Montegrappa's Rich History
Montegrappa is a well known for making a high quality pen. As Italy's first manufacture of pens the company has a rich history. It has been located in the town of Bassano del Grappa, in Northern Italy, since 1912.
Alessandro Marzotto and Domenico Manea bought the business from Hofmann in 1927 and established the new name of the company - ELMO. The name of the company changed in 1947 to be ELMO-MONTEGRAPPA.
Visit with Giuseppe Aquila
In September 2009 I had the pleasure to visit with President and CEO, Giuseppe Aquila, at the Bassano del Grappa headquarters. It was a very interesting visit as I had always wanted to know more about Montegrappa as I have admired their pens for many years. As we talked it was easy to sense his pride and vision for the company.
Create pens of utmost quality and value.
The quality and value of Montegrappa pens is well established. Having owned a Montegrappa Extra 1930 Parchment fountain pen I have enjoyed the writing experience with such a quality pen. I have always found the well-styled look of Montegrappa pens to be very appealing. To me, the Extra 1930, represents a fine example of simple, classic design in a fountain pen. Other lines of pens such as the NeroUno, Espressione, Emblema, and the Miya are all examples a clean, good functioning design.
During our visit we talked about the various lines of regular production and Limited Editions pens that have been created over the years. Giuseppe has an in depth knowledge as his involvement in the pen business extends for a considerable time period. As President of the Aquila Group, he is also involved with other lines such as Tibaldi, Lalex 1938, and licensing of brands such as Ducati and Jaguar.
Some of the very impressive Montegrappa pens were brought to market with the personal involvement of Giuseppe Aquila.
Montegrappa is known for its celluloid pens. I particularly enjoy writing with celluloid pens because of the rich appearance of celluloid. As a material for pen construction celluloid offers a range of colour and pattern options, is light weight and when cured correctly, is a very sturdy material. In talking with Andrea Zanchetta of Montegrappa's sales team, he explained that celluloid and silver are the DNA of Montegrappa.
Celluloid and silver... the DNA of Montegrappa
As I visited with Giuseppe we walked throughout the factory and he explained the key processes and skills involved in creating a Montegrappa pen. Detailed work, coordination of various production states, and the care and quality of the many parts that make up a pen all come together to create the final product.
The pen nibs are made in Germany to Montegrappa’s specifications. However, only the nib is made externally. The ebonite feeds are cut from rods and crafted for the nib section by Montegrappa at is centre. Ebonite feeds are known for enabling a smooth, dependable ink flow as they are slightly porous, and a little rough-surfaced, with allows the feed to nicely hold ink in the nib section.
Since Montegrappa is known for its celluloid pens we spent time talking about the specific process to create celluloid pens, however, Montegrappa is well known for its pen in other materials.
It takes about 16 months to make the celluloid used for the pens. Of this time, almost 12 months is required for proper curing. Before final curing, celluloid is relatively unstable and highly combustible. For protection, the celluloid rods are stored in a separate building.
The baking takes four to six months. The final time depends on how the material reacts to the baking process. There are frequent tests. For example, the level of the solvent in the celluloid must drop below a set amount for the baking process to be completed. If the level remained too high, the celluloid would be unstable and could be subject to shrinkage. Given the exact fit of the various parts of a pen, any shrinkage would be unacceptable.
For some of the engraving, two dimensional drawings are converted to three dimensional formats with the use of computer software. But it would be wrong to assume that is a straight forward software process. Each component of the drawing has to be calculated to determine the appropriate incline of the cut. This determines the amount of reflective light and the final appearance of the engraving.
There is extensive testing of the individual parts and the overall pen to various conditions. Pens are subjected to various levels of heat and cold to ensure there will be no problems in the variety of climates. A machine tested clips to simulate the ongoing use of the pen clip for many thousands of times. Pens and parts were dropped from various heights to ensure that the final pen will stand up to the range of user experiences!
There are quality checks through out the manufacturing process. One piece of equipment was very impressive. In essence a microscope that magnifies the part of the pen and then compares readings to the original technical drawings. Calibrations are checked and can be adjusted so the particular part of the pen is exact in terms of the design specifications.
In fact, his mother is often part of the last quality checks as products are packaged to leave Montegrappa and make their way to retailers around the world.
Montegrappa has seen growth in markets such as Russian, the Ukraine and Asia. He looks forward to greater presence in the North American market and Kenro is the North American distributor. Kenro is well established and this should all work well to increase Montegrappa's presence in North America.
Giuseppe explained that the current economic market conditions require products that are of a high quality and hold a good value to the purchaser. Those are two proven characteristics of a Montegrappa pen.
I was glad to hear that lines such as the Extra 1930 will continue, and work is underway for new lines of regular and limited edition pens.
A company with a rich history.
Giuseppe Aquila and Glenn Marcus, September 2009 Visit.
Limited Edition Vatican 2000 Papal Pen
Celluloid rods are kept in a special storage room.
The pieces are drilled to be ready for subsequent processing.
Special ovens with trays of celluloid pieces. Monitoring throughout the baking processes ensures a fine quality product.
Small pellets are in this polishing machine.
Giuseppe Aquila explains the various quality checks throughout the manufacturing process.
Nibs are tested by hand on paper to ensure a smooth Montegrappa writing experience.
Stunning look of the Montegrappa Extra 1930. I am going to be on the lookout for this pen with a great broad nib!