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Seeking For Grail Pen Purchase Suggestions

grail pen montblanc sailor visconti

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16 replies to this topic

#1 ByronZ



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Posted 25 May 2019 - 05:45

I have 3 daily drivers now: Pilot Custom 823 M, Justus 95 F, and Sailor 1911L MF. As you can tell, I prefer finer nibs, the M nib on my Custom 823 is the widest nib I can accept for my daily note taking.

Now I have the following pens on my grail list:
1. Visconti Medici
2. Aroura 88
3. Sailor KOP
4. Montblanc 146 (dont really enjoy it being a status symbol, but so many reviews has pointed it out as a good writer)
5. Others suggestion?

Whats your opinion on these pens? What nib size should I get for the pen you recommended to me?

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#2 silverlifter



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Posted 25 May 2019 - 06:03

I wouldn't bother with the MB 146: the nibs are nice, but everything else about the pen is pretty average, IMO. You are paying for the little white star that everyone and their dog will go, "Ooh, you have a Montblanc!", which gets old pretty quickly.


I have owned a 146 and a 147 and sold them both, but I still have a 12, a 14 and a 34: MB's from an era when their nibs were amazing (the 18Ks on the 12/14 are amazingly soft), and the styling of the rest of the pen was actually interesting.


I'm not a fan of Italian pens: I prefer QC over bling, but that is just me. 


I'd add a fully restored PFM or oversized Vac-fill Balance. Stylish, exquisite writers that hold a tonne of ink and are from the golden age of pen making. 

Vintage. Cursive italic. Iron gall.

#3 Bo Bo Olson

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Posted 25 May 2019 - 08:16

Any grail pen stops being one the second you have it.


I like a vintage '50-70 medium large 146 more than semi-vintage '70-90 or '90 now Large 146....the older smaller pan has better balance and a better nib....semi-flex as a basis, could be a maxi-semi-flex I lucked into.


The regular 146 is for a modern Large pen, fairly light and has 'some' balance.......has a springy nib, somewhat wider than normal in it is flattish....is a 'Springy' nib, good tine bend, but only 2 X tine spread, like a non-modified Falcon not as grand as the new Lamy Imporium.


I'd stay away from the '70-80's 146, the nib is only regular flex instead of semi-flex.

And vintage is much cheaper than new.  & better.

German vintage '50-70 semi-flex stubs and those in oblique give the real thing in On Demand line variation. Modern Oblique is a waste of money for a shadow of line variation. Being too lazy to Hunt for affordable vintage oblique pens, lets you 'hunt' for line variation instead of having it.

www.nibs.com/blog/nibster-writes/nibs-germany & https://www.peter-bo...cts/nib-systems,


The cheapest lessons are from those who learned expensive lessons. Ignorance is best for learning expensive lessons.




#4 Uncial



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Posted 25 May 2019 - 09:40

In the order you listed:

1. Drool. Beautiful pen. I was very tempted but recent experience with Visconti's QC has really put me off buying. They are good about correcting issues, but when you end up sending a pen back three or four times the costs mount up and the enamour wears thin. Maybe I was unlucky.

2. Good pens. Nibs can sometimes have a bit of feedback. Classic look and form.

3. Only have long term experience of the Pro Gear. Great nib, nicely finished. Buy direct from Japan if you can as there are very significant savings to be had even when you factor in customs charges.

4. If you like flashy the 146 may not hit the spot. It's all about understated elegance. Quite plain, classic looks but excellent balance even posted and very comfortable in the hand with stellar nibs. I have a preference for the 149 but I fully understand why some go ga-ga over the 146 size. Second hand ones are the way to go as there are quite a few out there in great condition, easily got at a good saving. I've found every Montblanc I've bought to be relentless workhorses, hugely reliable and a joy to use. If you like large broad nibs with a bit of stub the BB nibs by Montblanc are worth the chase - best out there in my view. You will in all likelihood get this pen for considerably less money than any other on your list.

