Lamy Al-Star Fountain Pen – Bluegreen 2014 Special Edition – Black B nib

11 04 2014
ggg

Mint chocolate! If only. 

My local pen store and the place I go to get my coffee beans are located in the same shopping complex. It’s a dangerous set-up. I head out intending to get more beans and come home with a new bluegreen Lamy Al-Star.

This is the color mermaids would choose for their fountain pens

This is the color mermaids would choose for their fountain pens

You know how Pikachu will evolve into Raichu with the application of a thunderstone? The Al-Star is basically what the Safari evolves into with the application of more moneystone. Instead of a plastic body, you have an aluminum body that’s slightly thicker but still comfortably lightweight. The only problem is that the finish becomes worn with time.

And yet I keep buying these pens!!

And yet I keep buying these pens!!

But the finish feels nice and smooth, and the bluegreen is a wonderfully mesmerizing color. So calm.

Unfortunately the grips between the Safari and the Al-Star in spite of being similar are not interchangeable. I've tried

Unfortunately the grips between the Safari and the Al-Star in spite of being similar are not interchangeable. I’ve tried

The grip is a smoky translucent plastic, but otherwise identical to the grip of the Safari or Vista. Meaning another shaped grip, which you will probably either enjoy or consider the bane of your existence. Why can’t Lamy put out lots of special color editions of one of their models with a softer, more rounded grip? One that’s also, you know, reasonably affordable?

You can really see the thicker body when looking at the clip. Also, look it's the converter! This part is interchangeable between the Al-Star and the Safari

You can really see the thicker body when looking at the clip. Also, look it’s the converter! This part is interchangeable between the Al-Star and the Safari

In all other respects, the Al-Star is the same as the Safari. Same iconic clip, same cartridges and converter system.

Black nibs is the best fountain pen trend. Coolness factor intensifies!

Black nibs is the best fountain pen trend. Coolness factor intensifies!

Even the same steel nibs. For maximum coolness, I went with a black nib, in broad, as that was the only Lamy nib size I didn’t yet own (besides one of the calligraphy nib sizes, but those don’t come in black). The nib is smooth and steady—you can feel it on the page. The flow is good—I worried that the broad nib would throw down too much ink, but that fear was unfounded. The flow keeps up perfectly with the nib.

Resistance is futile.

Resistance is futile.

I got my Al-Star from Office Supplies and More, and he’ll be taking them to the pen shows (including Atlanta this weekend. THAT’S LIKE RIGHT NOW AS I’M WRITING THIS; GET ON IT!). But if North Carolina or the Atlanta Pen Show aren’t on your way anywhere any time soon, you can also get them online from the Goulet Pen Company.

BONUS PICTURE BECAUSE I CAN!

BONUS PICTURE BECAUSE I CAN!





Lamy Safari Fountain Pen – Apple Green Body – M nib

4 04 2014
The summery delight of this turquoise cannot adequately be represented in a mere scan

The summery delight of this turquoise cannot adequately be represented in a mere scan

The Lamy Safari is pretty much THE classic beginner fountain pen of these modern times—nice enough, lots of options, and not too expensive. This is the pen that a lot of people get when they step up from disposables or the $15 and under category, or heck, I’m sure it’s probably just plain old what a lot of people start with (though I moved up from my beloved disposable Ink Bar to the Sailor A. S. Manhattaner’s and the Platinum Preppy and all other manner of fountain pens but I can confidently say that the Safari’s clear demonstrator version, the Lamy Vista, was my first in-store fountain pen purchase).

I am reasonably confident that this is the 2012 Limited Edition Apple Green body

I am reasonably confident that this is the 2012 Limited Edition Apple Green body

The Safari has a number of great design features, starting with the plastic body—it’s available in a wide variety of colors, from bright and ostentatious (like this green, or last year’s neon yellow) to subdued and classy (like the white or the charcoal black). It’s not a scratchproof plastic, but it is durable (I haven’t broken one yet anyway, and I don’t treat them delicately).

The iconic Lamy clip

The iconic Lamy clip

I love this clip. There is no mistaking the Lamy clip. You may spot one across the room in the hands of a total stranger and KNOW that there’s a Lamy. Then you will hiss at your dining companions “THAT DUDE’S GOT A LAMY” and your dining companions will have no idea what you’re talking about and wonder to themselves why they invite you to brunch. Note how the wide clip arms curve down around the body of the cap—helps hold it snug to the page or the pocket, while the flared end makes it easy to slip on.

Proprietary cartridges, my greatest nemesis

Proprietary cartridges, my greatest nemesis

One of the drawbacks to the Lamy line is that they require proprietary Lamy cartridges. So if you inherited several metric tons of standard international cartridges from your grandmother, this won’t be the pen to use them in. But there is at least sort of a reason for the special cartridges: they are designed to snap themselves on. Just make sure the cartridge is sticking into the grip like so, just resting there really, make sure there’s no cardboard ring on there, and then screw the rest of the body back on. It will push the cartridge down and puncture the bit that lets the ink go from cartridge to feed. That’s a nice feature for beginners (and people with poor arm strength and people who just may be lazy). No wondering (as I hope you rarely do in life) “did I push hard enough?”  You can also pay to get a Lamy converter and use the pen with bottled ink. If I were to rotate the grip in that picture 90 degrees, you’d see the little secure-posts where the converter snaps on.

