Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Montblanc Writers Edition 2011, Carlo Collodi Review

Before the Montblanc Collodi was released, I was excited to see this in the webpage and some leak photos. Subsequently I've concluded that this pen has too much gold, too ornate and probably impractical for everyday use. At that point, I’ve actually strike it off from my potential list of collection of pens. Soon afterwards, I’ve started to grow into it and it took several viewing of this pen to change my mind and soon realized that this is a well-made and beautiful pen after all. The first batch of the fountain pen was moving rather quickly and I’ve decided to wait and see. It is an attractive pen but it wasn’t enough for me to purchase it at the full price at a boutique, just to send it off for a nib exchange for a couple of weeks. I was hoping to wait till the supply trickle down to some authorized dealers and hope to find one with a bargain. Indeed that happened when I stepped into a shop and was actually hoping to find something else but instead the Collodi caught my attention. Furthermore, it has a B nib and the dealer was willing to give a fair discount (despite being a new stock) and allowed me to test dip! What more could one ask for.

First Impression:

It comes in a typical WE packaging style in a form of a book-like box. I’m beginning to like book-boxes of WEs. I’ve actually arranged the collection of my in my bookshelf and should this collection continues to expand further, I will have myself a row of WE (this is how I keep the pens now) Not too big, not too small. Also, it comes with an instruction booklet/warrantee card, complete with a brief description of the product, profile of the writer and visuals of the author and the collection of FP, RB, BP and pencils.


Design 8.5/10:

The MB Collodi WE is a very well ornate pen, make no mistake there. The skeletonized motifs have literal interpretations of the characters in Pinocchio’s story while the cone-like piston knob symbolizes Pinocchio’s nose. The skeletonized cap is over a resin barrel with a hinged-like clip completes the design along with the aged resin Montblanc star. The barrel of the pen is made of the same plain brown coloured resin, and unlike the precious black resin on the Miesterstuck series, this resin is very much opaque and does not have any kind of red luminance when near a light source. There are no ink windows. The nib, a single coloured champagne-gold plated over an 18k nib has a motif of a cricket. The piston knob is part of the 10 segments gold plated end tip of the pen. The piston knob breaks away at the 4th segment from the resin barrel as it turns away to activate the piston. The surface of the gold plating here has brushed surfaces that give a pleasant variety of gold texture on the pen. Though the cap seems to be shorter in proportion compared to other pens, the whole composition of all the components goes well together. The plain and simple looking barrel and the piston-knob balances out the ornate looking cap.


Construction and Quality 8/10:

A very well built pen. All joints and parts are solidly put together and precise. The golden skeletal cap over the brown resin were perfectly assembled and there are no loose joints or gaps there. The barrel screws in tightly into the cap and the piston knob when closed, looks seamless with the rest of the segment. However, one of my earlier viewing and handling of this pen at a boutique reveals that not all specimens are as well assembled (uneven gold plating and surface blemish). I suppose there is always a bad egg amongst the finest of products.

Weight and Dimension 7.5/10

When uncapped and un-posted, this barrel of the pen seems to be longer ones when compared to the other 146 size MB models. The longer dimension suggests that it is best to write with un-posted. The extra length of the piston knob which makes it rather comfortable to write with (my hands are almost of medium size). The pen is light and great for long writing sessions and it's almost as comfortable as the MB146. The extra length of the piston knob allows the pen to rest well on the back of my hand. Posting the cap will just make writing unbalanced with the heavy cap. Again, the brass component add a little bit of weight to the rear but still maintains balance on the overall handling of the pen (without the the cap, that is). The slight step down where the threads are does not seem to get in the way of my grip but rather help to secure the pen even more.

Refill System 9/10

The piston refill system is easy and smooth. So far, the smoothest piston mechanism I have ever used is the Pelikan M1000 or M800. The Collodi rivals those legendary pens. Unfortunately I do not have a picture to illustrate how the piston knob breaks away from the barrel when the piston is activated. I noticed that this is the first time in a modern MB that the treads can’t be seen when the piston is activated, again similar to the Pelikan construction. The turning of the knob is almost effortless and cleaning it with repetitive action has never been easier. the extra length of the knob also allows better grip for the turning action. The brushed golden plated surface gives a good feel of touch, somewhat warmer than the standard polished metal surface in other WEs. Having no ink window is not really a concern as this certainly will serve as my desk pen.

Nib and Performance 8.5/10

The B-nib is glass smooth and has a consistent and wet flow. Testing it at the shop helped me greatly in my decision to purchase this pen. Though I would still rate my 149 B nib as one of my favourite broad nibs, the Collodi does give the similar satisfaction with its stubbish lines and steady ink flow. The design of the nib has a cricket motif engraving. It is one of the simpler motifs in MB nibs, similar in spirit of Mark Twain or Kafka. The champagne gold plating gives it a uniform quality of appearance with the other parts of the pen.

