Saturday, 10 March 2012

Why I Hate the Lamy Safari

I've just retired my two Lamy Safaris, probably never to re-ink them. This is a pen I really wanted to like, and have ended up buying four of them, including two for my children, but have found that it's just not for me.

Lamy produces a range of pens with some outstanding designs, such as the famous Lamy 2000, or more modestly, the Tipo. I don't have a problem with modern design; I can use the Safari quite happily with its odd nib section grip. I like the size of it, and the chunky barrel. The fact that the cap pops off and on is a plus for me, as I prefer that to screw-on caps.

I like the fact that it is available in a range of colours, or even no colour (the Vista). I even quite like the thick wire clip.

One problem I have with the Safari is the fact that it takes a proprietary ink cartridge, the T10. It's easy enough to fill using a syringe, but that tapered section on the end always seems to stay filled with ink. If you want to instal a filler, you have to get the special Lamy model, the Z24. I find the fact that it does not take standard international cartridges a big drawback. Granted, I love Pilot pens which have their own IC-50 proprietary cartridge, but their pens so well for me out of the box, I am prepared to overlook that. (Plus, they don't have that wretched narrow tail at the end.)

But what I dislike most of all about the Safari is the deal-breaker: the nib. For me the heart of the fountain pen is the nib. I have tried a variety of nibs for my Safaris, and all of the nibs I have tried have been unsatisfactory to the point of irritation. My first Safari was a black model with a B nib, which was rough and did not seem to give the broad line I was after. Perhaps it was a dodgy example? So when I got the next one, I ordered an EF nib. I replaced the B with the EF and everything seemed fine...but then I noticed how scratchy the nib was on the paper, and the fact that the line was very slightly uneven - like a stub but in miniature. I realise that fine nibs are at risk of being scratchy, but I have used enough Japanese pens to know that it is not inevitable. But the unevenness of the line was enough to put me off.

I have also tried the M nib which is standard on the Safari. The line is even and looks good on the page, but the smoothness is still missing. It's at this point that I give in. I could have ordered one of their famed italic nibs such as the 1.9mm, but to be honest I can't be arsed. For the price of getting the nibs smoothed I could buy a few Pilot 78Gs, a type of pen which, although more traditional in shape, much smaller and with a screw-on cap, offers a much more enjoyable writing experience.

I know the Safari has lots of fans, and I've probably alienated those who may read this. It is a classic design, but not one I can use: rather, it's one I can admire from a distance.


  1. This is a timely article for me, since I have been contemplating with the idea of buying a Safari Vista. I was lucky that my al-Star works quite well so far, though it does have some hiccup with Noodler's Bay State Blue. Perhaps I am lucky in that the nib on the al-Star is pretty smooth, though writes wider than a M in my opinion.

  2. Have you sent it to a professional to have it "tuned"? Or is there a pen show coming to your area where someone might be able to help you? For a budget fountain pen, the nib in the Lamys are pretty good but sometimes its a matter of luck to get one straight out of the box that works well -- sometimes, just through use, the nibs improve. I've found the same thing with my Kaweco pens -- one came out of the box with a silky smooth nib but the other is a bit finicky. I feel the same way about the Lamys.

    You may also want to try a different nib size. At $11 per nib, that might be the magic bullet.

    1. Did you not read the article? The writer tried every nib size. And a pen shouldn't have to be tuned. Many places sell these over $30. I got mine for $22... Lamy nibs are a sad joke compared to Pilot's nibs. The Metropolitan puts the Safari to shame. My experience with my Safari is identical to the author's.

  3. I have eleven safaris and are all fitted with a 1.1mm italic nib. They're not true italics..they have smoothed off corners so the nib doesn't dig into the paper and they write exceptionally well and make your handwriting more consistent. About 4 quid at The Writing Desk.
    I share your frustration with the inconsistency of the regular nibs.

  4. I find my Safari to be a bit scratchy too. Also, it's the only fountain pen I have that leaves ink on my finger as I write with it. That might just be how I hold it, but it's still frustrating. I've found better bargain pens for $20 that write much smoother and don't make me look like I've been finger painting.

  5. The first four, maybe five years in school I used a Pelikan, the other nine, or eight, not sure when I switched, I used a Lamy and was always happy with it. About the cartridge. The end is supposed to stay filled with ink. The pen will stop writing, you then know you need to get a new cartridge soon, but you can tap the end of the pen and the last bit of ink will flow out and will give you some more pages of writing. A bit like the red stripe on paper rolls...
    Noname cartridges with two ends are also available, one end is for Pelikan etc, the other end is for Lamy.
    Lamys are also really good with being thrown around without having ink ending up in the cap. The opposite of my experience with the TWSBI: if you look at it the wrong way ink will start squirting out and end up in the cap and it will be a right mess..
    My Lamy pens were never scratchy, but maybe I was just lucky...

  6. I have over 20 of the Safari/Al Star pens. I've noticed that in the later years, the nib tines often need alignment. Get a strong magnifying glass, or if you have an SLR camera, flip a lens backward and look at the tines. Pull the leading tine back -gently- with your fingernail.

    Catherine, nib creep is the one thing I hate about my Safaris, particularly with saturated inks, like Noodlers. I've found that less saturated inks, like Waterman don't have the nib creep problem.

