Last year one of the UK jewellery chains had a huge discount on some Montblanc items. This included the Montblanc M which could be had for less than 50% of the current recommended retail price. You will understand how difficult it was to resist.
The Montblanc M was designed by Mark Newson and is quite unusual for Montblanc standards. Not everyone is keen on the looks of this pen, but I love it. If you were to classify fountain pens by appearance then the M would be much closer to the Lamy dialog 3 than to your average Montblanc. Its most exotic feature is the cap which is magnetically aligned and held in place.
Unlike many other Montblanc pens which come with a converter the M not only doesn’t come with one, there’s also none available that officially fits. I successfully used the Cross Verve adapter in the past, but my Cross adapter is now back in the Verve.
I am now using what I call a Lamy/Pelikan cartridge. Probably 20 to 25 years ago these no-name cartridges got popular in parts of Europe. You could always get no-name Pelikan/standard cartridges Pelikan has a big share of the market for school fountain pens., but with the popularity of the Lamy Safari being used in schools the ink cartridge manufacturers thought of putting a Pelikan compatible end on a Lamy compatible cartridge. Clever stuff and if you don’t mind refilling your cartridge with a syringe (I don’t mind) then it is just perfect for the Montblanc M’s body with the tapered end.
The only problem is that these cartridges don’t seem to be popular in either the UK, where I live or the USA, where nearly all the Bleistift Blog readers are based – as I wasn’t able to find these in online shops. I hope online shops in the UK and the USA will stock them in the future. In Germany, you can get them under the name “Universalpatrone” on eBay and Amazon for less than 10 cents per cartridge if you buy a bigger pack.
Today: a look at the Faber-Castell Grip 2011 mechanical pencil. Many years ago I bought a gel pen from the 2011 series. Unfortunately Faber-Castell stopped this gel pen and their gel refills, but there are good alternatives available.
Just like the 2001, the Faber-Castell wood-cased grip pencil, the 2011 has a triangular design with rubbery grip dots and I have read in the past that this series of triangular gip-dotted pens was a big success and saved Faber-Castell from many headaches.
Availability and price
I paid around £10 for my grass green version at PurePens. From what I can tell these are easily available in many European counties and I have seen them in high-street stores in Germany and the UK. In the USA the situation is different: I had a look to see how much they are in the USA, but I only found one place that sells them: Amazon Marketplace – for $18.
Shape and grip
I have already mentioned the main deign feature: the triangular design with rubbery grip dots.
As always, different people buy a specific pen for different reasons. I bought the 2011 mechanical pencil so that my blue gel pen from this series has company. Other make that decision to help them write without pain: a previous colleague of mine only had items from the Faber-Castell grip line in his office. When I asked him about the reasons behind this he told me that he has carpal tunnel syndrome and that it is easier for him to write with pens from the Grip line. He only used pens from this Faber-Castell series and instead of typing on his keyboard he used dictation software. I don’t know enough about this syndrome to comment further, but it sounds as if Faber-Castell’s grip design can help people to write easier or with less pain.
Weight and the grip diameter to weight ratio
Another speciality of this mechanical pencil is the low weight, probably partly down to the clutch mechanism I will mention later. As seen in the diagram below the 2011 mechanical pencil is very much on the light side.
If you don’t only want a light pencil, but also a big grip diameter then it’s worth looking at the diameter to weight ratio. Here the Grip 2011 is near the top, with a ratio 2.5 times better than some other pencils, like the TWSBI precision. Only the the Staedtler 925-15 is doing better, thanks to its low weight and its big diameter, but it does have a slightly thinner grip diameter. The only pencil in my database with a similar grip diameter to the Grip 2011 is the Caran d’Ache 888 Infinite.
The main disappointment for many seasoned mechanical pencil fans will be the Grip 2011’s clutch mechanism: it is a very simple two-jawed plastic clutch. That’s not a problem, but many mechanical pencileers prefer a brass mechanism. Generally speaking very cheap mechanical pencils, like Staedtler’s $1 graphite 777, will come with plastic clutches, but there are also much more expensive mechanical pencils than the 2011, like the Rhodia ScRipt, that have plastic clutches.
If you want a mechanical pencil that can hold a lot of leads then the Grip 2011 might also be for you: 0.7 mm leads usually have a diameter of less than 0.7 mm. The inner diameter of the Grip 2011 is 6.75 mm. If you look at the circle packing in a circle problem you will realise that this pencil can hold a huge number of leads.
