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Lamy Al-Star Silver EF
Posted 01 February 2008 - 19:29
A couple weeks ago, I ordered a Lamy Al-Star and converter from Montgomery Pens, this was before I got my Lamy 2000, even though the 2000 arrived first, the Al-Star was on backorder
the Al-Star just arrived today, *after* I've had a week or so to play with the L2K....
I wasn't expecting much, after all, the L2K is a nice high-end pen, and the Al-Star is an entry-level pen, how badly had the L2K spoiled me?
The Al-Star comes in a rather interestingly designed cardboard box, a dark gray textured box with a series of vertical slits cut into the edges, giving a "vented" look to the box, and permitting a glimpse of the pen residing inside, the shine of silvery aluminum peeks out playfully, the pen itself is clipped to a diagonal piece of cardboard inside the box
Fit and Finish; 8/10
Honestly, I was surprised at how well made the Al-Star was, I expected a cheap, cheesy "School Pen" style writing instrument (isn't that what the Al-Star actually is anyway, a school pen?), it came out of the box with a cheap cardboard ring between the barrel and section, it turns out that Lamy ships these pens with the cartridge already inside the pen barrel, the cardboard ring is to prevent the feed assembly breaking the seal on the cartridge during shipment
Much has been written on the subject of the Safari/Vista/Al-Star's triagonal grip section (which is a transparent smoke colored plastic on the Al-Star) it seems to be a love-it-or-hate-it arrangement, for me, I'm happy to say, I love it, I tend to grip my pens in a triagonal manner anyway, and the Al-Star's section fits my grip perfectly, it's like it was custom-made to fit my grip, the only downside is the slight slickness of the plastic itself
the cap snaps into place with a precise *click* and there is no slack or looseness when capped, the spring clip seems to be the only weak point of the cap, I've read of it being bent out of shape by the thick edge of denim jeans, and I can see that happening, as it seems to have a limited travel range, the clips on my Lamy 2000 and Waterman Phileas/Kulturs are more robust, and spring-loaded, they deal with denim pockets just fine
the flat-sided barrel is comfortable in standard fountain pen grip, is comfortable either posted or unposted, but seems to balance better when posted, the ink window is a little small, but functional, certainly easier to use than the ink window on the L2K
All fountain pens share an inherent weakness, the nib, it doesn't respond well to being dropped or pressed down hard on, if you need to fill in multi-part carbon/carbonless forms, put down the FP and grab a RB or BP, that weakness aside, the Al-Star seems to be built very solidly, the whole thing just feels well built and tough, built to withstand the rigors of daily life, this is one pen I wouldn't worry about carrying in my LF pocket with my car keys, loose change, and pocketknife, the aluminum body can shrug off the day-to-day foibles of life, the Al-Star feels like a simple, rugged writing tool, it actually feels slightly more rugged than the already incredibly durable L2K
Writing performance; 8.5/10
The Al-Star's writing performance surprised me, being used to the wonderfully smooth and responsive gold/platinum nib of the L2K, I wasn't expecting much from the Al-Star, with it's plain stainless steel nib, yes the black-finish nib *looks* cool (and will hide nib creep from my Noodler's Old Manhattan Black exceptionally well ), but it's stiff, really stiff, you just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly stiff it is, you may think that the Waterman Phileas has a stiff nib but that's just peanuts to the Al-Star, listen... (sorry, started channeling Douglas Adams for a moment there.... )
anyway, the descriptor "Nail" definitely describes the nib of the Al-Star, there's *no* subtlety or line variation here, the nib is, simply put, the most rigid, stiff nib I have ever written with (admittedly that' not saying much as I don't have a lot of FP experience), but you know what, it's actually not *bad*, just different
the nice thing about the rigid nib in the Al-Star is that it puts down a *true* extra-fine line, it's finer (slightly) than my Waterman Kultur fine point (but slightly thicker than my reground Kultur), and it shows almost no variation in that line width, all my other FP's, my Waterman pens, and my L2K all can have slight line weight variations from letter-to-letter, due to the flex exhibited by the nib, or the flow of the ink, the Al-Star puts out the most reliably fine line of any of my pens, I actually like it better than my L2K for consistency in line width, my L2K can range from EF to M all in one writing session, and no, I'm not using undue pressure on it, I'm using *no* pressure, the L2K just seems more sensitive to paper composition and environmental conditions
Overall, I'm quite pleased with the Al-Star, it's a nice tool pen, built to withstand a rough service life, meant to be tossed in a pocket and ignored, to withstand mistreatment by school kids, that means it's built to be a solid, reliable writing tool able to shrug off mistreatment, I'll happily add this pen to my EDC arsenal, it will replace my Waterman Kultur as my workhorse pen, it just feels like it's built more solidly, and it writes a finer line than the Kultur, the Kultur's still a very cool workhorse of a pen itself, I just tend to prefer metal pens
Posted 01 February 2008 - 19:30
Since I was so happy with my Rotring 600 Roller-ball pen, I went and purchased a silver Rotring 600 ball-point, and plan to install a Fisher Space Pen refill in it
I've received the pen today, so, how does it stack up?
