Lamy Safari 2017 Special Edition: Petrol


The first fountain pen I ever bought myself was a Charcoal Lamy Safari when I first moved to London almost ten years ago. What a whimsical memory! It was certainly not true love, though, which I blame on the Medium nib I was not quite ready for, and the fact that I just tossed in the truly abysmal Lamy Blue cartridge that came with the pen.

Something about a Safari keeps you coming back, though, and when I fell hard into fountain pens again last year, the first one I bought was a Lamy Vista, which I immediately and deeply loved.

But I am not an undying Safari fan, and I have no intention of being a collector. When the 2017 Special Edition was released, though, I knew I would end up with it. I just straight up love how it looks, and although I held off for a while, these pens are just too affordable to talk yourself out of for very long.

I just love the cut of the Petrol’s jib – love the black clip and black nib and the matte body. I even love that they called it Petrol. I won’t go too in depth as far as the pen’s performance, because you can read actually hundreds of other Safari reviews. But I will say that when you buy a Safari, you know you’re getting a pen that is basically indestructible. That first Safari I bought, which was hardly cherished, managed to stick with me through two moves across the Atlantic. Love them or hate them, these pens are nothing if not reliable.

The Ink

I bought my Petrol Safari at a Paperchase in a District Line Tube station and it came with a box of five Petrol ink cartridges. I’m really into this ink. It’s a dark teal/green-black with some good shading. I’ll probably pick up a couple more boxes of cartridges. I don’t own a bottle of Lamy ink and would love for Petrol to be the first, but they’re quite hard to get hold of and I’m not going to stress myself out trying to find one. I’m very happy to be able to try it out in cartridges, though.

Petrol Sample1

And I’m not going to worry too much about its limited availability because, while it’s the only teal ink I own, I don’t think it’s incredibly unique. I’m not generally concerned about matching pen and ink colours, but I would love to keep a teal ink in the Petrol Safari and I think there are many other suitable inks out there. Diamine Teal would be totally legit to keep in this pen when I run out of Petrol cartridges.


To my eye, Lamy has gotten this Safari just right. And while I’m not too bothered about its Special Edition-ness, I am very pleased that I didn’t miss out on this one.

Budget Beaut: Helix Oxford Fountain Pen


I started this blog with a bang of excitement and enthusiasm, as I have with a few other blogs in my time. You can, with a little dedicated Googling, find the cadavers of other blogs I have abandoned along the way. This will not be one of those! My excuse is that right after Christmas, we decided to sell our house and change absolutely every aspect of our life and that is an INCREDIBLY DISTRACTING THING TO DO and we are still very much in the gunky, coagulated thick of it. Also, the number keys on my Chromebook stopped working, so I can’t even log into it and that proved to be really rather inconvenient.

UGH ANYWAY – I bought this laptop a few days ago and every single one of the backlit keys works as it should! So my first thought was, “I can type about pens again!” And then it dawned on me that I haven’t bought any stationery because we’ve been in a limbo of thinking we’re moving so-don’t-you-dare-bring-anything-into-this-house-that-we-then-have-to-pack-up-any-day-now-and-carry-out-of-here-no-matter-how-small-or-cheap!

And then today my mother-in-law gave me some really very awesome thoughtful birthday presents and one of them was this pen. And it’s such a splendid little gem of a surprise that I immediately came home and hand-wrote this whole rambleview (a rambling review!!) with it and then typed it out on my flash new laptop (with a little background music of my neighbours having a total nuclear brawl in the backyard. They seem determined to throw each other through the fence separating our yards, but at press time, the fence is valiantly holding out.) MOVING ON. From this topic and from this neighbourhood, please God.


This seems to be marketed as a student pen. It’s made by the company that made every compass and protractor that every kid has used in every geometry class in every country in EVERY WORLD – Helix.

When I first picked up the pen, I was struck by how solid and weighty it feels. It seems to be lacquer over a metal body, but I suppose it could be plastic. As far as I can tell, it only comes in one colour – a very deep navy blue with chrome accents, including the very sturdy but flexible pocket clip. There is nothing flashy about the pen, but the construction is surprisingly top-notch for something you can pick up for £5 – £7.

