How To Build A $1,170 Pen for $31 (or almost indistinguishably close).

If you were around in the 80’s and 90’s, and in finance or corporate, the pen in your shirt pocket was the size of your <insert whatever you want here, it is up to you>. The guy with the biggest pen (come on, please don’t make me do parentheticals for the rest of the post, just nod and keep reading) was the guy with the Montblanc 149. It is a fountain pen. It is also a submarine.

Go ahead, click on that link I left you up top. This pen goes for $1, 170.00

I am facing a kid with college and grad school, and yes the site and show are doing well but still, for a pen nowadays?

I had one though, when my hair was slicked back. It was gorgeous. You pulled that out to make a note, or better yet sign a contract, and Bruthuh you were IN the conversation. This pen is giant. It is writing with a Little League bat. And I miss that.

I lost mine, probably in like ’96 or something, probably after being over served or over serving. Back then it was hard to tell the difference. But while I lost the pen, I have the memory. So when I got sick and turned to pens instead of meds, I wanted to recreate it. And I found out how, and you can do it too.

First, you need to know about the cheeky company Jinhao. They are not American, as you may surmise, and they released a pen, the Jinhao 159. That takes a wide nib to go 10 up on the Montblanc 149, but they did. They matched the specs. Same size, same weight. And listed on Goulet for $15.

Now, can you replicate Montblanc’s $1,170 for $15? Of course you cannot. You need to invest more.

So buy a nib. Buy this nib. It is $16.

You don’t know how to replace a nib? No problem. Go here.

I did that, I bought both, and for years, I have worked this pen into the ground and it will not yield. I built a replica of Montblanc’s classic for $31. Are there differences? Sure. Are there differences that you would notice? Almost probably not.

That’s the pen on a notebook a woman gave me today. That pen is 6 years old and has not skipped a line one time. It feels like the Montblanc, it writes like the Montblanc, it LOOKS like the Montblanc, it is $31.

The trick is the nib. Goulet is an insane find, a Pennsylvania family company which crafts the highest level writing instruments and Pennsylvania prices (sorry Penn). Their nib is amazing, every bit as good as Montblanc, all of the Montblanc effort and expertise, none of the pricing.

If you need more specifics holler and I will write another post. If you have been around fountain pens for a minute you are going to hate yourself for spending $$$. If you are new to fountain pens, then lean in. You will not be disappointed.

12 Comments on "How To Build A $1,170 Pen for $31 (or almost indistinguishably close)."

  1. Tim Irvine | March 30, 2024 at 8:49 pm |

    I had a Meisterstuck in that very era, and it had a wide nib. It was a thing of heft and beauty, but for me its writing was not nearly as good as a Pelikan Souveran or a Parker Sonnet. I traded it to a guy for painting my chimney and a tall end wall. On the subject of pens I am having fun drawing with three old Koh-i-Noor Rapidographs I got on eBay for $39. The Pelikan remains my pen for writing. The days of slicked hair, Hermes ties, Gucci loafers, suspenders, and pink shirts with white collars are a distant memory, along with putting together deals only the lawyers drafting them understood fully.

  2. As a woman with a small-ish hand, the Mont Blanc was never a good fit for me. Writing with a friend’s for anything longer and more complicated than my signature resulted in hand cramps. Even the $31 price isn’t enough of an inducement to make the purchase.

  3. Appreciate the recommendation and I enjoy the mechanics and stuff in principle but these are way too ostentatious for my liking, like wearing contrast collars and reading the Robb Report in public.

  4. E X C E L L E N T.

    Now, if only a Japanese manufacturer would replicate the old Southwick Superflex (Warwick model) for…retail $500-ish. That’d be good.

  5. I love the idea of MacGyvering a Montblanc 149 out of far less expensive components. The feel of writing with a fountain pen (on the right kind of paper) is unparalleled. That said, I’m almost never without my Fisher Space Pen. It doesn’t offer an amazing writing experience, but if I’m doing a crossword in bed, the ink keeps flowing, no matter the angle. (Hopefully I’ll never be faced with the need to write with it in space, under water, or whilst engulfed in flames, though it could certainly do the job under such circumstances.)
    …And what use is a nice pen without halfway decent penmanship? It’s all well and good to enjoy the satisfying feel of a fine writing implement gliding along the paper’s surface, but the feeling is even better when that pen glides freely, unencumbered by a cramping hand or the awkward chicken-scratch twitches that many of us muddle through. I’ve made a few deliberate changes to my handwriting over the years. Most recently, I took the time to practice my way through the Getty-Dubay method book, found here:
    Ms. Getty and Dubay are handwriting experts with ties to Reed College’s longstanding tradition of calligraphy (which famously influenced Steve Jobs’s design sensibilities, etc.). Their book is a pleasure to work through and learn from. And it’s certainly helped me enjoy writing by hand all the more. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

  6. John
    I have been using a Waterman from Paris for over 20 years with Serenity Blue ink from Waterman also a GREAT pen and it wasn’t $1,170.00. I also got what you said about the guys with the MontBlanc’s. I was on Wall St. in Investment Banking and I’d love to see when the Mont leaked all over their shirts. Since most of our shirts were pocketless they would wear the pens under their ties. Great when they would walk into a room with the ink all over the $400.00 shirt while holding the Mont in their hand.

  7. Keith Filbert | April 1, 2024 at 2:47 pm |

    Thanks For the Tip(s). I have been looking for a pen to use as I try to improve my penmanship; my handwriting has become sloppy and illegable in this age of digital taps and clicks.
    Keep up the good works.
    Kind regards

  8. Love writing! Love pens. Love MB. Love this idea! Thanks for sharing John!

  9. AtlantaPete | April 2, 2024 at 3:02 pm |

    Years ago after leaving one in the seat pocket on a Delta flight, I realized that Montblanc pens are not a smart purchase. I then moved to a Waterman pen with a fairly large barrel that cost about $100, but it did not have a screw on cap and after the cap came off in my pocket a couple of times, I abandoned Waterman. At the time I was looking for something that works, I believe in early 2023, John did a piece on the Jinhao 159 and I impulsively bought one. It is currently securely in my pocket with its screw on cap, another is in the drawer in case I lose one, and it is one of the all time great bargains. It really does mimic the Montblanc and I recommend it highly.

  10. Robin Crawford | April 10, 2024 at 4:52 pm |

    Often reader, never commenter: I have an Esterbrook perhaps J model in Blue Pearl, two old nib holders, and a box of “TEC Round Writing Pens” nibs from the Technical Supply Co. of Scranton, PA, that I took from my parents home and would like to pass on. No cost, am ready to have them out of the bedside table drawer. Hope this is a permissable comment for the site. Best.

  11. I have a modest collection of fountain pens, which include a Montblanc 144, some other vintage pieces and 9 Jinhaos, x450s, x159, 100s,51a, and 86. I must say that the Montblanc, at least mine, is overrated. My best writers are the JInhao 100s (2), and the 86, with a hooded nib.

    I NEVER carry a pen in any pocket. ALL fountain pens leak, just ask the King. I quit pocket carrying, when a Bic crystal leaked in my fatigue shirt pocket in 1972. Better to catty a mechanical pencil instead, and borrow a pen, when a pen is absolutely neccessary, or carry a pen in a briefcase.

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