Fountain Pens

bunnspecial

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I hope I'm not duplicating an already existing thread, however I thought I'd post this as a somewhat tardy response to @Scepticalscribe 's invitation to do so.

I know there is at least one other fountain pen user here, so thought this might be a fun little place to meet up and chat.

I have pens from a pretty wide variety of makers, but tend to gravitate toward Montblancs for modern or modern-ish pens, and like Parkers as vintage pens, although I have plenty of crossover and also other brands.

So, let's see some discussion and some favorites from you folks.

I'll start this off with one I just received today. This is a Montblanc 149 that dates to roughly the late 1960s. I bought it from the son of the original owner, and from the wear on it I suspect it was inked once or twice and then put away. Of course it took a little bit of work flushing to clean out the dried blue ink, and there's still some blue staining on the ink window that I'm afraid to tackle, but it otherwise came to life.

18C tri-tone nib-of course the size sticker is long gone, but the line width and tip grind scream B. It's fitted to a round-faced grooved Ebonite feed and in a one-piece barrel with an end that's "flared" a bit finer and more delicately than even later(mid-70s on) one piece barrels

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Scepticalscribe

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Brillliant to see a fountain pen thread started, and it is always a real pleasure to read about fountain pens, especially those pens owned by the individuals who take the time and trouble to compose a post about them.

Enjoy your MB 149, @bunnspecial; well wear and happy writing.
 

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The craftsmanship on that pen, in particular the nib, is really just astounding. I come down on fountains pens like this:

- Complete appreciation for the fabrication / artistry involved.
- I totally "get" the attraction, it's in the same wheelhouse as boutique audio gear / tubes / vinyl, it's physical, not cranked out by machines.

It's not unlike my appreciate for quality consumables, craft beer, bourbon, even back in the day when I was a bit of a cigar aficionado :D

I totally enjoy an enthusiast sharing, while not getting involved myself (the fact I've been able to avoid vinyl actually shocks __me__).
 

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The craftsmanship on that pen, in particular the nib, is really just astounding. I come down on fountains pens like this:

- Complete appreciation for the fabrication / artistry involved.
- I totally "get" the attraction, it's in the same wheelhouse as boutique audio gear / tubes / vinyl, it's physical, not cranked out by machines.

It's not unlike my appreciate for quality consumables, craft beer, bourbon, even back in the day when I was a bit of a cigar aficionado :D

I totally enjoy an enthusiast sharing, while not getting involved myself (the fact I've been able to avoid vinyl actually shocks __me__).

The craftsmanship, aesthetics and artistry of these pens are one thing, but, to me, the real pleasure of the Mont Blanc Meisterstuck line (mine are mostly 144s and 145s) is to be found in the sheer perfection of the ergonomics: These pens are not just a pleasure to hold, but feel as though they are an extension of your wrist when writing, for they glide, effortlessly, across the page, and your wrist doesn't tire as you write.
 
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bunnspecial

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Thanks both of you.

The attraction is hard for me to describe.

I enjoy writing with them, although I'm not exactly someone who needs or is required to do a ton of writing. Plus, my writing isn't exactly something to show off. Still, though, there's something addicting about the effortless movement of a nib across the paper leaving a glistening puddle of ink behind it.

With that said, getting that also involves using good paper, and there's a lot of bad(as in not good for fountain pens) paper out there even in relatively "expensive" paper. Good fountain pen paper tends to be smooth and not very absorbent(smooth isn't absolute-25% cotton rag is great with FPs as it's not absorbent). Unfortunately, most bulk office paper, especially recycled paper, these days fails on this, especially inkjet friendly paper. Paper that's too absorbent can feather(the lines are wider and not as defined as what the nib lays down) and can also show through or worse bleed through. Good FP paper in the US can be hard to find and expensive at least for known entities. Occasionally someone will hit on a cheap option, but there's no guarantee it will stay that way. Staple's sugarcane paper use to be great, but it's not anymore. Right now, paper made in Vietnam is mostly good, but it can make you look crazy if you spend your time looking at the country of origin on notebooks and such. About the only "guaranteed" options in office supply stores in the US are Black'n Red notebooks, but they can be pricey. I tend to use Rhodia 80gsm dot grid notebooks for a lot of stuff, but they are on the expensive side in the US($8-10 for an 80 page A4 size book). For loose paper, I use Clairefontaine 90gsm writing tablets and Tomoe River 52gsm, but that's it.

