lamy aion fountain pen review

Review – Lamy Aion Fountain Pen

lamy aion fountain pen review

Introduction

Lamy’s penchant for Bauhaus and industrial design hardly needs a mention, and the Lamy Aion line of pens is the latest evolution in a lineage of exactly that style that was started by the Lamy 2000 over fifty years ago. In collaboration with industrial designer Jasper Morrison, the Aion is a modern if familiar addition to the Lamy pen range.

Style

Personally, I’m a huge fan of minimalist and industrial design; give me smooth lines, robust materials, and say more with less – and from the first reveal the Aion was a perfect match. The raw aluminium is drawn from a die rather than machined, and curves gracefully towards the end of the barrel and top of the cap, with a brushed texture that goes against the flow of the pen rather than with it.

A polished cap ring and clip accent the pen without taking the spotlight off of the aluminium barrel. In my opinion the Silverolive (though I’ve yet to find the ‘olive’ part) works much better with the design than the black anodised version, and I can only imagine what an all-black version would have looked like with matching black clip. This isn’t to say the black version is bad, it wouldn’t look out of place in a boardroom or a CEO’s desk, just that the silver version just seems to represent the design a bit better.

Score: 10/10

Features

Not much to comment on here – the ballpoint is the usual twist mechanism, and the rollerball is a rollerball – cap, barrel, M63 refill, done. The caps of the rollerball and fountain pen feature a spring-loaded clip and post snugly,  but I’ve found the pen much more comfortable in size and balance without the cap. On the fountain pen is a brand new nib that just oozes style with its curvier design, and you’ll be pleased to read that it’s an excellent writer too – more on that in a bit.

Disappointingly, the fountain pen doesn’t ship with an included Z27 converter. Considering much cheaper pens such as the Logo come with one as standard, this ends up being a puzzling decision by Lamy.

Score: 8/10

lamy aion fountain pen review

Usability

Subjective opinions on look aside, one thing everyone in the office seems to agree on is that the new Z53 nib is a brilliant refinement of the classic Z50. Lamy calls it “expressive”, and I’m tempted to say that it isn’t just marketing hyperbole. I opted for the extra fine version and my first experience with it was surprising – using a wet ink (KWZ Midnight Green), the line was not quite what you might expect of an extra fine nib with a line that seemed much thicker than it ought to be.

With a dryer ink the line was a lot closer to what you’d expect. This might be an annoyance for some and understandably so, but I’d like to wager all would be forgiven once you feel just how amazingly smooth this nib is. No hypodermic needles here, the Z53 glides across the page – and I’ve tried it on almost every paper we have here, from Tomoe River paper to good old copier paper. Lamy’s Z50 steel nibs have never really been considered bad, but these new nibs are in another class – I’ve yet to experience any burping, dry starts, or skipping.

And while the nib is smooth as butter, thankfully the same can’t be said for aluminium grip. Though it looks deceptively non-grippy, the abrasive-blasted section is more than comfortable to write with, and I’ve not once had to readjust my grip.

Score: 9/10

Value for money

At just shy of £48* for the fountain pen and rollerball, and £39* for the ballpoint, the Aion is firmly priced in the mid-range of Lamy’s pens – cheaper than the Accent AL and Studio, but considerably more than the AL-Star and Safari’s, and honestly I feel it’s a fairly priced pen. A modern design with a robust construction is paired with a fantastic nib. However, the lack of a bundled converter is a glaring hole and definitely worth bearing in mind if you’re not content with the selection of colours available in Lamy’s T10 cartridges.

Additionally, the Z53 nibs are fully compatible with Lamy’s other fountain pens (Lamy 2000 excluded), so you’re well within your right to grab a stand-alone nib and swapping it out on a Safari or AL-Star. But if you don’t own a Lamy pen already (or even if you do!), the Aion is a fantastic pen if you’re looking to spend a little more for a premium feel.

* Prices correct at time of publishing!

Score: 9/10

Verdict

The Aion is a brilliant addition to Lamy’s range, and while it might be considered safe and unremarkable by some, I say it is more than worthy to follow the path laid down by the Lamy 2000 fountain pen and one of Lamy’s best collaborations yet. Lack of a bundled converter knocks some points off the final score, but overall I struggled to find much of anything to fault, especially when the nib and pen compliment each other to provide such a fantastic writing experience.

