Review: Lamy Safari, Ballpoint, Medium Point

After my recent disappointment with the Lamy Tipo, I was a little reluctant to purchase another Lamy product so quickly. However, I’ve had good experiences with Lamy in the past, and I generally like the creativity in the company’s designs. So, after reading good things about the Lamy Safari Ballpoint, I decided to give it a shot – and I’m glad I did.

In all honesty, the Safari ballpoint seems like an odd choice for anyone who already owns the Safari in the much more popular fountain pen format, but it’s surprising how different the two designs actually are from each other when you have them side-by-side. Of course, both versions have the iconic U-shaped clip, and the indented grip sections are very similar. But everything else is quite different.

The ballpoint version has a rounded barrel, as opposed to the flattened-sides of the fountain pen version, and it’s also retractable. So the ballpoint version completely lacks a cap, which has been replaced by a knock that resembles an accordion. And, since the ballpoint refill is an enclosed metal tube, the ballpoint Safari has no need for an ink window.

It’s a unique design that, like it’s fountain pen counterpart, is produced in a bunch of colors. Mine is a mint green that was part of a limited edition run, but in person it is very reminiscent of Tiffany blue (it will be confiscated by my wife shortly after I finish this review). But red, black, and blue versions seem to be widely available, and new colors are frequently released.

I do have a couple of minor complaints that are still worth mentioning. First, the knock has a somewhat squeaky/rusty sound to it. I’d almost like to open it up to add some WD-40. And the (Lamy M16) refill, though it is relatively smooth and dark for a ballpoint, seems to skip in and out on occasion. So you might need a piece of scratch paper handy to get the ink flow started now and then.

Otherwise, this is a really nice pen, and Lamy did a lot of work to make it feel different from its fountain pen counterpart. It’s light weight, comfortable to hold, and it feels like a high quality product. So if you’re a in the market for a nice, colorful ballpoint, you won’t go wrong with the Safari.

Review: Lamy Tipo, Rollerball, Medium Point

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Lamy is a company known for their innovative pen designs, and you can tell by the look of it that this streak has continued with the Lamy Tipo. Like Lamy’s Dailog 2, the Tipo has a unique retracting mechanism, but unlike the Dialog 2, the Tipo is relatively inexpensive, usually selling between $10-$15. This is possibly the least expensive pen that Lamy sells, and so I was obviously interested in trying it out. But, unfortunately, that low price turned out to be a bad omen.

But first, the good: the Tipo has a rather slick design. It has a smooth plastic barrel and a ribbed plastic grip section that slowly tapers toward the tip. It comes in all sorts of colors, and it manages to feel high quality, even with its all-plastic construction. Lamy’s (proprietary) M66 rollerball refill is also very nice if you like thick, dark lines.

The clip and the retracting mechanism, however, drove me a little crazy. To eject the pen, the clip has to be slid down to catch a little hole on the side of the barrel. It’s simple and works fine most of the time, but you have to be very deliberate about it or it won’t catch, which can be mildly annoying.

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But the big flaw, in my opinion, is that the plastic clip is thin and flimsy. If it gets bent or if it breaks (which is what happened to me), then the pen is simply no longer functional. Without the clip, you cannot eject the tip of the refill.

In my opinion, Lamy should have made the clip out of a more durable material, even if it meant charging an extra dollar or two. This would have made the Tipo easier to retract/eject while also making it more durable. But designed as is, I cannot recommend this pen to anyone.

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Extra Links

  • There is an aluminum version, which might be more durable, but I cannot vouch for it.
  • A review over at Inkdependence has a good photo of Lamy’s clam shell packaging, which may honestly be the best part of the Tipo. I also like the look of that orange version. But, alas, this reviewer shares the same frustrations with the clip.
  • According to The Pen Addict, if you don’t like Lamy’s proprietary refill, you can substitute the Pilot G-2 refill. Worth considering if you end up purchasing this pen, as the G-2 has many more color and size options.

