This is not the first Stipula I have tried, after all I reviewed my personal Etruria Faceted a couple of years back. Their lack of presence is noticeable, not only in the UK, but do a search and you will struggle to find any of their present range of pens available to buy in Europe as well. So what has happened to this Italian pen maker and why am I reviewing one of their present models of fountain pen.
Back in the mid to late 2010s Stipula had a lot in common with many of the other Italian pen makers. Attractive materials, interesting models, reducing margins, and … quality control issues. This hurt the brand and is the reason why you can find many stores listing Stipula, but very few with anything in stock. Thing is the company was able to survive and move forwards and now in 2022 I have my hands on this pen, which was released back in around 2014/5.
The Miele Selvatico, Wild Honey, resin has been a stalwart of the Stipula range since possibly the beginning of fountain pen production for them. It is a gorgeous material, warm, mottled, and translucent. The main colour is a clear amber with ice finish like cracks throughout it. There are patches of varying darknesses and depths of brown. The nib and converter can be clearly seen through the resin, almost like an insect captured in amber.
The furnishings are all classic Stipula in style and coloured gold. The clip is blade like with leaves imprinted at the end. The cap band is wide, sitting a good centimetre above the opening with a leaf motif embossed upon it. Towards the end of the barrel there is another ring, which would separate a piston turning knob from the barrel, here it is pure decorative and there is no blind cap at the back. Finally, keeping with tradition, the Stipula script along with Firenza made in Italy is stamped along the side of the barrel. There appears to be four threads within the cap so depending it’s position when you start to wind in the barrel depends on whether the text is in line with the clip, opposite, or to one side or the other.
Unfortunately the text does not line up with the nib, which does part surprise me, but this is also the case with my personal Etruria Faceted. I do wonder if it is by design, as when I hold the pen to write the text sits clearly visible in the crook of my hand. Of course alas this will not work for left handed people.
The cap unscrews in just one full turn and posts securely. The pen is already of a decent size, comparable to an oversized from other brands, and has a decent heft to it for a resin pen, however the balance is already towards the back and posting throws this beyond the rear of the hand. Having said that the only need to post would be if you have very big hands or always post.
The clip is actually curved along it’s length, more so on the outer side then the inner. It is mounted on a sprung strip which is fixed in to the cap by a t-piece. It works very well and is of an interesting design at the functional end, for while having an arrowhead nub to slide over pocket seams there are two additional ‘teeth’ parallel to each other, about half a centimetre further along.
Stipula make their own nibs and feeds. Here we have a steel 1.1 italic, with no apparent tipping, sitting atop of their own plastic feed and with the classic Stipula leaf patterning stamped in to the surface. I would have much preferred a regular nib such as a medium or broad as italics often require practice to use properly and can suffer from issues other nibs do not. When the pen arrived the previous tester had left it, at my request, filled with Vinta Pamana. Hard starting and skipping was common, however as soon as the first testing dried I realised why. Pamana is a very heavy sheening ink. Most, if not all high sheeners have a high level of viscosity and can both cause flow problems and clog nibs. I flushed the pen out and refilled it with ScriBo Notturno Viola, a free flowing ink and as a result the results were transformed, assuming that is you use the pen as you should with an italic nib. What I mean is if you write at a normal speed you will see some tram lining, but that is very common for this type of nib. Take your time and aside from an initial slight hard start the ink flows well.
In the hand this is a relatively comfortable pen with one exception. The hour glass section is comparatively thin compared to the rest of the pen but does not look out of balance visually. Additionally the threads are soft meaning there is no problem or discomfort holding the pen further back, which I find myself doing. The barrel is back weighted and looking inside the barrel you can see that while the barrel band externally is just 3mm in width, internally it is over 2 centimetres. I actually find this puts a little strain on my wrist and would struggle to use this pen for too long, however many of you may not find this to be an issue.
The filling system is standard international. The pen came with a converter already installed and a branded Stipula cartridge in the box.
Packaging has changed. Even a few years back Stipula still used a classically styled red leather (faux?) box with white leather interior. Now we have a much more modern shaped black faux leather unit though the interior is similar. The only branding is on the inner lid. Again the outer cardboard sleeve has changed with it now being a plain black open ended piece with a model sticker on the side. Before it was red and with a window to expose the Stipula branding on the top of the lid. In some respects I prefer the new style as the old case did look dated rather than classical, however let us be honest. Once the pen is inked chances are the case will be in a drawer or the bin.
So what are my thoughts. At the few European shops presently selling Stipula the Etruria Magnifica comes in around €180-200, so towards the upper end of a very crowded market place, with many of the rivals also being Italian. Unlike many of the others, Stipula have kept with a very classical shape which does make it stand out amongst it’s smoother, generally angular rivals. The fat cap band helps lend to this feel. It is actually something I am personally not a fan of, much preferring the inlaid rings of the Etruria Faceted model, however at the same time I appreciate the design language and the fact it does help differentiate this pen from others and also keep with the traditions of Stipula. The actual resin the pen is made from is stunning and combines very well with the gold trims to be a feast for the eyes.
Would I recommend this pen to others? This is where the lack of a normal nib causes me to be careful as that was once one of the areas of issue in the past. Having said that this pen has worked perfectly for me when remembering that it is a true italic nib (no tipping) and needs to be used as such. The pen is well put together and comfortable to use. I do hope some of the UK stores take on or restart with Stipula for the pen world would be a more boring place without them.
- Beautiful material.
- Comfortable pen to hold and use.
- 1.1 italic nib has a sweet spot and needs the right ink to work well.
- Balance point of the pen is towards the rear which may be an issue to some.
- At the higher end price wise compared to its market rivals.
- Presently no official retailer in the UK and few in Europe.
First three with the ubiquitous Lamy Al-Star/Safari.