And yes, there's a lot of engineering marvel that goes into them along with craftsmanship. I enjoy different filling systems. My most used pens are piston fillers, but there are some interesting vintage ones(like the Sheaffer Snorkel and the Parker 61 Capillary to name a couple) plus vintage and modern vacuum fillers.

Montblanc at least still hand-grinds and sets their nibs. Some others are mass produced, but that in and of itself is an impressive feat.

There's the fun too of different nibs, from skinny Japanese EFs on up to big BBB or music nibs. I love oblique nibs, which tend to be stub nibs(wider across than front-to-back for line variation) and more importantly are ground with the tip at a 15º angle. I find them comfortable to write with, plus they give some interesting line variation. What's really fun are when you get flexible obliques-the OB on my 1950s MB 144 is a bit flexible, and the OBB on my 1930s Pelikan 100 has a fair bit of at least "springiness."

The chemist in me loves ink also and all of what goes into making them. Even the simplest blue inks with a single dye still have some interesting "other stuff" going on in them, much less the more complicated or ingenious colors.
 

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When I'm forced to scrawl something on paper, it's often a document (of some legal nature), so my cheap go to is a Uniball Gel 0.7 207 with "archival" ink :D
 
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bunnspecial

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Here's another one that I picked up not too long ago. It's a bit at the opposite end of the spectrum from a Montblanc, but is a pen with a great story.

This is a Ranga "Giant" 9B(and it's the biggest pen I have). Ranga is a father-son operation in India that makes pens to order virtually by hand. They have a range of models, but within those allow for a lot of customization and don't make your pen until you place the order.

Their tooling is fairly low tech. AFAIK, they don't even have a lathe, but rather turn pens on an electric drill. Lengths are measured with their thumbs(so dimensions they give on their website are nominal) and all the operations like thread cutting are completely by hand. None the less, the execution is PERFECT and the seam between the cap and body on this one is so tight as to be nearly invisible.

They make pens of two materials-acrylic(same thing as Montblanc, Pelikan, and most other companies use, even if it's called different things and maybe has some other "special sauce") and ebonite, or hard rubber. The latter products are especially prized since Ebonite is a natural(ish) material, is not often used for pens anymore(it went out of fashion for the major makers in the 1920s when Celluloid came on the scene as it's heavy and brittle) but has a wonderful feel in-hand.

This is what they call a 3-in-1 filling pen since takes international cartridges, the included converter, or can be used as an "eyedropper" where the ink is simply placed directly in the barrel. Eyedroppers have an issue with "burping"(sudden big drops of ink spitting out) from your hand causing air to expand, but ebonite is a somewhat better material because it insulates the ink better. I've converted several cheap pens to eyedroppers, but they often require fitting O-rings and slathering grease on the threads to seal them. The(remember, hand cut) threads on Ranga pens are tight enough to seal on their own.

I opted for the "Ranga Flex" nib, an EF nib that will flex out to roughly a BB width. It's essentially the same nib fitted to the Noodler's Ahab pens(also made in India) but gold plated and with some additional metal removed to reduce the pressure required to flex. Their pens are designed around #6 sized nib units, which means that they can be fitted from the factory(or swapped later) with German Jowo or Bock nibs, including 18K Bock nibs should one so desire.

This pen really is a work of art. As a special treat, the presentation/shipping box was wrapped in fabric that was sewn up.

Fountain pens remain very popular in India, and has both a combination of a lot of old-world hand skills and high tech manufacturing. Consequently, there are a lot of really great both pens and inks that are made in India, although it can take some effort to find them in the US. Ranga sells directly to international customers. This was my first Ranga pen, but won't be my last.
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bunnspecial

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Hopefully I can post an update to this one tomorrow, but...

