Monday, September 4, 2017

Fountain Pen Review: 2017 Special Edition Lamy Safari Petrol

After surprising fans last year with a matte purple pen, Lamy launched another matte-finished Safari in 2017. Done with the batch of flashy green neon pens, Lamy makes up with two consecutive matte-finished, black-trimmed pens: Dark Lilac and Petrol.

Lamy's Special Edition Safari pen for 2017 is called Petrol. I have a fountain pen, but the Petrol Safari collection also includes a rollerball and a ballpoint. Petrol is not a 'limited edition' pen like the previous ones, but a 'special edition' Safari. I received the Petrol fountain pen and its matching ink in this review at no cost from Lamy's authorized and exclusive distributor in the Philippines, Times Trading Company.

Petrol Safari fountain pen in box. 
Times Trading, through its sellers in the Philippines, includes a T10 ink cartridge
and a Lamy Z28 converter for every purchase of the Petrol Safari.

Lamy released the Petrol Safari fountain pen in a packaging similar to that of the 2014 Neon Coral and 2016 Dark Lilac. Instead of the old, bulky plastic pen box, Lamy now uses laminated cardboard boxes with the year's color theme for their special and limited edition pens. The laminated pen box is enclosed in a sleeve of simple white board.

Many waited for the Petrol Safari's release after its announcement in December 2016. Similar to the Dark Lilac, the 2017 special edition pen is not glossy and bright (read: neon). Instead, the Petrol has a muted and subdued deep teal color in a matte finish. After the 2016 Dark Lilac, Lamy brought back the combination black clip/black nib used in the early edition Safari pens. The combination looks better on the Petrol, instead of the shiny chrome clip and nib.

The Lamy Safari is a student pen, called 'starter pen' by fountain pen enthusiasts. The Petrol Safari with its matte finish is still made from the sturdy ABS plastic – the same material used in Lego blocks, keyboard keycaps, inner walls of refrigerators, and the filament commonly used in 3D printers. Designed by Wolfgang Fabian, the first Safari pen was presented during the 1980 Frankfurt exhibition (read more in Lamy's Company History) and has been in Lamy's regular production since then. Despite some fountain pen enthusiasts' low regard for this plastic pen, a number of fans around the world collect the Safari and its aluminum cousin, Lamy Al-star.

The Petrol Safari's parts are: barrel, section (grip + feed + nib), converter, and cap. The Z28 converter (new version of the Z24) was included in the box, together with a T10 cartridge in blue. Safari fountain pens measure 5.5 inches when capped, 5 inches without the cap, and 6.5 inches if the cap is posted. It's a lightweight pen and can be used for extended periods of writing. The cap with the oversized clip is 2.5 inches long, the length from the nib to converter is 4.6 inches, while the barrel measures about 3 inches.

Lamy's proprietary piston operated Z28 converters are used to fill the Safari fountain pen with ink from a bottle, but T10 Giant Ink cartridges are also available.

Petrol shares the same finial (top cap button) with those of previous limited edition Safaris: Lime Green (2008), Neon (2013), Neon Coral (2014), Neon Lime (2015), and Dark Lilac (2016). In their previous limited edition pens, Lamy used different finial styles such as the button-type for 2009's Creme Gelb and Pink limited edition pens, and the cross-type finial in the same body color used in Aquamarine (2011) and Green (2012). Below is a photo of different Safari finials from my review of the 2015 Neon Lime.

Safari fountain pen finials. 
Lamy issued different finials for the limited and special edition Safari fountain pens.
Lamy's triangular grip. 
It's a helpful feature for beginners, but some people find it uncomfortable.

Some people do not like the Safari's triangular grip, saying it is uncomfortable and annoying. This feature, however, is designed to make writing easier — it is meant as a guide for users to have a firm and secure grip on the pen. An anti-slipping brake near the end of the section prevents a user’s fingers from slipping into the nib while writing. I do not find the triangular grip uncomfortable at all. I actually do not notice it when I'm using my Safari pens.

