my journaling/letter writing, I love it for quick notes during meetings, and perfect for signatures.
There are quite a few oversize pens comparable to the Montblanc 149. Photos were taken below for comparison. I honestly prefer the size of a Pelikan M805 as it’s almost the same length uncapped, but a little bit thinner and allows me to grip the pen better.
Hello Osaka! This follows my (Katherine’s) posts on pen shopping in Tokyo and Kyoto.
My very first stop was at Daimaru, but I apparently forgot to take pictures, and their pen selection was pretty underwhelming. Instead I bought a bunch of Jinbei-san stationary. And a plush. I do need things to write on!
Next up, Hankyu! This store is in Hanshin-Umeda station (right next to the JR Osaka Station), which makes it easy to access (Hanshin is also in the area, and Nagasawa is within walking distance). I think there’s also a Tokyu Hands nearby.
Hankyu stocks a large variety of pens — including some Nakaya and high end Sailor stuff. They still had a Sailor 105th year Zuisei in stock!
And a selection of Nakaya…
And their own store exclusive inks! Swabs and swatches will be coming soon. I got all three. I have great self control. Hah.
Next up, Yodabashi in Umeda is actually one of those giant multi-level camera/electronics stores, so I was expecting a small display. But surprisingly they have a pretty extensive Platinum display. (As context, we kept going to electronics stores to look for Nintendo Switches)
And a selection of converters and inks.
Walking distance from Umeda Station is Nagasawa, which is inside a Maruzen. Nagasawa is by far my favorite store of this trip. And also the only store with interesting Nakaya in stock — they had several with rollstops and non-yellow gold nibs. Amazing! (And bad for my wallet. That toki-tamenuri decapod with the rose gold goldfish stop? It’s mine now.)
They also carry several limited edition pens — here is the Platinum Censke, in pink and yellow gold: (I was very tempted to get a yellow gold one to put a Nakaya Maki-e converter into!)
And the store exclusive Sailors in pretty pastel hues:
And, of course, their inks!
In addition to their own line of Sailor inks, they also had a great selection of other brands’ inks.
It’s actually a little kiosk thingy inside Maruzen. And they can handle tax free for you as you pay — so no need to shuffle around to another counter.
Next was Morita, which was a ten minute walk from the closest subway stop from Hanshin-Umeda:
Mr. Morita was super friendly, but was also the pushiest person I met in Japan. He kept offering to show me different things. More funny than annoying though. He also has a line of exclusive Sailors — third row from the top, right and center of the divider — robin’s egg blue! And two exclusive colors of ink, Red Wine and Shade Green — swatches to come!
Also at Hanshin-Umeda station was Hanshin department store. They had a small selection, but I wouldn’t go out of my way and instead spend more time in Hankyu or at Nagasawa.
The Namba Takashimaya has a Maruzen inside it — in the basement and slightly across the subway station. Like the other Maruzens, a decent pen selection and they carry their Athena inks in black, blue, blue black and sepia.
And they had this Duofold on display. I think it looks a little derpy. But wow that’s a lot of money.
I also made it out to Kobe, to eat beef. And we finally found a Nintendo Switch at the Toys R Us in Kobe Harborland. There is a Nagasawa there too, but it’s primarily a stationary store, not a fountain pen store. And they had a no picture policy. So, no pictures.
Instead, here are pictures from the Kobe Nagasawa Pen Style Den. It’s on the third floor of a small ish building (and one train stop away from Harborland), once again a kiosk inside a larger store. But, unlike the other Nagasawas, this one carries vintage! (At crazy prices) And two store-exclusive designs of Nakaya Maki-e converters.
And has samples of the different Nakaya finishes to touch and see:
And a good selection of ready to go Nakaya, including one in the now discontinued Shiro-tamenuri. (But not as many pens will roll stops as the Umeda Nagasawa)
And a case of this year’s Oeste Prera. (Which the other Nagasawa had too, I just forgot to take a picture).
We also stumbled upon this Stationary Store (that’s what Maps calls it, I can’t figure out what it’s called otherwise) that is ENTIRELY CAT THEMED. They do carry a small selection of fountain pens, but also cats everywhere!
And a small selection of pens, both fountain and not:
But omg so much cute cat stuff:
Because I don’t know the name, here’s the address: (It’s also next to the “NMB 48 official shop”, which might be easier to map to)
Chūō-ku, Ōsaka-shi, Ōsaka-fu 542-0075
I had been warned that there wasn’t much fountain pen shopping to be done in Osaka — so I was pleasantly surprised. The Nagasawa stores had the largest and most varied selection of Nakayas, as well as their own interesting exclusives.
And Osaka was full of delicious okonomiyaki. But I forgot to upload pictures.
My visit to Kyoto was fairly brief, and I’d done a lot of shopping in Tokyo, so I didn’t go out of my way to hunt down any pens. (I promise Osaka will be more exciting!)
My first stop was Isetan — it’s the giant department store attached to Kyoto Station. Fountain pens are waaaaay up (floor 10, I think) They have a small pen and stationary section, but nothing particularly interesting. There didn’t seem to be any limited edition anything… But if you’re in the area and want to pick up something at Japanese prices, not bad! Also, if you take the escalator all the way up, you’ll stop through several floors of random quirky stuff, like rocks with faces painted on for $15.
And a tray of “American Taste” pens on a side shelf. Hah.
