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

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Pilot Metropolitan Fountain Pen – Medium Nib – Black Crocodile Body

21 03 2014
Pilot/Namiki black ink cartridge

Pilot/Namiki black ink cartridge

The Pilot Metropolitan has been on my radar for a while—I’ve heard good things about it, even got to try it a few times at my local pen club meetup. Every time, I’ve thought, “What a solid pen!” and then promptly forgot to get one. So I was delighted when JetPens sent me one free of charge to try out.

High quality at this absurd price?? It's hard to believe

High quality at this absurd price?? It’s hard to believe

When you see the word “CROCODILE” on a box, you either think of Steve Irwin or you’re thinking of some kind of eccentric piece of old lady accessory fashion.

Fake crocodile on fake leather

Fake crocodile on fake leather

Thankfully, the crocodile pattern accent is totally tasteful, and nicely done—not some cheap sticker. The metal body is matte black (not the same matte black material as the Vanishing Point, so hopefully it won’t have that same problem), with an appreciable little bit of weight to it. In terms of appearance, it’s a lot like the Sheaffer VFM—an attractive, modern, minimalist black pen. Sometimes I wish I was a fancy businessperson with a briefcase. I would put this pen in my briefcase.

The downside of a streamlined body is the inevitability of a hard grip ridge

The downside of a streamlined body is the inevitability of a hard grip ridge

For once, a treacherous, precipitous ridge at the grip lines up in such a way as to completely not affect me. But that edge might be a pain if it falls on a delicate part of your grip.

Now, where do I buy other nibs for this?

Now, where do I buy other nibs for this?

The writing on the Metropolitan is really stand out. I had no trouble getting it started, and the flow is great—juicy but not too juicy. The medium nib is true to the same size medium lines laid down by the Pilot Vanishing Point.

None of my other Pilot nibs look quite like this

None of my other Pilot nibs look quite like this

I am not familiar with this style of Pilot nib (I know the cheapo nib used on the Varsity and the Petit 1 (unique in its ability to fuzz and feather on nearly any paper); the Super Quality style used on the Plumix, Penmanship, and Prera; and the gold Vanishing Point nibs). This nib is new to me, and it’s pretty great. The sweet spot is oh-so-sweet, a whisperingly smooth tactile nib skating along the page.

We have a winner

We have a winner

Pros of the Metropolitan: great writing performance, quality build, round grip, metal body, and comes in different colors and accent patterns. Cons: medium nib only (though I’d bet other steel Pilot nibs can be swapped on), proprietary cartridges (but it did come with a converter for bottled ink use). This is another great under $30 entry level fountain pen, or a great every-day-carry-around pen for the fancy collector who wants a knockabout pen that, if lost in the course of frequent daily use, wouldn’t induce a heart attack.

Thanks again to JetPens for providing this sample!

Pilot Metropolitan Fountain Pen at JetPens





Pilot Vanishing Point Fountain Pen – White Body, Black M Nib

21 02 2014
words

Diamine Ancient Copper is an awesome color

Since my first Pilot Vanishing Point, I’ve come around more on my opinion of this pen, which should be abundantly apparent when you consider that I now own four of them. For this review, I’ll focus on my most recent addition, a white body Vanishing Point with black medium nib.

words

White like the snow we got stuck under last week

The look has grown on my over time. The aesthetic is clean and modern, while still being high class. There is a white body available with matte black accents instead of the rhodium, but I can tell you that the matte black finish isn’t as durable. An everyday pen needs to be durable. The black nib, though subtle, gives me that sporty white/black look without sacrificing the pen’s general usability.

words

Black like the night. I am the night. I am Batman.

I still don’t necessarily like having the clip on the writing end, but I understand why it has to be there. You get used to it. The payoff is having a retractable fountain pen, which is the greatest convenience a fountain pen can have. This is my #1 work pen of choice.

