Lamy AL Star

Why I love Lamys entry level fountain pens.

IMG_1781.jpg

I have come to notice in recent months how much I use Lamy fountain pens and how much I am drawn to use them. The Safari, AL Star and LX are pens I reach for every day because of how well they write and how versatile they are meaning there is something for everyone. You can choose from a range of colours, you can add/change/swap out nibs to your hearts content and you can use cartridge, or convertors and really open up the world of ink. I’m an advocate for the Lamy entry level fountain pens and wanted to share with you how I use mine.

IMG_1782.jpg

I use my Lamy AL Star in Copper Orange as my sketching fountain pen which I have inked up with Noodlers Black ink. I love using this bright and vibrant pen for sketching. The size and weight is comfortable especially when sketching for long periods of time. The nib is sturdy and gives good line variation with different pressures.

IMG_1785.jpg

My Lamy LX in Rose Gold has become a daily use fountain pen. I have this inked up with the lovely Sailor Blue Black. I love this pairing, its simple and feels classy. The LX has an aluminium body like the AL Star and comes with a black steel nib.

I have several Safari fountain pens and usually have one inked up. The Safari is the plastic barrel fountain pen that comes in a whole host of colours that have a matte look finish. I tend to swap out my Safaris a lot more but I always have one in use.

IMG_1783.jpg

There are so many plus points for the entry series of Lamy fountain pens. Over the years I have acquired a small collection without realising it. I don’t have a preference between any of these ranges, I am driven by colour and finding something that works for me. Because of their materials and durability I always recommend and gift these pens to people.

My Humble Art Supplies.

IMG_1523.jpg

One of my 2017 stationery resolutions that didn’t materialise, was to draw. I had drawn a little but it was haphazard and my progress was slow simply because I wasn’t finding the time. This year I really want to change that and make drawing a habit.

I have amassed a small collection of items that I enjoy using and plan on making these part of my art supply toolkit. I thought I would share these with you.

IMG_1524.jpg

Notebooks.

There are two or three sketchbooks I have tested and tried to get along with but there are some that I have found I enjoy and plan on making these my staples. One is the Moleskine watercolour sketchbook. I have a pocket and an A5 size. I like how slim they are and the paper is quite nice.

The second is the Mindstone sketchbook which was sent to me to test out. There is a lot to like about this sketchbook and I will review this product properly in an upcoming post. I really like the cloth cover and the elastic strap. The size is great too so this is a big winner for me.

IMG_1526.jpg

Pencils.

I have a few pencils that I have been using. I find it helpful to sketch a very light and rough outline first as I am awful with my proportions and therefore not confident about going straight in with ink. I have been using my Baron Fig School Set Archer pencil, my Staedtler Mars Lumograph and a Blackwing 602. They’re not the ideal sketching pencils and really I should be using a Blackwing MMX.

IMG_1532.jpg

Fountain Pen and Ink.

It’s no surprise really that I have found my favourite sketching tool to be a fountain pen. It feels so nice to use and I like the wet ink on the page. I find it far more enjoyable than a drawing pen, but I do have a Uni-pin there for good measure. I am using my Lamy AL Star Copper Orange with a fine nib and Noodles Black for drawing. The pen is perfect and easy to carry around and the Noodlers Black ink is waterproof which means I have the option to add in watercolour.

IMG_1527.jpg

Watercolour palette.

I have recently changed my palette. I was experimenting with a simple Winsor and Newton Cotman 12-pan palette that I bought cheaply to basically try out the colours and not over invest in something that I may not have really liked. However I really struggled with the quality of this palette and after watching some YouTube videos I decided to upgrade. I now have a few Winsor and Newton professional watercolour tubes and have created my own palette and now in a lovely metal tin.

A partially empty palette

A partially empty palette

There are a lot of holes here and I know I am missing some basics (any suggestions welcome) but I am just piecing everything together and trying to find something that’ll work the best way for me.

Travel brush.

I invested in a Rosemary and Co. pocket brush some time ago based on a recommendation in a YouTube video, I forget which. I really love this brush because it’s a travel version. It takes up minimal room and I can protect the brush. I think I have the size 6 brush but again can’t be sure.

IMG_1530.jpg

Superior Labor pouch.

I have been keeping my sketching tools in my Superior Labor pen pouch which really wasn’t how I intended to use it but it works quite well. The large pocket holds my small palette really nicely and I can just throw all the pens and pencils and brushes everywhere else.

Superior Labor pen roll and the Mindstone sketchbook

Superior Labor pen roll and the Mindstone sketchbook

I’m learning.

This is the state of my sketching for the beginning of 2018 and I am sure there will be changes throughout the year. 2017 was almost a year of testing and trailing out different tools. I have refined my watercolour palette and found sketchbooks that I think work well for me. At the moment I like the simplicity of my current art toolkit, now I just need to use these tools more often.

Fountain Pens for Beginners

Fountain pens can be a daunting prospect and requires some sort of research before buying in order to figure out what you are looking for and which fountain pen will work best for you.

In this post I will look at the pros and cons of some of the best beginner fountain pens on the market. For me a beginner fountain pen should have a low entry price, be easy to acquire, pleasant to use and perhaps also look a little bit nice. Beginner fountain pens are usually the gateway drug, the pens that open us up to the world of fountain pens and get us interested in taking that next step.

