Review: Sheaffer Crest (Modern)

Sheaffer CrestI picked up this Nova Red Sheaffer Crest in late June from Anderson Pens. It’s always dangerous watching (or listening to) their podcast and following them on twitter. I forget which hooked me, podcast or twitter, but they announced some new-old-stock (NOS) Sheaffers so I went to their site to take a look. The Crest was one of two pens that caught my eye and were traded for a reasonable amount of money. The pen was even more beautiful than the photos led me to believe. I’ve had this pen inked up ever since I got it.

Why I Got It

The pen looked great in the picture. Add to that the fact that it’s a Sheaffer with a 18K gold triumph style extra fine nib.

What I Got

A NOS pen that came in the original box with a couple black Sheaffer cartridges. No converter was included. The pen takes the Sheaffer vacuum converter, not the piston converter [Updated: Carlos added in the comments that he uses the piston converter with his Crests]. I already had a couple vacuum converters but I ordered a couple more in case I want to ink up all four of my vacuum only Sheaffers at once.

The Crest name dates back to the 1930’s but this pen is Sheaffer’s reboot of the name done in the 90’s. The Nova Red pens were produced between 1996 and 1998. The Laque finish is composed of 23 layers of laque over hand decoration. All this is over a brass cap and barrel. The pen is absolutely gorgeous and the finish has a nice depth to it. The clip is 23 kt. gold plated and has the iconic Sheaffer white dot. The iconic conical Triumph style nib is 18 kt. gold and it’s a two tone nib with palladium plating. The nib does not have the upturned bend at the end of the nib which the vintage Triumph nibs have.

The cap is a screw on cap that takes just over one full revolution to loosen or tighten. The gold trim works in this case and complements the red/black finish of the pen. I generally don’t like gold trim but it often works with red and brown pens. My grip does touch the threads a bit but they aren’t sharp and they don’t bother me. But the threads are metal so if you tend to grip the pen further from the nib and are sensitive to threads they may bother you.

The cap does post securely although I don’t use this pen posted.

There’s a metal collar around the spike that the converter slides over. This gives me a nice feeling of security by preventing snapping off the spike if I’m careless.

The Numbers

  • Length Capped: 5.6110″ (142.52 mm)
  • Length Uncapped: 4.9275″ (125.16 mm)
  • Length Posted: 6.5″ (165.1 mm)
  • Section Length: 0.6590″ (16.73 mm)
  • Section Diameter (near nib): 0.3340″ (8.48 mm)
  • Section Diameter (below threads): 0.3785″ (9.61 mm)
  • Section Diameter (mid-section): 0.3620″ (9.19 mm)
  • Cap Diameter: 0.4485″ (11.38 mm)
  • Barrel Diameter: 0.4485″ (11.38 mm)
  • Weight (w/vacuum converter): 0.9 oz. (26 g)
  • Weight (body only – w/vacuum converter): 0.6 oz. (18 g)

Writing With The Pen

Sheaffer Crest uncapped on a pen standThe pen uses either Sheaffer cartridges or a vacuum converter. I’ve only used the pen with a vacuum converter. Filling the pen is easy enough. Dip the nib in ink then press and release the metal bar on the vacuum converter. Leave the pen in the ink for an additional 10 to 20 seconds to give the sac time the fill. The sac is visible behind the pressure bar so you can see how much ink is in there. The sac itself is translucent enough to be able the see the ink level. Although it’s not visible the entire length of the converter, when the ink is low you can invert the pen to check the level.

Thanks to the brass barrel the pen is heavy for its size, especially when compared to the plastic Snorkels.

The pen is thinner than I would normally buy these days but that wasn’t enough to keep me from buying the pen. That’s the only negative about the pen and it’s a subjective one. Maybe it’s because I love the pen so much, but the thinness hasn’t bothered me. The nib is very smooth and the ink flows easily with a light touch. I don’t find myself subconsciously gripping the pen tightly as I do other thin pen. It helps that the weight of the pen gives it a substantial feel without being heavy enough to make my hand tired.

The pen holds a surprising amount of ink in the nib and feed. Even when the converter appeared empty the pen wrote for a couple days which included more than 3 full pages of writing.

