Pen Review: Laban Mento
The pen for this review and subsequent giveaway was provided to me by a generous Pen Habit viewer who wished to remain anonymous. All opinions expressed are my own.
Filling System: Standard International Converter Cartridge
Length (Capped): 151mm
Length (Uncapped): 131.7mm
Length (Posted): 168.6mm
Section Diameter: 12.5mm
Barrel Max Diameter: 16mm
Cap Max Diameter: 17.9mm
Weight, Uncapped (with ink and/or converter): 20g
Weight, Capped (with ink and/or converter): 30g
Laban is a fountain pen brand that I’ve seen around a bit, but it’s a brand I don’t have a lot of experience with. I took the opportunity to visit the Laban table at the DC Pen show this year, and my father purchased one of their offerings at that time. (A pen, I might add, that he really enjoys.) At around the same time, a wonderfully generous Pen Habit viewer approached me and asked if I would be interested in reviewing this Laban Mento and then hosting a giveaway to help find it a new home. I am always excited to learn the opportunity to investigate a new pen brand, so of course, I agreed.
The Laban Mento is a large, cigar-shaped pen that fits into the same size category as the Montblanc 149 or Sailor King of Pen. There’s no doubt about this pen: it’s huge. Larger than either of the aforementioned pens, actually. I generally like larger pens, so I find the size of this Mento to be right up my alley. I will say that the profile of this pen feels just a touch clumsy to me. It lacks some of the grace and “refinement of line” of those aforementioned comparisons. (Of course, it also lacks about 90% of the cost of those aforementioned comparisons, so a minor lack of aesthetic refinement can be forgiven.)
The pen is made from an Autumn Flake acrylic. The orange-brown acrylic is interspersed with flakes of brown, orange-red, and black. The color combination attractive, but much like the pen’s profile, feels just a touch clumsy to my eyes, as though all the colors don’t play together quite perfectly. Yet, I have heard from several folks who really love this material, so I think it boils down to personal preference. As I mention in my video review, this is a pen that just SCREAMS to be inked with Diamine Autumn Oak.
The chunky cap is made of a solid piece of acrylic and comes to a rounded point. The chromed clip is marked with the Laban “L,” but aside from that is relatively generic in shape. The clip uses my least favorite style of attaching a clip to a cap: a few metal prongs bent around a couple of small cuts in the cap wall. It feels like the kind of clip that could be popped off the pen with a little bit of force. The cap is finished off with a metal cap band on which the Laban logo has been engraved.
The rest of the pen body is nicely shaped. The finish on the acrylic is superb. It is perfectly smooth, sanded, and polished to a high gloss.
Removing the cap exposes a black acrylic section that tapers down to a slight, rounded flare. The transition from the section to the barrel is minor, allowing a fair bit of latitude for a grip on the pen. The section unscrews to expose a standard international cartridge/converter filling system. (The pen I received had the converter already installed, but I don’t know if the pen comes with an ink cartridge or not.) The tenon of the section is made of metal which, unfortunately, also renders this pen unsuitable for eyedropper conversion. Even had the section been entirely made of acrylic, the tip of the acrylic barrel has a hole in it, making eyedropper filling even more difficult.
I have also noticed over time that the section tends to come loose from the barrel pretty frequently–especially when I cap and uncap the pen often. I can’t help but wonder if there is a friction point between the nib or section and the cap, which causes the section to rotate slightly when uncapping the pen. It’s a minor issue, but I find myself occasionally having to tighten down the section after removing the cap. This tendency for the section and barrel to loosen is yet another superb reason not to try to do an eyedropper conversion on this one.
The Laban Mento uses a standard #6-sized steel nib with a bi-color plating. This Mento came with a Fine nib. The nib was smooth, but not too much so, still providing a bit of pleasant feedback. The nib’s line was a little narrower than a standard western fine, but if I had to guess, I’d say that is because the nib ran slightly on the dry side. The nib is also quite rigid, providing essentially no line variation. Were this my pen to keep, I would probably increase the wetness a decent a bit and then smooth the nib a bit further to help reduce the feedback even more.
In the hand, this is clearly a pen for people who like big pens. The nearly 13mm section is on par with the section on the Montblanc 149, although the tapered shape feels more comfortable than the more cylindrical shape of the MB. As one might expect, the mostly-acrylic construction combined with the oversized nature of this pen results in a weight that is pretty well-balanced: not too heavy, not too light. At 131mm unposted, I find the pen quite comfortable to use without posting, although posting is possible. I do find that the posted version of the pen balances pretty well, especially if you’ve got a slightly higher grip like mine. Holding the pen too close to the nib can result in a slightly back-heavy feeling. With longer writing sessions, I didn’t experience any cramping or discomfort from using the pen; it was quite enjoyable to use.
Another minor nit-pick I had with this Laban Mento is that the pen has a tendency to dry out when not used for a few days. Every time I set the pen down for more than a day, I found I would have to prime the feed with the converter in order to start writing again. So, this is a pen that prefers slightly more regular use. If you’re like me and ink 15-20 pens at a time, this may not be the best option for you.
Overall, it’s clear to me that the Laban Mento is a mostly well-built pen. The polish and finish on the pen is beautiful. It writes well, with no signs of skipping, hard starting, or ink starvation. And, if you’re not in love with the Autumn Flake acrylic, Laban offers this model in a host of other finishes.
The Mento retails for less than $100 in several online retailers—a price I find quite reasonable for this pen. It’s a solid pen, a solid writer, and very well-made. It is, perhaps, not quite as refined as the monster, flagship pens from the higher-end brands, but it’s a good writer at a reasonable price. The Laban Mento can give you the experience of using large, oversized pens like the MB149 or Sailor KOP at 1/10th the price.