The 149 in my first post has an issue that I didn't realize until I'd inked it up and written with it. It has a crack in the barrel running from the ink window, through the cap threads, and into the section.

This isn't a structural crack, but is enough to wick ink out through it and make a mess on your hands and in the cap-in other words making the pen more or less unuseable.

I'm not sure where it came from, but apparently these sort of cracks are common on the early resin 14x pens. All of my 14x series pens are either celluloid or late 1970s on later. My only 60s resin pens are the two digit models, which are quite different from the 3-digit series pens.

In any case, I had a couple of options.

The easiest, and ironically least expensive, is to send it to Montblanc. It should be covered under a Level 1 service, which is $80. There's a double edged sword to that, though. Even though the 149 has been in production since 1952 and the resin version since the late 1950s, it has changed a lot since then. In that time, the piston design has changed 3 or 4 times, the feed is on about its 5th revision, and the barrel has had several revisions including moving from what's called a "1 piece" to a "2 piece." What would happen if I sent it in is essentially they'd take a new 149 body and transfer the nib and clip from this pen to it. On one hand, it's appealing to get a new pen fitted with a vintage nib(something that people occasionally pay big money to have done), but I'd lose a lot of the charm like the ebonite feed. Also, even among 1 piece barrels, the 60s models have a somewhat different design with a thinner "trumpet" as it's sometimes called at the end of the section.

There are specialists in repairing MB plastics, but most of them have year long waiting lists and are pricey. This is a good pen, but not really good enough to spend the money on that. There are several guys who do great celluloid work, but MB resin(which is acrylic with some other magic stuff) is a lot tougher to work on.

So, I figured I had nothing to lose by trying to repair the crack myself. Since, again, it's not structural, I figured I had a good chance of succeeding. I researched a few options and what came to the top was something called "Capt. Tolly's Creeping Crack Cure". I found several references to using it on pens, along with comments on it being difficult to find, but Amazon to the rescue


It arrived this afternoon(thank you Prime), so I set to work. I'd removed the nib unit yesterday and had been soaking(and sonicating) the barrel in ammonia to remove any hiding ink residue in the crack, then had let it dry since this morning.

Capt. Tolley's, as best as I can tell, seems to be a PVA-type glue(or at least that's what it smells like) in mineral spirits. It's water-thin, and when you apply it to a crack it finds its way in by capillary action.

Per the instructions, I've been applying and then wiping the excess off every half hour all evening. Initially, on application, the crack would light up bright white as it was drawn into the crack. More recent applications have been less apparently(in fact I've needed to look carefully to even see the crack) so I think it's working.

I'm going to let it set up overnight and try tomorrow to see if I sealed it. I have high hopes of this working.

If not, it's probably going to be a Montblanc rebuild.
 

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Thanks both of you.

The attraction is hard for me to describe.

I enjoy writing with them, although I'm not exactly someone who needs or is required to do a ton of writing. Plus, my writing isn't exactly something to show off. Still, though, there's something addicting about the effortless movement of a nib across the paper leaving a glistening puddle of ink behind it.

With that said, getting that also involves using good paper, and there's a lot of bad(as in not good for fountain pens) paper out there even in relatively "expensive" paper. Good fountain pen paper tends to be smooth and not very absorbent(smooth isn't absolute-25% cotton rag is great with FPs as it's not absorbent). Unfortunately, most bulk office paper, especially recycled paper, these days fails on this, especially inkjet friendly paper. Paper that's too absorbent can feather(the lines are wider and not as defined as what the nib lays down) and can also show through or worse bleed through. Good FP paper in the US can be hard to find and expensive at least for known entities. Occasionally someone will hit on a cheap option, but there's no guarantee it will stay that way. Staple's sugarcane paper use to be great, but it's not anymore. Right now, paper made in Vietnam is mostly good, but it can make you look crazy if you spend your time looking at the country of origin on notebooks and such. About the only "guaranteed" options in office supply stores in the US are Black'n Red notebooks, but they can be pricey. I tend to use Rhodia 80gsm dot grid notebooks for a lot of stuff, but they are on the expensive side in the US($8-10 for an 80 page A4 size book). For loose paper, I use Clairefontaine 90gsm writing tablets and Tomoe River 52gsm, but that's it.

