The Best Fountain Pen Ever

I have always been fascinated with quill pens and fountain pens. Call it a side effect of growing up in a city that frequently disappears up its own historical rectum.  I tried quill pens, calligraphy pens, drugstore demonstrator fountain pens that let you see the cartridge through the barrel, and ultimately an expensive Parker Sonnet from the Levenger catalog.  Nothing worked.  The quill was impossible to use.  The square nib on a calligraphy pen isn’t meant for cursive writing.  The cheap drug store pen leaked more ink out of the barrel than it sent down into the nib.  The expensive Sonnet was the last straw.  It was hard for me to find the sweet spot on the nib and it wasn’t a good fit for my hand.  It gave me cramps when I wrote with it for any length of time.

I eventually gave up on my fountain pen dream.  Instead, I bought endless boxes of Pentel Rolling Writers that I used in school.  I eventually switched to buying refills of the EnerGel liquid gel pens by the gross.  (Okay.  Not really by the gross.  I’d buy 2 or 3 dozen at a time, tops.)

About a year ago, it became harder to find the medium point needle tip EnerGel refills I preferred.  I found out that Pentel has discontinued them.  I was bereft.  I know writers aren’t supposed to get hung up on needing a certain tool to write, but these refills were my daily workhorse pen at home and on my day job.  I found something that worked okay, but I started toying with the idea of trying fountain pens again.  Surely in the 21st century there must be fountain pens that are comfortable to write with and don’t leak all over the place!  I did a lot of research on pen websites and forums, which is where I found it:

My Lamy Safari

The Lamy Safari

The Safari is a very moderately priced fountain pen designed and manufactured in Germany by Lamy.  The Safari is made of ABS plastic, the same material used to make Lego bricks, so it’s very light and practically indestructible.

The pen has a great feature for those new to fountain pens: interchangeable nibs.  You can put extra fine, fine, medium, and bold nibs on the pen, or choose from three different width italic nibs.  This means that if you break a nib or decide the one you first buy isn’t right for you, you can replace the nib yourself for under $10.  The nibs are made of steel, but they actually feel more comfortable and flexible than my gold-nibbed Sonnet.

The Safari takes cartridges or a converter.  Having the option to do either is ideal.  Cartridges are convenient when traveling or away from home, but it’s cheaper and more environmentally friendly to use bottled ink.  I’ve been using this pen daily for over a year and I’m still working on the same bottle of Levenger Raven Black I bought to go with that Parker Sonnet several years ago.  It’s not the largest capacity converter out there, but I can go a week before I have to refill it even when I journal every day.  The pen also has a see-though window section that lets you check the ink level at a glance.

I’ve already mentioned that it’s light, but it’s also a well-balanced pen.  The grip of the pen has some shaping to it so that when you pick it up, you automatically hold it in the best writing position.  I have small hands and this pen works for me with or without the cap posted.  (While we’re discussing the cap, let me point out that the clip is robust and easy to use, just like the rest of the pen.)

The pen comes in several barrel colors ranging from standards like blue, black, and white, to more unusual limited edition colors that change each year.  I bought the 2012 limited edition color, apple green.  The current limited edition color is a lovely neon coral.

And no, it does not leak at all.  Success!  How much do you think this awesome pen costs?  $100?  $50?  Nope.  It’s only about $29.  I said it was modestly priced!

If you like the shape of this pen, but would prefer a metal barrel, check out the Lamy Al-star.  It’s identical in every way except that the pen is made of aluminum.  It costs about $38.  They even make a demonstrator model (the Vista) if you like to have the mechanics of the pen and ink exposed.

I’ve talked two people I know into buying a Lamy Safari or Al-star.  They’re just an all-around great fountain pen for writers!

7 thoughts on “The Best Fountain Pen Ever

  1. I love my Lamys. I got my first one, a blue aluminum Al-Star, after your recommendation. Fell in love with it but value it so much that I didn’t want to risk taking it away from home. So I bought a matching blue Safari. Love it too. The pens feel so good they actually make you want to write longhand.

    But now the problem, I want more. I need more Lamy pens. If I am not careful I will be going after that 2000 that my heart desires. Hey, my birthday is next week if anyone cares….

    • I have a similar problem: I don’t want to take my Safari to the Reference Desk. Pens come and go so easily there that I’m petrified that it would accidentally on purpose walk away. If I bought one of the regular colors, I’d worry less about it. I think they laced the ABS plastic with catnip or crack or something.

  2. How do you decide which pen you’d like to use on a given day? As a creature of habit, I find that I use my blue marbled retro Waterman every day and will not use another. For a long time there was a Parker–more slim pen that I used which I destroyed by dropping it nib down. And speaking of nibs, my Waterman’s nib is worn down just right to fit the slant of my writing, but if I were going to add another pen into my family, perhaps it might be this one.

    • Ouch! That poor Parker. It’s a shame that more companies don’t make interchangeable nibs. It can be prohibitively expensive to repair a broken nib on a favorite pen.

    • I’m not sure how I decide which pen to go with at any given time. Sometimes the paper chooses for me, though. It’s no fun writing with a fountain pen if the ink bleeds all over the place. (Ooo. Don’t let me get started on choosing paper and notebooks. It would take a whole other blog post to unpack that particular obsessive behavior! ::files away that idea for the future, anyway::)

  3. I am married to someone who will only write with one pen. It’s now discontinued, and he buys boxes and boxes of them whenever/wherever he sees them.

    Like you, I have tried multiple expensive pen options. I’m glad to know of one that works, and I will definitely check it out. Thank you.

    • It’s a relief to know that I’m not the only one with pen issues. Wait a minute! Lamy is a German pen company, right? Maybe there is a huge compound noun in German that means “The thrill of discovering the right pen! The agony of defeat when it is discontinued!” Or something like that. 😉