Usually I do a This Just In post to give my initial impressions of a new fountain pen, then I wait several months and inks before doing a full review. This is a little in between. I received the Newton Eastman custom fountain pen in early October. But since this is a custom pen I don’t see much point in waiting months for a full review. If my opinions change over time I’ll update this post or write about it in other posts.
Officially this is a (Shawn) Newton Pens Eastman of standard length with a medium girth that takes interchangeable Esterbrook Nibs.
Shawn Newton is now a full time pen maker. He was a teacher when he started making pens. He’s always linked the pen making to his students. That currently takes the form of the Newton Pens Scholarship. Along these lines he sells postcards and notebooks along with raffling off a custom pen every month. Postcards are 2 for 1 until the end of the year so this is a good time to check them out.
Why I Got It
This pen took a long time to materialize. I have over 30 Esterbrook nibs and a handful of Esterbrook pens, mostly Model J’s. These days I find the Esterbrook pens too small and light to use for extended writing sessions. In early 2015 I decided to do something about it. I began following custom pen makers on Instagram and Twitter. This let me see the materials and design but I was still just window shopping. Finally, in March of this year I got serious.
My main concern was how the nibs would look in a larger pen. After some mock-ups with some of my existing fountain pens I decided the look would be acceptable. I was still reluctant to blaze new trails so my first approach was to Brian Grey of Edison Pens, because I had several of his pens I thought would work. But this wasn’t his type of work. He recommended Shawn Newton who was already next on my list.
While I really like many bright acrylics when I see them I find I quickly get tired of them so I decided to go with a simple design. I’d either go with a clear acrylic or a solid color ebonite.
The Ordering Process & Finalizing the Design
In late March I contacted Shawn via email and the order was finalized over a few days. All communication was via email and he was very responsive. The Shinobi was a hot item at the time and I mentioned it as one of the models I was interested in. Shawn pointed out that the flat side of the Shinobi would be problematic when lining up the different nibs. He mentioned the Eastman as a possible choice and it’s what I decided upon.
The Eastman is a perfectly round barrel and cap with flat ends. The cap closes flush with the barrel so it appears seamless. It’s a simple design that I really like. After giving it some thought and picked this model.
All Shawn’s pens come in several sizes, both in length and girth. I went with a medium girth (14 mm at the threads). This was a size I found comfortable in other pens. Shawn did mention that this might not work aesthetically with the smallish Esterbrook nibs, but I was prepared for this. He did send a photo of an Esterbrook nib along side the medium and smaller sections for comparison.
I went with the Standard size barrel (133 mm in length) which Shawn says is comparable to the Montblanc 149 or Pelikan M1000 in size.
I was already leaning towards a clear acrylic since I’d be able to see the nib in addition to the ink. The Eastman design seemed to be a perfect choice for this material. A negative was that I knew from experience that my Esterbrook nibs would inevitably splatter inside the cap which would be visible, and annoy me. I decided the positives outweighed the negatives so I went with a perfectly clear cap and barrel.
I decided to pass on any clip or other hardware. That would ruin the nice clean look of the pen. I did go with a black ebonite section. I like the feel of ebonite and the color provided a nice contrast.
My only complaint, and complaint is too strong a word, is that while Shawn let me know the pen was done I didn’t get a tracking number. This wasn’t a problem for me since delivery was to a safe PO Box, but you may need to ask for a tracking number if this matters to you, or even request a signature so it’s not left on your porch.
The lead time for the pen was about six months. The ETA was mid-October although actual arrival was early October. Payment is required at the time of order. I typically hate paying so far in advance but in this case it makes sense and is a common (if not universal) practice for custom pens.
What I Got
To recap, it’s a Newton Eastman in clear acrylic with a black ebonite section that takes Esterbrook nibs.
The pen arrived securely packed. It was in a cloth pen sleeve made by Liz Newton. Then that was in a metal travel mug which provided great protection for the pen and was functional afterward. I’d forgotten that he included the tumbler so it was a nice surprise. (Checking the website recently I see the mug is now optional, for an additional charge.)
Since I was supplying the Esterbrook nibs the pen arrived nib-less. Assuming my ink syringe is accurate the pen holds nearly 5 ml. of ink.
The fit and finish are perfect. The acrylic is perfectly smooth, both inside and out. There’s no real gap between the cap and barrel so it appears seamless when capped. It’s a relatively light pen that feels solid in my hand.
I attached several Esterbrook nibs upon arrival and all fit just as well as they did in my Model J’s. There is some variation among a few of my used Esterbrook pens and nibs so not every one of them fit perfectly, but the vast majority do, so I consider the section perfectly sized for an Esterbrook nib.
