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  1. There is so little information about this pen out there. But it's THE fountain pen that got me into the hobby. You're welcome. . I saw this thing in a Staples, I think. Maybe an Office max or Circuit City. I remember it was Phoenix, Arizona, 1999. Something about it enchanted me. It was my favorite shade of dark blue. The gorgeous detailed inscription on the nib, the uniqueness of the entire concept of writing with a device I had never used. Per the rules of modern psychiatry, the 10, not yet 11 year old me was still in Piaget's period of childhood ego-centrism. What I liked, surely my mother would like. I begged my stepfather to buy it for my mom's birthday. I was either very persuasive, or very, very annoying, because he capitulated. Be it love for her child or legitimate interest (I presume the latter) she loved it. She only ever used cartridges of blue, but it was always in her purse. About 15 years later, when I became interested in using my father's wood shop, and made her a #5 nibbed fountain pen out of Hawaiian Koa (she spent most of the 1970's as a NAUI dive instructor in the Pacific, also as an electrical engineer, designing the power grids for island regions such as Palau and Kwajelin, and had a deep personal connection with Hawaii) at which point the old Waterman was laid to rest. About six months ago, my childhood and high school fascination for fountain pens was reinvigorated. I asked mom if she still had the old Waterman. She did, and she mailed it to me. It was gunked solid by the old long international cartridge in it, but a couple passes through my ultrasonic cleaner filled with hot water cleared the old girl right up. It has a strange little ring in the barrel that made most of my S.I. converters not fit, but the trusty old Jinhao sliding converter fit it perfectly. I filled it up with mont blanc lavender purple and tried it out. Wow. This old girl is a force to be reckoned with. I don't like the 1-10 rating systems. My opinions are just that. Opinions. Completely anecdotal, much like male enhancement products. My word is just as objective (well, maybe a little more, since I'm not being paid), as that of Ron Jeremy's. Steel nib be damned. It's got no breather hole and is as hard as a nail, but it's a true western F (leaning towards EF) with the most perfect, everyday paper medium flow. Shading, minor sheen, and what I consider the perfect amount of feedback a pen could have. Not glassy smooth, you feel the texture of the paper without even the slightest hint of scratchiness. Reverse writing is a hair scratchy and lays down a wet, consistent EF line. I couldn't be happier, this nib is amazing. Think Faber Castell Loom levels of perfection. Feed is plastic, but well designed, aesthetically interesting, and pulls clean out for easy cleaning. The nib is proprietary. About a #6 in size, it has fitment fins similar to the steel pilot custom heritage 74/91, so you can't swap it for anything. The body is full of amazing little details. The cap has two bands of gold. This one has seen HEAVY wear for the past 15 years and no brassing at all, despite a ton of micro scratches. The clip is sprung, and is by far the best clip of any pen in my entire collection, bar none. Perfect tension, perfect grip, slides in and out of a breast pocket no problem since the barrel has a very mild taper and a sharp angled bottom. The clip has a sharp taper to the rounded finneal that just looks and works amazing. I'm reminded of the detail and finish of the current visconti laser etched clips. Far more beautiful than Lamy or Faber Castell's sprung clips, and possibly more usable due to the rounded, smooth design with perfect sections for sliding over clothing. The grip section seems smallish, but the faceted secondary grip is just as comfortable and somehow manages to create a secondary grip section without the taper that eventually forces your hands to slide down to the knurling. I normally hold a pen close to the nib, but this one, I like the parallel knurling so much, I post the cap and hold it there. The incredible fact is that the grip goes from 9.7mm to 12mm without any real feeling that you're holding the pen in a way that it wasn't meant to be held. This is truly a fascinating grip design that I'm surprised wasn't copied. Cap posts deeply, securely, and does not change the balance of the pen whatsoever Cap has a perfect snap action, not too tight, not too loose. The acrylic is not anything special in terms of depth, but reminds me of deep, dark, roiling ocean waves. At the bottom of the barrel is a gold inlaid brass piece that mirrors the wonderful inscription of the nib. Tiny details that add up to a pen of exquisite quality, especially considering the price. Posted it's shorter than a pilot metropolitan, but big enough for even the largest hands without any upset in balance. Unposted, it's about as long as an unposted lamy al-star I am not sure what it retailed for, but this pen would be an outrageous value today at $40-60, blowing everything else out of the water without a question If you can find one used, in good shape for under $50, I highly recommend this pen. it's easily disassembled, takes standard international cartridges and converters, is very pretty, and fit and finish are nothing short of unbelievable for a pen under $200. The nib is a work of art, and is a true daily writer in every sense of the word. When I asked my mom to send me this pen, I wondered if I was going to look at it through the rose tinted goggles of nostalgia. But when held against what I consider to be the best steel nibbed pen currently produced, the Faber Castell Loom, the Waterman Phileas just edges it out in every singly meaningful way. Truly a wonderful, insane bargain if you can find one. I'll likely pick up a few more used ones as I find them on Ebay for a good price, and give them away as gifts. They're just so much better than any other entry level steel nib pen I've seen. Even better than most gold nibbed nails out there (including the platinum 3776, the fit and finish is NOTHING in comparison to the Phileas.)
