After a flying start to December’s Inkvent calendar, things rather ran away with me and it was all I could do to keep up with just swatching the inks each day*. Consequently, the posts on here rather dried up and the review I should have undertaken also fell by the wayside. Anyway, setting the excuses aside, I have now had a chance to have a play with the Lamy Aion, albeit a brief one, for the purposes of this review.
* I did post all the ink swatches on Instagram. You can see them on my page here
I must admit that it took me a while to warm to Lamys in general. I found them rather chunky and inelegant at the entry level – Safari and Al-Star – end, but have since been converted (to the Al-Star, at least), since the triangular grip and light weight makes them excellent drawing pens. I have also had occasion to try out the Lamy 2000 and was very impressed with the smoothness of the nib, so I was curious to see what the mid-range priced Aion would have to say for itself.
Stylistically, its minimalist, matte black exterior has a certain elegance, though I must admit that the chunkiness did not appeal to me particularly. There’s a big step up from the rather slender nib to the fat grip. Comments from two members of my family were: “It’s huge!”. In reality, it isn’t really all that big, but the size of the body and grip compared to the nib does give an illusion of bulk. It also does rather depend on what you are accustomed to using.
For comparison, from top to bottom, we have the Lamy Al-Star, Lamy Aion and the considerably more slender Waterman Hemisphere. If you are used to Lamys or large pens, the Aion will suit you just fine. If you have daintier preferences, it will seem huge.
I’d rather blithely assumed that since I have a number of Al-Stars, I could just use one of their converters to test out the pen. Not so! Lamy converters do vary between pen models.
(The next paragraph is a whinge on the subject, so skip on to the end if you want to bypass it.)
I’m afraid this kind of thing irritates me hugely. I have nothing against proprietary systems and I know many of the major brands do this, but why not at least either make it a universal fit for your brand, or supply an appropriate converter with the pen? I don’t believe that Lamy supply converters with any of their pens, but I am at as loss as to why. Seriously, it can’t be that much of an overhead or inconvenience, can it? I can understand entry level pens like the Safari not coming with a converter, but anything that is around the £50 or more price point, really should be supplied with one IMO. Having wasted some time trying to track down the relevant converter information, I decided that I really didn’t want to part with £5+p&p for one, since it isn’t even my pen. I do believe that this will put Lamy, and other western pen manufacturers, at a long term disadvantage in the market, given the quality of Asian pens, which usually come with converters supplied.
(End of whinge.)
Fortunately, I did have a Lamy cartridge which came with one of my Al-Stars. Bizarrely, this is a universal fit. Unfortunately though, the lack of a converter means that the best I can offer in this review is “school blue” and I am unable to show off any of my 80+ more exotically coloured inks.
With the Lamy finally inked and flowing, (a bit of a struggle in itself), the nib wrote fairly smoothly on Leuchtturm paper. Less impressively, it was prone to some skipping at certain angles. In other words, the nib is a little fussy about the angle at which you are holding the pen. If you use it regularly, I imagine you’ll adapt to accommodate this, but it was another thing that did not endear this pen to me. That was my first (and default) test and I drew some less than favourable conclusions. Then I had a revelation…
I happened to have a little scribble on a spiral notepad I keep to hand for random jottings, just to try and ascertain the best angles to minimise skipping. On this cheap notepad paper (£1 shorthand pad from The Works), the performance was astonishing – exemplary, even – with butter smooth nib action and no skipping whatsoever. It glided across the mediocre 70gsm paper like a gold medal-winning ice skater at the Winter Olympics. I was so astonished by this that I asked my 15yo daughter to try it out as well. She experienced exactly the same – skipping on quality paper, lovely performance on cheap paper. Clearly, this pen was designed for every day use on average paper. Perhaps this is a deliberate move to counteract the vague feeling that with something this stylistically Teutonic, you probably ought to be penning black letter gothic script on vellum.
Posted, the pen is far too heavy and very unbalanced. I’d be nervous of scratching the nice matte black surface by posting the cap anyway, so that’s not a significant disadvantage. Unposted, you may also find it too heavy if you favour lighter pens such as the Safari or Al-Star. Personally, I like a solid pen and found that unposted, it was well balanced and suited me comfortably, although I did not use it for a prolonged period.
– stylish, if you like Bauhaus* minimalism, or are a Vampire/Goth
– smooth nib action on cheap paper
– takes standard T10 Lamy cartridges
– nicely balanced, unposted
– quite chunky
– nib performance is erratic on quality paper
– not suitable for posting, so liable to roll off the desk if put down uncapped
– proprietary converter (not supplied)
– may be too heavy if you are accustomed to light, plastic pens
*the art movement…or indeed the band of the same name, in which case you are probably a Goth and will love the matte black version in this review.
In conclusion, Lamy 2000 fans will probably like this stylistically, but not in terms of comparative performance. This is not entirely surprising given the relative price points. I really wanted to like this pen, but can’t honestly say that I did, at least initially. I did warm to it, though probably not enough to want one.
Retailing at just under £50, it wouldn’t fit any immediate requirement I have enough to justify the purchase. The Aion is probably best suited for students, or other note-takers, looking for a stylish workhorse that is a cut above an entry level pen.