Posted in Pens, Stories

Celluloid – Real, Fake & FIRE!

In this last discussion of my favorite vintage pen materials, I am presenting celluloid. Why do I like celluloid you ask. Unfortunately, that is a detailed answer you see. There are two kinds of celluloid; one made with cellulose nitrate and another made from cellulose acetate. I have both but I prefer the cellulose nitrate. It has a warm feel, much like ebonite, and a pleasant camphor fragrance. It’s much easier to generate vibrant colors and interesting patterns.

Cellulose nitrate (Real Celluloid)

The primary ingredient of celluloid is cellulose nitrate. Cellulose is the most abundant organic polymer on Earth. Obtained primarily from wood pulp and cotton to produce paperboard and paper. Nitrating cellulose through exposure to a mixture of nitric acid and sulfuric acid produces highly flammable cellulose nitrate.

Parker Vacumatic and Duofold in Celluloid

It was initially used as guncotton, a replacement for gunpowder. Cellulose nitrate was also used as a low-yield explosive in mining. So naturally, it should make a great medium for manufacturing pens – once it is plasticized with camphor, celluloid’s other essential component.

Spontaneous combustion is always a possibility; however, the most common failure of celluloid occurs as it ages. Exposure to the environment allows the camphor to sublimate at room temperature, reverting the celluloid to Cellulose nitrate. Another sublimation associated with exposure to excess heat affects nitrate.

Cellulose acetate (Fake Celluloid)

“Cellulose acetate is most commonly prepared by treating cellulose with acetic acid and then with acetic anhydride in the presence of a catalyst such as sulfuric acid.”

Onishi Seisakusho Celluloid Acetate pens photo credit Jet Pens

Cellulose acetate was made by dozens of companies with different brand names and formulations. According to Lambrou’s Fountain Pens of the World, there are four different cellulosic plastics used in fountain pens:

  • Cellulose Nitrate (real celluloid)
  • Cellulose Acetate
  • Cellulose Propionate
  • Cellulose Acetobutyrate

I ask, is cellulose acetate, etc. real celluloid? It is still being manufactured and called celluloid. Or is the determination of celluloid made because of cellulose?

Now for the bad news, both nitrate and acetate are classified as flammable substances, and subject to transportation restrictions plus storage and handling regulations. For this reason, contemporary celluloid pens are very uncommon; however, Italian companies, Montegrappa and Visconti manufacture pens from celluloid as does Onishi Seisakusho in Japan.

Fun Facts

  • Early billiard balls made of cellulose nitrate were known to explode occasionally.
  • Cellulose nitrate-based film has spontaneously ignited and that which has not burned has in a large part decomposes to red powder.
  • Allegedly a prisoner explodes a deck of celluloid playing cards to facilitate his escape.

How can I tell?

The simplest way to determine if celluloid is real is to take a whiff, it is all about the fragrance. Wet the pen and rub hard creating heat. It will not smell like plastic but like camphor. Honestly, I have no idea what camphor smells like but I can tell you a celluloid pen does not smell like a petroleum product, or a solvent.

You can also test by burning shavings. Acetate will have a vinegar smell and burn yellow while nitrate will smell of camphor and burn white. Yellow vs white seems like an inconclusive test.

For those with access to a microscope, place a shaving and lace on a glass slide. Add a droplet of acetone. If celluloid, it will promptly dissolve; casein, Bakelite, and acrylic will be unaffected. This test won’t tell us if the celluloid is real or fake.

Waxing

Waxes have not been shown to benefit hard rubber, while they can damage celluloid by preventing the escape of the acidic gas by-products celluloid naturally produce. The wax seals the celluloid, preventing the nitrocellulose gas from escaping, it is retained in the celluloid hastening decomposition.

In conclusion, I test by smell. I like real celluloid because it has a warm feel and it smells good. To me, the aroma is earthy with a medicinal undertone.

Reference Material

COPYRIGHT © 2021-2022 DANNY WATTS and CHRONICLES OF A FOUTAIN PEN.
Posted in Pens, Stories

Fountain Pen Ancestry, A Story Waiting to be Told

Good morning, yesterday.
You wake up and time has slipped away.
And suddenly it’s hard to find.
The memories you left behind … -Paul Anka

Tomorrow (27 September) is Nation Ancestor Appreciation Day – yes there really is such a thing. To commemorate, I am highlighting the ancestry of three of my pens. Maybe I have an overactive imagination, or hopelessly sentimental, both I’m sure, but each holds a story waiting to be known. So without further delay allow me to present the ancestral story of each pen.

