I'm really interested in fun product/software "hacks" that create more usable, more productive, or generally better stuff. I'm not talking about the blackhat kind of hacks, but more the kind of thing you would find here. One such example is illustrated on this site. The idea of having a writing instrument that performs as well as a $200+ Mont Blanc pen - at a fraction of the cost - is pretty cool. So I followed the instructions on the Web site to see if it really worked. Read on for more.

First, yes you can take a Pilot G2 gel pen and use a Mont Blanc ink cartridge to make a better pen. At least, some people think it's better. I'm not overly familiar with what makes Mont Blanc pens so great and according to Wikipedia there's considerable argument the pens aren't great. From my reading though, it appears the ink in a Mont Blanc cartridge is what really makes writing with their pens better. While I'm sure the weight and balance of the pen make a difference as well, in the end, it seems the quality of the ink is where the real value lies. If this is true, and if one could put a Mont Blanc ink cartridge in a regular pen, you would have a writing instrument that performed at least near as well as it's more expensive counterpart (Mont Blanc's run from $160 to several thousand dollars).

The first step in creating your faux Mont Blanc pen is to purchase a Pilot G2 rolling ball pen. You can buy the same one shown in Figure 1 below or opt for the more expensive Pilot G2 Pro as described in the instructables article. A pack of 4 Pilot G2's will cost you around $3 and can be bought at any office supply store. Next, you need to pick up a Mont Blanc Rollerball refill. These can be purchased individually or in a pack of two for about $12. Office Depot, and perhaps other office supply stores, carry these refills. Make sure you purchase Rollerball refills and NOT Ballpoint refills; the ballpoint refills are too short and will not work. Don't ask me how I know.

Figure 1: What to buy

Next, open the Mont Blanc packaging and take out one of the refills. Disassemble the G2 pen and compare the two cartridges. They're almost exactly the same diameter and nearly the same length. The Mont Blanc cartridge is about 1/8 of an inch too long at the end opposite the tip. Using a sharp knife or box cutter, cut off the excess plastic on the end of the Mont Blanc cartridge. If you arrange your MB cartridge as shown in Figure 2, and place the blade of your knife on the far right end, you can move the knife slowly to the left until you hit a little ridge on the cartridge. This is where you want to cut, which will shave off the 1/8 inch of excess. Figure 2 shows an unaltered MB cartridge on the top, an altered MB cartridge in the middle, and the original G2 cartridge on bottom.

Figure 2: Comparing an unaltered and altered Mont Blanc cartridge with the original G2 cartridge

A closeup view of the pens illustrates where and how much to cut off.

Figure 3: A closeup view of the cartridges

With the MB cartridge now shorter, assemble the Pilot G2 with the MB cartridge inside and you have a cheap pen that writes like a $200+ Mont Blanc!

Figure 4: The final Pilot G2 Mont Blanc hybrid

Aaron West's Gravatar
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This entry was posted by Aaron West on August 22, 2007 at 6:15 PM. It was filed in the following categories: General, Hacks. It has been viewed 59435 times and has 33 comments.

33 Responses to Make a 200 Dollar Mont Blanc Pen for 8 Dollars

  1. Todd Rafferty

    Very very cool :) Good find!

  2. Very cool tip, but it's sort of like putting a Ferrari engine in a Ford Taurus. It might work just as well, but you lose all sense of style. Plus, buying a Mont Blanc is all about how it makes you feel when you use it, not really about writing quality. It's an emotional sale, not a logical one. Sounds like some corporate IT purchasing decisions doesn't it ;) ?

  3. Chris Dawes

    Awesome research!! I also found that placing the second image at the bottom of my monitor and scrolling down with my wheel mouse creates an optical illusion that the image is zooming in and out as you scroll it on and off the page vertically... weird, but entertaining me still...

    Anyway, back to the scrolling...

  4. Yea, I noticed the optical illusion when previewing the blog post. It makes me dizzy.

  5. I saw this a while back and you inspired me to try it. I have this thing for pens and so my wife got me a Dr. Grip for my birthday... along with a bunch of other things, she isn't that cheap!.

    Well I remembered the Dr. G uses the G2 refills so I figured what the HEY! Went to Office Max and sure enough it works. And they really do write nicely. Almost as nice as my fountain pen but a little more consistent.


  6. Sweet! I didn't know the Dr. Grip would work with the MB refills. If you need a more "solid" pen, with a little more weight, a Dr. Grip would work well in place of the G2. Thanks for sharing J.J.

  7. Rick

    An alternative to cutting the top off the mont blanc refill is to use an o-ring as a spacer to extend the G2 body to accommodate the longer mont blanc refill. Unscrew the pen, and place the o-ring over the lower half of the pen body just above the rubber grip. I found my o-rings in the Sears Hardware plumbing department. They measured 5/16" ID by 7/16" OD by 1/16" thick, and were in a package marked F80 that contained four o-rings for $1.

    The unmodified refill can still be used in a mont blanc body...

    Enjoy and Happy Hacking!

  8. Rick, while you could certainly use an o-ring to make this hack work why would you want to?! You can save yourself a trip to the store and some $$ with a knife and 5 seconds of free time.

  9. Rick

    For one thing, the o-ring modification easier to reproduce. If you cut too much off the top of the refill, it won't work. For another, it's a one time modification, vs cutting the tops off every mont blanc refill you want to put into a g2 body. I understand all too well that time and skill can offset a lack of money -- the o-ring only cost me 25 cents.

  10. James

    That scrolling / zooming effect is very strange! Anyone know the name of that illusion, or what causes it?

    Nice hack, will be trying it over the weekend!

  11. jim

    hey mike what do you work for mont blanc or something? why you criticisim people who wanna say a buck or 175?

