I purchased the Al-Star from Floribunda Stationery in Salt Lake City, Utah. I probably could have found a better deal online, but the folks at the shop threw in a converter and let me trade in the ďlilacĒ I originally bought for the true aluminum color (which looks great next to my PowerBook, Doug). I didnít notice the difference in color under fluorescent light, but sure did in natural light.
The Al-Star is certainly nicer than the Parker Reflex I was using before. It has shown me that I DO like writing with fountain pens and am willing to pony up for something nicer that will last me for years to come. As others have noted, it is a capable inexpensive pen rather than a "cheap" pen.
I bought the Al-Star over a Safari because I like the color, which may have been a mistake. The aluminum body is far too soft to put up with my abuse. The pen has a number of noticeable dings, scratches, and abrasions, especially on the cap and on the bottom of the barrel by the ďYĒ of the LAMY logo. The plastic coating of the clip is already chipping away. This is the most disappointing part of the pen! I like the way it writes but hate the way it has held up so poorly in only three weeks of use. I canít imagine this pen lasting for years as my daily writer...
I do like the weight of the pen when I write with it posted. I donít seem to notice the finger grips that others have found to be so uncomfortable. I like the big ugly clip, especially since pens have a way of falling out of my pockets.
Nib and Filling System
This is an extra-fine steel nib. I must have purchased a good one, as the nib wrote fine right off the bat. I didnít need to break it in with a brown bag or flush it with soapy water as others have recommended doing. I understand that ďfineĒ and ďextra-fineĒ are relative terms from pen brand to pen brand. I would compare my writing output with the extra-fine to that of a Pilot G-2 07mm gel pen.
I like the way the Lamy writes over the Parker Reflex and the Waterman Phileas (my only other fountain pen points of reference). Now that Iím used to writing with the Al-Star, the Reflex feels too scratchy (toothy?) to use! The Phileas that I borrowed was too wet and too smooth for my tastes, perhaps because it was a medium and I prefer a fine or extra-fine nib. I like that the Al-Star nib is stiff. Itís gone through receipts and multi-page forms just fine. Iíve written with it for hours and havenít noticed any fatigue.
As others have noted, the nib tends to collect ink between the tines.
Iíve used three different inks with this pen. First was the Lamy cartridge of blue ink that came in the box. It must have been fairly unremarkable because I canít remember too much about it other than it lasted me around four days. I next loaded it with Private Reserve Avacado [sic], which wrote very dry and yet was quite prone to smearing, in my opinion. I probably wonít be using this ink with this pen on a regular basis. Iím now using blue Sheaffer Skrip which has gone through three fill-ups and seems to be doing fine.
The converter doesnít seem to last too long in my experience, but Iíve been doing an awful lot of writing lately.
I canít say that Iím a paper snob (yet). My complaints seem to have more to do with the ink and paper rather than with the Lamy and paper. The Moleskine journal I used for a writing class has been notoriously bad about smearing with the Pilot G-2 and now with the Lamy. The PR Avacado was especially bad in it. I have an extra-large Cahier which holds the ink better and dries faster than the standard black notebooks.
I havenít noticed any feathering on the Moleskine paper or on many of the other papers I use. The Al-Star writes well on an Ampad Gold Fibre Planning Pad, a Mead Five-Star composition book, and various qualities of nondescript laser printer paper. Iíve only noticed feathering on the cheapo filler paper I got on sale for thirty cents, and thereís not too much fuss doing the sudoku and crossword puzzle in the newspaper.
Conclusion and Overall Impressions
In general I like the way my Lamy Al-Star extra-fine writes. My biggest complaint is that the aluminum body is too soft and has picked up far too many nicks and dings in three weeks of use. I will probably keep this pen around and use it to grade student papers in the Fall, perhaps with the PR Avacado ink. If I knew three weeks ago what I know now, I would have opted for a less expensive plastic Lamy Safari that would have delivered the same writing experience and been less susceptible to my abuse.
--- End of review and shameless plug for advice ---
Iíd appreciate any advice or recommendations for a next pen from you more seasoned FPN members. Iíve been eyeing the Lamy Studio because I prefer a nice, hefty pen and have come to enjoy the way the Al-Star writes. On the other hand, if the Studio is fundamentally the same as a Safari/Al-Star/Vista only in a fancier body, why not branch out? Iím starting to write my masters thesis, which means Iím willing to treat myself (on a grad student budget; $250 at the absolute maximum) to a pen that will get me through hours of writing at a time. Ideally it would have some heft to it and would have a large ink capacity. Iím often in the field, so it would need to play nice with Noodlerís Bulletproof ink. It would need to be able to handle abuse. Iím much more interested in function over form and I do prefer a minimalist style. And, of course, Iím looking for this to be the last pen I buy for a long time... Am I looking for the Lamy 2000? A Pelikan? A vintage pen (although I donít like the look of the Parker 51)? Any and all feedback is welcome and appreciated!
Edit: Added pictures
Edited by bphollin, 08 July 2008 - 19:37.