The clutch will put many potential customers off, but with it’s low wide, its good grip-ability, the above average looks and the reasonable price this pencil will have no issues finding enough customers.
Let’s start with this sentence: I don’t drink coffee but like the smell of coffee.
I obviously also like stationery and since last week I have some stationery that smells like coffee… A notebook and pen from Nespresso, made from coffee grounds.
Knives and pens, the posh ones
Nespresso has had cooperations with two other Swiss companies, linked to the recycling of their coffee capsules: Victorinox released Swiss Army Knives with scales made from the recycled aluminium from their coffee capsules and Caran d’Ache released the 849 ballpoint pen, also made from the recycled aluminium from their coffee capsules.
There were also cooperations with non-Swiss companies, like the one with Mikov in the Czech Republic. Their Nespresso knife is similarly priced to the Victorinox version. As far as I know, it is only available in the Czech Republic. In contrast, the Victorinox cooperation was available in many countries, but seems to have come to an end or is on hold after having run from 2016 to 2019.
Recycled aluminium is common. Wikipedia has a reference from the Economist stating that recycling scrap aluminium requires only 5% of the energy compared to making new aluminium from raw ore and a reference from the US Geological Survey stating that approximately 36% of all aluminium produced in the United States comes from old recycled scrap.
When I came across the Nespresso 849 I was first sceptical of Caran d’Ache’s claim that the Nespresso 849 is actually made from recycled Nespresso capsules. Why? Someone at Caran d’Ache, maybe the marketing department, has in the past been rather economical with facts. Best example: their Les Crayons de la Maison Caran d’Ache pencils. They now spell out that these are wood pencils reconstituted from poplar and abachi, but in the past their marketing material gave the impression that these pencils are made from exotic wood. I am relieved that their Nespresso 849 has the text Made with recycled Nespresso capsules written in big, friendly letter on the side of the pencil. This explicitness gives me some reassurance that there is no misunderstanding and that the aluminium in the pen body contains recycled coffee capsules. I wonder whether all 849s are made with a small proportion of recycled Nespresso capsules or whether the Nespresso 849 is made from a completely different batch of aluminium. It seems easier to just mix some recycled capsules into all the scrap aluminium used to produce the new aluminium.
Caran d’Ache’s Nespresso Swiss Wood pencils seem even more exotic: The lead contains 25% coffee grounds. I’d love to see if that makes a difference in terms of erasability and writing experience. They also have metallic ‘colour capsules’ at the end. The first impression seems to be that these are made from recycled Nespresso capsules, but in their video, see below, you can see that the end is actually just paint.
Notebook and pen, the cheap (free) ones
Let’s close in on the main stars of this blog post: the notebook and pen currently being offered as a free gift to (some) Nespresso customers who place an order in the UK and some other markets. As is increasingly common in recent years, loyal customers get a worse deal: as far as I can tell this offer of a free notebook and pen with an order is by invitation only and the more Nespresso wants to bring you back into the fold the better the deal you get. I have seen similar offers from online grocery stores (Ocado) and from music streaming services (Spotify). From what I can tell the best deal offered by Nespresso to get this notebook and pen ‘for free’ was with an order of 5 strips (5*10 capsules). This includes free shipping. If you get this good 5 strips deal you spend around £20 and get the notebook and pen plus 50 capsules, i.e. enough for 50 cups of coffee.
The notebook contains 100% recycled paper and the cover contains the equivalent of 2 cups of coffee grounds waste.
The first thing you notice when you open the cardboard box the notebook and pen come in is the strong coffee smell. I am not sure whether this strong and nice coffee odour is purely down to the coffee grounds used to produce the notebook (and maybe the pen) or whether the items have been ‘perfumed’ to smell like coffee or to increase the existing smell.
The notebook is made in the Netherlands and has a thick plastic-like board at the front and back. I assume it is some sort of composite material made form plastic and coffee grounds, similar to the Staedtler Wopex made from wood and plastic or the Kupilka (50% pine and 50% thermoplastic). The patterns on the notebook cover do remind me of the ones found on the Kupilka.
The paper used is nice, but is not fountain pen friendly. It is however suitable for gel pens.
The pen has a similar look to the notebook cover, so I assume it is also made from coffee grounds, but I haven’t seen any official description from Nespresso that confirms this. The clip of the pen looks similar to the clip found on the Lamy Noto. I did not find any markings on the pen or refill, so am not sure who made it or which country it is from. I also did not see any markings on the black ballpoint refill it came with.
