Note: this post is the fourth part of a series in which I’m learning about fountain pens. For Part 1, click here. For part 2, click here. For Part 3, click here.
When I first began looking into fountain pens, my eye immediately turned to the Lamy Safari. I love the colorful options and the slick, modern design. So, for a little more than $20, I snagged one from Amazon and looked forward to inking it up. But when I finally broke it out of its packaging, it quickly turned into a frustrating and disappointing experience.
Instead of an ink cartridge like the Zebra V-301 and Sheaffer Calligrapher, the Lamy Safari came with a cartridge converter, which is basically just the refillable version of a standard ink cartridge. It’s really pretty easy to use: (1.) pop the converter into the pen like you would with a normal cartridge, (2.) dip the pen’s nib into a bottle of ink, then (3.) use use the converter’s plunger to suck the ink up and into the pen. Pen Chalet has a 2-minute video explaining the process.
Unfortunately, when I attempted this simple procedure myself, the ink I used immediately clogged up the pen. I could get no ink to flow at all. So I cleaned the pen and the converter – a tedious process that involves a lot of water rinses – and refilled it with a different ink. This time, instead of clogging up the pen, the new ink began to leak all over the place. Did I do something wrong? Did I choose the wrong ink? Did I break the pen somehow? I couldn’t understand why I was having so much trouble.
Before I let my irritation compel me to throw the Safari out the window, I decided to consult with the fountain pen fans at Reddit, who suggested replacing the converter – perhaps the one that came with the pen was faulty. Luckily, I had ordered an extra one, so I tried it. And for a little while the pen seemed to work, but I soon realized that the leaking didn’t actually stop, it just slowed. Whenever I removed the cap, ink still smeared all over the pen and all over my hands. After a couple days of this, I was done with this pen.
So I sat down to write this post, unhappy and exasperated, when I stumbled onto a blog by Goldspot Pens. I was looking to see if others had similarly poor experiences with the Lamy Safari, and it turned out that many indeed had. Only these problems weren’t with real Lamy Safari fountain pens, they were with Safari counterfeits.
Reading further, my experiences matched closely with a blog by The Desk of Lori and a post on the FPGeeks Forum. Counterfeit Lamy Safari fountain pens seem to be sold through third party sellers on Amazon and eBay, and there are a fair few differences when comparing one to a real Lamy Safari. Small differences are easy to spot with both in hand, but the major difference is that these counterfeits are known to be barely functional. Fortunately and to Amazon’s credit, I was issued a full refund without being asked to return the counterfeit.
When I finally ordered a real Lamy Safari – this time from Goldspot, since their PSA alerted me to the counterfeit issue in the first place – my experience was much better. I chose a limited edition Neon Yellow color with an extra fine nib, and I inked it up with a bottle of Levenger’s Raven Black ink. And though the ink was more gray than I expected and the extra-fine a little too fine for my taste, I’m a lot happier.
I still have some issues with fountain pens, but they mostly come from still being a newbie. I press down a little too hard on the paper, and I fumble to get the nib turned the correct way. But, hopefully, this will all improve with time.