Lamy Dark Lilac Fountain Pen and Ink

2 05 2016

I could have reviewed the nib, but ive already swapped on a slightly crisp stubby italic that I ground ahead of this pen’s arrival, which gives you no insight into how it writes right out of the box

A review for the much anticipated Lamy Dark Lilac Safari doesn’t need to be long. Here it is: just buy it. Unless you hate purple, or purple murdered your parents outside a movie theater forcing you into a life of vigilante justice against purple-jacketed villains, then you can pass, but everyone else? You probably ought to get this pen, and the ink to go with it. I hate triangular grips, and I still think you should get this pen.

Heck, I might even get this pen again

Ultimately this is still a Lamy Safari, and my opinions about the Safari haven’t really changed (though it’s no longer the sole best contender for a beginner fountain pen, not since the Pilot Metropolitan hit the streets). But I will tell you what makes this particular Safari a winner among all other Safaris.

I recommend pairing this pen and ink with a Rhodia Ice pad for maximum cool factor

I don’t know if the success of the Pelikan M205 Amethyst led them to this conclusion or if Lamy came up with this one all on their own, but special edition pens can be made in colors other than green. With fantastic results! I couldn’t ask for a more perfect shade of purple.

I could ask, but no one would be able to give it to me

The entire pen is finished with the same matte texture as you’d find on the charcoal Safari. It’s a wonderful texture that doesn’t show fingerprints the way the glossy finishes do, and adds comfortable grippability to the plastic body.

I’m going to sleep now and dream of this most perfect purple

The black nib, clip, and finial seals the deal. Silver accents would have been too showy. The stealth scheme lends the pen an ineffable air of coolness.


Lamy ink is one of my favorites for everyday use — it’s vibrant, it shades, and it’s fairly quick drying. The only downside to Lamy ink is the limited selection of colors available — or, that was the downside, prior to the arrival in the past few years of matching special edition inks. Now I have the purple I’ve wanted to exist since I first learned about Lamy inks. Bonus? The ink has a golden sheen.

This pen and its matching ink are everything I hoped for. My only problem is that they didn’t come out with it sooner.

And Tobi’s only problem is that the ink isn’t meat-flavored

I got mine from my local enabler, Crazy Alan’s Emporium. He might have some in stock if you give the store a call. Otherwise you can find this pen for however limited a time at any fine retailer where Lamys are sold, but not yet sold out. 

Uni-ball Jetstream Color Series Ballpoint Pens – 0.5mm – Light Blue & Purple

17 05 2012

Angels are weeping right now, Uni-ball, and they are not tears of joy.

I’m not particularly subtle when it comes to my feelings about the Jetstream line of pens. I constantly shoehorn in mentions of them. I rank them somewhere between a writing utensil and a god (perhaps on par with Hercules, or something that writes in a combination of butter and black gold). I hold the Jetstream to a high standard, because that’s what the Jetstream delivers. That said, I’m not sure these are Jetstream pens.

They are perhaps wolves in pens’ clothing

They look like Jetstream pens. Exactly like the black 0.5mm Jetsteam I so dearly love—that same slick and sweeping modern design, attractively and accurately color-coded to match the ink inside.

The purple seems to be coming out too dark in several of these pictures. This is a more accurate representation of what this purple looks like. Pretty close to what Wikipedia terms “Mardi Gras” purple

Really spot-on with the color. You have no idea how much I appreciate that.

This is shattering every fundamental truth I ever knew about the universe, Uni-ball. The sky is blue, the earth orbits around the sun, Pilot G2s are generally pretty terrible, and the Jetstream writes like an oil-based miracle. THAT IS THE WAY THE WORLD IS SUPPOSED TO WORK

Let’s not kid ourselves—even on Clairefontaine paper there, this ink performance isn’t up to snuff. The tip is an absolute mess, and I think that’s where all the problems are coming from.


Picture it: the ink gums up at the tip, leading to blobs. Blobs that don’t get transferred to the page lead to slight, jerky resistance as they get worked around the surface of the ballpoint, and all this inconsistency and uneven distribution of ink leads to the occasional ghosting.

These two are up to no good

It wants to be smooth, really it does. But something about the formulation for colorful inks is having this terrible side effect. This is a ballpoint pen. Maintenance is not part of the repertoire for a ballpoint pen this inexpensive. I shouldn’t have to be cleaning off the tip of a ballpoint pen. I’d also like to note that in handwriting this post, the blue pen just started having the pen equivalent of agonal breathing, and I had to switch back to the purple.