And yes, there's a lot of engineering marvel that goes into them along with craftsmanship. I enjoy different filling systems. My most used pens are piston fillers, but there are some interesting vintage ones(like the Sheaffer Snorkel and the Parker 61 Capillary to name a couple) plus vintage and modern vacuum fillers.

Montblanc at least still hand-grinds and sets their nibs. Some others are mass produced, but that in and of itself is an impressive feat.

There's the fun too of different nibs, from skinny Japanese EFs on up to big BBB or music nibs. I love oblique nibs, which tend to be stub nibs(wider across than front-to-back for line variation) and more importantly are ground with the tip at a 15º angle. I find them comfortable to write with, plus they give some interesting line variation. What's really fun are when you get flexible obliques-the OB on my 1950s MB 144 is a bit flexible, and the OBB on my 1930s Pelikan 100 has a fair bit of at least "springiness."

The chemist in me loves ink also and all of what goes into making them. Even the simplest blue inks with a single dye still have some interesting "other stuff" going on in them, much less the more complicated or ingenious colors.
Agree completely re the importance of using very good quality paper when writing with a fountain pen, and how much modern paper is both awful and useless when one attempts to write on it with a fountain pen.

In my experience, German and Japanese quality brands offer some of the best quality paper one can lay hands on.

I note that you have mentioned Tamoe River which was highly recommended to me some years ago by a fellow pen (and music) enthusiast on MR.

For writing, I tend to use (German made) Leuchtturm1917 notebooks, (A5 size), in fact, for the past four years, I have used little else, - they produce excellent quality paper - and I have also used Rhodia in the past, as I find it to be extremely good.

Another brand that I have found excellent (for use when writing with fountain pens) is the paper made by the US company Colonel Littleton for the leather note-books they produce (they craft leather goods, including lovely briefcases).
 
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bunnspecial

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Another one I've been enjoying lately. This is a Pelikan 400NN from the 1950s fitted with a 14K BB nib. Like most German nibs of this vintage, it is actually surprisingly flexible. German B and larger nibs tend to have a stub grind, and a flexible stub adds a whole new dimension to using it. This one flexes without a lot of effort-it's not quite "wet noodle" but is definitely not a pen for someone who's never before touched a fountain pen.

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In my experience, German and Japanese quality brands offer some of the best quality paper one can lay hands on.

I note that you have mentioned Tamoe River which was highly recommended to me some years ago by a fellow pen (and music) enthusiast on MR.

For writing, I tend to use (German made) Leuchtturm1917 notebooks, (A5 size), in fact, for the past four years, I have used little else, - they produce excellent quality paper - and I have also used Rhodia in the past, as I find it to be extremely good.

I've used Tomoe River and Midori from Japan both, and they are both great papers.

Tomoe River seems to mostly be found in loose sheets, and in fact the only notebooks I personally know of(not that there aren't others out there) are ones that Goulet Pens in the US has made.

It's a very interesting paper, though, It's EXTREMELY thin and lightweight-it apparently has been used as Bible paper in some applications, and that's certainly what it feels like. It is extremely slick and ink pools on it like no other paper I've ever used, so it will tend to bring out sheen in inks more so than a lot of other papers.

I've never used Leuchtturm1917, but I know it's highly regarded.

To your list of countries of origin, I'd add France. Specifically, that's where Clairefontaine is made, and also Rhodia is owned by Clairefontaine and made in the same factory. A while back, I picked up a handful of casebound Clairefontaine school notebooks with "French ruled" paper. I have not used any of them other than a quick test of the paper, partially because it's just too many lines!, but they were relatively inexpensive especially for the size and quality of the paper. I imagine that if one were in France, they could probably find these notebooks easily and inexpensively, although "inexpensive" in the US for a quality notebook is typically $8-15 these days.