I'll compare it to the classic stainless steel Parker Jotter and Zebra 701
the R600 BP comes in a neat little black plastic "Pen Coffin" with the red Rotring name emblazoned vertically on the right hand side of the lid, it's a small rounded corner box that looks somewhat like a Star Trek Photon Torpedo, the bottom of the box has a plastic tray with a velvet-like cover with depressions for three pens, the lid has a section of "velveteen" padding that secures the pens inside
why do I describe it as a "pen coffin"?, simple, the lid is hinged in the middle and opens in two distinct sections, the rightmost part of the "coffin" has no padding, and lifts up to allow removal and insertion of the pens into the case, sort of like opening the front part of a coffin lid, or you can open the entire case for unrestricted access, the leftmost half of the lid has a soft "velveteen" covered section of contoured foam to hold the pens securely in the case when the lid is closed
It's a rather neat little case, and the three depressions are a most welcome feature, it now houses my three favorite pens, the R600 BP, the R600 RB, and my Lamy 2000
what a great little pen case
Fit and Finish; 9/10
the R600 BP is a great little pen, it's got the heft and balance that only a brass-bodied pen can have, the clicker button and point cap are polished to a mirror shine, the pocket clip has good grip and a nice spring to it, and it looks like it could withstand a direct thermonuclear blast, the downsides? the clicking action is a little soft, the click sound is a bit muted, and the gripping section is slightly slippery
Compared to the Zebra 701, the Zebra has a similar soft-feel click, however, the Zebra feels distinctly "mushy" compared to the Rotring, the pen is also lighter than the R600, but the Zebra is the widest diameter of the three, has a very nice knurling on the gripping section, giving it the most confident grip of the three, the Parker Stainless Jotter is the lightest of the three, and the least grippable, it's also narrower, these three features add up to make writing with the SS Jotter vaguely unpleasant, however, the Jotter has the crispest, "clickiest" clicker of the three, and is therefore the most fun to idly click....
Durability (theoretical); 10/10
the R600 BP has a heft and solidity that just isn't there on the other two ball-points, even though it's not as wide as the Zebra, it feels more solid, compared to the Parker, the Parker just feels.....cheap, thin stainless steel, it doesn't feel solid at all, both the Zebra and Rotring feel like they could stand up to not only daily use, but abuse as well, I'd rank durability (most to least) as follows; Rotring 600 BP, Zebra 701, Parker Stainless Jotter
Writing performance; 5/10 (Stock) 7/10 (Fisher refill)
First off, I admit I'm biased, I'm a fountain pen fan, but I like *all* decent writing instruments, my small (but growing) collection ranges from a simple $2 Uni-Ball Signo 207 Micro, all the way up to a Lamy 2000 EF fountain pen, I use them all, I enjoy them all for their unique qualities, I'm not a "FP Only" elitist, there are benefits to using ball-points, just as much as there are benefits to roller-ball and fountain pens, they all also have their downsides, it's a simple matter of using the right tool for the job
The R600 BP has a very nice writing feel, smooth, and soft, the Rotring ball-point refill puts down a very nice line, it's not as smooth as a Fisher pressurized refill, but smoother than the Zebra 701 and Parker Jotter, the weight of the brass barrel allows more fine control of the pen point, and the pen does not need to be angled to an uncomfortable angle to get a good dark line, it won't write well in a fountain-pen grip, but it doesn't need to be as vertical as other BP's, it's somewhere in-between
it uses the Parker style refill, with the rotating widget thingy at the top, so installing a Fisher refill shouldn't be a problem, you need to be careful when changing refills though, as there is a spring in the cap that can easily fall out and roll away, the spring is not secured to the cap, the refill also does not appear to rotate when clicked, like the Parker does, the refill looks almost identical to a Parker BP, same rotating widget cap, same general dimensions, I'd hazard a guess that these refills may actually *BE* Parker refills, just rebranded for Rotring....
