Thursday, March 25, 2010

Fountain Pen Design, Circa 1966

Some things tend to slip past me, and I am as it were, occasionally ‘late to the party.’ Such was the case with Lamy’s popular Safari fountain pen. By the time I got around to buying a Safari, it was far from new and already wildly popular. Now it has happened again, this time with a Lamy design that first appeared in 1966. Sitting before me now is a fountain pen that could be called the hallmark of minimalist Bauhaus design—the Lamy 2000.


Unbelievably, over forty years have passed since Lamy first released this pen. Four decades, and it looks like a design that came off the drawing board last week. The Lamy 2000 stands at the pinnacle of industrial design, and is the work of designer, Gerd Alfred Müller, following the Bauhaus idea of function dictating form in sleek zero-frills design. Tapping into 21st century descriptive jargon, some have described the Lamy 2000 as having no ‘bling.’ Perhaps the word serves its purpose in this instance, though it isn’t one easily associated with fountain pens. Müller’s design for Lamy won the Busse Long Life design prize in 1984, and is still frequently mentioned in European design reviews.


The body of the pen is made of a matte black fiberglass resin called Makrolon, with a very subtle grain not visible at first look. The only break in the matte black is a spring loaded, brushed steel pocket clip, and a small inlaid silver disc on the end opposite the clip. Looking closely at the side of the pocket clip you can see the name LAMY in small letters. The piston filler’s screw top has a totally invisible join, and initially one might wonder how to fill the pen. One feature which raises a question is the ink window, which only indistinctly shows the ink level, leaving one to guess how much ink remains in the pen.


Another unusual feature of the Lamy 2000 is its nib sizes. Available in a wide range—EF, F, M, OM, B, BB, OB, and OBB—these labels are misleading. Most who use the Lamy 2000 will recommend choosing a size down from the preferred size. In other words, the nib of the 2000 is broader than expected, and designations are misleading. I wonder if true extra fine writing is even possible with a Lamy 2000, since the ‘F’ writes as you would expect an ‘M’ nib to write. Bear in mind as well that the 14k gold, platinum plated nib has some flex, which is likely at times to lay down a wider line. The feeling is very, very different from the Safari, with its steel nib. The curious thing about my own Lamy 2000, which I got as a gift, is that it writes like an ‘M’ nib, but that is only a guess, as neither the pen, box, or enclosed paper reveal a nib size. So, a question occurs, if not ‘told’ by someone, how do you determine what nib size you have?


The 2000 is a wet pen, and ink flows from the hooded nib almost too freely. It writes beautifully on high quality absorbent paper (Crane), but tends to feather in my Noble Note journal, with its thick cream paper. Of the four different types of paper I’ve tried, there is feathering with only the Noble Note. I don't attribute the problem to the ink, Pilot’s Iroshizuku Fuyu-shogun.


I read a review that indicated US sales of the Lamy 2000 lag behind European sales. If I had to assign a reason for that, (and this is a guess) it might be that Americans prefer a pen not quite so wet, and that possibly the inaccurate nib labeling might cause some reluctance about buying it. I haven’t had my 2000 very long, but thus far it produces a line I like, and I look forward to using it often.

6 comments:

  1. What a great post!!I just swapped a Vanishing Point for a Lamy 2000 and am waiting for it to arrive. I can wait to try it.

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  2. I took a look at our 2000's to see if the nib grade is stamped anywhere on the pen. Couldn't find anything with the naked eye. Great post!

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  3. Black pens are popular in Europe. In fact, I know Bexley often does a black version of some of its pens just for the European market. Black pens in the U.S. are less popular and the more colorful pens tend to get more attention. My guess on the 2000 and its U.S. sales puts the issue on the stark color and less on any issue with nibs, etc. There is a wide variation in nib sizing as anyone using Japanese pens knows that the sizes most always tend to run much finer in some cases and slightly finer in most others. Pelikans tend to run a little fat and Auroras in some cases tend to seem a tad finer than other pens with similar nib width designations. Some would say they run true to what the nib sizes should be. If you want a true EF writing experience, the sailor EF nib is a needlepoint compared to many other EF nibs. Folks who like fine nibs tend to like the EF in Pelikans as being more to their impression of a fine and I've heard the same with Lamy. I'm a broad, double-broad and OB and OBB nib person. I like the paint brushes!

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  4. Great review of the 2000 - especially the discussion on the difference between European and US pen taste is interesting. It is a great blog you have!

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  5. In my 2000 the size of the nib is stamped on it. You need to remove the nib to see it. That's very easy to do.

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  6. If your dream to become a good writer, first you will select the best pen and I think fountain pen fulfill your requirement.

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Oak Hill, Florida, United States
A longtime expat relearning the footwork of life in America