The other store I made it to in Kyoto was Tokyu Hands. If you’re unfamiliar with Tokyu Hands, it’s not a Kyoto-specific store — they have branches all over Japan, and some in Singapore too! They sell a variety of things from cooking utensils to handbags to… fountain pens! The Kyoto branch is very close to Nishiki Warai, a well known shopping/eating street.
Tokyo Hands stocks a pretty generic selection of inks and pens — including ones at several price points, capping out at about $200. No Nakaya or Namikis here. But they also carry a solid selection of inks, no exclusives, but much more than a couple department stores that have seemed to only stock Pilot blue and black.
In addition to many of the usual subjects, Tokyo Hands also stocks Kyoto Celluloid — I didn’t see this at other branches, but I’ve been told that the Singapore branch also stocks these.
And, because I actually came to Kyoto to see temples, here’s a picture of one of the temples within Enryaku-ji, on Mt. Hiei. Kyoto was amazing, and I think there were a couple more ink places I could have stopped by, but priorities!
Pelikan M805 demonstrator, Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden
As some of you may know, I, Katherine, am currently in Japan! I spent the last few days in Tokyo, and am now writing this from my Airbnb in Kyoto. I’m here primarily to see the sakura — so look! They’re so pretty! We lucked out and hit Tokyo right as the blossoms hit full bloom, but before it rained.
Chidori-ga-fuchi boat ride
But I know you’re here for my notes on fountain pen shopping in Tokyo, so I won’t bore you with any more pictures of sakura. 🙂 As a disclaimer, there are much more complete lists of fountain pen stores in Tokyo. This is by no means an exhaustive list — for that I like this one. This is my first time in Tokyo, so while I certainly hit up some fountain pen stores, I didn’t spent a lot of time pen hunting.
Ameyoko – Bruno (the link above) mentions that there are a couple stores here. I couldn’t find them. Instead I got distracted eating takoyaki, eyeing trays of sashimi and trying to figure out what the other edible offerings were. Fun place, but not terribly easy to navigate.
This was my first stop. I was trying to get to Maruzen Nihombashi, walked out of Tokyo station, crossed a street… and looked up to see a MARUZEN sign. The pens are on the top floor (I think? I was pretty tired) and while there’s only one long counter — there’s a lot of good stuff here!
They had all the brands I would expect and a handful I didn’t recognize.
And a small selection of beautiful Nakaya. That green + silver chinkin really caught my eye.
And an ink shelf to the right of the pen counter. The green boxes in the bottom left are their exclusive brand — Maruzen Athena. They had black, blue, blue black and sepia in stock. Each bottle is ¥2000 plus tax (8%).
This branch had a slightly larger (I think) selection of pens spread across several counters in the basement. Additionally, the Nihombashi branch has some exclusive inks (and they come in the old style Sailor bottles!) — also ¥2000.
Eurobox Eurobox is a small and somewhat hard to find purveyor of used pens in Ginza. It took me a couple attempts at peering into different buildings to realize that it’s NOT on the ground floor. There is no street facing Eurobox sign. Walk into the door way in this picture (the right one, not the random antiques store next door):
Then go up four flights of stairs… and ta-da!
The owner, Eizo, wasn’t in when I visited, instead it was his son. I’ve emailed Eizo before and he’s always been helpful and speaks pretty good English. His son was also very helpful and nice. He insisted on ducking out of the picture above.
They carry a fantastic selection of vintage pens, primarily American and German. Their prices seem to be fair, but aren’t a bargain. They know what their pens are worth. 🙂 A couple pens caught my eye, but the one I want most still needs restoration, so I’ve been emailing back and forth with Eizo. Fingers crossed everything works out!
The selection here is tiny — I’d suggest going to the Nihombashi branch instead. I didn’t make it because I ran out of time. The Ginza branch carries a handful of brands, but nothing super interesting or unique compared to other stores. And no ink that I could find.
Itoya really deserves a post of it’s own. It’s a massive stationary/art/neat stuff store that spans two buildings. Fountain pens are in the main building, on the third floor. The annex still has a section where you can build a custom notebook. Neat!
They carry a wide selection of the typical brands you’d expect, but also a handful of less common brands like Manu Propria, Danitrio and Nakaya.
Sorry for the glare-y photos, the store is very well lit and my phone doesn’t know how to deal with that.
And, they stock Kobe inks! Only one bottle per person per color though. No hoarding. ¥2000 each.
Additionally, if you’re in Japan on a visitor visa and have your passport, you can go to the 6th floor and your 8% tax will be refunded to you. Just don’t be a late evening shopper like me — then you feel bad keeping people at work after store close. (More on that at the bottom of this post)
Kingdom Note is primarily famous for their incredible selection of custom inks. But they have quite the selection of pens too. As I was there, they were helping two people pick pens — each pen was lovingly handled and tested.
Here’s the crazy wall of inks behind the counter — the far bottom corner is the home of their custom inks. You can see the little black boxes with white labels. Each is ¥2000 plus 8% tax.
They also still had their current line of vegetable sailor pens on display (though I didn’t check availability) and a handful of other exclusive designs.
Yodobashi Camera (Shinjuku, I think?)
Not worth a trip. But if you’re already hitting up electronics stores while looking for a Nintendo Switch — you should certainly pick up a couple bottles of Iroshizuku at a great price! (¥1620 + 8% tax)
I know I said no more sakura pictures… but Takashimaya borders a beautiful street, aptly named Sakura-dori. Crazy. Why stand in a crowded park when you can eat delicious karaage (8 blocks down from Takashimaya), take a lovely stroll, then go buy some pens?!