The nib is everything I like about Sheaffer nibs. Aesthetically I usually don’t like two-tone nibs but I make an exception for Sheaffer. I always admire the nib just a bit when I uncap the pen. But this nib has more than looks going for it. The extra fine nib wrote great out of the box. It puts down a consistent, thin line. While it depends on the ink of course, I’d consider the nib flow to be about a 6 on a scale of 1 to 10. There’s never any hint of skipping and the line never begins to thin out. I haven’t had any problems with the thin nib catching on the fibers of the paper. Despite being 18 kt gold the nib is very firm thanks to the conical shape.

As I’ve already mentioned, the slimness of the pen hasn’t bothered me and I’ve written contuously for over an hour without feeling fatigued. I’ve also used the pen all day, with several extended sessions during the day, without getting fatigued.

Inks Used

Sheaffer Red bottleI’ve only used two inks and I’ve kept it in the family.

Sheaffer Red seems to be the perfect ink for this pen so it was the ink that got used the most. The bright red ink color is well suited for the pen. The only downside to the ink is that red is not a color that can be used in many cases. I’m lucky in that I can use any color I want for most of my writing so I can use this for some long form writing. The ink was problem free.

Sheaffer Peacock Blue was another ink that seemed like it should be used with this pen. The ink was probably made about the same time as the pen, although maybe a couple years later. Again, flow was excellent with no false starts or signs of skipping.

Cleaning The Pen

I always wrote the pen dry so there was never any excess ink to flush out. I removed the vacuum converter and gave feed a couple flushes with the bulb syringe followed by a couple “thermometer shakes” (mercury thermometer, not digital) into a tissue and the pen was good to go. I was always re-inking the pen so there was never a need for me to remove every last trace of ink. But I did one time and that took a bit longer before there was no trace of ink in the tissue.

I cleaned the vacuum converter separately which was relatively easy when I planned to refill. But it’s a bit more tedious to remove all traces of ink. I use a syringe to gently squirt water into the sac and then shake it to make sure the ink is off the sac in all the places I can’t see. I’m probably a bit more paranoid than I need to be when I put the converters into storage.

Wrapping Up

Not only is this Sheaffer Crest a keeper, it’s been inked up since I got it. It’s become one of my favorite fountain pens. I’ve noticed several Nova Red Sheaffer Crests on eBay for over twice what I paid. If I was to loose this pen I’d probably be willing to pay that to replace it, if I had to. I like it that much.

Additional Reading

Modern Sheaffer Crest discussion on FPN article about the modern Sheaffer Crest. This article provided most of the historical information I included in this review. has a brief history and a Sheaffer Crest reference list.

Carlos Cal Brandão commented below and added a link to his Sheaffer Crest post. There’s some beautiful photos of the various models there so I added the link here.

Despite all the writing I did with the pen I never grabbed a writing sample photo so I included the recent Sheaffer Red writing sample photo which included this pen.

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Nib Notes: Esterbrook #9556 Firm Fine

Esterbrook 9556 Firm Fine nib Next on my Esterbrook nib parade is the Esterbrook #9556 Firm Fine nib. It’s very similar to last week’s #9555 shorthand nib. The #9556 feels just slightly less smooth, although it is still very smooth. I really have to use the nibs together to notice. The difference is so minor it could be a manufacturing variation or age and the nibs could be intended to be duplicates. Although, logically the Gregg certified shorthand nib would be expected to be smoother out of the box since it’s intended to be used for shorthand. (Both nibs came to me as mint.)

The nib has “Esterbrook 9556” engraved the length of the nib on two lines which is a clean design that I like a lot. The ink flow from the nib is very good. Iroshizuku Fuyu-syogun can be hard to read if the ink is thin plus it’s a fairly dry writing ink. The nib puts down a nice consistent, dark, even line even when writing fast.

Like all 9xxx nibs it’s Osmiridium tipped. So, in all likelihood the nib will outlast me.

My particular nib was an eBay purchase of a half dozen nibs giving it a nice low price. A recent search shows single nibs on eBay for $23 (BIN). It’s out of stock at Anderson Pens but they list it for $15.00.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – any nib called “Firm Fine” is OK in my book. Esterbrook also labelled this nib for “general writing” and “fine writing.” But whatever it’s called, I like the Esterbrook #9556 Firm Fine a lot and will keep the pen inked up so I can continue to enjoy the nib.

