The Wonderful World of Esterbrook

28 01 2009

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 And while these pens were originally made for the ‘common man’ in terms of pricing, they offer quality to match just about anything else you’d want to compare them to.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.

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5 responses

4 02 2009
Michael Moncur

Esterbrooks are my favorite pens. I have collected all 6 colors of celluloid for the basic “J” pens and now I’m working on the Dollar Pens and Icicles.

4 02 2009
wtisaac

When you stop to think about all the variations Esties have to offer, you could spend a LOT of $$ putting together a complete collection (if that’s even possible). I’m talking about the kind of $$ that would eclipse the GNP of Paraguay……

5 02 2009
ChrisCP

I have only one Esterbrook so far–a red J. But I’ve got three nibs for it–an Osmiroid Sketch nib, a 2048 and a 9128. The 9128 is the nib that lives in the pen and is one of the more difficult ones to track down, it seems. Certainly took me a while to find mine.

27 03 2009
LanceR

I agree with your observation that the Esterbrook was made for the common man and
pricing provided a high level of quality.
Maybe a number of today’s companies should follow Esterbrook’s example “promise minimal expectation but provide more than expected”
Ah for the old days when craftsmanship was common place and not out of the reach of the everyday man

19 12 2009
John in Covina Erickson

The onetime ubiquitous Esterbrook remains a favorite fountain pen for me. I have 19 (or more) including 3 of the desk pens, some dollar ones, transitional J, LJ’s, SJ’s, etc. (I find them for too high a price but buy anyway, like some kind of rescue puppy concept.) I love the colors including the black and the rare to see (for me) pastels. I like the medium and broad nibs the most, but their nibs write so well, which comes from the long history of being a nib maker first. One I have is a black slim model that is marked Bell System Property which really writes so well but has a sense of history for me. The early collectors seemed to have a sense of disdain for the brand since it did not carry the panache of the big 3 or 4 depending on your concept of big. They hardy seemed to hold a candle to the uber Euro brands or those from Japan, BUT Esterbrooks tend to be nearly bulletproof, have an easily swapped nib with a wide variety nib styles available, and write well. The Esterbrook legacy is as a student , business and government pen. It pretty much always wrote on command and in a way that wins begrudging compliments from the rarified fountain pen collectors.

I have given them as gifts, and reccomended them to newbies. The book “The Fountain Pens of Esterbrook” by Paul Hoban has an honored place on my bookshelf when I don’t have it down looking at the pictures. While they won’t replace my Pelikans, I am more likely to carry them since I am much less likely to cry as much should I lose one. But it would still be keenly felt as a loss.

Esterbrooks, who knew?

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