Monday, March 27, 2017

Fountain Pen Review: 2017 Special Edition Lamy AL-star Pacific

Lamy AL-star PACIFIC is here!!! Woohoo!!! Lamy has granted my wish for an aquamarine AL-star this year!!! In my Charged Green AL-star review last year, I mentioned that an aquamarine or yellow AL-star fountain pen would be cool. Well, here it is. Here is the 2017 Special Edition Lamy AL-star fountain pen in a lovely metallic aquamarine color that perfectly complements the 2011 Aquamarine Safari.

Since 2014, Lamy has used compact cardboard boxes as presentation boxes for their pens, instead of the bulky plastic ones. An elastic in the felt-lined bed inside the box ensures that the pen stays in place, preventing breakage during transport. These boxes are sturdy, easy to store, and do not take up too much space. Last year's special edition AL-star and Safari pens came in similar compact boxes, too.

The 2017 Special Edition Lamy AL-star Pacific in its presentation box.

The AL-star Pacific pen in this review is a fountain pen, but the line also includes a ballpoint and a rollerball. For the last four years, Lamy has been coming up with special edition ink colors to match their special edition pens. This year, the AL-star Pacific fountain pen has an accompanying ink available in T52 bottles and Giant ink cartridges that fit most Lamy fountain pens. An ink-x eraser is also available in the same color as the Pacific pens and ink.

Lamy's recent special edition AL-star pens (Bluegreen, Copper Orange, Charged Green, and Pacific) come in lovely bright colors. The Pacific, whose color depicts both ocean and sky, has a deep, almost 'electric' aquamarine shade and green undertones in an anodized aluminum finish. I love this pen's aquamarine color because it's a happy and cheery blue.

The Pacific has a happy blue color.

The Lamy AL-star is a good pen for all fountain pen users -- newbies/beginners, collectors, students, and artists. At 22 grams and 5.5 inches (capped), the AL-star is a well-balanced fountain pen: not too short, but not too long, either. It's not heavy, but not light. It's just right for small or big hands, comfortable to use, and sturdy, too!

The AL-star's barrel has an ink window that shows the ink converter or cartridge inside. It allows me to check on my pen’s ink level without having to unscrew the barrel from the section. The AL-star's cap is round, but two sides of the barrel are flattened. The Lamy logo is etched on one side of the barrel, towards the end.

The AL-star has a transparent gray plastic section.

The AL-star's signature triangular section has a grip that gives the writer a firm hold on the pen while writing. An anti-slipping brake near the end of the section prevents the writer's fingers from slipping into the nib while writing. Unlike the Safari pens’ matching body and section materials/colors, AL-stars have transparent gray plastic section.

A great feature of Lamy fountain pens is the interchangeability of their nibs across most of their product lines. The AL-star shares the same feed and nib with the Safari, Vista, Joy, Nexx, and Studio. The available nibs are extra-fine (EF), fine (F), medium (M), broad (B), and left-handed. The AL-star can also be fitted with italic nibs ranging from 1.1mm to 1.9mm.

Lamy's proprietary piston operated Z24 and Z26 converters can be used to fill the fountain pen with ink from a bottle, but the Z24 is a more suitable converter because it has two tiny nipples that fit snugly into the small grooves in the upper part of the section. When the nipples are fitted in the grooves, the converter stays in place, preventing messy ink spills. Giant ink cartridges are also available in Pacific and Lamy's regular ink colors (blue washable, black, red, turquoise, green and blue-black).

The Z24 converter fits snugly into the AL-star section.

Lamy has previously issued two blue AL-star pens: Silver Blue and Blue Ocean. Silver Blue was discontinued in 2010 (I cannot find any reference to its year of issue), but Ocean Blue is included in Lamy's regular AL-star lineup since 2009 after its first issue as a special edition pen in 2007.
Three blue AL-star fountain pens: Silver Blue, Ocean Blue, and Pacific.

Note that the Lamy logo in the Silver Blue and Blue Ocean pens have deeper and more pronounced lines, compared to the logo of the Pacific.
The Pacific AL-star is the aluminum version of the 2011 Aquamarine Safari, but I'm not complaining.

I have done a number of AL-star and Safari fountain pen reviews in the past, but I have not discussed the differences between these two pens. The greatest difference is the pens' materials: AL-star is aluminum, Safari is plastic. The AL-star has a transparent gray plastic section, while the Safari matches the pen body's material and color. The AL-star is a bit heavier than the Safari, although this is not noticeable. Aside from these, there are some subtle differences in their design, see the photos below. 
Both pens share the same clip, but the Safari's cap has an indentation where the clip is inserted into the cap.

