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Reviewing the Lamy Safari


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#1 Pfhorrest

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Posted 20 July 2009 - 18:03

Again, no pictures are avaliable at this time, but I will post an image of the pen itself and a writing sample as soon as I can.

The purpose of this review is to cover certain aspects of the pen that I feel have not been covered in many other online reviews. These may seem trivial to some but can be of importance to others. Again, this is a highly-reviewed pen, but I'd just like to share my opinion on it.



(Image is from Lamy's website, and is the model I currently own. However, I will cover some aspects of the model with a gloss finish, which I also own.)

These pens seem to be very common in stores across Europe, but I have yet to see someone else use them in public for any purpose. I suppose the majority of Europeans who buy these pens are students, who have little or no use for their pens outside of school. It is designed as a young writer's fountain pen.

I bought both my charcoal black (with a sand-blasted finish) and a gloss black (with a gloss finish) Safaris in New York when I was visiting some relatives. They were my first fountain pens, and are still in use to this day. They were around $19.99 each, with only the geometric cardboard case and an included blue ink cartridge.

At the time of purchase, I used ballpoints and pencils heavily, and had never experienced the kind of smooth and effortless writing a fountain pen had to offer. When I first wrote with the Safari, I was amazed at how smooth and easily the ink flowed onto the paper. However, this is only in comparison with a ballpoint or pencil. Some may argue the fact that the Lamy nib is a smooth writer, and as with any fountain pen, your mileage will vary, but I found that Lamy nibs have a tendency to be very inconsistent.

My gloss-black Safari came with a stainless-steel finished nib, and the charcoal Safari came with a blackened steel one. They were both of the M size, as I really didn't know what to expect from a fountain pen and thus chose "Medium" as a failsafe. Unfortunately, even though they were both marked M, one wrote like a slightly thin medium and the other wrote almost like a broad. I found this to be a bit disturbing, because $20 (at the time) seemed like an extremely high price to pay for any pen. I promptly returned to the store, and tried out a couple of nibs until I found one that was exactly the same line width as my other Safari.

Now, I consider the Safari to be a cheap student or "backup" pen, or a pen for activites in which some damage might occur to whatever I am writing with.

The details and function of the pen:

The Safari's barrel and cap are made of ABS polymer. I'd like to refer to this as "polymer" and not "plastic because I regard plastic to be material which soda bottles, cling wrap, and other cheap items to be made of. I regard polymer to be a very sturdy material. The barrel and cap feel like they have been mass-produced with little attention to refining of the texture of the material, but that's absolutely fine in a pen that costs $20. They feel very sturdy, however, and flex only in the slightest when pressure is applied. I wouldn't trust it (or most pens) to hold up against, say, a long drop, impact with a concrete wall, or being run over by a car. Although the pen is sturdy, it isn't a brick.

The barrel and cap are the exact same color, and this gives the entire pen the impression of being a single unit (although it is not) to passing glances.

The cap is about 40% of the entire weight. There is a slight bevel from the bottom of the cap leading up to the barrel unit (for you Safari users, look at the point where the cap meets the barrel and you will see it.) This is a nice feature and makes it more streamlined (if such a thing matters) and more friendly to being handled when capped. I know all of this sounds like minituae, but it really counts when you're around your writing instrument on a daily basis. Sometimes, the little things can be detrimental a week after you leave the store.

On the top of the cap, there is a large plug that has the appearance of a wide screw. After inserting a screwdriver into the screw, I was able to turn it both forwards and backwards, but the screw itself did not loosen or tighten. Personally, I don't like the look of it : it detracts from the simplicity of the design and reminds one of a hand tool. Perhaps it was included to accomodate some accessory that Lamy never really got onto the market. One will never know.

The clip is a massive component that resembles a paperclip. I don't like it. I personally never use the clip, but it can really get in the way and become uncomfortable in the pocket. For those that do clip, it's probably not as much of a problem, but when I carry it around loosely in my pocket, the clip can rotate and face toward me and start pressing into my leg when I sit down. It's a minor complaint, but really one to be considered if you desire to carry it around for general use.

