Stipula nibs receive fabulous reviews, and I wanted to try one. Owners of Etrurias and Novocentos speak highly of their pens’ nibs, but I wasn’t ready to spend at that price point. I looked for a more modest point of entry and discovered the Bellini, a pen named after Italian opera composer Vincenzo Salvatore Carmelo Francesco Bellini (1801-1835).
Bellini’s compositions in the bel canto tradition are given expression in this light, delicate pen. Bel canto, meaning “beautiful singing,” refers to a technique of singing whereby passages are rendered in a lovely, bright manner resulting in a continous, rhythmic flow. Sopranic arias, the highlight of opera, are one example of bel canto singing. You can enjoy more nuanced descriptions of bel canto using the following links:
http://www.rhapsody....incenzo-bellini, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bel_canto, http://www.essortmen...echni_rgwg.htm.
First Impressions – 10/10.
I first discovered bel canto’s bright musical delicacy when the pen arrived. It was tiny and light as a feather, the lightest pen I had ever held with the exception of a dip pen.
Appearance & Design – 8/10.
The Bellini is made of mottled black and red hard rubber. The black really appears as a dark rosewood brown, the red streaks providing a subtle, sophisticated appearance. The gold trim ring at the end of the barrel complemented the gold cap band and its nicely- stamped leaf motif.
This is my first hard rubber pen and I was intrigued by the color and light weight of the pen. I also noted that the material seemed more brittle and likely to chip than the plastic, auroloid and celluloid to which I was accustomed. I was sure to be careful with this little pen.
A feature I appreciated were the 8.5 full revolutions required to unthread the barrel from section. The designers seemed aware that the fine, hard rubber threads were delicate and undertook the extra work and expense to provide threads with plenty of bite to last across years of use. Yea, team!
A design flaw is the clip, which lays rigidly against the barrel. Extra effort is required to slip the elastic band in my pen case underneath. Clipping the pen to my shirt pocket also requires some care. It is nice to have a firm clip, but this one offers very grudging flexibility.
Weight & Dimensions –10/10.
The Bellini weights 18 grams (capped), 10 grams (cap), and 8 grams (barrel, with converter, empty). Distance from nib to barrel end is 12 cm. Diameter of the barrel at its widest point is about 11 mm.
Nib & Performance – 7/10.
The nib is very small, approximately 3/32" narrower yet 1/8" longer than that of the Cross Apogee. Its rose gold appearance is lovely and warm, nicely matching the rosewood appearance of the pen. Its stamping was fine and crisp.
Performance, however, was frustrating. The pen had been filled and used only a few times by its previous owner, and I couldn’t help but wonder if it was sold due to the nib being out of tune. I was surprised, and a little disappointed, at how firm the nib was. There was no spring at all. Evidently the larger Stipula nibs have the renowned feel. My 30x loupe also revealed the left tine hanging down too far. Oh, well . . . let’s get it tuned up and see what we have.
I was quite concerned about damaging this tiny, fragile pen by pressuring one tine upward. The feed is still smaller and more delicate than that of the Apogee, and made of ebonite. After repeated trials, I lifted the nib and it stayed in place.
The next step was to check tipping uniformity and shape. The iridium now hung low on the right tine, so out came the micromesh. Over a period of two weeks I slowly dressed the nib until it was buttery smooth. Halfway there!
The final problem to be solved was flow. It was poor. I had to screw down the converter periodically to get enough flow to write. Then it dried up again. I moved to wetter inks, but the solution was in tuning, not ink.
The feed was set very, very tightly up beneath the nib, and the tines were very tight together. I had trouble getting anything between them, and again feared breaking the pen. Finally I used the clear plastic tab holder from a hanging file, and it was perfect. I got it between the tines and firmly forced it up toward the breather hole. Whatever I did thereby, it worked. Suddenly flow was rich and wet. When cleaned and dried, a fine sliver of light appeared between the tines, tapering to darkness just near the tipping. Perfection. Now the Bellini wrote a remarkably wet and full medium line. Yippee!!!
One drawback of the Bellini is its marked tendency to dry while capped. Often the nib will not restart with gentle tapping. On numerous occasions I had to run a little water across the inked nib to wet it into fresh flow. I decided to ink the pen when long sessions lie ahead, and to avoid letting it remain inked when not in use.
Unposted, the pen felt very comfortable. I enjoyed using it, and kept it as my primary writer all week. Its featherlight weight made the narrow section less relevant than in heavier pens. It just lightly rested in my hand and did its work, nearly unnoticed.
Filling System – 10/10.
An international-size converter is employed, which is the most reasonable system for the Bellini. The pen is too small and light for either a piston or captive converter, and I wouldn’t want to replace a sac on a pen so fine and delicate.
Cost & Value – 9/10.
In 2009 the Bellini retailed for $184.00 through Fahrneys. Writers who enjoy fine diminutive pens will find the Bellini to be a nice introduction into Stipula, and pre-loved pens can be found between $120.00 and $160.00. While I remain dissatisfied with the pens’ tendency to dry out, I give it extra credit for nimble, comfortable handling and for laying down a nice line.
Overall Assessment – 8/10.
I appreciate Stipula’s effort to create a delicate fine pen inspired by the delicate bel canto style of singing. The marriage of history, art, and writing is always enjoyed. While I value the Bellini’s delicate character, I have to remove a few points because it quickly dries out and has an overly stiff clip. Overall, the pen remains at home where I can enjoy it in the quietness of study.
[Photo from www.penemporium.com]