AL-star fountain pens have black plastic cross finials, and most Safaris have the same finials. The Safari in this picture was issued in 2011, when Lamy made Safaris with finials in the same color and material of the pen's body.
The Lamy logo is debossed in the Safari, while the outline is simply engraved in the AL-star.

The AL-star's barrel end has a plastic black button cap, while the Safari's button is from the same color and material of its body. Both are engraved "Germany."

Lamy AL-star fountain pens (from top): Aluminum, Graphite, Silver Green, Silver Blue, Ocean Blue, Black Purple, Ruby Red, Pearl, Bluegreen, Charged Green, Copper Orange, and Pacific.

The matching ink for the Pacific pen, also called Pacific, is a lovely bright turquoise/aqumarine ink with more blue than green. It reminds me of the sea and the sky on a bright summer day.

The Pacific ink is available in proprietary Lamy cartridges and in 50ml T52 bottles that come with a roll of ink blotter to clean the pen after filling, or to blot writing. The bottle has a small basin at the bottom, to allow filling when the ink level is low.

The Pacific ink (right) is the same as the Turquoise ink in Lamy's regular production line. I'm not sure why Lamy did not issue a new ink for the Pacific, or why they had to repackage their Turquoise ink. If you already have Lamy Turqouise, then getting a bottle of the Pacific is not really necessary. I noticed though, that the Pacific ink comes in the new special edition presentation box, and bottle cap matches the pen's aquamarine color.

Below are swatches of the Pacific ink together with other turquoise/aqumarine inks.

Lamy Pacific ink in single and double passes. The double passes swab shows a darker shade of the ink. 

Pacific and Turquoise. Same ink, no difference at all.

Lamy Pacific is almost similar to J. Herbin Bleu Pervenche, although the Pacific is more expressive. Pacific is lighter than Robert Oster Bondi Blue, which has more shading and sheen. 

I noticed this red sheen while looking at the double passes ink swab of the Pacific ink. It's beautiful, and I'd love to see this when I write with this ink.

The Pacific is a well-behaved ink. It has excellent flow and lubrication, medium to high shading, with average drying time. This ink is very easy to clean, does not stain, and has a pretty color.

Like all the previous special edition AL-star fountain pens, I love the Pacific and the ink that came with it. The fountain pen is versatile (has interchangeable nibs), simple, minimalistic, and helpful to newbies (triangular section grip). The metallic finish has a special glow that brings warmth to the aquamarine color of the Pacific AL-star. The AL-star may be prone to scratches because of its material, but given the proper care, these pens will last for a long time.

If you haven't gotten one of these special edition Pacific AL-star fountain pens yet, go get one now!

I received the fountain pen in this review at no cost from Lamy's authorized and exclusive distributor in the Philippines, the Times Trading Company. In the Philippines, the AL-star Pacific fountain pen and ink (and other Lamy products) are made available by Times Trading Company, through their kiosks at National Bookstore branches around Metro Manila.

Lamy products are also available at Scribe Writing Essentials, a specialty store offering fountain pens, inks, and paper products. For their complete location/address, contact numbers, and store hours, visit

Lamy AL-star pens are widely available from pen sellers worldwide. For a list of Lamy retailers, visit

Friday, March 17, 2017

Fountain Pen Inks Review: J. Herbin 1670 Anniversary Ink Bleu Ocean

In September 2012, two years after the successful launch of the revolutionary ink Rouge Hematite, J. Herbin introduced their second limited edition 1670 Anniversary Ink, Bleu Ocean. This deep blue ink was created to celebrate the adventurous sea voyages of J. Herbin to the Mughal (Mogul) Empire of India, the world's earliest center of production and processing of indigo dye during the time.

After Bleu Ocean, three more inks have been added to the 1670 Anniversary line — Stormy Grey, Emeraude de Chivor, and Caroube de Chypre — all with gold flecks and reminiscent of J. Herbin's experiences during his voyages.

I received a bottle of Bleu Ocean a couple of months after its launch, but I was unable to write a full review for a couple of reasons. The reformulated Bleu Ocean with gold flecks was launched in April 2015, replacing the previous ink without flecks. Now that I have samples of both, it's time for a review!

Two of the same: Bleu Ocean without gold flecks (left), and Bleu Ocean with gold flecks (right).

