Monday, 10 August 2015

Lamy Fountain Pens

I have had Lamy Safari fountain pens for such a long time that I am not sure when I bought my first one. The Safari design is also available in pencils, ballpoint pens and rollerball pens, but it is the fountain pens that I use the most. You can see them all here, along with a video. They have been in production since 1980 and are a great design. They are lightweight at approximately 15gms and very comfortable to hold for writing and drawing and the calligraphy nibs add another dimension. In Europe many children learn to write with a pencil with this very comfortable grip, then move on to a student fountain pen called an 'abc'.

For drawing, I choose the EF nib. They come in EF, F, M, B as well as 1.1, 1.5 and 1.9 calligraphy nibs. There are three models - the Safari, with its plastic body in a range of colours, available for just under US$30 from Goulet Pens; the slightly heavier (19gms) and slightly more expensive Al-Star with an aluminium body in a range of colours, and the Joy with the extra long tail, in black or white or silver or sometimes a mix of two-tones among other configurations. The Joy weighs approximately 17gms. This is usually only available as a calligraphy pen but the nibs are all easily interchangeable so you can put any nib of the nibs on any of the pens. (See a great Goulet Pens post here which shows how to change the nibs between many Lamy pens using a piece of sticky tape. There are loads of terrific videos on the Goulet site.)

As far as inks go, the Lamy ink that comes in a cartridge with each pen is not waterproof. It is fine for writing and it can be fun to use a non-waterproof ink for ink-and-wash effects. If you want to use watercolour and have the lines stay where you put them, I'd recommend getting a converter and using the De Atramentis Document Ink range. You can see the colours here. I love the Black and Brown, which I also mix with Blue to make a Grey. These are wonderful for drawing with an EF nib.

Below is my Al-star from 2006. It has a converter and I use it with my mixed grey Document Ink. Sometimes I switch it to the original Fog Grey regular ink, which is not waterproof, if I want a water-soluble line and wash effect. Working with a grey ink can be softer than a black and allows greater emphasis to be placed on the tones of the watercolour rather than just the line of the ink.

Next is the Copper Orange Al-Star with a metal EF nib. It is the special model for 2015, and was a birthday present. Each year a new colour is released and my daughter knows I adore burnt orange :-) It is very new and a particularly fine EF - quite lovely to use. I am using this with the MonteVerde cartridge ink in Brown, designed for use in Lamy pens. It is not waterproof but washes out to a lovely burnt sienna colour when wet. It is particularly good for quick pen and wash portraits or sketches.

Here is a close-up of the EF nib. These are easily removed and changed if desired. (Have a look at this video from Goulet Pens to see how easy this is.) Notice this is a metal one where the previous pen had a black nib.

The Lamy Joy model usually comes with a calligraphy nib but I changed it for the 14K gold nib for a little more flexibility. It is an unusual two-toned nib - you can see a closeup of the Broad model here. It has been well used and is lovely for writing and drawing but mine creates a thicker line than the newer nib above, even though they are both EF. Individual models do vary! This nib has some flex but if you go too fast pressing hard enough to flex it tends to railroad as you can see. I like the balance of this extra long tail though if you post the cap on the end of the other models you will have a similar length of pen. The Joy caps can also be posted but I never do. Without the cap, the joy is only 9gms, so very light in the hand for sketching, or writing of course.

I am not so interested in drawing with a calligraphy nib but they are great for writing, especially Italic and Gothic scripts. I use these pens for writing certificates.

I used to have a different coloured ink in each pen but as I am using them more and more for drawing rather than writing I have various black, grey and brown inks in most of them. I do have a blue Lamy with blue ink and an orange one with orange ink that I use in my journal (pen and ink match-ups are fun :-) and another Joy with water-soluble black ink. I've been a fan for a long time.

While the Lamy nibs are interchangeable between the various Safari models, they are also interchangeable with some of the other Lamy pen models, such as the Studio 2000 pictured here with a gold EF nib. This is a more expensive and heavier model at about 32gms (21gms without the cap) so may be too heavy for sketching for long periods of time.

To see my other favourite pens for drawing, see here. I have also added a photo of the blunt syringe I use to fill fountain pens completely.


  1. Jane, since you have long experience with the Lamys and their convertors I'm hoping you will answer a problem I have with filling the convertor,. No matter how careful I am to follow the directions on Goulet Pen website, my convertor never fills full and it always has tiny bubbles which means I'm getting too much air into the barrel. How do you fill? Any ideas about how to correct my problem?

  2. Hi Jo. I do tend to have the same problem even if I fully submerge the nib in the ink to fill, then fill and empty and fill again. And it's not just with Lamy but with all fountain pens. Most of the time I don't worry about it as I carry ink with me when sketching, but if I really want to fill properly I use a syringe and fill the converter directly. I have a stack of these as I use them to measure inks drop by drop if I am mixing colours so they are always handy. The needle is quite wide and certainly not a sharp or dangerous needle to have in the studio. I think Goulet sell similar syringes too. You can also use a syringe to refill a cartridge of course and some choose to do that as a cartridge may hold more ink than a converter. I'll add a photo of the type of syringe I use with inks. Good luck!

    1. Thanks. I'm glad to know it's not just me, but sorry there's no easy fix other than the syringe. I have some and will try filling the converter directly.

  3. Hi Jane, I'm keen on the Pilot Falcon SF for modern calligraphy but the AUD is preventing me from buying from Goulet Pens. What do you think about the gold Lamy nib for flex and line variation or could you suggest another reasonable flex fountain pen. Thanks in advance and also for a great blog!!

    1. When you say 'modern calligraphy' what do you mean? The Falcon has enough flex to do Copperplate (I've added a sample of the Falcon EF writing to that post to give you an idea of the full flex) but there is another option to consider if you want a super flex nib - a dipping nib in fact - in a fountain pen. There's a single person company called Desiderata - he makes fountain pens with large bladders for dip pen nibs. You can see them here - They are perhaps about half the cost of the Falcon. You can also convert them so they don't use a bladder at all so they will hold a load of ink. Please note that I haven't tried them as they don't fit my favourite dip nib - the Post Office nib - but they look interesting for copperplate, and give you the familiarity of the flexible dip nib with the convenience of a fountain pen.