5. Danitrio, Montegrappa, Omas, Nakaya? It will all depend on your personal preferences.

#5 OmegaMountain



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Posted 25 May 2019 - 09:45

I always thought the standard KOP was a little over priced for a c/c pen in just resin. Sailor's nibs are excellent though. I just received an 88 Minerali in M nib and I have to say I am very pleased. I usually prefer F or finer nibs but the Aurora nib is so good I don't care. No QC issues there for me and the pen just feels well made - solid. I have an MB JFK and I love the pen. It's a fine and the nib has just the right feedback for me. Though it can have the slightest of hard starts on certain papers but that could be a factor of the JFK ink that's in it. MB pens are probably overpriced but they are definitely reliable. Visconti I have always been wary of because of the stories of issues and I have yet to buy one. What about a Nakaya? I really like the SF nib on the one I had and really regret selling it.

Edited by OmegaMountain, 25 May 2019 - 09:45.

"Words can light fires in the minds of men. Words can wring tears from the hardest hearts." - Patrick Rothfuss

#6 AldusPageMaker


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Posted 25 May 2019 - 10:39

Taking your present preferences into consideration, I would go for the Aurora 88 and perhaps consider the Aurora Optima as an alternative.

Now, I have no idea about the situation in the Bay Area on brick & mortar stores – personally, I would very much prefer to try the Aurora before buying. Out of the 5 Auroras (2 x the 88, and 3 x Optima) that I owned, I had inkflow issues with 3 of them – too dry for my taste. The last Optima I bought was from a good retailer here in Germany. The sales lady actually let me fill the pen and take all the time I wanted to test it. This kind of service, of course, is getting rare. The Optima turned out to have my preferred generous inkflow, so everything was fine – and the pen in question was reduced in price as well :-)

It came with an M-Nib. I usually prefer F and EF, but in my experience Aurora nibs write thinner than the nibs of other European brands.

Edited by AldusPageMaker, 25 May 2019 - 10:41.

#7 Karmachanic


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Posted 25 May 2019 - 10:53

A view.

Grail connotes a single, greatly desired, object. If you don't know what your grail pen is, then you have no grail pen.

"Want little. Need less. Love more."

#8 biancitwo



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Posted 25 May 2019 - 11:16

Havent had a Visconti Medici. But, I have a Visconti Lava oversized. I tried one at the Ohio Pen Show. It wrote beautifully. I ordered one a couple off weeks later. I love it. I, too, have read the QC stories. Therefore, order yours through a seller, with excellent customer service. Request they inspect and try the pen before sending it.

I have one Aurora, the least expensive model made. It is a superb little pen. I cant imagine Aurora being a poor choice.

I have three Sailors, none of them KOP. My 1911s, std and large, wrote poorly till I had the nibs modified to CI. They now write beautifully. But, they are still very hard black resin, very hard, and uncomfortable. My little Pro Gear Slim is an excellent pen. It is a demonstrator and not made of the hard resin.

MB depends on your personal taste. It isnt high on my list.

Nakaya has been mentioned. I love my two, love them.

Love my Pelikans. I would not get an M1000. It is so big. I love my M800, but doubt I would get another. It is also a big pen. Of course, the M800 is smaller and lighter than the Visconti Lava, which I love. The M600 is the perfect size. It also writes wonderfully. To be fair, I have my M600 nibs modified to CI.

Edited by biancitwo, 25 May 2019 - 11:18.

#9 Parker51


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Posted 25 May 2019 - 11:17

All the pens you identified have some very nice characteristics. I have a few of the pens that have been mentioned and they make nice daily writers. I consider a Grail pen not simply one which is a bit more expensive than what one typically purchases, but rather one which is unique. Thus I suggest you check out Edison Pens. They will make you a pen customized to your preferences. It will actually be quite reasonable in cost for what you get: a pen of the material you want with the shape you want, the nib you want and the filling mechanism you want.