This right here is the biggest reason you may not want a Lamy

This right here is the biggest reason you may not want a Lamy

If you are a normal human being, or perhaps a German schoolchild, then you will hold your writing utensils with the ultra-efficient and ergonomic ideal pliers grip. The Lamy Safari is molded with this ideal grip in mind, and if you have proper gripping technique or like to be corrected by the pen you hold, then you’ll probably love this. I do not love this. I am forever in battle against the sharp edges and my horrible overwriter lefty cavedwelling hookgrip. If you are getting a pen for someone else, consider how they grip. A rounded grip, or at least one not so sharply sculpted might serve them better depending on their style.

Comparatively speaking, the options here are endless

Comparatively speaking, the options here are endless

The stainless steel nibs are excellent beginner or workhorse nibs. They are sufficiently smooth, but not so smooth that you’re in danger of losing control (or needing to write in cursive, really fast). The nibs are easy to change out and come in extra fine, fine, medium, and broad (all of which can either be in stainless steel finish or black finish), plus three sizes of calligraphy nib (1.1mm, 1.5mm, and 1.9mm). If you want to be able to try a wide range of nibs without having to get a new pen every time (though, where’s the fun in that, besides not being broke?), then the Lamy Safari is an excellent way to go—nibs are sold individually all over the place.

Buy one. Buy three. BUY EVERY COLOR EVERRRRRR

Buy one. Buy three. BUY EVERY COLOR EVERRRRRR

It’s not the perfect beginner pen for everyone, but even in spite of the things I don’t like about it I keep buying them. Those darn colors are just so irresistible. It looks like the Limited Edition 2012 Apple Green body is still in stock at Goldspot Pens at time of writing. Or you can browse through other colors at some of my other favorite online places.

 

Lamy Safari Fountain Pens at the Goulet Pen Company

Lamy Safari Fountain Pens at JetPens





Lamy Dialog 3 Fountain Pen – Fine Nib – Black Body

12 03 2014
Lamy Turquoise is a wonderfully vibrant, beautifully shaded, and quick drying ink. One of my faves

Lamy Turquoise is a wonderfully vibrant, beautifully shaded, and quick drying ink. One of my faves

The Lamy Dialog 3 is one of those pens that I bought after saving a dollar for every day that I still wanted it. This was before the price hike, and I made sure my local pen store, Office Supplies and More, saved one for me because I knew eventually I’d be getting this pen.

This is probably the only pen box that I really, truly love

This is probably the only pen box that I really, truly love

The Dialog 3 is a work of design art, right down to the slim and beautiful box. The matte black metal body is smooth to the touch, but like Pilot’s matte black stealth Vanishing Point finish it’s somewhat delicate.

Why did I put the Vanishing Point in the foreground? Because it has even more easy-to-spot wear. The Dialog 3 has some too, but it didn't show up as well on the camera

Why did I put the Vanishing Point in the foreground? Because it has even more easy-to-spot wear. The Dialog 3 has some too, but it didn’t show up as well on the camera

You can see where the matte finish has begun to wear away in places—the Vanishing Point finish does the same thing. I guess it’s just part of the sacrifice of looking cool.

Clip is up, clip is down

Clip is up, clip is down

What makes the Dialog 3 special is its twist retract/deploy mechanism. The nib deploys completely, a full and regular-sized Lamy two-tone gold nib, and when the nib deploys the clip draws close to the body of the pen, making it less obtrusive (especially when compared to the Vanishing Point clip).

The creature slowly emerges from its protective cave

The creature slowly emerges from its protective cave

As satisfying as it is to deploy, take care when retracting that you don’t twist past aligning the lines on the body or you’ll start unscrewing the pen. Once you get the hang of it, no problem, but I know there was a learning curve phase for me, particularly when I twisted slowly, and I often accidentally unscrewed the pen.

When Lamy has sculpted grips, I don't like it. When there's no sculpted grip, I find myself wanting some ergonomic consideration. There's no winning with me

When Lamy has sculpted grips, I don’t like it. When there’s no sculpted grip, I find myself wanting some ergonomic consideration. There’s no winning with me

I love the weight of this pen in my hand, but I do feel like the weight and the cylindrical body cause the pen to slowly slide down ever so slightly as I hold it. Some kind of indent in the body for gripping might help, but would detract from the aesthetic. No winning there.

14k, as opposed to the Vanishing Point's 18k. But, a bigger nib. I wonder if anyone sells gold nibs for scrap? Which of the two nibs would nab me more dough at Cash4Gold?

14k, as opposed to the Vanishing Point’s 18k. But, a bigger nib. I wonder if anyone sells gold nibs for scrap? Which of the two nibs would nab me more dough at Cash4Gold?

This nib is fantastic. It’s like writing with buttery whispers—smooth, smooth, smoooooth. The flow is perfect. This nib, a 14k gold F nib, writes about the same as a Japanese M. There’s a little bit of give to the nib if you press it to the page, but the pen is so glassy smooth, skating across the page, that such give never really has a chance to come up while writing since no pressure is required to write.