The Black'n Red notebooks I like use Oxford Optik paper that I think is made in the UK.
 

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At my wedding, my Groomsman gifts were MB pens. Not the fountain version, but the rollerball. One guy still carries his every day.

This meets with my complete and wholehearted approval.

An excellent idea, and a superb (and well thought through) gift.
 

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This meets with my complete and wholehearted approval.

An excellent idea, and a superb (and well thought through) gift.
But not cheap. Especially in early 1990's $. I got them from a friend who worked at a high end jewelry store at a little over cost. Still not cheap. LOL
 

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But not cheap. Especially in early 1990's $. I got them from a friend who worked at a high end jewelry store at a little over cost. Still not cheap. LOL

No, not cheap, agreed.

But, as my dear old (late) mother used to say - approvingly quoting her mother, in turn, - "buying dear is buying cheap in the long run."

And also very much the sort of gift that is likely to be cherished, (and used) for life.
 
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bunnspecial

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I opted for Case knives as groomsmens gifts at my wedding last fall, but I sort of wish I'd gone with Montblancs also.

At the same time, though, it was a "know your crowd" decision, and I knew that all of them were guys who would appreciate a fine knife more so than a pen.

Plus, the only non-FP Montblanc I have is a mechanical pencil that came paired with my 142. The pencil is a work of art and it's the pencil I use when I need one(just wish I could find an eraser). I keep thinking I should get a 146 BP or RB, but I just can't do it.

Speaking of 146s, though, that reminds me that I need to photograph and talk about my most recently acquired one for this thread...
 
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bunnspecial

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The never ending collector in me has fallen down a trap of collecting ink, both current production and vintage/discontinued ink. This is deserving of a post on its own, and I will plan on writing it up sometime today.

I have heard another FP collector opine that we are now living in "The Golden Age of Ink" and it's hard to disagree. Goulet Pens, one large US retailer, catalogs over 800 inks, and they don't carry Montblanc, Sheaffer, Parker, Waterman, and a few other "staple" brands. Montblanc has gone nuts on limited edition inks, and there are well over a dozen boutique brands that primarily or only make ink. Many of the boutique brands specialize in properties like high saturation(their original niche), sheening(ink looking "shiny" on paper, which often comes from high saturation and ink quite literally crystalizing out on the paper as it dries), shimmering(from the use of particulates-not a path I've gone down), shading(where stroke speed variations leave differing amounts of ink that translate to saturation or even color shifts) and extreme permanence. Sometimes you get several of those properties in one.
 

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I appreciate them, but I've never been into fountain pens for two main reasons:
  1. I have been reliably informed that my writing looks like a spider fell into an ink well and then ran across the page. This is an opinion that I cannot disagree with
  2. I find it difficult to not smudge the line above due to the way I hold my pen

I do have an MB rollerball - got that as a gift from a consulting company I used to work at due to being awesome. I would have preferred a bigger bonus, but hey ho. I use it occasionally, but I prefer this fairly bog standard Leuchturm1917 for the occasional notes that I take. You also look like less of a plonker at a client site.

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Oddly enough, my (almost completely illegible at the time) handwriting was the main reason I started writing with fountain pens a year or so before my final school (secondary school/high school) state exams, which were used for university entrance; the other reason was that my father loved writing with them, and he encouraged me to do so.

Anyway, I do recall a teacher patiently explaining to me that it was little use writing terrific papers, or the most brilliant history paper in the world, if nobody could read them. That stung. Somewhere along the line, fountain pens were suggested and, ever since, I have rarely written with anything else, and had been writing with fountain pens (my father had recommended Cross and Papermate pens and gave me some of his) for around a year or so before my final school state exams, so that I was well used to writing with them by the time I sat the exams.

Paradoxically, my hand-writing improved dramatically, and is now surprisingly legible.
 
