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.

Nib Notes: Esterbrook #2668 Firm Medium

Esterbrook #2668 Firm Medium nib

Next up as I go through my Esterbrook nibs is the Esterbrook #2668 Firm Medium. The #2668 is a fairly common nib as evidenced by the fact that I accumulated four of them without really trying. The one I inked up for this review came on a parts pen.
It’s a boring, basic medium nib. The box, as well as Esterbrook literature, says the pen is a Firm Fine for General Writing. My nib has just a little tooth to it but it was in much better shape than the pen.
Like other 2xxx series nibs there’s no tipping material, the nib is just the rolled over steel which Esterbrook called DuraCrome Renew-Points. This nib remains in good shape so while the pen appeared well used it probably wasn’t with this particular nib.
The nib is currently $15 from Anderson Pens. Prices are a little more jumbled on eBay since the nib is rarely available alone. But I did fine one that seems to be in good shape for $6 while a NOS #2668 was $30.
I’m not a fan of medium nibs but this one was nice to use. Maybe it was the Montblanc Mystery Black ink. The flow was good and wet enough without being a gusher. Often I flush the pen after a day or so, but the Esterbrook #2668 is still inked up and I’ve been using it quit a bit. My modern pens are getting jealous.

Additional Reading

My search for other reviews came up empty, just a passing mention of the nib in a pen review. Like I said, a boring nib. Still, the Esterbrook #2668 Firm Medium is a medium nib I may actually use.

Nib Notes: Esterbrook #2550 Firm Extra Fine

Esterbrook #2550 Firm Extra Fine Nib

Continuing through my Esterbrook nib collection brings me to the Esterbrook #2550 Firm Extra Fine. This nib is more to my liking than the previous Esterbrook #2312 Italic Medium. My three favorite nib related words are used to name the nib.
The box indicates it’s a “firm extra fine” and a “posting” nib. In the context of a nib I’ve seen “posting” defined to mean a firm nib that can write a thin line and often used for post cards. While this nib is certainly firm and can write a thin line I think Esterbrook used the word “posting” to mean the nib was intended for porting ledger entries as in bookkeeping.
The nib is common on eBay, either in a pen or in a batch of nibs. Single nibs are about $13 on eBay. My particular nib came in a batch of nibs with an average price of $6 per nib.
Like other 2xxx series nibs there isn’t any tipping material, just the rolled over steel for a nib. The nib had the standard DuraCrome branding for a untipped nib. My particular nib has held up well over the years and appears to have been unused. The nib puts down a thin line and the flow is consistently good. This particular nib sample writes nice and smooth although there is a little bit of feedback.
The nib was listed in a 1955 pamphlet as a extra fine nib for bookkeeping. It wasn’t listed in the 1939 catalog.
The Esterbrook #2550 Firm Extra Fine nib was a potential favorite just based on the name. It turned out to be about what I expected. A pretty god nib that falls just short of favorite status.

Nib Notes: Esterbrook #2312 Italic Medium

Esterbrook #2312 Italic Medium nib

Next up on my Esterbrook nib list is the Esterbrook #2312 Italic Medium. This is my first Esterbrook italic nib and one of the three Esterbrook italics. The #3312 and #9312 being the other two.
Italic nibs are pretty much lost to me so I hadn’t made much of an effort to get one. Especially since they are among the rarer, and therefore more expensive, Esterbrook nibs. My completest obsession took over recently and I added one to my accumulation. It appears to be unused and is probably new-old-stock (NOS), at least until I inked it up.
The nib is a rather simple design, with “Esterbrook 2312 Italic” engraved lengthwise on the nib, one word per line.
The nib is more a cursive italic than a crisp italic. Proven by my ability to actually use the nib. My sample is smooth with a little bit of feedback. There’s a nice amount of shading from the nib.
The nib is $45 from Anderson Pens, although currently listed as out of stock. I couldn’t find any on eBay, except with a pen offered for over $130.
The Esterbrook #2312 Italic medium is not a nib I’ll use a lot, at least not until I improve my skill with it.

Nib Notes: Esterbrook #1555 Firm Fine

Esterbrook #1555 Gregg nib - top view

I’m back into the 1xxx series nibs with the Esterbrook #1555 which is one of the more common Esterbrook nibs available. Despite this I’ve yet to come across one in the pens or nib bundles that I’ve purchased. So I added the #1555 to a recent ink order from Anderson Pens.
As a 1xxx series nib it doesn’t have any tipping material and the nib is just the rolled over steel. After having a couple rough nibs I’m happy to say this one proved to be very smooth. The nib looked to be NOS or at least mint condition.
According to the Paul Hoban Esterbrook book the nib was listed as a Fine nib for Shorthand use in a 1955 pamphlet. But a catalog from around 1939 lists the #1555 as “Firm, medium. Officially approved for Gregg Shorthand.” But the nib is clearly a fine, not a medium. At least mine is. I don’t have a box for the nib, but in photos I’ve seen the box is labeled “Firm Fine Gregg” or just “Gregg”.
The name comes from the style of shorthand called Gregg. A little research showed that Gregg Publishing licensed the name for pens (and nibs) that met their standards. Thin and firm nibs were preferred for shorthand because they allowed for quicker writing. But it looks like there were additional requirement beyond just a firm fine nib.
This nib certainly meets those requirements – thin, firm and I can write quickly (if barely legibly) with the nib. My nib also seems a bit wetter than other Esterbrook Fine nibs, but that could just be my one sample. Also, as might be expected from a nib intended for shorthand the nib writes well at all but an extreme angle. So it appears the “Gregg” seal was more than just a branding “name for money” deal and there was some thought put into the nib design. I can see this nib as being suitable for a writing style that moves the pen quickly with rapid and frequent direction changes. I’ve just used the nib for regular writing and it’s comfortable with that too. But the nib is new to me and I’ll update these notes if that changes.
The Esterbrook #1555 is $6 at Anderson Pens. eBay prices vary widely with the lowest BIN price at $10 but the nib is in several nib bundles and and on several pens. Just none that ever came my way.

Additional Reading

FPN discussion on Gregg nibs
Regular vs Gregg Discussion on FPN

I don’t have a box, so no box pictures this time.