Bargains for Beginners


After testing dozens of fountain pens, there is only one that I think is worth recommending to even the newest newbie. Are you new to fountain pens? All things considered, the Lamy Safari could be just the pen for you. Okay, I hear those murmurs of shock and disbelief from the experienced pen folk who have moved up to spending vast sums on a single, shockingly gorgeous dream pen. Hear me out before you turn away in disgust.

The durable, colorful Lamy Safari is quite affordable at just north of $20 and it is easily replaced should it disappear or meet an untimely demise. The modern design lacks the cachet of a traditional fountain pen and that is its weakest point. However, the design encourages a proper grip and that’s a plus. The pen is incredibly light-weight and suitable for a full day of use, something which cannot be said of all fountain pens. The nib is a nail to be sure but for anyone just making the transition from pencils, ballpoints, gel pens or rollerballs, a very stiff nib is the best entry point. The fine and extra fine nibs are most similar to the average writing instrument we learned to write with in school and so should yield a very satisfactory, initial fountain pen experience.

Additional nibs are available at a number of online vendors so when something a bit more interesting or challenging is in order, a replacement nib of more substantial width can be had. My 1.1mm calligraphy nib is still fun after at least eight years of acquaintance and that says something in our disposable society. Custom grinds are another way to reinvigorate your Lamy experience. Just a few weeks ago, a 0.4mm cursive italic nib got wedded to one of my Lamys so there’s another option for those with hot-swap preferences.

Now for ink. Lamy cartridges are fine and easy to use but not so economical. Do buy a converter along with your pen if you want to save money or think the vast array of inks might be too tempting to ignore. Before you get overwhelmed by the variety of makers, colors and characteristics, consider stocking up on just a single bottle or even a pair to get started. Waterman Black, Blue-Black or Florida Blue will produce a quality writing experience without overly offending your budget. Pelikan, J. Herbin, and Sheaffer are also under $10 per bottle. Any of these would make a good choice.

Everyone owns a stash of paper and it is entirely possible your current favorite will be compatible with your new fountain pen and ink. If not, Staples Eco-Friendly bagasse notebooks, pads and filler paper will provide decent quality at budget prices. Or you can opt for a double-duty product, a package of HP 24# Inkjet Paper that you can share with your printer. Use it to print a lined paper to your exact specifications. Like orange or purple lines 6mm apart? Hard to find off-the-shelf but print it and you can have the perfect shade and line width. Not thrilled with bright color? Use a very pale gray line that virtually disappears but keeps your writing on the straight and narrow. Of course, there is always basic black for those formal occasions. Have fun making it another part of your creative statement.

So there you go. A Lamy Safari fountain pen, a converter, a bottle of ink, and some fountain pen friendly paper. What more can an newbie inkophile need, well, except a much larger budget…

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  1. Excellent Blog….For routine maintenance, simply flushing pen with cool (never warm or hot) water should be enough. For more vigorous cleaning, add a few drops of plain household ammonia to a cup of cool water. Then repeatedly flush as if you were filling and emptying the pen. Rinse with cool water and dry. Before filling your pen again, make sure that all the water has evaporated, as water tends to make ink sluggish.


  2. sweet… thanks…


  3. No shock and disbelief here. As I pulled out my Lamy Safari from its pen pouch this morning, I was thinking the very same. And, if you do like the 1.1mm nib you can trade up to the Lamy Studio. Sweet.


  4. I have three of these lovely pens, each with a different nib. I recommend Noodlers 100% bulletproof inks – they don’t bleed either on or through the page (in a Moleskine or a Rhodia, and I suspect on most papers).


  5. I should try a Safari I guess, I’ve got a Lamy Studio that I love, and a Pelikan M215 that I also love. Any thoughts on how the Safari compares to those?


    • Good question! That Lamy Studio tells you all you need to know about Lamy nibs. The big difference between the Studio and the Safari is the weight. The metal Pelikan M215 compares to the plastic M200 in the same way. If you like heavier pens, the plastic Safari might be too light weight.

      However, if you want to try an italic nib, Swisher Pens. com will outfit a Safari with one for $30. Other vendors may do that, too. Do order a converter since neither the Safari nor the Al-Star comes with one. Note that the Al-Star is an aluminum version of the Safari and incredibly light weight as well. It’s just a tad more expensive at $36 for an italic nib. The Vista is the clear or demo version. All make great pens for beginners but they are just as useful for experienced fountain pen lovers.

      Shhh! Don’t tell anyone but I have several with a Vista 1.1mm italic en route. As an inkophile I like to have several colors of ink at the ready. A handful of Lamys is like writing with a box of Crayolas fitted with nibs. Writing ought to be fun and variety is one way of making it so.


  6. Bang on the money. I’ve got a wide range of lovely, but not too expensive, fountain pens. The Lamy Safari is still featured in my set of daily writers (along with a Pelikan m150 and a Reform 1745).

    Once I’d moved beyond the cartridge option (I’m not that thrilled with Lamy inks) to a converter, a whole new world opened up. I prefer Noodler’s inks but I also play with J.Herbin, Private Reserve and more recently, Pilot Iroshizuku inks. Such fun!


    • Isn’t the Safari just the best bargain! Love that the nibs can be swapped so easily. Agreed on the inks. What works for bargain paper where you live?


  7. Bargain paper still equals the nearest ream of photocopy/laser printer paper. As for pens? Expensive here. All but one of my Lamy models have come from abroad at roughly European retail price (ie. much cheaper).

    I’ve on-sold plenty of these to fellow students (and given a few away as well)

    Hey, I remember you! Didn’t I buy some inks off you a few months ago? Got me hooked on Iroshizuku inks into the bargain. Bad, bad inkophile…


  8. I’m sure we’ve met before and no doubt deserve the “bad, bad” admonishment. However, an inkophile would never sell an Iroshizuku ink. Perish the thought! The few I have will be with me for life, longer if I can figure out how. 😉


  9. I could not agree more.


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