New Pen Day: Lamy Al-Star Bronze

Lamy Al-Star Bronze and Copper Orange

I just wanted to share a few shots of the 2019 Lamy Al-Star Bronze in real life. In the photo above, the Bronze is just below the 2015 Copper Orange Al-Star.

I bought my Bronze Al-Star this weekend. Our monthly pen club meetup was Sunday, at a wonderful pen and stationery store in Chicago called Atlas Stationers. Lucky timing, because Atlas’s first shipment of Bronze Al-Stars arrived a few days earlier. So of course I bought one. Also the Bronze ink. When Fate knocks on your door like that, you answer. (As long as Fate is not bearing three pastel Safaris, in which case, I would pretend I was not home.)

When it comes to the Bronze Al-Star, though, I’m a happy customer.

Most of my fellow pen clubbers also seemed to like it, but I do have one friend whose first reaction was dislike, so obviously tastes vary. It’s not an “aged” or “darkened” bronze color, I guess. But for most people I think the Bronze should be pretty noncontroversial and easy to like. The color is more subdued and business-like than we’ve gotten from the last few years of Al-Stars, too. It’s the classic “pen I can take to work” so many people seek. If the Bronze leads to eventual Brass and Copper color Al-Stars, I won’t be entirely surprised, but I also won’t be annoyed.

The Bronze actually reminds me not of an Al-Star but of the metallic colors Lamy picked for the more upscale Lx line. Here’s a photo of the Lx in Rose Gold above the Bronze Al-Star.

Lamy Al-Star Bronze and Lamy Lx Rose Gold

The Bronze fits in beautifully with Lamy’s older and most elegant Al-Stars. Here is the Bronze in the middle of the Coffee Brown and the Pearl, two of my favorite Al-Stars from years past.

Lamy Al-Star Coffee Brown, Bronze and Pearl

Add the Copper Orange, if you must, and you’ve got an autumnal bouquet.

Lamy Al-Star Bronze, Pearl, Coffee Brown and Copper Orange

But it’s almost spring. So here is the Bronze amidst a wider array of Al-Stars. From left are Dark Purple, Raspberry, Vibrant Pink, Ruby Red, Copper Orange, Bronze, Charged Green, Green and Blue Green.

Lamy Al-Star fountain pens collection

Just for fun, here is the rest of my little collection. Pacific, Ocean Blue, Ice Blue, Graphite Gray, Pearl, Coffee Brown, Black, Aluminum and a Green with a black clip.

Lamy Al-Star fountain pens collection

My conclusion? Al-Stars are good. And the Bronze is a worthy addition to the lineup.

I did try Lamy’s accompanying Bronze ink before I bought a bottle, and it looked like a nice color in the tester Lamy that Atlas Stationers had. The ink is a moderately saturated bronze or brown with an orange tint. I look forward to trying it out,.

 

What I Bought in 2018: Inks

Platinum Blue-Black ink bottle

I like to do an annual accounting every year of the inks I bought. In 2018, it was 18 bottles.

Now, that seems like an awful lot. But, if you take the long view, I improved. Because in 2015 I bought 30 bottles of ink; and in 2016 I bought 20 bottles of ink and three boxes of cartridges.

Now, a strict accounting also would uncover that in 2017 I bought only 10 bottles of ink. But then strict accounting seems to be for unhappy people. Let’s forget that and take the long view. I improved!

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A Peek at the Pen Cup: The “I Am So Normal” Edition

pen cup with fountain pens

Oh yeah, look at this pen cup. I only have five fountain pens going, and it’s good.

Nothing intentional: I haven’t been using the pens much lately. That’s because my recent work has been mostly on the computer, and I am not good at writing letters, so lately I’ve been cleaning out pens and putting them away.

I have to say, with five pens, I feel so normal.

The most recently inked is my Pelikan M605 White Transparent, because the temperature is nicely frosty here, and this pen feels wintery. It’s inked with Papier Plume Bayou Nightfall, an absolutely wonderful ink in my opinion. Pen and ink make a perfect pair, and I keep coming back to ths combination. This makes me wish I had something to write.

All my other pens have been inked up for a while. But I managed to put together a suitably Christmassy trio.

pelikan lamy fountain pens

Such a happy sight. Malibu Barbie Christmas.

