Nib Notes: Esterbrook #3556 Firm Fine "Sunburst" Nib

Esterbrook 3556 Firm Fine nib

The Esterbrook #3556 Firm Fine nib is my only 3xxx series nib.These are often referred to as “Sunburst” type nibs due to their elaborate engraving on the nib.
These were the first Esterbrook nib that had tipping material, which Esterbrook called Osmiridium. Osmiridium is a rare alloy, although I haven’t been able to find out if Esterbrook used the natural alloy or made there own from osmium, iridium and maybe a little platinum. Later 9xxx series nibs were also Osmiridium tipped. According to Paul Hoban’s Esterbrook book “The Fountain Pens of Esterbrook” the #3556 nib was one of four 3xxx series nibs introduced in 1938. The osmiridum tipped nibs 3xxx nibs were identified with a red sleeve (the part that slides into the pen). The nibs were phased out by 1944. The 8xxx series nibs also used the Sunburst design but were gold plated and Palladium tipped. Some of the 3xxx series nibs were made in the UK, were gold plated and lacked the Sunburst design. although the #3556 is not one of these.
My particular Esterbrook #3556 is a smooth writer. True to its “firm” name there’s no spring to the nib. There wasn’t any skipping or false starts and it was a consistent writer.
My nib has the early flat feed design which makes sense since Esterbrook probably stopped manufacturing these when they introduced the wartime design feed. There was some nib creep, of sorts, ink liked to jump out to the wings of the nib as if following the rays of the sun.
While the tipping material may provide more durability, I found the untipped #2556 to provide just as good of a writing experience. And as to durability, I suspect even the untipped nib will outlive me.
The 3xxx nibs in general are hard to find and the Esterbrook #3556 is no different. I did see one listed on eBay for $50 and another being sold with a Dollar pen for $80.
The Esterbrook #3556 firm fine nib is a winner in my book simply because it has two of my favorite nib related words in its name. The Sunburst logo provides something to admire when it’s being used. But based strictly on the writing performance I find the #2556 to be its equal, despite the lack of tipping material.

3 thoughts on “Nib Notes: Esterbrook #3556 Firm Fine "Sunburst" Nib

  1. Relatively new to Esterbrook pen collecting, and enjoyed your website very much. One question about the comment “ink liked to jump out to the wings of the nib” with your 3556 nib, does the ink actually drip from the nib in these instances? I have a 3550 nib (firm extra fine) inked with Lierre Sauvage from J Herbin that I love, especially for editing printed work, but I have to be careful because if I accidentally wave the pen too vigorously, drips of ink will come out of the nib. I thought it was leaking at the section, but that is not the case–it is just a very wet nib (possibly necessary for the extra fine tip, which is a wonderful writer that never skips). Possibly other inks would behave differently, I have a Noodler’s blue-black that is rather viscous, but it’s not a good color for editing. Anyway, I would welcome any comments/insights based on your vast experience with Esterbrook nibs. Thanks!! -Kevin

    • Hi Kevin,
      In this case it was more “nib creep” where the ink just seemed to travel along the nib and collect there, it never dripped while writing. This bothers some people. It doesn’t bother me although if I have a cloth handy I will wipe it off before I recap the pen. I have had cases where the ink has dripped with my hand movements which sounds like what you experience. Reaching for a cup of coffee or piece of paper with the pen in hand could leave a drop behind or shoot one out. I tend to like either the nib to the ink to be on the drier so it doesn’t happen much to me although it has happened with Esterbrooks. Although I don’t remember which nib but the pen is small(ish) so I do have to keep myself from reaching for something with pen in hand since it’s easy to do. Plus, Esterbrooks do leave noticeable ink in the cap if I carry them around in my computer bag since it bounces around. Again, not so much to pour out but when it comes time to clean the pen there are noticeable traces.
      Lierre Sauvage is an ink I like the color of but it’s too wet for my tastes unless the nib is a dry writer. I can certainly see the problem occurring with this ink more than others. I tend to stick with inks from pen makers for my vintage pens since they are usually safe and very forgiving if left in the pen awhile, plus I’m a fan of Montblanc ink. I’ve used MB Irish Green in Esterbrooks without problem and use it for marking up documents, although fast hand movements would probably cause drips too.
      Thanks for reading,

  2. I just ended up winning the Estie Nib lottery when I bought a $5 box of misc nibbage which included 7 Esterbrook nibs with the toppers being a 3550 and a 3556 sunburst. My 3550 is Very wet. I love the way it writes but have also experienced the nib creep and wet wings. I also discovered I have developed a bad habit of spinning the pen into the cap rather than the other way! The 3550 nib is helping to retrain me as I juice up the cap pretty well every time I overspin it! I am using a home mix of Noodler’s Liberty’s Elysium and X-Feather (I call it “B&B” for Black and Blue) Great flow and color! Thanks is for your posts! I suppose this is one of the reasons for a “full comb feed ” more collection and buffering of the flow…oh well, I bet a Model A was tough to drive too! Cheers!

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