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bunnspecial

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Oddly enough, my (almost illegible at the time) handwriting was the main reason I started writing with fountain pens a year or so before my final school (secondary school/high school) state exams, which were used for university entrance; the other reason was that my father loved writing with them, and he encouraged me to do so.

Anyway, I do recall a teacher patiently explaining to me that it was little use writing terrific papers, if nobody could read them. That stung. Somewhere along the line, fountain pens were suggested and, ever since, I have rarely written with anything else, and had been writing with fountain pens (my father had recommended Cross and Papermate pens and gave me some of his) for around a year or so before my final school state exams, so that I was well used to writing with them by the time I sat the exams.

Paradoxically, my hand-writing improved dramatically, and is now surprisingly legible.

My writing isn't exactly the greatest, but taking up this hobby has made me WANT to make a conscious effort to improve it. In the past 10 years, I feel like I've made some strides, but one of my COVID-era goals was to really work on things. Funny enough how back in elementary school, I frustrated my teachers to no end with how awful things were.

One of the things I've actually taken some serious effort in, with mixed results, is Spencerian Script. Spencerian is distinctly American. Essentially, the guy who developed it looked at Copperplate and English Roundhand as an inspiration, but distilled those down into a script that was still elegant but also simple to learn and fast to write. From roughly the 1850s to the time typewriters became common, it was the defacto standard for business correspondence in the US, and still remained for hand-written purposes.

In elementary school, I was taught something called D'Nealian writing(even though I didn't know that until I actually took an interest in researching it). It was an "improvement" on the Zaner-Bloser script, which in turn was meant to make the Palmer script(a simplified type of Spencerian) easier to learn. I was never very good at it, and reverted to the hybrid print with some script-inspired connectors that sort of became "my writing" in middle school. Funny enough, the way I write was accepted by the teachers who insisted on cursive even though I never thought it was, and I just thought it was a mess that worked well enough for me :)

In any case, I bought and started working through the "theory" and "copy" books that Spencer published for his courses. Basically, it appealed to me because it's still a relatively simple script that's based on joining together about 7 different strokes so is simple to learn, but is quite a bit more elegant than what I learned as a kid. It's pretty strict on things like letter spacing and the big one, a 52º slant, but is still simple. I'm still working on it, on and off, and what I can produce is clumsy enough that I'm embarrased to show it. It was actually designed to be written with a flexible steel-nibbed dip pen. Nibs designed for Spencerian like the Gilliott 303 have been continuously produced. As designed, it's really meant to have most of the strokes be fine and spidery with some-or a lot of- "shading"(flex) applied on downstrokes. The most flexible fountain pen nib(like some early Watermans) isn't as flexible as one of these steel dip nibs, but a flexible nibbed fountain pen can still lend itself well to writing with it.

Of course my more recent leaning toward stubby broads and obliques is a bit contrary to all of this, but I like what I can do on my feeble, chunky attempts with something like a stiff Montblanc OB nib(and my vintage 144 with a fairly flexible OB is really fun).
 
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bunnspecial

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As much as I like my Montblancs, every time I pick this up and ink it, I can't help but think it's one of the finest modern pens in production.

Parker has fallen fall from their days as-quite literally-both the most innovative and best maker in the world-but they still turn out some high quality stuff. As best as I can tell, the Duofold is the oldest pen model name still in use, as the original Duofold was introduced as a large red hard rubber pen(both unusual for the time) nicknamed the "Big Red" in 1921. It became a lower tier pen in the US in the 1930s as the Vacumatic took over, and soldiered on in the UK with a very different appearance on into the 1950s. Parker reintroduced it as their premium product in the late 1980s, and it remains. The current Duofold Centennial is about the size of an MB146 or Pelikan M800(the International is smaller).

In any case, this is a fairly new production Duofold Centennial "Big Red." Parker makes a big deal about the amount of hand-finishing that goes into these pens. Whether it's as much as something like a 149, I don't know, but I could believe them getting even more individual attention given the relative sales/production of the Duofold vs. 149.

Whatever the case, this is one of my favorite pens.

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