Review: Faber-Castell 1423, Ballpoint, 0.5mm

While visiting the Somjai stationery store in Thailand earlier this year, I only purchased two pens. The first was the uni-ball Laknock (you can read that review here), and the second was this, the Faber-Castell 1423 Ball Pen. At 10 Thai Baht (about $1 USD), it’s not an expensive or fancy pen, but what drew me to it was the Faber-Castell name, which is primarily known to me as a high quality pencil manufacturer. As it turns out, they do manufacture plenty of pens as well, and so I was looking forward to trying one out.

Well, the 1423 doesn’t scream “premium quality” with its looks. The design is simple, and its body is entirely plastic. Probably the first thing I noticed was that the cap secures and posts very tightly. But when I got to writing with it, the overall experience was pretty good. The ink goes down dark and smooth, and it produces a clean line. However, the ink is also quite wet and will smear if you don’t give it a few extra seconds to dry.

Oddly, the 1423 feels more like a liquid ink (rollerball) pen than a ballpoint, which traditionally use oil-based inks that don’t tend to smear very much. Regardless, I like this pen, and I’ll find some use for it. But I wouldn’t suggest going all the way to a Thai stationery store to get one. A pen like the Pilot Acroball will provide a similar writing experience.

Review: uni-ball Laknock, Ballpoint, 0.5mm

I wasn’t planning to visit any stationery stores during a recent vacation to Thailand. But one afternoon, as temperatures in Chiang Mai rose to over 100ºF, we took shelter in the MAYA Shopping Center where I spotted a storefront loaded with the good stuff. The shop, I later learned, is a Thai chain called Somjai, which is full of all sorts of cool stationery and art supplies.

Unprepared and slightly overwhelmed, I didn’t end up buying much while I was there, but one item that caught my attention was this uni-ball Laknock ballpoint. I’ve reviewed a lot of uni-ball products on this blog, but I’ve never heard of the Laknock before. And, honestly, I kind of just liked the product’s name.

The Laknock is a retractable ballpoint, and it was priced at 30 Thai Baht (about $1 USD). It has a comfortable, rubbery grip and a body that is constructed with plastic. Overall, the look is very similar to your run-of-the-mill Pilot G-2. It seems to come in multiple tip sizes, but I went for the smallest one I could find at 0.5mm. For a ballpoint, this tip size feels very fine, though I do like it. However, like most ballpoints, the ink isn’t particularly dark, and I’ve experienced the occasional blobbing and smearing.

For a dollar, the Laknok is a nice ballpoint, but there’s nothing that really sets it apart from any other ballpoint you’d find for a dollar. It’s rather generic, and there’s little to say beyond that. So, if you find yourself at a stationery shop in Thailand, it wouldn’t hurt to pick up one of these ballpoints. But, otherwise, you’re not missing too much.

Review: Stabilo Sensor, Porous Point, 0.3mm

Stabilo is an old company that has been working with porous point writing tech as far back as the 1970s (when the Stabilo Boss highlighter sales began to boom). So, with decades of design and manufacturing experience under its belt, Stabilo should have the resources to create a great porous point pen. And, as a fan of porous points, I was eager to try the popular Stabilo Sensor.

The main feature of this pen is its “sensor” tip, which retracts in slightly when pressed on paper. It sounds like an intrusive feature, but it’s hardly noticeable unless you write with a very heavy hand. The product’s webpage mentions that this feature is meant to improve smoothness and comfort, but I suspect that it has more to do with extending the pen’s life.

With porous point pens, the tip is usually the first part to break down. The Sensor adds a little ‘give’ whenever too much pressure is placed on it. As far as I can tell, this feature works as intended, but it comes with a couple drawbacks. First, it’s two to three times more expensive than a cheaper option like the Monami Plus Pen 3000. It also seems to me that the Sensor doesn’t put down a line that’s quite as clean as something like The Sharpie Pen.

For me, this pen isn’t a favorite, but it’s definitely a good choice. It writes well, and it has a dark ink with minimal smear and bleed-through. It has a nice barrel design as well – both aesthetically and functionally. It has a thicker body and longer clip than most other porous points (which, for whatever reason, tend to be thin with small clips). But for anyone with a heavy hand who likes the look and feel of a porous point, the Sensor is definitely worth a try.

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