Value 7/10

I resisted purchasing this during its release as I wasn’t certain with my decision to include the Collodi in my collection. I was hoping to find this with an AD to enjoy some discounted price, which I eventually did (>10% off, cheaper than the current ebay/online prices). The boutique retail price of this piece is a tab bit higher than the previous releases. For a new stock pen and readily available worldwide chain boutique and service, and the nib size of my choice without the wait, I think I’m rather happy with the deal.

Summary 8.1/10

The opulent impression of the pen may deter one from considering it as an everyday pen. However, the simple barrel and writing block, lightweight construction seems to suggest that this pen is made to be a workhorse, yet in the same time, the dimension and handling of the pen, seems to suggest that it is made to be a desk pen. The Collodi reminds me of other similar pens in the WE collection namely the WE Charles Dickens with a Sterling Silver cap with a simple solid colour resin barrel, and WE Schiller with an amber cap and again a simple resin barrel. Overall, I think the WE Collodi is one of the more interesting LE Montblanc, and worth taking a look at. It took several viewings and testing before I was convinced, and in my experience, things that takes a while to grow into tends to have a longer relationship compared to those that impresses at first encounter. Even though I’m not convinced yet that this will be in my regular rotation of pens, but it is certainly a worthy addition to my collection. The design and attention to details that has been put into the pen has all the qualities that can be easily appreciated.

Comparison with 146 and Mark Twain, the Collodi is significantly longer with the elongated piston knob

Comparison with 146 and Mark Twain, the Collodi has a smaller cap proportion to the overall length

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Spicy Lemongrass Prawns

Thai food has always been our favourite type of food and lemongrass is a core ingredient in Thai food recipe. Here is an experimental Thai inspired recipe that’s easy and quick!

 diced lemongrass


1.       Prawns – shell and head removed 3 cups
2.       Cook and shredded chicken meat – ½ cup
3.       Lemongrass – diced – 1 cup
4.       Onions – diced – 5 tbsp
5.       Red Chili – diced, and also cut for garnishing – 5 tbsp
6.       Garlic –diced – 5 tbsp
7.       String beans – cut into 2-3 inches ½ cup
8.       Cooking oil – 5 tbsp
9.       Sugar and salt to taste
10.   Prawn stock – ¼ cup

It is important to get all the above ready when the wok or frying pan is ready as this is a quick dish to prepare and best served warmed.
1.       Heat up oil on medium heat
2.       Pour in diced garlic, chili, onions and lemongrass, 1 tbsp sugar and sauté
3.       Prawn goes in and get a good coverage of the ingredients over it.
4.       Put in String beans and shredded chicken meat
5.       Add stock slowly and gradually to mix it even while stirring
6.       Add salt to taste
7.       Remove and serve immediately.

There you go, quick and easy!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Dry Curry Noodle

Craving for some of the food we used to taste back home, my wife and I decided to try to make our own Dry Curry Noodle dish. It's really a simple dish that you can do at home and can be easily improvised to suit your taste.


Essentially the ingredients can be divided into 3 categories:

A. The Curry Stew
  1. Shrimps
  2. Instant curry chicken mix
  3. Coconut Milk
  4. Cockles or Clams
  5. Fishcake and Fishball
  6. Tau Foo - Firm type, preferably fried

B. The Garnishing 
  1. Bean sprout
  2. Egg plant
  3. Long Beans cut into 2 inches
  4. Boiled/cooked sliced chicken meat
  5. Caramelized Onions

C. The Dry Noodle 
  1. Yellow Noodle - Fresh
  2. Oyster Sauce
  3. Sweet Soya Sauce
  4. Dark Soya Sauce
  5. Vegetable Oil
As the ingredients are divided into 3, the right order is that A and B can be prepared together as they take time, C should be the last as this dish has to be eaten warm and fresh when put together.


Preparing the Curry Stew
This is a simple curry stew and to save time, we would recommend using a quick mix of curry chicken mix to ease the process.
1. Remove heads from shrimps
2. Braise the heads in water to make stock
3. Heat oil in another pan and heat the instant curry mix
4. Pour in shrimp stock and coconut milk
5. Salt to taste
6. Add in clams/cockles, fish cake and fish ball and tau foo and cook in slow fire.
The stew is then ready to serve when the noodle is ready.

Preparing the Garnishing
Though I call it a garnishing, it is essentially part of the meal that completes it
1. Wash and drain bean sprout - ready to be eaten fresh
2. Egg plant to be cut into small slices, set aside on a try, sprinkled with salt and let it sit for about half and hour. You'll notice water is being drained out, after which use a kitchen tower to dab and dry it as much as possible. Saute it together with the cut up long beans until slightly browned - set aside and ready to serve. Salt to taste if you like.

