I love my Karas EDKs and Retro 51 Tornados rollerballs. I have a few fountain pens, but prefer the no-nonsense of the rollerballs and gel pens. Most likely because I write like a monkey, and am super hard on my writing tools. I’m barely quality to hold an inked tree branch. I do love the variety of inks I could use in my fountain pens, but I find the rollerballs and gel pens much more daily-use pens. (Full disclosure, I use Sharpies all day in my print shop.) I do have a nice Hinze fountain pen I uses when I’m feeling fancy.
Ana suggested that I try out the retractable Engage, as this pen has a converter that’d allow me to choose from her armada of inks and enjoy colors aside from my rollerball’s blacks and blues. And I have to say I enjoyed it.
At first glance, the rainbow finish and simple design of this pen barrel reminded me of the burnt patina on missiles. The splayed plunger, rounded blunt tip, and metallic oil-stain finish give it a pretty manly aesthetic. As does the weight. It’s a bit hefty (40g).
Loading it with ink (Monteverde Mercury Noir) was super easy, and the rollerball inked up super fast. It writes really crisply and smooth with no lag or goopy-ness that I sometimes associate with some of the medium gauge refills I usually use and like. My ham-fisted writing marks were easily forgiven by this pen.
My only critique of this pen is the design aesthetic. It’s much heavier, and about an inch longer than many of the pens I use on a daily basis. The barrel and grip are pretty nondescript but the clicker is super quick and precise. The finial looks a bit like a golf tee, but it somehow works with this brut pen. The clip is the most elegant part of the pen, and its simple design is a nice nod to the fine rollerball quality.
But when I used this pen, all I could focus on was its presence in my grip. My Hinze is bit wider in girth, but the grip is more sculpted and lets me ignore the size while I write.
This writes like a boss, but the size and heft are just not my cuppa tea.
Update: (The TL:DR version– still not a fan.)
I decided to give it a try at my shop for a week. If I’m gonna give a pen a negative review based on aesthetics, the least I can do is try it out the mechanics in real life for awhile.
I’m a printer, and walk around a print shop all day, with various writing tools in my pockets and/or apron. Usually, I’ll have a Sharpie and a rollerball of some type: Karas EKD, Fisher Space pen, or perhaps a battered Sheaffer Star Wars rollerball. All these rollerballs perform pretty well, and never seem to leak on me (Ed Note: two out of three have caps). I love Retro 51 Tornados, but I’ve had an errant one leak on me as the rollerball was exposed in my shirt pocket. So, I carry those in my pockets, point-up.
The Engage seemed okay at the shop. It’s large, epi-pen size seemed to work in it’s favor. Easy to find in my pockets, and a quick, brutish writing solution. I was enjoying it at the shop. I’d carry it upside down in my pocket, so I wouldn’t have any ink mishaps in the bottom of my pockets.
But carrying it upside down activated the click mechanism very easily. Ink leached into the top of my jeans pocket and I stained two pairs of pants. You’d think I’d learn after the first accident. The second time happened after I had changed into shorts one hot day at work, and even aware of the nature of this pen, put it in my pocket for only a few hours. The rollerball just activated too easily and quickly. I could try a third pair of pants, and carry this point-down, but now I’m a bit shy. And done with this pen.
(From the Editor) This pen is unique in that it is a fountain pen ink-compatible rollerball but the size of the pen and the push-button mechanism muddies the water about its use. It’s too large to be a pocket carry for many, and the liquid ink leaks like many Retro 51 rollerballs. The fountain pen ink compatible refill in a rollerball might be more interesting in a capped pen (eliminating leaking issues) and a slightly smaller pen (broadening audience appeal). As it stands, it has a very limited appeal.
- Paper: Rhodia Uni-Blank No. 16 with 6mm guide sheet
- Pens: Monteverde Engage One Touch Rainbow Roll-Ball (MSRP $95)
- Ink: Monteverde Mercury Noir ($8 for 30ml bottle)