risky business: montblanc 146 legrand
Sirens are blaring in the distance until it fades and disappears into the noise of the road. One of the neighbours is putting nails into the walls. Thump, thump, thump. A motor starts nearby, the doors of the car slam shut. It’s a dark, grey day, not so dark that the streetlights are on, but you will probably turn on some lights inside to write under. The streets are wet, even though it didn’t rain yet. Most of the trees have lost their golden leaves, twigs shivering in the wind. Somehow the bleak light casts warm shadows inside the house, giving everything an inviting glow. The couch looks softer, the mug of tea looks warmer, the blankets look cosier.
November is a dear month to my heart. Since childhood, I start reading the same book on 1st of November every year because the first sentence of the book starts as “It is the first day of November and so, today, someone will die.” Even though most of the book passes during October, I read it in November. In the book, the line between myth and reality is threadbare, everything is extremely familiar and not.
The Montblanc’s Meisterstuck line is similar. You have seen one. All of your friends, parents, even grandparents know what it is. Yet, the pen itself is shrouded in such myths that it is almost impossible to see it as it is: a writing instrument. Supposedly a very good one.
I have my own mythos around these pens. I looked at this pen ever since I was tall enough to see the top of tables. All those shiny pens under the crystal clear glass in department stores. Brightly lit shop windows in the dark. Stolen glances while friends drag you through an avenue. It took me a while to muster up the courage to go into a store and try one out. Just last year, I went into a Montblanc store in an airport, asked to see a 146 LeGrand. What a rush to see that pen brought out for me. The glossy black barrel, dazzling gold trim. I twisted the cap open.
What the actual hell?
It is a rollerball.
I asked -again- a fountain pen, fine nib. Once more. It was a beautiful pen, but the experience was tarnished with the misunderstanding with the salesperson. Tail between the legs, I retreated back into the crowds of the airport to find my gate.
This summer, I finally got mine. A beaten up, tired looking pen, alone in a vintage 2-pen case. Its scars from previous handling ran deep, with scratches and an occasional bite mark. Even some of the plating on the nib had worn off, revealing the gold to peek through the chrome. With the naked eye you could tell something was off with the nib, but it was impossible to tell what exactly.
I cleaned up the caked up ink out of the pen. Then, I started to look for a place that could give a little care to this pen. The piston required some greasing, the nib needed some love, and due to the inexperience of the seller, I wanted to make sure whether the pen was real or not. The first place I brought it to fixed everything except the nib for me, telling me that the nib wrote okay. It did not. The person behind the counter was using the pen with more pressure than I typically do, squeezing out a beautifully wet line. I simply could not make the pen write properly. I was told that I was holding the pen wrong, that of course it wouldn’t write like that. Confused and frustrated, I just paid and left.
This was the time I genuinely considered selling the pen. Sell, wait, try again. My inner 10 year old didn’t let me. It was our dream, a dream that we shared all this time.
I packed the pen up and went to a retailer I trust more, asked whether we could do something about the nib. Sure, they said, we have a nib specialist. I brought the pen. They inspected it. I told the story. They listened. I asked whether it was fixable. They said let’s see.
More waiting ensued.
At this point, I had owned the pen for over a month without a successful writing experience.
Finally, the email arrived, telling me it was time to pick up the pen. Curiosity got the better of me, and I asked what they had done. In the store, a paper with the official diagnosis, the solution and the pen waited for me. It finally wrote, and it wrote like everything I have ever dreamt about.
Apparently the nib had a badly executed right oblique and messed up tines. Probably that was the thing that forced my hand into a certain position to hold the pen at a slight angle to the paper. The nib was also bent away from the nib, which explains why people with heavier writing pressure thought the pen was perfectly fine. Frustrated with the whole mess of this and not wanting to take any risks, I had asked for a round, smooth, wet extra fine that would not give me any problems.
I got what I asked for. This pen writes on anything, with any ink, with almost any angle. It has a little give that adds a little flair at the end of letters. The wet line shows off the ink despite the thin line. I couldn’t have been happier.
The body shape and dimensions are familiar after having many pens with a similar size and weight. I simply enjoy it. The part you don’t expect is the weight of the pen. The piston mechanism adds enough weight to the back to let it sit at the curve of your hand without becoming cumbersome. The resin is extremely glossy, despite its scratches, and catches the light beautifully. It is an icon. There is very little I can add to its description. The ink I’m currently using in it is Rohrer & Klingner Blu Mare, a shading sky blue with a lovely pink sheen around the edges of the letters -if you’re lucky. It’s impossible to be unlucky with this pen, with the nib tuned to perfection.
Truth to be told, I almost completely gave up on buying used pens after this purchase and the next few ones. Online buying is always a risk, but even buying from reputable people and seeing it in-person doesn’t save you from missing problems. I have to remind myself why I try to buy used for pens like the Montblanc 146. Yes, they’re cheaper than buying new. Yes, unbelievable deals are to be found. Yes, the pens are worn and weary and lost their lustre. But these pens are also among my most special ones, even when “great deals” aren’t found. These pens were well-loved and will continue to be cared for. They’re made to last a lifetime, why waste it?
Thank you for reading and I hope everyone had a lovely Pelikan Hub yesterday!