If it contains coffee grounds it is not the first pen available with coffee inside. A few years ago Shangching sent me the Fabula pencil, which also contains coffee.
A nice looking notebook and pen. I wish the paper was fountain pen friendly and both items were more easily available. If you can get your hands on them with a good offer then I’d certainly go for it.
The ballpoint pen looks nice, so I might look into putting a gel refill into it. That would make me use it more.
A few weeks ago I received a surprise parcel from John Hall of Write Here fame. Inside the parcel were two rather unusual pens that I have been using regularly since then. It’s time to send them back soon, but before I do that I want to show you these very special pens and talk about their unusual design.
Let’s get their most exotic property out of the way first: these pens are 3d printed from graphene. With graphene not being very think (one layer of atoms) you could think of it as being two-dimensional. You also commonly read that a one atom thick layer of graphite is graphene. With that in mind I am wondering how something three-dimensional can be graphene without turning into graphite. Maybe it is a flat ‘two-dimensional’ layer rolled up with some other material in between, but in that case, does it keep graphene’s properties and are they desirable in a pen body in the first place? So many questions….
I also wonder whether creating the Cento3 pen body requires very special 3d printers so that the graphene layers don’t melt together into a lump of graphite and whether the body has some sort of lacquer on top. Whatever the answers to all my questions are, the pen that Ego.M have produced is a very special pen and as I don’t understand enough about materials science I will just go along with the claim that this pen is made from graphene.
The design’s history
The idea for this pen was thought up 20 years ago, in 2001, when Achille Castiglione and Gianfranco Cavaglia came up with a pen design using the ‘trilobate’ shape. Think of three slim pens arranged together like a three-leaved clover and connected – I hope the image below gives you a better idea than my short description.
At the time some non-working prototypes were made from wood, but the pen was not commercially produced until recently when the prototypes were rediscovered by the designer’s children and EGO.M, based in Bologna, started developing the prototypes into commercially produced pens which were then officially released in February 2021, 103 years (100 = Cento, so Cento3 = 103) after Achille Castiglione was born.
About the pen
The first thing most people will notice when they look at this pen is that the individual strands of extruded plastic filament are quite visible. On the body of the mechanical pencil I received for testing the pattern produced by the 3d printing process is much less ‘even’ than on the lead holder I got. I assume every pen is unique in this respect and if you pick another sample this might be different, i.e. another mechanical pencil might look ‘smoother’ and another lead holder might look less smooth. The uneven surface loves to attract dust which is quite visible if you enlarge the photos.
The next thing to notice is that for their length and diameter the Cento3 pens are quite light. In the diagram below you can see that compared to some of the mechanical pencils we looked at in the past only slim and plastic-y mechanical pencils and tiny mechanical pencils are lighter than the Cento3 mechanical pencil.
Amateurs like me often like heavy pens as they give the user the feeling of being more substantial and of higher quality, but professionals actually like light pens. It makes sense to use a light pen that isn’t tiring when you use it all day long.
Mechanism and ageing
I was not able to figure out what kind of mechanism is used in the mechanical pencil as I don’t see a non-destructive way of getting to the mechanism. I assume the 3d printing of the body is done directly on the mechanism.
Pens change over time. One example is the beautiful surface of the Lamy 2000. Over time it becomes more and more smooth and shiny. I am not sure how hard the filament is that was used to print the Cento3, but there is a good chance that over the years the surface might become more and more smooth. This is just a guess, but it might change the character of he pen over time.
The weight and shape make the pen surprisingly comfortable to hold and use. The 3d printed structure provides a good grip when you hold the mechanical pencil. Many mechanical pencil users rotate the pen automatically and even subconsciously to make the lead use up more evenly. This is slightly more difficult with the Cento3 compared to a thinner pen, but it is possible without hassle.
The lead holder
In my opinion the lead holder version of the Cento3 feels much posher than the mechanical pencil. Maybe it is down to the chrome-y front section or the more even printing of the filaments.
A blast from the past: Three years Cult Pens provided pencils for Bleistift’s giveaway for the first ever Mechanical Pencil Day. One of these was the Messograf, a very special mechanical pencil I showed at the time, but never presented in its own blog post – something I want to rectify today.
You can find out more about Cleo Skribent, the company behind the Messograf, their history, the Messograf itself and the ever-so-cool built-in Vernier caliper in the video below.
I hope you enjoyed the video.
The giveaway was a great opportunity for me to try out new pencils I hadn’t used before, before sending them on to the winners.