Fountain Pen Review: Esterbrook J

Curious about Esterbrooks? Interested in collecting vintage fountain pens? The Esterbrook J is an excellent first vintage pen, find out why on Writing Abby. Fountain Pen Review: Esterbrook J // Writing AbbyINTRODUCTION:

The Esterbrook J is an entry-level vintage fountain pen, and is widely under-appreciated. It’s not hard to understand why. Like most vintage pens, it’s almost unassuming. Plain, yet beautiful. Simple, yet powerful.

Although, I know I shouldn’t complain, that’s the reason most Esterbrooks sell at such a cheap price point.

The Esterbrook J was manufactured in a nice array of colors: red, grey, blue, green, black, and orange. The Esterbrook line of pens are famous for their varied selection of screw-in nibs. On my Esterbrook J, I have a 2556 nib inserted, which is described as a “firm fine”.

The Esterbrook J, the double jeweled version, is a delight — and I’m excited to share it with you.

QUALITY & CONSTRUCTION:

IMG_0114This is a vintage pen. It’s lasted for decades, so it’s unlikely that anything you can do to the pen will damage it beyond repair.

However, most restored Esterbrooks are fitted with latex sacs, which will dissolve over time. The use of highly saturated inks will accelerate this process. But, it’s nothing to worry about, as the disintegration might take over a year to complete. Besides, the sac is easy to replace, and it’s something every Esterbrook owner needs to learn.

That being said, the Esterbrook feels like a well-made pen. The Esterbrook doesn’t feel too cheap when you hold it in your hand, nor does it feel like it’s so expensive you shouldn’t write with it. It’s feels like it could last a life-time. Unposted, the pen feels light and balanced. You could write for hours, and not suffer from hand fatigue. The same description goes for when the cap is posted. The Esterbrook J is just an excellent pen.

Weight: 8.5 mThe logo on the clip of the Esterbrook fountain pen.
Body Material: Plastic
Clippable?: Yes
Clip Material: Material
Converter-Compatible?: No
Diameter-Grip: Unknown
Diameter-Max: 11.9
Grip Material: Plastic
Ink Refillable?: Yes
Filling Mechanism: Level-filler
Length-Capped: 6.5 inches
Length-Posted: 8.5 inches
Length-Uncapped: 5 inches
Nib Length: 25.4 mm
Nib Material: Steel

NIB & PERFORMANCE:

IMG_0123Since Esterbrook nibs are so varied, and widely available, I doubt this section will benefit many potential Esterbrook owners. It may, however, by of use to potential owners of an Esterbrook 2556 nib. Since this nib has decades of use, and with the 2xxx brand in particular (the brand has no protective tipping on its nibs), the performance will vary depending on that particular nib.

So, take this portion of the review with a grain of salt. Not all 2556 nibs behave like mine.

My 2556 nib has a bit of tooth. It bites the paper with a vengeance. When I first got the pen, writing with it made me feel like an amateur fountain pen user. It would drag against the paper, even ripping it, causing me to feel like I’d made a mistake in purchasing it. Then I changed writing positions. I found out the nib was worn in the writing style of the previous owner, and the “toothiness” of the nib resolved itself.

That revelation changed the nib’s personality altogether. Although the nib still laid down a medium-ish, thick line, that line thinned out to a noticeable degree. The nib came into its own. That’s what I like about vintage nibs. Their personalities are vibrant, and just a simple switch of a hand position can change the nib’s performance.

I like my 2556 nib. I’m not in love with it, but I like it enough to write with it every day.

APPEARANCE & DESIGN:

IMG_0117The Esterbrook J is a no-nonsense pen, built for no-nonsense writing,. But it’s beautiful, just the same. The pen looks bigger, and heavier, than it actually is. It’s smaller, but just a little heavier, than a Lamy Safari.

My pen is red in color, with a marbled design, and it’s exquisite. You can see it almost sparkle in the photos. Sometimes, the appearance is almost striated, making the pen far from boring. When I was waiting for this pen to arrive in the mail, I couldn’t stop looking at its photos.

The “jewels” on the end of the cap and barrel are lovely. They round off the pen in a gorgeous way, and “finish” the design. The metallic clip isn’t functional, since it doesn’t have a lot of leeway in regards to pulling it away from the barrel. The lever in the middle of the barrel doesn’t look too out of place, either.

MAINTENANCE:

IMG_0121
Esterbrook LJ (bottom) Esterbrook J (middle) Lamy Safari (top)

I mentioned before that most restored versions of the Esterbrook J have a latex sac installed. In all likelihood, because of their cheapness, even if you buy an un-restored Esterbrook you will replace the sac with a latex one. The problem is, after about a year of use, the latex sac disintegrates. It’s not a huge problem — the sacs are easy to replace, but, it’s an important issue to address right off the bat.

Keep that latex sac in mind, and the Esterbrook J can be tamed.

The Esterbrook needs to be cleaned just like any other fountain pen. It doesn’t require special treatment in order to function. Certain inks will creep onto the nib, as it does with most pens, and it will need cleaning. The sac and feed requires flushing, as any fountain pen needs flushing.

CONCLUSION:

IMG_0120If you’re looking for a nice vintage pen, look no further than an Esterbrook J. It completes any vintage pen collection, but be warned, you will feel compelled to collect pens in all colors. The Esterbrook serves as a great first foray into vintage pens.

If you know how to restore vintage pens, seriously consider looking into Esterbrooks. They’re a great investment. Fountain pen lovers are willing to spend a great deal of money for a single Esterbrook (like, say, me.)

Forget the fact that the Esterbrook is an excellent vintage pen. The Esterbrook is a conversation starter.

When I got the pen, my father remarked about how similar it looked to the pen he used when he was a child. That one remark sparked a conversation about my father’s school days, and when he was a child.

That, alone, is enough of a reason to buy an Esterbrook.

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Tell me, are you interested in vintage pens? Do you have, or plan to get an Esterbrook J?

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2 thoughts on “Fountain Pen Review: Esterbrook J

    • Aw, thank you! Yep, fountain pens themselves are unique and fun. Which is why I love ’em!

      In all honesty, I think I may write fountain pen reviews for the sake of claiming “It’s for the blog!” when scouring eBay for deals on pens. 🙂

      Thank you for the comment, and I’m answering your email now. 🙂
      –Abby

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