Takashimaya has its own line of store-exclusive inks. I have no idea what availability is like, but they had all of them in stock when I went. My self control is terrible and I got three bottles. Each is ¥2000 + tax. Writing samples to come. Eventually. If you want a tax refund (more on that later), Takashimaya requires you to buy at least ¥5000 of “consumables” — and seals them so you can’t open them in Japan.
The pen selection is nothing special — but is decent and the staff were very, very nice. They also had a case of Namiki maki-e pens. No Nakayas though.
They did have this neat Pilot nib-tester thing! The only other place I saw this was Maruzen Nihombashi. Maybe the others had it and I just didn’t notice.
All in all, this is what I bought myself:
Maruzen Athena Hatobanezu ink (Nihombashi only)
Kingdom Note blue shelfy mushroom
Kobe #51 (Itoya)
Maruzen Athena Blue Black (Nihombashi and Oazo both had it)
Three bottles of Takashimaya ink
Pilot Sunset Blue Capless
2 Nakaya Maki-e converters
A note on sales tax:
I mentioned this above, but I wanted to elaborate a little more, since I didn’t know much about the tax refund process when I started shopping. All the stores add on 8% in sales tax. I’m not sure if that’s Japan wide or just Tokyo. As a visitor (foreign passport and a visa that lets you stay less than six months) you can get this tax refunded if your purchase is over ¥5000. Some stores can process it for you in house (Takashimaya, Itoya, probably any of the big department stores) and some can’t, you have to go to a separate tax counter (Maruzen, Kingdom Note) somewhere in the city. But you have to get your refund on the day of your purchase. So plan ahead! Also, you should google the tax refund process yourself — I could be wrong. 🙂
This is our first post with a guest! Claire, a friend of ours from the SF Pen Posse. She has more “average” sized hands than the extremes that the three of us represent. Also, she makes and sells pen wraps on Etsy. Check them out! (Review to come!)
Hand Over That Pen, please!
Pam: My first Kaweco was a Skyline in the minty green color. I had no hesitations to the size of the pen, and the color was spot on! The Kaweco has a very unique design going from a cute and sturdy pocket pen to a “regular” length pen with a post of the cap. Given the portability, durability and assortment of colorways, I can see why the Kaweco is so highly recommended and appreciated by so many in the pen community.
Katherine: I love small pens and faceted pens… so the Kaweco Sport is right down my alley. I also love bright colors… so it’s taken quite a bit of self-control to not collect a rainbow of these. Grumble pen limit grumble. Anyway, I really enjoy the design of this pen — a little quirky, but not too weird. Unique and functional! And if you prefer clips, you can add a clip — they come in both silver and gold.
I own a white Sport (which will soon be doused in urushi) and a Rose Gold AL (pictured below). The Rose Gold was a special edition to Eslite, a chain of bookstores in Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan. To my knowledge, it’s sold out but may show up used here and there.
Claire: This is a pen I avoided purchasing for a while simply because I thought the facets of the cap make the cylindrical-ness of the barrel stick out in an awkwardly. That being said, now that I’ve owned one for a few months the overall aesthetic of the pen has grown on me. This is a sturdy little pen has stood up to everything I’ve thrown at it. I purchased an orange Ice Sport in November and have enjoyed having a decent pen to throw in my pocket. My mum gave me an AC Sport late last year since I wouldn’t shut up about the pen after seeing it on the Pen Addict’s Instagram #blamebrad.
Franz: Hello Kaweco! =) What else can I really say about the appearance of the Kaweco Sport that the ladies above have not mentioned? It really is a pocket pen with such a distinctive and unique design. Before we reviewed the Sport, I never knew how many different styles this pen has available in the market. The two models we are featuring/reviewing here are the AL Sport (aluminum body), and the Skyline Sport (acrylic body/silver trim). There are 5 more styles that this pen can be purchased as: Classic Sport (acrylic body/gold plated trim), ICE Sport (acrylic transparent body), AC Sport (aluminum body with carbon inlays), AL Stonewashed (aluminum body with weathered effect), and Brass Sport (brass body).
The Sport Series was introduced by Kaweco in the year 1911 as a short, safety pocket pen. In the beginning, the pen was called Safety Pen 616 for Sportsmen. They eventually changed it to the Sport-Series. Kaweco updated the pen’s filling system into a piston-filler pen in the 1930s, and then to a cartridge-filler in the 1970s as we know how it is filled today. Of course, you can fill the pen like they did in 1911 and choose to eye-dropper the pen as well. Just be careful when you unscrew the pen. Eyedropper-filled isn’t my preferred method for getting ink into my pens though.
Kaweco Sport history source: www.kaweco-pen.com
The Business End
Pam: Disclaimer, the EF of my Kaweco was too broad for my taste. Given that, it was still a good nib for daily use. I used the pen on cheap office paper and it performed admirably. I didn’t find the nib to be too dry, given my choice of paper at work. The nib writes more true to size on Tomoe River paper, unsurprisingly. I very much enjoy it when I am in the mood for a “bolder” EF line to show off the ink color in my hobonichi. This German EF nib does require me to change the size of my handwriting, ever so slightly, to accommodate the “bolder” line, which results ins a “bubblier” handwriting for me.
I was really surprised how much I enjoyed the 1.1 stub. It’s probably my favorite of all the Kaweco nibs that I have tried. Its a great nib that has the right amount of ink flow so that the line remains relatively crisp and shows off a decent amount of shading in the ink color. If I had to choose between an EF or the 1.1 stub, I would choose the 1.1 stub. My ongoing taste change in nib sizes is very likely due to Franz-fluence (Franz’s influence for those who are pun adverse.)
