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.

Nib Notes: Esterbrook #9128 Flexible Extra Fine

Esterbrook 9128 Flexible Extra Fine

The Esterbrook #9128 nib is one of my favorite Esterbrook nibs. The box calls the nib a “Flexible Extra Fine” and that it’s for “Flexible Writing.” The Paul Hoban book has a pamphlet reproduction from 1955 that lists the nib as a “Extra Fine Flexible.”
It’s a steel nib and it’s not so flexible it will do gymnastics when it writes. But that’s OK since flexible nibs are wasted on my writing abilities. I love the nib because it’s nice and thin and also has just a bit of spring to it. Sometimes I like writing with a nail, sometimes I like a little spring. This nib is perfect when I want the latter.
Like other 9xxx series nibs the Esterbrook #9128 has iridium tipping and was called a “Master DuraCrome” nib by Esterbrook.
My particular nib has a nice smooth extra fine point that’s smooth even without allowing for its age. I was especially surprised such a thin nib, and one that’s probably 50 years old, would be so smooth. Smooth is relative because like most nibs this thin it does require a light touch since the thin nib can easily stab the paper. Course or textured paper, such a linen or cotton paper, also gets stabbed by the nib, even with a light touch.

Additional Reading

FPN Review that shows off some flex writing
Inkophile compares 9128 nibs. Mine has 9128 written across the nib, and while I can’t compare to the other style, I would say mine is one of the ones with less flex. It is also certainly the finest Esterbrook nib that I have so it seems consistent with Inkophile’s findings.

Nib Notes: Esterbrook #9314-F

Esterbrook #9314-F nib

What I think about the Esterbrook #9314F nib depends upon the day, or maybe it’s the phase of the moon, or the tide level. It seems completely random. The nib is a Relief Fine Stub according to the box. The box also just calls it a Fine Stub.
It’s an oblique or left-footed stub which means it’s shaped like the toes on a left foot.The Esterbrook #2314F that I have is the older sibling of the 9314F and it’s one of my favorite nibs. Like other 9xxx series nibs the 9314F is a “Master DuraCrome” which mean it has tipping material unlike the 2314F. So I had high hopes for the nib.
Some sessions the nib was fairly smooth and wrote well. In other writing sessions I had problems finding the sweet spot and keeping the nib from biting into the paper. I inked up the 2314F just to see if it was me, the ink or the paper. But the 2314F wrote consistently well. The 9314F that I have just seems to have a very small sweet spot and some days I easily find it and others it’s a game of hide-and-seek. Even on its best days I don’t find the nib any better than the 2314F nib. Like the 9048 I reviewed last week I suspect my specific nib isn’t a prime example of this nib.
I did get some nice variation using R & K Scabiosa when the ink was wet. The variation is subtle thanks to the thin nib and became less pronounced as the ink dried.The Esterbrook #9314-F nib has a BIN price of about $30 on eBay and Anderson Pens has them listed as in stock for $25.
Unfortunately with Esterbrook nibs, since even the newest ones are 50 years old, you never know how a nib was treated and there could always be variations on manufacturing. I’ve had good results for the most part. If I had to pick between my 2314F and 9314F nibs I’d pick the 2134F. In theory it would wear out faster since there’s no tipping material, but it would probably still outlast me.

