Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Unearthing Buried Treasure: A Savanna Green Lamy Safari

How the Safari was found (a reenactment)

I had a vague notion that the Savanna Green Lamy Safari was desirable because it was rare, having been one of the colors offered many years ago and since discontinued. What I was delighted to find out, however, was that Savanna Green was THE first color of Lamy Safari ever!


According to Lamy's website, the Safari model was first introduced in 1980, at an exhibition in Frankfurt. After years of selling high-end pens, Lamy decided to manufacture an everyday pen to be used by school-aged children. The Safari was made to be virtually indestructible: 

"The robust fountain pen made of olive green ABS plastic in an avant-garde style is the outcome of extensive research work in the field of youth psychology and of close cooperation with designer Wolfgang Fabian and the Mannheim Development Group under the direction of Prof. Bernt Spiegel."

Looking at the promotional materials for the first Lamy Safari, it is easy to see why this would have appealed to schoolchildren. The name and subdued camouflage color - olive drab, I suppose it is called these days - call to mind exotic adventures in far-away lands; surely, a pen Tintin himself would have carried to the Land of Black Gold.

When you're trying to go incognito, you need an inconspicuous pen and I'm sure you'll agree the Savannagrün Lamy Safari fits the bill. Just try to find it in this picture:

In addition to the savanna green Lamy Safari, there was also apparently a charcoal black version and a  terracotta orange color in that initial production. As both savanna green and terracotta orange were discontinued in the mid '80s, the latter is just as rare as the former - if not even more so - and highly sought after.

It is easy to tell these "true vintage" Lamy Safaris from the newer models because the paint is textured, and almost all new Safaris are glossy, with the exception of the charcoal version that was never discontinued since its introduction and is also textured - or perhaps we might call it "crinkle finish" in typewriter parlance.

Thankfully, I was never obsessed with collecting a Safari in every color, even though I came close to contemplating  it during my feverish phase a couple of years ago. I quickly realized that I did not have enough hands - or enough time - to write with all my pens... so I turned my acquisitive tendencies elsewhere. I love looking at Safari rainbows on Flickr, though, even if I have to remind myself sternly not to get carried away!

Still, if the universe is kind enough to throw a Safari color I do not have at me out of the blue, who am I to resist? The best thing about a phenomenal fountain pen find is that not only is it relatively inexpensive, it is also a whole lot easier to carry than a typewriter or sewing machine. And finding space for it at home is also a breeze. After a good deal of rinsing and soaking, it has cleaned up very well and writes beautifully for a 33-year-old.

The nib is terribly scuffed and the ABS body is also showing signs of wear, but I like to think it has merely been well-used and I don't intend to switch out the nib for a newer one, even though I do have a few spares. Gives it character, I say. This model does not have W. Germany stamped on the bottom, which from what I read is an indication that it was from the earliest production run.
Four generations of charcoal Lamy Safaris - Source
While the converters have changed over the years and my newer ones will not fit the Savannagrün Safari, the cartridges have thankfully stayed the same. I don't have very many, being a bottled ink sort of person, but I was able to fish out a spare black cartridge from the rubble in my desk drawer to get her up and running. When it is empty - and these last a good, long while - I will just refill it with a syringe. Despite its sorry appearance, the nib still holds up well, and writes somewhere between a fine and a medium (when this was made the nibs weren't engraved with their sizes and I suspect they only came in one size).

So, there we have it, the story of my Saturday surprise. Now that I know there may be fountain pen treasures lurking in those ubiquitous piles of old jewelry, I will certainly be taking a closer look. It is unlikely I will be able to gather my own Safari rainbow from flea market finds, but I can always dream...

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Typecast: On the decision to resuscitate

(J's sightings in the window of a newly-minted shop in Milan selling rejuvenated vintage tech)


(Random eye candy: an Olympia typewriter poster spotted in a Parisian flea market last December)
One way to keep retro tech alive, I guess: "vintage" journal spotted in a department store in downtown Geneva   
So cute, and yet beyond my abilities to save - the new gear I purchased is pictured on the machine, still in the packaging it arrived in.

The old gear - the black plastic has dried out and become brittle, immediately grinding to shreds when the machine is turned on after 30 years of dormancy.

I don't regret letting these go - the Lotuses may be pretty, but I have learned to stride quickly past any I see in the flea market (and there have been several sightings since I picked up these two). Those desiccated gears are ticking time bombs and switching them out is not for the amateur - sewing machines must be timed precisely to get the needle moving in sync with the bobbin, and it is not work for the dilettante like myself.

Speaking of technology which is not being resuscitated - Google Reader is apparently being discontinued, much to my dismay. How will I keep up with all my blogs now? Anyone using interesting/ satisfactory alternatives they care to share?

Monday, March 4, 2013

Pencast from the Park; and a Few Sightings

Yesterday, I headed off to the park with a notebook and a pen, putting some distance between myself and the computer! I only lasted about half an hour, a very abbreviated "digital sabbath" but it was just enough time to produce a pencast:

The antiques fair - a collection of expensive bric-a-brac, but no typewriters. But all the way across town, at the flea market...

We sighted this ferociously guarded pastel blue Brother - touch at your peril!

A fine little Hermes Baby;

And an absolutely immaculate Lettera 32 with international QWERTY keyboard.

This Mignon has been around the block - and then some! Still, it keeps getting trotted out, so I shall continue "sighting" it.

This Gundka, from the same seller, is well on the way to becoming a flea market staple as well. The pool of prospective buyers is quite small as it is, and at these prices... oh, well.

I'm so pleased that my fellow typospherians are sharing with me pictures of sewing machine sightings - here are a few of my favorites from this weekend. The Singer above was so, so tempting! I practically squealed when I came across it. But then I composed myself, took a picture, and kept moving. Whew.

This Bernina Record 530 was my second favorite of the night. This model, from the '60s, is fairly common as Berninas go, but this specimen was absolutely pristine and looked spectacular. It uses a knee pedal instead of the foot pedals we have all become accustomed to seeing.

I have a healthy respect for treadles and would like to try one someday. This one looked pretty good, even the leather cable seems intact.

A fine little Singer completes the sightings - not all that little, come to think of it, but still very nice; the gold decals have been well preserved.

So, meteorologists apparently consider March 1 the start of spring, but there are very few signs of it around here. Although the sunshine is deceptive (still so cold!), I'll take it - much better than the relentless gray skies! Is spring making an appearance where you are?
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