Time for a digitally driven fountain pen nib?

February 17, 2012 § 1 Comment

The principles of the fountain pen have been established and refined over the last 150 years. Put simply, an ink reservoir feeds ink into a delivery tube, through a series of capillary tracts, through to the tip of the nib, where contact with the writing surface causes the ink to be deposited. Although a fairly crude process by comparison to the writing technologies of today, the fountain pen, either because of its idiosyncrasies or in spite of them, remains the most rewarding way to put words onto paper for others to read.

Much has been written about the attributes of different styles of nib fabricated from almost every conceivable type of resistant material but, ultimately, beauty remains in the eye of the beholder. At PenFountain, what is very clear is that the current trend towards one-size-fits-all ‘medium’ nibs is eroding the very market that the fountain pen works for.

When asked for advice about pens with alternative nibs, sizes, and formats, the conversation invariably contains the caveat ‘without spending a fortune…’, to which only one reply is currently available, Lamy.  Regular readers of my blog will be familiar with my faith in Lamy’s interchangeable nib system with its low cost and reliability. However, even with its greatness, the design of the Lamy pen range can be a little too contemporarily radical for what may be described as an inherently conservative market. In an ideal world, perhaps the solution could be to put the Lamy nib system into pens of a slightly more conservative style such as, Waterman. Keep the price below £50 and you could have a commercial winner. While we’re designing the perfect commercial fountain pen, the range could possibly be extended to include some oblique nibs. We have been surprised at the number of fountain pen users requesting italic and oblique nibs and, even with Lamy’s ‘calligraphy’ pen nibs, which are technically italic, the 1.1mm nib does not offer sufficient variation between major and minor line widths and yet the 1.5mm major line width tends to suit people with larger writing. Conversely, the broad italics and obliques from the other major players tend to be neither wide enough and, being predominantly18ct gold, too expensive.

We understand the issues associated with production costs, tooling, and economies of scale but surely in the age of CNC manufacturing it would be possible to develop a digitally controlled tool to create a range of nibs that meet the fullest market requirements without prohibitive cost?

Would this be your ideal solution?  Please let us know.

Lamy Extra Fine Nibs discontinued

September 1, 2011 § Leave a comment

We have been advised today that Lamy are discontinuing their Extra Fine nibs in all but their high-end pens.  In effect, the superb stainless steel nib range is being reduced to fine, medium, broad, and left-handed, in the core products with 1.1, 1.5, and 1.9mm in the calligraphy type nibs. The steel nibs are renowned for their ease of changing.

The 14ct gold inlaid nib in extra fine will continue to be available for the foreseeable future.

At PenFountain.com we are disappointed to learn of this change because it was a popular nib for the finer characters used in many Asian scripts.  We will maintain stocks of the steel nibs for as long as possible.

Lamy Safari Reviewed

August 30, 2011 § Leave a comment

The Lamy Safari and its success as a school fountain pen is well-known.  But lying behind this success is a combination of design and manufacturing quality together with features that make this an attractive pen from the outset.

From picking the pen up at just 18 grams in working order, the quality of the ABS moulding is immediately noticeable.  The Lamy Safari uses the same polymer that is used in the manufacture of  Lego bricks, offering the same high quality, and durable finish.  Its round-sectioned barrel is finished with facing flat sections and an ink level window.  Whilst the grip, also round in cross-section, has 2 asymmetric flat recesses to accommodate the thumb and forefingers in an ideal position for optimum control.  The stainless steel nib, shared with the Lamy family up to around £80 pens, offers excellent writing characteristics from its range of widths from extra fine through to 1.9mm square-cut italic calligraphy style.  There is also a left-handed nib available.

Filling the Safari is by conventional, proprietary ink cartridges or by optional screw-piston pump ink converter to allow use of bottled inks.  The best thing about the Safari is that it works reliably with a smooth performance which, particularly for the uninitiated, exceeds expectation for a relatively low-budget pen.  The Safari also uses a rubber o-ring as a final seal to its click-on cap contributing to the reliability of its initial ink flow.

Lamy Safari fountain pen with cartridges

Lamy Safari fountain pen with cartridges

The detail adds to the Safari’s difference.  The ability to change the nib with minimal cost and simplicity is well-known, using the Lamy slide-on mounting system.  This offers 2 principle benefits including, replacement of a damaged nib or selection of an alternative nib width or style. The cartridge has a small reserve ink supply in the final constriction at the top of the cartridge where, when you’re down to your last drop, a little flick of the end will release the ink from its designed-in air-lock.

