Montblanc, along with Parker and Waterman, seems to be one of those fountain pen brands that even non-enthusiasts seem to know. Their pens can sometimes be quite gaudy, although their Meisterstück line has a certain classic feel to them. The Meisterstück 149 is the largest and most expensive pen in their non-limited edition model lineup. Does it stand up to the price it takes to own
The pens I will be reviewing today were purchased from a local seller and were manufactured in the 1980s. The pens are near identical except for the nibs.
Place of manufacture: Germany
Price: $935 (retail), $650-800 (street)
The Montblanc 149 has been produced since the late 1940s. Since the beginning, it has featured the classic cigar shape, a piston filler, and a big number 9 nib.
The barrel was initially made of celluloid, although, they later switched to a material they call “precious resin”, essentially a hard, secretly formulated plastic. The material does not scratch easily, although the scratches that do exist are quite obvious in contrast to the high polish surface.
The barrel is made from a single piece. Later varieties are made from two pieces. There is an ink window near the grip section. It is slightly tinted, with vertical stripes. The threads for the cap are cut at the height of the barrel.
In contrast to the black body, there is plenty of gold trim. On the cap, there is a band with the words “…”. The engraving (or perhaps stamping) The clip has the place of manufacture “GERMANY” stamped in it. On later models, a serial number was also added. The number can be helpful in dating a pen.
The nib material has also changed over the years, switching from 18 karat to 14 karat and then back to 18 karat gold, with different styles of plating over the years, ranging from dual tone to triple tone.
The feed is made from ebonite. Fins are cut on both sides, with a solid spine down the middle. This is the “split feed” variety . Later feeds were made from plastic.
The two stage piston was originally made of brass (the threads) and plastic, although in recent years, the entire assembly is now from plastic. The first few turns of the knob does not move the piston. This is to prevent one from accidentally discharging ink. Following the first few turns, the piston begins to go down. The reservoir has a very large capacity of 2ml.
A very nice timeline was created by “DKbRS” on The Fountain Pen Network. The thread can be found here. I used the guide to help me date my pens.
Fit and Finish
As with most Montblancs, the fit and finish of the pen is mostly near perfect. The nibs are hand-finished and it shows. The tines are not perfectly centered (although as I’ll mention later, this does not affect functionality in the least). The engravings are also nicely done, although they are not perfectly symmetrical.
The piston is very smooth. The tension twisting the knob is very smooth at every stage. When the knob is in its closed position, there is no gap between the knob and the body. When the piston is fully extended, there is a bit of give, which immediately springs back when you let go. I assume this is a indicator that the piston is fully extended and to help prevent accidentally snapping the piston.
The cap fits very well on the body. The threads fit very tightly, with no movement between the cap and body when closed. The engraving on the gold band around the cap is done very nicely and is consistent between pens.
Filling the pen is very easy with the piston filler. A plunge or two fills most, if not all of the reservoir. Flushing out ink, however, can be quite time-consuming. The large feed accommodating the large nib has the unfortunate ability of retaining ink remnants. Soaking the entire pen in water seems to help with the process, though.
The pen is a joy to write with. With such a large pen, the grip section is very comfortable and is at a nice balance point for the pen when un-posted. Due to its large size, the pen is probably best used un-posted. That being said, one probably wouldn’t want to risk scratching the pen by posting the pen anyways. There are some posting marks on the barrel of one of the pens. Not very deep, but noticeable to a careful eye.
The nib is surprisingly flexible and the pen is able to produce a multitude of line variations. The feed keeps up no matter how wide the tines are spread.
Flexing the nib does require more force than vintage pens. Although the pen is pre-owned, I don’t believe the pen was used much. Even so, the nib is tuned to be very smooth from the factory.
The clip is springy and holds a pen firm in a shirt pocket. It does not stretch much, though, and would not comfortably clip into a jean pocket without permanently bending out of shape.
The pen retails for $935, making it the most expensive pen from Montblanc’s regular lineup. That being said, I would have a hard time justifying buying the pen retail. Luckily, the pen is commonly found, new, from different retailers for a few hundred lower. Pre-owned, the pen can be found for $3-500, depending on the year that it is manufactured and the condition.
For me, the bottom line is that the pen is a manufactured, plastic-bodied pen. While there is some value in the nib, which is made in house, and the fact that it is hand-tuned, one could get a similar feeling from a pen made by on of Japan’s big three for much less.
