Traveling With Pens: A Case Study (or a study of a basket case?!)

I’m attending a conference in Indianapolis, IN this week. But before I traveled here, I spent a god awful amount of time mulling over which pens to bring with me. Clothes? Easy. Pens? Not so much.

Right up until the last minute I was swapping pens in and out of my Nock Co. Brasstown case. The case, at least, was pretty much a given. Even though I schlep three or four Nock Co. Pen cases to and from work every day, I knew I only wanted to travel with one, and the Brasstown quickly made the cut. With its roll-up, multiple pen holding “tongue” and space to carry some ink cartridges and a small ruler, the case was an easy pick.

When it was time to leave for the airport, I had to STOP with the pen swaps and go with what was in the case. Here’s the final line-up:

Fountain pens
Lamy AL Star Blue-Green (fine nib) with Lamy black cartridges
Lamy Vista (extra-fine nib) with Lamy black cartridges
Pilot Knight (medium nib) with Namiki Blue/Black cartridges

Rollerball pen
Retro 51 Betsy Tornado Rollerball

Gel pen
Nock Co./Karas Kustoms exclusive Render K with 0.5 mm black G2 refill

Ballpoint pens
Fisher Space pen (matte black bullet model)
TactileTurn Shaker with Schmidt EasyFlow 9000 black refill

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I’m a couple of days into the conference now and have a few thoughts about my choices. The Lamy Vista is great. The EF nib is perfect in my Clairefontaine notebook and I especially like being able to monitor the ink level. The fine nib on the Lamy AL Star is a little broad, while the medium nib on the Pilot Knight is wonderfully smooth and lays down a precise fine line as it’s a Japanese medium.

The Fisher Space pen has been particularly handy for filling out entry forms at today’s trade show. It’s easy to carry and completely reliable. Maybe not my favorite refill of all time, but great when you just need a pen to do its job whenever and wherever.

I haven’t used Betsy or the Shaker as yet, though both are favorites when I’m home. I think I’ll work them into tomorrow’s sessions. Could it be I have pen A.D.D.? Is that a thing?

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A couple of other Nock Co. products have really performed well on this trip- the Fodderstack loaded with the DotDash 3×5 cards paired with Nock Co. x Karas Kustoms Exclusive G2 Render K. The pen looks and writes great. I love the playful trio of colors, and loaded with a 0.5 mm G2 refill, it’s been perfect for taking meeting notes AND for keeping track of action items that are popping up at work and at home. By jotting down tasks on the DotDash cards, I’m able to concentrate on what I should be concentrating on- the conference.

Someone on Twitter suggested that I should travel with only one pen as a challenge, and I considered that for a little bit. Obviously, I didn’t go that route since I have a stupid number of pens with me. But really, I’m having fun swapping pens from day to day…or even within the same day.

And, I must admit, pens are something of a security blanket for me. I feel better when they’re with me.

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There…I admitted it.

Written and photographed on my iPad and iPhone with poor hotel lighting. But written nonetheless!

So I picked up a broad……..nib.

Never say never. Though I thought I would forever be an extra-fine/fine woman (we’re talking nibs here), watching all of those SBREBrown pen review videos (that man loves him some B, BB, and even BBB nibs), and receiving letters from friends who swear by juicy, fat nibs, I cracked. I had to explore.

VP Raden with broad nib

Goulet Pens recently ran a “Spring Cleaning” 20% off promotion on a number of items, including the Pilot Vanishing Point nib units. What a perfect time to branch out a bit. When the broad VP nib unit arrived, I popped it into my beloved and sparkly Raden VP (thanks, Dan!), loaded it from a sample vial of Noodler’s Turquoise (thanks, Joe!), pulled out some Tomoe River paper and let it fly.

Hoo boy. VERY nice.

I kind of get it now. Maybe I MORE THAN get it now.

VP Raden with broad nib

While I won’t be using broad nibs for my everyday writing— my handwriting is just too small for that— I can totally see myself transitioning to them for letter writing, when I can use my Tomoe River or Clairfontaine Triomphe paper, and when I really like seeing how an ink shades.