Additional Reading

Esterbrook A101 w/9556 Nib – Fountain Pen Reviews – The Fountain Pen Network

Review: Omas 360 Vintage LE Turquoise

Omas 360 Vintage LE uncapped on a mirrorIt has taken me a long time to write this review and it’s been a frustrating process. But eight different inks later and I think I’m ready to review the Omas 360 Vintage LE Turquoise.

If I was to list the thing’s I don’t want in a fountain pen they would include:
1. Blue
2. A colored demonstrator (I do like clear)
3. A flex nib (I don’t actually dislike flex, but its benefits are lost on me.)
4. A Wet Writer

So how would I describe the Omas 360 Vintage LE? It’s a blue demonstrator with a semi-flex nib that’s a wet writer. Four for four, yet it came home with me from the 2013 Washington D.C. Pen Show.

While there should be a rule against including the word “Vintage” in a pen name, in this case it makes some sense. The Omas 360 Vintage LE is based upon an older (although not really vintage) Omas pen design.

Why I Got It

Every time I walked past the Fountain Pen Hospital table at the show this pen yelled out my name and called me over. Each time I stopped to look at it, it won me over a little more. Finally, after not seeing the red version of the pen and getting a price nearly 50% off list I made it my last pen purchase of the show.

It was a medium nib and I was 99.9% sure I’d have to grind the nib down to at least a fine. A medium nib was the only choice so I considered getting it ground to a fine on Sunday. I decided against that because this pen has personality and I wanted to get to know it before I made changes.

The pen is gorgeous, even if it is blue. The piston is clearly visible but with a pattern that makes it look very cool. The piston travels smoothly and the piston knob’s triangular shape makes it easy to turn. The silver trim complements the color nicely and the silver 18K nib is huge.

I never would have bought this pen without seeing it. No picture I’ve seen does it justice.

What I Got

Omas 360 Vintage LE box contents

The pen came in a beautiful presentation box. The box is lined with a microfiber material and includes a bottle of Omas Turquoise ink. The pen is in a pen sleeve that’s the same material as the box lining. It gives the impression of elegance and quality. This is a limited edition and my pen is number 190 out of 360.

The pen itself is a large triangular shaped piston filler with a 18K gold nib. The material is blue cotton resin. Usually I consider these “… resin” names as fancy name intended to make plastic sound classy. This is not plastic (well, maybe technically on the chemical level it is, I’m no chemist). The material has beautiful depth and translucence. The pen feels rock solid and the material does not feel like plastic. The build quality is top notch.

The piston is smooth but the travel distance seems to be longer than it needs to be, reducing the ink capacity. I read elsewhere that it holds 1.2 ml. of ink. I didn’t measure, but it seems about right. The piston filling system makes it easy to get a full load of ink.

The pen has a solid black inner cap with prongs that extend down to grip the pen when it’s capped. This is downright annoying and borderline ugly. It hides that beautiful nib when it’s capped which is a crime. This is the biggest negative for the pen.

The triangular section could be a problem for some, but it fits my grip perfectly. My fingers all rest against the flat sides. It’s also a big pen, which I find more comfortable.

The medium nib was far to wet for me, and being a medium it put down far too much ink for my tastes. I decided to have Mike Masuyama grind it to a fine but left it as a wet writer with flex. This review is based upon the fine nib.

The Numbers

  • Length Capped: 5.9090″ (150.09 mm)
  • Length Uncapped: 5.2090″ (132.31 mm)
  • Length Posted: 7″ (177.8 mm)
  • Section Length: 1.0480″ (26.61 mm)
  • Section Diameter (near nib): 0.4655″ (11.82 mm)
  • Section Diameter (below step): 0.5320″ (13.51 mm)
  • Section Diameter (mid-section): 0.5115″ (12.99 mm)
  • Cap Diameter: 0.6620″ (16.82 mm)
  • Barrel Diameter: 0.5955″ (15.12 mm)
  • Weight: 0.9 oz. (26 g) (with ink)
  • Weight (body only): 0.6 oz. (16 g) (with ink)

Writing with the Pen

Closeup of the inked Omas 360 Vintage LE nibThis section is based entirely on using the Omas 360 Vintage LE after Mike Masuyama ground the nib to a fine. The medium was just to much ink for my tastes.

This is a very frustrating pen to use unless it has the right ink and paper combination. I’ve used eight different inks in the pen. A couple were great on all the paper I use while a few preferred fountain pen friendly paper such as Rhodia. A couple inks were flushed since they were universally annoying. (See the section about ink used.)

