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:
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!