Granted, the Vanishing Point broad is, since it’s Japanese, more like a European medium, but still. I’d stepped away from my comfort zone and had to admit that it felt…well…comfortable. Wonderfully smooth. Nicely juicy.

(This keeps sounding dirty and I DO NOT MEAN FOR THAT TO BE HAPPENING.)

Raden VP with broad nib

Getting back to my point (and my G-rating), all I’m trying to say is that it’s cool to take a pen body that you love, and swap in some different nibs for a completely different writing experience. The VPs are great for this, as are, of course, Lamys and TWSBIs. I see that Richard Binder offers Vanishing Point pen bodies (even the new metallics) separately, so I may go that route when I decide to spring for the cool looking green metallic. That’ll save me about $60. Since I own a range of nib units to swap in, why buy another complete pen?

VP nib unit and Lamy nib

When I ordered the broad VP nib unit, I also picked up a Lamy broad nib as these are crazy easy to swap in and out of several Lamy pen models. And when I recently purchased my Edison Nouveau Premiere Cherry Blossom with a medium nib, I tossed a fine and a 1.1 mm stub into my shopping cart, as well. One gorgeous looking pen, three different writing options.

So have fun. Experiment. With nibs, I mean.

Chasing the Winter Blues: Lamy Nexx Opal with Lamy Turquoise Ink

My friend Elaine, at JetPens, sent along a Lamy Nexx Opal and Lamy Turquoise ink cartridges for review purposes. I was not, and will not be, otherwise compensated. This review reflects my own experiences, observations, and opinions.

(Click on any picture for a larger view.)

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So we’re officially sick of winter. The freezing temperatures recently caused a sprinkler head to burst in an atrium at work causing it to dump 65 gallons of water per minute before it was turned off. (Fun day.) We’ve had ice and ice pellets and a heap of slushy snow. Then bitter cold. Then more cold. We’re done. Well, I am, anyway.

The students are on Spring Break for two weeks, but I’m not. I’m seriously craving a getaway to a warmer climate, a poolside chaise lounge with a good book, and maybe a swim-up bar. And sun-warmed crystal clear blue water.

Lamy Nexx Opal

Maybe I’ve gone off the deep end, but that’s what this pen and ink combination reminds me of— a sun-drenched beach with turquoise waters like the ones in Tahiti or The Maldives. The color of this perfectly paired Lamy Nexx fountain pen and turquoise ink is a cheerful, tropical blue— just the thing for someone who’s wearing fingerless mittens INSIDE THE HOUSE.

I feel just a little bit warmer when I’m using this pen. (Yes, it’s my imagination, but I’m going with it. When it’s 8 degrees, you’re allowed to go a little batty.)

Lamy Nexx fine nib

But it’s not just the color that makes this a fun pen. The fine nib is admittedly plain, but is notably smooth making it a true pleasure to write with. The great thing about Lamy nibs is that they can be easily swapped between the Safari, AL-Star, Vista, and CP1 models. In the mood for a stub instead of a fine nib? Just swap in a new nib. Super simple.

Grip comparison
Grip comparison: Safari vs. Nexx

The molded rubber, triangular grip fits my hand perfectly— even more so than the molded plastic grip on the Safari, AL-Star, and Vista models. A lot of folks shun those models because of that grip which forces you to hold the pen in a very specific way. The shape of the Nexx’s grip feels less severe and might work better for those who dislike the hard plastic grips on those other models. The rubber material means that it grips your fingers while you grip the pen. There’s just no slippage.

Lamy Nexx triangular body

The aluminum pen body starts out as a soft triangle that gradually transitions to a more rounded shape as it approaches the grip area. It’s a unique look and a fun detail. The Nexx is definitely lightweight— just 18 grams (12 g body, 6 g cap)— so it’s great for long writing sessions as there’s simply no chance of hand fatigue from holding a heavy pen.

