Review: Esterbrook Estie

Esterbrook Estie - in boxThe Esterbrook Estie is my latest fountain pen acquisition. This Estie, along with a couple of TWSBI Go fountain pens, are my only pen purchases of the year. So, expectations are high. I also go the optional $40 MV adapter which allows the use of vintage Esterbrook nibs with the pen. For me, the MV adapter was the sole reason to get the pen. This made it a fountain pen with a street price of nearly $200.

What I Got

Esterbrook Estie as deliveredI bought the regular size Esterbrook Estie with the tortoise acrylic, palladium trim, and a fine steel nib. The pen comes with a standard Schmidt converter already in the barrel. It takes standard international cartridges & converters. An oversized version of the pen is also available, but only with the ebony acrylic.

I also got the MV (modern to vintage) adapter, which is only available in black. Black does work with any of the acrylics, but it would have been nice to have matching adapters. At $40 the adapter seems a bit expensive, so offering a variety of colors would probably be cost prohibitive.

The MV adapter comes in a cloth pouch that includes a converter that fits the adapter. The included international converter is a tad too long to screw the barrel and section together. It also seemed a little loose, so I’d recommend only using the converter that came with the adapter, even if you have a shorter standard international converter.

First Impressions

Esterbrook Estie - cappedI like the classic torpedo shape of the Estie. This is probably a good time to mention that nothing about this pen reminds me of my vintage Esterbrooks. I could probably conjure a link, but I didn’t buy the pen because of nostalgia, so I’m not at all disappointed.

View on the internal rings, most noticeable just above the cap in the photo

View on the internal rings, most noticeable just above the cap in the photo

The acrylic has more translucence than I expected. This isn’t a good thing because the rings from drilling (or polishing) are visible inside the barrel. The solid lines around the barrel detract from the beautiful design of the acrylic. Once seen, they can’t be unseen. They’re slightly less visible once the converter is added and blocks some of the light. The other, less translucent, acrylics wouldn’t have this problem. Still, for a $200 pen, I would expect the polishing to be complete if the acrylic is translucent.

Overall, the pen made a good first impression. The incomplete polishing inside the barrel keeps it from being a great first impression.

Writing with the Estie

Esterbrook Estie w/modern JoWo nib and converter

Esterbrook Estie w/modern JoWo nib and converter

I decided to try the stock JoWo nib before moving on to Esterbrook nibs. I inked it up with Sheaffer red. The fine nib was a smooth writer. I left it stored nib up for over 24 hours, and it wrote immediately without any skipping. There wasn’t any skipping or hard starts from the time I inked it up to when I wrote it dry. Overall, the writing experience was delightful.

Estie with vintage nib, MV adapter and converter

Estie with vintage nib, MV adapter and converter

Then I switched to vintage Esterbrook nibs, using the MV adapter. My expectations were high, which probably amplified my disappointment., but it was a rough start. I picked the Esterbrook #8440 as my first nib. It fits in the adapter just fine, and I filled the converter through the nib. It failed to write, a total lack of ink flowing through the nib, even after spending over an hour nib down. The #8440 is a super fine cartography nib, so I switched to the #9550 extra fine nib. I again filled it through the nib, and there was a complete lack of ink flow. Both nibs worked fine and immediately wrote in a vintage Esterbrook J pen. Which annoyed me since I now had another pen to clean. I went up a couple nib sizes and installed a #9460 medium nib. It did take a little time, but eventually, the ink flow hit its stride after the pen spent a couple minutes nib down. If I pause and hold the pen nib up for even a few moments (~10 seconds) the line becomes very thin and requires some time nib down for the flow to return.

Esterbrook Estie with vintage Esterbrook Nib

Esterbrook Estie with vintage Esterbrook Nib

My uninformed guess is that the ink needs to collect between the converter and nib unit, and if it isn’t there the converter can’t get enough ink to in time. My Newton Eastman (which is customized for vintage Esterbrook nibs) is eyedropper filled and doesn’t have any flow problems (except so much flow that ink splatter inside the cap if the pen is jostled in a bag). There’s metal inside the Estie’s barrel, so eyedropper filling isn’t an option.

The Estie has a “pressure fit” cap which should prevent ink evaporation. The cap takes a little over one complete rotation to cap or uncap. The “pressure fit” aspect is noticeable when uncapping and uncapping. I haven’t used the pen long enough to judge this, but it sure seems like a tight seal. That said, I was a little annoyed by the cap, and it takes some getting used to. I often hold and fidget with, the cap in my left hand as I write and will, almost absent-mindlessly, cap the pen when I pause. I found this jarring when I did it with this cap. I did eventually become more used to it, but I still notice it, and it interrupts my thoughts. I will probably get used to it.

The clip easily slips over my shirt pocket material.

Summary.

As a modern fountain pen, ignoring the MV adapter, this pen has a lot of competition at its $150 price point ($185 MSRP). If the pen appeals to you, then it would be worth getting. There’s nothing that stands out as superior about this pen. It’s a nice fountain pen, comfortable in my hand, and a good writer. I’d recommend a finish other than the tortoise acrylic unless you can inspect the quality of the interior polishing before purchasing.

Overall, I’m happy with my purchase, It will allow me to use my vintage Esterbrook nibs in a pen that’s comfortable to use.