Additional Reading

The Well Appointed Desk compares the 9314-F

Nib Notes: Esterbrook #9048 Flexible Fine

Esterbrook #9048 nib
Esterbrook #9048 nib

I’m jumping ahead in my Esterbrook nib reviews to some of the 9xxx series nibs. First up is the Esterbrook #9048 Flexible Fine nib. Unlike the 1xxx and 2xxx series nibs the 9xxx series nibs have iridium tipping rather than just the rolled over steel.
There is some flex to the steel nib but its abilities are lost on me. Still, there’s not a lot of flex possible in a steel nib. This does make it feel less like a nail than other nibs such as the firm fines.
My nib has the full rounded feed so was manufactured some time between 1950 and Esterbrook’s demise. My nib was new old stock (NOS).
The nib was scratchier than many of my other Esterbrooks and wasn’t a pleasant writing experience. The nib seemed to always want to grab onto the paper although never quit digging in. This was even on smooth Rhodia paper. I’ve seen different levels of smoothness among Esterbrook nibs of the same number so other samples may perform better.
The 9xxx series nibs, including the Esterbrook #9048, were called “Master DuraCrome” by Esterbrook and cost more due to their tipping material.
I used Rohrer & Klingner Scabiosa for the writing samples. I did get some shading with the ink but not as much as I expected. I also experienced frequent railroading and the ink flow didn’t keep up with the flexing. While my writing abilities don’t favor flexible nibs I do see more shading with this ink when using other nibs. The flex did allow me to vary the amount of the ink put down (it just didn’t shade) it was a very tiring experience doing this due to the tooth of the nib digging into the paper.
The nib is $40 at Anderson Pens and I see it listed on eBay with BIN prices of $50 and up. This does make it one of the more expensive Esterbrook nibs.
My lack of flex writing abilities make me unqualified to speak as an authority, but I have to say I’m disappointed in this nib. It’s scratchy which also limits its use as a flex nib. This could be entirely due to my specific nib sample.
The Esterbrook #9048 Flexible Fine is often a grail nib due to its flex. My specific nib doesn’t live up to its reputation and was disappointing. I suspect the roughness is unique to the specific nib, but this one won’t see much use.

Nib Notes: Esterbrook #2556 Firm Fine

Top view if the Esterbrook 2556 nib (flat feed)

Next up on my list is the Esterbrook #2556 Firm Fine nib. Ok, actually I missed the #2550 because my aging eyes can’t tell a 0 from a 6 so I’ll circle back and get that one next time.
I have two Esterbrook #2556 nibs. One has the round feed that Esterbrook introduced in 1950 and used until the end. The other has a flat feed design. I think it was the first design (pre-1943) since it’s very flat. But I could be wrong since I haven’t seen any for comparison and it could be the wartime design, made between 1943 and 1950.
I don’t have a box, but in the photos I’ve seen the box is labeled both “Firm Fine” and “General Writing”. A catalog reproduction from around 1939 in the Esterbrook book by Paul Hoban also lists the nib for accounting, penmanship and fine writing.
The #2556 nib is a DuroCrome nib which means there’s no tipping material, just the rolled steel. Both my nibs are nice and smooth considering the lack of tipping material and their age. They’re not silky smooth but there’s very little feedback with either nib. Despite their age the nibs appeared unused, or at least only lightly used when I got them. The older, flat feed, nib is just a tad smoother than the newer nib.
For inks I used Rohrer and Klingner Salix (an iron gall based ink) in the newer nib and Waterman Serenity Blue (formerly Florida Blue) in the older nib. Both pens were stored nib up overnight and the nib with the Salix ink had a bit of a hard start the next day. It was fine once it got going.
In the writing sample the E020 and E036 just identifies the specific nib in my accumulation so I can keep track of them. E020 is the newer, post 1950 nib and E026 is the older flat-feed nib. While I did use different ink, there wasn’t any noticeable different in the ink flow between the feeds.
The nib design is basic and to the point. The name Esterbrook is engraved along with the nib number and “Made in the U.S.A.”, no fancy design or engraving. I like the look of the chrome nib as I write.
The Esterbrook #2556 is currently $10 at Anderson Pens and $12 and up on eBay although I did see it included in auctions for multiple nibs.
It’s always a crap-shoot with these old nibs, especially the ones without tipping material, but I my case I got two samples that put down a nice, smooth, and consistent line. Any nib that can be can be described with the words “firm” and “fine” has no problem getting my attention and this one is definitely worth keeping and using. The Esterbrook #2556 Firm Fine nib is equal to or better than many of the modern fine nibs in my accumulation.