Today: a look at Lamy’s AL-Star mechanical pencil. The AL-Star…
One of the lovely things about Lamy pens is they all (except the 2000) use the same nibs and these nibs are very easily swapped (simply pull one nib off and push another one on). Lamy produce a wide variety of stainless steel nibs and they’re generally pretty good. They also make 14K gold versions of these nibs. The Pen Company is one of the few places where you can easily buy one of these gold nibs without a pen also being attached. This means you can upgrade any existing Lamy pen (except the 2000), from the humble Safari to the sleek Studio and beyond. Gold nibs aren’t cheap, though, so I was very grateful to The Pen Company for sending me this broad nib so I could take a look and see how it compares to its steel equivalent.
The most obvious difference is how it looks, even though it doesn’t fling it’s goldness in your face. There’s just a sliver of gold along each side of the slit. The rest of the nib is plated with platinum. The surface of the nib is plain except for this engraved lettering: “B 14K 585 LAMY”. It’s a simple look – very Lamy – and lets you know you’ve got something special without being ostentatious.
I compared a Lamy stainless steel broad nib alongside the gold broad nib. There is often a lot of variation between supposedly identical nibs and so my observations here may vary from your own experiences. Both nibs put a good amount of ink down on the paper without being gushy, but the gold nib seemed to put a little more down. I seemed to get a little more shading with the gold nib. It also flexed a little bit, which the steel one does not. Performance-wise, then, the gold nib beats the steel one, but not by much.
Both nibs are smooth, but the gold nib is smoother. This is where the difference becomes important, but hard to articulate. Gold nibs have a touch of springiness about them. They feel a little bit softer on the page. It’s a subtle difference, but it’s there, and it means that when you write with a good gold nib it feels more luxurious. It’s like when you close the door of a really good car compared to closing the door of the car you actually own: there’s a subtle difference in how it feels to close it, but you know immediately that the other car is much, much better than yours. The Lamy gold nib is better than the steel nib and you feel that as soon as you write with it, but although that difference is obvious, it’s also very subtle.
The car analogy is useful when trying to think about value, too. Is a BMW better than a Ford? Indeed it is. Is the price difference justified by the performance difference? Probably not. Does that mean it’s poor value? Not if you like how it makes you feel when you drive one. Can you buy me one? Why, yes, I don’t mind if you do, that’s very kind.
Yes, the Lamy gold nib is expensive. The nib costs twice as much as the pen I used in these pictures (a Lamy Logo). However, if you have several Lamy pens (as you should) you can buy one nib and use it in all your pens, getting a great upgrade for every one. If you only have one, then investing in a gold nib lifts the pen from good to wonderful. It makes it something special.
Lamy gold nibs are available here in extra-fine, fine, medium, broad, oblique medium and oblique broad.