Lamy Safari Fountain Pen/Ballpoint Pen set

Lamy Safari Fountain Pen/Ballpoint Pen set

There may be hundreds of reviews of the Lamy Safari out on the net. I agree with their general sentiment: the Lamy Safari is an excellent pen in and of itself, and one of the best overall values in fountain pens today.

I have a Pelikano Junior that’s also doing extremely well, but it’s new so I won’t place it in the Lamy’s category just yet. (Nor is the Pelikano even close to the same design level.) I also have other fountain pens that require a regime of rinsing, cleaning, and choosing the right ink. That’s okay, but convenience has some merits. The Safari, though abuse would be unwise, doesn’t require any of that sort of pampering. For me, it always just works. It is a great pen for someone who may be curious about fountain pens, but doesn’t want to spend too much.

Lamy Safari Fountain Pen/Ballpoint Pen set

The Safari comes in many colours, and Lamy released a white version last year. The set in the picture also includes a matching ballpoint pen.

The aesthetics of the Lamy are current and modern. I think it’s a great looking pen. The plastic box housing the pens is itself a great piece of design.

Lamy Safari Fountain Pen/Ballpoint Pen set

Now let me mention a couple things that you might have to learn the hard way if you buy a pen like this somewhere other than in person at a specialty fountain pen shop (where they typically know their stuff).

Lamy Safari Fountain Pen/Ballpoint Pen set

It will come with a handy ink cartridge. That’s nice, but be aware that this is a proprietary Lamy-only size. If you want to use these cartridges in non-Lamy pens, or use “standard” cartridges, such as from famous ink manufacturer Herbin, you are out of luck. Lamy makes a few colours, and that’s where your choice ends.

Lamy Safari Fountain Pen/Ballpoint Pen set

The ballpoint, which is also quite stylish and usable, takes a proprietary Lamy M16 refill. For someone like myself in a small city – the problem is that the local big box office supply store doesn’t carry this item.

Lamy Safari Fountain pen cartridge: T10

For the fountain pen – there is a path to more choices which I recommend – the (again proprietary format) Lamy Z24 format converter allows the use of bottled ink. This is to me a defining merit of the fountain pen – there are hundreds if not thousands of ink varieties available, ranging not just in shade, but density, wetness, drying times, and many other factors. The converter sets you free to try whatever ink you choose.

Lamy Safari Ballpoint refill: M16

To review, the Lamy Safari Fountain pen and ballpoint pen use these refills:

Ballpoint refill: M16
Fountain pen cartridge: T10
Fountain pen converter: Z24

Overall, I think they are great writing implements, but I have just a bit of concern about the non-standard formats – the ballpoint in particular.

Draplin Design Co. Factory Floor Issue Longhand Set

Draplin Design Co.

I just received a Draplin Design Co. Factory Floor Issue Longhand Set. It’s like an early Hallowe’en loot bag for stationery/design lovers.

Draplin Design Co.

The shop floor never looked so good. The set included:

Field Notes ruler
Field Notes sharpener
Field Notes notebooks
Draplindustries carpenter pencils
Draplin round pencil
Draplindustries ballpont pen
Draplin Sharpie
Draplin Mini-Sharpie
Draplin Calendar
Draplin Anvil decal

Draplin Design Co.

This was much more than I ordered. They threw in a number of these items as extras.

I don’t know how they did it, but they’ve got the retro industrial look down pat. With many touches of whimsy.

Draplin Design Co.

The fun doesn’t end there. The envelope in which this was delivered was addressed “Canada, eh!”, which someone at the post office found the need to manually annotate as “CANADA”.

Draplin Design Co.

There is something that just feels great about a talented designer taking on these “ordinary” items. I will definitely keep an eye on Draplin for their future projects.

Draplin Design Co.

3.15mm mechanical pencils

3.15mm mechanical pencils
Photo, top to bottom:Lamy ABC, Lamy Scribble, Bexley Mini-Max, Pilot Croquis, on a Seligmann notebook.

The aspect of mechanical pencils that so many love is the one I don’t – the thin lead. Although a 0.7mm or 0.5 mm diameter lead may be ultra-precise, it’s also quite breakable. It’s doesn’t allow for much variation in line width, and the possibility of breakage (with a very tiny piece of graphite hurtling to places unknown) forces one to hold the pencil a bit too consciously.

There is hope! Though they don’t seem to have swept the world, mechanial pencils and leadholders with much wider leads are available. I’ll mention four of them, including one that has a very accessible price.