The Lamy Dialog 3 would probably be a lot more popular if the Pilot Vanishing Point didn't exist

The Lamy Dialog 3 would probably be a lot more popular if the Pilot Vanishing Point didn’t exist

In nib performance, the Lamy edges out the Vanishing Point on smoothness. In clip comfort, the Dialog’s low profile can’t be beat. But the Vanishing Point keeps a better seal on its nib (left unused for an equal amount of time, the Lamy Dialog will dry out faster), and when it comes to price and convenience of the deployment mechanism, the Vanishing Point takes that cake and runs with it. If you’re looking for a high quality workhorse pen, go with the Pilot Vanishing Point and save yourself some money.

Possible reasons to get the Lamy Dialog 3: you have collected every conceivable Vanishing Point

Possible justifiable reasons to get the Lamy Dialog 3: you have collected every conceivable Vanishing Point. You have way too much money. You have a personal family vendetta against Pilot.

The Dialog 3 is pretty purely an item of luxury—especially if you opt for the matte black finish. No one NEEDS the Lamy Dialog 3, and at the price it’s climbed to now the purchase is almost impossible to justify. But the pen is a thing of modern beauty. The writing feels wonderful. And if you do decide to buy one, I certainly won’t judge you.

At time of writing, the best price left on the Lamy Dialog 3 seems to be over at JetPens, and if there aren’t any left there the next best price is over 60 bucks more, and the regular retail cost is about another 80 bucks beyond that. Unbelievable.





Lamy Pur Fountain Pen – Aluminum Smooth – EF Nib

2 01 2014
Didn't pack a scanner, so a picture of the writing sample will have to do for this time. Please imagine to yourselves that this appears as the proper Lamy blue.

Didn’t pack a scanner, so a picture of the writing sample will have to do for this time. Please imagine to yourselves that this appears as the proper Lamy blue.

As soon as one of these popped up at my local pen store, I snagged it (I think it actually appeared in their inventory at one of the pen shows; either way as soon as it hit the table I was on it). This has been another impulse purchase that I do not regret.

To commemorate my time visiting the snow, I figured authentic pen snow pictures were in order. This is probably not recommended by the manufacturer.

To commemorate my time visiting the snow, I figured authentic pen snow pictures were in order. This is probably not recommended by the manufacturer.

The body is smooth aluminum, lightweight and beautifully minimalist. It feels lovely to hold, with that smooth finish, and being lightweight aluminum it’s easy to write with the pen posted or unposted.

Wiped off the snow. Snow melted from my hands, and refroze on the pen. Good times.

Wiped off the snow. Snow melted from my hands, and refroze on the pen. Good times.

The clip is a spring-mounted steel clip, on which they should have embossed the Lamy logo—the logo printed onto the barrel is starting to wear off. Not that I’ll mind having a totally clean barrel.

Look! No sharp awkward edges! Just roundness!

Look! No sharp awkward edges! Just roundness!

For me, this grip is what bumps the Lamy Pur into favorite Lamy status (over, say, the Safari/Vista line). I try to work on having a proper, ideal grip, but sometimes I just can’t. This round, unguided grip forgives me.

I should have tested writing conditions in below freezing weather, but I was more interested in finishing the pictures and getting back inside where it was warm.

I should have tested writing conditions in below freezing weather, but I was more interested in finishing the pictures and getting back inside where it was warm.

I got my Lamy Pur with an extra fine steel nib, but any Lamy nib will work on this pen (Goulet Pens has it so you can order whatever nib size you want, from EF to 1.9mm nib, in steel or black color for all non-calligraphy nibs). The nib has been great so far, never scratchy, no problems starting, good flow, nice tactile feeling on the page. I’ve never much had problems with Lamy nibs myself, but know that if you’ve got one you absolutely love but want an upgrade in terms of body, you can just slap that favorite nib right onto the Lamy Pur.

The top kind of curves in, by the way, ever so slightly. Not sure what you'll do with that information but there it is

The top kind of curves in, by the way, ever so slightly. Not sure what you’ll do with that information but there it is

It comes in a decent little box, with one Lamy cartridge and the black-ended converter (the Z26, as opposed to the Z24). This is one of my favorite everyday pens—it looks snazzy, writes quite reliably, and while it’s a bit of a price bump from a Safari or a Vista it isn’t too terribly much more.

I got mine from Office Supplies and More, but you can also get the Lamy Pur with nib of your choice from the Goulet Pen Company online.





Lamy Pico Pocket Size Extendable Ballpoint Pen – 0.7 mm Medium Point – Black Body

24 03 2012

Just like a BIC! For once, I mean that as a compliment; BICs are great for sketching and subtle shading.

I was originally hesitant to get the Lamy Pico—this was back before I totally lost my mind and started dropping some serious Jacksons on fountain pens. Even now, I am reluctant to break the fifteen dollar barrier on any non-fountain pen. But motorcycle trips are special occasions, and in the name of finding the perfect motorcycle pen I finally bought a Lamy Pico back in May of last year (when the Lamy Pico was $10 cheaper).