I thought maybe using bottom-barrel paper might bring out some kind of desperate last-minute hat-trick-miracle, but no.

What is going on here, Uni-ball? Whatever it is, it’s not okay, and should NOT be called a Jetstream.

Take those nametags off right now, you rank impostors!

You can either find a way to fix this ink, or don’t dare call this thing a Jetstream. Your choice.


So, where do we go from here, my fellow penficionados? I suggest stockpiling canned goods, and buy up more REAL Jetstreams.

Real Jetstream Ballpoint Pens at JetPens

But it’s your money, you can do whatever you want.
Uni-ball Jetstream Color Series Ballpoint Pen – 0.5 mm – Light Blue Body – Light Blue Ink at JetPens
Uni-ball Jetstream Color Series Ballpoint Pen – 0.5 mm – Purple Body – Purple Ink at JetPens

P.S. Many thanks to JetPens for providing these sample pens free of charge!

Mini Review: Another Look at the Platinum Preppy

4 04 2012

Eye-numbingly brilliant

I’ve been wanting to do a follow-up on the Platinum Preppy for a while now. Was my initial review too harsh? I don’t know about that—it accurately reflected my feelings at the time. But now I have a few more feelings.

This is the worst plastic, against which all other plastics are compared.

I still stand by that sentiment: this is unforgivably terrible plastic. It cracks, even when living a gentle, docile life in a pen case. Even with the tape, the cap doesn’t stay on. The pen then dries out, and becomes completely useless. The fact that people will use this pen as an eyedropper strikes concern into my heart every day, and each night I go to bed wondering who among our kind has had the rage of shoddy plastic turn against them, leaving ink everywhere.

Maybe the pen did better this time around because I couldn't clean out all the dried ink?

For whatever reason, I did not have the writing problems I had before. No fuzzing or feathering. No atrocious bleedthrough on everything I wrote. I would like to recant my previous assessment of the fineness of nib: just as it is a fine nib in this writing sample, it was a fine nib before; I don’t know what my previous problem was on that front. The yellow was a tad scratchy on non-Clairefontaine paper, but this is still just a $3.30 refillable fountain pen, so I’m not expecting miracles.

Since the Sailor Ink Bar has left this world, I am forced to acknowledge the inferior Platinum Preppy as heir to the low-cost throne

It’s a decent, cheap, absolute entry-level starter fountain pen that is, most importantly, refillable (though only with special Platinum cartridges). I’m not nutso about this pen, and please know that I worry about you if you’re using one of these as an eyedropper, but I’ve come around to more enthusiastically admit that this pen is pretty alright.

Platinum Preppy Fountain Pens at JetPens

Pentel EnerGel Metal-tip RT Gel Pen – 0.7mm – “American” vs. “Japanese”

15 10 2011


JAPAN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (disclaimer: both of these writing samples should be the same color of purple. Any difference is due to my incompetence with Photoshop, not due to any actual differences in ink)

With impeccably fortuitous timing, Brad at JetPens sent me a sample of the new Pentel EnerGel purple pen they started carrying just as I was preparing to review the American edition I’ve always seen in stores of that very same pen. I’m fascinated by the difference between the common American and the common Japanese office supply markets; it’ll be thrilling (for me and me alone probably) to examine those differences in the microcosm of a single pen model!

What Pentel thinks America wants...

...and what Pentel thinks Japan wants. (I apparently think Japan wants terrible lighting conditions)

Someone, somewhere, dictated that these pens would not look the same. I wonder what kind of market research goes into these designs. Are there focus groups, or is it just one pendividual’s personal conception of what each country stereotypically likes? Why does the “American” version have a metal clip? Because Americans would break a plastic clip? Why doesn’t the “Japanese” model look like an overenthusiastic spaceship impersonator? Why doesn’t the “American” model have color accents that are the same purple as the ink?



Even the logo branding differs.

Less obtrusive clip-based branding....


The biggest structural difference is where the pens come apart. The “American” model unscrews where the grip meets the barrel of the body; the “Japanese” model unscrews at the top, where the opaque plastic of the clip/plunger meets the translucent body barrel. Whhhhhyyyyyy? There is probably some good reason for this design divergence, but it’s far beyond my imagination. Elucidate me, Pentel. Make your secrets known.

These are like, what, the pen equivalent of fraternal twins? Or identical twins who had two different visions for how their plastic surgery should go?