Some people have reported problems about the clip, namely it's losing it's "springiness" or coming loose. This has not happened to me in the 2 years that I have owned the Safari. Perhaps it has something to do with loosening up when the metal is placed under tension.

The feature I dislike the most about the Safari's clip is that the bottom of the clip opens up and protrudges outward. I really hate this. It makes pulling the pen from the pocket an aggravating operation at times, and looking at it just makes me want to take a hammer and flatten it out to the proper shape. I guess some people could see it as stylish, but I see it as annoying.

On the plus side, however, the clip will be very secure if you do decide to clip it on to your pants pocket.

The barrel, for me, has a functional shape, but I don't like some aspects of its ergonomic and aesthetic properties. Firstly, there is a slight, almost unnoticeable taper from the top of the barrel to the end of the pen. While this is not a bad thing, I think it should have the non-tapering, tubular shape of the cap. Also, as the sides of the barrel are flat, putting your hand into the "correct shape" dictated by the grip shape can cause discomfort to the cleft between your thumb and index finger. I found that writing for over an hour would cause this area of my hand to become a bit painful. Perhaps it's because I have slightly bony hands (excellent for playing the piano), but I believe that some others will definitely experience this effect.

The barrel is as sturdy as the cap, and feels solid in the hand. It does flex slightly under pressure (when removed!) but not when in the "ready-to-write" configuration (I'm unfamiliar with fountain pen terms)

The ink feed accepts the standard T10 Lamy ink cartridge or the Z24 converter. This makes sense for a student pen, and the cartridges load in with no effort at all.

The screw threads are a bit gritty, and it is slightly difficult to screw the barrel all the way in to the feed component. However, it's very secure when it's screwed in, but heaven help the one who has been carrying their Safari around in 30-40 degrees Farenheit and tries to unscrew it.

The cap fit to the barrel is a different story, however. The barrel contains an O-ring that the cap has to snap over in order for the two parts to fully lock. It feels that with several hundred openings and closings, the barrel fit could become a bit loose. I have been careful with opening and closing my two Safaris for this reason, and therefore not much wear has occured to the O-ring, but I believe that eventually it will happen. My gloss black Safari's cap glides on with a quieter snap than before.

The grip is absolutely great. It's ergonomic and allows the user to form a "correct" grip on the pen. Some may not like it, depending on hand size, but it fits me very well. There is one thing for consideration: If you buy a gloss-finish Safari (which is practically all of them except for the Charcoal sand-blasted texture model) the grip will slip farther down your fingers as you write (if your fingers are in the least bit sweaty or the room is room temperature or higher) and you will have to adjust your grip ever so often. Under cold temperatures it's not a problem, but the Charcoal sand-blasted texture grip is extremely stable and doesn't slip in any temperature. I strongly suggest getting this model for that reason, as the gloss finish can also get very oily and unpleasant. Another indirect benefit of getting this model is that the finish itself is much easier to maintain.

One complaint I have about the grip is that the smooth section on the bottom of the grip where your middle finger might rest (depending on your method of grip) can be unkind to the flesh of your finger. I fixed this problem by sanding it down a little to make it a bit smaller. Just a consideration.

You can buy a seperate grip component in the Charcoal texture if you like the cap and barrel's nice glossy finish.

The nib is either stainless-steel (on certain colors), and blackened steel (on charcoal and certain colors.) Both metal finishes are very nice-looking and complement the overall look of the pen. There is no flex to these nibs. If you press down very hard, you can achieve a small amount of flex, but this is not natural and the pen is not made to do that. I believe it can also damage the nib, so don't be suprised if your Safari writes like the proverbial nail.