Lamy Nexx vs. Lamy Safari

Despite its lack of heft, the Nexx feels durable and ready for anything your day throws at you (even a sprinkler head failure!). Made of aluminum, rubber, and plastic, this is a pen that can handle life’s hard knocks.

Nexx cap & lanyard loop

The Nexx’s cap features a prominent aluminum clip and a lanyard loop that extends beyond the top of the cap. As much as I love my pens, I’ve never had the urge to wear one around my neck, but if you’re looking to do that, the Nexx is your pen. The clip is a bit stiff, but certainly usable. I routinely clip mine in one of my Nock Co. pen cases without a problem.

Turquoise
Opal Lamy Nexx and peacock Nock Co. Hightower case— definitely made for each other

The cap posts securely, despite the uniquely shaped barrel, and doesn’t wiggle off while in use (a pet peeve!).

Posted pens

The Lamy Turquoise ink pairs perfectly with this pen. The color is fresh and vibrant and exhibits some nice shading, even with this fine nib. It really is a breath of fresh air in these gloomy end-of-winter days, and reminds me that azure summer skies and warm breezes will eventually get here. It is the color of hope.

Lamy Turquoise ink

I’m chilled and chapped and a little bit cranky, but summer is coming. Summer is coming. Until then, I’m chasing those winter blues with this pen and ink prescription. The Lamy Nexx Opal and Lamy Turquoise ink— a combination that’s good for what ails ya.

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Take the cure.

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You can find both the Lamy Nexx fountain pen and Lamy Turquoise ink at JetPens. The pen retails for $30.50, while a pack of 5 cartridges sells for $3.75. (Free shipping on all orders over $25.) Thank you to JetPens for providing both for review.

The Middle Child: Lamy’s CP1 Matte Black Fountain Pen

Thanks to Brad Dowdy’s weekly “Ink Links”, I stumbled onto a beautifully photographed post featuring Lamy’s CP1 Matte Black fountain pen. That post, with its simple yet stunning photos, was enough to push me to purchase this little-discussed Lamy offering.

Lamy CP1 Matte Black fountain pen

CP1 clip and branding
CP1 clip and branding

I think of this pen as Lamy’s “middle child”— tucked between the introductory and familiar Safari/AL-Star offerings and the more upscale Lamy 2000. With its stainless steel spring-loaded clip, matte black body, and simple timeless looks, the CP1 certainly seems like a relative of the classic Lamy 2000. If you’re talking nibs, though, the CP1 is clearly a sibling to the Safari/AL-Star lines as nibs can be swapped between these models, but not with the 2000.

Black steel nib

Speaking of nibs, when I ordered mine from The Goulet Pen Company, I opted for the black steel nib (fine) to complete the pen’s “blacked out” look. I’ve occasionally had issues with black Lamy nibs writing so dry that they had to be returned, so I included a quick note with my order asking if the nib could be QC’ed prior to shipment. I’m happy to report that the fine nib on this pen is wonderfully smooth and very juicy. Really perfect. Though my past issues with problematic black nibs have always been handled quickly, it’s best not to have a problem at all. This one is simply great.

kon-peki colored feed
Iroshizuku kon-peki colored feed

Price-wise, the CP1 falls between the Safari/AL-Star and the higher-end 2000, running about double the price of the former, and less than half of the latter. I paid $56 which makes this a reasonable and cool upgrade/change from the basic Safari without having to go all in on the pricier Makrolon 2000.

Like its Safari/AL-Star siblings, the CP1 is a cartridge/converter pen, but in this case, the converter is included, which is a nice little feature. Having to “add-on” a converter always bugs me just a little bit, so it’s nice to receive the complete package. Filled with Iroshizuku kon-peki, I keep looking for excuses to use this pen. I can’t figure out what the slim matte body is made of— some sort of metal, I suppose— but I do know that I like the weight and balance and ultra-minimalist look. (Some days I’m all about swirly depth and sheen and eye-popping color in my fountain pens, and the next I’m drawn to a super simple, super stealthy look. Oh, how my pen moods swing!)