The pen is light, even when posted. It’s a large pen so I don’t even consider posting. But the cap does post securely. The clip slides easily over shirt pockets or other materials. The pen is a little big for me to carry in a shirt pocket. Even if it is secure I find it annoyingly big for my shirt pocket.

As I said, ink varies greatly in this pen. The best inks are quickly emptied when writing with this pen. A full load of Pelikan Blue-Black was used up with less than two days of writing which is unheard of for me.

Because the nib is so wet I’ve found that ink splatters in cap are inevitable, especially when I carry the pen in my bag. They’re small, but they are there. Also, because of the inner cap I have to be a little careful capping the pen, if I try to cap it at an angle the nib may catch on the inner cap or the prongs that extend down to grip the pen.

One way to avoid splatters was to store the pen nib up overnight. Almost every nib would be dry the next morning, the other inks wouldn’t last another night. So there was no ink to splatter when the pen bounced around. The ink quickly reaches the nib when the pen is put nib down for writing, but it is bone dry at first and the delay is noticeable. If I store it flat on my desk the nib stays ready for 5 days, longer with some inks. (Then there are some inks which were so bad I flushed them, but the previous applies to most inks.)

Omas 360 Vintage LE uncapped on a mirorFlex nibs are lost on me so I can’t compare it to other flex nibs. I had a Namiki Falcon at one time but eventually sold it because I didn’t like the flex nib. Other reviewers call it semi-flex but say it doesn’t compare to vintage flex. For me, its a very nice springy 18K nib that’s a joy to use as long as the ink and paper are chosen well.

Because the pen is both wet and finicky I can’t use it as my daily driver even though it’s a fine nib. I do a lot of notes and document markups which just doesn’t suit this pen. The nib also dries out quickly during uncapped pauses in writing.

The big triangle section is very comfortable for me and I can write all day without any fatigue.

I found smooth paper, such as Rhodia, to be best suited for the widest variety of inks with this pen. Most (but not all) inks had minor skipping issues on Doane Paper writing pads and Doane Jotters, both of which I frequently use. These same inks also provided too much feedback for my tastes on these papers. Some inks wrote just fine on the Doane Paper and any other paper I used.

Inks Used

Omas 360 Vintage LE uncapped on a pen standOf all the inks I used, Pelikan 4001 Blue-Black was the only one that was perfect for this fountain pen. I used it on a wide variety of paper without a problem. Even though Pelikan inks are considered dry inks I found the ink to have a wet flow from the pen and put down a consistent line. I typically prefer a dry writing ink but I put that bias aside for this pen because it writes so much better with a wettish ink. So it’s not that Pelikan Blue-Black is a dry writer that makes be like it. It’s that it puts down a wet line but keeps the ink under control.

De Atramentis Sherlock Holmes (Night Blue) and Graf von Faber-Castell Cobalt Blue were both as good as the Pelikan Blue-Black. I just didn’t use them on enough paper to call them perfect, but I expect them to both perform well. They were the second and third inks that wrote smoothly on Doane Paper and any other paper I tried. The list stopped at three.)

The above three inks also had the best (longest) evaporation times, both when the pen was stored and when there was an uncapped pause in writing.

The remaining inks were all less than perfect with the pen. Some further from perfect than others.

Omas Turquoise, which came with the pen, and Sheaffer Peacock Blue wrote fine on smooth papers such as Rhodia but had minor skipping and some heavy feedback on Doane Paper (heavy = more than I would like). As I felt the feedback increasing I knew a skip was in the near future. It was surprising how closely these inks performed to each other. It must be a turquoise thing. Neither was bad or annoying enough to be flushed before I wrote the pen dry.

My favorite ink, R & K Blau-Schwarz LE didn’t fair so well with this pen. It frequently had trouble keeping the ink wet, even when stored for only a couple hours. Plus it was harder to get going once the nib became dry. This was so annoying that I flushed the ink before it was used up.

R & K Scabiosa, an iron gall ink, performed the same as R & K Blau-Schwarz and it was also flushed.

I loaded up Pelikan Edelstein Tanzanite but never got to use it. When I pulled the pen out a couple days later all the ink had evaporated. Since I had a run of temperamental inks I only gave the pen half a fill. I was so shocked by this that when I notice the empty pen I jumped up to look for where the ink had leaked. Still, this does seem bizarre to me and I’ll try the ink again when I get a chance.

