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Montblanc 146 Piston Problems And Quality Control


Fountainnib
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Two and a half years ago, I purchased a Montblanc 146 pinstripe Solitaire with an extra-fine nib. The nib wrote beautifully; but after a little while, the piston mechanism broke--despite the care with which I had treated the pen, I must add. I sent it to Montblanc for repair, as it was still in warranty. The pen came back with the piston in perfect order; but the nib had been put way out of adjustment. I then sent it to John Mottishaw, who reground it to a true extra-fine of extraordinary quality; and I have since used the pen daily. Well, this evening, the pen, which had been loaded with Montblanc Permanent Blue ink, appeared suddenly clogged and reluctant to write; so I immediately rinsed out the ink, using the piston mechanism, of course. In the process, the piston broke--again despite my gentle handling of it. I offer two questions to the experts at FPN: Firstly, is there some problem with the design and durability of the Montblanc 146 piston mechanism? Secondly, is there a problem with Montblanc's Permanent Blue ink? I should add, parenthetically, that I need to use an ink which will not wash away when exposed to moisture, rain, or spilled liquids; anything less negates the whole raison d'être of a pen, fountain or otherwise, as far as I am concerned. I should have used iron gall ink, except that I had some concerns about the effect of such an ink on the pen's sterling silver casing. I should add that I have had some very bad experiences with Montblanc's repair department in the past. They do make beautiful-looking pens, and sometimes, excellent nibs; but the company does seem to have problems which, I feel, need to be addressed better than they apparently are.

Edited by Fountainnib
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Sorry to hear of your experiences.

 

The timing is ironic, as there is a recent thread about 146's in which we are all singing the praise and durability of the 146 piston mechanisms!

 

Firstly: no, there are no known issues with the Permanent Blue ink which would cause your problem.

 

However, for two pistons to fail in a relatively short time is unusual. Even though you are out of warranty. I would still contact MB. There may be some issue which is causing your piston to fail (considering that this is the second time it has happened) - eg. a snag or imperfection in the inner barrel which is putting the mechanism under duress? The first piston failed very quickly? The replacement seems to have suffered the same fate. I realise that it may be a longshot, but I'd definitely contact them and explain the situation, before taking any other action.

 

Good luck.

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Over the past ten years I have had two pistons break on me. Both of these break-downs occurred after I acquired a piston-removal tool as part of a make-work project to keep all my pistons nicely lubricated. It was a lot of fun but it also involved a bit of a learning curve. I removed and lubricated nine pistons with silicon grease. Two were damaged in the process and were replaced by MB Service.

 

I have learned that pistons rarely need servicing and lubricating, if one follows the advice given in previous posts.

 

 

~ meiers:

 

Fascinating!

Thank you for explaining your experience.

This is an area about which yours truly knows nothing, hence yours comments are appreciated.

Tom K.

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Hi Tom,

 

Living in Winnipeg, Manitoba thousands of kilometres away from the nearest fountain pen mechanic or MB service centre I have tried to develop some rudimentary pen maintenance skills. It's not unlike Antoine de Saint-Exupery repairing a plane in the Sahara. Even though I must admit that I could fall back on Canada Post to get my damaged piston-pen to the service centre and back into my hands. ;)

 

Here is a fun thread about the topic.

 

https://www.fountainpennetwork.com/forum/topic/290071-lubricating-the-piston-on-a-meisterstuck-149/page-2?do=findComment&comment=3920749

Edited by meiers
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This is a very unusual problem.

Is this your first piston filler pen?

 

No, it is not. Furthermore, I do not attempt to repair my pens; I am accustomed to handling delicate instruments; and I have never experienced problems with Pelikan piston-fillers, which I also own and use--only with Montblanc piston-filling pens. Despite the convenience of piston-filling mechanisms, I am beginning to appreciate better the virtues of the lowly cartridge-converter system, especially in regard to its robustness and ease of maintenance. Thank you for your kind reply--your question is, of course, a logical one, and needed to be asked.

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This is a very unusual problem.

Is this your first piston filler pen?

 

No, it is not. Furthermore, I do not attempt to repair my pens; I am accustomed to handling delicate instruments; and I have never experienced problems with Pelikan piston-fillers, which I also own and use--only with Montblanc piston-filling pens. Despite the convenience of piston-filling mechanisms, I am beginning to appreciate better the virtues of the lowly cartridge-converter system, especially in regard to its robustness and ease of maintenance. Thank you for your kind reply--your question is, of course, a logical one, and needed to be asked.