  7. Aww mate, I couldn't agree more those Pilot 78Gs are incredible . . .

  8. I share your opinions about the Safari. Well, I don't care so much about the cartridges, but the nibs are the pits. Like you, I appreciate the design, but just don't find them functional. The trigonal grip section isn't very comfortable for me, but that's a personal thing. The popularity of the pen baffles me. At a similar price point, there are a number of Japanese pens (e.g., Pilot Prera) available with much better nibs, not to mention the TWSBI.

  9. I have four Safari's and I love them! I don't have the scratchy nib problem at all. I have 1 1.1 mm italic, 1 EF, and the others F nibs. Nib creep bothers me not at all. I find that it is worse with some inks and better with others.

    Have you thought about using an ink converter to replace the cartridges? You can load ANY ink in them. Please note: not all inks are equal. Try a different brand and see if that helps.

  10. I have four Safari's of which one had a scratchy nib. I sent it back to Lamy (in the original pen box) and they fixed it for free, per their policy. I am a high school teacher and they have made through four years of grading. Sorry you don't like yours.

  11. Safaris are good knock-around pens, and the clip is fantastic, but I do think they are over-rated. A safari is great for throwing in a briefcase or pocket without worrying too much about it, but I never reach for one when I sit down to write a letter and want to really enjoy the writing experience.

  12. This has nothing do to with luck to get a smooth nib.
    Thousands and thousands of German children using these pens.
    The Lamy Studio as well as other using the same nib.
    Some nibs need a break through.

    My Vista (f) was smooth out of the box. My Al-Star (ef) was OK, 1 or 2 minutes on the paper bag and 1 page later it was smooth. But this one had an "accident" (Don't lend pens!).
    The nib was slightly bent. Some minutes on a nail file / fine sandpaper later, I had a 0.6/0.7 mm italic nib.

    How many pages did you write with this nibs?
    Don't give up. Not patient enough ... use a brown paper bag and circle around (gently).

  13. Thanks for all the comments! Keep them coming.

    Thanks too for the suggestions about nibs and reminding me of the "brown paper bag trick". I did that the other evening, on one of my 78Gs

    I wasn't trying to be iconoclastic here, just expressing my honest opinion. I know many people love the Safari and its variants, and I have written many pages with it. But I had one of those minor epiphanies whilst writing with the black Safari and EF nib, that I didn't enjoy writing with it. It was a point that took some time to get to, years in fact.

    I doubt I'll be doing the brown paper bag trick or sending my Safaris to any nibmeisters. They stand now in one of my pen cups. Let's see if they see action again.

    It shows how subjective fountain pen fandom can be: I dislike a popular pen which has fans around the world, but love some pens which are fountain pen Marmite, such as the Pilot Capless.

    More FP posts in the pipeline...

  14. Learn to tune your nibs!

  15. They scratch for me too and they're not so inexpensive anymore that I would just buy a new one.

    I preferred the last metal capped Pelikano or something like a Kaweco sport (that had a nice nib that never gave me issues and I used it as an ink test pen all the time)

  16. I'm a fountain pen newbie and a lot of people recommended Lamy Safari as a cheap "first" fp. My pen arrived today and I was so excited to use it. I flushed it, let it dry then filled it with ink.

    I HATE IT.

    Maybe what I got was faulty but the flow is uneven. It would start out a little dry then end up really wet, like a little drop of ink. The end feathers really bad and bleeds. I've tested 3 inks and it's pretty much the same. I finally tried to use the cartridge that came with it and it's a little better now but still too wet in the end. I'm not sure if it's the nib/feed/converters fault.

    I'm gonna get a different nib (M is too thick for my taste) and see how it goes. I'm also waiting for a Vista in the mail (same M nib) and if it still has issues then I'm done with Lamy.

  17. I have always pretty happy with my Safaris, good work horses, never a dry moment, good consistency. Can't say the same about my Shaeffer Prelude for instance. But don't want to argue with experience, fair enough. :)

  18. Even if you fill the cartridge with syringe, it will get loose over time and will be unsable. The best option is to buy the filler. However I have felt that I am using Parker ink called Quink with this pen but it is not as nice as the ink that came in the cartridge

  19. Just purchased my first Lamy - not loving it at all. Have used a Cross, TWSBI and currently a Passaporto.

    There's just something about the nib and handling/grip that I just can't live with.

  20. I've only tried Lamy recently, but I've kind of had the opposite experience: I love writing with my Vista - smooth, consistent, never dry, and I find it very comfortable to hold. But I don't like the way it looks, so I got a Studio (same M nib), which is kind of scratchy and dry..

    I'll try the brown paper thing, then swapping the nibs round - I assume it's just that the nibs aren't consistent and my Vista happens to have a better example.


  21. I am Looking to buy one,.... Should I ?

  22. I like my Safaris and Al-Stars (about six in total) but am quite dissatisfied with Lamy (and Pelikan, FWIW) quality control. I have a lot more nibs than pens, partly because I wanted to experiment and partly because some of them were crap.

    When they work, I'm pleased.

    After reading the comments here, I'll try tuning the other nibs.

  23. My god this font color is awful

  24. I want to k ow if I can use different brand nib on my lamy safari, something that fits it and writes good. My current nib doesn't write smoothly and I don't want to spend so much as $11 until I get a good one. Any suggestions?

  25. I just bought a Lamy Safari with medium nib, expecting good German quality but was disappointed big time. There seems to be a flaw in the design; the feed or nib, or both. It's a hard starter, skippy and needs pressure to write with it. I use a variety of fountain pens, from Pelikan to cheap Hero and Jinhao pens. The Lamy is a huge let-down - it's good on design but does not deliver where it matters most: writing! :(