The Lamy Safari, Kaweco Skyline Sport in Mint Green, Pilot MR, Pilot Kakuno and TWSBI 580 RB

The Lamy Safari, Kaweco Skyline Sport in Mint Green, Pilot MR, Pilot Kakuno and TWSBI 580 RB

Option 1 - The Lamy Safari / AL Star

Lamy is a German brand of fountain pens. They have a European nib which generally means they are a little wider than their Japanese counterparts.

I have grouped these two fountain pens together as there are a few minor differences and the prices are not too dissimilar. One has a plastic barrel, the Safari, the other an aluminium barrel, the AL Star.

Pros

  • Lots of different colour barrel options
  • Swappable nibs that are easy and affordable to replace. These also come in a huge range of sizes from EF all the way through to a 1.9mm stub nib
  • Left handed nib option available
  • Full length fountain pen
  • Easy to find both online and in stores
  • A good sized cartridge convertor meaning bottled ink use is possible

Cons

  • Moulded grip section (this may not be a con for everyone but it is a restriction hence it ends up on this side of the list)

The Lamy fountain pens have a great entry level price, the Safari costing less than £15 and the AL Star less than £25.

Option 2 - Kaweco Classic / Skyline Sport

The Kaweco Classic or Skyline Sport fountain pens are another German brand fountain pen. They are pocket fountain pens meaning they are quite a bit smaller than the other fountain pen options included in this post.

Pros

  • Pocket size means this is a great fountain pen to use if you’re on the move
  • A range of different barrel colour options
  • Nib sizes range from EF all the way up to a B nib
  • Posted this pen turns into an almost full length fountain pen

Cons

  • Changing the nibs on the Classic and Skyline Kaweco fountain pens is a bit more complicated. For the Classic Sport range you can buy a new nib and grip section for most colours. For the Skyline range not everywhere stocks the replacement parts. Therefore if you want to try a different nib size you may need to buy a whole new pen.
  • Cartridge convertor options on the Kaweco line are poor. Cartridges are the best route with the Kaweco range.

A Kaweco Classic or Skyline Sport will set you back around £20. You can easily get hold of these fountain pens from a number of different online retailers.

Option 3 - Pilot MR

The Pilot MR is a great entry level fountain pen. These fountain pens come with an aluminium barrel and as they are a Japanese brand of fountain pen, they have finer nibs. This is something to bear in mind when choosing your nib size. A fine Japanese nib will be finer than a fine German nib. On the MR I have found the M nibs are the easiest to come by, but with some digging you may be able to find a F nib.

Pros

  • A great entry into the wonderful world of Pilot fountain pens
  • Cartridge convertors are available with this pen which means that you can use cartridges or bottled ink
  • Aluminium barrel
  • Lots of different barrel options available, some simple and classic and some of the colours are a bit more fun

Cons

  • Not a wide range of nib sizes available on this fountain pen

A Pilot MR costs less than £25. For this additional outlay you are getting some higher quality materials.

Option 4 - Pilot Kakuno

The Pilot Kakuno was, I believe, intended to be a fountain pen for a real beginner, i.e. children learning to use their first fountain pen.

Pros

  • It’s fun
  • It has a smiley or winking face on the nib
  • F or M nib options available
  • It can use a convertor as well as ink cartridges
  • Very lightweight

Cons

  • It’s plastic and could be prone to breaking
  • Some of the nicer, prettier colour options are not available in Europe. I got my white barrel and yellow lid option when in the US.

For the Pilot Kakuno you will have to part with around £10 which is a fantastic price for a fountain pen.

Writing samples using each of the above fountain pens  

Writing samples using each of the above fountain pens  

Option 5 - TWSBI 580

This option is a bit more adventurous. It was the first fountain pen I bought around 4 years ago when I was getting back into stationery. I am including this in here as it’s a great fountain pen and not too pricey, but it is edging towards the next step fountain pen. There is now the TWSBI Eco fountain pen which is much more affordable, however I have not tried this pen out and wouldn’t be comfortable recommending it fully.

Pros

  • A demonstrator fountain pen means you get to see all the inner workings which is really cool
  • It’s a piston filled fountain pen which means bottled ink only, no cartridges here. With the piston filling mechanism you are getting a good amount of ink in the barrel
  • Chrome detailing
  • There is a mini version available too if you want that smaller fountain pen for on the move

Cons

  • It could be a bit of a jump for a first fountain pen and some people may find the piston filling mechanism a bit daunting.
  • A higher price in comparison to other fountain pens on this list

My TWSBI 580 cost £40, however the TWSBI Eco can be bought for less than £30.

Final thoughts

This post has become quite lengthy but hopefully it is a useful reference. I wanted to give a fairly good overview of the entry level fountain pens in the market. I love using fountain pens and use a lot of those listed here on a daily basis.

If I were to recommend one fountain pen on this list it would be the Pilot MR. I love my MR and I think it is the best starting off point. There is no moulded grip section, it’s full size, it’s a lovely Japanese Pilot nib and it’s aluminium. You get a lot of pen for your money with this fountain pen.