  2. Here's my review of Lie de Thé (alt + 0233 = é) A dark, oxidized tea stain brown. I ordered a 30ml bottle of this when I also ordered a sample of Pelikan Edelstein Smoky Quartz. I asked about 20 different people at work if they could notice the difference between the two. They could not. I really wish I'd ordered the largest bottle of this. As soon as I'm low, I'll definitely order the largest bottle of this I can. Honestly, I really liked Pelikan smoky quartz. But they have their heads so far up their own bums that the $30 for 50ml (Honestly I don't even think my bottles of pilot iroshizuku are worth $30/bottle, even with the nigh-perfect bottle) just blew my mind. I bought a sample of it and a 30ml BOTTLE of Lie de Thé for $8. And when you are putting it down in as fine a line as anything, even a 1.1 italic does, you can't clearly tell a difference, the value proposition of smoky quartz just fell through the floor. Enter the new champion. Lie de Thé. I adore brown inks. They feel arcane. Simple. Valuable. In the pictures are a Lamy F, B, and 1.1 stub. But this ink just oozes simple beauty. it shades heavily. No water resistance. It just does the one thing it aims to do, emulate the feeling of writing a letter to someone in Victorian times. The ink is just so gorgeous. It shades heavily. No sheen. It works well on garbage paper without much feathering or any drama. Flow is on the wet side of neutral (no noodlers dark matter) and is simply happy to flow in every single pen I try it in (shown are Lamy F, B, and 1.1 stub) No real feathering or bleed on bad paper. Mild water resistance. You will be able to see shadows of the writing, but nothing serious. If you are interested in smoky quartz, in the wettest pens, it will have a TAD more black or grey vs this. But to be frank, try a 30ml bottle of Lie de Thé. If you like it, get a bottle of smoky quartz. Lie de Thé is one of the greatest values in brown inks ever made. I love brown, and this is a staple in my collection. As long as I have Lie de Thé, I don't need to spend such an absurd amount on Pelikan's bizarrely overpriced special editions. I really wish ink makers would realize that ink is not the product that should be sold for such a premium.
