FPGeeks ScoreCard Lamy Al-Star

Review Specificaitons

Lamy Al-Star Fountain Pen Specifications

Lamy Safari Charcoal & Lamy Al-Star Ruby Red

Pen Class: Intermediate ($26 to $99)
MSRP: $45.00
Street Price: $36.00

Body Material: Aluminum Body and Cap, Plastic Section
Nib Material: Steel
Nib Size: Extra Fine, Fine, Medium, Broad, 1.1mm, 1.5mm, 1.9mm
Cap Type: Slip/Snap On/Off
Post-able: Yes
Filling Mechanism: Cartridge / Converter (both proprietary)
Ink Capacity: Cartridge: 1.4 ml / 0.05 oz // Converter: 0.8 ml / 0.03 oz
Overall Weight: 22 g / 0.78 oz
Cap Weight: 10 g / 0.35 oz
Body Weight: 12 g / 0.42 oz
Overall Length Capped: 144 mm / 5.7 in
Overall Length Posted: 169 mm / 6.7 in
Body Length (not including nib): 116 mm / 4.57 in
Nib Length: 16 mm / 0.63 in
Body Length (including nib): 132 mm / 5.2 in
Cap Diameter w/o Clip: 15 mm / 0.59 in
Cap Diameter w/Clip: 19 mm / 0.75
Body Diameter: 12.5 mm / 0.49

If this pen were a movie, it would be: Shine Baby Shine (2010)

Review Dealer Prep

Lamy Al-Star Fountain Pen Dealer Prep

Dan: 7.5 – Once again Lamy has come up with a unique, intriguing box for a fountain pen that stands out against the crowd. While I wasn’t expecting something as lavish as what the Dialog 3 comes in, I feel the Safari’s packaging is more than appropriate for a pen at this price. The cardboard is pretty substantial and could probably withstand quite a bit of abuse. I really like the multiple, thin slits that give you a little preview of what’s inside. The box has this very pleasing texture that gives it a subtle checkerboard appearance. When opening the box you’ll find the pen clipped to a piece of cardboard made from the same material as the box. That piece of material fits diagonally inside the box with the entire assembly securely holding the pen inside. Most people will probably just dismiss this as a cheap box, but as a Manufacturing Engineer, I can really appreciate the simplicity and functionality of this design.

Eric: 4.25 – The Lamy Al-Star packaging is identical to that of the Lamy Safari. So, like Dan, I shall repeat myself: The Lamy Al-Star packaging can best be described as über-cool. Sure, it’s just a paper box, but the paper is heavy and quite sturdy. Sure, it’s just your standard, long box shape, but eleven cut-outs on two opposing corners break the monotony and somehow remind me of Frank Lloyd Wright architecture.

Inside the box is a strip of the same heavy paper, sitting askew or sideways, used to secure the Al-Star safely in place (the pen being clipped to the paper). Simple yet very effective. It’s great to see that Lamy was thinking outside the box while designing this one.

Review Filler Up

Lamy Al-Star Fountain Pen Fill 'er Up

Dan: 6 – The Lamy Safari comes with a single Lamy T10 cartridge, but the Z24 and Z26 converters can be used as well and must be purchased separately. There’s not much of anything special here. The Safari uses a proprietary filling system that functions well. The long Lamy cartridge definitely holds more ink than the converter so if maximum ink capacity is important then the cartridge is your only option. I decided to go with the cartridge this time and didn’t experience any problems. I inserted the cartridge before I left for work on a Monday morning and didn’t have a chance to use the pen until Tuesday evening. When I did, the feed was primed and it wrote without any hesitation.

Eric: 4 – Here again, the filling system of the Lamy Al-Star is identical to that of the Lamy Safari: Like the Lamy Studio and Safari, the Al-Star is strictly a cartridge/converter pen. That’s fairly common and I’ve learned to live with the c/c filling system being popular. But also like the Studio and Safari, the Al-Star uses a proprietary cartridge and a proprietary converter. The converter is not included with the Al-Star. To add to the confusion, Lamy makes the Z24 converter and the Z26 converter. The Z24 will fit the Al-Star and Al-Star-like pens (Safari, Vista, etc.), but not the Studio. The Z26, which is included with the Studio, will fit all c/c Lamy pens, including the Al-Star. Call three different Lamy retailers to ask which converters fit which pens and you’ll likely receive three different answers. As Lamy decided to use a proprietary converter, I wish they could have made one that fits all their pens. Unfortunately, they did not call to ask my opinion.

Review Test Drive

Dan: 6.75 – My test drive with the Lamy Al-Star wasn’t great. I kind of knew what I was getting into regarding the section issues from having used the Safari and I wasn’t too excited about having to use it again. If there was anything that I thought could save this Test Drive and make it somewhat enjoyable, it was the 1.1mm stub I ordered with the pen. It helped tremendously! It had good moderate flow that I think everyone would enjoy and was very smooth, too. I had so much fun writing with this nib I almost forgot about the section and my awkward grip required to make it work. Almost. I’ll also say that the clear section and aluminum barrel make a subtle improvement in the overall look and feel of the pen.