The Thomas Jefferson doubloon and 1 euro cent piece will be my new references of measure for pens

Design-wise, a thousand gold stars for Lamy. Sleek matte black finish, compact body with a thick barrel (too many compact pens tend to favor needle-thin chopstick bodies), nice weight, and no clip (clips are bulky and can get caught on things in my pocket). Originally I didn’t like that the Pico had no clip, but I’ve come around.

Why does this have to jut out so impudently in what would otherwise be such a streamlined casing?

The only design feature I’m currently not thrilled with is the logo. I stand by what I suggested previously: make it flush with the body, recessed into the metal, and make it out of a powerful magnet so I can attach it to various metal bits on my motorcycle. Or refrigerator.

As is, I have to be mindful of where the logo is (when writing without gloves on), lest I have it pressing into my skin. The argument for the raised logo would be that it acts to stop the pen from rolling away (unless the pen has some momentum, then it’s avalanche straight down desk mountain). However, I’m not intending to use this pen on tabletops, so that’s not one of my concerns.

You know what would be better than a Lamy Pico? If I had some scrambled eggs right now. But I can't very well scramble up some eggs AND type these captions, now can I??

Generally in my off-bike, deskside tests, I’ve been happy with the deployment mechanism. Occasionally it’ll still stick; you just need to push back down and it’ll keep going. Would be a lot better if this never happened at all, or happened so rarely that it wouldn’t be worth mentioning. Oh well! Doubt the ten dollar price hike has fixed this problem.

Paper enemy #1

And here we have what is hands down the biggest problem with the Pico: the refill. Maybe Jetstream set the bar too high for me, so when I fork over the dough for a nice ballpoint pen that isn’t as smooth as butter and black as the deep voids of space, I’m disappointed.

Dear Lamy Pico refill: No, we will never be friends. Because if you weren't so awful, you really wouldn't be the Lamy Pico refill, would you?

Didn’t help that I got an extra particularly especially shoddy refill the first time around (I bought another at my local pen store, and got to test it before I took it home). It writes well enough—takes a little squiggle to warm up if it’s been sitting around for a while, but otherwise pretty consistent. No egregious or particularly obvious skips, blobs, or inky aberrations with my new refill. If we had a scale, with absolutely horrible pens at the bottom (I dare not name names) and Jetstream pens at the top, I’d give this a 5.5, maybe a 6. Just barely above average, but I want smoother. I want darker. I DO NOT WANT TO BE REMINDED OF PENS SO CHEAP THAT PEOPLE PRACTICALLY PAY YOU TO WALK OFF WITH THEM WHEN I USE THIS PEN (no offense, BIC). I still haven’t found a refill that fits. Monteverde claims its mini pen refills fit Lamy brand pens, but the Pico must be an exception (or Monteverde must be a pack of liars). It fits into the pen just fine, deploys and there it is, but as soon as you press it to paper it goes right back up into the pen. Useless. If anyone can find a better refill for this pen, let me know. (Psst, Uni-ball. You would make a killing off of me if you sold refills that fit various other pen bodies. Like this one)

Bottom line: with the price hike and the mediocre refill, I can’t say that the Pico is worth it. The only justifications for getting the Pico are probably either that you want a compact ballpoint pen with a wide body, or you’ve got money to burn and are intrigued by the deployment mechanism. Or if you’re trying to buy every pen ever. I’ve warmed up to mine, but unless you’re flush with cash or being given this as a gift, there are much better pens you could be getting with that money.

Lamy Pico Pocket Size Extendable Ballpoint Pens at JetPens





Holiday Gift Guide — AND GIVEAWAY!

24 11 2011

It’s just about that time of year, my good people, when all your favorite gift-giving holidays convene. That’s right, such holidays as: my mom’s birthday. My grandmother’s birthday. National Fritters Day. Letter Writing Day. Pepper Pot Day. AND MANY MORE!

You will need to be armed to the teeth with gifts if you hope to make it to the other end of December alive. Personally, I like to do all my shopping from the same location, as far away from humanity as possible, and preferably while sitting. I think you know what that means—online shopping! This post will almost entirely feature items from JetPens; maybe, if I’m feeling particularly industrious, I’ll do another (or more?!) post(s) involving writing utensils from other websites.

And! As promised in the title, there will be a giveaway associated with this post. Details will follow. But first—pens!

I’ll organize this into two major categories—pens I own, and pens I don’t own but am going to recommend anyway—and for the first category, I’ll break it down by price. Let’s begin!

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Pens I Own

$1 to $10

There are far too many pens in this category to list them all individually. So I’ve compiled a wish list of them on JetPens! And now it can be your wish list.

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$11 to $30

Pentel Pocket Brush Pen for Calligraphy - $13.50

Great for artists and people who can write in Japanese.

It’s got individual synthetic fiber bristles, and it’s refillable. Can write from a hair-thin line to an I-can’t-be-bothered-to-measure-how-thick broad line. Comes with 2 refills.

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Uni-ball Alpha Gel Kuru Toga Mechanical Pencil – 0.5mm - $14.00

This has all my favorite things in a mechanical pencil. All of them. Including lead.