Lamy's interchangeable nibs are very useful. A Safari fountain pen uses the same feed and nib as those on the Vista, Al-Star, Joy, Nexx, and Studio. Due to the color difference, my nib options for the Petrol is limited only to a broad nib from an older Safari. For calligraphy, I used a 1.5 nib on it, but the color difference bothers me. But that's just me. Any Lamy nib for the Safari, chrome or otherwise, will fit the Petrol.

Safari fountain pens bought in the Philippines have medium nibs, but other nib sizes are available: extra-fine, fine, broad, and left-handed. The Safari can also be fitted with an italic nib ranging from 1.1mm to 1.9mm.

Lamy Safari through the years. 
Limited and special edition Safari fountain pens from 2008 Lime (topmost) to the 2017 Petrol (bottom).
Safari fountain pens in matte finish: Umbra, Dark Lilac, and Petrol. 
The first Safari, Savannagr√ľn, and the Terracot and Griso pens that followed all had a matte finish.
Fans are waiting for Lamy to reissue these pens.

When Times Trading sent the Petrol Safari pen to me, they kindly included a bottle of Petrol ink, a matching ink color for the 2017 special edition fountain pen.

The 50ml Petrol ink is in a Lamy T52 bottle that comes with a roll of blotter that can be used to clean a 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.

Lamy offers special edition inks together with their special edition pens beginning with the 2014 Neon Coral Safari. I love blue inks, and the 2017 special edition Petrol, a perfect color match to the Safari pen, is an excellent addition to my growing collection of blue inks. Petrol has a deep blue-green teal color with red sheen. It has medium shading that is easily seen when used in a wide nib such as the 1.5 italic nib I used in my calligraphy doodles (photos towards the end of the review). Petrol is a highly saturated ink, but flows smoothly and is not too difficult to clean off the converter and pen.

Petrol's deep color makes it suitable for daily note taking, or for business purposes. It is sold in 50ml bottles, but ink cartridges are also available.

Petrol ink writing sample.
A dark blue-green teal ink with medium shading and red sheen, Petrol can be used daily for business.
Petrol ink swab.
A single pass of Petrol shows the depth of this dark teal ink. 
Petrol ink swab.
Twice swabbed, Petrol is dark and deep, and the sheen is now visible.
Petrol has sheen!

Below are photos of calligraphy doodles I wrote using the Petrol fountain pen/ink combination. I swapped the medium nib of my pen to a 1.5 italic to write these. Both photos are posted on my Instagram page,

Similar to the Dark Lilac, Petrol's unique color makes it a stand out -- the deep teal changes with the light, or its background. It can look very dark in soft light or bright background, but changes to a lighter blue green against a dark background. It's a different Lamy Safari, and another one to add on to my Lamy Safari collection.

If you want to get a Petrol Safari, you better get one now. It's almost sold out, and to date, Lamy will not be making this special edition pen and ink combination anymore. Go get yourself a Petrol pen and ink now!

Lamy Safari pens are widely available from pen sellers worldwide. For a global search of Lamy retailers, visit:

In the Philippines, the Petrol Safari (and other Lamy products) is made available by Times Trading Company, through branches of National Bookstore and Scribe Writing Essentials.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Fountain Pen Review: BENU Classic Ghost White Silver

Since 2008, I have reviewed a number of fountain pens from Germany, Japan, Taiwan, and the United States. I have also reviewed pen-related products from Australia, China, France, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. Now, for the first time in Rants of the Archer, I am honored to write the first-ever review of BENU Pens' Classic fountain pen, an emerging and promising pen brand from Russia.

I came across BENU Pens in October last year, a few months after the Moscow-based brand was launched. I was impressed by their wide selection of vibrant pen colors and material textures. I saw colorful, shiny, and pearlescent pen barrels, some of which have gold and silver inserts. In March, I was surprised to be discussing pen reviews with one of BENU's founders, Kate Dmitrieva, who let me choose three pens to review at Rants of the Archer.

