Fantasy pens, sometimes known as homage pens, can represent an opportunity to fill in a gap in a pen maker’s catalog. Or it can be a pen that is inspired by the design aesthetic of a brand, but one the company never would have made for various reasons. The pen I want to focus on in this review is a Brad Torelli creation that pays homage to various vintage elements from MB. I am a big fan of Brad’s work because his pens are well made using quality materials and they incorporate vintage hardware like nibs, clips and even filling systems.
The pen I am reviewing today is inspired by MB pens from the 1930s to the 1960s. The pen is made out of a luxurious Italian Lucite in a pearlescent medium green. The material is not quite the same feeling as celluloid but still different that acrylic. Perhaps somewhere in between the two in terms of grip feel. I would say it has more surface friction than acrylic but lacks some of the warmth, and certainly the smell, of vintage celluloid. The pen material is translucent, so that even though there is not an ink window, just holding the pen up to a light source allows one to see the ink level.
The pen design is faceted with 8 sides. This has the practical benefit of keeping the pen from rolling even when uncapped during a pause in writing. The facets are maintained along the length of the capped pen, even though the thickness varies from the piston cone to the cap derby. Once nice and subtle touch is how the facets gently curve in to create a thinner cap lip allowing for less of a step between the cap and the body of the pen. The pen is threaded so that the cap and body facets always line up. Visconti, please take a note on how this should be the standard for faceted pens!
The grip section is inspired by other vintage pens like the celluloid MB 146, 136, and the like. There is a nice concave shape to it that makes it much more comfortable for me to hold for extended writing sessions. The threads are very well cut and smooth to the touch, so much so that I sometimes grip the pen half way up onto the threads.
Other elements that are MB inspired are the custom tie shaped clip, the piston filler, the nib, the feed and the MB logo. The clip is made from a mold of a 139 tie clip, but it is solid 14K “springy” gold. The particular formulation Brad uses allows for more spring that a typical 14K clip ensuring the clip can perform its function well, yet never tarnish. The piston filler is a repurposed MB unit. Nothing exciting as it is not a two stage piston, but still a pleasure to use with smooth travel. The piston cone will allow you to overtighten a bit causing the facets to misalign slightly so I have to back it off just a touch to align the facets (because it should look as lovely as it writes). The nib is a tri-tone 14C that is a BB in my estimation. I love wide nibs so this gave me another excuse to buy the pen. The nib itself is smooth and has some flexibility to it, but not near a wet noodle. It works for me as it allows for some variation on demand. I do have to be a little careful as the pen will railroad if I want to get nutsy with the flexing. One of my favorite aspects of the pen is the custom feed made of the same Lucite as the pen. It is designed like the old flat slope feeds from the 1930s and 1940s. It provides a wet and consistent flow of ink, but again, not enough to allow me to flex the pen all the time. I am sure this could be adjusted.
What made me jump on this pen when it came up for sale is the two handmade MB logo stars inset into the cap and the piston cone. Brad has always admired the simplicity and elegance of the MB logo so he used to use it on many of his custom pens. However, many years ago it was strongly suggested by some legal eagles that while senior folks at MB admired the quality and craftsmanship of his work, he would be better off if he no longer used their registered trademark. Brad got the message and will no longer make pens with the logo involved. So when I see one for sale I try to pick it up. This particular pen happens to have a logo on both the cap the piston cone, much like the slimmer pens that came out in the 1960s. This helps me justify the price I paid for the pen, at least that’s what I tell myself.
All this is for naught if the pen is not a good writer, and I am happy to report that it is both well balanced and well weighted for my needs. This is a large pen, but the material keeps it to a manageable weight. The pen does post, though I am not a poster except on a few smaller pens. The grip section is the real winner for me. Anyone who is a fan of vintage MBs from the 1930s and 1940s can attest to the comfort level of the contoured grips. (I also like modern custom pen makers who embrace this little curve in their sections and encourage you to consider this for any custom pen you have made.)
Cost is not relevant here as this pen was purchased second hand from a collector. Brad still makes plenty of great pens (minus the MB logo) so I encourage you to reach out to him for details and pricing. Many people are especially drawn to his 139 style pens as MB seems unwilling to reissue the pen themselves. Brad also offers a lifetime warranty (his lifetime), and this includes maintenance or other straightforward issues like a nib swap or piston maintenance. He is also a pleasure to speak with as his knowledge of pens is impressive.
Whether you like this particular pen or not, I hope it has sparked your imagination as to the possibilities of having a custom pen made to your own liking. I like supporting the growing number of craftsmen/women and true pen artisans and encourage you to do the same. None of them is getting rich from their efforts, but they are living their passion.
Edited by zaddick, 06 July 2016 - 05:11.