All this being said, the Montblanc 149 is a very nice pen, with a very ugly price tag. Sure, it is big, gorgeous, and carries the allure of a brand like Montblanc. However, I would expect so much more from a pen at the price range. Therefore, these pens will soon no longer be in possession.
Midori is very famous for their Traveler’s Notebooks and their brass products. While they have produced pencils in the past, for their brass pencil extenders, the Midori MD pencil is their first full size pencil. The MD line (which I believe stands for Midori Diary) is known for its simplistic design and light colors. Does Midori pull through with their first full-length woodcased pencil?
Place of Manufacture: Japan
The pencils come in a pack of six within a slim plastic package. There is a small label in the packaging, similar to those included with other Midori MD products. As always, there is nothing gaudy about the packaging.
The writing on the label is playful and is meant to mimic handwriting. Luckily, it is not hard to read. The back of the label only has a barcode and some recycling information.
The pencil itself is very simplistic. The barrel is hexagonal and is a light cream color. The paint is matte and does not reflect any light. While it is smooth, you can definitely “feel” the pencil between your fingers. There is no ferrule.
There is black lettering on one side of the pencil with the words “Midori MD” as well as “B” to indicate the hardness. There is no other writing or imprinting on the pencil.
Fit and Finish
The pencils feel solidly made, although the paint is not the best. It appears as though the paint rubs off easily, as seen in the above pictures.
The lettering is pretty good, although not that sharp on the edges. This might have been done on purpose as part of the font, but it looks a bit sloppy.
The two halves of the barrel are matched well and the core is well centered. However, the paint around the edges came chipped. It is not apparent whether this happened during manufacturing or during packing.
Sharpening the pencil in my Carl Angel-5 was very smooth and easy. As expected, the pencil left some bite marks in the barrel. It did not expose bare wood, but, instead, the marks were paint filled.
The point was moderately long and well rounded. The barrel did not split upon sharpening. There was no excess shavings hanging on after sharpening.
The core is a tad harder than most Japanese pencils of hardness “B”, writing closer to a Mitsubishi Hi-Uni “HB”. The writing experience was “all right” at best. It is better than your run-of-the-mill dollar store pencil, but, at least for me, the amount of feedback the core was giving me was somewhat unpleasant.
However, a few days later, I was curious enough to pick it back up and give it another go. During my second attempt at using it, I found it to be better than I first thought, and definitely usable, although it will not be winning any awards in my book.
I will note that my opinion on the tactile feedback that the pencil gives is just my take on it. I am sure some will appreciate it.
That being said, though, I do like how dark of a line the pencil puts down. Furthermore, it erases easily and point retention is pretty good.
I am a bit disappointed by these pencils. The quality was not as good as I was expecting and the writing experience was not not up to par in comparison to Midori’s paper offerings (in my opinion). Aesthetically, once you get over the dirtied surfaces, the pencil is elegantly simple and is comparable to the Mitsubishi White Pencil in looks.
I probably won’t be picking any more of these up in the future. I’m still on edge about whether I’ll keep the ones that I have. To each their own, though.
Mitsubishi must be one of my favorite pencil manufacturers. I first saw the Kakikata pencil on Bobby Truby’s website Brand Name Pencils, where he has a blue one for sale. My heart was drawn to the red one, though, which has been on my search list for quite a while. Luckily, Enpitsu Philia of 鉛筆五四三 was able to help me out. Many, many thanks her!
Kakikata (書き方) means “How to write” in Japanese (I believe, although please correct me if I am wrong). The pencil is made just for that.
The round barrel makes it very easy to hold. The barrel is painted very bright colors. I have an example in red and orange, though I am aware of sky blue being another option. The colors seem fitting for a pencil meant for schoolchildren.
The lettering is silver foil on the front. On the back, there is a combination of gold foil and white paint. It looks like the foil was applied well, although the age of the pencil is visible through the wear the foil has suffered from.
There is a small space on the pencil for the owner to write their name. There are two other spots on top. I don’t know Japanese, so I am not sure what they are for. If you’re able to figure it out, please drop a comment or send me an email!
The pencil itself is made very well. The lead core is well centered, with the two halves of the wood matching in both grain and color. The halves are joined well and there is no gap between the pieces.
The paint is chipping at the edges, though I suspect this to be a result of its age rather than a manufacturing issue.
Unless I’m magically able to accumulate many, many of these pencils, I probably will never sharpen one. Honestly, I’m very satisfied with my Hi-Unis and 9800s and don’t feel a need to put another pencil into my rotation.