The green pen is my Pelikan M205 Olivine, filled with Pelikan Edelstein Olivine — another great combination. I do have to clean this one out, because it’s been inked since I got it.

The pink pen is my Lamy Al-Star Vibrant Pink. It’s still loaded with a cartridge of Lamy Blue, mainly to keep cleaning out the feed after my Vibrant Pink ink disaster. But Lamy Blue is actually a very nice ink with this pen’s extra-fine nib, and I always like a blue ink, so this is a good combination, too.

The two pens that have been inked and re-inked the longest are what have turned into my core users. One is my long-serving Lamy Safari Charcoal with fine nib and black ink (currently Taccia Kuro). The other is a pen I bought this year and haven’t taken out of rotation since: a Sailor Professional Gear Earth with extra-fine nib, inked with Papier Plume Da Blue ink. I use these two all the time, the Safari because I can take it anywhere without worry, and the Sailor because its amazing extra-fine nib writes tiny scribbles with perfect smoothness.

I’ve actually been very busy, but it just doesn’t involve much writing with pens and ink. And frankly that’s been kind of … restful. Fountain pens and inks aren’t a job for me, just things that add a dash of delight and interest to the everyday. And that’s enough. So if pens and inks aren’t centered in my life, right now, that works. My pens and inks are easy-going; they will wait their turn.

I guess I’m using them when I can. In fact, I had to move this out of the way to take the pen cup photo.

field notes lamy safari cookbook

I was using the Safari to take notes there, because I’ve finally found the time to get into something that I’ve always wanted to do: serious bread-making. (Because people always ask: not with a bread machine, but just flour, yeast, water and salt, worked by hand and set on the counter to rise over the course of the day before being shaped by hand, and then popped onto an improvised hearth in the oven.)

So I’ve been up to my elbows in different kinds of flour, and experiments with different pre-ferments. (This cuts down on my texting a lot, too.) But I am trying to refine my technique, which means I’ve been making a lot of loaves of a basic hearth bread, tweaking a few things here or there, learning inputs and outputs, and writing them down. It’s very absorbing for me, and it’s really delicious. Also I’ve become more popular with the family. Winter’s a good time to heat up the kitchen and make food for people.

Today I’ve been hovering over my brand new sourdough starter like it’s a new baby, searching for life and activity. I should know better, though. If it’s really like a baby, that sourdough won’t start bubbling and fussing until I try to take a shower, or start a movie, or go out to dinner. And as it grows, it’s going to do the opposite of what I want. As it should! So, grow big, little sourdough, and grow free, and grow as and how you will. In the meantime, I’ll just leave this here: I’m going to go walk the dog now, then I’m going to start a movie….

The 2019 Lamy Safari is Announced, and I Just Cannot Even

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My Lamy Safari-hating friend just sent me this, which, courtesy of the nice folks at Goulet Pens, is apparently what Lamy has cooked up for the 2019 Safari special edition.

😱

It’s taken me a few hours to figure out a nice way of conveying my reaction more subtly than just using “Munch’s The Scream” emoji, above.

If you know the television show The Good Place, you will understand my first reaction to this photo, which was a quote from the show: “Holy mother forking shirtballs.”

It’s fair to say that the Pastels are not my bag. I don’t really like the look, with that pen, because the color scheme doesn’t fit with the design, in my view. But that’s fine. Maybe they are better in person, and at least they are different, and not black. But my disappointment is more general. I’ve been a Lamy Safari fan since the first year of the Safari. And it’s as a fan that I say this, sadly: the annual editions have been more lackluster than not, for a while now.

This is just the capper. It seems like two out of three years I’ve been wondering the same thing: Is this where I stop, and give up collecting Safaris?

There was the tossed-off Neon Trio. Then the “Dark Materials” Trio of Dark Lilac, Petrol and All-Black, an obvious attempt to extend the market with Safaris for those who hate Safaris. Now comes the Pastel trio. I don’t know precisely which group the Pastel is meant to appeal to, but I’d bet that the genesis of those colors is a market study.

And then, not even one Pastel, but three at once. Why limit your bottom-line by putting out only one annual edition, when you can potentially triple revenues by putting out three? Which of course is reversed for consumers, as Slightly Unnerved, in the comment below, politely brings up.

That issue is much worse for those of us in the US, where a Safari, without converter, retails at just under $30 each.

