Among the goodies I got with my first Jetpens purchase, the Lamy AL-Star in aluminum with an EF nib was a top contender toward becoming my main fountain pen. Alas, it turned out I received a dud. The pen was close to being DOA.
The pen came with a blue Lamy ink cartridge but I also bought a Z24 converter to use with bottled ink after the cartridge ran out.
As soon as I started using the AL-Star, I realized that I was having problems. The pen showed several symptoms. The line was faint but I assumed that came from the Lamy ink which wasn't very saturated. The nib skipped a lot and usually it was scratchy. The flow would stop for long periods of time after which it would resume after much coaxing. It would write "normally", but not very satisfyingly, and then it would stop again without warning.
I attributed all my woes to the Lamy ink and cartridge. I told myself that once I'm done with that cartridge I can switch to Noodler's Heart of Darkness (which was the ink I intended to use in this pen) and everything would be ok. I was wrong. My troubles had only started.
In what follows is a list of things I did in order to get this pen working.
1) After finishing the Lamy cartridge, I flushed both the pen and converter (although I hadn't used the converter yet) with water and a couple of drops of dish washing liquid. I then flushed them all multiple times with just water.
2) I loaded up the pen with Noodler's Heart of Darkness ink. The problem immediately got worse. I managed to get the ink flowing but the line was very faint and scratchy despite the fact that this ink is usually very dark and saturated so it was clear something was very wrong with the flow.
3) I thought maybe the pen didn't like the ink so I tried 2 more inks in it: Noodler's Navajo Turquoise and Noodler's Gruene Cactus Eel which is a lubricating ink. Neither worked. I started to despair and almost gave up on the pen.
4) I decided to try one final ink in it: Diamine Orange.
5) I also decided to use the ink cartridge I had saved, loaded with Diamine Orange via a syringe because I'd heard that sometimes cartridges provide a better flow than converters.
6) At the same time I took a closer look at the EF nib and noticed that the tines were touching. Holding it to the light showed no light shining through. I used a piece of 35mm film, pulling it multiple times between the tines, in an attempt to create some space between them. I started from the breathing hole and forced the film along the length of the tines, toward the tip. I also tried to do the same with an exacto knife but I wasn't very successful because the blade is comparatively thick compared to the space between the tines. Eventually I reached a point where I could discern light between the tines.
Having done all this, I loaded up the pen with the cartridge containing Diamine Orange and lo and behold, it started writing! Not only did it start but it now writes very smoothly and, dare I say, wetly. The ink flow is excellent and I even get the impression that it's smoother than my Pilot Prera.
Wow what a difference! The only beef I have now with the Lamy is that (perhaps as a result of spacing out the tines) it writes far from EF. Compared with a Japanese nib I'd hazard to guess that it feels more like a B or BB. But hey, it writes and I was almost prepared to chuck it in the trash.
So which of the above methods did the trick? It's hard to pinpoint but I think 4, 5 and 6 all might have contributed to an extent. It is possible that the Lamy doesn't like Noodler's ink but other people are using this ink in it with success. It is also possible that the converter sucks for some reason but then what is the point of having a converter?
Until I test the AL-Star with a different ink plus the converter, I will put my money on the nib. Because the tines were touching I believe the flow of the ink was severely restricted.
I've heard of other people having issues with their Lamys (AL-Star, Safari, Vista or Joy). If you do happen to experience a similar problem, I suggest you try some or all of my steps but just to save you time, I'd start with taking a look at the nib and spreading the tines a little if there's no light shining through. And if you're successful in fixing it, please drop me a line here.