The nib is both the strongest and the weakest point of this pen model. The nib excels in being very smooth and adequately clean (you will get some nib creep, there is nothing you can do about this. Don't fight it, it doesn't offer any disadvantages.) It is also very reliable and sturdy, and you can drop (although I wouldn't reccomend it) the pen nibfirst onto a hard surface without it breaking or messing up. Don't intentionally do that, though. The nib is not indestructible.

The weak point is that it offers absolutely no line variation, unless you invert the pen (a little secret I learned online) but the grip will cause you pain if you write like this for a long period of time. In addition, the pen will not immediately write if you hold it the right (write?) way. It will take some time for the ink to flow in this normal position again.

The other weak point is that Lamy standard nibs are very inconsistent. It is possible for an M nib to act like an F nib all the way up to the line width of a B. For this reason, always check out your nib (if you can) at the store before buying. It is also possible to get a scratchy nib, which needs replacement. I guess it may not affect as many people as I believe it does, but I for one dislike this fact.

The Safari, interestingly enough, works well in sketching and drawing. I found it very versatile in this manner, as the nib itself is not very picky about the angle in which it is employed. I can draw as with any other pen with the Safari with no skipping or uneven flow, even on curves. However, I believe that drawing should be reserved for pencils or designated artists' pens.

The pen is lightweight in the extreme, and the charcoal version can even deserve the title of featherweight. It's that light. The balance is also very good when the cap is not posted. It moves like a wand while writing, and it does well when writing notes. In fact, note taking with this pen is one use I strongly reccommend. You will appreciate its light weight and ergonomic grip when writing at 30 miles per hour.

Some people may find the light weight a bit bothersome, however. If you don't like ultra-light pens, I reccomend an inexpensive Parker or Waterman cartridge filler.

The finish of the gloss Safaris is excellent - but only when properly maintained. I guarantee that you will see a lot of scratches on the gloss surface after a period of time, and your fingerprints will stain the surface, as will naturally occuring oil from your skin. The finish of the charcoal Safari is not as good, but it retains its finish for a very long time. Depending on what you like, and how often you use the pen, the gloss or the charcoal version may be the best for you.

The pen is fitted quite well, with no noticeable play anywhere on the pen. I like this - no creak and wobble as on cheap ballpoints.

Don't worry about crushing, dropping, or heating up your Safari (as in, warm climates. Don't put it on a frying pan.). It will survive almost any mistreatment you can offer it. The extent of your damage will likely be scratches and a spurt of ink into the cap. Other than that, nothing should be damaged enough to inhibit function of the pen or the writing quality.

The Safari is a pen for the student or the field note-taker who prefers a fountain pen and is not overly concerned with dropping or losing it. It's a design that stresses simplicity of use and user friendliness, as well as durability. It's inexpensive but also writes well, and is a pleasure to handle when using it.

Overall ratings:

Value: 9/10

You are really paying for the nib in this pen. It's a great value for the $20 or less you will shell out for it.

Nib: 7/10

You will have to hunt for a good nib, unless you get lucky. However, even the slightly worse nibs still write smoothly and reliably.

Finish: 6/10

Difficult to maintain on the Gloss finished models, and the Charcoal model really doesn't offer much.

Fit: 7/10

Fitted quite well, but the capping mechanism (a simple O-ring) could get loose after a while.

Functionality: 4/5

Simple, Rugged, and it writes well.

Style: 3/5

The shape is now what I consider to be a bit blocky, but that's not nessecarily a bad thing. Uncapped, the Safari is as stylish as many other pens.

Thanks for reading.
The sword is mightier than the pen. However, swords are now obsolete whereas pens are not.

-Unknown

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#2 Peter from Sherwood Park

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Posted 20 July 2009 - 18:12

Thank you for this very thorough review.