As a blue ink fanatic, Bleu Ocean has been one of my favorites. It's the only ink I use in my Ocean Blue Lamy AL-star, because their colors (and names) match. I can write with it for legal documents, journaling, calligraphy, and notetaking. When this ink was launched in 2012, J. Herbin followers were not happy with it. Its predecessor, Rouge Hematite, had a successful launch and fans raved about its color and the gold flecks in it. After the announcement for Blue Ocean's release, most people (okay, that included me) expected the ink to have silver flecks — as a follow up to Rouge Hematite, and to match the bottle's silver cord and wax seal as well. When it came out without the flecks, people were disappointed, and branded Bleu Ocean as "just another blue ink."

See the gold flecks in the bottle's opening? Cool! The 1670 bottle has a unique design, but it has a smaller opening than most other ink bottles. Filling big pens requires the help of a pipette or syringe. 

Flecks or no flecks, I love Bleu Ocean. Like its four siblings in the 1670 Anniversary line, it's a collector's item. The box design represents the life of J. Herbin as a French sailor. The 1670 bottle, despite the narrow opening, is lovely. The silver cord, wax seal, and waxed cap are beautiful, making every 1670 box and bottle true collector's items.

Gold flecks at the bottle's bottom.
The 1670 Anniversary inks box represents the life of J. Herbin as a sailor and his voyages to different places.

Although unconfirmed by J. Herbin, the blue color of Bleu Ocean seems to be derived from indigo dye, a natural plant-derived dye with a distinctive blue color. Once considered by the Greeks and the Romans as a luxury product, indigo dye is the color that is often associated with blue jeans.

To test the inks, I wrote on Tomoe River Paper using Lamy Safari and AL-star fountain pens, both with 1.1 nibs. 

Bleu Ocean reminds me of indigo Mediterranean tiles and the blue and white houses in Santorini. This exquisite ink also reminds me of both Van Gogh and Picasso and the depth and poignancy of their work. Van Gogh's Irises and Starry Night; Picasso's The Old Guitarist and The Blue Room.

Bleu Ocean evokes memories from years ago when I used to associate dark blue color with dusk and twilight and their accompanying sounds: crickets chirping, newscast on TV, my mother cooking dinner, our dog snoring, my brothers' banter.

Bleu Ocean has a dark, rich, deep blue color with soft hints of purple. It is a versatile fountain pen ink, and goes from bright purplish blue (Eclat de Saphir) to a dark, almost blue-black shade (Blue Nuit). It is more saturated than most J. Herbin inks, but flows smoothly, and can be cleaned off pen parts very easily. Fortunately, it dries faster than Rouge Hematite, and does not show any of the ugly nib creep in the fountain pens that I have inked with it.
A swab of Bleu Ocean without gold flecks. 
These ink drops took almost an hour to dry. I got this almost blue-black shade in my previous fills of Bleu Ocean in pens with broad, wet nibs.
Dark Bleu Ocean with sheen up close. Do you see this blue in Picasso's The Old Guitarist? I do.

Bleu Ocean with gold flecks was launched in 2015.

These ink drops took longer to dry than the ones without the flecks.

It's a thrill to see the gold flecks up close!

Because Bleu Ocean is a highly saturated ink, it takes longer to dry, around 8-10 seconds more than the regular Herbin inks, depending on the nib and paper. On Rhodia and Tomoe River Paper, it takes a bit longer to dry. It can be prone to smudging and is not water resistant.

It's a big help for fountain pen users to be able to clean their pens easily. Both inks are easy to clean off nibs and feeds of the two pens I used in this review, but I had a hard time taking off the gold flecks in the Lamy Z24 converter that I ended up disassembling it for a full cleanup.

Gold flecks and shading in my writing sample.
Bleu Ocean in Ocean Blue and Blue. Blue on blue.

If you use fountain pens regularly like I do, if you like J. Herbin inks, and if you have any of the 1670 Anniversary inks, I recommend getting a bottle of Bleu Ocean. Make this ink a part of your collection! The one without gold flecks has been out of production already, but the one with gold flecks is a versatile ink with beautiful shading and shimmer. Get one in your ink collection now! 

Both bottles of 1670 J. Herbin Anniversary Ink Bleu Ocean are from Exaclair USA, through the kindness of Karen Doherty, Marketing VP. 

The Tomoe River paper is from Scribe Writing Essentials, the leading distributor of fine writing instruments, specialty paper including Rhodia; fountain pen inks, including J. Herbin; and other fountain pen related accessories in the Philippines. 

J. Herbin products are widely available worldwide. For a list of authorized retailers, visit the J. Herbin website.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Fountain Pen Review: Kaweco Classic Sport Red

Kaweco welcomed 2016 with the launch of a selection of new pens, ink colors, and accessories. Four Sport pens  one for each of the following lines: Classic, Skyline, ICE, and AL  were released during the year. A bright, shiny red pen with gold trims was added to the Classic line, and my friends at the magical shop in Nürnberg sent me one to review here. I do not have many red fountain pens, and the red Classic Sport pen is the perfect addition to the small group of red pens in my collection.

