Preserving the handcraft of fountain pen making, Montblanc reveals the complex process that its expert team of artisan makers go through to bring the beloved pens to life.
Handcrafts are a vital expression of human ingenuity and artistry. From the first stone carvings to the design of the latest luxury smartphones, humans have an innate desire to see and touch beautiful objects. However, across the world, many essential handcrafts are in danger thanks to the inevitable march of automation and globalisation. Specialist artisan hand skills that may be lost in the coming century include watchmaking, diamond cutting, glass blowing and the meticulous construction of pianos.
Within the artisan industries, many companies are striving to invest in their craftsmanship, preserve it for generations to come and encourage ongoing engagement.
Founded in 1906, Montblanc’s ingenuity and design propelled writing technology forward relieving writers from the stress of leakages. Their meticulous manufacturing process includes 35 steps to craft their nibs and a further 70 steps to assemble the wider pen and test it. The company promote the complex process on their website and by investing in training and the next generation of fountain men makers they are sustaining the craft.
For anyone that’s curious about the 35-step process, it all takes place in Hamburg at the Montblanc artisan atelier. It begins with the stamping out of the flat nib silhouette. Using either 14k or 18k gold, a special machine uses up to 19 tons of pressure to cleanly stamp each nib. These two-dimensional pieces are called “blank nibs” and are embossed with the 4810 (the altitude of Mont Blanc’s highest peak in meters).
The embossed blank nib is then polished by hand to a high shine using a diamond file before a device called a “nib swage” is used to form the curved shape. Next, a welding machine and operator add the crucial iridium tip. To do this perfectly, the machine reaches 2000 degrees Fahrenheit. Placing the tip perfectly is vital to ensure a smooth writing experience.
To create the capillary that draws the ink to the tip, Montblanc’s technicians use a special spinning blade coated in fine diamond dust. At just 0.1 mm wide and spinning at 7000 revolutions per minute, this machine precisely cuts a slit that runs between the breather hole and the tip. The slightest deviation or imperfection would disrupt the flow of the ink, so flawless accuracy at this stage is essential.
The next stage requires highly experienced and attentive craftspeople to meticulously grind the nib. Using a figure-eight motion, the iridium nib is smoothed from every conceivable angle to prepare for the smoothest gliding movement for writing.
Once fitted to the main body, the nib is then tested in a special soundproof proof room so the quality assurance team can experience the smooth writing sensation and listen for unwanted snags or scratches. Only if the pen scores perfect marks in testing does it pass out of the atelier.
Next time you reach for a Montblanc to write a note, consider the artistry, innovation and craftsmanship that went into creating it. Montblanc is preserving that craftsmanship so future generations can enjoy the same writing pleasures.