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18K black plated stylish magic, with a few spots of dried ink

I own broad, medium, and fine Vanishing Point nibs, and the medium is by far my favorite for everyday work use. The nib is tactile on the page, smooth but not so smooth that it’s out of control. I had no finicky problems like I did with my broad nib (which has behaved well since I took it to Richard Binder)—the flow is good, and the ink doesn’t stop until the pen is totally out of ink.

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Fancy writing just waiting to happen

The Vanishing Point is attractive, reliable, and convenient. It’s a bit premium-priced, but with no competition in terms of other retractable fountain pens, it’s worth the price for such a high-quality pen.

Looking around briefly, it looks like the best way to get this combo online is through the Goulet Pen Company. Here’s the white body, with your choice of size and color nib. I got mine from Office Supplies and More, which sort of requires you to either show up in person (and probably call ahead and tell him what you want, etc.—he might have to order it) or catch him out at one of the pen shows.





Pentel TRF100 Tradio Fountain Pen – Black Pearl Body – M nib

4 02 2014
If I were to guess, and this is just a guess, I'd say this is J. Herbin Vert Pré. It is a very limey green (by which I mean lime-like, not archaic-derogatory-term-for-Brits-like)

If I were to guess, and this is just a guess, I’d say this is J. Herbin Vert Pré. It is a very limey green (by which I mean lime-like, not archaic-derogatory-term-for-Brits-like)

Fun fact: up until I received this pen, I would have sworn I’d already reviewed its felt-tipped older brother, the Tradio Pulaman “fountain pen” marker. Somewhere I’ve got the pictures, and the writing sample; I just never did the actual review. I keep wanting to reference a review I haven’t even written yet, and for that, I apologize. I’d also like to thank JetPens for providing this sample (and this lovely green J. Herbin ink cartridge) for review.

Snap cap, the second most convenient fountain pen type, besides the completely monopolized retractable.

Snap cap, the second most convenient fountain pen type (the first being the completely monopolized retractable)

I’ve got to break down this design three ways: the basic overall design, the black pearl coating, and the wonderful little window. Design: all thumbs up. Simple, attractive, modern work of pen designing art. Look at that cap. Look at the window.

So sleek! Such curves!

So sleek! Such curves!

This might be my favorite part. You can see the nib! There it is! Hi! Wave at the nib! I wish I could see all of my nibs even when capped—the nib is the quintessential fountain pen part!

See the seam on the cap? Don't lie; you totally do

See the seam on the cap? Don’t lie; you totally do

This black pearl finish is where I start to have mixed feelings. It feels smooth. It looks cool. But it makes the seams on the cap stand out more (they’re smooth, as smooth as with the matte black body on my Tradio Pulaman), and stand-out seams can cheapen the look, no matter how well they’re smoothed. Also: smooth surface picks up skin debris like you paid it to collect every discarded cell. We’re talking mad crazy. This is fingerprint/handprint city, in a way that the matte surface definitely isn’t. If you’re a stickler for cleanliness, this might drive you insane.

Why not shiny black pearl grip? Why the discontinuity?

Why not shiny black pearl grip? Why the discontinuity?

Black grip combined with the black pearl body? Not sure how I feel about that. Two toned nib? Good choice. The cap posts securely (though I’ve read of problems with similar models) and is almost necessary for so lightweight of a pen. It feels like it could just float out of my hand.

Says "IRIDIUM POINT Pentel" on the top, but that wasn't quite as attractive as this close up turned out to be

Says “IRIDIUM POINT Pentel” on the top, but that wasn’t quite as attractive as this close up turned out to be

On exceptionally smooth Clairefontaine/Rhodia papers, a problem emerged: this nib has got undeniable butt cheeks, the result being times where the ink doesn’t want to get on the page, as capillary action is holding the ink up in the crack instead of bringing it down to the where the cheeks touch the page. It happened so bad on the S in “Smooth” on the writing sample that I had to go back and write over it again until ink happened or there would have been no S at all. I busted out my eye loupe to confirm, and sure enough:

Cheeks, people; two of them.

Cheeks, people; two of them.