Style
Features
Usability
Value for money
The Lamy Safari Stormtrooper Pen

Star Wars Day Stromtrooper Pen

The Lamy Safari Stormtrooper Pen

A step by step guide to how to make a Star Wars Day Stormtrooper Pen

The perceptive among you are very likely to have noticed something wasn’t quite right about the Lamy Safari fountain pen featured in my review back in April – it is in fact quite non-standard. A little movie came out last year that you may or may not have seen – Star Wars Episode VII. I’ve been a huge fan of Star Wars since I was very small, and as I had just recently been introduced to the world of Lamy pens (and the modular, repairable nature of the Safari and Al-Star lines) I decided a Stormtrooper themed pen would be a fun little project. In the spirit of Star Wars Day landing on a Stationery Wednesday today, I thought it’d be the perfect time to write up a step-by-step for the pen – with a chance to win it too! Look out for a competition coming up soon on this…

Disclaimer: It’s very possible to end up with a less-than-functional pen, with a loose cap, wobbly clip, or worse – continue at your own risk! This is a “what if?” project that explores the possibilities of modifying Lamy pens – during the process the integrity of the pen will be compromised.

 

Episode I: The Preparation Menace

lamy safari stormtropper pen parts
The parts needed for the Lamy Safari Stormtroper pen

You’ll need a few very hi-tech tools before we start, and it’s a good idea to take inventory of which parts you’ll need. For parts and tools you’ll need:

  • 1x Safari Charcoal fountain pen cap* – click here to buy
  • 1x Safari White fountain pen cap* – click here to buy
  • 1x Safari Black nib unit and/or Al-Star nib unit (black nib)** – click here to buy Safari unit or here for Al-Star unit
  • 1x Safari White fountain pen barrel* – click here to buy
  • A 1p coin
  • A wooden dowel/pencil/biro – something with a 3mm diameter
  • Elbow grease

*if you happen to have spare pens lying around, feel free to salvage the parts from these! You can also make quite an ugly pen with the leftovers – otherwise we have all of these parts available as special orders direct from Lamy.

**My original pen uses an Al-Star nib unit – unfortunately these do not come with the black plastic spacer, as it is molded into the barrel of the Al-Star pen. If you want the pen to look the same, you’ll need to source the spacer from either another pen or a Safari nib unit. Alternatively you could use two full Safari pens plus an Al-Star nib unit.

 

Episode II: Attack of the Barrel

The parts needed for the Lamy Safari Stormtrooper pen Episode II
Putting the front part and barrel together

I like to start with the easy part, and it doesn’t get much easier than this. Simply screw the Al-Star nib unit along with the black plastic spacer on to the Safari barrel, job done! The barrel (along with the cap) represents the iconic glossy white armour of the Stormtroopers, while I decided to go for the Al-Star nib unit to represent the smoked black eyepieces of the helmet in addition to helping break up all the white. Alternatively, you can just use the Safari Black nib unit.

 

Episode III: Revenge of the End Cap

This part is decidedly trickier than the last. You’ll need the previously mentioned coin, dowel/pencil, and elbow grease for this part as we’ll be removing the metal clips from the pen caps. Modern Safari caps consist of 5 separate pieces, the larger of the two being the cap body itself and the metal clip. Inside, are three extra parts – the cross-shaped end cap, a rubber o-ring, and a soft-plastic internal piece for keeping the cap secure on the pen.

We’ll begin by using the coin to help loosen the crossed end cap – the cap is actually a push clip so unfortunately we can’t just unscrew it, but this should make it a bit easier to pop out. Now, using your instrument of choice, we’ll be pushing the end cap out from the inside. This is where you’re most likely to damage the pen – the interior section is unfortunately made of fairly soft plastic, and the action of removing the push clip of the end cap can cause damage to this piece. If you do this part slowly, with a steady amount of force then the piece should pop up without taking much of the internal section with it. You might find some small parts of the rim of the internal section break off, but I’ve found that this hasn’t affected my pen in any way (such as drying out or the cap not staying on.  Be sure to keep an eye out for the o-ring, as it has a tendency to pop up along with the end cap!

Repeat this step for the other cap, once again taking care not to damage the internal section (this is where spare caps come in handy).

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Pushing out the end cap
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The end cap and o-ring will come loose now
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Removing the clip

 

Step IV: A New Clip

Now that we have the caps dismantled, we can go about swapping the clips. Due to the curved nature of the clip, you want to remove one end at a time. Start by gently turning one end out of the cap, then twist the clip end up and over the lip of the cap, where the end cap had just been sitting. Then, with the clip perpendicular to the cap, simply turn the other end of the metal clip out of its hole and slide the clip off the cap. Do this for both caps.