Weighing just 17g and measuring 0.37″ in diameter, holding this pen is a little hard to describe. It’s light, but has some heft— sort of a denser feeling than that of a Safari or AL-Star. It’s very slim, yet still comfortable. The snap cap posts easily and doesn’t throw off the pen’s balance in a significant way. Vital measurements are as follows:

    • Capped: 5.3″

CP1 capped

    • Posted: 6.2″

CP1 posted

    • Unposted: 4.6″

CP1 unposted

I sometimes initially dismiss pens this slim as being “too narrow,” but then realize that I’m perfectly happy using an even skinnier woodcase or drafting pencil. The CP1 has a bit more girth than a pencil, so though it is certainly slim and trim, it’s not at all uncomfortable for me and my middle-of-the-road size hands. The grip section appears to be plastic (I can see a bit of a seam), but I can’t confirm that either. Even the Lamy website is pretty stingy with material specifics. The grip’s ridges give my fingers just the right amount of traction.

CP1 vs. Stabilo pencil

Middle children often find themselves struggling for attention between the first-born and the baby in a family. Lamy’s CP1 fountain pen seems to suffer a bit from “middle child syndrome,” quietly tucked between the colorful and popular Safari and the iconic 2000. Like those middle kids, this pen is special in its own understated way.

Lamy CP1 Matte Black

The CP1 Matte Black fountain pen— certainly worthy of some attention, and maybe a little of your Lamy love.

Lighten Up: Three Lamys

Lamy Trio

Remember how when we were kids, the summer was long and our task list was short? We awoke to wide open days, and warm months that seemed to go on and on. Now it’s just the opposite. Even though it’s summer, there’s so much to do, and the days and months zip by. One minute it’s Memorial Day, then suddenly it’s Labor Day. What happened to those lazy hazy days??

Even though summer might not be as magical and carefree as it used to be, it’s still pretty awesome. Grilled food, shorts & t-shirts, patio time, and maybe even a vacation. (Like the DC Pen Show?! Yup!)

Since summer is a time to eat lighter and dress lighter, I figure it might also be a good time to lighten up on the daily pen carry. Especially since I’ll be hitting the road soon. Here’s what I’m taking along– a trio of Lamys.

My three Lamys

Lamys are a bit rough-and-tumble, as ready for the road as the office. Light weight, sturdy, and easy to maintain, these are pens that won’t weigh you down and can take a bump or two. They’re as ready for an adventure as you are.

I’ve loaded the white Safari with Iroshizuku kon-peki, a refreshing combination. The azure blue ink reminds me of the ocean, while the body of the Safari conjures up images of my pale, pale legs at the beach. Yup. Pure white. Just like the pen.

White Safari
White Safari, F nib

The orange Safari is filled with Iroshizuku fuyu-gaki, a pleasant well-balanced orange that’s bright and fun, but not blinding. This pen and ink combination is a real mood-booster, and I find myself looking for excuses to use it.

Orange Safari
Orange Safari, F nib

And because there’s always work to be done, even in the summer, I’m keeping my matte black AL-Star, filled with Monteverde Black, close at hand. This pen is cool and stealthy. Monteverde Black has recently become a favorite and is as deep and dark as my post-vacation mood. Which is pretty dark.

Matte Black AL-Star
Matte Black Al-Star, EF nib

Three Lamy nibs

Summer’s here. I’m packing lighter. I’m packing Lamys.

Lamys on vacation

ROAD TRIP!!!

Most Improved: Lamy 2000 Ballpoint (Makrolon)

Lamy 2000 Ballpoint
Lamy 2000 Makrolon Ballpoint

The Lamy 2000 Makrolon Fountain Pen remains one of my top tier pens…solidly in my top three…so I suppose that it was inevitable that I’d take a look at the other offerings in the same line. I found this ballpoint on Amazon, for a nice price, and decided to go for it. I mean, Makrolon.

Lamy 2000 Ballpoint packaging
Presentation

Because I already own the fountain pen, I knew I’d love the spring-action clip and super subtle branding…

Knock & clip

and the imperceptible break in the body for changing the refill. The design is just stunning in its simplicity.

