I was very frugal through most of 2007. I had purchased only one pen for myself, a Namiki Capless (Vanishing Point) Fermo. I spent most of the year rotating through my little accumulation of fountain pens trying to improve my handwriting and experimenting with various inks, and not at all lusting after other pens. But when Pendemonium announced their end of year sale with discounts off their already discounted price, I had to buy something! I already had a Safari Vista, and another AL-star in the grey metal-tone they call graphite, and liked it so much I "needed" a back up. I actually wanted the bright metal "aluminum" finish, but they were sold out. For $27 (plus $4 more for the converter) I settled for the one in the ethereal hue they call "silverblue." I'm glad I did. There is a very weird color-thing going on here that I'll describe later.
For those not familiar with the aluminum AL-star (or its plastic bodied sibling the Safari), at 139 millimeters long capped (168 millimeters posted) and 15 millimeters at its widest point, it's a fairly sizable pen. But it's also very light. I have the feeling it may have originally been designed for kids because the small triangular section encourages a schoolbook tripod grip on the writer. Not only that but the section is only 9.7 millimeters wide at its narrowest point. Unlike most of my other pens, I write with it unposted.
You don't get a faux-plush box with the thing -- it comes in a functionally designed plastic "cage." And the pen itself engenders no image of a human craftsman fussing over it. I wouldn't be surprised if I were the first human being to touch it. Which is not to say it's industrial ugly. Lamy had designer Wolfgang Fabian make it look sleek and functional. Some find the esthetic too stark and the Bauhaus thing passé. To each his own, but the look is a result of artistic intention, and not neglect. Here it is with its graphite sibling:
There is something really strange going on with the color. When I took it out of its box, it was a light silvery blue. I'm looking at it now and it's a light silvery purple. I swear. And this is natural light. I took pix of this "lilac" colored pen, and the photos came out the color it was when I opened up the box: blue. It's some kind of color perception, light source thing that an artist or psychologist has to explain to me. I'm assuming the thing didn't actually change color, and I feel too mellow to be hallucinating (but I guess that's what they all say).
Anyway, I ordered it with an Extra Fine nib hoping it would match the EF on my other AL-star. I went through a couple of other EF nibs to get that one right, so I was crossing my fingers. I was also ready for a dry-ish nib that needed some brown bagging. Surprise! The nib is a smooth true extra fine -- about 35 on the Escribiente Scale. I was prepared to load the converter with the very free flowing Noodler's Gulf Stream that I use in my other AL-star, but that made the nib too wet, so I loaded in my own Noodler's bulletproof mix I call New Old Bishop Street Blue-Black. I tried "waxing" the nib to keep Noodler's ink from creeping all over the nib but it looks like I did a bum job:
There is great attention to all the functional details. There are tiny latches to grab the tiny protrusions on the converter to keep it locked in place. You can see the internal collector/feed fill with ink through the smoky transparency of the section. And the steel nibs slide straight in and out.
The main thing is this: the pen is a great writer! It's a stiff nib, but my touch is very light so I can't really tell the difference. The ink starts flowing immediately and continues very evenly through a writing session. It's light, effortless to use. It's a joy to write with and it flatters my handwriting.
So there you have it: A wonderfully designed, well engineered, precisely manufactured fountain pen.
Edited by HDoug, 10 January 2008 - 03:54.