1928 Parker Duofold Jr. (1921-1934)

Ellwood Arthur Leupold was born in 1906 to Gustavus & Paulina (Padorf) Leupold (first-generation German immigrants) in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

When Ellwood landed his first “real” job as a draftsman for the telephone company he also invested in a decent writing instrument. He bought a Parker Duofold Jr (circa 1928). This investment cost him $7, equivalent to $105 today – a significant investment for a 22-year-old.

Ellwood subsequently accepted a job clerking at the Corn Exchange National Bank; I’m sure his Duofold followed. In 1945, Ellwood (39) married Mary T. Cuta (31), the daughter of Basil and Stella Cuta of Poland. The couple set up house with his parents in the Olney neighborhood of Philadelphia, where they remained for the remainder of their lives. By 1950, Ellwood accepted a new position, this one with the Bureau of Water as a draftsman. Sadly, the couple did not have any children. Ellwood died in August 1985; Mary survived him by 31 years, passing in 2016 at the age of 102.

1950 Philadelphia Census

Esterbrook Dollar Pen (1934-1942)

Doris Isabelle Stirratt and her twin sister Donna, were born in 1922 to Chauncy & Theresine Stiratt of Crookston, Minnesota. As the Great Depression drew to a conclusion so did her days in high school. Doris landed a job as an assistant teacher in the Beltrami County, Minnesota school system as part of the “New Deal” National Young Administration School Project.

You can’t start your first professional job and not be prepared, around this time Doris purchased an Esterbrook “Dollar” pen.

But teaching was not her thing, in 1947, Doris accepted a position with the Beltrami County government. A couple years passed and she met a charming young doctor just starting his practice (Grant “Bob” Garlock, MD), they were married in May of 1950. The couple managed 3 children before Grant was recalled to active duty in the US Army, commissioned a Lieutenant, and deployed to Korea.

Doris had artistic talent, to supplement a Lieutenant’s pay, Doris agreed to illustrate a science textbook for Professor Alfred M. Elliott, of the University of Michigan. Zoology was published in 1952, crediting Doris Stirratt Garlock for her wonderful drawings and unbound patience with him.

Of the many drawings in the textbook, this one caught my fancy as it included a slide rule. I’m sure everyone knows what a slide rule is.

After Grant’s return in 1953, their 4th child is born and Grant accepts a position at State Hospital for the Insane in Fergus Falls, Minnesota. This apparently did not go over well with Doris and Grant remained in Beltrami. He announced his intent to take the position in Fergus Falls the following year but this also did not happen (happy wife, happy life). In the summer of 1969, two of the Garlock children join or took over the medical and surgical practice their father was associated with in Beltrami.

Doris is elected Beltrami County Treasurer in 1965, a position she holds until her retirement in 1977. This is where things get odd. At her retirement, the local newspaper quotes Doris as saying her husband “Bob” died in 1976 yet he clearly did not. He was living in California.

It appears Bob moved to Ojai, California in 1969, hence the reason their children entered his practice? After her retirement, no more Minnesota winters for Doris, she joins her husband in California, living first in Napa County before heading south to Ventura. Her husband dies in December 2009, and Doris survived him by 6.5 years.

Sheaffer Snorkle (1952-1959)

Iris Imo Simmons was born in 1904 to Erwan & Rosa (Banner) Simmons of Le Roy, Illinois. Unfortunately, she never got to know her mother, as her mom died several months after her birth. Subsequently, the family moved to Missouri, thus beginning her Odyssey. Imo, as she preferred to be known, attended school in both Livingston & Linn counties. Imo, her sisters Bebe and Edith left Parson Creek, Missouri by 1930 for Le Roy, Illinois where Bebe and Imo taught in the school system while Edith finished high school. Imo completed 2 years of college by 1940. She remained in Le Roy until the early 1950s, moving to Bloomington where she enrolled at the Illinois State University, graduating in 1956, having earned a Bachelor’s degree in Education.

Bursting with pride, deserving a reward for all the hard work or maybe it was a gift. Either way, Imo became the owner of a Sheaffer Snorkle fountain pen.