 

 

While I love Pelikan and Montblanc pens - I've always thought if I had to move to an island with no other people and could only take one pen - it would be a cartridge/converter pen.

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Converters break too.

 

A good point. However I can easily plug in a new converter (I'm allowed to take multiple converters to the island but only one pen - don't ask me why) with no skills needed!

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I thought there was an issue with the MB Permanent inks and clogging/drying out that had been noted before. I may be misremembering, but I thought I had read about it here on FPN somewhere.

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I thought I read that about the Permanent Blue as well.

 

I've an anecdotal snippet to add. The three pens I've had to send for piston service over the years have been heavier silver-bodied variants on the 146 design: Faulkner (I no longer own), Shaw, and Oppenheim. Like the OP, I'm an experienced piston user and careful with my pens.

 

Query - is the additional weight of the metal in the piston caps leading to faster degradation of the plastic piston mechanisms?

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A good point. However I can easily plug in a new converter (I'm allowed to take multiple converters to the island but only one pen - don't ask me why) with no skills needed!

Oh good. That's a relief. Id take a few converters then.

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I thought I read that about the Permanent Blue as well.

 

I've an anecdotal snippet to add. The three pens I've had to send for piston service over the years have been heavier silver-bodied variants on the 146 design: Faulkner (I no longer own), Shaw, and Oppenheim. Like the OP, I'm an experienced piston user and careful with my pens.

 

Query - is the additional weight of the metal in the piston caps leading to faster degradation of the plastic piston mechanisms?

Good question.

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I thought I read that about the Permanent Blue as well.

 

I've an anecdotal snippet to add. The three pens I've had to send for piston service over the years have been heavier silver-bodied variants on the 146 design: Faulkner (I no longer own), Shaw, and Oppenheim. Like the OP, I'm an experienced piston user and careful with my pens.

 

Query - is the additional weight of the metal in the piston caps leading to faster degradation of the plastic piston mechanisms?

 

I thought there was an issue with the MB Permanent inks and clogging/drying out that had been noted before. I may be misremembering, but I thought I had read about it here on FPN somewhere.

Well now, this raises an interesting point: Most Montblanc inks (and other brands of ink as well) leave no legible traces behind if they are exposed to liquids, or even to a moderate amount of moisture. The experts warn us against "high-maintenance" inks, such as some Noodler's products, or even iron-gall inks. Now, if we must choose between caring for our fountain pens, and producing permanent copy, what then is the rationale to support our continued use of fountain pens, except that of a kind of pleasant nostalgia? I have always regarded the fountain pen as a very practical tool; and I, like the rest of us, have occasionally been caught in heavy rainstorms, in which my appointment-book entries, or my other hand-written documents would have ceased to exist, had they not been written with water-resistant ink. I realize that this is off-topic; but I do hope that the manufacturers of both inks and pens may read this and similar posts, and address the issue of permanent ink compatiblity with pen safety. I might add that my personal reasons for continuing to use fountain pens into the 21st century are: the ease with which even lengthy documents may be written without cramping the hand (and one does not always wish to carry around an electronic computing device for such tasks, even if it were practical, which it is not); the superior appearance of fountain-pen-generated copy (not a factor in my case, I am afraid, given my terrible handwriting); and the smooth, pleasurable writing experience they provide. Personally, I do not think that my difficulties with Montblanc's piston mechanisms resulted from the ink with which the pens were filled, but rather from some subtle design weakness--perhaps their spiral-threaded rods are underbuilt; or perhaps their stoppers tend to create too much friction with the barrels. (I have noticed some stiffening of the piston mechanism of a Pelikan 600 over time, although to a much lesser degree.) Might I suggest that piston-filling fountain pens should be designed to permit easy, tool-free disassembly by end-users for purposes of cleaning and lubrication; and might I also hope that Montblanc will rethink seriously its policy of not selling parts to third-party repairmen, and trying to retain a monopoly on that which they seem to do worse than almost anyone else--namely, the repair of their pens. By the way, I wish that Montblanc would substitute the ancient eye-dropper-filler system for its piston pens, or at least offer it as an option--it would make life much easier and cheaper.

Edited by Fountainnib
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Now, if we must choose between caring for our fountain pens, and producing permanent copy, what then is the rationale to support our continued use of fountain pens, except that of a kind of pleasant nostalgia? I have always regarded the fountain pen as a very practical tool; and I, like the rest of us, have occasionally been caught in heavy rainstorms, in which my appointment-book entries, or my other hand-written documents would have ceased to exist, had they not been written with water-resistant ink.