The cap is a pull-off, push-on and closes with the loveliest of clicks. It posts well and it’s really an incredibly well-balanced pen. I generally write with my pens unposted, but I love the feel of writing with this pen posted. It’s not too long or back heavy.

I’d say the nib writes a line on par with a steel Lamy F nib. It has a smooth and consistent flow that I’m really happy with. I put in a Jinhao converter I happened to have and filled it with Diamine Deep Dark Blue, which I find to be a fairly wet ink. I generally like EF nibs, but the flow and nib size on the Helix are a really great combination for an everyday writer.

In the realm of affordable, readily available fountain pens, the Parker Vector is pretty much king, in terms of ubiquity. But this Helix fountain pen, which I’m sure you can pick up in most stationery shops in the UK, would be a great alternative. The construction is better, with metal threads that mean it won’t have the cracking problems that tend to plague well-used Vectors. It’s also cheaper, and a bit more convenient, because rather than proprietary refills, it uses standard international cartridges and converters.

Jinhao x750 size comparison
Jinhao x750 size comparison
Here’s the biggest endorsement I can give this pen: If your world is in a spin and you just want something solid to clutch and write a few thoughts down with, you cannot go wrong with this little beaut. You’ll get change from £10 and it will be a bud for years to come.

Jazz Up Your Jotter: Parker-Type G2 Refills

I currently own two Parker Jotters. Who hasn’t owned one? I could probably root out a couple more if I spent an hour halfheartedly searching the house. And I have owned and lost a few others over the years, which I trust someone has found and is taking good care of now. What’s wrong with a Parker Jotter? Absolutely nothing. They’re familiar and reliable and I’ve just become aware of a whole world of ways to upgrade this ubiquitous ballpoint.

Two Parker Jotters
On my commute the other morning, I was looking up pens which take the Pilot G2 refill (the Karas Kustoms Bolt G2 looks real swank) and in the course of my mobile research, found out that the standard Parker refills also go by the G2 designation. I had no idea there was any kind of international standard for ballpoint refills. But there is, and the Parker-type G2 is it. Many brands make refills of this type and many pens can use these refills.

I browsed through the extensive selection at Cult Pens and grabbed the Parker gel refill and two Schmidt refills: the P900 M, which is a really decent refill available in six different colors for £1, and the Megaline P950 M, a pressurized refill which turns your Jotter into a writes-in-all-conditions Space Pen.

Three Parker-style refills
Fisher brand refills will also fit the Jotter, but the Schmidt is just slightly less expensive. It’s been quite a few years since I wrote with a legit Fisher Space Pen, but my experience with the Schmidt refill is definitely on par. The Schmidt even seems to skip a bit less and write a more solid line.

I’m packing the Jotter with the pressurized refill when we go away to a cabin in Wales for the Christmas weekend. Just in case I get stuck upside down in a windy, rainy valley and have to send a kestrel off with an SOS message written on a damp leaf.

I love a Jotter. They look good, they feel great to hold and write with, and there is no more satisfying click in the realm of clickable pens. I imagine I’ll always have one, and hopefully will always have these two, and it’s nice to know there is a long list of ways to keep the writing experience fresh.

Schmidt and Parker writing samples
For a much more thorough discussion of all things refill (and some more clarity on the Parker/Pilot G2 distinction), see The Well Appointed Desk’s Epic Refill Reference Guide.

Happiest of holidays to all. If you do have a favorite pen that takes a Pilot G2 refill, please do let me know!

Muji Aluminum Fountain Pen Review

I bought this pen on a whim because I work very near to a House of Fraser with a Muji, and I wander down there sometimes to browse their stationery rather than eat lunch in the staff room.


I’d seen a couple of reviews and was never so blown away that I had to run out immediately and get one, but when I noticed them in stock a couple of weeks ago, I figured for £9.95 it would at least be a good throw-around pen. There’s enough love out there for this pen to have made me a little curious.

While fairly similar in style and size to my beloved Lamy CP1, the Muji fountain pen is lighter and feels less substantial, owing to its aluminum construction. It absolutely feels well-made, though, and looks more like a tool than a luxury item, which is something I appreciate.