Katherine: I’ve owned a handful of Kaweco Sport nibs and had a decent out of the box experience with all of them. My Fine and BB ran a bit dry, and my 1.1 “Calligraphy” nib wasn’t too wet, but all in all, they’ve all been very usable. However, I think I’ve been lucky — I have seen quite a few reports of Kawecos with baby’s bottom. None of them will win awards for being my (or, I suspect, anyone’s) favorite nib, but they get the job done and write without fuss.
Claire: Out of the box, the nib on my fine Kaweco AC Sport was great. The extra fine on the Ice Sport required a quick tine alignment; which I don’t mind on a sub $30 pen. Both nibs have been utilitarian; being a tad on the dry side, better for paper of questionable quality. I am thoroughly enjoying the 1.1 stub I’m borrowing from Katherine (I might forget to return it the next time I see her). Typically, fine and extra fine nibs are the way to my heart, so I’m surprised to enjoy the 1.1 so much.
Franz: To echo the sentiments above, Kaweco’s nibs write out of the box. A friend gifted me the black Skyline Sport below and it has a fine nib that just wrote smoothly after I placed the cartridge into the pen. Granted, the nib isn’t as wet as I want it to be but it isn’t scratchy and it wrote nicely. I also got to use Katherine’s 1.1mm nib on her AL Sport and it was also a pleasant experience. Yay for Kaweco! Their business end means business.
Write It Up
Pam: I prefer to write with the Kaweco Skyline posted given how light it is. I much prefer the weight of the Kaweco AL over the Sport. I find the plastic body to be too light and unpleasant to hold for prolonged periods of time. I find myself gripping the pen harder because it feels so unsubstantial. (No, the plastic body did not crack under my iron grip.)
The Kaweco AL is comfortable with or without the cab and relatively well balanced for me either way. The weight is more comfortable and “sits” in my grip well. The Kaweco AL is wonderful when paired with the 1.1 stub nib aka Katherine’s Kaweco, which I had a really hard time giving back.
Katherine: This pen makes it obvious how much smaller my hands are. I can and do use my Kawecos unposted, both my plastic Sport (which was my only work pen for about six months) and my AL. I prefer the plastic Sport when posted though — it gives the pen a little more heft and makes it more comfortable to hold. But, my tiny hands prefer the Sport AL unposted — it feels more balanced to me. All in all, both are very usable for me, both posted and unposted. I don’t own a Sport in Brass, but I’ve tried one and found that it was usable, but heavy and my hand felt the fatigue (especially if it was posted and top heavy) after a bit of writing — usable, but I wouldn’t buy one.
Claire: For quick notes, I don’t feel the need to post the pen. That changes if I’m going to write more than a few sentences (which is the majority of my writing), then I feel the need to post the it to avoid hand fatigue. I prefer the weight and balance of the AL Sport over the Ice Sport. Though, after eyedroppering the Ice Sport is a more comfortable weight. Even posted, this is not a pen I can write for a long time without noticing some discomfort. But as a pocket pen, it isn’t intended for hours upon hours of writing at one time.
Franz: May I just skip this part? Kidding, kidding! Okay, so I took both the AL, and the Skyline Sport on a test drive. I wrote with both of them posted for about 10 minutes each. Please understand that this Sport is a little too short unposted for my bear paw to write more than 5 words so I just kept the cap posted as I wrote on my journal. Because of the narrow 9.4mm section, my hand cramped up and I noticed my hand gripping the pen tighter than usual. The Skyline Sport is a very light pen and I didn’t enjoy writing with it. The AL Sport however, has a nice weight to it and my hand was a little bit more comfortable. The length of the Sport when posted was fairly comfortable for me.
Pam: The Kaweco is a great pocket pen, especially the Kaweco Sport, for it’s petite/cute size and lightweightedness. It’s also a great way for me to lose this pen into my many pockets or not notice it before throwing my pants into the laundry. I didn’t try to EDC carry Katherine’s AL, but I would be really interested in purchasing one, and I am pretty sure I will be less likely to lose it or toss it with my dirty laundry.
Katherine: The plastic Sport was my EDC for a few months before I jumped off the deep end and started exploring vintage pens. I had a mint green, Fine nib Sport that I stuck in my pocket, threw in my backpack and generally manhandled. It did great. I ended up gifting it to a friend I was living with for a week (Hi Tatsie! Thanks for letting me stay with you in Singapore!) but I eventually picked up another one, used, to be a project pen (hello urushi, meet my faceted friend). I’ve used my Rose Gold AL on and off as an EDC, and it’s held up similarly — durable, very little (if any) leaking into the cap (perhaps because the nibs are dryish to start with?) and easy to write with quickly. However, I’m a little worried about damaging the finish, so I don’t carry it as often (it was a gift from a cousin).
Claire: The Ice Sport lived in my pocket for several months. About a month ago, I accidentally ran it through the washing machine. No ink leaked out of the pen (no stains on my clothing phew!) and the pen was no worse for the wear. Some ink snuck behind the cap insert, but that’s to be expected. I carried this pen at work quite frequently, though in my line of work a ballpoint or a permanent marker is more suitable. I have since put a different nib on the pen and don’t carry it as lackadaisically.