Eric: 8.25 – My Lamy Al-Star Test Drive was every bit as fun as my Test Drive with the Safari, the only noticeable differences being the ink color, the shine of the Al-Star, and the nib width (Extra Fine on the Al-Star as opposed to Medium on the Safari). The pen felt good in my hand, there was no skipping and there were no hesitations. Unlike my Safari, the flow of the Al-Star was spot-on perfect.

Review Under the Hood

Lamy Al-Star Fountain Pen Under the HoodDan: 8 – With the cap removed, the only difference between the Safari and the Al-Star is the clear section of the Al-Star and the different color nib. I really wish all the nib sizes were available in black. The Lamy Safari is only available with a steel nib and in a wide variety of widths. You have the option of getting a black or steel nib in EF, F, M, and B. There’s also 1.1, 1.5, and 1.9mm stubs but only available in steel. This nib actually scores major points with me because it is available in so many options and it is incredibly smooth.

Eric: 6.5 – My Al-Star has an Extra Fine nib installed, but I would say it writes much more like a Fine. There’s nothing in the line width that I would call Extra Fine. As with many of the Lamy pens and as Dan has recounted, the Al-Star benefits from the incredible versatility of the Lamy nib system. Nibs are available in Extra Fine, Fine, Medium, Broad, 1.1mm, 1.5mm and 1.9mm widths. All nibs can be slipped out and replaced “on the fly” with many Lamy pens (Safari, Al-Star, Studio, Vista, Joy, CP1, Accent and Logo).

Review Performance

Dan: 7 – This 1.1 stub nib is awesome! The flow was perfect and consistent and the nib was nice and smooth. I filled the Al-Star with Rohrer & Klingner Magenta and was impressed by the subtle shading produced by the ink and nib combination. I never once experienced a hard start, skip, or scratch the entire time I used the pen. Everything else about the pen was very good. The cap posted solidly and didn’t budge even after I whipped the pen back and forth several times.

Eric: 7.25 – The Al-Star’s performance mirrors that of the Lamy Safari with the exception that the “out of the box” flow of my Al-Star was much more to my liking. The Al-Star never skips and never hesitates. I can’t imagine the what circumstances would be required to induce a hard start. Like the Safari, the Al-Star is a pen that simply gets the job done. If you like a pen that writes when you touch the nib to paper, you’ll be quite pleased with a Lamy Al-Star.

Review Design Notes

Dan: 8 – The Lamy Al-Star was designed and produced in 1997 by Wolfgang Fabian. It’s darn near a carbon copy of the Safari, except for its clear section and aluminum cap and barrel. The section is clear because the Al-Star “has nothing to hide” and aluminum was used because, at the time, it was a high-tech material being used in high performance automobiles. It’s interesting seeing that correlation today as several companies have recently released pens made from carbon fiber, another material used in high-end automobiles.

Eric: 8 – Yet another review in which I have to confess that I like the design of the pen’s clip. I suppose this was inevitable, since the clip on the Lamy Al-Star is identical to that of the Safari. I’ll even repeat here that when I hold the pen with the clip facing the ceiling, I’m always reminded of th magnetic spinning wheel toy, the Wheel-lo. While I like the design of the Al-Star’s clip, it’s attached to the pen in a different way from the Safari and is very loosey-goosey compared to the rock solid clip of the Safari.

The Al-Star, like the Safari, is a go-anywhere, toss in your book bag, tote or purse type of pen. I like the slip cap. The shape of the section/grip is cool and I find it comfortable for quick notes. The ink windows (ink portholes) are useful and cool. As Dan mentions, the body and cap of the Al-Star are aluminum, which adds some high-tech coolness to the pen’s look and feel.

Review Detailing

Dan: 8.5 – The Lamy Al-Star does just as well, if not better than the Safari when it comes to detailing. Since the cap and barrel are made from aluminum you’re not going to find any flashing from the injection molding process. If I hadn’t removed the barrel and looked at the section threads I wouldn’t have noticed them on the section, either. They’re very well hidden from sight but not so much from feel. The centerline of the mold used to create the section corresponds to the bottom edge of each of the flat surfaces on the section, so you can’t see the flashing left behind except as the edge that the flat surface makes with the round part of the section. But, you can feel a difference between the two edges of the same flat surface; one is much smoother. I wonder why Lamy didn’t smooth this edge. I can’t imagine it would add much time or cost to the manufacturing process. I feel that the Al-Star is so well finished as it is, that they might as well take that extra step and make it perfect.

Eric: 8 – I was eager to give the Al-Star a slightly higher score than the Safari in this category, but the not-well-secured clip of my Al-Star won’t allow it. All other Detailing items on the Al-Star are top-notch, as would be expected of an aluminum pen. However, the loose clip is going to drive me bonkers.