#10 mke


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Posted 25 May 2019 - 12:53

Don't rely on our opinion - go to the next penshow and look around, you might find something much better.


I can tell you what my grail pen is (at the moment, it changes from time to time):



Edited by mke, 25 May 2019 - 13:14.

#11 Mr.Rene



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Posted 25 May 2019 - 14:09

Sorry to say but avoid Aurora pens...it has vey poor control quality,over priced pens,worst after sale support and repair service in Torino really suck...beware...



#12 ENewton



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Posted 25 May 2019 - 14:55

I thought I knew what my grail pen was, a Waterman Man 100 Opera with an extra fine nib, and indeed it is a lovely pen, elegant in appearance, solid in the hand, and a much smoother writer than the other pens I have in the same nib width.


But true to the first literary reference to the Grail, what I ultimately discovered to be my paragon was one I had initially not pursued, one I had previously let pass without understanding.  The ubiquitous Parker 51.  They are not at all rare, not fancy, not pricey, but when I finally found one in my chosen color and wrote with it, I discovered what I had been missing.


Your own revelation is likely to be different.  Each of us writes with a different hand.


Byron, if you live in Berkeley, consider attending a meeting of the San Francisco Pen Posse.  This friendly group meets almost every Sunday at a diner across the parking lot from the San Mateo BART station.  I am sure you can find a posse member who owns and will let you try any of the pens on your current list of candidates.  And who knows what else you might discover?

#13 SpecTP


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Posted 25 May 2019 - 18:57

if you like the 146 but think it's too 'plain', go for pens like the petit prince legrand, or an 823 with falcon nib from Tokyo Quill shop, or visconti homo sapien.


right now, my current 'grail' quest is a decent condition montblanc 94 or waterman 52 cardinal.

#14 Storch


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Posted 25 May 2019 - 18:57

A couple of thought. 

First, if you have not handled the Medici, make sure you do before buying it.  I loved the color and the design and honestly everything about it until I physically picked one up at the Baltimore show.  The engraving on the band just below the cap was very sharp and unpleasant in my hand.  I was very disappointed because I really like the other Viscontis and that one would have been a no brainer otherwise.  Also, be aware, you have a preference for finer nubs and Viscontis tend to run wet.  I have one beautiful EF that is a true EF despite being a smooth, wet writer, but I also have another EF that could pass for a medium.  If you do go the Visconti route, I would suggest an EF for the nib.


As for the Montblanc, it is a plain black pen.  You did not say whether you were planning on buying new or used and I think that makes a big difference.  Picking up a 146 second hand makes so dramatically alters the price to value ratio.  It a very nice albeit somewhat plain pen.  New, I wouldn't even think about it but if you are looking to grab one off the forums, you will likely be very happy.  If you are looking for used, I would also consider the 149.  Once you get past the almost cartoonish proportions, what you are left with is a very comfortable pen (depending on the size of your hands, of course).


I don't have much experience with Sailor or Aurora, so I can't say anything about those.

#15 Honeybadgers


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Posted 25 May 2019 - 20:53

The 146 will not impress you with its performance at the price it asks. 


A used 146 will.


Visconti will have a high liklihood of not being a good writer out of the box. Be prepared to either send it back once or twice or spend another $40 or so having it nibmeistered.


The aurora 88 is its own deal. I don't have experience with it, so I won't comment.


Sailor KoP I've only sampled, but I liked it a lot. But I don't think I liked it enough to want a simple raw ebonite one. Maki-e though? Now we're talking, buddy. Just far beyond my price range.


I will say that a grail pen should be something you achingly want. If it's just "what's my next expensive purchase" then you're not talking about a grail pen.


For example, I have two $1000 pens. A MB 149, and a Visconti divina metropolitan in green stacked celluloid and sterling silver.


