Nib Notes: Esterbrook #9788 Flexible Medium

Esterbrook #9788 nib

Next up in my Esterbrook nib list is the Esterbrook #9788 Flexible Medium nib. Like all 9xxx series nibs it’s one of the nibs Esterbrook called a “Master DuraCrome Nib.” It’s osmiridium tipped. Osmiridium is what Esterbrook called the tipping material although it’s probably mostly iridium. At that time osmiridium wasn’t clearly defined and was an alloy of different metals. Iridium was one of those materials although there wasn’t any standard for the mix of metals.
Esterbrook promoted the pen as being for “shaded writing”, at least on nib charts from the 1950s. The box I have is labeled both “Flexible Medium” and “Shaded Writing.”
There is some flex in the nib, as the name implies. I’m not proficient at using flexible nibs so I’m not the best judge, so take this for what it’s worth. It’s a steel nib so there’s not a great deal of flex. The tines do spread with pressure and variation in line width is possible. Ink flow is excellent and I didn’t have any problems when flexing the nib. I also found the nib enjoyable to use normally (no flex). I’d pick it over the #9668 that I have. There’s slightly more ink flow and I like the line better. Of course, I may say the opposite with a wetter, more free flowing ink.
My particular nib has the final feed design and the Esterbrook name and nib number are engraved the length of the nib. Aesthetically I prefer this lengthwise engraving over engraving across the nib.
My particular nib was an eBay purchase and was new-old-stock (NOS) and arrived with the box. Prices seemed to have spiked since I got my nib. I found current eBay buy it now prices of $75. Anderson Pens prices the nib at $45 but it’s out of stock.
As I also said with the #9688 nib, the #9788 is a very nice medium. I’d pick the #9788 over the #9688 if price wasn’t considered. With the Esterbrook #9788 currently selling for five times the #9688 I’d be hard pressed to justify it’s purchase unless my skills with flex nibs dramatically improve. I’d also think skilled flex writers could do better with some other vintage flex pen for about the same money. So my Esterbrook #9788 Flexible Medium is a keeper, but not one I’d replace if it’s lost or damaged.
This is the last of my Esterbrook nibs, so the last nib notes. At least until I find some more. You can find all the, nibs and links to their nib notes on my Esterbrook Nibs accumulation page.

Sunday Notes and Links

Rotring 600 Lava and Athena Sepia Ink

This week’s favorite fountain pen and ink combo was the Rotring 600 Lava with Athena Sepia ink. Both are new to me. The Rotring 600 has an extremely smooth nib, so smooth I can forgive it for being a medium. The Athena Sepia ink has a nice color and puts down a line true to the nib width.
For a full list of the fountain pen related articles I read this week you can visit Fountain Pen Links. The ones I especially enjoyed are:
Visconti Homo Sapiens Bronze Age Fountain Pen Review – edjelley.com // I love the look of these pens although I prefer the silver trim of the Steel Age.
Sailor Kingdom Note Tanna Japonensis – inklode // A very nice looking green that is unfortunately only available in Japan.
Pen Shows: What To Expect, What To Do – Hey there! SBREBrown // Good video explaining what to expect when going to a pen show
Montblanc 149 Meisterstück Fountain Pen Review – THE UNROYAL WARRANT // Good review of a less than ideal pen and pen purchase.
Faber-Castell Basic Fountain Pen in Carbon Fibre – East…West…Everywhere // My particular FC Basic also had a smooth nib but started leaking so it’s waiting for me to look at it.
Review: Clairefontaine ME Notebooks – The Well-Appointed Desk // I use both digital and paper, yet I’ve skipped any notebooks that try to link the two. These notebooks take a different slant on the linkage.
Doane Paper Utility Notebook Review — The Pen Addict // My favorite pocket notebooks.
Notebooking Strategies — The Gentleman Stationer // I’m still trying to figure this out. I have the work notebook, a scratchpad and recently a journal.
Heart & Soul: A Visit to Write Notepads & Co. – From the Pen Cup // A look at one notebook manufacturer.
Esterbrook J – Thepencilcaseblog // Interesting story of a first Esterbrook purchase