Writing-wise, I love them both. These are, without a doubt, THE BEST EnerGel pens I have ever used. Not just because they are smooth/consistent/write in my favorite color, but because they and they alone seemed to not fall prey to the problem I have had with EVERY SINGLE OTHER EnerGel pen I’ve tried; it’s a problem that in other models completely undermines Pentel’s claim of the EnerGel being leftie-friendly. Do you recall this problem? Though the ink did seem to dry quickly and not smear, it still, after dry, managed to get all over the side of my hand and get redistributed back onto the page. But maybe “ideal for lefties” in a right-hander’s world just means not being dropped in a gulag, or not being forced to sit on the far, awkward side of the room, socially ostracized in the few feeble, rusty, and dilapidated “left-handed” desks the school provided as an afterthought.

As far as I could tell in tests of both pens, I did not have the unique problem that the black ink EnerGel models gave me. This is why colorful ink is better. Why am I not allowed to sign official documents in colorful ink? I think this is infringing on my right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

The pursuit of happiness bears a striking semblance to the pursuit of desirable writing utensils. Maybe we ought to let Thomas Jefferson know.

They write the same, and I think they both look good, in their own different way. I feel like I’m a kindergarten teacher telling every kid that everyone is special, only with pens instead of children.

Call upon your own personal aesthetic and decide which style choice is right for you, or decide that none of them are right and send Pentel an exuberantly worded and belligerent letter detailing exactly what you want. They probably won’t make it for you, but won’t you feel better getting that off your chest?

The “American” version of the Pentel EnerGel can be found all over the place. I probably got this one at either Jerry’s Artarama or my local pen store, Office Supplies & More. But you can also get it just about, if not every big-box office supply store.

The “Japanese” version, you guessed it: at JetPens. Pentel EnerGel X Metal-Tip Retractable Gel Ink Pen – 0.7 mm – Violet Body – Violet Ink
P.S. These pens are made of 84% recycled plastic, if you’re into that sort of thing.

P.P.S. This review is actually just a comparison of the EnerGel-X (the “Japanese” model) and the EnerGel Deluxe (the “American” model). It’s just that I’ve only ever seen the Deluxe in American stores, and the X on JetPens, but never the other way around. Also it’s more fun to pretend that this is just another example of my beloved conspiracy that none of the major pen companies want the American pen market to have anything good, and that the Japanese pen market is a wonderland of magic and endless ink-based delight. Isn’t it more interesting that way?

Pilot Varsity Disposable Fountain Pen in Black, Blue, and Purple

4 02 2011

This has got to be my poorest excuse for doodles yet. What is that thing up on the left there? That is just terrible nonsense.

Imagine replacing all the pictures on this blog with me standing in front of you in a hip and dimly lit bar, tipsily waving a pen in your face, and you’ve got a pretty good idea of what my Thursday nights are like. This is, of course, an excellent opportunity for you, if you’re getting a pen waved demonstratively in your face, to make a suggestion for what kind of pen I should review next. Now, replace “Thursday” with “last Monday,” and you’ve got the full picture of how this review came to be. This time, I believe the suggestion started with “that really cylindrical pen” (which is only nearly all of them) and eventually meandered into “Pilot Varsity,” courtesy of one Devin T. Rooney (friend of Risden–remember Risden?); at least, I assume that was his name, because this was what he wrote down when I asked “What do you want me to call you on the internet?” So now you know who to blame thank.

I guess this is kind of collegiate-looking? Varsity teams wear pinstripes, yeah?

So I originally bought these in a Staples, an impulse as usual, just because they were fountain pens! at an affordable price?! in an actual, physical store?!?!?!!! This is apparently my biggest weakness. Right out of the package, the blue pen didn’t want to write (though it now works, months later). Black and purple did all right, and I was really enamored with the rich, purple ink.

There's a handy window where you can almost distinguish one dark ink color from another.

Speaking of the ink, there’s something strange smelling about this ink. Sort of…like a hospital? (My coworker says vinyl, perhaps PVC.) I can’t quite put my finger on what it is right now, because I’m scribbling on and sniffing a piece of paper in public. The black isn’t a perfect black, but the colored pens are very rich–I’d peg the blue as Wikipedia-defined ultramarine, and the purple as … well, there isn’t an easy match for the shade. So we’ll just say it’s lovely.

On my first draft of this post, I kinda failed completely to mention much about the writing and drawing performance of this pen, as I was just so …anti-impressed (or impressed, but in a bad way). The ink flows out more in the manner of water than ink; too much flow, too much ink on the page, too much bleedthrough and just ink everywhere, either getting absorbed clear through the page in my Behance journal, or sitting pooled on the line on Rhodia paper. I couldn’t find any medium suitable for this pen. Moleskine sketch paper came the closest, as it’s thick enough that its absorbent tendencies didn’t draw the ink all the way to the other side of the paper. You’ll notice I didn’t sketch much with this pen. When the pen is good, I’ll fill up the doodlespace because I just want to keep making lines, using the pen is that enjoyable. But with a pen like this, I go through the cursory sketches to test the pen and leave it at that. Things just feel sloppy, in terms of markmaking. I’m not even really excited to be writing about this pen! It’s so…BLAH.

