in Pens

Back to basics – still use my first Safari

with F nib and Noodler's Black, on a squared Moleskine cahier

Even given all of the pens and inks that I own, which is quite a large quantity of both, when I am working (as opposed to messing about swapping pens) the one that I most often find myself picking up is the one pictured – a Safari with an F nib, filled with Noodler’s Bulletproof Black. I’m fairly sure this was the first Safari that I bought; you can tell it’s an old one since they discontinued models with the black clip a little while ago.

Some people dislike Safaris, but apart from not liking the angled grip (which is fair enough) I can’t quite see the reasons.

  • Safaris are cheap. Well, not cheap-cheap but they’re not very expensive.
  • They’re also quite easily available, though if you want different nibs (see below) you’ll likely have to order over the net.
  • They’re light, yet surprisingly durable. This one is several years old and doesn’t have a single crack, and not even many scratches. Plastic construction doesn’t mean fragility – after all, look at Parker 51s, they have plastic bodies and are regularly in working order after 50+ years. This plus the price mean that they’re good for carrying in almost any circumstance – hiking, warzones etc.
  • They’re large enough to feel good in the hand and not get lost, but not so large that they’re silly.
  • They have slip caps, but the caps actually come off less in my bag than most screw cap pens I own. And if you’re working, and you pick up and put down your pen quite a lot, a slip cap is much more convenient and less annoying than a screw cap.
  • You can swap out the nibs with great ease, and new nibs are cheap, and there are many types – not only EF to B, but also italics from 1.1 to 1.9mm, and you can even get such things as broad and medium obliques. They’re also generally good quality – Lamy use the same nibs for Safaris and also some higher-end pens – although I’ve never been hugely impressed by the EFs.
  • They come in a variety of bright and pleasant colours, but aren’t over-ornamented. This makes it easy to have a selection with different nibs and inks and quickly tell which is which.

If it weren’t for the Safari, I probably wouldn’t have revived my interest in fountain pens at all, which does make me well-disposed to them in general, but if it weren’t for the simple “pick-up-and-write” usability of them I’d just be nostalgic and not a continuing user.

  • John Campion

    I like Safaris, but perhaps heretically, prefer the AL-Star.  My Safari sports an EF that I like very much, fwiw, although it’s more like a fine in my opinion.

    My “take everywhere” pen is a Schneider Base – cost about £8, solidly built, and hugely reliable.

  • ordinal

    People seem to have a distinct preference for either the Safari or the Al-Star. I have a feeling that it may be to do with the feel of the aluminium and the different balance – the Al-Star’s barrel is relatively a lot heavier. Well, that’s my morning pointless speculation, anyway.

  • William

    I’ve been reading Chasing Daisies for a while now, which is odd because I’ve never owned a fountain pen or nice notebook.  Anyway, curiosity got the better of me and I just bought a Safari with Fine tip on Amazon.  I was surprised that there were no instructions included with it, and I looked on Lamy’s website and there are no manuals for the Safari there.

    Is there anything a first time fountain pen user should know?  Obviously I figured out how to activate the included cartridge and the pen does work, but I wonder if there’s more that I need to know.  If I enjoy using it, I’ll pursue the refillable cartridge, but that will come later.  My first impression after using it for 5 minutes is remorse that I didn’t get a broader tip.

  • ordinal

    I’m not sure that there’s anything specific that I’d advise – the Safari is designed to be generally reliable and predictable and not require any special care. I suppose “don’t leave it uncapped for ages” but that isn’t unusual for pens in general, and reviving them is usually just a matter of a splash of water anyway. Hm. Don’t drop it nib downwards? Another easy one really.

    If you like the idea of a broader nib I would say buy a medium or broad replacement – they are not too expensive and very easy to change. (They just slip on and off the feed. I usually use a bit of Scotch tape on the upper surface for friction to take them off.) I tend to buy mine from Cultpens or The Writing Desk in the UK, but there seem to be some on Amazon USA, and probably eBay and so on, and I see that Goulet Pens has them for $10.50 – http://www.gouletpens.com/Replacement_Nibs_s/989.htm

    I find the Lamy medium nib a good general-purpose size for writing, and gives a good effect with shading ink – I have a few of them. The one broad nib that I have is not very much larger in practice and also quite comfortable. I wrote quite a bit of last year’s NaNoWriMo novel with it.

  • William

    I think I was freaked out by the lack of instructions because a friend of mine had a fountain pen phase 10 years ago (after the electronic music phase and before the computer animation phase) during which he would get extremely agitated if anyone picked up his pen.  He claimed that the nib was getting trained to his exact touch and pressure and anyone else using it would confuse it.

    I’m getting more used to the fine point but still may pursue a medium.  Thanks for the response.