Fountain pens from BENU's Classic Collection: Turquoise Blue Silver, Midsummer Bronze, and Ghost White Silver.

One of the pens I chose was a white pen, and Kate sent me the Ghost White fountain pen in silver trims. It was love at first sight. The Ghost White fountain pen is elegant, sophisticated, and classic. I am excited to review this beautiful and unique pen, but before that, here is a short glimpse into my fascination with Russia.

I have always loved reading even as a young elementary pupil, and my fascination with the country began with reading books, and looking through an old, tattered world map in our school's small library. Russia's vastness mesmerized the 10-year-old me, and I believe Robert K. Massie's words summarized my fascination: "So immense were the Tsar's dominions that, as night began to fall along their western borders, day already was breaking on their Pacific coast."

It was a book which I salvaged from a trash can near my high school that truly stirred my interest in Russia. Frederick Forsyth's The Devil's Alternative was both entertainment and education, and I was left craving for more. That led me to Ludlum and Clancy. In college, I hang around with the Russian physiologist Ivan Pavlov for several semesters while I studied classical conditioning. But it was Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment and The Brothers Karamazov that eventually took me to St. Petersburg.

Snippets from Fyodor Dostoevsky's novels.

Recently, a friend tagged me along when he joined the postcard exchange program The postcard exchange took me on a virtual tour of Russia. I saw churches: The Church of Our Savior on the Spilled Blood, St. Basil's Cathedral, the Cathedral of Christ the Savior; and monasteries: Novodevitchiy Monastery and Kurskaya Korennaya Pustyn. I also saw the State Historical Museum, the Bolsheokhtinsky Bridge across the Neva River, and the Moscow Kremlin.

From Russia with love: postcards and fountain pen.

I read and learned about Russia through literature and postcards, but my conversations with Kate and the pens that she sent brought me closer to the country. And to Pavlov, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, and Chekhov.

BENU Pens is a young pen company launched in early 2016 by co-founders Alex Semanin and Kate Dmitrieva with one goal in mind: to make writing instruments and desk accessories for those who prefer bright colors and new designs that are playful, stylish, and fun.

Alex and Kate previously worked together in Russia's fine watch industry. Alex was the Chief Designer and Director of Product Development and Innovation at the Nika Group Company, where he helped launch several collections of gold and silver writing instruments, accessories, and watches. When Alex decided to create his own line of writing instruments, Kate decided to join him, bringing in her experience as the General Manager of Konstantin Chaykin, a daughter company of the Nika Group.

BENU Ghost White fountain pen inside the box.

BENU fountain pens are presented in elegant gray cardboard boxes that are lined with thin and long shreds of paper. Inside the box, the pen is wrapped in kraft paper and secured by jute twine. Printed on one side of the kraft paper is a brief description of BENU Pens, and product care for their pens.

The pens have uniform shape and size, all handcrafted and made in-house in the company's own Moscow-based workshop. The pen in this review is a fountain pen, but it is also offered as a ballpoint.

The company currently offers three collections of fountain pens and ballpoints:
  1. The Classic Collection includes fountain pens and ballpoints in over 30 color combinations. Most pens in the Classic collection have pearlescent or aventurescent effects and various inserts, such as golden and silver leaves, to achieve a luminous, eye-catching look and to enrich pen’s color.
  2. The Ornate Collection includes fountain pens and ballpoints with geometrical or skull pattern. 
  3. The Sublime Collection includes a limited number of fountain pens with contrasting color combinations. The Sublime collection is produced in limited editions, numbering from 1 to 10 pens only.

The Ghost White Silver fountain pen belongs to BENU's Classic Collection and is also available with gold-plated trims. BENU Pens designed it to echo the alluring romanticism of ghost stories. Crafted from misty, airy pearlescent material, the Ghost White fountain pen is drenched in the mystique and lightness of a white phantom.