Fantastically comfortable Alpha-Gel grip + Kuru Toga lead-rotating mechanism = maybe the best pencil ever? Especially helpful for those who have to take a bunch of scantron tests / handwrite a bunch of essays in pencil. A.k.a. students.

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Uni-ball Jetstream Alpha Gel Grip Series Ballpoint Pens – 0.7mm – $16.50

There is possibly nothing I can do to make this ballpoint pen better.

Can’t have my favorite mechanical pencil without my favorite ballpoint pen. As an added bonus, I have reviewed this one before! This body takes any size Jetstream retractable refill (I currently have the 0.5mm refill in mine), and also fits the Zebra Sarasa gel refills.

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Sailor HighAce Neo Beginner’s Fountain Pen – $16.50

Be careful, you're gonna put your eye out with that thing.

I’ve reviewed this one before, too. It’s a nice fine nib pen. Warning: doesn’t come with a refill. I’d advise buying the converter; it’s cheaper than the cartridges, and easier to refill. Warning: I bought the cartridges (which I refill by syringe), but I have not personally tried the converter.

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Akayashi Sai Watercolor Brush Pen – 5 Color Autumn Set – $17.50

Convenient watercolors? Yes. It can exist.

I would recommend buying these brush pens with the Akashiya Sai Watercolor Mini Pallet ($4.50) and a waterbrush pen like the Kuretake Small Compact Size ($4.25), which actually pushes the total cost of this set up to $26.25, but I think it’s worth it. And the Pentel Pocket Brush Pen works great with these for a watercolor black.

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J. Herbin Tapered Body Frosted Glass Dip Pen – Large – $20.00

Fun fact: I studied abroad in Venice before my fine pen obsession kicked in. I only bought 1 glass dip pen from Murano. I REGRET THIS VERY STRONGLY.

Impractical, but beautiful. Especially nice for ink enthusiasts (I recommend Noodler’s, which you can get through places like Goldspot Pens or the Goulet Pen Company). Easy to clean; just don’t drop it.

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Kaweco Classic Sport Fountain Pen – $21.00

Alas, the price has gone up on these since I bought this one. Curse you, modern economy!

From extra-fine nib to broad nib in a variety of colors. Also check out the Kaweco Ice Sport line if you like translucent and bright colors. I have the medium nib, which I find to be one of the thinner mediums I own.

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Lamy Safari, Vista, and Al-Star Fountain Pens – $26, $26, and $37.50

So the Lamy Al-Star is technically out of this arbitrary price category I decided to sort things by. JUST TRY TO STOP ME!

Colorful, durable, with nibs ranging from extra-fine to broad, and in my experience, they’ve all been wonderful writers. I’d recommend getting the converter with this one, as these pens go well with having a nigh unlimited spectrum of ink colors to choose from. Warning: also recommending the converter because the Lamy takes a special cartridge rather than the standard international short cartridge. The pen is designed so that you just drop the cartridge in and then twist the nib section back onto the barrel; the cartridge then punctures itself. Warning: I’ve never actually tried to shove an international short cartridge into a Lamy, as far as I can remember, so I can’t advise what would happen.

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Lamy Joy Calligraphy Fountain Pen – $29

Pen is conveniently named to describe what emotion you'll be experiencing while using said pen

Comes with a converter. And a lovely tapered body. And the cap posts on the end! Calligraphy nib options: 1.1mm, 1.5mm, and 1.9mm. Nibs are interchangeable with the regular Lamy nibs, if you just like the body.

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$30 and up (except for the already mentioned Lamy Al-Star)

A. G. Spalding & Bros. Mini Fountain Pen – Fine Nib – $33.00

Sleek and classy, like a little sci-fi spaceship.

This pen has grown on me a lot more since I first reviewed it, and especially since I started using Rotring Turquoise ink in it (warning: that is a ridiculous price; I paid $4 for my refills at the Art Brown Pen Shop, but they don’t seem to sell that refill online). More of a medium or maybe even broad (what do I know; I never use broad nibs) nib. Warning: do not try to take the clip off or accidentally take the clip off. It comes off, and scratches the satin metal finish in the process. Oops.

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Kaweco Liliput Al Fountain Pen – $53.00

This is such a disappointingly unsexy picture of a phenomenally sexy pen.

I got the fine nib. Yes, this pen is everything I hoped for, and also more. Yes, I desperately owe you all a proper review of this pen;  I am waiting for the opportunity and the lighting so that I can take the kind of pictures that do this pen justice.  Comes in extra-fine to broad nibs. Takes international short cartridges. Also takes….YOUR HEART.

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Pilot Prera Clear Body Fountain Pen – $58.00

When I first held this pen, I couldn't leave the store without buying it. And now here we are!

I bought the fine nib, which was a Japanese fine nib—also known as an extra exceptionally fine line nib. Possibly the finest nib I own (too bad I dropped it on the nib (ARGH WHOOPS)). Also comes in medium nib. I’d recommend getting the Pilot Plumix as well (currently cheapest at Target, I believe); the nibs are interchangeable. You (like me) can have a Pilot Prera with an italic nib! Makes your handwriting look even fancier than normal.