Review: Pelikan M620 Piazza Navona

Pelikan Piazza Navona posted on mirror

The Pelikan Piazza Navona is one of Pelikan’s City Series Pens. Back around 2004 these pens caught my interest and I eventually added three of them to my accumulation. My tastes do change from time to time but the Piazza Navona is my current favorite.
I originally bought this pen with a factory broad nib. Since broad nibs don’t appeal to me these days I had Mike Masuyama stub the nib at the 2013 DC pen show. It seems sacrilegious to take the tipping all the way down to a fine or extra fine so I stuck with a stub to add a little character.
The Piazza Navona was built by the Roman emperor Domitian in 86 AD. The color of the pen is taken from the tan colored marble of a central fountain (Fountain of the Four Rivers) built in 1651 by Lorenzo Bernini.
The Pelikan M620 Piazza Navona was the Pelikan City Series pen released in 2005. This pen extended the series to include a “most famous places” theme rather than a city. The City Series pens were all limited editions. They weren’t numbered or promoted as limited, but once the manufacturing run was sold out that was it.

Why I got It

The pen is gorgeous and I liked the Pelikan nib from my first City Edition. At the time I enjoyed broad nibs although I wasn’t using them as a daily driver. Plus, the pen was reasonably priced.

What I Got

Pelikan Piazza Navona pen

I lost the box and enclosures when a broken pipe flooded a storage closet. But if memory serves it was a simple clamshell box that included a pamphlet about the inspiration for the pen.
The fountain pen is a translucent resin. This gives the pen the appearance of depth in the design and does give it a marbled look. The design is beautifully subtle. There’s no ink window but the translucence allows me to see the ink level. The nib is 18 kt. gold with rhodium plating. The broad nib was smooth out of the box. I bought the pen from Fountain Pen Hospital which doesn’t tune the nibs prior to shipping, so I received it as shipped by Pelikan.
The pen has gold trim which works well with the brown resin. The nib is two-tone gold and silver with substantial engraving. I prefer a simpler nib design but I’ve gotten used to this and never considered it gaudy.
The fountain pen is a piston converter. The piston knob, along with the section are glossy black. I’ve gotten used to this but would have preferred the piston knob match the tan resin.
Like all my Pelikans the piston is smooth and easily pulls in a lot of ink. One stroke completely fills the ink chamber. The nib can be unscrewed for cleaning or to replace with a different nib.
The Pelikan logo is on the cap jewel and is more tan than gold, which looks good. The clip is the traditional Pelikan beak shape. The gold cap band has “PELIKAN SOUVERAN GERMANY” engraved on it.
The cap is more translucent than the barrel and the resin feels thinner. The cap does feel fragile but it has held up well over the years. I don’t post my fountain pens so I can’t say if the resin would hold up with repeated posting, but the cap band would provide support.

The Numbers

  • Length Capped: 5.2445″ (133.21 mm)
  • Length Uncapped: 4.8610″ (123.46 mm)
  • Length Posted: 6.0640″ (154.02 mm)
  • Section Length: 0.5450″ (13.84 mm)
  • Section Diameter (near nib): 0.39″ (9.90 mm)
  • Section Diameter (below threads): 0.4165″ (10.57 mm)
  • Section Diameter (mid-section): 0.3985″ (10.12 mm)
  • Cap Diameter: 0.5480″ (13.92 mm)
  • Barrel Diameter: 0.4935″ (12.53 mm)
  • Weight: 16 grams
  • Weight (body only): 10 grams