Like the Parker, and other ball-points, the ink is a paste-based ink, it does not flow like a FP or RB, and, like most other BP inks, it is *NOT* bulletproof, 91% isopropyl alcohol obliterates the ink in short order, as does a water rinse, the only BP ink I've found that can withstand some mistreatment is Fisher's , Fisher ink is also not bulletproof, but it's a heck of a lot more durable than Parker, Cross, Zebra, or Rotring BP ink, hence the low score for writing performance, if a Fisher refill was installed the score would be increased by a couple points, however, *NO* BP ink is ever going to score higher than a 7/10 in my tests, not unless it's bulletproof
Overall, the Rotring BP is a great pen, it's relegated my Parker Jotter and Zebra 701 to my "Office Pen Cup", my "decoy" cup filled with pens that didn't make the cut and I don't care if my co-workers "borrow" them
Since Rotring pens have been discontinued, and are getting hard to find, I recommend picking up a R600 series while you still can, I still need to add a R600 fountain pen and mechanical pencil to my collection before they disappear for good, hopefully they'll still be available in a few months, as I've currently used up my "pen budget" for the next month or so with my recent rash of acquisitions
Posted 01 February 2008 - 23:39
Posted 02 February 2008 - 02:09
I have an Al-Star with a medium nib. It does have a thicker line than the other mediums I'm used to. However, it writes ok and I clip mine to my shawl-collar sweater I wear at work and use it for notes and fast writing. It works ok. But for things I want a little neater or more controled, I use one of my other pens.
MacTech is right about the rigid nib, too. It can be kind of scratchy as a result, but on some papers it lays down a pretty smooth, steady line. And I filled my green metallic Al-Star with Noodler's Hunter Green, and the black nib does hide the nib creep pretty well. It actually writes like a dream on thermal paper. Need to carry a blotter paper of some kind though, so clerks and waiters/waitresses won't get inky fingers.
The Al-Star is built, I think, to be that sturdy, utilitarian tool we can rely on in a pinch. It won't be the headliner or the box office star, but it will still put in a good character performance.
Edited by kiavonne, 02 February 2008 - 02:09.
To write is to act.
Posted 02 February 2008 - 02:55
I've been happy with the EF nib on my Al-Star, it definitely looks like a fine or extra-fine line to me, but i'm not the best judge of line widths, the nice thing about the stiff nib of the Al-Star is that you shouldn't see too much variation in line width, unlike the 2K, which is a great pen, but tends to write wide
It also depends on your writing style, my printing is incredibly small (see my Rotring 600 Rollerball review for some handwriting examples) so I tend to favor fine/extra fine nibs, if you have larger or more expressive writing, you may do well with your Medium
apparently, Lamy sells just the nibs as well, so you could pick up a Fine or Extra-Fine if you want to have a range of widths
the more I use the Al-Star, the more i like it, I really think that this pen may just relegate my Waterman pens (2 Phileas and 2 Kulturs) to the desk drawer, the Lamy puts down a finer line, and the nibs are user-replaceable, I appreciate that, I'll probably end up selling/trading my Waterman pens , probably keep the blue marbled Kultur as it was my *first* FP, for sentimental reasons, and one of my clear Kulturs because demonstrators are cool, but I don't forsee them getting much use now that I'm becoming a Lamy fan
hmm, on second thought, I *could* have the Phileas-es "Binder-ized" down to a XF or XXF, and use the Kulturs for "risky" inks like Noodler's Baystate Blue.....
Edited by MacTech, 03 February 2008 - 00:38.