She remained in Bloomington until the early 1970s whence she retired to Memphis, Tennessee. Thus, reuniting Imo with her sisters, Bebe and Edith.

After her sisters passed, Imo moved to a nursing home in Wheeling, Missouri in 1992. A year later during the Christmas holiday, she passed. At the age of 89, Imo had outlived all her siblings (4 sisters and 1 brother). She was laid to rest in Meadville, Linn County Missouri.

Old stuff is not so boring after all.

COPYRIGHT © 2021-2022 DANNY WATTS and CHRONICLES OF A FOUTAIN PEN.
Posted in Pens, Reviews

Esterbrook Jr (‘J Reborn’) Pocket Pen

The Esterbrook JR Pocket Pen is part of the modern Esterbrook’s revival of the brand with the pen being a call back to one of vintage Esterbrook’s most popular pens, the Esterbrook J.

I inked up my pen to start July and it was a bust. The ink simply stopped flowing. I felt I needed to give the pen a fair shake; an honest review and try using it again.

Back in the day (the 40s and 50s) the Esterbrook J series was as familiar as a Bic ballpoint or Pilot G2 gel pen today. They were affordable, dependable, and offered enough variety to be popular. The brand shuttered in 1971. The brand was reborn in 2014, Harpen Brand Holdings, acquired the rights to the “Esterbrook” brand name, releasing a series of pens. Four years later, Kenro Industries acquired the brand, making rebirth a tenant of the company’s vision. The JR Pocket Pen is modeled after the classic Esterbrook J.

Vintage J and the JR Pocket

My Pen

Is mostly a black pen with some noticeable silver swirls deep in the acrylic body and cap. This color is known as Tuxedo. I have a thing for black pens and this color scheme is intriguing to me. I was visiting the Esterbrook/Kenro web site, getting my facts correct when I saw a JR Pocket pen – Pumpkin Latte. I have to admit it is very attractive and worth a look if you have a thing for unique pens.

Writing with the JR is quite a pleasant experience. The lightweight acrylic section has a natural grip area, providing a comfortable place for fingers.

The nib of the pen is etched with the new Esterbrook X logomark upgrading the look, maybe they were inspired by Montblanc? The nib is a JoWo #6 B(road) palladium (their description). I assume it is stainless steel and the tip is palladium.

Esterbrook was known for their interchangeable nib system. The obvious question is “does the JR Pocket Pen have a converter to accept vintage Esterbrook nibs?” NOPE. Apparently, Esterbrook/Kenro has under development an adaptor for the JR Pocket Pen similar to the adapter available for the Estie. The adaptor permits using vintage Esterbrook nibs in the Esterbrook/Kenro pen. The adaptors are not interchangeable amongst Esterbrook/Kenro pens.

The section with the new style exchangeable nibs is worth noting. The section has metal screws to secure it to the barrel which has screws engraved into the acrylic- not sure how well this arrangement will last long term. The new nib screws into the section, protruding aft providing the nipple for the converter or ink cartridge.

Yes I paid a visit to the hobby supply store and they were have a 50% off sale on paper. I’m liking the Paisley – you?

I inked it up the converted with Serenity Blue. It took a little effort kick starting the ink flow but once it started…. I’ll use it for the next 2 weeks and report.

Vital Statistics

  • Capped length. 125.5mm
  • Uncapped length. 118mm
  • Barrel diameter. 11mm
  • Cap diameter. 13.5mm
  • Weighs in at. 18g
Posted in Pens, Stories

Esterbrook – Made in England – Too

Esterbrook, America’s Original Pen Company was established in 1858, yet in 1928 after the British Government introduced legislation to restrict the import of products from the United States, Esterbrook responded by entering into licensing arrangements with Conway Stewart for the “Relief Pen,” and John Mitchell to produce Esterbrook Pens to Birmingham, England. The John Mitchell Pen Work Factory was situated on the corner of Moland and Bagot Streets.

On 19 November 1940, the Moland Street factory was hit by an incendiary bomb, destroying half of the building. Unlike many other businesses bombed during the war, Esterbrook Hazell Pens was able to rebuild during the war. However, the British Government mandated that 50% of the building’s capacity be put to some government-related function. The government section was utilized by the Stationery Office and the Defence Department for ammunition quality assessment.