As for the body of the pen, the plastic barrels show no signs of damage so far, and, like many of the cheap fountain pens I own, have no problem writing right away after months spent dormant.

Look familiar?

We’ve seen this nib before. It’s just the medium nib to the Pilot Petit1’s fine nib, which is to say, neither nib ever actually approaches medium and it’s really the gigantically awful nib to the Pilot Petit1’s medium.

The <M> is for MASSIVE

This pen has made me realize that I have a fine-nib bias in my pen preferences. This pen gives out ink like it’s free. Like it’s candy. Like it’s hotcakes? I think this is just a function of the medium nib, and all my problems with this pen–heavy ink flow, slow-drying time and/or bleedthrough (paper dependent), fuzzing and feathering–may be problems I have with medium nibs in general. There are some problems I can isolate specifically to this pen–terrible squeaking while writing on a Staples junior legal pad as well as fuzzing/feathering I don’t see from other pens/inks on the same paper.

In hindsight, I was too harsh on the Platinum Preppy (but the fact that its fine nib is equivalent to a Kaweco Medium nib still stands), another thing this Varsity has made me realize. If you want an entry level fountain pen (like, really cheap entry level), the only reason to get the Pilot Varsity, in my opinion, is if you just have to have it from a physical store and can’t wait the 2 or 3 days it takes for JetPens to ship better pens to you.

It is durable, yes. And a fairly smooth, consistent, easy-start writer. It WILL write. But will it write well? Will I ever find a kind of paper where I’m satisfied with the ink flow, appearance, drying time, amount of bleedthrough? Doubtful. Also, ink shouldn’t smell this weird. Sorry, Pilot Varsity! You are a pen for someone else.

But that doesn't mean I won't take your picture.

Pilot Varsity Disposable Fountain Pens at Staples

Pilot Varsity Disposable Fountain Pens at JetPens

Platinum Preppy Fountain Pen – Fine 03 Nib – Purple Ink and Green Ink

23 01 2011

I'm not quite satisfied with how the colors came out on this scan, and no amount of Photoshopping has changed this. I'll throw in a link to a really crappy picture of the review, and hopefully, going forward, I can work out something to give us a little more color fidelity here. Like, say, a new scanner. That would help.

Here’s my attempt at taking a picture of the review. This is not better than the scan; it’s just bad in all new ways. But enough with my shoddy techniques; let’s review this pen.

This pen. These pens.

Continuing in my established tradition of reviewing really cheap pens, I bring you the Platinum Preppy Fountain Pen (the purple one is mine, the green one is on loan from my friend and coworker, Betsy). This was one of the earliest fountain pens I bought, back when I was trying to figure out what all the fuss was over these fusty old devices.

The color-matched nibs are a cute touch.

I wanted a nice purple pen (which I eventually got); the color that came out of this pen, once we finally got it to work, was more of what I’d call a Fandango (a color name I have only just now learned; thanks Wikipedia). The pen was rather reluctant to write right out of the Jiffylite packaging, and I can’t recall what esoteric rituals we performed to get it to function. If you’ve ordered one of these pens and it seems dead in the water, uh, keep trying? Maybe you, too, will accidentally stumble on the solution.

Spring-loaded, the better to make irritating noises when you idly twist the cap around

The pen body itself is made of a hard plastic that is more than willing to crack–I currently have two cracks in the cap of my purple pen. At some point, they’ll surely expand enough to make the cap completely inoperable. The clip on the pen seems to be the same sort of crack-prone plastic as the rest of the pen–the sort of thing that wouldn’t hesitate to snap off if you tried to use it for anything other than keeping the pen from rolling away. There is an interesting spring mechanism in the cap, which helps to seal the nib in when closed–there’s an inner cap on the end of the spring, which the grip of the pen then pushes into. It keeps the nib safe and free from drying out. Aside from those initial starting troubles, I’ve never had this pen choke out on me. Even after months of sitting unused, this pen writes; what more can you ask for at this price point?

I would ask for an actual fine nib, is what I'd ask for.