  3. Finally Getting around to reviewing my Al-Star. I got after Brian Goulet announced on his weekly Q&A that he got a few in from Lamy, and was selling them at a deep discount. Got mine for $28.20, less than a Safari. As of this writing, he still has a few in F and EF available here along with the "colors" gift set that includes a bunch of ink cartridges and a converter, for less than the cost of a normal Al-Star. I don't like the 1-10 rating system, since what I like about a pen you may hate, so read the entire review if you are legitimately interested in buying the Al-Star. My first Lamy was the Safari Petrol in F, and I was less than enthused. I didn't love the F nib. It wrote fine, but I found it to be a little too smooth for what I like in an F (I like smooth nibs for anything M or bigger, but for EF and F, I like a nib to give me the sensation of the texture of the paper I'm writing on, I found the Lamy F steel nib to feel a little more like a #2 HB pencil) and I was really unimpressed by the plastic. It may be much better, but it felt like a dreaded jinhao 599's ABS. The Al-Star alleviated every single complaint I had. The nib is perfect. I feel the texture of the paper, but it doesn't drag or catch. It's not too wet, not too dry, showing shading (though usually no sheen) of every ink. It behaves perfectly on cheap paper. Truly the jack of all trades nib. If you were disappointed in your steel lamy nib, I highly suggest grabbing an EF and putting it on (though god only knows why the Lizard people that run Lamy have decided to stop selling whole pens with EF nibs to America in order to focus on abroad, I am glad they do sell all their nibs separately. Now I want a black 1.1 stub.) a TINY bit of flex, F-M when pressed down on, but mostly it just writes wetter. Wetness is a perfect medium and it does not appear to be picky regarding inks, The grip section is transparent and smoked, which is fun, letting you see the ink flood the feed as you twist the converter (I have a Z24, unsure about the new Z28) which is a nice effect to tone down the rather bright anodizing. Speaking of the color, I love this pen's color. It's bright, but not obnoxious. Just enough yellow drab to not be garish. It has the typical plastic finneal, and the fit and finish are superb. There are a few small differences between the Safari and Al-Star. The barrel on the Al-Star is about 1mm thicker when measured at the flats. That means the Safari cap will not post or cap the Al-star, but the Al-Star cap will cap the safari but not post on it. The safari posts slightly deeper, but the Safari/Al Star are both usable unposted for anyone with even the largest hands. The anodizing on the Al-Star is perfect, and the cap does post securely, but I find it backweights the pen a bit more than I like. The pen's overall heft is perfect. I think the Safari is a bit too light, but the Al-Star has just that little bit more heft to make it feel solid, but not heavy. The grip sections are identical. The Al-Star's "ring" is solidly secured to the barrel, but the grip section has the component that lets the Safari's grip-mounted ring snap right on, making them interchangeable. The clip is perfect. On the Al-Star, the top of the clip actually slides into the cap, making it sit more flush with the barrel, and in the Safari, the clip juts out more. You can make the Al-Star clip stick out that far at the top, it is a pseudo-sprung clip, whereas the Safari's is fixed. If you are like me (a medic) and wear a uniform shirt with a breast pocket for your pen, you may not like the safari/Al-Star. It does not have a tapered barrel, and I find that I require pens with a tapered barrel and small, rounded bottom to slide easily in and out of a breast pocket. In that case, I prefer the Jinhao X750, Jinhao 992, Platinum preppy, Pilot metro, Pilot penmanship, Pilot C.H. 74, Noodlers Ahab/Konrad/Charlie, Lamy 2K, platinum 3776, or platinum balance as examples of pens that slip easily inside a breast pocket. The thing that really cemented this as one of my favorite pens was when I found one of those few grail fountain pen moments - the perfect ink pairing. It will now, and forever more, have Rohrer and Klinger Alt-Goldgrun in it. The color and pen pair perfectly. I have had it inked for weeks now that I discovered it, and no matter the pen, my Schaeffer Statesman, Visconti HS, even the Lamy 2k (which I bought because of this Al-Star making me realize that I did, in fact, like Lamy) I keep coming back to this Al-Star, particularly for use on cheap paper, where the ink shades without feathering or bleed, and just clicks with this pen in so many intangible ways. If you have a Charged Green Al-Star, and don't have a bottle of Alt-Goldgrun, GET A BOTTLE OF GOLDGRUN. You will not regret it. Overall, I think the Al-Star is the true "beginner's Lamy" pen. I will keep my Safari petrol because I like the color, but it will be my only one. The EF nib made me actually realize that I could like Lamy pens, and I recently just ordered a CP-1 EF so I could keep the Al-Star left alone while I use the CP-1 with EF, F, M, B, and 1.1 to review inks. If you have about $30, go clear Goulet of their stock of Charged Green Al-Stars. Right now, for $28.20, it's currently the best fountain pen deal on earth. And if you don't have a Lamy and want to get your first one, spend the extra $5 and get an Al-star over the safari. You'll be glad you did. Pictures are on Rhodia No. 16 dot pad, the final picture is on the literal worst paper you would ever possibly see in your entire life (not kidding. Feathering on this paper happens even with noodlers X feather in the driest nib I own. This ink/pen behaves insanely well.) (I'll remove the references to the price and source of the charged green Al-Star when goulet sells out)

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