Preparing The Dry Noodle
1. Prepare a pot of boiling water
2. On a mixing bowl, add vegetable oil, oyster sauce, sweet and a little dark soya sauce to stand by.
3. Blanch the fresh yellow noodles and drain them quickly when starting to soft
4. Mix the noodles into the mixing bowl.
5. Add a bit of pepper powder if you like

Putting the Dish Together 
As soon as the noodle is mixed, place them on the serving plate and have the garnishing over it. The curry stew should be served along side with it. Sambal sauce goes very well with it as well.


Friday, February 10, 2012

Comparison - Montblanc 146 with Sailor Realo 1911

Here I would like to share a comparison of these two fantastic writer, the MB 146 and Sailor Realo 1911. Both has very similar characters, sizes and specifications, as well as colors in production. MB 146 as many of you may know is a reliable and great writer that has proven itself over the years to be many's favourite writing instrument, overshadowed only by its larger sibling, the 149. The Sailor Realo 1911 is a newer production from Sailor and is one of the many few Japanese FPs that has intergrated filling system in the market. The piston filling is a newer addition to the 1911 line of FPs.

Looks and Appearance:

Here are some pictures that can speak for themselves. Both are very similar in shape and can be mistaken from afar. The Sailor however has a larger and clearer ink window while strip windows are used for the 146 allows a better material continuity look throughout the barrel. The MB star is probably the most apparent differentiator here in terms of appearance while the Sailor has larger gold plated rings compared to the MB. The gold plating on the Sailor seems to be more 'yellow' compared to the pale looking yellow gold of the MB. Sailor at the moment do not have rhodium plated rings and clip while MB 146 does that have option. MB however has ceased its production of the Bordeux resin version. Both pens looks very pleasing to the eye, not too loud and understated enough to be used as an everyday pen.

Weight and Construction:

MB 146 and Sailor 1911 are both made from 'Precious Resin' and PMMA Resin respectively. Are they the same thing? I am not qualified to say yes or otherwise but a lot of opinion seems to lean towards yes. The surface is smooth and shiny and both pens are very well put together and made to last. There are no loose joints, rings and clips are well assembled and both are first class quality. The clips on MB is a solid piece of metal while the Sailor is a folded metal to shape. The larger window in the Sailor 1911 seems to indicate that the thickness of the Resin is greater than the 146. Perhaps this could be a reason why the capacity is lower? I can't quite be sure unless I've dissambled it but from the exterior it does look that way. The modern production of the 146 does has the 'loose cap' syndrome when the pen is capped, while the Sailor cap always closes tightly. Both pen are comfortable to write with, be it posted or unposted. Perhaps the Sailor would be better if posted given the slightly shorter dimension that may make a large difference. MB is slightly heavier with the brass components.

Nib and Performance:

Both writes well OOTB, both are smooth and you can't put them down easily. Japanese nibs are significantly finer than the western counterparts. I've chosen F and M for my Sailor 1911s and M and OB for my MB 146s. That way I'll have a good range of nibs for different sizes, and taking the best of both brands; superior finer nibs from the Sailors and smoother bolder nibs from the MBs. Though the Sailor has a 21k nib as compared to the 14k nib on the 146, both these brands writes like a modern rigid nib. The MB 146 nibs are glass smooth effortless writing. The Sailor nibs are also very smooth but has the perfect amount of feedback to give that writing pleasure, even more apparent with the F nib, given the nature of such width.

Refill System:

Both are piston fillers, one of my most important criteria. MB uses brass for its piston components while Sailor's is plastic. Both mechanism works the same way and both are smooth and easy to use. The MB however has a larger capacity (more than 1 cc, i can't remember the exact number) while the Sailor Realo has the capacity of 1 cc. The piston knob for the MB is larger, making it easier to handle while the Sailor's piston knob is smaller and probably will take a bit to get used to. Then again, if one find the Sailor comfortable to use, one shouldn't be able to have problems with the smaller knob size. Both has windows to indicate the ink level. While the MB has a strip windows that are more elegantly design and subtle, the Sailor emphasized its window and made it an apparent design feature to see the colours of the ink.


MB retails at about USD 600-700 while the Sailor Realo is approximately USD350. This may be a major factor especially in deciding the two, as they are both very similar in looks and characteristic and performs equally well. However, given the large second hand supply out there for a 146, there are many opportunity to own it at much less, if one is not keen on free nib exchange programs.


Though both pens looks very similar, but they do have different handling characteristic. Each has its strength and not many weaknesses. Both are good examples of great engineering and manufacturing process to ensure the best in their product. The MB 146 has the flair and a good feel of a well designed pen, with the history behind it that exudes quality. The Sailor 1911 is a well tuned and high performance machine of a pen. I have been continually and pleasantly refreshed in my writing experience, changing from pen to the other, as they give a similar feel and physical experience, yet different characteristic when the nibs touches the paper.

Thanks for reading!