Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Lamy Al-Star Mechanical Pencil Review

LAMY Al-Star Graphite Mechanical Pencil


The first thing you notice about the Lamy Model 126 Al-Star graphite mechanical pencil is the pocket clip. At first I didn't think it looked all that good, but its grown on me. Its not spring loaded but it still works well enough. The main body of this Al-Star is a shiny "graphite" colour which seems appropriate for a pencil. Overall its a generally pleasing look, apart perhaps for the clear grey tinted grip section - I'm not entirely convinced by that. But its a minor quibble. I really do like the way "LAMY" is imprinted into the barrel.

The Al-Star is a good length and body diameter, but a little lightweight for its size. But hey, its mostly aluminium so what do you expect? The plastic materials seem to be good solid, hard, scratch resistant compounds, as you would expect from Lamy.

Although the body is round in cross-section, the grip section is triangular, but not really triangular enough. The triangle sides are still somewhat rounded, and its fairly easy to end up gripping it across the points of the triangle rather than across the sides. Its a push button top ratchet mechanism and I feel they have missed the chance to put a decent sized eraser under that large button top. Instead its just a normal sized eraser of normal (limited) efficency. The Al-Star takes 0.5mm leads and lead holder sleeve is retractable. It is supplied in an interesting small cardboard package.

  • Best Points - The looks.
  • Not So Good Points - The triangular grip section.
  • Overall Rating - Mixed feelings, I somehow expected more.
  • Price Range - Mid

Dimensions - 144mm long, 11mm diameter body. Balance point about 85mm up from tip.

15 comments:

Steve L. said...

Excellent Blog! Finally, somewhere to compare the advantages and disadvantages of clutch, propel only, propel-repel-expel, etc. ;-) Looking forward to it.

Drew Van Zandt said...

I still haven't found a second model of mechanical pencil I can stand to use regularly. The one I use is:
http://www.usa-stationery.com/catalog/product_info.php?cPath=1400011_1500208&products_id=2510053&osCsid=10589204ee16001ffc6bd353098f8ec3
... which is a Skilcraft / NIB manufactured for the US government.

Push action, small eraser but good quality, simple spring-clip that doesn't catch on things easily. Here are the reasons I use it exclusively:

It's very light, but quite sturdy.
The plastic chosen feels good in my hand.
It lacks the horrible rubber cushion grips that are so popular and wear out after a few months.
It has a retractable lead support so it's jeans-pocket carryable.
Price is excellent if you can find somewhere that will sell them to you - less than $3 each.
Easy lead loading.
Durable! I've had the same two in use for about 6 years now (though my use varied) - you'll lose them before they break.

I finally found a current source for a new box of 12...by my calculations, that should last me another 20 years or so, but I' think I might get another couple of boxes anyway. :-)

I could post a few paragraphs about why I hate every other mechanical pencil I've tried, but I'll skip that for now. (Most are either too heavy or too fragile, have non-retractable barrels, or have uncomfortable/non-durable grips.)

kiwi-d said...

Thanks Steve & Drew. Something for me to think about. I'll write something soon on mechanisms. Drew - I share your dislike of the rubber grips, they will be mentioned in my next review.

Erica said...

I actually have to agree with Drew - Skilcraft mechanical pencils are the bomb if you can find and get them. The link Drew posted doesn't work, but this one does:

http://xrl.us/bbtmd

PointFour said...

The related Lamy Safari is currently on offer at The Writing Desk in the UK for £5.00 here:
http://www.thewritingdesk.co.uk/showproduct.php?brand=Lamy&range=Safari%20Pencil

DMacdo said...

I have one of these, and the lower cost Safari. I like the length and hand feel and the mechanism works well. Frustrating thing for me is that the top cap is loose-ish from the start. Now I have lost both caps so there is a grubby bit of rubber at the top of my pencils and it will in due course be impossible to push for more lead.

Mindstorm81 said...

I've just got a Safari pencil, along with matching fountain pen, both in the charcoal finish.
Things I noticed;
•It's a bit thinner than the fountain pen- about the same diameter as a Staedtler 777.
•The eraser cover has a fair bit of play in it.
•The top of the pencil sits quite a long way above the top of the clip- about 20mm. This could be a problem if, like me you have covered pockets on your clothing- it doesn't fit under the flap.
•I do like the grip- it's comfortable.
•The retractable lead sleeve has a bit of play in it, but unless you're a stickler for totally immobile lead, it shouldn't be too bothersome.

Wynne and Wes said...

hey dave,
have you noticced that aluminum pencils tend to scratch very easily

kiwi-d said...

Well aluminium is not a particularly hard scratch resistant metal, so not as scratch resistant as brushed stainless, etc.

PointFour said...

Caran d'Ache have a special edition 849 ballpoint: quoting Cult Pens, "This special edition 849 Original celebrates with a unique finish - tough clear lacquer over a raw aluminium barrel" so looks like they're trying to protect the aluminium. Don't know about the matching 844 pencil though.

tifosikrishna said...

I have the same model, pencil is good, but the only grouse it, the eraser cap doesn't fit tight and often falls off. Bad design flaw for the price....

Androooo said...

Agree.. the eraser cap does fall off all the time.. very disappointing given the expense of the pencil. I've had to wrap sticky tape around the end of the pencil to hold the cap on.

Time Waster said...

Just ordered a SAFARI I think it's due to the hot weather
in Wisconsin. I was tempted to get a Red one but I settled for the Charcoal.

Time Waster said...

The SAFARI is a great mech pencil it produces smooth lines. The package it comes is really unique it's a cardboard box with slotted holes and the lifetime warranty slip.

Anonymous said...

I have the matte black version of the Safari. Despite the small eraser, I like this pencil including the texture, the grip and the apparent precision in the way it writes.

[It is one of those pencils that I have learned to use in conjunction with a block eraser. I admit it has taken me a while to adjust to this paradigm, but I now use block erasers with pencils that have a cap covering the eraser.]

I have not experienced any problem with the cap being too loose and slipping off the pencil. The cap has a secure snap. I don't know if the cap for the aluminum version is identical.

[With a little bit of cleverness, it might be possible to get a Pentel PDE-10 Eraser in the eraser recess. You would have to keep the lower portion of the eraser, and eliminate the rubber eraser portion. Then, you would have to figure out a way to attach the PDE-10 eraser in a way that allows it to be replaced, but stay in place without falling out. Lamy should reengineer the eraser -- it would be so easy to do without changing any other aspect of the pencil.

Note that the lower portion of the eraser is integral to the activation of the lead, because that is what contacts the metal ring within the pencil. That is why you can't just use a PDE-10 eraser as a replacement.]

FWIW,
Bob S. in AZ