Review 21 Minute Road Trip

Dan: 6.5 – For being nearly identical to the Safari, the Al-Star’s Road Trip was very much more enjoyable. Obviously nothing changed about the grip. The difference was all because of the nib. If you haven’t used a Lamy 1.1 you need to order right now. I could see myself having one installed in every Lamy pen I own that’ll accept one.

Eric: 7.25 – The Lamy Al-Star is a good looking utilitarian pen that will take you to your destination without skipping, without hesitation, and without complaint. As with the Safari, the longer I wrote with the Al-Star the more annoyed I became with the two indentations on the pen’s section/grip. I would not use the Al-Star for long writing sessions, but for quick notes – especially on the go – the Al-Star is great. Whether or not the indentations on the grip will bother you I cannot say. They are intended to help you hold the pen correctly as you write. “Correctly,” however, when it comes to fountain pens, is fairly relative. If you happen to hold a fountain pen exactly as the Lamy Al-Star desires, you’ll likely find the pen comfy-cozy (if a bit thin at the section/grip). If you prefer a degree or two of rotation either clockwise or counter-clockwise, you may not care of the Al-Star when it comes to Road Trips.

Lamy Al-Star Writing Sample

Review The Checkered Flag

Nibs easily swappable on the fly
Plethora of nib sizes available
Many color options
Not all nib sizes available in black
Clip may be loose
Proprietary C/C filler

Famous Last Words:

Dan: The Lamy Al-Star is a great pen and a nice little step up from the Safari. I really like the aluminum bits over the injection molded parts but I’m not crazy about the clear section. I definitely think the increase in price is worth it, but the Al-Star isn’t so good that I can recommend it over the Safari. If you can get past the funky shaped section then you won’t go wrong with either pen.

Eric: The Lamy Al-Star is an affordable, fun, go anywhere pen that looks good in aluminum. I’ve now ordered two Al-Stars and both have had the loosey-goosey clip, which is disappointing. Assuming a wobbly clip doesn’t bother you, then you’d simply need to test drive an Al-Star to see how your fingers feel about the indentations on the grip.

This pen was purchased for review.

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  • http://www.pretenseofknowledge.com/ Chris Meisenzahl (@speedmaster)

    Great review and pics, legendary pen!

  • Andrew

    I have a Lamy AL-Star that must be about 15 years old. It was one of the 1st fountain pens I got, and has always been a great performer. I think the nib is actually starting to wear out, but I can probably improve it with some polishing — once your nib tutorial posts. My only complaint is that several years ago the section cracked from stress right near the end, and started to leak ink. I’m just in the middle of a repair I started this week: I used epoxy to seal the crack/leak, and now have to grind down some epoxy to reshape the end of the section so the cap will click on again. I might just have to buy a new section for $20, but by then I’m halfway to a new pen with a new nib, so…

  • http://www.gregminuskin.com Greg Minuskin

    Great review Eric and Dan! These pens are really great performers for the price point and the cool thing about them is that they are light in the hand, don’t leak, and have really good feedback to the user!

  • Patrick Clifford

    Great review (as usual)

    Thanks guys


  • http://monkeyphotomcr.blogspot.com/ John the Monkey

    I’ve a Blue Al-Star that I like a lot – I find the cap wobbles slightly more than on the Safari and Vista, can’t say I’ve noticed the loose clip personally though.

    I think the comment in the last podcast about feeling like the ideal hold for the pen is a couple of degrees to the side of where it “wants” you to hold it is spot on – I like the pens for their reliability, build quality and nib options, but don’t think I’d reach for them for writing a long letter.

    FWIW, Lamy’s EF is a great nib for the small spaces in some planners (and easily smooth enough for sketching), and I’d recommend that, and the fun italic options as ideal first nib swaps.

  • Andrew

    I’ve been using these pens for years but never really realized that my fingers weren’t sitting properly on the grip. That’s probably because I hold the pen further back. Now I can’t get the idea out of my head that the nib should be rotated slightly. Thanks for the inception ;)
    Also since the cartridge holds more ink than the converter, and is easily refillable with a blunt syringe, couldn’t we think of it as an eyedropper filling system with insulation?

  • http://diysara.com Sara

    That is one sexay pen ^^

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  • Bill Wood

    I love the aluminum and it feels much more substantial than the clear Safari. Unfortunatetlymi have a bad bunch of medium nibs. They were a bit scratchy and I had to adjust the tines. Other than that it’s a great pen with a little heft.

  • Andrew

    I have purchased an AL-Star with a 1.1 stub as a result of this review (in Purple), and am really liking it. I notice that the nib squeaks sometimes, depending on the paper. Has anyone else noticed this? What is the cause?

    • mike

      I have the 1.1 stub and it looks like its faulty. The slit is not centered and it picks up paper fibers that gather inside the nib.

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