Fountain Pen Restoration

Esterbrook Safari

Interestingly, I have read more and more internet articles about recent pens such as the Sheaffer No Nonsense and Parker Vector. Though I do not consider them Vintage, they are collectible to some, even though Restoration involves little more than cleaning, or substituting nibs. This reminded me that I had started an article on the Esterbrook Safari, a lesser known Esterbrook fountain pen from the late 1950s, and needed to complete it….

The Esterbrook Safari was one of the Company’s attempts at producing a Cartridge filling pen, as fountain pens evolved to this filling system. All previous restorations of Esterbrook pens have been lever fillers, which was the predominant Esterbrook system. For a glimpse back at some previous Esterbrook restorations,  please read these previous articles:

Fountain Pen Restoration 101 – May 8, 2008

Esterbrook Bowling Pen – September 13, 2011

Esterbrook Nurses Pen – August 5, 2011

Esterbrook Pastels –  July 5, 2011

I was going through some old magazines when I ran across this old advertisement from the late 1950s.  It reminded me to be on the lookout for one of these pens. Within the past year, I actually stumbled into two of them, which I will discuss below.  First, the advertisement.  As you can see, the thrust of the campaign is the ease and economy of the cartridges.  One cartridge is in use, and the other fits over the active cartridge, at the ready as a spare.  Add the two together and you have what Esterbrook touted as 40% more ink than other pens.  Clever marketing.  Add the usual Esterbrook removable / replaceable nibs (32) and a low price point of $3.95 in the late 1950s, and you can see where they were headed.

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The photos below are of the two cartridge fillers taken apart.  You can see that the section and barrel are an easy screw fit, and the familiar interchangeable nibs are as well.  Not much restoration to be done other than simple clean up.   I cleaned the nib units together in an ultrasonic cleaner.  Then the barrels, sections, and caps followed.  Be careful handling these as the plastic on these is very fragile and prone to cracking.

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The proprietary Esterbrook cartridges are, of course, no longer manufactured, so I found an empty extra on ebay, and cleaned it out thoroughly.  This will allow me to use this cartridge in one of the pens.  I will fill it using a syringe, as shown below.  First, I had to clear out the dried blue ink from the cartridge.  Once cleaned, it is ready to be filled with bottled ink of choice.

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Below are the completed pens, cleaned and polished.

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The pens measure 5 1/2 inches closed and 6 1/4 inches capped.  Both came with 2668 nibs, which are unremarkable firm medium nibs.  Another nice feature of these pens is that any other Esterbrook nibs will work on these, so you can swap out one of your 9000 level nibs on these, if you chose.

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Here is one final photo – the cap, which features a unique and attractive clip and shiny slanted cap end. A nice touch for the price, I think.

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Safaris were first seen in 1957, the same date as the advertisement above.  They came in six colors – Gray, Dark Blue, Light Blue, Green, Red, and Green.   After a short run with plastic caps (as seen in these two pens), Esterbrook decided to use a sturdier metal cap.  So, you may find these same colors with a later metal cap.  Plunger fillers were also produced, though I have never handled one of these.   Finally, matching pencil sets were available.    An excellent source of information and photos, providing a much more educated and thorough review can be found at Esterbrook.Net, an excellent site maintained by Anderson Pens.

Safari’s are another example of an attractive pen, with a unique design, use standard Esterbrook J/SJ/LJ nibs, that can still be used today.   Keep an eye out for them….

June 12, 2013 Posted by | Esterbrook, Esterbrook Fountain Pens, Esterbrook Safari | , | 3 Comments

Esterbrook Bowling Pen

The Story behind this restoration takes place in Camden, New Jersey, just across the Delaware River from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  In the mid 1800s Esterbrook Pens began in Camden and stayed there until the 1960s.  I have also written about other Esterbrook Pens in the following posts ~

Fountain Pen Restoration 101 – dated May 8, 2008

Esterbrook Pastels – dated July 5, 2011

Esterbrook Nurses Pen – dated August 5, 2011

As you can see below, the Nurses Pen looking pen came to me in quite a state of disrepair and was very dirty.  As discussed in the past, these probably date to the 1950s and are larger in size to the standard pastel pens.  The previous nurses pen that I restored (August 5, 2011 post) had black jewels.  This pen comes with red jewels, similar to some nurses pens, presumably to hold red ink.  This one is a bit different as we will see below.