I’ve previously mentioned the Lamy ABC – it’s a nice pencil, and has a twist mechanism for advancing the lead. It also comes with a very nice cube shaped lead pointer. It’s aimed at children, so the bright colors may not be for everyone.

The Lamy Scribble uses the more conventional clutch mechanism (think “jaws”), which means you do the work in advancing the lead, though it isn’t difficult. It’s a down to business solid black in a material I had always thought metal, though it’s apparently a very dense plastic. Unlike the ballpoint and regular mechanical pencil in the Scribble line, the 3.15mm version has three sides partially flattened, presumably to enhance the grip.

The Bexley Mini-Max followed the success of their Multi-Max, a pencil using the even wider 5.6mm lead. (I love those also, but that’s another post). The Mini-Max is a 3.15mm pencil, also using a clutch like the Scribble. Bexley is a serious fountain pen company, and they released the Mini-Max in several finishes. It sells in a metal box that includes several goodies: a KUM lead pointer with a container (this looks like a standard pencil sharpener unless you’re quite close, and will also sharpen 5.6mm leads), a tube of graphite leads (maybe a B grade), a tube of coloured leads, and a real surprise – two ballpoint pen inserts that the clutch mechanism will take to covert the pencil to a pen. It’s quite a nice set. These ballpoints can be purchased for use in other clutch 3.15mm pencils like the Scribble.

Now for anyone who wants to try this format of pencil for much less than the previously mentioned pencils, there is a nice inexpensive wide lead pencil sold at art stores. The Pilot Croquis has a twist advance mechanism, and a black plastic body with a triangular grip. The one drawback I see is that the lead isn’t a standard 3.15mm – it is just a tad larger, so you’ll have to get the Pilot refills.

Lamy ABC

The Lamy ABC pen and pencil set.

The Lamy ABC is a pen and pencil set aimed at children, though adults will have no difficulty enjoying these nicely made products.

The fountain pen is essentially a Lamy Vista in a pleasing wood and red plastic case. It takes Lamy cartridges or a converter. My version has a medium nib. It’s a tremendous value as fountain pens go – a great writer, smooth and highly reliable. The cap doesn’t post, which could be an issue for some, and has a space for a sticker with one’s name. It is really lightweight, even compared with a Vista, so it’s no trouble to transport around town.

Matching the pen is a mechanical pencil with a 3.15 mm lead. Unlike most clutch leadholders, which require pressing a button or cap and sliding the lead, this pencil has a really nice twist mechanism. Even Lamy’s more sophisticated looking (and expensive) Scribble 3.15 mm pencil doesn’t have this mechanism. There is also an included lead sharpener, which I love as it works with other 3.15 mm pencils, and is a pretty unusual sharpener.

3.15 mm lead of the Lamy ABC.The pencil is comfortable and writes very nicely. The lead is solid and doesn’t break. Though they ship with an HB lead by default, the pencils also take other hardnesses as well as colour leads from art supply stores.

It’s a mechanical pencil that offers great quality, as well as nice (though not traditional) styling.

Invisible Ink

Herbin Invisible Ink
One of the most whimsical and intriguing items in the world of writing instruments and stationery is invisible ink. To me, it recalls childhood experiments with lemon juice and Encyclopedia Brown books. To others, it may be studied as a practical form of steganography.

To my surprise, I learned that the world’s most distinguised ink maker manufactures a commercial invisible ink, and that I could buy it at a local shop.

The packaging is charming. A bottle with a simple frame pattern label reading:



30ml J. Herbin

It’s light pinkish colour, and fountain pens are not recommended. My bottle shows significant signs of crystallization around the cap and top of the bottle after light use, so that’s probably why.

Although I’d love to buy a fancy dip pen, for now a General’s nib holder and some Speedball nibs suffice. A blank Rhodia pad also seems in order. I start scribbling away.

Is it invisible? Well, it’s less visible. The ink is wet, and there is a slight tint, so the very curious can probably tell that the paper isn’t as prisitine as it once was.

I let the paper dry and take it to my halogen lamp. Holding it near, the writing slowly comes to life in an aquamarine blue. This is thoroughly fascinating to see. What’s almost as intriguing, is that walking away from the lamp, the ink fades back to “invisible”, as if one saw the paper reveal a secret, temporal message.

Is it truly a method for secret record keeping and communication? It probably suffices for some purposes.

Some possible uses for invisible ink:

  • Love notes
  • Communicating passwords
  • Sketching tentative ideas