The Wonderful World of Esterbrook

Just a short note tonight on one of my favorite lines of pens, the Esterbrook. I have several, but today I broke out one that hasn’t been in the usual rotation for a year or so. And after inking it up, I’m not sure why.

This particular example is a fern green SJ model (their short model) about 4 ¾” long. It’s outfitted with one of my favorite of the Esterbrook nibs, a 9668 which in their old advertisements was referred to as ‘general writing’. This pen is simply a work horse. It writes a buttery smooth, wet line, and I’ve inked it with another new favorite of mine, Lamy blue.

The trick for me with these pens has been the nibs. As I mentioned earlier, this pen is fitted with a 9668 nib which is (again, my opinion) outstanding. However, In my collection, I’ve chosen to focus only on their 9xxxx series of nibs. Esterbrook made 1000, 2000, and 9000 series nibs. The 1000 and 2000 series used a folding method to tip the tines, while the 9000 series were tipped with iridium which I think, provides for a smoother writing nib, even in the finer points. I just haven’t found a 1xxx or 2xxx nib that wrote smoothly for me, though in all fairness, I haven’t sampled that many of them.

Simply put, Esterbrooks are a fantastic line of pens! They are a great way for someone new to fountain pen collecting to be initiated into this wonderful hobby, as they are plentiful, and (at least at this point in time) are reasonably cheap to acquire. They offer the collector a VAST array of pens to collect, given the colors, sizes, styles and not the least of which, nib choices available. And while these pens were originally made for the ‘common man’ in terms of pricing, they offer quality to match just about anything else you’d want to compare them to. But don’t confuse quality with luxury. These pens were made with stainless steel hardware and nib material. Not gold. They were meant to be used. The advantage of using stainless steel was that when you acquire one today, they’re generally found in pretty good shape. No corrosion or brassing. Their bodies were made of a thick celluloid that typically cleans up nicely.


Quo Vadis Minister Agenda Planning Diary

Got a cool present in the mail today, some journals from the fine folks at EXACLAIR, INC. Special thanks to Karen Doherty!

I should explain that EXACLAIR INC is the US distributer for Quo Vadis, Clairefontane, Rhodia J. Herbin and several other journal products. This review is for the Quo Vadis ‘Minister Agenda Planning Dairy’. My first impression was very good. This planner is clad in a black, leather-like material affixed to a flexible cardboard (I think) cover with the company logo embossed in the lower right corner. There is a black elastic band for securing the book affixed to the back cover, a la` Moleskin. Very elegant, classy look. And it just feels good.

While it looks good and presents a very good first impression, I want to address my negative points first. Beggers can’t be choosers, but this is not a size that I would purchase to carry. It measures 9 ½ inches by 6 ¼ wide. To big to put in a pocket, but on the good side, because of it’s size and interior layout, it’s nice and thin. Slightly less than ½ an inch thick. Wrapped around the front cover is a heavy paper band outlining the features of this planner. Two things here struck me. In bold letters at the top it says REFILLABLE. Refillable how? This planner is constructed like a large Moleskin, with paper sewn and bound together and affixed to the binder/spine (forgive my lack of correct ‘booky’ terms). Nothing slips out. Not sure about that statement. Second, it states that it has a ‘Detachable address book’. Nope. Not even a section for address contacts at all. That’s a BIG strike for me.

Now to the good. The layout is quite good and makes a lot of sense to me. It’s laid out 1 week per 2 pages starting at 8am and ending at 9pm.

There are sections on each right hand page for Phone, Fax/Email, To Do, Pay and Notes. Each page also features a perforated corner that you can remove allowing for any easy method of bookmarking where you currently are. I like this, though I think I might have preferred a simple ribbon bookmark. The best part of this planner for me is the paper. Absolutely wonderful! I almost always write with a fountain pen. My daily journal (right now) is a C.R. Gibson Markings (again….a Moleskin knockoff) and many of the inks I use will bleed through the pages. Not this planner. The paper doesn’t seem any thicker than the Markings journal, but it is noticeably smoother. It’s bright white and has a very slight sheen to it. Here is a picture where I put in my contact information and then the back side of that same sheet. Again, no bleed-thru or feathering:

So to sum up, This isn’t a planner I would buy, but only because of its size. However, if they made a planner in a smaller size, (and they may very well, I’m not very familiar with their product line) one that would fit inside a jacket pocket, I’d pick one up. If you’re ok with the layout and the size, the paper will sell you. Really nice.

The Ones I Love

How do I love thee, let me count the ways……

I got to thinking today. What if I had to choose ONLY 5 pens from my collection, to keep forever? Further, what if the criteria was implicit that these would be for writing purposes only. Value couldn’t be considered. The writers. The ones that are a pleasure to write with. That’s tough.

Well, as of today (I reserve the right to change my mind at any time in the future), I’d have to pick the following, but in no paticular order:

Parker Vacumatic
My Parker Vacumatic. Not sure of the date.
1946 Parker 51
Dove Grey Parker 51 w/ Gold-Fill Cap. Wicked Sweet!
Awesome Pen
Lamy Saffari Awesome Pen
Fulliwen Pen. Have now idea of the model, but an awesome pen.
Fulliwen Pen. Have now idea of the model, but an awesome pen.
Eversharp Skyliner, Maroon w/ Gold striped Cap, fine nib
Eversharp Skyliner, Maroon w/ Gold striped Cap, fine nib

And there they are. Pretty sure in a couple of days, some of these will change.

Ink ’em if you got ’em!

The Chinese Are Coming, The Chinese Are Coming!

Wake up America, the Chinese are coming. Actually, because of the internet, they’re already here. Parker and Sheaffer are no longer a mainstay to those of us seduced and enthralled with the most elegant of writing instruments, the fountain pen. I don’t mean to offend any of my fellow pen enthusiasts, in fact, given a choice (and the money needed) I’ll take a Parker Duofold or 51 any day, over almost anything else in the offering (Sheaffer’s fall into this statement too, I just couldn’t fit them into the sentence where it sounded right). But given the fact that, for me, money does usually come into play, Chinese-produced pens have recently become very popular.

In the past couple of months, I’ve purchased about 6 of these little jewels for anywhere from $2 to $20 US. Yes, quality has varied, but only 1 has been what I would consider sub-par. One of the cheapest, a Fuliwen, was a $5 pen, and rivals the quality of any other pen I own, Parker, Sheaffer, Pelican, Waterman, Mont Blanc – any of them. All of them (so far) have stainless steel nibs in common. And all of these nibs have also been BUTTERY smooth! Each has been a fantastic writer. And for me, at the end of the day, how they write is my most important criteria.

A lot of these pens, tend to fall into the more gaudy category, at least to my tastes, some far more so than others. But some, such as the Hero-Parker 51-knock offs, closely mirror the utilitarian looks of the ‘classics’. If they ever start making faithful reproductions of a Balance, a Duofold or other truly classic pen, I’ll go broke buying them. Maybe it’s best then that they don’t.

Here’s a couple of pics of some of these most recent acquisition:

From left to right, a Huashilai 3000, Fuliwen, Bookworm and a Lanbitou 211 (the quality of this one sucked)

So, in the new pen category, I would encourage anyone to check out some of these often ridiculed jems of the orient. You just might be surprised, and get hooked……