Cleaning the Pen

It’s a piston filler so cleaning can be a bit tedious but so far all the inks were quickly flushed from the pen. I haven’t tried, but it doesn’t appear that either the nib or piston can be easily removed for cleaning.

Wrapping Up

Despite the four reasons I should hate the Omas 360 Vintage LE, and despite its finicky taste in ink, this pen is a keeper. Not only does it look stunning, but it’s also damn comfortable to write with. It’s not a pen I can use in every situation, but even after this review I’m keeping it inked up and I’ll be writing with it frequently.

Some people may not find the triangle section comfortable. That, and the price, are the only reasons not to get this pen. The black inner cap is a negative, but not a reason to skip this pen. I was lucky and saw the Omas 360 Vintage LE Turquoise in person and discounted enough to be within my pen show budget.

Additional Reading


Nib Notes: Esterbrook #9555 Fine Gregg Shorthand Nib

photo of the Esterbrook #9555 nibI missed last weeks Esterbrook nib notes, but I’m picking back up up this week with a very nice fine nib. The Esterbrook #9555 Fine nib is listed in a 1955 nib chart as being for “Fine Writing” and includes shorthand marks. It’s listed in a 1959 nib chart as being for shorthand, no mention of fine writing and it’s not listed as a fine nib, just “shorthand”. Although it is listed between an extra fine and a fine nib.

The nib is 9xxx series “Master Duracrome Point” nib that is tipped with Osmiridium. Esterbrook called it Osmiridium which is an alloy of osmium and iridium. At the time the make-up of Osmiridium wasn’t clearly defined and it may have been more iridium than anything else. The nib has “Esterbrook 9555″ engraved lengthwise on the nib which looks sharp and is a style I like.

My particular nib came with a pen and was in mint condition without any signs of use. I see the nib on eBay for just over $20 (buy it now). Anderson Pens lists it at $12 but doesn’t have it in stock so the price may change if they get some.

As I found when I researched the #1555 nib, Gregg Publishing licensed the name for pens (and nibs) that met their standards. Thin and firm nibs were preferred for shorthand because they allowed for quicker writing. But it looks like there were additional requirements beyond just a firm fine nib.

Like the #1555, this nib meets those requirements and is very smooth. I can see that it would perform very well with quick writing and frequent direction changes. The nib puts down a nice crisp, solid line with a good amount of ink. Even though Fuyu-syogun is on the dry flowing side, there’s very good flow from this nib.

I like the Esterbrook #9555 Fine nib a lot. It’s a relatively low cost 9xxx series Esterbrook nib which makes it even easier to like. I’ll be keeping this Esterbrook inked up and I’ll use it until it runs dry.


Nib Notes: Esterbrook #9550 Firm Extra Fine

Esterbrook #9550 nibNext stop for the Esterbrook nib train is my Esterbrook #9550 Firm Extra Fine nib. As I’ve mentioned before, my favorite three nib related words are firm, extra and fine, preferably in that order. So this nib has a lot of promise.

Like other 9xxx series nibs the #9550 is osmiridium tipped and part of their Master DuraCrome Point line.

My particular nib has quite a bit of feedback, especially when writing on paper that’s not smooth. I say not smooth, rather than rough or coarse, because I don’t consider Doane Writing Pads to be coarse or rough paper. But the feedback on this paper makes the writing experience less than enjoyable. The line put down on Doane paper, at least the writing pads, is much thinner and I have to press harder to get a good solid line.

On the other hand, writing on smooth paper is a much more pleasant experience. It’s still a dry writing pen on smooth paper but a light touch can be used and the line is consistent. No skipping, but not an abundance of ink either.

There’s not much more to say about this nib, It’s name covers everything you need to know – Esterbrook #9550 Firm Extra Fine. I enjoy the nib on smooth paper but it’s not enjoyable on the types of paper I typically use during the day. It’s just too thin. Next time I ink it up I may try a more lubricated ink to see if it helps smooth the writing a bit. But I’m not hopeful. The Esterbrook #9550 Firm Extra Fine, at least the one I have, doesn’t live up to the potential of its great name.

Additional Reading

This FPN thread mentions some smooth 9550s

Grandmia Pens shows an Esterbrook with the #9550 nib on YouTube. The nib is unveiled at the 4:48 mark.


