Welcome to the first non-flex review on this site! After the first three incredible flex pens, I stumbled an almost-new Lamy Al-Star on eBay, mostly because it was purple, came with a nice EF nib, and was a little cheaper than buying a new one from online stores. And as this is a well-known starter/workhorse pen, I won’t really have much to contribute to the great chunk of Lamy reviews already on the Internet.
However, I will include my other Al-Star and also the Lamy Safari in the same post:
I acquired the dark lilac Safari along with some cartridges when it was first released, but later regretted not going for the ink bottle; a kind Canadian on the r/fountainpens Discord chat tracked down a bottle for me, costing me 42 of those dollars. All of these three pens have taken some beating in my pencil case, since I mistakenly left a Muji fountain pen inside — with its nail-file grip section! — and are consequently less than pristine.
The best thing about the Safari/Al-Star, in my opinion, is the swappable nib, which is cheap to replace, easy to take out, and even easier to clean. All one has to do is put a little bit of tape on the nib and pull it off the section, but if you’re like me and bring nibs around without tape in my bag, you can also pry it off gently with a fingernail and some jiggling.
These nibs come in EF, F, M and B sizes as well as 1.1, 1.5 and 1.9mm stubs. There are even 14k gold options! (I haven’t handled one of the gold ones though.) All of these nibs are swappable between pens which use the same mount, and so you can have a gold nib on a Safari and a steel nib on an Imporium if you so wish.
That said, the nibs are well-known for having slightly questionable quality control: my two EF nibs sit on either side of my F width, and one of my Ms is more like an F. As you can see, I’ve put the fatter EF onto the dark lilac Safari, and it writes roughly the same size as the F on the blue Al-Star. These results are the same regardless of which inks I use. The 1.1mm stub nib is on the purple Al-Star.
The Lamys write a little on the dry side, and the nibs are very firm, almost like writing with an inky nail. The stubs are true stubs, with rounded edges, and are quite forgiving with regards to writing angle. None of the Lamy nibs I have tried come close to having any sort of give at all, and they all have a toothy sort of feedback; my black EF nib is especially susceptible to laying down really dry lines. That said, the scratchiness could be entirely down to how fine I like my nibs to be…
But it is relatively cheap and easy to get a steel nib replacement, should one be unsatisfied with their fat EF or their thin B. I own quite a few nibs myself, though one day I would very much like to splash out on a gold nib for one of these pens as a permanent upgrade.
All that aside: writing sample! Inks used are Lamy Dark Lilac, Pilot Iroshizuku Tsuyu-kusa and Pilot Iroshizuku Chiku-rin. The Chiku-rin definitely suffers from being in such a dry nib, since the shading is wonderful in my other pens.
Here’s a little more handwriting, as well as a preview of the subject of a future entry…