The Lure of the Demonstrator
By Dyas Anna Lawson
When I met my first demonstrator pen collector and watched him show off two or three big trays full of clear plastic pens, I thought he was nuts. Admittedly, I was a relatively new collector at the time and hadn't picked up the classify-and-organize bug yet. (I still haven't, but people tell me there's hope for me even though I don't particularly want to pick up that bug.) I was thoroughly entrenched in the magpie approach to collecting--if it's bright, shiny, pretty, and a nice color, it belongs in the collection.
From that standpoint, clear just didn't do it. Even though I had to admit that the innards of some of the pens -- a Sheaffer Snorkel, for instance, and several other models that had cutout sections so you could see how the inner mechanisms worked -- were interesting from an engineering perspective, they just didn't "speak" to me the way bright-and-shiny did.
But recently, three clear "demonstrator" pens showed up in my collection. One was a birthday gift from some marvelously wonderful people -- an Aurora 88 with an italic nib. One was a self-purchase -- a clear Lamy Safari. The third was a gift, too -- the Levenger version of the Pelikan demonstrator, which I believe is a 250 size. (There's a pet peeve of mine -- companies that sell pens but don't tell you the model numbers or who the makers are, in the case of pens they have made specially for themselves.) I suppose you might also include my old Recife Crystal, but that has a green cap so demands green ink and I tend to think of it as a green pen. Anyway, for purposes of this discussion, it's not a demonstrator.
Nobody can argue that demonstrator pens are anything but unassuming when taken from their nests. The metal trim is shiny and sparkly and attractive to a magpie of any variety. The plastic is well clear. Transparent. See-through. Without character. Like glass, you know? Like it ought to be framing something.
wait! You pick up that Aurora, and
look at that. You can see the insides. You can see the piston and plunger
move up and down. You can see all the little wheelie and gearie thingies.
You can see the feed and the nib and how they fit together.
Then I filled the Aurora with ink. A brilliant orange of my own devising. That was neat, too -- the ink sucked up into the barrel, colored the nib, saturated the feed, gave the barrel depth and texture.
This, I said out loud, is way cool!
If I hold the orange-filled pen to the light, I can see faint tints of the reds and yellows and a touch of blue that went into creating that color. I can watch the ink disappear from the barrel as it trails out the end of the nib while I write. It's like it's like that clear plastic guy we used to have in science class, the Invisible Man! Remember him? You took his abdomen off and you could take out his colored organs and see where they came from and fit?
Of course, I didn't take my Aurora apart to see if its
"organs" came apart and fit back together. But I spent (and
still spend) a lot of "thought time" looking at it and playing
with it and reflecting light off and through it. It's just plain neat,
no way around it.
The only trouble with that is that I'm getting so many pens that make the "daily user" cut that I can't get them all uncapped and used in one day. Ack!
Next came the Lamy, which I filled with a brilliant pink
ink (Levenger's Pinkly, or whatever it's called, I think). Wow! Did that
stand out! With a clear converter inside, it was spiffy cool to watch
it because you get this double-reflection effect with the clear barrel
of the converter and the clear barrel of the pen.
The clear Levenger Pelikan, which has a 14-karat nib and is quite a nice pen for the price, has a whole different audience. Its clean, elegant lines and gold trim seem to intrigue a slightly older audience, beginning with those around the early 30s. They use a different vocabulary to describe it, but they show an equal interest in the neat pen with the workings you can see.
"Um, that's a cool pen. What is it? How does it work? What are all those little parts in there?" is more like what I hear. I've not noticed any particular gender bias with this one, though.
There's not much you can say about a Pelikan, writing-wise. Though I know of a few people who've had less-than-stellar experiences, I never have. All my Pelikans have been top-notch, rugged, beautiful pens with exquisite writing characteristics, and this one is no different. A smooth, well-crafted nib with just a hint of spring.
In this one, I put a deep blue-green ink (also of my own devising). If I recall correctly, human eyes see many more shades of blues and greens than colors in the other parts of the spectrum. One of the lovely things about this pen is the various shades and tints that show as I rotate the barrel and the ink rolls in a thin wash down the barrel side and collects in a thicker, darker, more intense mass at the bottom. Yummm!
One thing that intrigues me about all demonstrators, as well as my own, is that you can see the nib inside the cap. You can see how it all fits together; how the nib seats near the cap end; how the seal, if there is one, works; and the condensation that occurs on the inside of the cap in tiny droplets when the pen is warm, as it is direct from a pocket. The condensation appears as a series of small magnifying dots that almost form a pattern and do really fascinating things to light if you look through them.
Am I, so to speak, converted? Will I eschew all bright bits and shiny, sparkly things in favor of the treasures of the transparent? Probably not. I think of these guys as an augmentation, an expansion of my tastes, rather than a paradigm shift. But they are way cool!
So there you have it. No great new information here.
No eurekas. No epiphanies. Just three neat pens, all of excellent quality;
solid, dependable writers; and built with craftsmanship to last a long,
long time. And all kinds of additional neat things to play with involving
color. It's almost like having a box full of new toys every time you fill