The red Classic Sport fountain pen is from Kaweco's Sport Series that includes the Aluminum, Stonewashed, AC, Art, Brass, ICE, and Skyline. It is available in black, chess, guilloche, white, green, burgundy, transparent, and red. It is called the Classic because it follows the same design from the early 1940 Kaweco Sport pens. Sport pens are clipless, but clips are available from retailers in chrome, gold, or bronze finishes.

The Sport is a lightweight fountain pen, is easy to carry in one's jeans' pocket, or tuck in a bag. This small pen, however, has a unique design and becomes a full-sized pen when the cap is posted on the barrel. The pen is designed well, and Kaweco built it using high quality plastic.

Without a clip or an ink cartridge, the Classic Sport fountain pen weighs 10g (body - 6g; cap - 4g) only. Did you know that a posted Kaweco Sport fountain weighs exactly the same as the body of a Lamy Safari?

The Classic Sport fountain is ~4.10 inches with its cap on, and a short 4 inches without the cap. When the cap is posted, the pen measures 5.3 inches long — a full-sized fountain pen!

Some fountain pen users say that Kaweco Sport pens are difficult to use without posting the cap. But this pen's faceted cap is designed to be an extension of its barrel to make it a full-sized pen. The cap is also a built in roll stopper, so that even without a clip, the pen will not easily roll off a surface.

The Classic Sport fountain pen's parts — barrel, section (grip + feed + nib), and cap are in the same bright red color. The nib and feed are friction-fitted into the section, and they can be easily pulled out for a thorough cleaning. The cap is threaded and screws securely to the barrel — not typical of small pens in this price range — which is a very practical feature.

The Classic Sport fountain pen is filled with ink using cartridges or converters. Kaweco has their Premium ink cartridges for Sport fountain pens, but international standard short cartridges also fit in these fountain pens. Kaweco also offers two types of converters for Sport fountain pens: mini-converter and the squeeze converter (in my pen, pictured above) which can fill up with the same amount of ink as an international standard short cartridge (0.5–0.6 ml). However, filling it up was awkward, and squeezing it repeatedly did not fill it with ink to its full capacity. I inked this pen instead with a cartridge of Kaweco's Sunrise Orange.

The bottom of the Classic Sport fountain pen barrel is knurled, and says 'Made in Germany.' 
The Sport's oversized cap with octagonal shape is iconic and distinguishes it from other Kaweco pens.
Classic Sport pens have gold trims, including their finial (top cap), which bears the Kaweco logo.

My red Classic Sport has a medium (M) nib, but Kaweco Sport pens have nibs ranging from extra fine (XF) to double broad (BB). Other Sport pens have chrome/silver nibs, but those in the Classic line have gold plated nibs. The imprint includes the nib width (M), Kaweco logo, and the words Germany and 1883 under a filigree-like pattern.

The feed and nib of Kaweco Classic fountain pen. The nib's gold plating has discoloration in the part where it is inserted in the section, but this does not affect writing at all.

My red fountain pens: Lamy LE China, Pelikan Souveran M400, Unic, and Kaweco Classic Red.
Kaweco Sport fountain pens (from top): Calligraphy, AL (aluminum), ICE, Skyline, and Classic.

The medium nib wrote well out of the box. It's still a little narrow for my writing, but very useful when the occasion calls for small handwriting. Sunrise Orange was launched in 2016, together with Smokey Grey.

The Kaweco Classic Sport is a well-made, compact fountain pen that is portable and easy to use. The gold-plated steel nib writes well, and can easily be swapped with other Sport nibs. It's a great pen in the US$30 price range, a perfect companion for small notebooks. If you are looking for a happy fountain pen, I suggest you get this red Kaweco Classic Sport for yourself.

The Classic Sport and other Kaweco pens are widely available in many reputable sellers worldwide. For a list of sellers, visit Kaweco's Store Locator.

I received the Classic Sport fountain pen in this review free of charge from Kaweco Germany for review purposes. For more details, visit the Kaweco website.

In the Philippines, Kaweco pens are available at Scribe Writing Essentials stores in Eastwood Mall, Shangrila Plaza Mall, Glorietta 5, SM Aura, SM Megamall, and in their Cebu branches. For their complete location/address, contact numbers, and store hours, visit the Scribe website. Kaweco pens are also available at Stationer Extraordinaire.
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