To put the clip back on the caps, just reverse the process, doing one end at a time. You may find that you need to flex the clip a bit to get it in the holes. Be careful to not scratch the finish of the cap during this step, as the ends of the metal wire clip are fairly sharp!

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Attaching the clip to the white barrel
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How the clip should look when looking into the top

 

Step V: The End Cap Strikes Back

We’ll be putting the end cap back in the top of the cap, so get the elbow grease ready again! This part can be tricky, as the force of putting the push clip back in can force the internal section out of the cap.

Start by making sure the curve of the clip is flush against the plastic of the cap, and reseat the rubber o-ring. Next, find the right end cap (black for the white cap!) and slowly push it back into the cap. You’ll likely find that the push clip forces the interior section out, so try bracing it against the rubber end of a pencil with the rubber removed – anything wider than the 3mm diameter of the push clip, but not wide enough to get stuck in the cap! You also want to avoid plugging the hole of the internal piece where the end cap clips in as you’ll be trying for eternity – hence the pencil sans rubber.

You’ll know that the end cap is in once you feel a dull click, and the end cap itself will stick out of the cap by about 1mm – only the chamfered edge should stick out. If everything was done correctly, the metal clip of the pen should be secure enough to use. Unfortunately, during this process it’s very easy to accidentally damage or widen the interior section, making the cap not sit as securely on the pen as you’d like – the downside of a vanity project!

Pushing the internal piece and end-cap together
Pushing the internal piece and end-cap together

Step VI: Return of the Safari

That’s it! Hopefully you have a pen that’s in one piece, leak free and without a loose cap or wobbly clip. If you fancy your chances at winning the pen featured, click on to the competition page to enter – and may the Force be with you!

Lamy Safari Fountain Pen vs J. Herbin Fountain Pen

Lamy Safari vs J. Herbin Fountain Pen

Lamy Safari Fountain Pen vs J. Herbin Fountain Pen

Head to head review

Introduction

The Safari fountain pen has been a staple of the Lamy brand since the 80s, and while we at Bureau might not have stocked it for quite as many decades, we’ve definitely welcomed it as a permanent addition to our stock. The J. Herbin fountain pen is a relative new comer, having started stocking it towards the tail end of 2014 – but it’s proven a popular seller, especially when paired with a J. Herbin ink tin. As a newcomer to Bureau myself, I thought it’d be interesting to compare the two from the point of view of someone not quite as well versed in the world of fountain pens as other members of our team.

Style

Style is always a touchy subject, so full disclosure – you might very well disagree with my views on this. If you’ve read some of my staff reviews you’ll know I’m quite the fan of industrial, minimalist, and functional design – most of which the Safari pen covers. Every line on the pen has clearly been carefully considered, from the flat edges of the barrel that curve around the ink level window and flow into the sculpted grip section, to the chamfered edge of the cap – it all suggests an excellent grasp of design that doesn’t compromise functionality for the sake of looking good. For such a relatively inexpensive fountain pen, it is an absolute pleasure to look at.

On the other side is the J. Herbin fountain pen, and next to the Safari it’s quite boring – disappointing even. While the design is simple it’s not really that interesting. Almost the entire body of the pen is a clear plastic, with some chromed plastic accents finishing off the cap, clip, and barrel ring. It’s a very safe and standard design, even down to the flourish on the nib. I found it quite difficult to write about the style of the pen, simply because it is so inoffensive – other than the scuff prone chrome orb on the top of the lid which I personally think detracts from the pen more than help it. Having said all that, seeing the ink in the feed of the pen is a very redeeming feature, as it pools nicely just below the nib as you write.

Both pens feature the respective company branding, and both work well to be subtle and refined – the Herbin pen does this with slim, silver lettering on the side of the cap while the Lamy has a cleverly debossed lettering at the end of the barrel.

Scores: Lamy – 9/10. Herbin – 6/10

Lamy Safari fountain pen
Features

The standout feature of the J. Herbin pen is the completely clear barrel design, turning the entire pen into an ink level window – you’d be hard pressed to unknowingly run out of ink with this pen. The J. Herbin pen is quite a bit shorter (2.5cm capped, 3cm uncapped to be exact) than the Lamy pen, ideal for slipping into a pocket and has a no-frills clip on the cap. The pen uses the international standard cartridge type, so finding cartridges that fit the pen beyond J. Herbin’s own shouldn’t be a problem. Be wary of putting this pen down with the cap off, it’s an extremely adept roller – it’s found its way under my desk a fair few times during this review.