Maybe I got a bad pen, or maybe my early attempts at fountain pen writing were nothing but heavy-handed abuse, but this is not what I’d call a fine nib. This is medium. I can’t imagine how thick the so-called “medium” Preppy nib must be. The colors are enjoyable, but everything else about this ink is terrible. It bleeds through the page, lays down thick and wet, fuzzes and feathers, isn’t waterproof–in fact, it’s probably more water than ink (again, what was I expecting at this price point?).

But you know what? It writes. And in all the time I’ve had it, I’ve been able to count on it for that. What this pen is, is it’s a good, cheap, reliable, beginner’s fountain pen. So what if the ink is capable only of either pooling up (very left unfriendly) or soaking through the paper? It’s an easy writer, and still writes even when held at awkward and nonsensical angles (which, by the way, is the only way non-fountain-pen users know how to hold fountain pens) . And it’s cheap. That’s what’s important about this pen–it writes and it’s cheap.

Have something beautiful, for the road

Platinum Preppy Fountain Pen – Fine 03 Nib – Green Ink at JetPens

Platinum Preppy Fountain Pen – Fine 03 Nib – Purple Ink at JetPens

Kaweco Sport Classic Fountain Pen – Medium Nib – White Body with Aubergine Purple Ink

11 01 2011

Aubergine, or, as normal people call it, eggplant purple. Click to gaze upon the majesty.

I’d like to introduce you to the very first compact fountain pen I bought, the Kaweco Sport Classic. I originally bought this pen because I had this notion that it would be my winter pen (since it was white, like all the snow I wanted but would probably not get) and match my purple winter coat with its aubergine ink (this part was actually accomplished).

Some people have accused this pen of being a tampon. Some people should just get bent, because I like this pen anyway.

The compact size makes this pen great for carrying around in my coat pocket, and the screw-on cap means I don’t have to worry about it coming open and redecorating the interior of my coat.

The quality of this picture leaves a lot to be desired. Like, for instance, quality.

With the cap posted, the pen is of a comfortable length for writing, and just generally holding, looking as though you’re about to write.

Sometimes I’ve found I’ll post the cap too…forcefully?…and I’ll have to put some effort in to get it back off; maybe this is me, maybe this is the pen. The body is lightweight, but doesn’t just feel like cheap plastic–this plastic is sturdier, more willing to suffer the slings and lint of life in a pocket.

Just the right hint of fanciness without costing a fancy gentleman's fortune.

As for writing, I have no problem with the nib–the nib is satisfactory, and I was pleasantly surprised at the line variation I was able to achieve with this pen. However, and this may be an ink issue, the performance of this pen varies greatly with the paper used. On Leuchtturm 1917 dot grid paper, it takes an impractical span of forever for the ink to dry, but it doesn’t bleed through. On Moleskine paper it performs abysmally, as does everything besides a ballpoint pen. Writing the review, it did great and dried quickly, but is about to bleed through the page.

The seedy underbelly (seeds not included)

I haven’t had any problems so far with the nib drying up or refusing to write, nor does it tear up my paper (a disadvantage of some fine-nib fountain pens I’ve had…but then, this isn’t a fine nib pen). Unfortunately, there’s nothing much impressive to say about a medium nib. WOW, SO EXACTLY NEITHER BROAD NOR FINE! It’s just not as exciting, you see. But the nib has performed well for me so far, and the experience of writing with the pen has been one of warm contentment.

They see me rollin--NO WAIT, THEY DON'T. Kaweco fountain pen, you are designed specifically NOT to roll!

I like the octagonal cap design, especially for a compact pocket pen. You get the advantage of not having the pen roll away, like you would have with a clip, without having to worry about a clip getting caught on something in your pocket and wreaking utter destruction until the clip breaks off. There is an optional metal clip for the Kaweco Sport fountain pens, if you want. I haven’t had a chance to try it out yet, so I’ll reserve judgment.

Comparing to other compact fountain pens, the Kaweco seems more durable, has a better (or at least, better looking) nib, and writes much more cleanly. I can use this pen to write or sketch. It does tend toward bleeding through the paper, but with a color this lovely I’m willing to forgive it. At the time of writing this, the aubergine ink is out of stock, but hopefully JetPens will get this back in stock soon (though I’m only about to run out on my first cartridge out of six, so I have time to wait).

If you’re looking for a compact fountain pen that isn’t fueled with molten adorability, but instead want a nice, minimalist, classy little fountain pen, the Kaweco Sport Classic is a good starter option.




Plus, the gold accents just look snazzy

Kaweco Sport Classic Fountain Pen at JetPens

Kaweco Fountain Pen In Cartridge – Aubergine Purple at JetPens