By the way, when you get your first Safari fountain pen, please remove the cardboard spacer from the barrel – it’s only there to prevent premature puncturing of the sealed ink cartridge before use.  You’d be surprised at how many customer have complained at not being able to get their new pens working!

The Lamy Safari is currently on Special Offer at PenFountain.com for £9.95 until 5 September.

How can we win?

August 1, 2011 § Leave a comment

We’ve just had a customer in our Cranleigh retail shop, PenFountain.com, to buy a LamyNexx for his son.  However, his wife had advised not to buy the Lamy cartridges from us because they would be cheaper in the local WHS.  How can we win?  Smiths’ price is £4.99 (with the additional benefit of buy one get the second at half price!).  Our price is £1.53.

Lamy Fountain pen cartridges at low prices

Lamy Fountain pen cartridges at low prices

The bigger picture is more worrying.  At those prices young writers will be discouraged from buying a Lamy fountain pen because of the cost of refills.  And yet, this is one of the best pens to encourage the joy of hand writing among young students.  Whilst, on the flip-side, the perception appears to be that you get a better deal buying from our competitors.

You can draw your own conclusions as to which is the better deal!

Oh, and another thing about Lamy…

June 1, 2011 § Leave a comment

Gold is regarded as the finest metal for fountain pen nibs.  They offer softness, malleability, and even a degree of springiness to mould their way in your personal style of writing.  Arguably therefore, gold is the optimum material for the finest writing experience.  However, its attributes are also its weaknesses. When you knock the pen off the desk the law of Mr. Sod comes into play and it always goes down, nib first, onto a hard floor.

Replacement nib for a Waterman Carene required!

Waterman Carene having experienced the thick end of a lever arch file mechanism!

Gold ain’t cheap!  And under most circumstances, unless you know a highly skilled nib-smith and go without your pen until they can fit it in, it’s a new nib.

At PenFountain.com we have had our share of returned pens under warranty with tines splayed at 30 degrees to each other claiming ‘It’s never been dropped or abused’.  The tines obviously just fell apart on first use!  Sorry folks, it’s a new nib.  Nibs are the most significant component of the pen and therefore, represent an equally significant proportion of the cost of a complete replacement pen making them relatively expensive. To many pen users the risk is enough to put them off using their favourite pen on a regular basis.

Our belief in Lamy pens has been well documented in earlier blogs, with the Studio having been discussed in the blog,  Lamy’s  Gold Standard.  Not only is this a beautiful, contemporary pen with its 14kt gold inlaid nib, it is also practical.  Lamy, unlike other manufacturers, offer a part exchange service on damaged gold nibs.  If you have had the unspeakable happen to your gold nibbed Lamy, we can return it to the factory and have the nib replaced, usually for the price of another manufacturers’ replacement steel nib.  Usually within a couple of weeks you can have your pen returned ready to be Sellotaped to the desk to stop a repeat performance.

Lamy’s New Limited Editions in Stock

April 19, 2011 § Leave a comment

The eagerly awaited Special Edition coloured Lamy Safari is now available from stock at PenFountain.com. 

The Lamy Safari fountain pen is the highly respected pen manufactured from ABS resin to a design by Lamy designer, Wolfgang Fabian.  The front end grip and nib assembly is common to the Safari, the Joy and the Al-Star ranges and offers an ergonomic design for greater comfort and to assist young hands attain the correct writing grip.  Much has been written about the Lamy nibs and their unique nib mounting system that allows easy nib interchange.  However, it would be fair to say that not everyone gets on with the tri-lobal grip design, especially older writers who have less conventional gripping positions with their fountain pens!

Lamy have established quite a reputation for producing a Special Edition coloured Safari each year with the caveat that this for a limited time/production run. They are a little more reticent about revealing times or volumes presumably so that if the colour does well they can produce another batch – or am I just cynical? The Safari Special Edition for this year is a beautiful Aquamarine fountain pen with chrome trim.

Lamy Safari fountain pen Special Edition in Aquamarine blue

Lamy Safari fountain pen Special Edition in Aquamarine blue

2011 has had a wealth of surprises with the release of the Special Edition White version of their successful Joy calligraphy fountain pen.  This may be seen as ideal for wedding invitations although a little late for the forthcoming Royal event!

Lamy Joy Special Edition White calligraphy fountain pen

Lamy Joy Special Edition White calligraphy fountain pen

Both pens come with the usual selection of nibs and don’t even attract a premium price!  When ordering, don’t forget to include any cartridges and converters you may want.

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