 

Fountain pens have always needed a little extra care if using certain permanent inks like iron-gall, which just requires a bit more water flushing, and the pen should be used daily. Part of the problem is that ink makers constantly try to make something "new and improved", which, when it comes to permanent ink, can mean releasing something that isn't actually an improvement.

 

Old MB Blue-Black is a perfectly serviceable iron-gall ink, which did require more care. But they decided to not carry it anymore, and when customers started asking for a permanent ink, they started releasing other permanent formulas that I think are creating problems for some users.

 

Most older permanent fountain pen ink has decent permanence (I'm thinking black Quink or blue-black Sheaffer Skrip), but it's good enough for defending against water without requiring much in the way of extra maintenance. You can still find plenty of Skrip permanent blue-black, it's just not a very exciting ink. Many modern FP enthusiasts want bold and unusual colors, or in the case of permanence, actual permanence instead of what used to be considered good enough without requiring extra pen maintenance.

-- Joel -- "I collect expensive and time-consuming hobbies."

 

INK (noun): A villainous compound of tannogallate of iron, gum-arabic and water,

chiefly used to facilitate the infection of idiocy and promote intellectual crime.

(from The Devil's Dictionary, by Ambrose Bierce)

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I've had only good experience with the Permanent Blue. In fact it's the only ink I use in my Pilot 912 FA and Falcon as it actually helps the flow and lets the nib flex nicely and minimize railroading. Noting some members here having ink window staining issues, I've been careful to clean/flush my MB pens frequently when using this inks and haven't had any issues with staining or flow.

 

As for my 146 Sterling Solitaire, I had the piston mechanism come loose inside where the piston would not move up or down even though the knob would turn freely. I had it repaired under warranty. It's been fine since the repair..

Edited by max dog
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I thought I read that about the Permanent Blue as well.

I've an anecdotal snippet to add. The three pens I've had to send for piston service over the years have been heavier silver-bodied variants on the 146 design: Faulkner (I no longer own), Shaw, and Oppenheim. Like the OP, I'm an experienced piston user and careful with my pens.

Query - is the additional weight of the metal in the piston caps leading to faster degradation of the plastic piston mechanisms?

As Meiers has pointed out, it's not a common problem. Could be a combination of Fountain pen Hygene, Ink, and the heavier pens.

I wonder if the weight of a heavier pen in the hand causes us to subconsciously compensate and use more force on the filling knob? I'm going to be watching myself now.

I'm stumped on this one. If you go and put custome made parts into the pen, you can kiss Montblanc service good bye for any other issue in the future.

Sorry to say, I don't think there is much more to be done then send it back to Montblanc.

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  • 3 years later...

One of my MB 146's, I bought pre-owned.  The piston has been quite stiff.  Additionally, there's about a half turn of 'play' in the piston knob before it actually moves the piston. 

 

I got myself one of those tools for the piston and unscrewed it.  I couldn't get the piston seal and rod out.  I pulled until I felt I would break something if I pulled harder.  I then turned the piston until the threaded part unscrewed from the piston rod which remained stuck.  I regret not having taken a pic or two during the ordeal but the parts I'm referring to are demonstrated here:

 

149_onepiecebarrel-2.jpg

 

I copied and pasted a link for this image from a post made by 'talkinghead'.

 

The piston seal seems to need some lubricating and this is why it's so stiff and stuck!! 

 

Eventually, I gave in lest I break something and simply reassembled.  Things are back to the way they were before.  😰

 

Any ideas?

 

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mon.jpg.8a1edea5d4431ca0abbfb101f0db1171.jpg

 

 

 

They can be stiff ie "something's going to snap here" stiff ! but as long as you have screwed enough rod back into the piston assembly prior to pulling it should / will pop out, Take your time obviously and best not doing it after a few drinks (don't ask me why) Oh and there is always 'play' in the filler knob prior to piston movement, oh the amount of time you can spend getting the desired amount of piston movement when putting these together ! A few YouTube clips have been done on this, you can lose some ink capacity if you get it a thread or two out.

Money may not make you happy but I would rather cry in a Rolls-Royce

 

The true definition of madness - Doing the same thing everyday and expecting different results......

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If it had been my pen then after unscrewing the piston and finding the piston seal and rod too stiff to pull out I'd probably have tried to introduce some moisture into the barrel, maybe some warm water with a drop of dish soap added, or even a drop of liquid silicone. Yeah maybe you will have to clean out the barrel afterwards before reassembling but that's no problem.

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