Bargains for Beginners02/25/2009
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…