The cheeks weren’t a problem while handwriting this review in cursive on Leuchtturm 1917 ruled medium notebook paper. It’s been a good tactile nib on this paper, no flow problems, but I know I won’t rest until I’ve smoothed out that butt.

Not only can you see less cheekiness, you can also see where I got too close with the camera and got ink on my lens

Not only can you see less cheekiness, you can also see where I got too close with the camera and got ink on my lens

One micromesh buff stick and some lapping films later, and I’ve got the butt cheeks toned down. And now, I’ve got a very smooth tuned nib. Aw yeah.

The competition; the compatibility

The competition; the compatibility

At this price point, the Tradio is in direct competition with the Lamy Safari. The Tradio line can’t compete on color and nib options (there’s only medium nibs, and only a handful of colors, though I did find that the Tradio Pulaman body and cap are fully compatible with the fountain pen bits), but the Tradio has two big advantages going for it: no proprietary cartridges (takes the standard international cartridges) and rounded grip (as in, not faceted-sculpted-telling-you-how-to-live-your-life-and-grip-your-pen-type grip).

Carry it around, it won't weigh you down

Carry it around, it won’t weigh you down

The Tradio TRF100 is a decent, very lightweight plastic body beginner fountain pen. Some simple nib smoothing may be needed to achieve peak performance, but for me this pen will find a comfortable home as a knock-about work pen.

Pentel TRF100 Tradio Fountain Pen Black Pearl Body at JetPens





Rotring Newton Fountain Pen

14 12 2013
I think I actually spelled the name of the ink color correctly. This might be the only time I managed that for this color...

I think I actually spelled the name of the ink color correctly. This might be the only time I managed that for this color…

This particular peculiar Rotring entered my life as a birthday present from my dearheart, who went to the local pen store asking for something I didn’t already have. Voilà—a Rotring I’d never even seen before.

I think I need to add another fake sun to the left side of my desk.

I think I need to add another fake sun to the left side of my desk.

With a bit of Googling I’ve decided that this is a Rotring Newton, the mod odd update to the very popular, hexagonal 600 series. The pen has a lot of solid metal and oblique angles going for it, and I love the finish.

You can't just have a pen, you have to gaze deeply into its very surface

You can’t just have a pen, you have to gaze deeply into its very surface

It’s not just solid black—look very closely and you see some dark twinkle to the finish. And all the silvery bits? This pen is a looker.

Untwisting and untwisted.

Untwisting and untwisted.

But beautiful as it is, this pen has some quirks to note. The biggest is how you get to the cartridge/converter side. Look up at the picture of the whole body, see the silver bit on the non-cap end? Twist it counter-clockwise like you’re retracting a tube of chapstick (go clockwise—as though advancing a chapstick—to secure it back to the body). Not what you were expecting. But then why not, why not involve some randomly strange mechanism? Quirk #2: do NOT reuse a standard international cleaned-out cartridge in this pen. I’ve read somewhere before that you need to use the special (pricey) Rotring converter in the Rotring pens or it won’t seal properly…I don’t know for sure about all that, but I know it doesn’t play well reusing a cartridge. The cartridge came loose, ink was everywhere; so I decided not to tempt fate anymore and slapped in the one Rotring converter I have. Fits perfectly. No more ink everywhere.

Modern nib decoration

Modern nib decoration

The writing is mostly wonderful—smooth without being out of control, never scratchy. But I think the nib might be currently suffering from a bit of baby’s bottom.

Is it? I can't exactly tell. The nib looks very round at the tip.

Is it? I can’t exactly tell. The nib looks very round at the tip. That’s about all I can tell

There are times, not even the span of an entire letter really, just the first stroke, where there’s no ink, right at the beginning. Then it starts up just fine. If it is a case of baby’s bottom, it’s an easy fix.

Also it comes with a neato-keen octagonal-type box

Also it came with a neato-keen octagonal-type box

Mine came from Office Supplies and More, but I haven’t seen him have any of this pen before or since. Goldspot carries them, looks like…let me know if you know of any other good retailers that stock the Newton and I’ll add a link!





