It was probably a mistake to imagine that I could attend the London Spring Pen Show without succumbing to the temptation to buy at least one fountain pen. I have been feeling very contented with the pens that I own and in particular, with many of those less expensive models in my accumulation. In a recent count-up, I found that about half of my 16 currently inked fountain pens had cost under £30.00 each.
The pen show took place on 6 March 2022, once again at the spacious Novotel in Hammersmith. I had been looking forward to this, but planned to refrain from spending lots of money on pens that I did not need. However, there is another principle, which is to keep an open mind.
First, it was great to see all the gang again. Within moments of arriving, I met many friends from the London pen club and the online community including John, Philip, Gary, Dave and Anthony. I was to run into many others throughout the day. It was a pleasure to see Jon from Pensharing and to say hi to many of the familiar dealers.
I snagged a few great stationery bargains: a bottle of Waterman Serenity blue (my only ink purchase at the show) and some A4-plus Leuchtturm journals in end-of-the line colours. I also discovered a journal from Semikolon, which I gather is a sister brand to Leuchtturm, with less of the features (no pagination, stickers, or contents pages) but focusing on premium quality watermarked paper, hand-sewn binding and linen covers. I could not say no to one of these, reduced from £30.00 to £10.00. (I spent a happy half hour that evening, paginating it myself: 304 pages, thanks for asking).
But this is turning into a pen show post. I had intended to write about the pen that came home with me. That pen was an Esterbrook Estie, in the Nouveau Bleu edition.
This year for the first time, Esterbrook was represented at the London Pen Show. As well as Esterbrook’s own table, their pens were also being sold by their UK outlets, Cult Pens and Niche Pens.
I hovered at the Esterbrook table: they had a tray of sample Esties to try with different nib options. I asked to try the stub. After trying this and following a conversation with the helpful gentleman (sorry – I do not know his name) about my writing style, he suggested that I try a broad nib. I am a lefty-overwriter, who rotates the paper 90 degrees anti-clockwise and “writes uphill” rather than hooking my wrist. In the absense of an oblique option, we agreed that the broad nib seemed to work well for me.
I have not owned an Esterbrook before. Whilst I did not grow up with the name, I know it to be a much loved American brand, established in 1858 and reborn not long ago after a hiatus and now making pens again in classic vintage designs and with a vast range of attractive acrylic colours.
I had looked at these online and had been tempted by some of the colours – the cobalt blue, the lilac, the golden honeycombe models in particular but had not handled an Estie in the flesh or the oversize version.
At the show, the colour that particularly stood out to me was called Nouveau Bleu (although I did not know that at the time). I later read that it was inspired by the colour pallette of art nouveau posters by Alphonse Mucha. The pen looks, to a casual glance in poor light, like a vintagey mottled dark brown colour but on closer inspection features flakes of light blue and light brown, which have a lovely pearlescent quality, seeming to blink on and off as you rotate the pen in your hands. In bright light, particularly sunlight, it is a joy to behold. It is also beautifully smooth and polished and feels lovely too. The standard size is plenty big enough for me and I did not try an oversize.
The pen is available with either gold or silver coloured trim (being the pocket clip, two metal rings – one each side of the cap threads and the colour-filled lettering of the name Esterbrook on the cap). I preferred the gold with this finish. Esterbrook did not have one with the Broad nib on their table, but this was no problem as I was taken to Niche Pens’ table (from Newport, South Wales and represented by Ross Adams and his wife Vicky) where a broad nib was swapped into “my” pen. My Nouveau Bleu pen also included an A5 notebook with an attractive Esterbrook poster cover.
The Estie is a cartridge-converter pen, with a steel Jowo number 6 nib and an acrylic body. There are plenty of things to like about this successful model, such as:
– The colours and pattern of the acrylic body;
– The sprung inner cap; the push and twist routine of capping the pen is a special pleasure and the inner cap prevents ink evaporation and hard starts;
– The fact that the cap screws on;
– The metal to metal threads, of barrel and section;
– The rubber O ring on the section threads, to stop the barrel from coming loose by itself and to help protect against leaks;
– An Esterbrook-branded converter included;
– Comfortable and solid in size, shape and weight including length and girth; 127mm long unposted; (150mm closed);
– Cap can be posted securely but the pen becomes very long at 172mm;
– The Jowo nib unit (nib, feed and housing) can be unscrewed and swapped easily;
– Presented in a nice red, cloth-covered gift box.
On the other hand, any dislikes?
Although the cap does post securely, with a little push and a twist, I worry that there is no protective metal cap band and that the cap might start to crack if “posted” too hard. Some care is needed to push the cap on just hard enough so that it does not work loose, but not so hard as to stress the acrylic.
My broad nib looked to be nicely finished, with a tiny gap between the tines and tines level and symmetrical. It writes smoothly and with good flow (filled with Serenity Blue) although I think it will improve in the coming weeks as the nib wears in.
I have since learned that the pen is available with some special nib grinds, including a needlepoint which Anthony of UKFountainPens chose.
Sometimes after a pen purchase, particularly in my “over £30.00” category, buyer’s remorse can present itself in the following days, leading to a battle with the conscience to find justifications for the purchase. Fortunately here, there are ample plus points to this pen, including buying in to the American heritage brand. But for all the spec, perhaps the greated test comes down simply to this: does remembering that you own the pen, make you happy? I am glad to say that it does.