Franz: Even though I do not use my Skyline Sport for my journaling, or letter-writing needs, it practically lives in my bag ready to be written with. For me, this pen can be used as like a backup when you need to fill out a quick note. In the spirit of the Hand Over That Pen review process, I made it a point to use this pen at my workplace for a day. Let’s just say that it didn’t really impress me as an everyday carry pen. This is mainly because for my larger hands, I need to unscrew and post the cap each time I have to write notes or sign my name. Even though the cap only needs one and a quarter turn to uncap, it was still a bit inconvenient for me. The fine nib performed well as I wrote on the copier paper from our office.
Final Grip-ping Impressions
Pam: I would highly recommend the Kaweco Sport for those who enjoy a small/portable pen and a reliable German nib. For those who enjoy the durability and heft of the aluminium, the Kaweco is a good, solid upgrade. The Sport is a great starter pen, but for fans of the Kaweco Sport, the AL is an obvious choice to have to try out. You won’t regret it.
Katherine: If you like small pens (and I mean small), the Kaweco Sport is fantastic. For the money, I think the plastic Sport is a great pen — durable, neat looking and a solid writer. The AL isn’t a bad pen at all, but at it’s price point, unless you really like the way it looks, it does seem a bit expensive for what it is. Price aside though, I prefer the AL. The pen feels more substantial, nib units are unscrewable (instead of friction fit in the plastic Sport) and the finish can show wear and tear — and I’m a sucker for pens that tell a story.
Claire: The section of this pen is just a little bit narrow for my taste. As such this is never going to be the pen I reach for to take notes in class. Narrow sections are especially uncomfortable for me thanks to an old fracture in one of my fingers so your mileage may vary. That being said, this is a pen I thoroughly enjoy; another one may be heading my way as soon as the stainless steel version becomes available.
Franz: I’m gonna go with what Claire said above and echo that the Kaweco Sport is a little too small for my use. If you have big hands, this may not be a pen for a daily user but try one out when you can. It is a cool pen to have in the bag/collection and they’ve got very nice finishes of this pen in the different styles I mentioned in the beginning of this review. I actually want to get the AL Sport Night Edition just because it’s all decked out stealthily with a nice carbon black nib too. But that’s the pen collector in me who wants to have all the stealth pens. Haha!
Pam: I can’t take credit for this pairing; it was serendipity, actually. Robert Oster has made a stunning and wonderful ink that has caught the fancy of many pen lovers. In the meantime, I was drooling over the turquoise Sailor from Wancher. They happen to arrive around the same time so ta da! Perfect match!
Robert Oster’s Fire and Ice is a beautiful dark turquoise with a great red sheen and is aptly named. The MF nib of the Sailor pen is a bit wetter and broader than my usual preference, but with this ink, I wouldn’t want it any other way. It’s the perfect nib for ALL THE SHEEN! I am working on enlarging my microscopic penmanship to do justice for such a perfect OTP (one true pairing).
Katherine: I picked this month’s pairing based on what I’ll be using the most — a custom faceted pen by Romulus Pens and Pilot Ku-jaku. John of Romulus pens made this pen as a proof of concept (Possibly because I couldn’t shut up about how much I loved facets while I was hunting for a Nakaya Decapod Mini) and sent it to me to test drive. I have a custom one on order and hope to see it in the next few weeks (hint hint).
When the pen arrived, I was almost afraid to ink it up, the clear body its nine facets were so pretty — they reminded me of a prism. But, a pen is a pen and it’s meant to be used — so I picked Pilot Iroshizuku Ku-jaku. I wanted a bright ink since I’d see it sloshing around, but I also wanted something I’d be able to use at work without getting too many weird looks — so a bright blue it is! I’ve swapped a Franklin-Christoph Masuyama Needlepoint nib into it and it’s a joy to use… but I predict that I’ll be writing with this pen for a long time before I write it dry.
Franz: I have chosen my vintage Eversharp Skyline pen, and the Sailor Four Seasons Oku-Yama ink as my pairing for March. This Skyline is a Standard size and had an unmarked fine-medium gold nib. The Skyline is one of my favorite vintage pen models and they were produced from 1941 until it was discontinued in 1948. I am not sure as to when this pen was exactly made though. This pen is part of my six pens for the ongoing #6PenChallenge17 for March. Here’s a link if you don’t know what I’m talking about https://www.handoverthatpen.com/2017/02/26/6penchallenge/
The Sailor Oku-Yama is such a perfect match for this pen because of the red/burgundy color and the nice gold sheen. This ink echoes the red and gold color of the pen quite nicely. Also at the 2016 SF Pen Show, I had Mr. Mike Masuyama turn the nib into a smooth Cursive Italic so it has been a usual pen in rotation for me. It’s got some nice springiness as well.
Katherine: The 146 (and its bigger sibling the 149) are the classic black cigar-shaped pen. The shape is boring to some, but timeless and classy to many others. Personally, I find the shape a bit boring, and while many buy the pen for the “prestige” that comes with such a recognizable brand, I found that unappealing. As I’ll discuss in later sections, I loved the innards of the pen, but I much prefer using pens that aren’t as obviously branded, especially at work. All in all though, the “look” of the 146 is inoffensive to me, if I didn’t have a self-imposed 15 pen limit, I’d likely still own one.
Pam: The 146 is a classic pen with a very classic shape. Typically, I would find the Montblanc 146 with gold trim to be another snoozer or write it off as “another typical pen.” I don’t usually like the cigar shape in a pen, like the Platinum 3776 or the Sailor 1911. That said, Montblanc created a very well proportioned cigar shape pen. It looks streamlined rather than chunky and sleek rather than boring. Maybe it’s the more dramatic taper at the end of the body and cap or it’s the custom ruthenium trim or I enjoyed writing with this pen so much that a “another typical pen” has much more appeal now.