Paperchase Wonderland Cartridge Fountain Pen

29 08 2013
If I had a lot of money, I'd buy multiples of every pen to get a better idea of quality control, then I'd give away the surplus pens. TOO BAD I DON'T HAVE SUCH PHAT STAX O CASH

If I had a lot of money, I’d buy multiples of every pen to get a better idea of quality control, then I’d give away the surplus pens. TOO BAD I DON’T HAVE SUCH PHAT STAX O CA$H

I wasn’t looking for a fountain pen when I went to Target (I’ve given up on them since the brief glory days when they carried Rhodia notebooks, Pilot Plumix, 0.38mm gel pens, and such came to an end) but as I made my way through the back-to-school carnage (admittedly not nearly as bad as what I saw in Walmart) I spotted abandoned there, on a miscellaneous free-standing product display, one lone blister pack containing a Paperchase Wonderland Cartridge Fountain Pen. As I hunted down the source, I promised myself, if it was under five dollars, I’d give it a try. I found the rest of the Paperchase Wonderland collection on an endcap over in Home Office. The pen was $4.99.

I'm thinking pair this pen with a Piccadilly notebook and some Earl Grey tea.

I’m thinking pair this pen with a Piccadilly notebook and some Earl Grey tea.

From what I can tell, the body comes in two designs: all black, and the whimsically decorated purple, covered in Alice in Wonderland illustrations. The design (the whole themed collection, really) screams painfully trendy-cute in much the same way slapping an owl or a mustache (or a mustachioed owl for radmax hipster points) onto something would, but we will forgive it for that. The plastic is of the cheapest sort, and will surprise no one should it break. The cap is snap-on, and posts easily. The grip section is easily my least favorite part, because though there is texturing there, further up the barrel the ridges for the cap collide with my grip style for a purlicue-irritating experience.

I was surprised to open the pen up and find something I had never seen before

I was surprised to open the pen up and find something I had never seen before

The pen comes with five blue standard short international cartridges: four displayed in the blister pack, and one hidden in the body of the pen. It also came with the empty bottomless cartridge pictured above left, in the pen body on the feed as though it were a cartridge in use. I suspect this was a clever little way to demonstrate by example how the cartridges are supposed to be used without having to print up any instructions.

Good nameless German steel? Possibly.

Good nameless German steel? Possibly.

The nib is labeled only with “IRIDIUM POINT M” and according to the package, this pen hails from Germany (veracity, at this price point, somewhat dubious). It’s a true European medium by my reckoning, and writes a little more wet than dry, though by no means is it what I would consider juicy. You feel the nib as you go across the page—it’s a tactile feeling, satisfying in its way, nothing scratchy about it, no unaligned tines, no skipping or problems with ink flow. I was impressed with how quickly after the cartridge was in place the pen was writing—it was ready to go as soon as I put the pen together and put it to paper. Non-fountain pen users aren’t interested in a finicky pen. This just might be the gateway pen I’ve been looking for to lure those folks in.

Shall we take bets on how long it will be before these fanciful designs wear off?

Shall we take bets on how long it will be before these fanciful designs wear off?

This pen has everything I could want in a gateway barebones beginner pen. You can find it in a common store (Target). It’s refillable with the most standard cartridges around, and has room in the body to carry a spare cartridge. It comes with a total of 5 cartridges to start you off. It writes right away without any finagling, and though it isn’t some buttery nirvana of smooth steel sliding words across the page, it writes satisfyingly well. And it’s cheap—cheap enough to be bought on a whim, to bring new people to fountain pens, and when it inevitably breaks or its owner gets tired of the cheap grip or what have you, they’ll be hooked, they’ll want more, and they’ll begin the fantastic spiral into buying better and better fountain pens.

 

I’m having trouble finding a link to anywhere suitable to buy it online, so check your local Target, or coerce someone you know who lives near a Target to check theirs and mail it to you if they find one.