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Pens I Don’t Own

I’m only going to make two recommendations. First, the Uni-ball Jetstream 4&1 4 Color Ballpoint Multi Pen + 0.5mm Pencil ($16.50); I bought one for a friend and he loves it. Four colors of Jetstreams, a pencil, and an eraser all in one body! Second, the Zebra Sharbo X….specifically the Zebra Sharbo X LT3 Pen Body Component – Silver ($49.50). Look at that thing. I want it. Why wouldn’t you?

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THE GIVEAWAY!

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Brad at JetPens has generously offered up a $10 JetPens gift card for one lucky commenter on this post! The rules:

  1. Leave one comment on this post any time between now and Sunday, November 27th 12:00 PM Eastern Standard Time. This contest is open to all readers in any country! That includes you, international people!
  2. One winner will be picked at random from the comments section of this post. Just make any kind of comment—but only one comment! Comments in excess of one shall be deleted. The comments will be numbered in the order they are received, i.e. the first comment is #1, the second #2, and so on. The Random Integer Generator at random.org will be used to pick the number of the winner.
  3. I’ll post the contest winner in the evening of Sunday, November 27th (sometime between noon and midnight). Winner will have one week to email me. There’s a link to my email at the top of the right sidebar.

Good luck! And preemptive happiness to your holidays!

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P.S. I should have it set up so comments will post without my having to approve them all moderator-style. But if your comment doesn’t show up right away, that means I didn’t set that up correctly, and your comment will show up when I go through and hit “approve” on all of them. Don’t worry! Or, if you are worried, feel free to email me!





Appalachian Motorcycle Pen Battle: Round 1

12 06 2011

Round 1, because all of these pens will need to be re-evaluated again after more motorcycling and abuse. These are just the results from a single 4-day motorcycle trip.

You will recall the intended contenders:

The Fisher Space Pen I've tested extensively before. It (or more accurately, a similar model not pictured above) was my default motorcycle pen. That's the standard to beat.

I switched from the basic bullet-style Space pen to one with a Maglite attached both for functionality (hey! I have a pen AND a flashlight! I’m a wizard!) and for the simple fact that I had a hard time finding the slippery little standard Space Pen in my jacket pocket. The clip my standard Space Pen came with is of no help; it has come off so many times in bags and pockets that its whereabouts currently remain unknown. But I rarely want to pull the whole pen-and-flashlight operation out of my pocket; doing so tends to launch a cascade of receipts to the ground. Using the Space Pen with no cap on, it’s too small to comfortably wield and is a bit slippery. A different pen was needed. Let’s take a look at the Fuel Log from my trip and get into the good and bad with each of these pens.

Yes, this is a Moleskine info book. In spite of my loathing of this paper, it /is/ conveniently pre-tabbed; something I'm far too lazy to do to a book with good paper.

Riding over to meet up with my family Thursday evening I used my Space Pen, just for reference.

The most ineffective nunchucks I own

Day One featured use of the Tombow Airpress.

Designed for rugged Japanese construction workers. And also me.

What I like: pen is lightweight, has a decently sturdy and secure clip, compact body, satisfying plunger mechanism. The whole surface of the body is a kind of non-slip rubber, and there’s a lanyard clip. There are a lot of little features here. And it’s not so expensive that I’d be outlandishly upset at losing this off the side of a mountain.

What I don’t like: I want the clip to be even sturdier. Sturdy enough that I feel like I could ride with it clipped in my pocket, instead of zipped securely away. And what is that black arrow piece on the clip for? It confounds me.

Judgment: I wonder how much abuse it will stand up to. I worry it would probably melt if I accidentally dropped it on the motorcycle and it hit something hot. At the same time, I think it has the right kind of look and function for what I need it for. Definitely one to keep around.

Day two  I brought out the Lamy Pico.

I have a lot to say about this one

What I like: Design, design, design. The size is fantastically compact, very low-profile in the pocket, but expands to a full-size pen:

Looks pretty cool, right?

This pen has that screaming jet-black aesthetic you expect from motorcycle things. It’s an item where, eventually, you’ll pull it out to write something down and get asked about it. The body is thick, which makes it easier to hold with gloves on, and it has a nice weight to give it presence.

What I don’t like about the design: one, there have been several times where I pushed the end in but didn’t push it in enough to get the mechanism to catch. You don’t look very cool when you have to push the end of your pen any more than once to get pen functionality. Two: no clip. What Lamy could do, however, is take that little silver logo bit and make it out of a powerful magnet, with the word “LAMY” recessed into the metal. Then you could at least magnetically clip the pen to your bike. I say this because I drove halfway to Asheville with a magnetic pocket tire pressure gauge on the side of my bike, and did not notice till I stopped for gas and saw it was still there. Just a thought.

What I really don’t like: The ballpoint cartridge is crap. I don’t think there was a single time where I started to write with it that it wanted to write right off the bat. Which brings me to another thing I really don’t like: this pen is ludicrously expensive for a ballpoint pen, especially one with a shoddy ballpoint cartridge. And being so pricey, I think I’d have a small heart attack if I lost this pen.

