This 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
This 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.
I’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.
Most 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.
- 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
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.
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.