Some other info:
If you’re interested in other Kakikata pencils, Mitsubishi still produces a version, item number 4653. Pencil Talk did a short write up on these pencils here. There is also the Mitsubishi NanoDia, which, while not having the Kakikata label, is labeled as “for kids”. Pencil Talk also did a review of them here.
Sticking with Japanese manufacturers, Tombow has their ippo! pencil, which is categorized on their website under Kakikata. Here is a link to a random review I found on the internet: link. Gunther, from Lexikaliker, also mentions this Tombow Blue pencil that is marketed to kids. I can’t read German, but if you can or if you’d like to look at pretty pictures, here is a link.
Lastly, Staedtler also produced their own Kakikata pencil released ca. December 2016. I am working on getting my hands a box of each set, but in the mean time, please check out Bleistift’s post here.
Sometimes, I’m just drawn to certain things. For some reason, white pencils have always been one. I saw this Mitsubishi Uni HB on Bobby Truby’s Brand Name Pencils. I was adding a bunch of pencils to my cart, but later on forgot about it until I contacted him about a trade, in which this Franco-Japanese pencil was included!
Getting the pencil in person, I found an odd beauty to it. Like many of Mitsubishi’s higher end pencils, foil was used on the lettering. The gold foiling can be seen on other pencils, such as the Hi-Uni (my personal favorite), but the hardness was embossed using a purple/magenta foil. Might sound like an odd combination, but I sure wish they made other pencils with this purple foil on white lacquer combination.
On the reverse of the pencil, there is a set of three sentences in French: “Je tu veux te donner un coup de point. Je t’aime. veux t’embrasser.”
Pardon my French, for it is rusty (non-existent), but using Google Translate, I came up with the translation of: “I want to give you a punch. I love you. I want to kiss you.”
Translated, it sends some mixed signals, but perhaps it’s trying to be romantic? I could come up with some theories, but it would all just be conjecture.
I’m not one for clutter, but this is another one of those pencils that won’t get sharpened or used. Maybe it’ll be a gift for a special lady friend, or maybe I’ll just like it so much and keep it. I think I need more.
If you’d like to buy one, I believe Bobby Truby still has some over here (I didn’t get paid for this link). Try not to buy them out, though. I still need to stock some up for the future.
The Chris Reeve Giraffe Bone Mnandi is what I would consider to be my grail knife. It isn’t too big, nor is it too small. It has some of the highest tolerances and best craftsmanship one can find in any production knife.
This will not be a review. I do not plan on using this knife and will only carry it on certain occasions. For the most part, it will be relegated to fondling at home and a special spot on my shelf.
Date of Manufacture: October 22, 2003
Blade Material: CPM S30V at 58-59 RC
Blade Length: 2.75″
Handle Material: 6Al4V Titanium
Overall Length: 6.375″
Packaging and Paperwork
Luckily for me, the knife came with all of its original packaging and documentation.
The box is interesting, as it is the older rectangular style. Since the knife was made in 2003, it only has the stickers for winning the 2000, 2001, and 2003 Manufacturing Quality Award.
The right end of the box has stickers labeling the contents.
Inside, there is a small sheet containing information about this specific limited edition.
There is also the original birth card, which is often lost over the years. It is completely handwritten, in comparison to newer cards, which only have handwritten dates and Chris Reeve’s signature.
There is an Allen wrench that comes with each knife. I believe they were all taped to the lid of the box, as shown. They are 5/64″, which fit the screws on the knife.
Additionally, there is a small calf skin pouch. The are still manufactured, although I have heard that there are quality and design differences between the old and new versions. It is quite interesting that this pouch is completely new, as it doesn’t show any sign of stretching at all.
Newer Mnandis come with a microfiber cloth and fluorinated grease. This one had neither.
The Mnandi features the Chris Reeve Integral Lock design. In essence, it is a one piece framelock. The slabs of giraffe bone are not scales or overlays, but are, in fact, inlaid into the titanium scales. The titanium is slightly milled to precisely fit the giraffe bone. They are attached using 3M VHB (Very High Bond) tape.
The Mnandi has 13 different parts different parts.
1. Front Scale
3. Back (lockbar side) Scale
5. Smaller (rear) washer
7. Larger (front) washer
9. Long screw
10. Body pin (product page)
11. Back spacer (product page)
12. Clip (product page)
13. Short screw (product page)
14. Allen wrench
I will be doing a write-up as well as a video tutorial on how to disassemble and lubricate a Mnandi. It will be linked here after it is complete.
