Esterbrook “Estie” Fountain Pen Review
- Review Ink: Robert Oster Fire and Ice, Tekker Inks Burnt Umber
- Review Paper: Rhodia ICE Pad, Bull and Stash Leather Notebook shown
- Description: The return of a vintage favorite, updated for modern times. It retains the ability to use vintage nibs.
- Nib:Steel medium, vintage steel fine stub
- Filling Mechanism: Cartridge/Converter – included
- Weight: 24g overall
- Measurements: 5.9″ closed, 5″ open, 6.7″ posted
- Color Options: Tortoise, Black, Blue Acrylic with gold or silver trim
- Price: $156 base, $40 for MV Vintage Nib adapter (Available from Pen Chalet, Goldspot Pens)
Esterbrook got their start back in 1858. They were one of the first and largest American manufacturers of dip pens. After half a century in the dip and fountain pen business, they achieved the feat of producing 216,000,000 pens a year (holy moly). After a decline in demand, a sell off and restructuring in the late 60s / early 70s, and an eventual shut down in 1971, Esterbrook was no more. That is until now. The Esterbrook brand was purchased and revived by Kenro Industries in 2018, and those are the pens we’ll be looking at today. The Esterbrook name is still widely respected (and collected) by fountain pen enthusiasts. They’re known for their affordable pens and wide range of vintage nibs. Since the production numbers were so high, pens and nibs are still easy to find both online and with vintage dealers. 2018’s Esterbrook is a mix of new and old. Classic vintage styling, a few modern features, and the ability to use vintage nibs from Esterbrook’s massive vintage back catalog all result in an excellent fountain pen that bridges the gap between modern and vintage. Let’s take a closer look at the new Esterbrook “Estie” from Kenro Industries!
Appearance & Packaging:
The Estie is a rather long, cigar-shaped pen that’s crafted from acrylic. Upon taking it out of the box, you’ll notice the high polish shine and depth of the material. Out of the three color offerings (each available with gold or silver trim), the one that spoke to me most was the tortoise shell acrylic, followed closely by the cobalt, and then the ebony. Acrylic is an excellent material for pens, as a matter of fact, it’s one of my favorites. There’s a certain shine, smoothness, and depth to the material that’s only obtainable with acrylic. The Estie sports a long cap, which is just under half the length of the pen. I particularly liked the way the clip is attached to the pen. Instead of having a break in the material, Esterbrook anchored the clip internally. It’s a small detail, but it adds to the seamless look of the pen. There’s minimal branding on the pen, just a simple engraving on the cap that says “Esterbrook” in either gold or silver. When you open the pen, you’ll find a thin metal band between the body and the section just above the threads. It’s a rather plain looking pen in terms of size and shape, but the attention to detail and stunning acrylic patterns add a nice level of visual flair. The packing is rather unremarkable. It’s a folding red fabric box that has a padded board inside. There’s an elastic loop on the board that holds the pen in place during transit. I don’t mind that the packaging is lacking frills, because it seems rather wasteful to box up something all pretty, only to stick it in a drawer or on a shelf never to be seen again. I always think of the packing as though I were receiving or giving it as a gift. Is it giftable? Yes. I would be happy to either give or receive a pen of this value in this box.
Nib Performance & Filling System:
One of the most interesting things about the Estie is that it has the ability to use vintage Esterbrook nibs. Esterbrook is known for their massive catalog of steel nibs. You can find everything from firm fines, soft flexible nibs, stubs, broads, italics, and so on. Anderson Pens offers several pages of vintage nibs at reasonable prices should you be looking to trick out your new pen. We’ll talk more about that in a little bit. First, let’s cover the stock nib that comes with the pen.
Included with the Estie is a Jowo #6 nib. Mine is a medium, and it writes as such. There’s nothing super remarkable about the writing experience. I find it to be firmly in the middle of the road in terms of flow, and nice and smooth right out of the box. You won’t find too much decoration on the nib, as it’s made by a third-party manufacturer. Esterbrook has opted to laser-engrave the surface of the nib with their script logo and original founding date. I don’t love laser-engraved nibs, especially at this price point. Some people won’t be bothered by it, but it is worth noting. While it’s not something that directly affects the performance of the nib, to me it tends to make a pen look more generic.
Now, onto the interesting part. Vintage nibs in a modern pen with a seamless experience. The Esterbrook can be purchased with an optional “MV Kit” that includes a new grip section and converter. To use it, simply screw in the vintage nib of your choosing, and get writing. It’s that easy. The flow and performance of the fine stub that I tested out was just as it should be. The new grip section works great with the vintage nibs. It makes this an extremely versatile pen and adds a whole new level of fun and enjoyment for me.
Overall, the stock option writes well for a steel nib. If you really want to have some fun, pick up a few vintage nibs and the optional kit.
In hand, the Estie feels nice. It’s a medium-large cigar-shaped pen that’s crafted from acrylic. The material itself warms to your hand, providing a comfortable writing experience. Longer writing sessions shouldn’t prove to be a problem, as the grip is quite comfortable and gently tapers at the end to give your fingers a well-defined place to rest. The mass of the pen is split pretty evenly between the cap and the body, which is a little surprising. This is due to the internal seal off mechanism inside the cap combined with the cap’s rather large size. As a result, I prefer to write with the cap unposted. The balance and size are better that way for my hand. Those with huge hands will appreciate that the cap can post. Overall, the construction of the pen is solid. The acrylic is polished to a glossy shine, the threads on the cap and body are nice and smooth, and the clip is cleanly attached with no play in any direction. No complaints from me here!
- Acrylic materials are awesome to look at
- Vintage nibs are easy to use with MV adapter
- Nice length and balance when writing with the cap unposted
- Classic American brand pen is no longer made in America
- Engraving on nib is a little disappointing, given the price of the pen
- In a perfect world, the MV adapter would be included, not a $40 add-on
The thing that excites me most about the Esterbrook Estie is that they’re trying something new. The ability to buy from Esterbrook’s massive catalog of vintage nibs is a fun, playful, interesting, and useful feature of the pen. I don’t really have a personal connection to the brand (like many out there do), so this was my first real experience with Esterbrook. If the pen didn’t make use of the vintage nibs, I don’t think I would have enjoyed the pen as much. There’s nothing super remarkable (don’t get me wrong, it’s a solid pen), but the extra attention to detail and nod to the past is what elevates this pen above the rest.
Huge thanks to Cary and the rest of the Kenro team for sending the pen over for review. Keep your eyes open in the very near future for a GIVEAWAY of this pen!