Montegrappa in 2004

Ink feed under the microscope. acryliconlathe2.jpg The final product sparkling Pressure test of the inkfeed. Rod material and “semilavorati” - half finished caps and barrels. The final product sparkling. Polishing in a drum with nut shells Polishing on the buffer wheel. Polishing of silver parts on the buffer wheel. olimpiaturningknobs.jpg Olympia The nib fitting. Nib units ready to be mounted. Assembly hall.... Laser welding of the Ferrari Pen. Venice. Hallmarking the silver tubes. Venice Canale Grande. Modern and traditional at the same moment - the creation of guillochee pattern on precious metal. Gold recycling. Laserwelding of some Ferrari Pen detail. Inkfeed no. 3 - the outer shaped is ground by a silicium carbide disk. Over hot steam, the inkfeed is adapted to the nib. Inkfeed production no. 2 The overflow chambers are cut by an array of cutting discs. The making of the inkfeed 1 - Capillaries cut by a disc. Clip shaping - the rounded shape is created. Clip making - the outer shape is punched out of a sheet of silver. Venice Gold! View of the Mountains near Bassano Bassano del Grappa Semiautomatic polishing of the pen caps.
All photos...

Montegrappa

a factory tour in September 2004

Silver Pens by Montegrappa

 

Montegrappa pens are famous all over the world for their metalwork on pens. The Silver 

Dragon pen as well as the Luxor pen series are examples of the richly decorated silver and 

gold pens. The Cosmopolitain series of silver pens are examples of wonderful craftsmanship 

regarding the artwork on metal. However, when Richemont took over the company in 2000, 

many aspects regarding workflow (and inkflow… ) needed an urgent adaptation to modern 

techniques. How has this been done in just three years time and did these dramatic changes 

ruin the image of a small family owned business, mainly based on craftsmanship? 

The visit this year in July was a rather positive surprise.

 

 

Since 1912, Montegrappa is based at Bassano del Grappa, a small North Italian town right 

near the mountains. And of course its near Venice and a short sightseeing tour was essential 

and most welcome. 

Our plane neared the airport on a sunny day in early July. Flat marshlands announced the 

Adriatic coastal area. And from there, just one motorway leads to Venice, but five or more 

Motorboat ways signaled by large wooden poles – and there was dense traffic. 

Pina, Montegrappa Communication Manager and Manuel, the tour guide picked us at the 

airport and with a water taxi we started for a quick tour of Venice. 

We had to touch these two irons fit into the corner of a house, "Porta Fortuna" Manuel 

explained. Only later on he told us, that in 16th century, on these irons, the bodies of beheaded 

sinners we

re displayed. He also teached us to avoid the very big stones on the pavement. Bears bad luck 

to walk on them. And when the inevitable pigeon left its mark on the suit of Andreas, first of 

all, this bears luck, and second, well a Venetian saying is, that everything could be worse, a 

pigeon still is better than a flying cow. …

Next morning, after having toured Bassano del Grappa and some intense testing of the other 

important product of the area – Grappa – we arrived at the factory. Outside, nothing really has 

changed, it still is the building bought in 1912 by the German founder Helm. Inside, we were 

to see many changes. Offices now are located, where the owners family lived. Lunch was to 

be served on the terrace of Mr. Helm's private terrace.

 

Montegrappa products are best described by their materials. Its mainly silver, perfectly 

worked and decorated with intricate guillochee patterns. And then this silver has to be 

mounted on Celluloid worked on the lathe. The pens are supposed to write with soft gold nibs, 

fit on ebonite feeds. Would this still be existant, or already be bound to be extinguished? 

 

 

Silver, it needs to be pure silver with no protective cover of rhodium. It would ruin the special 

feeling and appearance of silver. Sergio De Bon explains this. We witness how a silver tube is 

made. A flat and thick coin of silver is inserted into a press, which quickly converts the coin 

into a stubby cup. Several rounds of pressing with tools of decreasing diameter and increasing 

length shape a long tube which then may become a barrel or a cap. Two workstations of 

dramatically different nature show the changes made after 3 years. On the one hand, 

octagonal caps are hallmarked on traditional machinery, one by one inserted by hand, pressed, 

checked and put back onto a tray. The other side shows a kind of super tool, working inside a 

huge acrylic cage. Ten silver or gold tubes can be worked simultaneously. And they pass 5 

different numerically controlled workstations. A barrel of the new pen "Gold Rush" gets a 

diamond engraving. The design which can be seen on the screen behind is transferred onto the 

silver. 260 times the diamond cuts a line with varying depth and at the end, a three-

dimensional image is created with a high resolution and an exceptional smooth surface. 

The refuse has to be recycled. And especially the gold will never leave the house for recyling. 

"Controlling of the quantities is easier" Sergio explains with a knowing smile.  Gold pieces 

slide into an oven and at the end of the day, we will see a bar of 2.5 Kilograms cast into a 

mould. 

 

 

Ebonite feeds very quickly had to be improved and after a short visit to the outside supplier, 

decision was made to develop a new solution in-house. Vlado Valic, responsible for technical 

development already since 1995 proudly presents his creation. The new machine due to 

perfect ventilation does not emit any smell of sulfur. Every step of the production is 

separately done by a numeric controlled tool. First the polished rod of ebonite is cut to length, 

then inserted into a holder, which leads the rod towards a disc, which cuts the air channel and 

the ink capillaries. Then an impressing tool cuts the lateral ink reservoirs and at the end, on 

grinding stones, the flat shape is ground. Well, the machine itself is already perfect, speed did 

not really need to be improved first. But now, as some request from the outside for feed arose, 

Montegrappa will try to produce a little more efficiently. 

At the nib assembly the feeders and gold nibs are fit into a housing. This screw in nib unit can 

easily be fit into the pens. Interesting to see the way, ink flow is regulated. Should there be a 

gap between nib and inkfeed, the whole nib unit is immersed into boiling water. At these 100 

degrees Celsius the inkfeed softens and can be pushed towards the nib. A small but major 

change can be seen here. The housing has been rebuild, threads were changed, a tiny change 

in diameter did increase the sealing. Now, nib units are much more leakproof but can also be 

unscrewed easier. Right besides this workstation, a young lady works at a high tech station. 

The new Ferrari Annual Edition needs a small steel point to be soldered onto the cap. This is 

done by a Laser, which with a silent clicking noise and some smoke does its work. 

 

 

Celluloid and resin have to be worked on lathes. Here the modernization has the sad effect, 

that all CNC operated lathes have to work behind acrylic windows, as the machines, while 

working, have to be continuously sprayed with cooling fluid. The storage area shows a 

fantastic array of colored caps and barrel, all of them carefully sorted into vintage wooden 

trays. Even more fascinating were the precious metal overlays, stored like that.  

 

 

A most beautiful new edition pen is assembled. The Classical Greece  Limited Edition pen. 

The solid silver cap is shaped like an ancient marble column, the barrel made from a bright 

pearl turquoise blue, perfectly reflecting the impression of  the Greek sea. The piston filler´s 

turning knob is a tiny jewel, made from silver and decorated with hot enamel by a British 

artist. A most detailed antique map of the Peloponnesus islands is revealed at closer look. The 

pen sure honors the coming Olympic games, but well, to name it after the Olympiad would 

have cost a fortune in royalties, Sergio De Bon explains. 

 

Montegrappa is sold worldwide, with the curious fact, that its strongest market is Russia. 

Since 2000, the factory has grown from 25 to 66 employees, and from 25.000 pens to 50.000. 

Target of production is a maximum of 80.000 pens. 

 

PS – this article was published in October 2004 Stylus Magazine.