Judgment: The pen is made to look cool and feel cool, but not actually be worth more than a Bic disposable in terms of writing performance. Unfortunately, the cartridge for the pen is oddly shaped, so I’m not sure if we’ll be able to find a better cartridge to hack into the pen to make the price worthwhile. Accept this pen as a gift, but don’t buy one for yourself.

 

 

Day Three I intended to use the Uni Power Tank, but first ended up using my Lamy Vista EF nib with Noodler’s Black Swan in Australian Roses (I wanted to see how a fountain pen would do in my pocket on a hot summer day). Fountain pen ink on Moleskine paper was as suboptimal as you’d expect, but I otherwise saw no difference in performance of the pen. What I really liked about the Lamy Vista was the clip.

I think this clip alone is worth the cost of an entire Lamy Pico

The way the end bevels up makes it super easy to slip onto a pocket, but the way the rest of the clip hugs the barrel makes it reassuringly secure. I rode with the Vista clipped upright in an unzipped pocket and had no worries about it flying away.

Alas, Day Three was a short ride; I only fueled up once, so I had to use the Uni Power Tank to note my mileage at the end of the day.

Is the grip made of tires? It might as well be. Nothing is gonna slip on that grip; it is diametrically opposed to the common banana peel. They are like matter and anti-matter; touching the grip of a Uni Power Tank to a grounded banana peel could destroy the universe.

What I like: writes beautifully every time, solid and dark. Comes out looking very fine for an 0.7mm, which I am a fan of. I’d say, of the bunch, the Uni Power Tank has the unique distinction of both writing the best, and being the most inexpensive. I could stand at an overlook and throw dozens of these pens into a ravine and STILL buy more because it would be a pen worth having. And the grip is pretty neat.

What I don’t like: while it’s well designed for a great, inexpensive pen, I want something with a bit more oomph and dollar signs in the design. I want to put a little more money down and have a designated Motorcycle Pen. If we could put the insides of a Uni Power Tank inside the Lamy Pico, and put the Lamy Vista’s clip on all that, then we’d have exactly what I want. At the very least, I’d like a pen that’s a little shorter than the Power Tank, and with some kind of usable clip in place of the standard plastic snap-off affair.

Judgment: This pen is cheap enough and writes well enough in multiple conditions that I think it’s worth keeping a few in my saddlebags. It writes well enough to be the primary pen, but there’s a bit more I’d like from the aesthetic.

Day four I don’t remember what pen I used, unfortunately (I didn’t write down which pen I was using at the time, oops). Instead, I’ll wrap this up by noting that I didn’t get a chance to try the Sharpie pen :( and I’d like to give an honorable mention to the Ohto Capstick. The Ohto Capstick writes wonderfully and has an excellent, compact design, but if I lose the cap…

The ingenious retracting feature makes the cap LITERALLY INDISPENSABLE; you lose the cap, you might as well switch to another pen.

I can’t have my primary pen contain an integral part that’s sooo easy to lose.

As it stands, every one of the four main pens I tested (Airpress, Pico, Vista, and Power Tank) had enough good things going for them to save them from total expulsion, but no pen had everything I was looking for. As it stands, I’ll probably work on a rotation of these main four (perhaps getting my hands on an EF white body Lamy Safari with Noodler’s Polar Blue, and trying to jam every tiny cartridge under the sun into the Pico until I find something better or give up in despair), plus perhaps a nice orange-body Ohto Pieni in lieu of the Capstick. After a year of abuse, I’ll do an update to see which pens have ultimately fared better than the others. If anyone has any other suggestions, I’ll add them in to the rotation!

In order of appearance:
Tombow AirPress Ballpoint Pen – 0.7 mm – Black Body at JetPens
Lamy Pico Pocket Size Extendable Ballpoint Pen – Medium Point – Black Body at JetPens
Lamy Vista Fountain Pen with Extra Fine Nib (no link because I paid full price for mine in a fancy pen store…if you want this one, you can do your own work to find it at a good price! :P )
Noodler’s Ink Black Swan in Australian Roses Bottled Ink at Goldspot Pens
Uni-ball Power Tank Ballpoint Pen – 0.7 mm – Black Body – Black Ink at JetPens
Honorable Mention: Ohto Capstick Cap-Knock Needle Point Ballpoint Pen – 0.5 mm – Red Cap / Black Body at JetPens





Lamy Vista Fountain Pen with Extra Fine Nib

9 04 2011

Though this Behance Dot Grid paper was not particularly good for the use of this Lamy, I used it anyway. To consistency!

This past weekend, I took a trip to New York City, and among a bunch of minor pen-related ambitions, I had one shining goal: go to a fancy pen store, buy a fountain pen, do not go bankrupt in the process. And what do you know, I accomplished all three.

Perusal of the internet suggested that the Art Brown International Pen Shop would probably be the most rewarding place to frolic for a fountain pen, and though I have no other stores to compare it to, I’ll go ahead and agree. The front of the store contains two long rows of well-lit glass cases, much as a purveyor of fine jewelry might be seen to own, full of exceedingly fancy pens that were no doubt astronomically beyond my price range. I was so intimidated and overwhelmed by the fancy display that I immediately beat a retreat to the back of the store, to browse among the notebooks and more common writing utensils, and to pull together the courage to ask about a modestly fancy pen. Prior reconnaissance suggested that Lamy might offer just such a pen.

