I ordered four fountain pens in early December. I had money left in the pen budget and flashed back to the corporate world of use it or lose it, so I placed several orders. These are three of those four fountain pens. The fourth fountain pen, a gold nibbed Diplomat Aero, was massively delayed by USPS and just recently arrived.
These fountain pens all arrived 7 to 10 days before Christmas, but I didn’t ink them up until Christmas day. On to the pens…
Sheaffer 300 Matte Green (Fine)
As much as I love the Sheaffer pen colors and designs of the last century, I find the current designs either boring or heavy on colors that I don’t like. That changed when I saw the Matte Green 300 on the Anderson Pens podcast. I had to have the pen. The real-life pen lived up to expectations set by the video.
I had another Sheaffer 300 in metallic grey with chrome trim about 6 years ago. Eventually I gave it away after consistently passing over the pen whenever I was picking a pen to ink up. Since green is my favorite color, this pen won’t get ignored.
Despite being a sub-$70 pen ($82 MSRP), the Sheaffer 300 arrives with a classy presentation. A slightly oversized clamshell box is held in a cardboard sleeve. The sleeve has a cutout so that the Sheaffer logo printed on the clamshell box can be seen. In addition to the pen, the box contains a converter, a blue cartridge, and a black cartridge. There’s also an instruction/warranty booklet. The Sheaffer 300 uses Sheaffer’s proprietary filling system.
To avoid wasting ink I’ve been trying to use any included ink for my new pens. While I do praise Sheaffer for including a choice between blue and black ink cartridges, I was swearing at them for giving me two cartridges to either use or waste. I picked the black cartridge for the pen’s first ink. The blue might end up in the trash bin, or remain in the box until it dries out.
I inked up another two pens before returning to the Sheaffer 300 to use it. The fountain pen wrote well, a nice smooth true-to-size fine steel nib. Then I noticed my left hand was covered with ink stains (I’m a righty). I couldn’t see any ink inside the cap, or extra ink on the nib or section. Then I noticed even more ink in my left hand. While hard to see on the matte green in subdued lighting, there was a coating of ink on the outside of the cap. So, I cleaned the cap under the faucet and scrubbed the ink off. While cleaning the cap, I noticed water flowing through the cap from around the clip. Since it isn’t watertight, it certainly isn’t airtight.
There’s an inner plastic cap that is held in place by a metal screw at the top of the cap. After cleaning the cap, and verifying that the cartridge is secure the pen was ready to use again. The nib and section were secure, as was the cartridge. I haven’t had a problem since. I never confirmed what the problem was, so I can only guess. Whatever it was, it hasn’t returned and the pen has been leak-free. So the problem is moot. I did inspect the Sheaffer 300 thoroughly the day it arrived, so it certainly didn’t arrive covered in ink.
Using the Sheaffer 300
The snap-on cap is easy to take off and replace. There’s a nice solid click when the pen is capped. There’s just enough resistance when removing the cap. All this gives the Sheaffer 300 a nice, solid feel. Although I don’t post my pens, this one is designed to post and does so securely. The end of the pen has a shallow lip that the inner cap snaps onto. It almost makes me wish that I did post my pens. It’s a nice attention to detail.
I’ve been using the Penwell Traveler. The Sheaffer 300 is held firmly in place by the cushion. If I forcefully push the cap into the cushion, I can uncap and use the pen with one hand. Despite this, I typically soft-cap the pen during use. The ink stays wet on the nib and doesn’t evaporate. This includes the time I walked away and left the pen soft-capped for a couple of hours.
The nib has been more prone to evaporation when I pause while writing. The ink will dry off the tip of the nib in under a minute, causing skipping on the next stroke of the nib. Skipping after a pause is a bit annoying. It’s January, and the heating has dried the air in my apartment, which has no doubt affected the pen. Even my previously problem-free pens have been drying out quicker than usual.
In my original Sheaffer 300 review, I mentioned that I found the nib too short and stubby, unlike the classic Sheaffer nibs that I love. I have the same opinion of the nib six years later. I mean stubby as in a visual sense, not the nib grind.
Speaking of the nib grind, I got a fine nib. A medium nib is also available. Both options are steel only.
The nib is a smooth writer and very enjoyable to use. I mentioned skipping after pausing a minute or more, but other than that the writing experience has been problem-free. I’m extremely happy with this Sheaffer 300. Unlike the original, now passed on grey version, this green model will get noticed and won’t be passed over.
Lamy Safari USA Independence Day (Medium)
The name is a bit unruly, so I’ll stick with calling it the Lamy Safari USA.
Based on the name I assume it came out before July 4th. An internet search turned up reviews from 2019, so this pen is at least a year-and-a-half old. Yet, it didn’t come to my attention until November or December when I saw it on a Pen Chalet sale page. I eventually picked it up at the sale price. The price dropped even further during a year-end sale, so clearly, this model wasn’t moving.
While patriotically named, and with special packaging, nothing about this pen screams “USA”. It would fit in as a patriotic purchase in any of the other 27 countries with red, white, and blue national flags.
