The Stipula Etruria Demonstrator
By Dyas Anna Lawson
A few years back, I fell in love with clear pens. Often called demonstrator pens, these beauties generally go for higher prices than other colors in their class, even when everything else about them is equal. Considering that the premium price is usually a response to demand, I'm not the only one who likes them.
Demonstrator pens started out as the same black hard-rubber objects as their more usable (and certainly, at the time, more salable) brethren. Manufacturers cut holes in them at strategic points so that salespeople could show retail-store owners and they in turn could show customers exactly how the various filling mechanisms worked.
Later on, when plastics became available, demonstrators had parts and then whole pens made of clear plastics. This made it easy to see what was going on in any part of the pen, with no danger of something poking through a hole and damaging the works.
I know quite a few people who prize their cut-out old black hard-rubber demonstrators. Call me an iconoclast, but I think they're a bit on the ugly side. Besides that, hard rubber makes me sneeze. I'm not very fond, as you might guess, of hard rubber.
However, I think it's cool to be able to see all the works as they're working. And early clear-plastic demonstrators for many pen models are way beyond my price range -- depending on the model, a clear demo could be several hundred dollars; and that's if you can find them. Not many were made, so they're not a common item.
That's how I got hooked on clear modern pens. You have the beauty and intrigue of the demonstrators, but the availability of a modern pen. Several have honored places in my pen chests. One, an Aurora 88 demonstrator, was given to me for my 50th birthday by some dear friends (later, the Transportation Security Administration broke it, but that's a story for another time). Others in my custody include clear Lamys, Pelikans, a Retro 51, and several others.
The newest of my clear loves is a Stipula Etruria, a special edition commissioned by Chuck Swisher of Swisher Pens.
You have to understand that I'd have foregone Cadbury Mini-Eggs at Easter time for this pen -- and since Easter is the only time you can find Cadbury Mini-Eggs, there's no "catching up" later in the year. When they're gone, they're gone.
Something about the Etruria captured my enduring affection when the pen was introduced in its original brown/gold celluloid several years ago. The shape, the elegant trim, the then-unusual clip design all piqued my imagination and, well. . . made me drool. The celluloid practically glowed with life in sunlight. It was simply a gorgeous pen, and when I eventually bought it, I was privileged to have Nobuyoshi Nagahara, the Sailor expert who has become a revered nib-master in the Western world, tweak it a bit at a pen show. That baby has never left my sight since.
Later, Stipula introduced a midnight palette in the Etruria and did a few unusual things with the filling/nib system. Swisher, still later, commissioned the company to make a cracked-ice and a marbled blue color for him to sell as special editions.
Then came the demonstrator version. Who could resist?
This pen is, as they say, the bomb. A beautiful, sleek outline with classically elegant trim design; a big, curvy nib in 18K gold; a piston-filling mechanism that works as smoothly as anyone could wish; and a selection of nib widths that includes 0.9 and 1.1 mm stubs.
I know that some people say they've had problems with Stipulas, but I've either been fortunate or blessed. All of mine have worked wonderfully right out of the box; only one needed a tish of tweaking to get the flow qualities I wanted, and that was just personal preference, not a fault in the pen.
My Etruria has the 0.9 mm stub nib. It's smooth and buttery, but still has a crisp enough line to make a nice thick/thin variation (though, of course, it's nowhere nearly as crisp as a true italic nib -- it's not intended to be). Filled with ink, I can watch the fluid flow through the clear section, the collector, and into the nib, from whence it ribbons cleanly onto paper in a smooth, wet line.
This pen is a joy to use. Based on the larger-sized Etruria (my original celluloid Etruria is the smaller model, better for my mid-sized hands), it gave me a tish of concern originally because I was afraid it might be too big for me to use comfortably. But it's been fine; I can't swear to it, because I don't have the big Etruria in celluloid to compare it with, but I think it may be a little bit lighter, which helps make up for the larger-sized section and barrel length.
Several design details are striking about this pen. The two-tone gold nib is one; the warm gold accents the cool clear materials, and all the trim and internal parts are either gold (or gold-plated) or at least gold colored (in the case of the piston parts, I don't know). So you get a nice, clean two-color palette that is delightful.
The cap posts securely, but I don't post when writing so that's not a concern for me. The pen is, as are all Etrurias, well balanced with a little forward weighting that makes the pen feel as if it practically pulls itself across the paper. This is actually not a wonderful thing all the time (though usually it is), since sometimes I have a pretty heavy touch. But when I'm relaxed and words are like a waterfall, this pen is a dream to use.
Swisher had a limited number of the demonstrator
Etrurias made, so once they're gone, they're gone. The edition contains
50 pieces, with nibs including EF, F, M, B, 0.9 and 1.1 mm widths.