I don’t know if there’s been new ownership or management at Lamy, and that’s what’s behind this — but I suspect so. But it does seem rather obvious that the annual Safari, and probably the Safari as a whole, is now seen as a cash cow. I think that’s understandable from a business perspective. I would never tell a business not to maximize profit. It’s just not the same, from the fan perspective.

The Safari used to be a quirky pen that a few of us loved. And you had to actually love it, to withstand the slings and arrows, because the fountain pen world was full of people who loved to put the Safari down. The Safari appealed to a very small subset of adults — those who liked contemporary design and fountain pens. And I think the Safari reflected what the Lamy company was — a home for risky products, designed products, that didn’t appeal to everyone, but were well-built and well-priced. Modern design plus affordability plus quality.

The new Lamy is obviously different. And the new Lamy is certainly reflected in the last five to seven years of annual Safaris. That’s fine — and I don’t own the company. But, as a fan, I think they’ve essentially lost what made me a fan. Or not so much “lost” as “abandoned.” I think now whoever runs Lamy has pivoted to squeezing out as much profit as possible. Which on an intellectual level I understand. The Golden Goose, and all. I do I wish Lamy well, and hope they don’t end up killing that Golden Goose. But I think, however, that I’m not really a fan any more.

A Peek at the Pen Cup: Mean, Green, Certainly Not Lean

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Look at that: absolute chaos has descended on Fountain Pen Follies.

And. So. Much. Green.

It’s probably obvious just looking at that: these last two months have been insanely busy in real life, leaving no time for writing with pens. At the same time, I’ve been inundated with pens and ink. I’ve got a bunch of new inks, including some nice samples, and also a few new pens, to try out. Then I wanted to ink up testers for my Pelikan Hub. Then there’s the new Sailor 1911L in Key Lime. Everything has piled up. I’ve got close to 30 pens there, crammed in like commuters on an L train at rush hour.

That Sailor 1911L in Key Lime is the pen I notice most in that crowd. In the first photo, it’s the green pen near the top right corner. What makes that photo unusual is something that you might not notice: there was sun outside. See how nice and gleaming the Sailor looks in the sun?

Here’s an extreme closeup.

Sailor 1911L Key Lime in sun

Pizzazz.

In the sun, the pearlized material of the Key Lime really comes through. On the one I’m using, there are wavy shimmers, for a moire effect.

Here’s another shot, in which you can see the very subtle shimmers on the pen body:

Sailor 1911L Key Lime with comparison pens

Still in the sun, the Key Lime there is between the Pelikan Stockholm and the Lamy Al-Star Charged Green. That’s closer to what the Key Lime usually looks like. But it’s a smidge yellower in real life, which just doesn’t come through in photos.

I want to do a post on the many looks of the Key Lime, because it’s such a cool color, but also so different, and so hard to get a fix on. It’s fascinating.

What you can’t see is that inside all those pens is a lot of green ink. Too much green ink. I feel like I should be decorating for Christmas. Except, of course, it is only October. And in October we celebrate the biggest holiday season of all. The start of NHL hockey.

I’m sure we all feel “too much” at times. Right now, those crammed pen cups are nagging me, like a pile of laundry you haven’t folded for a week. So this Peek at the Pen Cup was the “no mas” edition. I’m going to spend some time cleaning out the pens I can do without, and getting back on track with the others.

“Always Listen to Your Mother”: I Go to the San Francisco Pen Show

vintage Pelikan fountain pen

That is a pen.

I am starting out with a giant pen — Actual Pen Content — because after my inattention to pens at the DC Show, I vowed to be more on my game at the San Francisco Show.

That sounds so good! So of course it’s totally untrue. I said no such thing. And that pen hasn’t been within 2,000 miles of the San Francisco Pen Show. But it’s a pen.

And I did pick up a smattering of Actual Pen Content from the San Francisco show, which I will put at the very end, for loyal readers or those wasting time at work. Others, feel free to skip ahead.

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Lamy Al-Star Vibrant Pink: Pen and Ink

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This is hardly breaking news, but Lamy gave us another nice Al-Star for 2018, the Vibrant Pink, with matching ink.

I’m not sure this new Al-Star is any more interesting than any other, but it is pink, and that’s an excuse for photos, plus a headline that contains a poem. I’ll include a twist at the end, too. (All this, and for free, too? Such a deal.)

Well here we go: Vibrant Pink, pen and ink.

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