The refillable rollerball – worthy addition to a collection or useless bastard child of a pen? Well, I think the answer depends on your pen needs. For me, a refillable rollerball fills a useful niche but I can see how other collectors could find the whole idea superfluous. Before getting into my thoughts on the Monteverde Engage specifically, you may be interested to know that there are plenty of other folks making refillable rollers including Noodlers, J. Herbin and Delta (I’m sure there are others. Sorry if I missed your favorite). The Engage’s price tag ($80-$90) is noticeably more than the Noodler’s or J. Herbin entries but considerably less than Delta’s Non-Stop Rollerball.
A refillable roller combines the fun of picking your favorite ink with the convenience of a rollerball. In reality, a rollerball isn’t more convenient than a fountain pen except in one limited sense (wait for it). I don’t know about you, but every rollerball I’ve used has at least as many issues with skipping or drying as you have with a lightly used fountain pen so I’m not convinced that rollerballs are really more user friendly than fountain pens. Factor in the qualities we all enjoy about the fountain pen writing experience and it seems to me that rollerballs don’t compare. Having said that, there is one writing activity I frequently engage (not pun intended) in when fountain pens aren’t convenient – test grading. When grading exams I need to be as efficient as possible. I’ve got a stack of 80 four-page exams to process and every second counts; aligning a nib with the page will just slow me down. If work or pleasure requires you to process several pages of documents efficiently and you still want the benefits of color choice (or you just want to use more of that damn ink you’ve got piling up), then a refillable rollerball just might be the thing.
Onto the Monteverde Engage. The first point to make is that this thing is built like an absolute locomotive. It has some decent heft (about 40 g) and at 6 inches long it won’t make for a comfortable pocket pen. Between the pen’s metal materials and carbon fiber finish you’ve got an implement that feels like it could stand in for a trailer hitch pin in a pinch. On the downside, the thin and overly flexible clip seems flimsy by comparison. The clip isn’t really an issue; it’s just not up to the rest of the pen’s construction. At nearly half an inch in diameter, the pen feels a bit thick but certainly manageable even for someone with relatively small hands like myself.
How does the pen write? Well, like a rollerball. It’s smooth, but not as smooth as a decent fountain pen. It gives hints of line variation, but not as much a medium or broader fountain pen. If I had to write a letter or anything else of length I’d much prefer a fountain pen. When it comes to making short notes or, in my professional case, grading a stack of exams, it works well. The Engage takes both a converter (the included converter has a healthy volume) and standard international cartridges. It’s shown here paired with Organic Studio’s Neon. It’s become a bit uncouth to grade papers in red ink these days. Oranges like Neon work well. There’s plenty of contrast against printed text and student writing while still being dark enough to read easily.
The Monteverde Engage is a “Desk It” pen for me. I’m very unlikely to use it for anything other than grading but it does that job well and it gives the chance to use your choice of ink color.
The Monteverde Engage is like a bread knife. About the only time you use a bread knife is to, well, cut bread. But it does that job well and you’re glad to have one when you use it. You don’t need a bread knife to cut bread but it’s well suited for the task. I won’t use the Engage much but I’m glad I have one for the jobs it will do. So, if you think you have a use for a refillable rollerball then go for the Engage or one of the other rollers I mentioned above. They’re a specialized but useful addition to any collection.