Onoto’s Mammoth Magna #8: masterpiece or mistake?

I’ve dragged my feet about writing this review for a couple of reasons.

First, I’ve published quite a few Onoto reviews this year: the Pinstripes, British Museum, Sequoyah, Spitfire… with this, I’ll have covered Onoto more than any other brand.

Second, this Blue Stripe Magna #8 is not a standard production pen. I bought it a couple of months back from the Onoto virtual pen show, as a one-off. Onoto will certainly make you one, but to be honest I don’t know how long it would take or how much it would cost. The #8 nib alone costs £360 from Onoto, compared to the usual #7 nib price of £180, so you can expect at least a £180 premium over a normal Magna, I would guess. Mine had a pen show special list price of £650, if I remember correctly.

Anyway, here we are. An Onoto Magna with a #8 gold nib. Pretty cool, huh?

Aside from the nib itself, and the section it mounts into, the inclusion of a #8 nib has left the Magna unchanged in size and appearance.

Onoto hasn’t scaled up the whole pen into some ‘oversize’ Magna, which in my view is a very good thing.

There was absolutely nothing wrong with the Magna and it has rightfully earned a sterling reputation for comfort.

For this version, there is one change: the section is somewhat wider and has a more pronounced flared lip than on the normal #7s.

I never thought of the #7 nib as being particularly undersized for the size of the Magna body, but I will say that the #8 looks right at home.

It gives the Magna rather the proportions of a scaled-up Sailor Pro Gear, short and stocky.

Combine that different proportion with the barrel weight I had installed on the #8, and the wider medium nib on this pen, the overall writing experience is different than the Sequoyah: less precise, less long and pointy, less agile; more luxurious, like sinking into an old sofa.

Having used this pen alongside the Sequoyah for quite some time now, I’ve noticed an interesting psychological quirk. Although they’re quite different pens, whichever pen I use, after a few minutes it seems “normal”. Only in the seconds after switching between them does one nib seem unusually ‘big’ or ‘small’, aesthetically or in terms of comfort. Neither one is better. Just different.

So what about that nib? Well, it’s a Bock 380 under the skin, which means it’s a screw-fit unit in 18k with an ebonite feed.

Onoto’s beautiful bi-colour imprint makes it look fabulous. Placing it next to a Montblanc 146 and Schmidt #5 in the blue winter morning light, it really does stand out as a beast. There’s a reason Onoto used to call its biggest pens ‘Mammoth’.

As I said, mine is a medium, and it arrived well-tuned. There’s a little feedback, the flow is medium-wet, and the grind is nothing unusual.

Don’t expect any kind of flex. A bigger nib does not mean more flexibility, and while there is a little softness, it doesn’t make for much personality or expressiveness. In all honesty, this nib writes no better than the #7 nib on the normal Magna, so it’s strictly a decision of appearance and perhaps the extra length taking your fingers further from the page.

So, there you have it. A Magna with a mammoth #8 nib. The nib itself is larger and longer than the usual #7, and it changes the visual proportions of the pen when uncapped. But the writing experience is no better, and I expect the majority of the difference in character comes from your choice of nib grade and whether you install the optional barrel weight.

Although it would be hard for me to justify the premium for the #8 nib over the usual gold #7, I like this pen a lot; it complements the lighter, finer Sequoyah in my collection, and I love the look of that giant nib.

You can check out Onoto’s pens here.

4 thoughts on “Onoto’s Mammoth Magna #8: masterpiece or mistake?

    • Indeed! I was really keen to get this pen, and I love pens with larger nibs, like the Montblanc 149. But I have to acknowledge that the smaller #7 nib is equally good at writing, and looks in proportion on the pen. So really it’s a purely aesthetic decision that you’re paying the premium for.

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