Being a custom pen, changes can be made but the specifications for my Eastman are:
- Length Capped: 142.60 mm
- Length Uncapped: 134.98 mm (w/ nib #2442)
- Section Length: 19.57 mm
- Section Diameter (near nib): 12.41 mm
- Section Diameter (below threads): 12.99 mm
- Section Diameter (mid-section): 12.04 mm
- Cap Diameter: 16.49 mm
- Barrel Diameter: 16.49 mm
The pen weighs 28 grams capped and 22 grams uncapped when the barrel is about 75% full of ink.
Upon arrival I attached an Esterbrook #8441 “Superfine” nib. I filled it with Rohrer & Klingner Blau-Schwarz LE ink. I picked the ink for two reasons: I love the ink and it can survive months in a pen without any adverse effects. A great ink to inaugurate a fountain pen.
It wrote great but I was a little too frugal with the silicone grease. After a week or so I noticed ink on the section. Ink was creeping along the threads between the barrel and the section. So the remaining ink went back to the bottle and I gave the pen a complete flush.
Even though it was entirely my fault I decided to get a completely fresh start and I changed everything. So I was less frugal with the silicone grease, I screwed in a Esterbrook #2314-F nib and filled the barrel with Montblanc Irish Green. The pen has been problem free for over a month.
As I was writing the draft of this review so I decided to swap the nib and screwed in a Esterbrook #2442 nib which is a left oblique fine stub nib.
The pen is large and clip-less making it a desk pen. Even if it had a clip it would be a little large for shirt pocket. The pen is perfectly round and has rolled off my desk more than once. There’s really no risk of damage to the pen but momentum keeps the ink moving until it hits the cap. Normally I like signs of use, but that splatter on such a nice clear cap annoys me. Luckily it’s only happened when I’m home and the cap is easy to clean and dry out. A roll stop may have been a good idea, although it would ruin the clean look of the pen. In practice, I’ve been keeping the pen is a leather pen sleeve which keeps it from rolling around.
The Eastman takes one complete rotation to cap or uncap. The threads are a bit finicky at times. They’ll catch a bit if the cap and section aren’t aligned to be straight. It’s more temperamental than most of my other screw-on caps but I’ve gotten the hang of it.
Sometimes it’s the little things that please me. In this case it’s that each end of the pen is perfectly flat and it can easily stand on end. I like to stand the pen up and watch the ink slowly settle.
Since Esterbrook nibs are old and their condition varies I did expect some problems. The most obvious is what I already encountered, they spit ink if they are jostled around when carried (or dropped). This also happens in the Model J’s, it’s just hidden in them.
When testing the nibs I did find one or two that wouldn’t screw in properly. But these were nibs purchased with a used Esterbrook and had similar problems in official Esterbrook pens. Since I do plan to change nibs a lot I’m a little hesitant to use a nib that has any problem screwing into the section so I’ll probably pass on using some of my nibs. Especially since I plan to change nibs while the pen is inked up.
I did change the nib mid-way through the draft of this article. Removing the nib was problem free, since I don’t consider inky fingers a problem.
Cleaning the Pen
The insides of the pen and cap are polished to be completely smooth, so there’s no nooks and crannies for the ink to cling to. This makes the pen easy to clean out. While I haven’t encountered any staining it would be easy enough to get a long cotton swab inside to gently scrub any stain. Since the nib and section are removable they are easy to clean. While I don’t like removing nibs just to clean a pen this one is different. I’ll be swapping nibs anyway.
Rohrer & Klingner Blau-Schwarz LE is my favorite blue-black ink and one that’s proven it can be in a pen for many problem-free months so it was my first choice. I already mentioned the ink creeping problem and that I replaced the ink to get a fresh start. That wasn’t a problem with the ink and as expected it wrote perfectly while it was in the pen and it was easy to clean.
Montblanc Irish Green is currently in the pen. It’s been perfect with both nibs (#2314F and #2442) and there’s no signs of staining. It’s been in the pen since November 2nd and I’ve used about 1/2 a barrel.
The Newton Eastman was well worth the six month wait. I’ve written over 10 pages in this writing session and there’s not a hint of fatigue in my hand. I couldn’t say that if I used the Esterbrook Model J. Well, I did take a short break to swap the nib. I’m thrilled that I can enjoy the full range of my Esterbrook nibs whenever I want and for as long as I want.
I like the simple elegance of the design and the finish is really perfect. It’s been awhile since the pen has rolled of my desk so I don’t regret not getting a roll stop especially since it would interfere with the clean design.
These are the photos Shawn took of the finished pen, prior to shipping.