This might come as a strange admission on a set of threads about solitaires but I’ve never been one to enjoy metal pens; in fact, I usually avoid(ed) them. Over the years pens with metal sections crept into use and I discovered to my surprise that they didn’t really bother me at all. I expected to have problems with the ‘slippery’ grip that is so often mentioned but found most to be fine and solid silver sections to be very pleasingly tactile and free of slippery menace. As I started to use other pens and had the opportunity to use pens owned by others I began to realise that the additional weight was really not the problem I had imagined it to be (a large factor in my avoidance of metal pens) and in fact, at times it aided the writing experience. So, slowly but surely my defences were broken down and over a number of years solitaires of one kind or another have crept into my pen collection and become very enjoyable pens.
This thread – or perhaps more accurately, these threads (the label of ‘part one’ was the hint there)- will hopefully provide useful information on a number of Montblanc solitaires. I’ve stuck with Montblanc for the moment but may include others at the end. In truth, there are only two others that are not Montblanc. I’m not entirely sure of the meaning in the use of the word solitaire in regards to pens. I’m taking it to mean a metal or partially metal pen that is a ‘jewel’ – in some sense a little unusual and different from normal (not in the usual line-up of black resin pens). I’m sure someone will quickly correct me if I am far off the mark. This first offering is the Montblanc Pinstripe Solitaire in solid silver with gold plated rings and gold plated clip.
Let’s get some of the detail out of the way first. The pen weighs 50gs capped and inked, 26gs uncapped and inked, measures 149mm capped, 130mm uncapped and 156mm posted. It is based on the 146 model and when I bought this second had it came with a somewhat unpleasant medium nib that was swapped out for a broad nib that is a little softer and considerably wetter. The cap is stamped near the base with the silver hallmarks and the section girth is 11mm.
The ‘true’ Pinstripe Solitaire model was a pen that attracted me for many years, but fears of too heavy a weight put me off. The price also frightened me. They come in at around €1,500 - €1, 750. That – for me at least - makes for an exorbitantly expensive pen. I like silver, but I was also aware that it can mark very easily. I really didn’t like the idea of getting a pen at that price point and having to watch it slowly gather its war wounds as I used it; even if those war wounds would be largely minor scratches. I decided to watch auction sites and hope. Things may have changed now, but back when I was making an effort to watch places like ebay, Solitaire Pinstripes seemed to be holding significant resale value and appeared to be selling for around €1000; a price I still personally considered too high. I essentially gave up the chase.
It's funny how something you want can appear when you stop looking. I stumbled across a Pinstripe at what I felt was a reasonable price. The seller was honest about the nib being a bit dry and not altogether good. Even factoring in the cost of a nib swap I was making a purchase at less than ebay’s asking and auction prices, so I leapt at it. The pen has a black resin section, so slippery metal sections were not a concern. This also provides the addition of an ink window – something that not all of the solitaire models have. The cap is a screw cap, taking much less turns to open and close (about half a turn), but it does cap very securely (and rather stiffly to be honest). The cap also posts and the plastic inner of the cap protects the barrel of the pen from being marked. You don’t have to force it down firmly for it to get a proper and secure grip. It’s a piston filler and feels secure and robust. The cap has a blank section, lacking pinstripes, where you can engrave a name or whatever you desire. Mine is left blank. The snow peak sits in a domed top of black resin on the cap and the rings and clip are picked out in gold plate and the nib is a two-tone nib.
I find the writing experience with it to be very pleasing. As I mentioned, this pen came with a medium nib originally. It was unusually firm and very dry. I attempted to make it a little wetter but was not entirely successful. In the end I opted for a broad nib. By this stage I had realised just how much I liked this pen so ensuring a writing experience I liked seemed sensible. I had considered a double broad (my favoured nib) but my local B&M had a broad they could fit at considerably less than sending off for a new nib with MB. This meant I got the old nib back. I usually enjoy extra-fine and fine nibs too, but with a pen of this weight I thought it might be more comfortable and more enjoyable with the larger nib. I write with the pen posted and find it very comfortable, not too back weighted as to effect how I write and the nib glides over the page like a skate on ice with a little softness but no flex. I know some dislike that but it’s what I tend to look for in nibs. The broad nib has a slight stub aspect which isn’t always apparent in pictures but is easily noticed with the naked eye. This does mean that if you are prone to ‘rolling’ the nib you may see issues of what looks like slight skipping. Each MB nib tends to be a little different so some may be fine while others will have a more pronounced stub aspect. The broad is a wet writer and I do find I refill ink more regularly but not as regularly as I thought I would. In the writing sample given the pen is filled with Sailor Studio 837; a rather nice rust orange with subtle flow issues, but writes quite nicely in this pen. In finer nibs this ink can have a heavy sense of drag due to being a touch dry.
The Pinstripe Solitaire is a very beautifully made pen. It holds comfortably in the hand and writes well but it’s the design that makes it that little bit more special. It has a resemblance to some kind of steam punk mechanical blimp and has a strong whiff of art deco styling – perhaps more than just a strong whiff. It wasn’t the first solitaire pen that I acquired but was certainly the first that tempted me all those years ago. Its acquisition has been a very long road but it’s a pen I thoroughly enjoy using. You may think me mad but silver often has a buttery quality about its touch to me and more than once I’ve found myself enjoying this tactile aspect as I polish it with my thumb. It’s a shame it is so expensive, and given the softness of silver I don’t think I’d buy new, but with patience second hand ones can be had at reasonable prices and at a reasonable price it is a remarkable pen and a pleasure to own and use. If buying second hand always remember to ask if the pen has any dents. I always asked this on ebay, for instance, and was somewhat shocked at the number of times I had replies of ‘yes’ for pen sales with no mention of dents and no visible dents in pictures. It’s a classic design that I’m sure won’t go out of style and it reminds me very much of the film Metropolis for some reason. Maybe it was all those hours I had to work to afford it.