Last May I was chatting with my fellow fountain pen lovers Chito and John, and complained to them that the pen I had been given for my college graduation, a Montblanc Meisterstuck, had developed flow issues. The thought of sending it to an authorized service center was frightening, as I had no idea how much flow adjustments would cost. I’ve had this pen since 1990 and I definitely would not be able to afford this pen at present day prices. I’ve been careful with it and still have the box and papers. I couldn’t understand why such a pen would NOT perform the way it’s supposed to.
Chito and John mentioned checking the space between the tines, and the space between the nib and the feed. We discussed flossing the tines and soaking in an ammonia solution, what we normally do with our other pens. The discussion got really geeky, which I enjoyed a lot. I decided to do more research last weekend, and embarked on the safest course of home-based action.
(Along the way I discovered that what I thought all the while was a Montblanc 145 Hommage a Frederic Chopin was actually a 144 Classique. (See pictures of MB models throughout the years on the very informative German site Fountainpen.de). My papers and box (including the original price tag) did not indicate the model name. It has a push-in converter and also fits international standard cartridges. I selected it from the Duty Free MB Boutique because it seemed the right size for my hand.)
This pen was supposed to write a wettish Fine line. I cleaned it the usual way (repeated flushings with cold water using the converter) and filled it with Waterman Black, supposedly one of the “wetter-flowing” inks available. What came out was a grey line, with lots of shading. Ok, I thought, I know 14k MB nibs are supposed to be hand-ground so there will be variations in line, but getting grey instead of something darker made me very unhappy. I remember it writing much darker and wetter before. As I kept writing in my journal I noticed the writing getting alarmingly more and more dry, with some skipping. At a certain point I got really angry about why a much-hyped brand would perform so poorly, after previously writing so well.
If you could read the rant above, it’s true I have some modestly priced vintage pens that write better than the MB 144. Heck, I even have a Hello-Kittyish Japanese plastic pen that writes better than the MB. That’s downright embarrassing.
More testing: (Definitely not black ink, that.)
It took me two whole days to figure out what to do, being in a mild panic. I flushed out the weak Waterman Black. I replaced it with Pelikan Black. It wrote much darker, but was still drying out and skipping. After sleeping on it, I flushed it again the following morning, and filled it with some Pelikan Black which I had in a sample bottle, mixed with a few drops of dishwashing liquid – a solution for lubrication, suggested in the Fountain Pen Network forums. I then twisted the converter counter-clockwise to let about 3 drops fall back into the bottle, which allowed the enhanced ink to run along the feed (a flat feed with vertical fins, similar to a Pilot 78G). Then I tested it on my journal. SUCCESS!!!
When I was in college all I used was a Pilot 55 with a cracked cap, bound with black electric tape. Pretty pathetic looking, but it wrote so well. I love my dad for giving me this MB 144, when I barely knew what I know now about using and maintaining fountain pens. I can’t believe I’ve kept it safe for 20 years now. I’m glad I did.
[Edit: In September I sent the pen to nibmeister Mike Masuyama of Mikeitwork.com via my friend Caloy. Mike adjusted the flow by widening the feed channel. I’m so glad I sent it in for professional servicing – it’s so good to be able to use my graduation gift more often!]
(The journal pictured above is a red Scribe pocket-size journal with unlined off-white paper. The Waterman and Pelikan inks, if used with a fine nib, do not feather or show through the paper. Other inks and nib sizes may feather or bleed. Scribe notebooks are available at all Powerbooks outlets and at Scribe Writing Essentials at the Eastwood City Mall.)