Franz: The LeGrand 146 is such a nice, simple-looking pen. I love the timeless shape of the 146 and that may be the reason why a lot of pens have copied its appearance. The pointed ends are different from the usual pens I own.
So here’s a bit of historical information about this pen. In mid-1948, Montblanc came out with the Masterpiece/Meisterstück 140 Series and the three models introduced were the 142, 144, and the 146. All three were introduced as a piston-filler and until now, the 146 is offered as a piston-filler pen. Over time, the 144 changed to a cartridge/converter filler pen. The Meisterstück 140 Series was a refresh of the Meisterstück 130 Series introduced in the mid 1930’s.
According to Montblanc’s numbering system adopted in the 1930’s, 146 meant that 1 (part of the Meisterstück/Masterpiece line), 4 (piston filler system but it was a 3 in the 130 Series), and 6 (denotes the nib size).
*Please note that this historical information was taken from Mr. Andreas Lambrou’s “Fountain Pens of the World” book. If I have misquoted, or given incorrect information, please let me know. Thanks!
The Business End
Katherine: I love well-adjusted Montblanc nibs. I’ve used Franz’s (pictured in this review) and love the delightful CI that Dan Smith put on it. But I also, for a few months, owned my own 146 — an early 90s French specimen with an uncommon 18k nib. That was one of the most delightfully smooth (but not glassy) nibs I had ever used. Given my current experiences with MB nibs, I would never hesitate to recommend one to a friend, even out of the box.
Pam: Montblanc nibs are juicy with some springy-ness to them, based on my time with them at the Montblanc store (which may be longer than I care to admit). I really enjoyed the Montblanc B and BB nibs as they created a stub-like line for me. Therefore, what other “improvement” could you make to a well done nib from Montblanc? Well, someone had the genius idea to send the pen to Dan Smith for a 0.4mm CI grind. I (not so) jokingly told Franz that the 0.4mm is the perfect CI width and I may be forever ruined for all other CI grinds. CI grinds tend to run a bit dry, but this nib is well tuned and provides a consistent, well saturated, beautifully crisp line. Again, ruined… I am, ruined (or forever spoiled.)
Franz: Springy nib… check! Cursive Italic… check! Juicy ink flow… check! Smooth sweet spot… check! Running out of checkboxes here! What can I say? It’s a beautifully tuned nib! Kudos to Dan Smith on this one. As for straight from the factory experience, I have used another 146 nib which was a stock medium and it was a smooth well tuned nib as well. So far, I’ve been pleased with the quality of Montblanc’s nibs.
Write It Up
(20-minute writing experience)
Katherine: The 146 is very comfortable for me — it has a good weight and is comfortable in hand, even when writing for extended periods of time. I prefer it unposted — when posted I find it a bit too top-heavy and my hand gets tired faster.
Pam: I have enjoyed the 146 both posted and unposted in the traditional tripod grip, preferably posted for me. The 146 can be a bit top heavy in my “iron grip.” Given the CI grind, I primarily used this pen in the tripod grip and had no issues with the width of the pen. The girth of the pen at the section is within the usual limits and comfortable to hold for an extended period of time.
Franz: I may have been waxing poetic about this pen but admittedly, the LeGrand 146 size is just a smidge small for my bear paw. Please don’t get me wrong for when the cap is posted, I wrote with it comfortably and I absolutely had no complaints. I loved journaling with it for about 10 minutes but when I unposted the cap, my grip adjusted towards the nib and the pen felt small and unpleasant. I actually felt my hand cramping after writing for five minutes. Please refer to the pen in hand photos above to see how awkwardly small the unposted 146 is in my hand.
So yeah, mixed results on this one for me and just like Pam, I prefer the 146 posted.
Katherine: This is weird to say since I EDC my Nakayas… but I didn’t like carrying around my 146. While the clip was good, it uncapped decently and was great to write with, I just wasn’t comfortable using a pen that everyone around me identified as “Katherine is using an expensive pen”. Funnily enough, Nakaya and Danitrio are much less recognizable to the layman than my 146 was.
Pam: This pen is a be a great EDC pen as it is a sturdy, well made pen with a secure clip and threaded cap. I didn’t carry this pen around daily as it’s not my pen to damage or lose, but also because would be distracting in my interactions with my colleagues and patients. I am not that comfortable in letting the world know/assume the “cost” of my beloved pen hobby. (Or maybe that’s the SF bay area hipster in me.) Montblanc is such an iconic brand that people will notice this pen very readily. Granted, it’s also a beautiful, classy pen with a very unique ruthenium trim.
Franz: I used the 146 at work and out and about on a weekend and I had no qualms of being able to use this pen as an Everyday Carry pen. The cap unscrews after about 1 and 1/4 turn. Pretty fast deployment there and on the flip-side, the pen never uncapped itself in my pocket. The ink capacity of this piston-filled pen allows one to just keep on writing for a period of time. The subtle ink window above the section threads definitely helped me figure out if I’d need to refill the pen or not. I didn’t really care about the “perceived prestige” that the white star on the cap instills or what other people would think because well, I just don’t. Haha! =) As long as it’s a functional pen with a look that appeals to me, I’ll keep on using it.
Final Grip-ping Impressions
Katherine: Overall, I really love writing with 146s — they’re comfortable, balanced and have great nibs. But I found that I was uncomfortable with the obvious and easily recognizable branding. The moment my boss said, “Oh! You’re using a Montblanc!” the idea of keeping a Montblanc around for normal use went out the window.