After the war, the British operations bought out John Mitchell, while the parent company acquired Hazell pens then Cushman & Denison. In 1960, The British operations of Esterbrook Pens merged with Cushman and Denison. Throughout the 1960s, Esterbrook UK did not simply rubber stamp the product lines of the US. Instead, British operations released the Valve Marker, Watercolour, Colourstick, Permanent Pen, and Notewriter under the Gem brand name.

The Esterbrook Pen Co was acquired by the Venus Pencil Co in 1967, which had a modern factory in King’s Lynn, Norfolk. Production gradually transferred with production ceasing on Moland Street in 1972.

The “Conundrum” Pen

Made in England SJ-series? Hence known as the “Conundrum”

Esterbrook started marketing double jeweled J-series pens in 1948. The pen I have found is a double jeweled SJ. The J-series, double jeweled, made-in-England pens are identical in appearance to their US cousins. This pen does not have any familiar stainless steel accents. Instead, it is all gold-plated. The clip, cap-ring, and lever are missing their multiband/ring appearance. The cap-ring and clip are smooth with just the faintest trim. The lever is perfectly smooth just like the first generation of double jeweled J-series.

The cap clip is similar to both an Esterbrook Safari and Esterbrook Deluxe LK. The imprinted “Esterbrook” on the clip is worth noting. Please note the style of the “E.” Left is a Deluxe LK clip, and the right is a J-series. The Conundrum and Deluxe have the same style “E” while the J-series lettering is boxy and boring. The “Esterbrook” imprint on the Safari starts at the top like the Conundrum but in the same font as the J-series.

The Conundrum is plastic, not celluloid. It is not as soft as a US Pastel J-series pen. Compared to the SJ, the Conundrum is of equal length with the same type of black jewels, the cap is roughly 1mm longer and .5mm wider. The jewel bands are twice the width of those on the SJ.

Esterbrook Relief, Conundrum, SJ-Series

Printed on the cap is “Relief” F which is the type of oblique nib with a Fine point nib. The “35/-” specifies the price of the pen at 35 shillings.

The Conundrum has an ink sac but I’m not inking it up. The seller claimed it was NOS but there appears to be ink on the section. Instead, I’ll dip the nib and see how well it writes. It started a bit rough but once the ink was consistently flowing the friction stopped and it wrote smoothly. Since it is a fine nib and I’ve mentioned I have issues, I found it was biting the paper. A couple times it felt as if it would put a hole in the page.

Vital Statistics

  • Capped length. 122mm
  • Uncapped length. 108.5mm
  • Barrel diameter 11mm
  • Cap diameter 12mm
  • Weighs in at 14g

——————— Reference Material —————

Posted in Pens, Reviews, Stories

Esterbrook M2 Aerometric Pen

Company Back Story

Esterbrook introduced their first aerometric filler in the late 1950’s calling it the M2. The pen sported a metallic cap and plastic barrel in a period favorite color. The plastic used is soft compared to other pens, or but typical of late Esterbrook manufacture. M2’s are easily recognizable by their indented cap and plastic threads.

Esterbrook marketed for a limited time, a contemporary version of the M2. The new M2 Series incorporated the design of the original model with subtle modern details. The contemporary M2 Series is made from a special resin material developed to authenticate the feel and colors of the 1950’s. Each pen features a brushed metal cap and a specially design clip. The barrel has been etched and colored with an updated Esterbrook logo. Photo Credit: Fahrney’s Pens

My Pen

This M2 is in great shape, no scratches, no teeth marks. I even like the color of blue, seems very 1950’s to me. The pen has an aerometric filler. Admittedly, this is my first pen with an aerometric filler.

M2 Aerometric Filler

The plastic of the barrel and section “feels” odd to me if that makes sense. It’s doesn’t have a hard feeling like celluloid or acrylic, nor is it soft, it simply feels like plastic. The section is made of the same plastic as are the cap threads. The plastic threads are a concern. I imagine with some less meticulously maintain pens the cap threads are stripped.

The metallic cap has horizontal etched rings. Esterbrook is engraved on the cap band, M2 models are easy to spot because of the unique top of the cap – it dips in.

The aft end of the barrel is an air hole but honestly I spent a week looking at other examples under the assumption there was a jewel from the end, but noooooo.