Review: Esterbrook Dip-Less Pen and #7550 Firm Extra Fine Nib

Esterbrook Dip-Less_pieces-on-mirrorThis pen changed my life. Well, not really. But I was surprised at how much I’ve loved using this pen. I bought the pen over a year ago and it sat unused until about two weeks ago. I’ve used it just about every day since then.

This nib review is a little different than my previous Esterbrook nib notes. That’s because this nib is different. Unlike the previous Esterbrook nibs this one is for an early Esterbrook Dip-Less pen. Since I’ve only got one nib for the pen this will be a combined nib and pen review, even though the nib is interchangeable. (Technically, any of my Esterbrook nibs will fit, but I’ve only got one nib that’s specifically for this pen.)

I purchased the pen on eBay about a year ago. It came with the #7550 Firm Extra Fine nib. The pen box was in very good shape and included the original instructions. It was listed as New Old Stock (NOS) and I liked the color so I made a bid and was surprised when I won the auction. I obviously wasn’t too excited because the pen sat for a year.

Thanks to modern marketing, when I read “Dip-less” my first thought was that the pen didn’t need dipping. Was it just a marketing name for a fountain pen? Obviously that’s not the case. “Dip-less” means it can be dipped less often since, unlike early dip pens, this one includes a feed. My only other dip pen was my glass dip pen, so I can’t really compare this one to other dip pens. What I can say is that the feed holds a surprisingly large amount of ink. Sometimes it seems like it can go on forever.

What I Got

Esterbrook Dip-Less with nib installedThis nib is unlike my previously reviewed Esterbrook nibs. It doesn’t screw into the pen. A lever is used to unlock the feed and slide it, and the nib, out. The nib and feed are two pieces. A nib swap just replaces the metal nib, the same feed is used. The feed is designed so that the nib slides into the right place. There a small ridge where the back of the nib butts into place. The nib and feed then slide easily into the pen. It’s hard to insert the nib incorrectly.

The pen also takes the regular Esterbrook screw in nibs (Renew-points), such as the ones that are also used in the Esterbrook J pens. Other than screwing a nib in to make sure it fits I haven’t used one of the screw in nibs. The #7550 nib will only work in this pen (among the Esterbrooks I own) and I love the extra fine line it puts down so I’m not looking to swap it.

The pen barrel is engraved “Esterbrook PAT.PEND. MADE IN U.S.A. DIP-LESS UNIVERSAL”. The black taper can be unscrewed and replaced. I’ve also seen clear and red tapers. The “Universal” means the pen can take either the original two piece nib (such as the #7550) or it can take one of the screw in nibs.

Esterbrook Dip-Less feed - openI’m still not used to removing the nib. The nib (and feed) are a little hard to slide out and I’m afraid I’ll break the lever, or the plastic around the feed. From what I’ve read this wasn’t uncommon (the breaking that is). While removing the nib and feed allow a thorough washing, it’s not necessary and it doesn’t take much longer to clean the feed while in the pen. I’ve been cleaning it a lot lately since I’ve been using dozens of inks with it and I haven’t had to take it apart.

The #7550 is another manifold nib, intended for carbon copies. This seems like a good choice for a desk pen that would be for public use. At a bank counter for example.

The nib is Osmiridium coated which would provide added durability and smoothness. My particular nib was NOS and was in good shape. There is some feedback from the nib, but this is expected from an extra fine nib. I would say this nib is near the top, if not on the top, of the smoothness list for my Esterbrook extra fine nibs.

Esterbrook #7550 Firm Extra Fine nib topMost 7xxx nibs had the Sunburst pattern. Mine doesn’t. It’s has he imprinting vertically along the nib and boxed in by three lines. I didn’t know it at the time but this nib is considered rare. I was thinking the sunburst pattern would be more desirable until I read this article by Brian Anderson.