One thing about its build that causes me a fair amount of anxiety is that capping and posting the pen relies on the very thin aluminum ring on the base of the cap never getting bent at all in the slightest. And it’s so thin it looks like it would buckle under the force of a kitten sneeze. But – £9.95 – not worth the worry.


Also, the step from the knurled grip to the small section is real sharp. The pad of my thumb creeps down there every once in a while and it’s genuinely uncomfortable when it happens. Otherwise, I like the grip. It’s actually pretty subtle under my fingers and really works as a grip – if you’re pickin’ up what I’m puttin’ down.

The nib is, from what I’ve gathered on my trips around the internet, a Schmidt. It’s a fine nib, and that’s the only size option. But it’s a great nib for £9.95, and it really started to impress me when I tossed out the included cartridge and popped a J. Herbin Perle Noire cartridge in there. It’s ever-so-slightly scratchy, but it’s really perfectly pleasant and I’ve found myself reaching for it more than I thought I would.


I’m at a point in my fountain pen collecting where I just want to try everything, and I love finding something that’s worth its money and then some. You won’t write pages with this pen just because it’s such a joy to use, but it’s a very decent, well-designed pen for less than £10. For me, picking up this pen involved nothing more than walking five minutes down the road on my lunch break and going up two escalators in a department store, but I gather they’re not so simple for everyone to get a hold of. If you have to jump through hoops, I wouldn’t bother. But if you can get one without much hassle for the retail price, then I can’t think of a reason why you shouldn’t.

Quiet Companion: Review of the Lamy CP1

For my first pen review, I’ve decided to jump straight in and talk about my favorite in a small but growing collection of fountain pens – the Lamy CP1.

Like most people who find themselves developing a rather serious interest in fountain pens, it didn’t take me long to come across the Lamy 2000. I was fairly uninterested at first, but the more I looked at it, the more it appealed to me – to the point that I would absolutely already own one if it wasn’t well over the hill of £100 – and that’s a hill I just can’t crest at the moment. So I thought that sleek, industrial design was out of my reach. Until I came across this little gem.


As you can see from the uninspiring iPhone photo above, the pen comes in a fold-out cardboard box and is supplied with a Lamy Blue (ick) cartridge and a Z26 converter. It’s all about as simple as can be, and when you open the box, the pen is just sitting there, unassuming and stoic.

The CP1 is obviously not quite in the same league as the 2000, but that similar minimalist feel comes from the fact that both pens were designed by Gerd Müller. Despite their obvious differences, the two pens are speaking the same language, and for less than £35, I could scratch that itch for a Müller-designed Lamy. And it’s a little powerhouse of a pen. It’s a bit underrated and not often reviewed, but I’ve carried it with me every day for a couple of months now and I can’t see myself leaving it at home any time soon.

It’s a metal-bodied (brass, I believe) pen with a matte-black finish. It’s sleek, smooth and slim, but it’s the thinness that seems to put some people off. And that just is what it is – if you hate thin pens, you’ll hate this one. It’s one of the thinnest fountain pens you can buy, but I find it extremely comfortable to write with – and I have done a lot of writing with it. It’s small and light, weighing about the same as a Lamy Safari, but because of its solid metal construction, it feels sturdy and has a reassuring heft in the hand.

When I first saw pictures of the CP1, I was actually put off by the ribbed plastic grip. I thought it looked cheap compared to the rest of the pen and it didn’t look like it would be very comfortable. I’ve actually come to love the grip, though. It’s smoother to the touch than it looks in photos and it does have just enough texture under your fingers to provide a decent grip.


The spring-loaded clip, made of brushed steel and simply etched with the word ‘LAMY’ on one side, is the most obvious sign that this is a direct relation of the Lamy 2000. It is functional, simple, and striking – which sums up the whole pen for me, really.

£35 is more than a fair price for this pen, but £35 is not small change to me, as it probably isn’t to many people. I describe myself as a person who can afford groceries mostly all of the time, some beers on payday and not much else. So buying this pen was something I considered for a couple of weeks. It’s definitely a ‘next step’ pen. But it’s a step worth taking.

I truly love the pen. It’s a comfortable little class-act which will hold me over until I dig deep for a Lamy 2000. But even when I do, I’m sure the CP1 will always be close at hand.