The pen writes nicely, here I was using an Esterbrook 2668 Firm Medium nib. In my hand, the weight and size of the pen are most agreeable. I don’t post the cap. The ink is De Atramentis Black Red.

Bottom Line

I enjoyed using the pen. It feels comfortable when in hand. The Aerometric filler works well. The feel of the plastic is not something I’m familiar with and the air hole in the end is well ugly and cheap looking.

Overall, I am happy with the pen. It makes a nice vintage everyday pen with a 1950’s nostalgic look.

Vital Statistics

  • Capped length. 134mm
  • Uncapped length. 124mm
  • Barrel diameter 11mm
  • Cap diameter 12mm
  • Weighs in at 18g
  • Esterbrook.Net; M2
Posted in Pens, Stories

Happy Nurse’s Day – Pen Sets

At the end of the 19th century, “The Lady With the Lamp” — or as she is more widely known, Florence Nightingale — founded modern nursing. Each year, in recognition of the importance nurses, play in our lives, a week is dedicated to all things nursing beginning on “Nurse’s Day” and ending on May 12th, Florence Nightingale’s birthday. I’m highlighting specialty pens used by nurses before the digital age.

“Nurse’s Pens” are a genre of fountain pens that were marketed to nurses throughout the 1940’s and 50’s, mainly by Waterman and Esterbrook. Scheaffer also had a minor role in the nurse pen market.

Why did nurses need a specialized fountain pen? Because hospital medical charts were written by hand in different colored inks designating the shift. These pens came with different colored top jewels, in black, green, and red – representing all three common nursing shifts at the time: 7am to 3pm (BLACK ink), 3-11pm (GREEN ink), 11pm-7am (RED ink).

Waterman’s made different varieties of nurse’s pens, their standard set came in “lustrous satin Pearl of white.” They offered the most diverse options, including sets with one pen and a pencil, sets with two pens for two different colors of inks, and sets with a pen case that included a thermometer inside!

Esterbrook manufactured a series of small, white Nurse’s Pens based on their J-Series. Their pens had colored cap jewels, in the familiar black, green, and red to coordinate with the nurse’s work shifts, The green jeweled pens are the least common, while black jeweled pens are the most common.

My Esterbrook Nurse’s Pen Set

I picked up an Esterbrook Nurse Pen set (a pen and pencil) which clearly involved a mix and matching of various pens. The cap of the pen matches the pencil while the barrel is noticeably more white, but that’s ok. I haven’t begun their restoration. It doesn’t appear much is needed. The pencil works, and I believe a new sac is installed. We shall see.

I imagine different pens for different work shifts seem archaic, but how can we appreciate where we are today if we don’t know where we’ve been. At one time, the pen was a necessary nursing tool and the color of ink on the paper patient chart could be vitally important with respect to patient diagnosis and care.

Let’s add some perspective, in 1946, a Register Nurse could expect to earn $170-$175 per month and pay $8.50 for a Waterman Nurse pen set (5% of her monthly salary). That same pen today would set a nurse back $130, which is way more than the cost of a decent stethoscope.

Pen Vital Statistics

  • Capped length. 121mm
  • Uncapped length. 110mm
  • Barrel diameter 11mm
  • Cap diameter 12mm
  • Weighs in at 12g
Posted in Pens, Restoration

Really, The Dog Ate My Pen

(Originally posted on 6 April 2021.)

In the spirit of TBT and the ghosts of Christmas past, I thought I’d reblog this post with updates. I’m sure everyone was good last year and Santa brought you lots of nice things. Did you put those nice things away? Are they out of reach of the dog? Yes, there is a lesson or two to be learned.

The Backstory

The Esterbrook Purse or Pastel pen was produced with women in mind, they were smaller, dainty, and designed to fit in a purse. The initial pens were made between 1954 and 1957. These Pastel pens were constructed using a much softer plastic, today they are usually found with cracks in the cap, and their color is faded. The pen in this tale was “cherry” when I got it, so I gave it to my wife as a Christmas present along with a sweet bullet journal (160gsm paper) so she could use a fountain pen, markers, etc without the bleed-through associated with the cheap stuff we call paper. This is where the trouble begins, the pen was stored in a cute little bag that somehow ended up on the floor (I blame the cats) and our dog thought she would try it out as a new chew toy. Fortunately, she wasn’t impressed.