#3 curly2008

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Posted 20 July 2009 - 18:44

Nice review! I may be wrong but I really don't think that the O-Ring has much if anything to do with the cap fitting on the body in the closed position. I removed the O-Ring and there was no difference in the way the pen was capped.
Thanks,
Curly

#4 darkgreen

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Posted 20 July 2009 - 22:52

QUOTE (Pfhorrest @ Jul 21 2009, 06:03 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Some may argue the fact that the Lamy nib is a smooth writer, and as with any fountain pen, your mileage will vary, but I found that Lamy nibs have a tendency to be very inconsistent.

My gloss-black Safari came with a stainless-steel finished nib, and the charcoal Safari came with a blackened steel one. They were both of the M size, as I really didn't know what to expect from a fountain pen and thus chose "Medium" as a failsafe. Unfortunately, even though they were both marked M, one wrote like a slightly thin medium and the other wrote almost like a broad.

The other weak point is that Lamy standard nibs are very inconsistent. It is possible for an M nib to act like an F nib all the way up to the line width of a B. For this reason, always check out your nib (if you can) at the store before buying. It is also possible to get a scratchy nib, which needs replacement. I guess it may not affect as many people as I believe it does, but I for one dislike this fact.

Nib: 7/10
You will have to hunt for a good nib, unless you get lucky. However, even the slightly worse nibs still write smoothly and reliably.


Thanks for a detailed and thoughtful review. I am starting to appreciate the value of reviews that are written after long experience with a pen: particularly the features that are not obvious at first but become more important with regular use.

I was very impressed with my Lamy Safari and I agree that it is excellent value for a robust and functional pen. However, it is unusually long and sits high in a shirt pocket - in that situation, the firm clip is useful in stopping the pen from sliding over.

My biggest hesitation in buying more Lamy pens is the remarkable nib variation: as you described. My Safari came with an excellent EF nib and I was encouraged by this to try a Lamy Smile with the same nominal nib size: it was much wider and wetter (more like a Medium-Fine) and not at all suitable. As you say, it seems that one has to try the pen directly - which is a problem/risk if you are ordering over the internet or ordering a special nib at a retailer. It has deterred me from getting any other Lamy pens.





* Nakaya celluloid M * Nakaya Briar F * Sailor PG M-F * Parker Duofold Jnr F * LAMY Safari EF * Tombow Object F * Lamy 2K EF * Platinum Preppy 0.3 *

#5 HenryLouis

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Posted 21 July 2009 - 01:06

QUOTE (curly2008 @ Jul 20 2009, 02:44 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Nice review! I may be wrong but I really don't think that the O-Ring has much if anything to do with the cap fitting on the body in the closed position. I removed the O-Ring and there was no difference in the way the pen was capped.
Thanks,
Curly


It is the clutch ring. Did it still click when capped?
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#6 feimo

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Posted 21 July 2009 - 12:10

Hi Pfhorrest,

I liked reading your review. It shows, that the Safari isn´t the perfect cheaply pen as it is often described as. Personally I hate the grip section. It leads one to write with thumb and index finger on the front. This may be the most common position, but by far not the best. Good handwriters take the thumb back and use the elbow and hand muscels for writing, not the fingers. This allows faster writing without pain.

#7 Pfhorrest

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Posted 22 July 2009 - 05:38

I agree, it's been overrated before.
The sword is mightier than the pen. However, swords are now obsolete whereas pens are not.

-Unknown

#8 wallylynn

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Posted 22 July 2009 - 14:24

QUOTE (Pfhorrest @ Jul 20 2009, 02:03 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
On the plus side, however, the clip will be very secure if you do decide to clip it on to your pants pocket.

That the clip seems purposely designed to slip on/off easily to my pants pocket. From the bent lip, to the tension, yet stays secure makes my Vista my EDC. Also, the clip is very, very close to the end of the cap meaning the pen doesn't protrude from the pocket so it doesn't bump or snag on anything.

QUOTE
On the top of the cap, there is a large plug that has the appearance of a wide screw.

Some people have noted that the plug has a different shape on different pens (rollerball?) and conjectured that it make it easier to distinguish if you have multiple pens in a pocket or pen cup.






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