Imperceptible break in body
After changing the refill, twist this closed, and the break disappears

I knew I’d love the feel of the material, which is smooth, yet very finely textured, and warm to the touch.

Makrolon body

The knock, a ballpoint-specific feature, is rock-solid and offers just the right amount of resistance when pressed to extend or retract the ballpoint tip. The very end of the knock is shiny and reflective, while all of the other metal trim sports a brushed finish.

Knock
See the reflection?

That stuff’s all great (better than great), but what REALLY surprised me was the included M16 ballpoint refill. My complaints about Lamy ballpoint refills are well-documented. I’ve always found them to be washed out looking and very “draggy.” So when I ordered this pen, I was fully prepared to swap in a Monteverde Lamy-style refill. But when I tried the pen as is, WOW…what a difference! This black refill writes dark and smooth and much faster. Not “hybrid ink fast,” but sooooo much better than before. It’s so improved that I decided that the refill swap wasn’t needed. The Lamy M16 refill does the job and does it quite well. Color me shocked.

M16 ballpoint refill
Not a hint of rattle in the refill

Lamy M16 refill

But was this particular refill a fluke, I wondered? (Always the skeptic.) Yesterday another new Lamy ballpoint arrived…the Matte Black AL-Star Limited Edition (thoroughly reviewed here, by Mike Dudek). Would my refill bubble burst? Heck, no. The refill in the AL-Star wrote just as impressively as the one in the 2000. Proof enough for me.

I present Exhibit A…
Writing samples
Writing samples. [Correction: The Matte Black pen is an AL-Star, not a Safari]

Is the Lamy ballpoint refill perfect? Well, it’s no uni-ball Jetstream or Pentel Vicuna, but it’s leaps and bounds better than it used to be. I’d love to know if the actual ink formula changed or if I’ve just received fresher refills. Whatever the case, the improvement I’m seeing in the M16 refill coupled with the classic styling of the Lamy 2000 body has me reaching for this pen every day.

Fountain Pen & Ballpoint
Sibling Pens: Lamy 2000 Fountain Pen & Ballpoint

When a pen looks like a million bucks, feels this great in hand, AND lays down a solid dark line, it’s impossible to ignore, even for this fountain and gel pen lover.

Now, Lamy, how about a better refill for my Balloon Roller Ball? Please?

Okay: Lamy AL-Star Pearl

Lamy AL-Star Pearl
Lamy AL-Star Pearl, new for 2013

I had a Saturn sedan in this exact color (and the Goulets have TWO Pontiac Azteks in the same color). It’s not really what I would call “pearl.” Pearl, to me, is just a touch off-white with a distinctive shimmer or sheen, and this isn’t that. I don’t mind the color (obviously, since I bought the pen), but it isn’t “pearly” like nice teeth or the gate(s) leading to heaven. What it is is Saturn gold, or Aztek gold, don’t you think?

Lamy AL-Star Pearl
Posing

No worries, though. Despite the naming issue, I like this pen just fine– quite a lot actually. Coupled with the black EF nib (an option when you order from The Goulet Pen Company) and Montblanc’s Toffee Brown ink, it’s really grown on me, and I’ve been using it daily since it arrived. (For my “home” lists. For my “work” lists and notes the Lamy 2000 remains my soulmate.)

That Lamy grip
That Lamy Grip. Love it or hate it. Take it or leave it.

The contoured grip area makes the Lamy AL-Star, Safari, and Vista a no-go for some because it tends to dictate how you hold your pen. This doesn’t really bother me, so I’ve built up quite the Lamy collection without even really meaning to. (Hmmmm….mind control?) And while this 2013 color isn’t what a lot of folks were hoping for, it’s good for those looking for a “neutral” pen- one that doesn’t clash with the color of your ink.

Lamy branding

Iconic clip

The aluminum body of the AL-Star sports the same branding, iconic clip, and porthole ink window as always. Why mess with design features that are immediately recognizable and function well.

Pearl? No. Exciting? No. But I’m okay with that.

Lamy at work