Writing with the Pen

Pelikan Piazza Navona nib

While the pen came to me with a broad nib that was smooth out of the box, it was both wide and boring so I had stopped using it.
Even though I hold the pen wrong for a traditional stub I had Mike Masuyama stub the nib at the 2013 Washington DC Pen Show. Because of the way I hold the pen I get thin down strokes and wide cross strokes with the stub, the opposite of what’s expected. But it works for me, I still get some nice variation.
The cap can be removed with less than one full rotation, I’d estimate a 315° turn. Even though I can remove the cap quickly, making it ideal for note taking, the nib is too wide for me to use this pen for general note taking. I typically use the Piazza Navona for longer, sit down writing sessions, such as the first draft of this review. The pen is great for these longer sessions. The pen is light and yet a good size for my hand. It’s long enough to be used unposted.
The piston filler hold enough ink for me to get through many long writing sessions. According to Pelikan the M600 line holds 1.75 ml of ink, which is over twice the ink of a short international cartridge. This is more than I would have guessed so I did some more searching and found a 1.37ml capacity listed at Pelikan’s Perch which is closer to my estimate.
The nib is smooth and the feed easily keeps up, even with fast writing. This was true even before the nib grind. I did ask for the nib to be tuned on the dry side. While I’ve become more open to wetter nibs that’s mainly for thinner nibs. I’m very happy with the way this nib writes. The original Pelikan broad nib was definitely wetter.
The threads are just above the section, which isn’t very big, so my fingers do rest on the threads. They aren’t sharp and don’t bother me at all.
The cap does post securely. Since the cap is so light the pen does remain well balanced when posted. Still, I use the pen unposted.

Inks Used

Pelikan Piazza Navona cap jewel

I’ve long forgotten what inks were used before 2013. But I don’t recall any problem inks.
Mike Masuyama filled the pen with an unknown blue-black for testing (I’m sure he knew the brand, but I didn’t ask). The ink wrote well and I didn’t have a reason to flush the ink.
R&K Scabiosa also spent some time in the pen. Since it’s an iron gall ink I gave the pen a short fill. The ink always seemed like it was about to skip but it never actually skipped. The pen and ink didn’t combine for a joyful writing experience. It wasn’t bad enough to flush the ink, but it won’t be back in the pen.
Graf von Faber-Castell Hazelnut Brown proved to be the perfect ink for this pen. The ink is sometimes thin on the paper but this was only apparent on Doane Paper. The blue grid lines would sometimes show through the writing, giving the appearance of skipping. But it was only the appearance. On non-grid paper the ink looks great. The same thinness that allows the grid to show through gives it some very nice shading. Plus, the ink color matches the pen.

Cleaning the Pen

Like any piston filler the pen is cleaned by cycling clean water through the pen. It’s tedious to work the piston for continuous fills and flushes, but it’s not hard. The nib can be unscrewed and removed to make cleaning easier although I prefer to avoid disassembly, even when it’s easy. There’s less chance of accidents this way.

Wrapping Up

The Pelikan Piazza Navona is one of my favorite pens based on looks. It’s also perfectly sized for my hand. Getting a broad nib ended up being a mistake for me. Getting it stubbed gives it some character and I enjoy using it. It’s not a nib I can use as a daily carry, but it’s great for sitting down and doing some long form writing (long compared to notes and marking up documents). So based on this the Pelikan M620 Piazza Navona Cities Edition is a keeper.