The Lamy pen also features the ability to view the ink level, however it does this with an understated oblong cut-out along towards the grip end of the barrel. The Lamy features its iconic (and very strong) clip on the cap, but it’s what is underneath that cap that is the Safari’s standout feature in my eyes – the swappable nib. Lamy provides a variety of nibs from extra fine to broad and everything in between, and swapping out your nib is a simple tug away. You’ll find the Lamy less likely to roll away from you on the desk, due to the barrel not being a perfect cylinder – it’s been flattened along two sides that helps prevent it from rolling (although once it gets started it’s just as spritely as the Herbin).

Scores. Lamy – 9/10. Herbin – 7/10

Usability

Personally I always prefer a larger or longer pen, as I find them far more comfortable to hold. In this regard, the Lamy Safari is one of the more pleasant to hold pens that I’ve used so far – the triangular moulded grip provides an ergonomic and comfortable position to hold the pen, while the long barrel rests snugly in the crook of the thumb and forefinger. If you go for the Charcoal or (now likely sold out Dark Lilac) the pen is even better to hold due to the matt, texturized finish. Whether you post your pen or not is of course a personal preference, however I find that doing so causes the Safari to become a little top heavy, and the lip of the cap can scratch against my hand while writing.

The overall writing experience with the Safari is very pleasant, with the fine nib gliding smoothly across the page, and with good ink flow. I’ve found the Lamy nibs to be quite forgiving when it comes to finding the “sweet spot” of where the nib writes best.

The J. Herbin pen, unfortunately, is a different experience. I have to knock some points off for the size of the pen, as I mentioned earlier the smaller pens just don’t sit as comfortably in my hand as I’d like. Luckily, posting the cap doesn’t drastically affect the balance, as the pen is very light – nor does the lip of the pen cap get in the way due to the shorter barrel letting the cap sit lower overall. The grip section of the Herbin pen is a simple tapered cylinder, and isn’t outstanding, I find it a little bit slippery and find myself having to hold it a little tighter than the Lamy.

The nib on the Herbin is much finer than that of the Lamy, comparable to their Extra Fine nib. Unfortunately this means the pen is a bit more temperamental with regards to the position of the nib on the paper – angle the pen out of the sweet spot and the writing experience becomes scratchy and unpleasant. However, I did find myself adjusting to it fairly quickly and once you find that angle the writing is much smoother, albeit not quite as smooth as the Lamy fine nib.

Scores. Lamy Safari – 9/10. Herbin – 7.5/10

J. Herbin fountain pen

Value

With the Lamy and Herbin pens costing £13.95 and £8.95 respectively, neither of these will break the bank. Taking into account the features presented by both pens, I find that despite the higher price you’re getting about the same value for money out of both pens, with a slight edge towards the Lamy. For an extra £5, you get a better build quality and the bonus of easily swapped nibs with the Lamy, although the possible downside of being dependent on Lamy’s proprietary cartridges (though we do stock Monteverde Lamy-compatible cartridges, which provide more colours than Lamy’s standard offering, the odd special edition ink excluded). Of course you can always add in a Z24/Z28 convertor for £3.75 and use any ink you could imagine. Meanwhile the J. Herbin pen may not be as nicely built, nonetheless it does have the benefit of using the international standard cartridge type, therefore being compatible with a wider range of manufacturers. It’s worth noting that the Herbin cartridges have a capacity of about 0.8 – 0.9ml, about a third less than Lamy, although how noticeable that’d be in daily use is up in the air.

Scores. Lamy – 8/10. Herbin – 8/10

Verdict

Going in to this review I knew I’d be quite biased towards the Lamy, as the design and size of the pen immediately appealed more to me than the Herbin. While I can’t quite look past some of the Herbin pens personal faults (the slipperiness being the worst offender), I’m not quite as put off by it after a week as I thought. I’ll likely always pick a longer pen given the choice, but I don’t think I’ll turn up my nose if I’m passed a shorter pocket pen – once I found the sweet spot of the J. Herbin nib it became a very pleasant and capable writer. For the price, I feel like the J. Herbin pen would be a very nice choice for people looking for a pocket-sized pen, especially with the multitude of fantastic ink colours that J. Herbin provide.

Total scores: Lamy – 35/40. Herbin – 28.5/40

Click here to see the Lamy Safari fountain pen

Click here to see the J.Herbin fountain pen

NB: All details correct at time of publishing

Please also note that Pawel has customised his Safari pen to be a ‘Stormtrooper’ pen, so that’s with an Al-Star front piece and a black clip. Possibly a side line for us one day…