Fit and Finish
Tolerances are great. There is no blade play (side-to-side, up/down, back/front) at all. The blade centering is perfect both closed and opened. The lockup is good at around 50%. The lockbar itself is still, although not overly so. I never worry about the knife closing on itself.
The hollow grind is symmetric and incredibly thin.
As I mentioned in the introduction, I do not plan on using this knife. Chris Reeve Knives does not offer re-blades for pre-2011 knives, preventing me from acquiring an extra blade to use. Furthermore, as Tim Reeve, son of Chris Reeve, pointed out, using the knife would eventually show wear on the handle, which would reduce collector’s value over time.
However, I still do find occasions to bring the knife out. The clip looks very innocent and fashionable when clipped on a shirt pocket. It is a nice accessory to have and an easy way to conceal a knife in situations where it something larger, like a Sebenza, might not be appropriate.
Precises of this piece have varied wildly through the years. The original MSRP was $400, which was a small premium over the a regular Mnandi. Prices did not appear to increase until recently, when fewer and fewer have been surfacing on the market.
October 2003: $400 on Knifeart (Link)
January 2006: Unknown on British Blades (Link)
June 2008: $445 on Bladeforums (Link)
May 2010: $325 on Bladeforums (Link)
December 2016: $1750 on Bladeforums (Link)
I’ve been chasing after this knife for quite a long time. Now, it’s finally in my hands.
Date of Manufacture: October 22, 2003
Blade Material: CPM S30V at 58-59 RC
Blade Length: 2.75″
Handle Material: 6Al4V Titanium
Overall Length: 6.375″
Some First Observations
The Chris Reeve Mnandi has always appealed to me due to the elegant curves the knife has. The handle has a slight arc in it which continues on through the blade. Now, holding the knife in person, I can attest to the aesthetics beauty of the knife. I seriously cannot get over the curves.
The build quality is exceptional. There is no blade wiggle of any type and the inlays are fitted perfectly. And that titanium milled clip is just a work of art.
I’ll do a full on review after I spend some more time with the knife. Until then, enjoy some preliminary photos of the knife.
A key tool in food preparation is a good spatula. They can be used to flip burgers on the grill or to make the perfect egg. Mike Draper gave his spatula high end treatment with the use of titanium. Coming in both standard and mini sizes, the shiny titanium is definitely a show stopper. However, is the titanium just a gimmick or is there value to its usage?
This product was provided by EatingTools for review.
Mike Draper has two sizes of spatulas available: A larger “standard” spatula and a mini spatula. The basic shape of the two are the same, but there are also some differences. The larger version has both an angled and a flat blade style.
Additionally, the larger version uses four screws instead of only three on the mini version. The butt of the handle has two different designs. One version is curved, matching the curves of the drilled holes. The other version has a slightly pointed end.
On both versions of the spatula, there are two main parts consisting of two pieces of titanium, a handle and a blade. The blade has a single bend in it, giving it rise up to the area that connects to the handle.
The handle also has a bend, which corresponds with the bend in the blade. There is a hole drilled at the end of the handle for a wrist thong or for hanging up.
Fit and Finish
When it comes to any handmade product, fit and finish is a defining feature of its quality.
The fit and finish on the spatula is great. The spatula has a brushed finish that resists scratches and wear well. However, it is a finger print magnet. Thankfully, a wipe with a cloth will remove the oils left from your hand.
One area that was a tad imperfect was the screws. I believe that the screws were longer and had to be cut down to size in order to be flush with the handle. Somewhere during the progress, it appears that an actual piece was trimmed off. The brushed finish, however, looks great on the screws.
To test the spatula, I put it to work making eggs every morning. Even with its small size, flipping eggs is a breeze on my cast iron. With all metal spatulas, I would not recommend using this on a non-stick pan.
The titanium is very flexible, though it retains its shape very well. This makes getting under eggs very easy. The handle, although un-insulated, does not get hot.
Food particles can easily get stuck on the surface, but a bit of scrubbing and elbow grease makes it look like new again.
With its small size, the spatula easily fits in a backpack for camping trips. I took it out into the woods with my cast iron for a nice cookout. I definitely recommend titanium tools and utensils after this experience. Between my American Kami Spork, TiStix, and Spatula, I was never worried that my tools were going to give out. The spatula, even with its thinness, did not suffer any deformation on the trek and returned just the way it left.
A spatula might seem like something you’d pick up at the dollar store, but the this titanium spatula really shows you how great a cooking tool can be. Its durability is second to known and its design really showcases craftsmanship at its best.