Prints & Cards
by Jim Mamoulides 2/28/02
Lamy introduced the all aluminum Al-Star in 1997 as a follow on to it's successful Safari line of pens. As is typical with most current Lamy designs, the Al-Star has a strong high-tech look and feel to it. Because aluminum is very lightweight, the pen, though very large, is very light in the hand. Lamy, according to their press materials, picked this material to associate the pen with the cachet of high tech industries. The pen line was designed by Wolfgang Fabian and includes a fountain pen, rollerball, ballpoint and pencil.
The Al-Star features an ink level window in the barrel, which works well with either a cartridge or converter, a transparent grip ergonomic section with sculpted finger pads, which make the pen comfortable to hold. The fins of the collector are easy to see through the smoke colored transparent section. The nib is made of black chromium plated stainless steel and the clip is made of black painted spring brass wire.
Lamy calls the Al-Star "the most successful young person's fountain pen on the market," indicating that the sales of the pen are quite good.
Since its introduction Lamy recently introduced a new shade of the Al-Star, named the Graphite. The aluminum body is matt finished in a more muted graphite color and the clip is chrome plated.
The Al-Star is derived from the Safari line, introduced in 1980. The Safari pens are the same as the Al-Star and come in white, yellow, red, charcoal, blue and black ABS plastic. Unlike the Al-Star, the sections are body colored.
Lamy designed the Safari to go after the youth market, get them acquainted with high quality writing instruments and pull them up to their higher lines. The Safari was not launched as a school pen, but a "cool" pen. Lamy made the pen to be very durable and comfortable to use. Thought was put into every design element, even the shape of the barrel, having flat sides, so the pen stays put when placed on a flat surface, where a round barreled pen would roll away. Ink view windows were cut into the barrels to make it easy to monitor. A large spring clip was created so the pen would easily adapt to the clothes of the user, who might be wearing anything but a traditional business shirt, such as a pullover or sweater.
I tested Lamy Al-Stars with fine and medium nibs. I have to admit right away that I bought an Al-Star early in my pen collecting hobby and I have a real bias toward this pen. The Al-Star is deceptively large, considering how light it is, about 5 1/2 inches long capped and 6 5/8 inches posted.
The Al-Star is very well made, with a distinctive German high-tech feel. The polished matte finish of the aluminum body is cool to the touch and very appealing. It comes across as a fun writing tool, which means the design intent is a success. The cap posts very securely, obviously thought through in the design. This is a theme one will notice in using this pen. Everything about it was thought through. The ink view windows on the barrel provide a very good indication of ink level. The section grip fits the hand precisely where the fingers need to be. The transparent section is cool, one of the few that let's you really see the way the nib and section work.
Lamy cartridges are very long, but are also not available everywhere. I strongly suggest using the very well designed converter with this pen. It is the smoothest converter in any pen I have used. Lamy should sell converters to all other pen makers. It also locks into the section securely, so it will not twist around when used.
Lamy Al-Star nibs are utilitarian and very firm, but they write well, getting ink on paper when the paper is touched. It's obvious that the pen is intended to smoothly put ink on paper, but not to impress nib lovers. This pen writes like a well made tool.
In my experience, the Al-Star is very scratch resistant and clips to almost anything you may wear or carry. The pen has a high thumbs-up factor with kids. It's the more sophisticated brother to the fun Safari pens, and even works well in business environments. I've given them as gifts and they are always well received. For US $44 list, it's a bargain for a well made daily user pen.
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Last Update 8/26/04