Such a pen.

After trying a couple nibs, I settled on the extra fine–my love of a fine line always wins the day (unless we’re getting so fine that the pen is tearing up the paper and getting fibers all clogged up in itself. That will lose the day).

See-through pens make me feel like I have X-Ray vision.

The first thing that caught my eye about the Vista was pure aesthetics–I love the clear-barrel look. It’s so much more interesting–has so much more going on–than the opaque, single color barrel. You can see the innards! Isn’t that thrilling? I think it’s fantastic.

With the clear barrel, everyone will know when you're using off-brand cartridges and they will JUDGE YOU MERCILESSLY.

Most of the pen is made of this thick, strong plastic (maybe one day I’ll learn the actual names of plastics and how to differentiate between them), which leads to two consequences: one, the pen checks in at about medium weight category (due almost entirely to every piece of metal on the cap); two: this pen shows fingerprints EVERYWHERE. Unless you write with gloves. It also works excellently to display dust and other unwanted detritus.

Oh hellooooo, Distinctive Clip that is both Functional and Decorative. What's that? You want to grab onto some papers and never let go? Don't be silly; you're strong, but not THAT strong.

As I mentioned, much of this pen’s weight is in the cap. I was worried this would make the writing experience feel off-balance with the pen being so top-heavy when the cap was posted, but I found that the weight provided just the right amount of counterbalance against my fingers gripping the top of the pen. The weight of the pen was comfortable in my hand, and it added to the writing experience.

The clip design is quite ingenious– rather than a flat clip that is parallel to the barrel, this clip…how do I put this…dips down along the side of the barrel, so that the overall plane of the clip intersects with the shape of the barrel (of course they don’t literally intersect because the clip is a sturdy wire rather than a filled-in plane). The result is a clip with a lot more gripping power–I wasn’t worried about it falling off when clipped onto the cover and several pages of a staple-bound Clairefontaine notebook as I carried it around for a walk. Though perhaps it is too strong?–I could easily see this creasing and bending the pages of a weak notebook cover.

Helpfully, the one part of the grip that bothers me the most is the part I managed to leave out of this picture. Crazy good photography, that!

The grip on the barrel is entirely smooth–just two long concave indentations for your thumb and fingers. My main problem with this pen is right here, in the grip, though I’m not sure if the problem is with the construction of the pen or with the way I tend to hold pens. The hard edge on the side of the concave grip for the thumb digs in a little at the base of my thumb, and I feel like the joint where the barrel connects to the body bothers my hand between the index finger and the thumb. I can’t write for very long with my current hand posture without experiencing some discomfort. Given that I’ve only had this pen less than a week, I’m not going to say that this is a write-off; we’re just getting to know each other here. I’ll see if I can get into the habit of holding the pen in a different way, so that the grip works with me while writing instead of bothering me incessantly.

 

I wish nibs had more colorful designations than “Extra Fine.” Something like “Super Fly” or “Totally Tubular.” And they would only work if you used rainbow ink. … This caption went way off topic.

I went with the extra fine nib (though I can buy other nibs later, if I change my mind), and I think this is probably the best nib for daily use. The amount of ink coming out here, for me, is at the perfect Goldilocks ratio–not too much (too much means the ink takes too long to dry), not too little (too little, obviously, means you’re often not even writing). I’ve been able to use this pen on normal papers, post-it notes, around the office–and not had to deal with the typical feathering, bleeding, and pooling of ink that accompanies a pen that writes too wetly. Most of my fountain pens aren’t appropriate (-ly functional) for office use; I was surprised that this one would be. Once I switch to a converter with some new ink, we’ll see whether this ability to write and be useful on normal paper is due chiefly to the ink or the nib.

In a world where pens like to give away ink like they're just MADE of dispensing mechanisms overflowing with inkly generosity, ONE NIB KNOWS how to strike the balance between sopping wet and infuriatingly dry.

Unlike some extra fine nibs I’ve dealt with, the Lamy EF nib is never scratchy. Writing is smooth, with the soft and satisfying sound of the nib making contact with the paper as it glides along. Some paper does better than others; the Behance Dot Grid was probably the poorest performer among my papers, and even then it wasn’t too bad. On papers like Rhodia and Clairefontaine, the pen just sails along. It makes me want to write even when I have nothing to say.

Overall, I’m pretty happy with this pen. I got to have a fun experience buying it, going to an actual pen store to try the pen out, the pen itself seems to be well constructed and quite aesthetically pleasing, it performs well (and also makes me want to write in cursive), and my biggest beef with the pen is probably something that a better/different grip posture will fix. Welcome, Lamy Vista, into the ranks of my favorite fountain pens (the ranks being divided into two categories: my favorites, and not my favorites).

Parting advice: before letting anyone else hold your pen, be sure to wipe all your fingerprints and dead skin cells off so people won't think you're so gross.

 

 

Lamy Vista Fountain Pen – EF Nib at Art Brown International Pen Shop








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