I used the Ghost White fountain pen daily for a week, and found it to be an excellent pen. It's a good pen for all fountain pen users -- newbies/beginners, collectors, students, and artists. Uncapped, it weighs 22 grams (similar to a Lamy AL-star's weight) which is just right in the hand. This bullet-shaped compact pen measures 4.9 inches long (only a bit longer than a Kaweco Sport). The Ghost White fountain pen is a light and compact pen that is just right for daily use: note-taking, journaling, and even sketching.

I also noticed the pen's exceptional gloss and shine. The cap, section, and barrel are spotless, shiny, and very smooth to the touch. The aventurescent resin from which this pen was made from was perfectly polished to a beautiful shine.

Due to their streamlined compact size, fountain pens from BENU's Collections are not fitted with converters and can only accommodate cartridges. Each fountain pen is packaged with a short international Schneider cartridge, but I filled the Ghost White fountain pen with Iroshizuku Asa-gao.

BENU Pens has indicated that they are about to launch a new fountain pen collection soon. The new fountain pens will be longer in size, fitted with converters, and will have clips and postable caps.

The Ghost White fountain pen parts: barrel, section (feed + nib), and cap.

The cap and barrel of this pen are made from high-quality, non-toxic, scratch- and wear-resistant aventurescent resin. BENU pens are created from high-quality resin of different colors with glossy, pearlescent, or jewel-dazzling star effect. To ensure one of a kind look, BENU's artisans prepare the resin for each pen separately, and carefully matches the colors by hand.

BENU Pens took great care in creating a pen ergonomically designed to fit a hand perfectly. The cap and barrel of this fountain pen are bullet-shaped and taper off toward the end, making the fountain pen comfortable to use.
It is noteworthy that in BENU pen production, the last step is cap assembly. Their fountain pens have screw on caps, and to secure the locking mechanism of the pen’s cap, the company uses the square thread. Though difficult to fabricate, the square thread has the lowest friction, which makes it the most efficient thread form known.

This pen's design does not include a clip, and won't allow the cap to be posted as well. But that's fine, as I do not post my pens. I am missing a clip, though. Also, I am not comfortable that I cannot fully take apart this fountain pen. I usually disassemble pens for thorough cleaning and even drying. Cleaning pens for reinking or storage is always a must for me.

BENU pens have decorative cap rings in rhodium plated brass or gold plated brass. These rings are attached to the cap and bear the BENU logo.

BENU logo on the cap ring.

BENU fountain pen parts are handcrafted in-house, except for their nibs. BENU fountain pens are fitted with Schmidt nibs that have high-quality JoWo and Bock nibs. The available nib sizes are Fine (F), Medium (M), or Broad (B). My fountain pen has a medium nib that wrote very smoothly out of the box. I did not experience a hardstart, skipping, or ink blobbing. I love writing with it, especially in my bullet journal.

The Ghost White fountain pen's section is very comfortable in the hand. Despite its gloss and shine, I did not experience my writing fingers sliding in the section's surface.

The Ghost White fountain pen's section is comfortable even in prolonged writing sessions.

Another white pen with a medium Schmidt nib, Retro 51 Scriptmaster II Maryanne.
BENU Ghost White with Retro 51 Scriptmaster and Pelikan M400.
Iroshizuku Asa-gao is a perfect ink partner for the Ghost White fountain pen.
Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, and Chekov would have been proud of this pen. 

If you are a new fountain pen user or a collector, this fountain pen (and other BENU pens) is for you! The Ghost White fountain pen is elegant, yet strong. It writes smoothly, durable, and is available in more than 40 colors! What are you waiting for? Order your pen now! To order, visit BENU's Online Store.

The Ghost White fountain pen in this review is provided by BENU Pens where it retails for US$90. For more details on purchasing pens from BENU, visit their website at

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
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