I wanted the MB 149. So I found a used one for $500. I enjoy it. I saw the Divina and instantly knew that I couldn't live my life without one. I'm on my third one because of visconti's garbage quality control and have no hesitation about my purchase. If you tried to take my MB 149 away, you probably could. If you tried to take my divina, I'd kill you.


That's what a grail pen is. Maybe not that overpowering a lust, but when you're around a grand, a pen needs to speak to you in some way. I have my 149 because it's a piece of history and heritage. That's its value to me. But it wasn't worth full MSRP to me because in the end, it's just a damn pen. It writes words and doodles. The materials and design don't tug at my loins. To be worth more than about $350, to me, it needs to have something special. Which is why I don't own any montegrappa pens. None of them speak to me (apart from that moon landing special edition but why on god's good green flat earth is it like 15 thousand f**kin dollars)






Another brand to consider is conid. A conid kingsize bulkfiller is in the price range of "hella expensive" and people lust over dramatically. It's my next grail because i find it achingly beautiful. The pilot 823 is another spectacular pen, though I don't recommend the FA nib for you, since I recall that you really did not go for the soft/flex nibs. Get an F. It's also priced far below the rest of your choices but probably writes better than all of them, and has the best filling mechanism (in my opinion) to boot.

Edited by Honeybadgers, 25 May 2019 - 20:58.

Selling a boatload of restored, fairly rare, vintage Japanese gold nib pens, click here to see (more added as I finish restoring them)

#16 dsolmei



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Posted 26 May 2019 - 04:59

I've really enjoyed the KOP. The nib is very springy and expressive.


On the other hand, I've experienced nibs from other manufacturers (Pilot SFM and Platinum #3776 SM) that are just as enjoyable, and the pens are more affordable (and feel special). 


Since you're in the Bay Area, you may want to go to a few local pen stores and try out some of the wares. This might be a better way to arrive at a decision:

  • Castle in the Air, Berkeley (They have a few Visconti pens you can try)
  • Topdrawer, Berkeley (The have Kaweco products. It's next to Castle in the Air, so it's worth dropping-in during the same trip)
  • Flax, Oakland (Before moving to Oakland, the main SF store had a wide variety of pens)
  • Maido, San Francisco (They have a mix of Pilot, Sailor, and Platinum fountain pens)
  • Montblanc, San Francisco
  • Lamy, San Francisco (Lamy 2000 with an EF is a great pen)
  • Bittner, Carmel (A bit out of the way, but worth a visit, especially if you make it part of a daytrip to Carmel)


You may also want to attend one of the Bay Area Pen Posse Meetings and try-out other people's pens. I'm sure that people will have Visconti, Sailor, Aurora, and MB pens to try.


You can also wait for the San Francisco International Pen Show in August:


#17 georges zaslavsky

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Posted 26 May 2019 - 06:01

A vintage 146 will be a better buy than a modern one, nibwise  it was way much better.

Aurora 88 ok but nothing interesting in terms of nib. Better get a 2005 second Omas Paragon or an Omas 360 Magnum or a Stip Etruria.


For Viscontis, I have two old one dating pre 2010 that were both bought from Mottishaw so they were well tuned and wrote outstandingly well from the box. Per Ghostplane's recommandation, if you have to buy a Visconti, go to to Bryant Chatterley Greer, he is an outstanding guy. I have three Conklin made by Visconti and they are top notch pens, they easily rival if not surpass some of my favorite vintage 149s.


Get a Pelikan m1000, a Parker Duofold Senior Flat Top Single Band from 1925-1927 and a Parker Vacumatic Maxima from years 1939-1952, you'll love those.


If you are  fan of celluloid of great ink capacity then the vintage sheaffer triumph vac fill pens and the vintage sheaffer oversize balance vac fill pens are right for you. 

Edited by georges zaslavsky, 26 May 2019 - 06:03.

Pens are like watches , once you start a collection, you can hardly go back. And pens like all fine luxury items do improve with time

Also tagged with one or more of these keywords: grail pen, montblanc, sailor, visconti

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