Nib Notes: Esterbrook #9668 Firm Medium

Esterbrook #9668 nib

I’m getting near the end of the quest through my accumulation of Esterbrook nibs. It’s time for the Esterbrook #9668 Firm Medium Nib.
Like all 9xxx series nibs it’s osmiridium tipped. Nib charts from the 1950s list the nib as being for “general writing.” It’s a basic, middle of the road nib that’s not very exciting. This one has “Esterbook” and “9668” engraved the length of the nib, with Esterbrook on top of the nib number. It’s a nice clean design which I like.
My particular nib was in a batch of nibs I bought on eBay, I didn’t have a box but did appear to be in mint condition. The nib is a nice smooth writer that puts down a wide medium line. It helps that the nib is wider than the fines so it doesn’t dig into the paper fibers. There’s good flow and no hint of skipping. While it does have “firm” in the name it doesn’t feel as nail-like as the fine nibs. I’m becoming more accepting of medium nibs and this one has a nice feel to it.
It’s a basic nib that was probably pretty popular in its time. But it is a Master DuraCrome which were more expensive, so it isn’t a bargain basement nib these days. An eBay search finds one with a $15 BIN price. Anderson Pens lists it for $20 although it is out of stock.
It’s a nice medium nib. That’s not exactly a raving endorsement from me since I prefer fines and extra fines. Despite that it’s a nice writing nib and I may find myself inking it up in the future as medium nibs seem to be growing on me. The Esterbrook #9668 Firm Medium is a keeper.

Additional Reading

9668 Nib Sample Writing – The Esterbrook Forum – The Fountain Pen Network

I didn’t notice until posting the photos that I refer the the nib as a firm fine in the writing sample. I had fine on the brain. The nib is a firm medium.

Sunday Notes and Links

Sheaffer Balance Oversize - Marine Green
My favorite pen/ink combo for the week


My favorite fountain pen and ink combo for the week was an easy choice, despite having several good choices. While I can be fickle, the Sheaffer Marine Green Balance is my favorite fountain pen based on looks. The stub nib doesn’t hurt its standing either. The Montblanc Daniel Defoe ink has grown on me over time and it really shines in this pen.
I updated my Resources Page with the newly (more or less) found pen blogs. I also deleted some dead and dormant links. If you’ve got a fountain pen or stationery related blog that’s not listed please let me know.
I’m changing up the “links” part of Sunday Notes and Links starting this week. They won’t be going away, but there will be fewer links. For one, ink reviews will nearly vanish. I used to link to them so I could search my blog when I wanted them in the future. Now I search Pennaquod : Pen Blog Searcher when I’m researching inks. There will probably be fewer links to reviews of common pens and paper for the same reason. Pennaquod is a great resource to find reviews when you’re researching a pen or paper.
I still go through my RSS feed every day and tag fountain pen related articles. These will now go out on a Tumblr hosted website for those of you who like lots of links. This will contain more links than I ever linked to in the past since it’s what I would typically start with and wittle down to the links post. The website is at Fountain Pen Links.
Some links of interest…
MI Pen Show // The Michigan Antique & Collectible Pen show is Friday October 17th and Saturday October 18th
Stipula Passaporto fountain pen – On Fountain Pens // I’ve never seen one of these in clear. Small, but as the review says up front – “Cute pen alert!”
Twist Bullet Pencil. Vintage Meets Modern with a Twist. by Metal Shop and Huckleberry Woodchuck — Kickstarter // Pencils still haven’t caught on with me, but this is the second bullet pencil I’ve backed on Kickstarter. They might just replace one of the Kaweco AL Sports that I carry
Tale of a Vandal Pen Collector: Unexpected Acquisition – Peaceable Writer // I love reading about these old cheap fountain pen finds. Double points since it’s a Sheaffer. And kudos for breaking the seal and inking it up.
A pair of Edison pens – Leigh Reyes. My Life As a Verb // Gorgeous photos
Beautiful recreations of the Ink Labels – Noodler’s Ink // I usually don’t link to blatant marketing, but I’ve always liked the Noodler’s ink labels, but I’m not sure they translate well to a larger size.
Epic ink test – R2M2t – Fountain Pen Physicis // I don’t know of anyone else doing ink tests like these
Sailor Kobe No:3 Sepia Ink Review / Sailor Kobe No:3 Sepia Mürekkep Incelemesi – Write to Me Often // I’ve had a recent interest in Sepia inks.
Off-topic: Software withdrawal and discontinuance of support: Lotus SmartSuite , Lotus Organizer and Lotus 123 // Wow, this brought back memorizes. I was a Lotus Organizer fan long ago. And Lotus 1–2–3 was a trailblazer. Times have changed.