Based upon the instructions that were included with the pen it was intended for use with the No. 407 inkwell (or at least one that looked like it). The instructions lists nine 5xxx series nibs as designed for the pen (The #5442 is not listed). The instructions also say Renew-points in the 2xxx and 3xxx series can be used. Since there’s no mention of 7xxx series nibs this would seem to indicate that my #7550 nib, the pen and the instructions were not originally packaged together. But some research (mainly reading Paul Hoban’s “The Fountain Pens of Esterbrook) makes it clear that the 7xxx series nibs were available when the instructions were printed and they were intended for Dip-less pens. The 7xxx series nibs are in the c.1939 catalog. The 3xxx series nibs were introduced around 1938 and phased out around 1944 which would put the instructions in that date range. The 7xxx series nibs are the Osmiridium tipped versions of the 5xxx series nibs, although there are only four 7xxx series nibs. I would have expected any instructions to mention the 7xxx series nibs since they were available at the time, especially if the nib was sold with the pen. The nib obviously works in the pen. I was just curious, not concerned.

The Numbers

  • Length: 6.3815″ (162.09 mm)
  • Diameter (near nib): 0.39″ (9.90 mm)
  • Barrel Diameter: 0.4185″ (10.63 mm)
  • Weight: 0.2 oz. (6 g)

Writing with the Pen

Esterbrook Dip-less in an empty #407 inkwell

Esterbrook Dip-less in an empty #407 inkwell

I do have a couple Esterbrook #407 inkwells but I didn’t start cleaning them up until I learned how much I liked this pen and that I wanted it on my desk.I used the cleanest parts from both to get a working inkwell. I just filled the inkwell with Sheaffer red as I was getting ready to publish this post. (I also have a 447 “hockey puck” inkwell and the pen does not fit as snugly as it does in the #407.) The 407s hold a lot of ink – a full 50ml bottle of Sheaffer Red fit with room to spare. Because I just filled the inkwell last night all my writing has been done bottle dipping. This results in a coating of ink on the top of the nib. While it looks nice, it could result in errant ink drops so I wipe the ink off on the edge of the bottle. This takes a little longer but using the pen was very enjoyable. The inkwell to solves most of this problem although there’s a little ink on top of the nib.

Despite getting the pen over a year ago this is the first time I’ve dipped it in ink. And I’m kicking myself for waiting so long. I used the nib when I swabbed/tested my Private Reserve and Noodler’s inks and the writing samples are in the Gallery. There weren’t any problems, although the inks are very old and a couple of the colors obviously haven’t aged well. That’s not the fault of the pen. I’ve been on an ink sampling tear thanks in part to this pen and have used it with several dozen inks. Some inks work better than others, just like in a fountain pen, but in general they all worked great.

I don’t know why I expected writing with the pen to suck, but since it was actually pleasant I’ve probably over re-acted on the positive side. It’s rather fun to see how much the pen can write with one dip. (A lot.)

For my first extended writing session (the draft of this review) I picked Montblanc Bordeaux as the ink. It seemed appropriate and was a perfect match. Using a dip pen is a different writing experience. Some of the enjoyment was obviously because it was different, but I’ve continued to enjoy the pen.

If I held the pen in the bottle for a little longer than a quick dip it would take up enough ink so that I could write about 3/4 of a page, including some pauses. I made it through the first draft (a couple lines over two pages) with four dips and the fourth was close to the end but there just wasn’t enough ink without that fourth dip.

Wrapping Up

Unfortunately dip pens aren’t as convenient to use, for obvious reasons. Still, the Esterbrook Dip-less with the #7550 Firm Extra Fine nib is a pleasure to use so I’ll find reasons to use it while at my desk. I started cleaning up the inkwells and plan on putting the Esterbrook Dip-less in a prominent spot on my desk.

Additional Reading

About the Dip-Less pens at

About the desk sets at

Nib Notes: Esterbrook #9461 Rigid Fine

Esterbrook 9461 Rigid Fine This week’s Esterbrook nib is the Esterbrook #9461 Rigid Fine nib. The nib is also called a Manifold Fine and is the fine version of the #9460 medium nib.

Like every 9xxx series Master DuroChrome nib the 9461 is tipped with an allow Esterbrook called Osmiridium. The nib, at least the one I have, has “Esterbrook” and “9461” engraved the length of the nib. I like this engraving style. It’s nice and simple, yet distinctive.

My particular nib is smooth, especially on paper that is also smooth. There is a little feedback which would be expected from a fine nib. The nib was intended to be used to make carbon copies so I would expect this nib to last a long, long time with regular usage, The nib also does a great impression of a nail for the same reason.

I wasn’t surprised to find I liked this nib. There isn’t a Esterbrook fine or extra fine nib that I don’t like, although specific nibs may not have aged well. In this case, my particular nib has aged well.