Monteverde Engage

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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.

Rating
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.

Analogy
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.

A couple of other reviews of the Engage:
Ink Nouveau
From the Pen Cup

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Monteverde Invincia

The Fountain Pen Hospital has made more than a few bucks off me this month.  I’ve already detailed my thoughts on the Sailor Sapporo that I purchased at this month’s FPH expo.  Here, our focus will be the carbon fiber/chrome Monteverde Invincia I bought as part of FPH’s 12 days of Christmas sale.  The MSRP for this Invincia is $100 with a typical street price around $80.  By the way, I love it when us pen dorks use the phrase “street price”.  If there’s one group of people who can’t get away with using a hip term like “street price”, it’s us.  Anyway, the $60 I spent for the pen and shipping was a pretty good deal.  Unfortunately, my compliments regarding this pen will pretty much stop there.  I know it takes two to create a working relationship and it seems that the Invincia and I are not going to work.  Invincia…it’s not you, it’s me.  (Isn’t that line always a lie?)

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Let’s stay positive for a bit longer.  The pen is a real looker.  The chiaroscuro created by the carbon fiber body and the mirror chrome cap and nib section strikes my fancy very much.  I also dig the satisfying way the cap screws onto the body.  It’s hard to explain, but the last half turn glides the cap onto the body in a way that really makes you think the cap is on to stay.  The cap posts rather smoothly as well.

Now for the negatives.  While I generally like hefty pens, the weight combined with the super smooth chrome nib section and the slick resin overlaying the carbon fiber body make the pen a challenge to navigate across paper.  For comparison, the Invincia comes in at about 40 grams while the classic Lamy 2000 comes in at 25 grams.  If you’re one of these people with perfect pen posture where the pen stays calmly in the crook of your forefinger and thumb, then the weight and slickness may not bug you.  As a lefty overwriter who lifts and wiggles pens across paper, I need some friction to my grip, even more so if the pen is a bit heavy.  So, that’s reason #1 why the Invincia and I aren’t likely to work out in the long run.

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Reason #2 is, unfortunately, the nib.  Let me be very clear on this point – there’s nothing wrong with Monteverde nibs in general or the nib on this Invincia in particular.  My problem comes down to writing angle.  I need pens that are a bit forgiving when it comes to the writing angle and the fine steel nib on the Invincia doesn’t seem to have this quality.  When I slow down and force myself to hold the pen more horizontally the nib performs well.  In fact, it produces a neat bit of line variation without skipping once I get the angle just so.  But let’s be real here – That One Pen is about finding quality, everyday writing tools that aren’t so high maintenance.  In short, the Monteverde Invincia is undeniably pretty and responds well if I get the grip and angle just right, but I don’t think I want to deal with all the hassle.

Rating
At this point, it won’t come as a surprise that I’m giving this pen my “Give It” rating.  There’s nothing wrong with the pen other than the fact that I can’t use it.  Now, I’m going to force myself to use it for a few more days in the hopes that the nib becomes more forgiving and that I’ll adjust to the slick feel.  Given that $60 was a pretty good deal, I feel like I need to give the Invincia second and third chances.  Alas, I don’t have high hopes.  Stay tuned – this pen may be put on the trading block or used in a future giveaway.

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Analogy
So far, the Monteverde Invincia is like the pretty girl I knew years ago in a college organic chemistry class.  She certainly was pretty and she was also intelligent and a decent person.  Unfortunately, after a couple of dates, it was obvious to both of us that it wasn’t going to work.  Was it her?  Was it me?  I suspect it was just an odd combination.  And so, at first look, there’s nothing I should dislike about the Monteverde Invincia but it seems that it’s just not going to work.

Are there other reviews of the Monteverde Invincia?  Yes, yes there are.
Note Booker, Esq. (review of stealth Invincia which is probably more my style anyway)
FP Geeks (also the stealth version with the stylus bit too)
SBRE Brown (also stealth; also stylus)
Tyler Dahl Pens (yup, stealth stylus)
From the Pen Cup (matte chrome with stylus)