CYA announcement

Do not do as I do, but if you choose to ignore my warning please don’t do it with a pen of value.

She managed to miss the nib, the cap clip, the cap ring, and both jewels. And, she didn’t put any holes completely through the plastic. I’ve read in numerous blogs, where people have used hairdryers to loosen the nib section from the barrel, knowing this plastic is a lot softer and more pliable maybe it could be leveraged to soften the plastic and remove the teeth marks.

Restoration

Beginning with the damage to the barrel at the lever, this type of pen uses a snap ring system to hold the fill lever mechanism in place. When the lever is engaged it will actuate a J-bar which compresses the ink sac thus when released ink is drawn into the sac.

Let’s start by removing and inspecting the nib section, confirming there is no damage to the section, nib, or ink sac. Using forceps I easily removed the J-bar, and now it is time to focus on the lever. Remember, there is a bite mark that appears to have grazed the mechanism and partially displace the snap ring. Normally, a lever is removed by raising it 45-degree then pushing forward, but in this case, that wasn’t possible. I managed to manipulate the lever until it and the snap ring came out, everything looks good.

Using the crafting hairdryer, I started intermittently applying medium heat to the barrel. After a couple minutes the plastic felt hot, so I inserted a dental instrument into the barrel. At the damaged area, I began rotating the tool so that the curved side of the instrument would press against the indentation. This I did until I succeeded in pushing out the tooth-mark. Next, I sanded the barrel removing the residual mark. The process is progressive, starting with 1000 grit paper, which will remove significant damage then progressing to 2000, 3000, 5000, and finally, 7000 grit paper leaving a perfectly smooth surface. The process removed all evidence of bite marks and scratches. Looking good!

Now feeling empowered and overly confident, I moved on to the pen cap. The cap has a hard plastic insert that seals the cap to the section preventing ink leakage. One of the bites made a dent protruding through the insert. This will require more heat, more effort, and more attention. Using the same basic principle I began applying high heat to the pen cap. Using a wax carving tool to apply pressure to the damaged area of the hard plastic insert while simultaneously applying pressure to the outside – it’s working!

This is when my overconfidence got the better of me, I applied too much heat plus I took my eye off the cap for just a split second. The tapered end of the pen cap opened up like a budding flower allowing the jewel and clip to fall out. Oh shit! Shit, shit, shit, shit! Now, what am I going to do? I was already patting myself on the back for a job well done.

Wait I have an idea! (Oh no, not again)

To Be Continued…

Posted in Restoration

Esterbrook Green Pastel

Company Back Story

In 1858, entrepreneur Richard Esterbrook established the “Esterbrook Pen Company” in Camden, NJ, which would become one of the biggest and most beloved pen makers in the world. The company started out producing dip pens before concentrating on fountain pens in 1932. At its height, Esterbrook was the largest pen manufacturer in the United States, employing 600 workers, producing 216,000,000 pens a year.

Esterbrook’s most popular and best-selling pens were the J series. Of which, the double jeweled models came out around 1948, expanding in the 1950s with the Pastels. First-generation pastels have double black jewels while subsequent models came with matching colored jewels. The Pastels are very “of that era” 1950s. They are shorter than the Esterbrook J, and came in solid pastel colors. The pens were marketed primarily to women as purse pens.

My Pen

I bought this pen in part as an impulse buy because the dog had just eaten my first Pastel. Though I acted on impulse, I did exercise good judgment focusing on the quality of the pen. That being said, this pen is in exceptional condition, yes I’d go so far as call it cherry much like the one the dog ate. The pen has no tooth marks, or scratches nor is the barrel discolored by sunlight.

To my surprise, while cleaning the nib and preparing to remove the section I learned that the last ink used in the pen was green, image that. Another interesting surprise came about when I was removing the old ink sac. A large portion with “Esterbroo”k printed on the side came out. I guess this is the original sac.

Since the pen was in great shape, remember no tooth marks or major scratches, a light cleaning was all that was needed. I installed a new #16 ink sac and we are back in business. Looking good don’t you think?

And YES, I am keeping it away from the dog.

Vital statistics

  • Capped 108mm in length
  • Barrel diameter 8mm
  • Uncapped 100mm in length
  • Weighs in at 11g capped
Sorry my hand writing is so horrible.
Posted in Pens

…Its a new month, what’s in your pen cup?

