My First Pen Repairs

I purchased 10 beat up Esterbrooks awhile back since they are supposed to be good choices to learn how to re-sac a pen. I finally got around to repairing the first two this past weekend.

I followed these instructions to re-sac the pens. Apologies for the poor photos, I just snapped with my camera phone as I went along.

I started the first pen a couple of weeks ago. It came apart easily, no heat needed to remove the section. The sac was in one piece, until I touched it at which point it crumbled. as shown here.

My Esterbrook J pulled apart

But the pen was clean, no need to scrape it out. I just needed to scrape the sac off the section nipple. I gave the section and nib some time in the ultrasonic cleaner and let them dry.

Originally, I fumbled around trying to get the new sac on, finally giving up and ordering a sac spreader. But when I used it this weekend it wasn’t much help and I decided to go back to fingers only, This time the sac went on easily. Go figure. I was less timid this time and did put more shellac on the nipple this time which probably helped lubricate things a bit more.

After it dried it was just a matter of putting talc on the sac and putting the pen back together.

Barrel, talced sac and cap ready to go
The re-saced pen

The second pen, a Esterbrook LJ, also came apart easily, no heat needed to remove the section, just some gentle pressure. The time the sac was still pliable but a corroded (and borken) j-bar and a spacer tumbled out.

The pulled apart Esterbrook LJ

I hadn’t read anything about a spacer. I assume it was originally there but someone could have added it, In any event, I cleaned it off and replaced it, pushing it to the top of the pen barrel. The sac was covered in corrosion dust but seemed pretty good. Still, I pulled it off and replaced it.

The j-bar was also replaced. It was easy to do, just line up and push in with a thin rod. This video shows a good example. Some of the instructions I saw around the internet suggested washing out the inside of the barrel. The risk of leaving moisture behind didn’t seem worth it, especially since the lever was still attached. I used a circular brush to clean out the barrel and there wasn’t much crud at all in there.

The new sac went on the section nipple with relative ease, without needing the tool. The only issue I had was minor. When putting the section back on it felt like the sac was pressing against the end of the pen, it was “spongey”. I checked the measurements and all seemed fine, and the j-bar seemed out of the was. After a little fiddling it went on fine. [Update: Aug 20 – after Brian’s comment (below) about the j-bar reaching the section nipple I checked the pen and it was reaching. I cut it back and the section went on without any “sponginess”.]

Section, talced sac and cover ready for reassembly
Reassembled Esterbrook LJ

I used the pens for a day and they seem fine, no leaks are apparent and they hold a lot of ink. Both pens could use some polishing but are in good cosmetic shape. One of the nibs needs some smoothing but the hard part is done.

It’s not exactly the hardest thing to do, it’s actually much easier than it seems. I imagine I’ll eventually encounter a pen that’s hard to pull apart. It seems like it’s almost been too easy. I’ll probably feel better after I break or ruin my first pen and learn how much pressure or heat is too much.

The best investment I made was in a cheap ultrasonic cleaner. Both pen had what seems like bottles of ink in their caps and the nibs and feeds were pretty ink encrusted too. The UC made cleaning them out much easier. I don’t use the US on the pen barrels themselves. Doesn’t seem worth the risk of trapping moisture inside.

It’s nice to be able to bring a couple pens back to life.  I’d highly recommend finding a cheap, beat-up Esterbrook and giving it a try. I expected it to be frustrating but it’s not (at least as long as I walk away before frustration sets in, such as my first attempts to install the new sac.