Blair's Book Blog

Fountain pens thoughts: Lamy Safari and AL-Star

The Lamy Safari and AL-Star fountain pens tend to be popular introductory fountain pens. They’re relatively inexpensive, easy to find, and are available in many different colors.

I consider the Safari and AL-Star very similar, as fountain pens go, their main difference being the materials. Whereas the Safari typically has a uniform and plastic material for the barrel, section, and cap, the AL-Star uses aluminum for the barrel and cap, and plastic for the section. They both feature the same triangular grip on the section, both use the same Lamy cartridges and cartridge converters, and the same nibs fit both.

The clip on the AL-Star that I had eventually weakened to the point that it was fairly wobbly. I couldn’t feel confident that clipping the pen in into a pocket would keep it in place (and often it fell off, with a couple of close calls near a toilet. I also found that the AL-Star was uncomfortable for me to hold, as the cold aluminum tended to drain the warmth from my hands.

The triangular sections on Lamy Safari and AL-Star fountain pens may be helpful for learning how to grip a fountain pen. Depending on your grip style, this may be more of a hindrance; I personally found it unobtrusive. I do find the section relatively small, lacking enough space for a comfortable grip.

If you want to try several different nibs, Lamy offers many nib width options for the Safari and AL-Star, and they’re relatively easy to swap. However, their Lamy’s nib guide demonstrates that their nib sizes tend to overlap with relatively wide margins. For example, you can purchase three fine nibs, and they can conceivably fall within range of an extra-fine nib to a medium nib. Typically the nibs are smooth, but sometimes it is possible to come across a scratchy nib.

I find the Lamy Safari and AL-Star fairly easy to maintain fountain pens. With a bit of gripping material (a small piece of rubber or anti-slip mats for kitchens work well), you can pull out the feed for deep cleaning. However, if you don’t have dried ink in your fountain pen, you can easily clean these fountain pens with a water and a bulb syringe. Remove the cartridge or cartridge converter, suck water into your bulb syringe, place the bulb syringe into the cartridge nibble, and gently squeeze. Depending on the ink that you last used, a single fill and flush from a bulb syringe may clean your pen; if not, repeat until the water runs clear.

Overall I find them to be fairly rugged and moderately inexpensive fountain pens. At least within the United States, it is relatively easy to obtain parts and supplies for Lamy Safari and AL-Star fountain pens. I recommend buying Lamy fountain pens from a reputable seller and avoiding Amazon sellers. As a fairly popular pen design, these fountain pens do attract counterfeiters.