We all know what Mentmores are like, don’t we? The Diplomas are rather staid and old-fashioned, well-made but with nail-like nibs. They’re the Morris Miners of the British pen world.
Except that’s not always true. Take this beauty. The only other pen I can remember wearing this livery is the Watermans of the 1930s and it was known as Steel Quartz. Beautiful as it is, that’s not the best thing about this pen. It has a delightfully flexible nib. It needs no pressure at all to induce considerable line variation. It’s an unexpected treasure.
More generally, I think it’s fair to say that Mentmores are both underestimated and undervalued. They have the odd problem. Several models have poor gold plating. Others can have a tendency to slight shrinkage in the caps. It’s usually not enough to affect how the cap screws on but it can leave the cap ring loose. Not the worst fault in the world, but annoying.
That aside, Mentmore has much to be admired. If you like inflexible nibs – and many do – then the Mentmore is up there with Parker in nib quality. Given the large amount of tipping material that Mentmore applied to its nibs, it may be even better, in the sense that it is even more durable. Mentmore was not parsimonious with the gold and made big, sturdy nibs. As is the case with Parker, it’s rare to find a cracked Mentmore nib. Especially in the pre-war years Mentmore experimented with filling systems and in this regard they were the most adventurous British pen manufacturer.
After World War II, when fountain pen sales were beginning to fail in the face of the increasing reliability and popularity of the ballpoint, Mentmore didn’t lose their nerve. They brought out several new models that reflected the changing shape of fountain pens. They produced ballpoints of their own and innovated there as well.
I think that the better quality Mentmores are of the sleepers of the British fountain pen market. Their day will come.