Of Lamy Aions and Stub Nibs, or, How to Ruin a Great Pen

So, a few weeks ago, I wrote a review of my two new Lamy Aion fountain pens, in Olivesilver and black aluminium. They’re great pens, and have been in daily use ever since I picked them up. But I was fascinated by the ease of swapping out, and availability of, different nibs for these pens. If you checked out the Lamy web site only about a week or two ago from the date of this post, there was a great range of nibs, from extra-fine, fine, medium, and broad, to other great choices like 1.1mm, 1.5mm, and 1.9mm stubs, left-handed nibs, and obliques in medium and broad. Plus there were the gold nibs for serious class.

Now, as anybody who has read this site before will tell you, I have a serious liking for italicized, stub nibs. Especially glassy smooth stub nibs that help give my scrappy handwriting a little bit of flare. My (admittedly limited) experience with the high quality of those seriously smooth Lamy Aion nibs, led me to look at the 1.1mm Lamy stubs with a hopeful gleam in my eye.

A quick search online showed me that the easiest place to get hold of the Lamy nibs in the 1.1mm stub that I liked, was going to be one of the big US retailers, so I went with the most excellent Goulet Pens. These guys are knowledgeable; their pre- and after-sales service is absolutely fabulous; and response times, deliveries, and pricing are all second to none.

However, I also have to say that, since the current incumbent of the Whitehouse came to power, I have done my best to avoid giving my money to US companies. And will continue to do so until he leaves, but there are times when your choices are pretty limited, and The Goulet Pen Company are a fine bunch of pen folks.

Anyway, I placed my order with Goulet, for two Lamy steel 1.1mm stub nibs (Lamy code: Z 50) on Monday 4th December (2017), and they arrived—well packaged and protected—on Wednesday 13th December. Which I thought was pretty good for a regular USPS delivery from the States to rural Canada during the holiday season.

The Goulet Pens parcel contained a nice array of greetings cards, a discount card for a future delivery, and what we from the UK would call a lollipop, but I have found that Canadians call a sucker. Regardless, it was candy, so it didn’t make the picture…

It’s an easy job to swap the nibs on a Lamy Aion, and Goulet Pens themselves have some great video resources if you’d like to see how the nibs are fitted. In his videos, Brian Goulet uses a simple piece of tape to grip the nib, but I would recommend Goulet’s nib grip, a kind of small, foam rubber sheet, that you fold round the nib to protect it, and allow you to get hold of it properly. Alternatively, an off-cut from the foam rubber packaging of a TWSBI has helped me out in the past.

And therein lies the end of the good news. It’s all downhill from here on out.

I need to make it clear at this point, that Goulet Pens are entirely faultless in all that follows. They have been great and have done all that has been asked of them… it’s just the Lamy nibs that let the side down.

From first appearances, everything seemed fine. The tines looked a little tight, but aside from that, no obvious problems, and they slipped on the pens just as they should.

The nibs aren’t pictured on the pens here… it didn’t seem worthwhile somehow. They don’t look substantially different from those posted in the earlier review… with the exception of a breather hole in the medium nibs (supplied with the Aions at the time of purchase).

Take a look at the original medium nib above, the breather hole is clear, and the channel between the tines doesn’t look anywhere near as tight as the 1.1mm stubs… but maybe I’m being a little subjective here… you be the judge.

But what was incredibly different was the writing experience. When I first put pen to paper, there was nothing. Well I say there was nothing, that’s not strictly true. Both nibs tried to dig a tear in the Rhodia 80gsm ice-white notepad, without leaving behind any more ink than was on the nib after I had filled it from a bottle. After that little bit dried up, then there was nothing… on both pens.

A little judicious rubbing on some fine abrasive paper ensued, and a little brassing of the tines (sliding a thin, brass sheet, between the tines), to increase ink-flow, and the ink did indeed start flowing. Poorly, and the nibs were still scratchier than a feral kitten defending their first meal for a week.

More rubbing, and testing, and the pens began to write a little. Both pens still had some skipping, and some dry starts on first strokes of a sentence, but it was getting better. More rubbing and testing, and finally, I managed to coax the writing samples below out of each nib…

The black, using Sailor’s Kiwa-Guro Nano (Ultra) black ink, was the better of the two, but the nib was catching on the paper at almost every second or third upstroke, and felt like I was dragging a spade across gravel with every character. In contrast, I tried the 1.1mm steel Jowo nib on my TWSBI Diamond 580AL directly below the Lamy’s black sample… and the difference could not have been more striking. The TWSBI was a beautiful experience from the moment it left the box, and writes extremely well whenever I use the pen.