I’ve owned many Safaris and AL-Stars over the years, but currently have only three safaris remaining, including this one. The others have a matte finish to them, making them appear less like plastic pens. The Safari USA is shiny plastic, and in my opinion, makes it look a little cheap. Still, I do like the bright colors.
The Lamy Safari USA arrived in a custom red/white/blue cardboard box, rather than the typical flimsy Lamy slotted box. While more substantial than the typical Lamy box, it is still a small, simple box without a lot of wasted space. Both easy to store and easy/cheap to ship. Some Amazon reviews mention that the buyer received the pen in the typical Lamy box, lending credence to other Amazon reviews that claim to have received a counterfeit pen.
Compared to the textured plastic of the two Safaris that I already have, the smooth, bright plastic of this pen makes it look cheaper. Although, it isn’t any different than other glossy Safaris that I’ve owned.
I bought this fountain pen with a medium nib, the only option that was available to me from Pen Chalet. It may be that this was the only nib option offered by Lamy. The pen included a blue ink cartridge for the proprietary filling system. No converter is included.
As is my current practice, I popped in the included Lamy ink cartridge. The ink had reached the nib by the time I was ready to use the pen.
I do have a supply of other Lamy nib sizes but decided to stick with the medium nib for now. I always like to use a pen before making any changes, this way I know who to blame for any out-of-the-box problems.
Using the Lamy Safari
The Lamy Safari USA is just like every other Safari that I’ve used. I find the triangular grip a natural, comfortable fit for my hand. I’ve had good out-of-the-box experiences with every Lamy I’ve owned, except for the flagship Lamy 2000, and this pen did not disappoint. It performs well and has been free of skipping and hard starts. It’s also nice and smooth.
I’ve been using the Penwell Traveler recently. The Lamy Safari stayed ready to write, even when soft-capped for a couple of hours. The pen fits securely. Although, it is not so secure that it can be uncapped without having to hold the cap in place.
While they’ve never completely pulled me in, I’ve never had any complaints about Lamy Safari fountain pens and I can understand their popularity. That said, but I wouldn’t have bought the pen if it wasn’t on sale while I was in the mood to buy a pen.
Retro 51 Lincoln (1.1mm Stub)
With Retro 51 winding down operations I decided to look into any available fountain pens. I’ve had two of their fountain pens in the past and was disappointed in them both. The first, a Double-Eight, was poorly built and quickly fell apart with normal use. The second was this same model(Review). While the build quality was better than the Double-Eight, the nib was much too wet for my tastes.
I came across some comments that Retro 51 had changed their nibs. Details, such as when they made the change, and what the changes were, were lacking but I decided to risk it and hope a current model would be better.
Against better judgment, I ordered a Retro 51 Lincoln with a 1.1mm Stub nib. A 1.1mm stub nib is not suitable for me. It’s much too wide for me. But, I’ve been trying other nib styles and have found them fun to use, if not as an everyday writer. I was already placing an order with Pen Chalet, and the only option they had available was the 1.1mm stub, so I ordered one.
The Retro 51 Lincoln fountain pen arrived in generic Retro 51 packaging. A converter and two black cartridges are included, along with an instruction pamphlet.
I removed the cartridge from the barrel and popped it into the pen. The ink made it to the nib by the time I was ready to use the pen.
I noticed a rattle in the pen as I used it. My first reflex was “poor built quality again”, but then I realized there was probably a second ink cartridge in the pen. I opened the pen and the second cartridge fell out. I was stuck in the when I took the first cartridge out.
Writing With The Retro 51 Lincoln
I don’t have much to say here. The 1.1mm stub is too wide for me, but I knew this going in. That said, I do find the nib to be true to size, with a nice even flow.
The Lincoln is not an oversize pen, but the metal barrel does give it some heft. I find heavier pens more comfortable to use for extended writing sessions. I do like the feel of the Lincoln. The gripping section is smooth plastic. I suppose this could get slick in summer, or with extended writing sessions, but I haven’t had any issues in the dry indoor air.
I have experienced some hard starts, but I blame this on the dry, indoor air more than the pen. Even usually problem-free pens have been drying out faster than normal when I pause my writing, I’ve had to keep my pauses under 1 minute. Any longer and I’ll probably get skipping on the first stroke when the nib returns to paper.
I’ve been using the Penwell Traveler with the Retro 51 Lincoln. The pen fits securely. I can unscrew the cap with one hand. I can also leave the pen soft-capped for a couple of hours and the nib stays ready.
Of these three fountain pens, the Sheaffer 300 Matte Green is my clear favorite.
The Retro 51 Lincoln has an antique brass finish that I love. I do regret my nib choice a bit. The 1.1mm stub is not an everyday nib for me, but the pen looks good enough to use every day, I’d like to carry it in my Nock Co Fodderstack XL along with its rollerball sibling. I may try a nib swap, or since it’s only a $50 pen, look for an extra-fine nibbed version.
The Lamy Safari USA will probably get the least use. I like the colors, yet as I mentioned, Safaris never seem to pull me in.