Review: Esterbrook Dip-Less Pen and #7550 Firm Extra Fine Nib

Esterbrook Dip-Less_pieces-on-mirrorThis 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

Esterbrook Dip-Less with nib installedThis 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.

Esterbrook Dip-Less feed - openI’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.

Esterbrook #7550 Firm Extra Fine nib topMost 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.

The Numbers

  • 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

Esterbrook Dip-less in an empty #407 inkwell

Esterbrook Dip-less in an empty #407 inkwell

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.

Wrapping Up

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.

Additional Reading

About the Dip-Less pens at Esterbrook.net

About the desk sets at Esterbrook.net

Nib Notes: Esterbrook #9461 Rigid Fine

Esterbrook 9461 Rigid Fine This week’s Esterbrook nib is the Esterbrook #9461 Rigid Fine nib. The nib is also called a Manifold Fine and is the fine version of the #9460 medium nib.

Like every 9xxx series Master DuroChrome nib the 9461 is tipped with an allow Esterbrook called Osmiridium. The nib, at least the one I have, has “Esterbrook” and “9461” engraved the length of the nib. I like this engraving style. It’s nice and simple, yet distinctive.

My particular nib is smooth, especially on paper that is also smooth. There is a little feedback which would be expected from a fine nib. The nib was intended to be used to make carbon copies so I would expect this nib to last a long, long time with regular usage, The nib also does a great impression of a nail for the same reason.

I wasn’t surprised to find I liked this nib. There isn’t a Esterbrook fine or extra fine nib that I don’t like, although specific nibs may not have aged well. In this case, my particular nib has aged well.

Gallery

Nib Notes: Esterbrook #9460 Rigid Medium

Esterbrook #9460 writing sample with penNext up on my Esterbrook nib list is the Esterbrook #9460 Rigid Medium Nib. The box also refers to the nib as a “Medium Manifold.” A 1959 nib chart specifically says the nib is for carbon copies. A more specific term for this nib would be “tank.”

The Osmiridium tipping (probably mostly iridium) gives it added durability, if not smoothness. Add to this the extra strength of a manifold nib intended for use with carbon copies and this nib could be used as a weapon and then be used to write a letter.

My particular nib is very smooth, one of the smoothest Esterbrooks I have. It’s almost too smooth, especially on smooth paper. I prefer a nib with at least a hint of feedback. But between the dull medium point (compared to a extra fine) and the tipping this nib glides over the paper.

I do experience some occasional skipping, especially on slick paper. It isn’t enough to be annoying, especially since I don’t use medium nibs very often. The nib tines are just slightly misaligned. It doesn’t really seem to be enough to matter but it might cause the skipping if I angle the pen just right. I hate to tinker with these vintage nibs and since I rarely use a medium nib I can live with the skipping.

The Esterbrook #9460 Rigid Medium is a nice nib, if you like medium nibs. I prefer extra fines and fines so it’s not a nib for me. It does put down a nice line. While these Esterbrook nibs can vary, even among the same nib number, this nib was too smooth, especially on paper that is also smooth. If you like a little feedback this may not be the nib for you.

Gallery

Nib Notes: Esterbrook #9450 Extra Firm Posting

Esterbrook #9450 top viewNext up on the Esterbrook nib list is the Esterbrook #9450 Firm Extra FIne nib. At least that’s what it’s usually called by everone except Exterbrook (so it seems). I would consider it an accurate description of the nib. The box refers to it as a “Extra Firm Posting” nib, once with a hyphen, and once without. Both a 1955 and 1959 nib chart list the nib in the Extra Fine section and defines its use as “Posting 1–2–3”.

While I seen several definitions for a nib called “Posting”, the one that makes the most sense to me is that it’s for posting journal entries, as in accounting. The thin, consistent line would be perfect for that. I have no idea what the “1–2–3” refers to unless it also indicates accounting (as in counting). Anyone know?

Esterbrook #9450 writing sampleI was beginning to despair that many of my 9xxx series nibs wouldn’t be any better than the 1xxx or 2xxx series equivalent. These nibs were called Master DuraCrome by Esterbrook and were tipped with an alloy Esterbrook called Osmiridium. The 1xxx and 2xxx series nibs were just rolled over steel. I guess I hit a bad patch where some of my 9xxx nibs were a little rough and the earlier nibs were smoother. This #9450 is very smooth. There’s hardly any friction on smooth paper and the feedback on more fiberous paper comes from the thin nib and not the roughness in the nib.

When I took the pictures for this post I noticed the feed wasn’t aligned. It looks worse in the close-up photo, but it’s definitely misaligned. I had written with it for several problem-free days so I left it alone. The flow is consistent, without any skipping. As the nib’s name implies, it’s stiff as a nail. The nib quickly jumped into the favorite category.

The nib does well with a light touch, although it performs better with a little more pressure than I’m used to. Although it’s not so much pressure that it’s uncomfortable to use. My normal light touch resulted in a thinner, lighter line. In some cases this might be OK, but it made a weak line in my opinion.

The Esterbrook #9450 has “Esterbrook” and “9450” are engraved lengthwise along the nib. Each gets its own line.

The nib is on eBay with buy it now prices from $18 to $33.

The Esterbrook #9450 is a nice nib for those of us who like their nibs to be nails. My particular nib has held up well over the years (looked liked New Old Stock) when I got it although the box was very worn.

Gallery

Nib Notes: Esterbrook #9314-M Relief Medium Stub

Esterbrook #9314-M nibContinuing through my 9xxx series Esterbrook nibs I’m up to my Esterbrook #9314 Relief Medium Stub. Like other Esterbrook Relief Stubs this is a left oblique stub.

Like all 9xxx series nibs this one is tipped with an alloy Esterbrook called Osmiridium. “Esterbrook” is engraved lengthwise on the nib and “9314-M” is engraved lengthwise next to it. I prefer the lengthwise engraving over the typical engraving since it’s different. On some days I prefer the clean look of these nibs over the sunburst nibs.

My particular nib is fairly smooth but has some noticeable tooth to it, but it is smoother than the Esterbrook #2314-M nib that I have. The #2314-M is the same Relief Medium Stub but without any tipping material. Both nibs were rougher than I expected so this may not be a fair comparison. The #9314-M isn’t unpleasant to write with although I do prefer thinner nibs.

I picked up my Esterbrook #9314-M nib at last years Washington D.C. show. A search of the usual places don’t have any of these currently available for sale. Recent eBay sales completed for $28 to $36 and Anderson Pens has it listed for $30 but it’s out of stock.

Gallery