Next up is the sample from the Olivesilver Aion, using Sailor’s Jentle Blue. This is the same ink as I used in the TWSBI (above), on the same paper, and scanned with the same settings. The difference in the shading of the ink is remarkable, and purely down to the amount of ink being laid on the page by the Jowo and Lamy 1.1mm nibs…

Once again, the Lamy nib did its best to dig through my Rhodia pad, and leave a carved scrape on my desktop, but I rescued my desk before any damage could be wrought. In contrast, the 1.1mm stub, #6 Jowo nib on my Edison Collier glided effortlessly across the same paper.

I wonder if it’s the lack of breather holes in the 1.1mm Lamy stubs that causes the ink-flow problem? Although, even if that were the case, then we would have to explain why writing with a Bowie Knife might be preferable to a Lamy stub. Of course, I’m perfectly willing to believe that I just got lucky and pulled a crap nib from an otherwise wonderful Lamy line… twice… on the same order.

But frankly, rather than bother with reasons or excuses, I’ll just be writing the forty bucks off and putting the nibs back in their bags.

The medium nibs supplied with the Lamy Aions were just great anyway…

But as much as I love the Aions and their native nibs… I can’t help but wonder about the LX nibs? Or even the 14K gold in an oblique medium?

Maybe in the New Year.

10 thoughts on “Of Lamy Aions and Stub Nibs, or, How to Ruin a Great Pen

  1. Should I even confess that my souvenir from a recent trip to Europe was… another Lamy fountain pen in a new color?

    I have a handful. I love how I just never worry about them! And I can afford one to match every ink I wish to keep ready to write with. (My standards are so low, aren’t they?)

    We also brought home a fair amount of chocolate. Does a Lamy pen and a sack full of chocolate make us a tourism cliche? 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The other week, my wife and I came back from a conference in Mexico… carrying a sombrero and quite a bit of tequila. I think you can probably hold your head up highest, not least because of the weight of that sombrero…

      Mexico City, 2017

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    2. Plus, if you like your Lamy’s then that’s all the justification you need. I like those Lamy Aions, but the stub nibs? Not so much. And I am absolutely NOT admitting to anything about the sombrero or the tequila 🙂

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    1. Ha! No, right now it’s -14C outside, and I’m wearing a woolly hat to go outside and start clearing the snow from around my house 😦 The sombrero is hanging on the back of the bedroom door… for sunnier climes 🙂

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  2. I think the issue here is that the Lamy nibs are not stubs – instead, they are cursive, or even crisp italic nibs.

    What’s the difference? Stubs are very much more rounded, give a smooth writing experience and are forgiving of pen rotation etc. Crisp italics are not in the slightest smoothed or rounded and have sharp edges which are very unforgiving of pen rotation. Cursive are in the middle of the two.

    These Lamy nibs are marketed for their Joy pen, which is a calligraphy pen rather than an every day pen, and whilst they fit most of their other pens, they won’t necessarily be the most comfortable…

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    1. “They won’t necessarily be the most comfortable…”

      Now that must be the understatement of the year, these were more likely to be hammered into a wall to mount a picture frame, than to be used for any kind of writing 😖

      And then there’s the word “stub” in the product description and packaging, obviously a cunning ploy to make someone think they might be buying a stub nib, rather than something significantly not a simple stub.

      You’re probably right of course Alex, but you would only know that if you had some experience with Lamy nibs across the board. For many years I have avoided Lamy pens, because my purely personal stance has always been (a) I think they look pretty awful from the Safari to the 2000 (bless their hearts), and (b) the two or three Lamy steel nibs I’ve ever tried, in shops in the UK, New York and Canada, have been almost–but not quite–as bad as the two I reviewed above. And like I say, these are sold as stubs, not cursive italics, for use on calligraphy pens.

      The Aions, and a couple of LXs I tried briefly in Bureau Direct in the UK have been exceptions, and they are simply excellent. If you’ve got any experience with the LXs, or the gold nibs–especially the oblique mediums–please let me know! These are very much on my shopping list for 2018.

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  3. So many reviewers rave about all things Lamy, it’s interesting to read an opposing viewpoint. And kudos to you for avoiding made in the U.S.A. products until the usurper is gone.

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    1. Thank you, I just know what I like–and what I like is mostly high quality design, engineering and manufacture; and even in these areas, everybody’s judgement is entirely personal taste. All the same, I find myself becoming increasingly disillusioned with fountain pen manufacturers (especially high-end companies that charge high-end prices), whose patchy quality control churns out nibs that don’t write properly–I’m looking at you Visconti, and you Pelikan. I accept that mass-production processes can result in a few poor items in every batch, but I think that when that happens, you have to be honest about the issue or it won’t improve. The flip side of that coin–admittedly in my limited experience–is a budget-minded company like TWSBI, who are similar to Lamy in their mass production (and I imagine them to be on a somewhat smaller scale), but whose nibs have (for me) always been faultless.

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