Inky Pursuits, November 2020.

If I have any superpower among the fountain pen community, it is probably the ability to get just as excited about a good cheap pen, as I do about an expensive one. Sometimes more. I will have to think of a name for that: something other than Mr Stingy.

I have not bought many new pens this year. I am constantly tempted, as I read posts from fellow bloggers or surf online. Recently I admired a vintage Montblanc 220, cartridge converter fountain pen on ebay but stopped short of pulling the trigger. I already have a Montblanc 12, piston filler, which is similar.

To combat the temptation, one tool is to have a wish list and to add pens to the list and let them sit there for a while before buying. You can compare their merits. Another, (which may be a clue that you have too many pens) is to list your pens under different categories, to see how each category is represented. I listed mine under Steel nibs: (1) Fine or extra fine; (2) Medium; (3) Broad and (4) Stub and italic, and then the same four categories for Gold nibs, so eight groups. Then, when a new pen looms on the horizon, I compare it with what I already have in that category. This sometimes works.

The Jinhao 159.

As I look at my pen cups, with twenty currently inked pens, they range from a few pounds upwards to include several Montblancs and my Aurora 88 at the other end of the spectrum. In between, the list includes a couple of Diplomats, a Pilot Capless and Platinum Curidas and my Sailor Pro-Gear Slim with its music nib.

One of my most recent purchases was a Jinhao 159 at £8.99. This is a very large pen, heavy but wonderfully rounded, smooth and tactile. Unfortunately, towards the end of its first inking with a cheap black cartridge, it exhibited irregular flow issues going from very wet, almost gusher, to very dry and even blobbing a couple of times.

Jinhao 159

I could have picked up a Montblanc or the Aurora at this point and carried on writing. However, I found that I could not settle whilst the Jinhao was struggling. A bit like the shepherd in the parable of the lost sheep I could not rest until the lost sheep was safely back in the pen (or pen cup). I extracted the nib and feed on the Jinhao which are friction fit and can be pulled out quite easily. I gave them both a good wash and then carefully pushed them in again, and re-inked the pen this time with a branded cartridge of Kaweco royal blue. All appeared well but I was looking forward to an opportunity to write for a few pages of A4 to check that the flow problems were fixed. Yesterday, when writing a letter, it was the Jinhao that I picked up first. I am happy to report that it now writes beautifully.

The friction fit nib and feed of the Jinhao 159.

Lamy Accent.

This weekend I remembered my Lamy Accent which does not see a lot of use as the nib was a bit on the dry side. I have the palladium finish version with a collar of Keralia wood, grey with a black grain. I remembered my brass shims and set about removing the Z50 nib with a piece of Sellotape, then flossing the nib with a couple of different grades of brass shim, before putting it back, checking the alignment of tines and picking a cartridge of Lamy Petrol, a luxurious dark teal from a special edition Safari a few years ago. And this too wrote beautifully – smooth and easy with ideal flow. I am glad that I had kept the pen. I also wrote a few pages with this too, in my letter writing session.

Lamy Accent, Keralia wood and palladium finish.

Wing Sung 699.

This is another pen that I thought to tweak with the brass shims. This is a fun pen, a very passable homage to the revered Pilot Custom 823 vac filler, with similar dimensions and filling system but a steel nib. The nib and feed are friction fit and with a bit of flossing and examining under the loupe, I think I managed to get it writing slightly wetter, whilst still retaining the smoothness of the nib. I filled it with Waterman Serenity blue, a favourite of mine and it is writing nicely.

Wing Sung 699, with nib and feed disassembled.

These antics and occasional triumphs do not quite make up for the heady thrill of hitting the “Add to basket” button and waiting for the delivery, but they avoid the risk of the Monday morning guilt and “buyer’s remorse” blues.

All back together again.

Some early thoughts on the Lamy accent fountain pen.

Working within walking distance of a stationery shop is a bit of a hazard for the pen-prone. As a recent lunch hour indulgence, I treated myself to a new Lamy accent fountain pen from Rymans, one of the few bricks and mortar pen shops I know of which sells them.

I had seen the pen there before, but had never really given it a second glance. Uncapped, in the display cabinet, it was a bit odd-looking. However, I was intrigued by the wooden grip section and asked to see it. I was quite surprised at what I found.