Pam: After spending time with the 146, I can see why this pen is such a popular flagship pen. It’s a great size pen that suits many hands, has a classic (albeit “boring”) aesthetic from a historical and iconic brand that backs up it’s name with great nibs and performance. This pen has taught me and made me question a lot about my own pen preferences in terms of shape, nibs and writing style.
I would recommend this pen to anyone looking for a solid performing pen and isn’t wary of being seen with such a recognizable (and expensive) pen. Not all settings are optimized for that. It would be a “must have pen” if it was not so cost prohibitive to have, therefore, it would make a great grail pen to fill the “quintessential classic” slot in any collection. So if you are like me and this a grail pen, I recommend the 146 as a “must try for yourself” pen.
Franz: The LeGrand 146 design is almost 70 years old and as I said in the beginning of this review, it is timeless. This is a nice pen to have in one’s collection quite frankly. If you are able to, please try to write with a 146 and see if it is a good pen for your hand. The nibs are great and it just writes. I really like it when the cap is posted as I detailed above. The only “con” I would say about this pen is that it’s quite pricey when brand new. However, a thorough search in the secondary market may provide one with a reasonable and more affordable price for the pen.
Just a little background on this specific pen. I saw this exact 146 in early 2015 on Dan Smith’s Instagram feed, @TheNibsmith (@fpgeeks back then). He said that he just finished grinding the 0.4mm cursive italic on it and wished he owned the pen. I dug up info from Dan and the original owner of this pen to find out how he got a ruthenium trim. I planned to send a pen to that person who did the custom ruthenium trim but I never got around to doing it. Fast forward to April 2016, I found this pen offered for sale and I pretty much jumped on it. Needless to say, I love this specific 146 not only for its writing capabilities but its history as well.
Pam: Have you ever bought a pen because you were so blinded by it’s beauty? Well, the Pelikan White Tortoise (with EF nib) was that pen for me. When I indulged in my “pen binge of 2016” (Thanks Franz!) I had bought the pen at a great deal but was very lost on it’s place in my collection when I received it. (I didn’t expect to get more than one grail pen within a year, I thought I had more time to consider these things!!) Most unfortunate was that despite the beauty of the pen, I couldn’t find a pen that compelled me to want to write with it.
I found Rohrer Klingner Alt-Goldrun to be underwhelming in the EF nib despite it matching to the beautiful Pelikan binde. I didn’t find a brown ink that I liked enough to keep using in this pen. I didn’t think a blue ink would “compliment” the White Tortie very well. After almost year of testing pen and ink combinations and long hiatuses of not using the pen, I considered “shelving” the Tortie. (Couldn’t bring myself to sell the pen either. It’s pen purgatory!)
Instagram and fellow pen lovers to the rescue!!! It was Heidi from Four Fifty Two (I think) who inked up Yama-budo in her White Tortie. I finally took the plunge and copied the genius combination! What a pairing!
I find the wetter EF nib to be great with Yama-budo since it provides more ink to the page and thus a more saturated color. (My first foray with this color was in a super DRY nib that led me to believe that this ink was more pink than crimson.) The color itself is beautiful and most importantly, readable. The color is dark enough for great readability, but is not your usual blue or black, or even purple. The color is so unique and the gold sheen really clinched this ink for me.
Katherine: My pairing for Feb has been my Sailor Sapporo Bung Box Silent Night & KWZ Twilight. Limited editions galore. My Silent Night has a wonderful wet Zoom nib in it — perfect for showing off the varied shades of KWZ Twilight. Additionally, the pen and ink pair thematically to me — the bright to dark teals of KWZ Twilight fade into the dark blue, almost black of the Silent Night. If only KWZ Twilight glittered in its darkest spots. Actually, if I had one wish for this ink, it would be that I had more than a sample. Hence, only the pen is pictured above.
Franz: My pen and ink pairing for the month of February are both new to me within the month. It is the Retro 51 Marlin EXT fountain pen, and the Monteverde Capri Blue ink. I have wanted the Marlin pen since last year and when I heard it was being discontinued, I “had” to have it. On the Vanness Pens site (www.vanness1938.com), I found their last one so I purchased it right away as my “birthday” pen. Once I got it, I immediately inked it up with the Monteverde Capri Blue. This was the first pen I’ve inked with the Capri Blue and I’m very happy how it matches the swirls in the barrel of the Marlin. The ink’s color is also usable for my workplace so it’s a pairing I can use both for the home and office.
Now to top this pairing off, I had Mr. Mike Masuyama (www.mikeitwork.com) transform the medium nib into his cursive italic grind at the recently held LA Pen Show. Writing sample in the photo below. So the Marlin has become one of my top favorite pens. The Marlin will be a mainstay in my lineup for the 6 Pen Challenge that I will be participating in the whole month of March.
For the last couple years, Kata (@kataish) and Franz (@franzdimson) have run the Six Pen Challenge on Instagram — this year we’re hoping that more people will join us! This will be the first year that the Hand Over That Pen crew will be doing it together!
This year’s Instagram tag is #6PENCHALLENGE17. And the challenge will begin on March 1, 2017. Even if you start late in March, it’s perfectly fine. It’s all about the fun of it. =)
Tag your Instagram/Twitter posts to show that you’re joining in this fun challenge and to show your progress as well.
There’s only one rule in this challenge: Only six pens inked at a time.
