I went on a Lamy spree last week, and boy am I hooked!
I wanted three pens for school; I am a teacher, and I need a red pen for grading, a black pen for signing tardy passes, and a blue pen for my general notes and everyday writing. I wanted something relatively inexpensive, since teachers' pens sometimes "walk away." I didn't want to subject any of my vintage Parkers, Pelikans, or Crosses to life in my satchel or my desk drawer at school. So inexpensive and new, and not vintage, was the order of the day!
I did a little research and was somewhat surprised at the glowing reviews that the Lamy Safari and Al-Star consistently garnered here in the forum. So I thought, why not, go ahead, Cowboy, and pick up a few for the ol' everyday user category.
I found an ebay store that had a number of Lamys at lower prices than I had seen advertised, so I quickly chose a Charcoal Safari (love the black clip and black nib!), and a red Safari (what else would I use to write " - 5: incomplete sentence. Make sure that your answers are in the form of a complete sentence, and don't forget to provide textual evidence for your claims" on student papers?). But then I ran into trouble looking for my blue pen.
I had wanted one of the Silverblue Al-Star pens that several had mentioned and reviewed in this thread. I love that color, since it reminds me of the color of the Dallas Cowboys' helmets (my nickname is CowboyBlue after all! ). But they only had Extra-Fine nibs for LEFTIES! I had not even realized that such a pen was made. I considered an Ocean Blue, but that was just “too” blue for me.
Then I scrolled down the page and saw the Coffee Al-Star.
Wow. What a great-looking pen! It was not blue, but I wanted it! So, sacrificing my master plan for pen and ink color coordination, I decided to take a leap of faith and try out the Coffee Al-Star.
The pens arrived in less than 48 hours, and I was stoked! I opened, inked and tested the charcoal and the red Safari pens first, and was very happy, So this was what all the hoopla was about! Then I opened the Coffee Al-Star and I was … I was … well, time to get to the review ….
First Impressions – 4.5/5
Wow, what a cool-looking pen! “Coffee” just doesn’t seem to do the pen justice. The color is more of a rich, robust bronze-ish brown, and (PLEASE forgive me for bringing this up again!) it has some purple highlights in some lighting conditions. A unique and pleasing color, in my opinion. I think it would have been an even more striking pen if the famous Safari wire clip had been black, as on my charcoal Safari, and if the nib had been the love-it-or-hate-it matte black nib, which I happen to love on my charcoal Safari. The size is just right for me, since I have very large paws. It is a little light, though. I was hoping it would be significantly heavier. I really like the heft of a pen in hand, and heavy pens don’t bother me a bit. The grip section is a smoky-grey, translucent plastic and adds to the overall appearance.
Appearance and Design – 4/5
I have already “glowed on” about the appearance, but the appearance and design should be mentioned together, here, as well they should be. “Form and Function,” as they say … I was not too impressed, initially with the design of the Al-Star: “Two flat sides on the pen? Really? And what’s the deal with the window? Shouldn’t the ink supply window be further down and closer to the bottom of the section, closer to the nib, as in more traditional pens? I’m going to be able to see that window while I am writing with the … oh, wait a minute, that is why they did it … not a bad idea, I guess. And what’s the deal with the triangular grip? Are round grips not good enough? Although this does feel kind of nice, even after writing with it for quite some time … it seems to keep my fingers and hand positioned for getting the best performance from the nib beneath it. Hmmm, this is going to grow on me, I think.”
And “grow on me,” it has. The design is unique but clever and even artistic in a modern way. There is no mistaking a Lamy Safari or Al-Star for any other pen.
Weight and Dimensions – 4.5/5
Reviewed ad infinitum elsewhere in the thread. As I said before, I believe it could have been heftier, but I realize I am in the minority in that opinion. The pen is well-balanced and easy on the hand either posted or unposted, though I usually prefer posted with all my pens. Posting gives the pen a little more ballast at the top, which seems to improve the quality of my cursive handwriting.
Nib and Performance – 5/5
The Lamy Safari and Lamy Al-Star have been the best-writing pens out of the box I have come across! I was skeptical of the claims by previous reviewers, but I believed enough of what I read to go with fine nibs, though I am usually inclined toward mediums. But this F nib was the smoothest, most consistent and responsive nib I have ever used! The steel F nib on the Al-Star is stiff, but I would not call it a “nail.” It is firm but responsive. With my heavy hand, I get a slight line variation, in fact. I would not call it wet, per se, but perhaps “evenly saturated.” It wrote smoothly the first time, first rattle out of the box, as Granny said, and has not failed to write pleasantly during the numerous times I have used it in the past two days.
Filling System – 4/5
Cartridges and converters. As mentioned in previous reviews, the pen comes with a standard blue Lamy cartridge, but I wanted black and red, too. The black and red cartridges seem adequate in the charcoal and red Safaris, but I decided to buy a couple converters with my Coffee pen, since I had a bottle of PR Copper Burst and a bottle of Pelikan Bright Brown on the way. The converter is easy to use, but holds less ink than I would like it to. The finger grip on the twisting mechanism is pretty long; isn’t there a way to salvage some of that length and give it to the ink reservoir? Just a thought.
Cost – Value – 5/5
I paid less than $38 total for pen and converter, and got free shipping, to boot, and that seems like a sweet deal to me. This is especially true in light of the outstanding writing performance of the nib. It is exactly what I was looking for – a sturdy, reliable pen that will last quite a while, attractive but not flashy, functional but not boring, with outstanding writing performance. Definitely a winner!
Conclusion – Total 27/30, or 90%
I am very happy with this pen! I haven’t put it down for very long at all during the two days I have had it in my possession. I would definitely recommend this pen to anyone looking for a good daily user, or a good first fountain pen.
EDIT: Sorry, no pix. I am not too handy with my phone camera!
Edited by CowboyBlue, 06 September 2010 - 06:18.