Design and construction

This is a metal, cartridge/converter pen, with a short, screw cap. I think the barrel and cap material is aluminium, (possibly Palladium coated?). The pocket clip is sprung (and even has GERMANY engraved on a recess on the underside). The only visible branding is the name LAMY in small letters on the cap, alongside the top end of the clip. The cap sits flush with the barrel when the pen is closed but is also designed to be posted, on a little prominence to stay flush with the barrel. The cap posts securely, held on by two little black plastic lugs.

But the distinguishing feature of the pen, is the grip section, made of a grey coloured wood with a black irregular natural grain. It is also slightly curved and is wider in the middle than the two ends. Also, it can easily be removed and then swapped for a different material, such as a black rubber version although finding one might be a challenge.

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Lamy accent fountain pen with Karelia wood grip.

According to Lamy’s web site, this is Karelia wood. However, this is not a tree I have heard of and so far I have been unable to find any reference online to a tree of this species although there are many references to a brand named Karelia Wood which specialises in engineered wood flooring.

The nib and filling system

The pen has the standard Lamy Safari stainless steel nib, and so is easy to replace or swap for other widths. But unlike the Safari this one has a black plastic mount, about 10mm long, between the nib and the wooden grip section.

You might be worrying that the lovely wood finish might get stained, the first time you dip it in an ink bottle. But no, to fill the pen, you remove the cap, hold the wooden grip section with one hand and then rotate the barrel with the other: this unscrews and releases the nib and feed unit which slowly starts to emerge out of the section, rather like a Graf von Faber Castell Intuition. Once removed, you only need to dip the nib unit in the ink, up to the black plastic mount and fill your converter in the usual way, and there is no risk to the woodwork if using bottled ink.

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Lamy accent with nib section removed for filling. You do not have to take the wooden grip collar off the barrel but this is just to show that you can.

The pen was supplied with a Lamy converter and one blue Lamy cartridge. However I wanted to use a blue black Lamy cartridge which I had at home.

Weights and measurements

The pen is about 144 mm closed, 125mm open or a generous 163mm posted. Capped or posted it weighs about 26g, being 16g for the uncapped pen and 10g for the cap. This is quite a pleasant weight, having a bit of substance but not being overly weighty. I did not find it back heavy when posted, but then I generally hold my pens quite high up from the nib.

Writing performance

The nib will be familiar to anyone who has used a Lamy Safari (which is anyone), namely smooth but firm. Mine was a little on the stingy side in terms of ink flow, but acceptable. I found it to be wetter when writing “underarm” than when writing “overarm” (my left-handed slanting style with the back of the pen pointing away from me). I am used to finding that nibs are not so well lubricated this way.

I tried writing for an hour in a Paperchase notebook. I found the pen comfortable to hold when posted, being just slightly short for me if not. It was nice to have a wooden section to hold as this is rare in fountain pens.

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Writing sample

But my blue black cartridge was producing a very pale line, given the rather dry nib and my light touch and very smooth paper. I later switched out the cartridge and put a black one in and this made a big improvement in readability.

Likes and dislikes

This is an unusual pen. If you enjoy the plain form and function of the Safari, then this makes a nice change and feels like an upgrade. Lamy does also make a version called the accent Brilliant with 14k nib, a glossy black lacquer barrel and polished briarwood collar, which looks like the dashboard material of an expensive car. I have not seen anyone with one of these pens, or even this Karelia wood version, come to think of it.

For those who bemoan the faceted grip section of the Lamy Safari and AL Star, here is a chance to use the same nib in a facet-free section. The wood is pleasant to hold.

However, I found that the black plastic rim of the cap is sharp and I could feel it rubbing on my hand as I wrote. I might try to smooth it down or round it off a little, if I can do so without ruining it.

Also, whilst I like screw caps, this one has one of the shortest travels that I have used, needing not quite half a turn to come off. However, once on, it does bite quite firmly and I have not had it come loose unintentionally as yet. Also I mostly carry pens in a leather pen case. The issue is remembering that it is a screw cap at one end and push on at the other.

Conclusion and Value

The shop price was £54.99, including the supplied converter and so similar in price to a Lamy Studio or Aion. I later found that it is currently £49.50 on Cult Pens, and they are also offering a further 10% off this and many other enthusiasts’ pens at the moment. But that is the difference that we pay to support our bricks and mortar stores and keep our High Streets alive!

It is a quite a special pen, well made and durable with unusual materials and for those who like the Lamy design ethos, it is an interesting addition to the collection.

Update: I have since smoothed the sharp edges of the black plastic cap rim. I pared them down to rounded edges with a knife and then smoothed and polished the rim by rubbing it on an envelope. This has resolved the issue.

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Lamy accent