Sunday, October 12, 2014

Esterbrook J

I took a leap of faith...into the magical world of vintage pens! I bought an Esterbrook J! Let's be honest, it had to happen one day, and I'm glad that day is today (or rather two weeks ago when I bought it at the Tilburg Pen Show!) 

I didn't really expect a lot of it, and didn't really pay much attention when buying it either! In fact, buying the pen went a little like this: [Me walking around, checking out all the pens] Oh! that one looks a lot like an Esterbrook! [Looks at the price tag - 15 euros] Oh! That's not too bad! [Buys it without hesitating a second]... So the second I walk away with my new pen, my brain (which is currently busy dealing with the overwhelming amount of pens stuffed into one location, being the Pen Show) starts to realise I should have checked for any obvious flaws, if it has a nib, if the mechanism still works... Anyway, it should be clear by now that this was a textbook example of an impulse buy! 

So I take off the cap - Phew! - it has a nib! (Still not even paying attention to what nib, or if it is in good shape!) I slowly started noticing the REALLY obvious dents all over the pen, and the fact that the clip is slightly bent out of shape! But the real dissapointment came when I pulled the lever - nothing - no resistance at all. Well... it was only 15 Euros, so I could have known that the mechanism wouldn't work! 

So, I go to the kind lady who organises the pen show, and ask her if there's a nibmeister (or pen repairer, pen doctor, whatever!) attending the show. It was my lucky day, there was indeed a fine gentleman at the show that would be able to fix it! Francis, better known as 'Fountainbel' within the pen community (Yes, the designer of the Belgian Conid pens) agreed to fix it and send it over when it was done. Easy! And not that expensive, for another 15 Euros, Francis replaced the sac and lever mechanism! 

So a few days ago, my Estie landed in the mailbox. I opened the packaging (nicely protected in a plastic container!) and rushed upstairs to my room to fill it up! - Oh! And I finally took the time to figure out which model it was - a double jewel J - and which nib it had installed - a 9550 firm extra fine! - So I filled it up with P.W. Akkerman Binnenhof Blues (it seemed appropriate to use ink that comes in a vintage-looking bottle in a vintage pen!), which was a breeze! The mechanism worked perfectly and, even though there's no possible way of finding out how much ink it takes, I'm pretty convinced it filled up pretty well! 

The J is a pretty normal sized pen, with a low weight (Plastic build) and a pretty nice design, even for today's standards. Unposted, it's not extremely long. The cap can be posted, though it's not the most secure fit! Apart from the dents and scratches, the red pearlised finish is beautiful to look at, and based on some internet research, there's got to be at least one design or color that suits your style!

Putting the nib to the paper is -WOW- pretty amazing really! I never expected a fifty year old pen (if not older!) to write this effortless. The extra fine is not as fine as I expected, but wonderfully smooth, and it has a nicely balanced flow. The only issue I found was that the feed would have trouble keeping up after a while. I forgot to mention that the feed has a scratch, or rather hole in it, and no, it's not part of the design... Wait, HOW THE HELL DOES ONE ACCIDENTALLY PUT A HOLE IN A FEED!?! Anyway, all things considered, the performance of this Esterbrook certainly lives up to its expectations! I'm a happy Estie-owner!

The price of an Esterbrook varies depending on a number of factors (color, size, model, year, nib,..) But it's safe to say that 30 Euros or 30 USDollars will get you somewhere. It might not be in the most pristine condition, but hey, it's probably older than yourself, so give it a break!


  1. Congratulations on joining the cult of Esterbrook. Not a bad total price for the pen, at least compared to what I find. My own 9550 isn't such a great writer, scratchy on anything except smooth paper, luckily it wasn't my first Esterbrook. It's interesting that mine is engraved across the nib while yours is the length of the nib. Enjoy the pen!

    1. Thank! I really didn't expect it to be such a great pen, more will follow for sure! Indeed 30 Euros isn't too bad, they are not as easy to come by here in Europe so I think I made a pretty good deal!
      Sorry to hear about your 9550 nib though, mine is incredibly smooth, maybe the tines are misaligned?

      Thanks for the comment!

  2. It looks like a SJ or LJ to me, but with no picture of the usually tips for identifying the model it is hard to tell it from the pictures.
    There is also a design of Esterbrook feeds with a hole in it, on the bottom of it. I have a 9550 that have it and it is due to the design, not someone that a carved a hole in it. A picture will help to confirme that fact.

    Anyway congrats on your first Estie purchase, it may be followed by some more.. trust that happens!

  3. The pictures are indeed not the best to tell, but I can assure you it's a full-sized J model! About the feed, I'm not sure, the 'holes' (they are actually more like dents that go all the way through) have a very random size, I'd be very surprised if it's supposed to be this way!

    And indeed, this won't be the last Estie I buy!