The Conklin All American has been drained of ink, cleaned and put away. You may recall I did a review of the Conklin and decided I wasn’t a fan – it was too fluffy (fat). Now after I’ve used it for a month, I have gained an appreciation for how well it writes, though it took some time getting used to the size. I exaggerate a bit when I say it felt like writing with a cucumber.

As like many of you, I rotate my pens, it’s a new month so a new pen, I am now using my Esterbrook V-Clip. This pen is considered pretty rare, the model was only made for a period of 1 year (1932-1933), production was ceased because of inferior materials and design flaws, thus it is uncommon to find one in good shape.

When I got the pen it had a very unusually nib, a Relief 314, normally associated with dip pens. This nib is part of an Esterbrook nib/feed assembly which screws into the section, unlike dip pens. Unfortunately, I couldn’t use the pen as the nib needed to be smoothed. Since then I stumbled onto a Relief 2314-F NOS, I felt bad taking it out of the box and screwing it into the section. But damn it writes well. This is the first time the V-Clip has made the rotation and I like the way it writes.

When I got the pen it had a very unusually nib, a Relief 314, normally associated with dip pens. This nib is part of an Esterbrook nib/feed assembly which screws into the section, unlike dip pens. Unfortunately, I couldn’t use the pen as the nib needed to be smoothed. Since then I stumbled onto a Relief 2314-F NOS, I felt bad taking it out of the box and screwing it into the section. But damn it writes well. This is the first time the V-Clip has made the rotation and I like the way it writes.

So tell me, what pen are you using this month?

Posted in Pens, Stories

The Esterbrook V Clip

In 1858, entrepreneur Richard Esterbrook established the “Esterbrook Pen Company” in Camden, NJ, which would soon become one of the biggest and most beloved pen makers in the world. The company produced dip pens, until the early 1930’s when their focus changed to fountain pens. At its height, Esterbrook was the largest pen manufacturer in the United States, employing 600 workers producing 216,000,000 pens a year.

Much of America’s history has been written and created using Esterbrook pens. U.S. presidents Abraham Lincoln and Lyndon B. Johnson signed legislation with their Esterbrook pens. While John F. Kennedy called upon our nation to literally reach for the stars, signing documents that promised to land a man on the moon and bring him safely back to earth.

The pen is not assign an official name; however, it’s popular name comes from the “V” styling of the large open clip. Esterbrook is considered a tier 2 manufacture but they used stainless steel in the manufacture of their clips while their tier 1 competition still used electroplating. This pen was Esterbrook’s first attempt at a self filling fountain pen in the U.S., manufacturing of fountain pens started in 1932, the pens were available in hard rubber and in a celluloid (plastic). The clip proved to be a major design disaster, as the flimsy metal often caused sprung clips, or worse, broke clips. Esterbrook designers quickly changed to the more common two hole clip found on “Dollar” pens. The V-Clip pen was only manufactured for a little longer than a year. It is hard to find V-Clip pens and quite uncommon, even rare to find them in colors other than black.

The pen in my collection is a green marble celluloid plastic, I found it in Trappe on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. The pen is in immaculate shape and sports a Relief 314 Medium nib, which is very unusual. The Relief 314 nib is a oblique dip pen nib with a 15° slant that gives nice line variations without having to use a flexible nib. Esterbrook began manufacturing the nib in England in the 1870’s, eventually manufacturing the nib in the U.S. when the quality of U.S. steel was deemed acceptable. When Esterbrook began making 314 renew point nibs (interchangeable) the nibs adopted the established numbering sequence and 314 became 1314, 2314, and 9314 where the first number indicates the quality/material of the nib and the next three correspond to the dip pen nib. Esterbrook made 250 different dip pen nibs, thus this nib predates the numbering adoption.

British “Relief “ nib vs US “Relief” nib

In addition to the defect in the clip design, there were issues with the celluloid plastic, apparently it does not fare well when exposed to water and has a tendency to warp. This inferior plastic was only used for a short period of time until better plastics were developed. My pen has a slight wobble when the barrel is rolled on a desk. When I inked up the pen I can’t say it writes well, I believe the nib needs some attention. It is supposed to be a medium writing nib but it is writing fine. If I hold the pen just right, turning it toward the oblique angle it works much better but still writes very scratchy. I need to apply some TLC to it and it that fails the nib will need some professional attention.