Once you’ve written a pen dry, will you be re-inking it? Or choose another pen to ink up and use? That’s totally up to you! It’s a great way to appreciate your pens and have a bit more focus and fun in this pen hobby of ours.
Check out #6PenChallenge on Instagram for past photos/posts. The Six Pen Challenge was first ran on October 2014, then May 2015, and the last one was March 2016.
Will you join us? Which are your six pens and inks? Let us know!
Katherine: I had always assumed this pen was more expensive than it is… When Franz suggested we review it and I finally looked it up, I was surprised! The pen is sizable, well made and was quite comfortable unposted. When posted, it was definitely too long and top heavy for me. I also loved some of the little details — the crescent shaped breather hole is unique and a great touch!
Pam: The Conklin is a sturdy and sizable pen that has a unique style and material. The traditional shape, blue hash/swirl pattern of the acrylic, and the silver/nickel furnishing gives the pen an eclectic feel of both classic vintage and boldly modern. I find the pen to be quite long, even unposted. The pen feels too long and top heavy when posted. I found the overall weight to be surprisingly robust. It wasn’t actually too heavy, just had more “density” than I was expecting. (I hope that makes sense.)
Franz: A Blue pen! =) I like the shape and size of the Conklin Duragraph. It fits my hand nicely and that Ice Blue finish is pretty to look at. The striations reminds me of vintage pens (i.e. Parker Televisor) which is a cool finish. The size of the Duragraph is close to the Pelikan M800 which I regard as a perfect size for my bear paw… er… large hands.
The Duragraph is filled via standard international cartridge or converter. Conklin supplies the pen with 2 cartridges (black, and blue), and a converter already installed. That is great!
The Business End
Katherine: The 1.1 stub is super smooth. On smooth paper like Tomoe River it’s almost too smooth for me. But, at the end of the day, it is usable for me, unlike many Lamy nibs which are just too smooth. The stub also produces good line variation while being rounded enough for easy use without fussing about angles.
Pam: I found the stub to be a joy to write with and it glided over quality paper (i.e. Midori and Tomoe River) really well. The stub didn’t require any particular angle or sweet spot. I found the nib to be pretty wet and it would show shading well.
Franz: To echo the ladies above, I loved writing with this nib. This stub nib is quite smooth and offers a bit of line variation that I’m used to with my other cursive italic nibs. Great job Conklin!
Write It Up
Katherine: This pen was comfortable for long writing sessions, as long as I use it unposted. The stub nib kept things fun. I didn’t have any issues withe cramping or discomfort… So win win!
Pam: I usually develop a cramp writing in the traditional tripod however, the width of this “sizable” pen made the writing experience pretty comfortable and the cramping to a minimum. I didn’t have any major issues with the threads and my fingers felt pretty comfortable on the section. I preferred writing with the pen unposted since the cap makes it too top heavy.
Franz: As I wrote with the Duragraph unposted, I enjoyed my journal time. I did not experience any hand cramping or fatigue. Unfortunately, when the cap is posted it becomes unwieldy because the cap doesn’t post deeply. This made it too long and as Pam already said it’s top heavy.
Katherine: The clip on this pen is super tight — good for clipping to thin notebook covers, not great for thicker things or soft fabric (pockets). It takes a full rotation to unscrew the cap, which is totally reasonable. I wouldn’t hesitate to use this as a grab and go work pen, but it’s certainly not pocket sized. 🙂
Pam: The pen is robust with a tight, sturdy clip and durable material. The acrylic looks like it would age well and take some daily wear. No comments on accidental drops since I was far too paranoid to ruin Franz’s pen. (I didn’t drop it, I promise.) I tend to reach for more snap cap pens at work, just for the ease and convenience. However, at home, this was an easy go to pen for journaling.
Franz: This was a nice pen to use at work because it unscrewed quickly with just one turn. The clip was a bit tight but it clipped onto my shirt pocket quite easily. Now this could just be due to the ink (Montblanc Blue Hour) but I found the nib to feather and bleed on the copier paper used at work. The flow is perfect on Tomoe River, and Rhodia paper though. I wouldn’t hesitate to use this pen with a medium or fine nib on copier paper.
Final Grip-ping Impressions
Katherine: I think this is a great deal for the price. I’ve seen them as low as $40 — and I think it’s great value for the money. The stub was fantastic to write with, and it has the looks of a much more expensive pen (though that’s subjective). If you told me this was a $150 pen, I’d believe you and think that was a little steep… but at $40-50, it’s great. I think this is a very viable alternative to the many of the more popular “entry” to “mid” level pens like TWSBIs.
Pam: The Conklin Duragraph has a unique aesthetic that doesn’t appeal to me personally, however it’s a great “upper entry” level pen for those who enjoy the style. Given how difficult it is to find pens around the $50 price range that has the same quality material, unique styling, and that “criminally smooth” nib, it’s a great deal. If you were looking for a pen like the Lamy Safari, Al-Star, TWSBI 580, Kaweco AL Sport, or Pilot Prera but hesitated because they don’t look “corporate” friendly, consider the Conklin Duragraph!
Franz: Okay, final thoughts? Let me share that this was the second Duragraph that I purchased. =) The first one I got was the amber finish and that looks awesome as well. As of today, it has a MSRP of $65 and as Katherine mentioned, you can purchase this pen at a lower price. I definitely recommend this as a nice writer in one’s collection.
I found great value with the Conklin Duragraph along with beautiful aesthetics. To my knowledge, it is offered in four finishes. I’m not saying I’ll complete the set but you never know. ;-P