  12. jonysuave

    well, although the idea is original and fun, you didnt get the point of the reason the original pen is expensive: the materials its made of. its not only the ink that makes the quality. a good pen is forever, is it a montblanc, a sheaffer, or another quality brand. but your pen works lol!

  13. Bill Baird

    I have a real Mont Blanc but my boss has a fake he purchased in Shanghai for $3. He used the Mont Blanc refills but likes the gel refills better. Go figure...

  14. Over the years I've used a myriad of pens from cheap ballpoints to expensive fountain pens and although one of the nicest "inexpensive" gel ink models I've come to appreciate was the Pilot Dr Grip, my only criticism was it's bulk. I recently bought a Uniball Premier 207 and found it to be just about the most perfect gel ink pen I've come across yet. Even though they cost about the same, the Uniball Premier 207 is far better feeling than the Pilot Dr. Grip (which uses the same refill as the G2) and is also a tad slimmer than the Dr. Grip. Writes nice and smooth too.

  15. Greg

    I tried the Mont Blanc in our local pen store over 25 years ago and the weight, balance, and writing were magical. Couldn't afford one back then but got a black Lamy Safari instead. I have used the Lamy for over 20 years and highly recommend it. The refills write very well, are consistent, do not dry out, and last a long, long time. Killer pen for $15 or so and looks classier than drug store pens (IMHO of cousre).

    Went to the pen store a few days ago and tried the Mont Blanc again. Same magic. The pen hasn't changed - it felt exactly as I remembered it. In the past 25 years, I have not found a pen with the signature weight, balance, and writing of the original MB. Finally bought one and will enjoy it for the rest of my life.

    That said, hat's off the inventiveness of fitting a MB refill into a non-MB pen. Keep up the fun work! Also might want to try a Waterman roller-ball refill.

  16. @Greg - Thanks for your comment. For $15, I'd try a Lamy Safari. I've never heard of the brand or seen it around. Where can they be purchased?

  17. Lawrence

    You guys seem like you know Pens-- I just bought a pile of old 1960 Ballpoints with Business logos-- All are dried out--- just plain cheap pens -- but I cannot get newer refills that fit them. The diameter of the tip that protrudes throught he casing seems to wide. The old simple ball point refills came to a point with less diameter... Any ideas where I can get the old style refills. idme s

  18. Matthew Travis Mcalister

    that is nice i know that a nice pen is the 207 premier from uniball and with it unmoded you can fit rellfills from other pens in it be shure to use the spring that is in the 207 permire or this wont work but you can fit refills including: unibal premier 207, pentel energel 0.7 metal tip, pentel energel 0.7 needle tip, unibal signo 207, uniball gel impact rt, staedtler exceed 0.7 retractable gel ink pen refils grey tip, pilot g2 o7, and moded singo rt gel .38 refills all of these will work with the 207 premier.

  19. Ndaara

    I tried this yesterday, and picked up a refill for my waterman pen at the same time. It's true the Mont Blanc refill is very nice, but it's not as nice as using the real thing! There is something to be said for quality construction. Waterman ink is very nice also. I tried trimming that refill too, but messed up and trimmed the NEW refill instead of the old empty one. No, it doesn't fit =p BUT a few minutes and some scissors, cardstock, and tape and my nice new refill fits back in my waterman pen at least. $25 and 20 minutes later, I have several nice pens to write with. Thanks!

  20. Thanks for the comment Ndaara. I need to post another blog entry about pens. I've since picked up a Lamy Safari fountain pen for a little less than $40 ($30 for the pen, a few bucks for 5 refills, plus shipping) from The Safari is hands down the best pen I have ever used and for the price, it's hard to beat.

  21. K Gift

    What a brilliant idea, choosing a see through pen to show the actual casing. Its just a pitty the tip does not have the white cap otherwise it would be perfect. The only unfortunate part is that people might by mistake take your pen and they would never take an original. The trick might be to just buy a fake one.

  22. drv

    Since the MB rollerball is a capped pen, won't the click-type G2 allow the roller ball to dry out prematurely?

  23. @drv - You'd think the Mont Blanc would dry out wouldn't you. But oddly it does not. I suppose the tip and the rollerball filling the tip has such a tight fit that no air is getting past to cause the ink to dry. Good question.

  24. You are absolutely hilarious.

    On my way to the office store now!

  25. MB fan

    Namiki pilot knight rollerball uses the G2 refill for $28.00 @ works perfectly with modified MB refill. Great looking pen that writes like a MB. Thanks for the info.

  26. Cool, thanks for the info "MB fan."

  27. David

    I need an inexpensive pen that takes a Mont Blanc ballpoint refill. Do they exist?

  28. @David - Did you try what I described in this post? Using a Pilot G2 with a MontBlanc refill? It works well.

  29. Laurence

    Now, are there any ballpoint pens (not rollerballs) that can take Mont Blank ballpoint refills?

  30. Jerry

    How about a reverse trip? I bought a Mont Blanc knockoff and every Mont Blanc refill I bought online was awful, ran out of ink, skipped, etc.

    I had an unopened Pilot Fine refill (BRFV-10F) lying around. I wrapped the bottom with scotch tape just enough so that when I shoved it back into the pen it held, and voila for less than a buck I have a very nice writing instrument. You can now use a ton of cheap refills of any kind with this trick!

  31. Nice Jerry, thanks for posting your tip.

  32. snow leopard

    Can someone advise if Mont Blanc ballpoint pen refills can be used for any other pen? Thanks in advance.

  33. Tim

    I was given a Mont Blanc as a gift, and the lower body half has cracked TWICE. It's cheap plastic. Each repair of this part costs $60. Granted, the ink is absolutely perfect, but it's no longer worth plunking down $60 for a freakin' piece of shoddy plastic to wrap the ink cartridge in.