First for the cleanup and restoration.  As mentioned, this pen came with many purple ink stains (inside and out) and many caked on dirt/grime stains.  This is a bit more problematic with a white pen, obviously, but nothing that a bit of elbow grease can’t solve.  I started by soaking the barrel, cap and nib unit in an ultrasonic cleaner.  Make sure to do each separately, as the ink from each can stain the outside of the barrel and cap and make the job that much harder.  After the ultrasonic clean, I scrubbed the outside and inside of the barrel and cap with scratch remover and a dremel at low speed.  This did a remarkable job on the outside of cleaning things up.  The inside of the cap was caked with ink and required repeated doses of water and q tip as well as small toothbrush.  Cleaning the entire cap inside is necessary to prevent the barrel and barrel threads of getting dirty again.  I use a toothbrush and ink nix on the barrel threads and it does a great job of cleaning them thoroughly, even when white.

The nib unit cleaned up well with a combination of the ultrasonic and a jewelers cloth.

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The finished result is below.  It measures 4 7/8 inches closed and 5 7/8 inches posted.

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The interesting facets of this pen are the two imprints.  First is an impression of the Corporate logo of RCA Victor A.A. (A.A. = Athletic Association).  The second is “200 Bowling Club”.

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RCA Victor, a merger of RCA and the Victor Talking Machine Company had a large Corporate presence in Camden, New Jersey at the same time that Esterbrook did.  The RCA Victor Athletic Association provided the employees of RCA in the Camden area an organized outlet for a wide variety of sports activities.  Please read this link for a few newspaper articles regarding the organization and some of its endeavors.

My guess is that this pen, conveniently purchased or provided by its local neighbor Esterbrook, was given to bowlers who achieved a 200 average, or score.  I have not seen others, but I wonder if they were all white, or if other colors were used as well.  Given the production period of these pens, this would have occurred in the 50s in Camden.

Another interesting side note that ties the two companies together is that when Esterbrook moved out of Camden in 1964, they sold their old factory buildings to RCA.

Here is a closeup of the red cap end.

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Finally, this pen (top) next to the black ended nurses pen from my collection.

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Esterbrooks are very common and highly collectible pens that are quite easy to restore.  Even more interesting are the variants that pop up from time to time.  As I have mentioned in the past, please visit Esterbrook.net  for more expert information on this brand.

8-25-12 Edit: Please note this excellent post form Jon Veley’s Pencil Blog – Right Next Door – which includes an Esterbrook / RCA “Bowling” pencil.

September 13, 2011 Posted by | Esterbrook, Esterbrook Fountain Pens | , , , | 3 Comments

Esterbrook Nurses Pen

Nurse pens, not purse pens.  There is a difference when discussing Esterbrook Pens of the 1950s.  In an earlier post – Esterbrook Pastel Pens – I discussed the restoration of an Aloha Gold Purse pen from the mid to late 1950s.  Esterbrook also produced a similar looking pen during this period, the Nurses Pen.  It looks very similar to the pastel line of pens, but is all white.  There actually was a white pastel pen also.  I have seen it with white jewels and there may have been other jewels for the purse pen, though I am not certain.

However, this Nurse’s pen is a different animal.  Below, you can see the pen after I took it apart.  As with the pastel pens, the plastic tends to be very brittle and one needs to be wary of cracking when working on them.  The sac on this one was still attached to the section and usable.  I decided to take it off, however and replace it with another size 16 sac.  This is the first, and only white pen that I have owned.  You can see that the threads were very ink stained, as was the inside of the cap.  The jbar inside the barrel was fully functional and there was no reason to take it out.  So, I spent most of my time cleaning the outside of the pen and inside of the cap.   I use Ink Nix on a toothbrush to clean threads and the results are usually very good.

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Here is the completed pen with a 1555 Gregg (designed to be used for Shorthand – remember what that was?).

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The pen measures 4 7/8 inches closed and 5 7/8 inches posted.  It is essentially the same size as an Esterbrook SJ.

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Here is the inside of the cap – clean of all of the old ink stains.  This will assure the barrel threads remain clear of ink stains.

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The Nurse Pen Imprint.  I am not an Esterbrook expert at all, but do know that these imprints changed over the years and dating of pens can often be done by the imprint.

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The 1555 Gregg / Shorthand nib.  This is not a highly sought after nib, and provides a rather fine line.

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Here is the Nurses pen, next to the Gold Pastel Purse pen from my post of July 5, 2011, Esterbrook Pastels.

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Nurses pens came in white, with a variety of jewels.  This is the black jewel model and I have seem them with red and green jewels as well.  These other colors are more sought after than this model, with the green jeweled pen being the most difficult to find.  The cap differences were supposedly to match the different ink colors that a nurse would use.

Esterbrook pens present a myriad of models and colors for the collector – all very popular.  Keep an eye out for these colorful nurse and purse pens.  Though not very practical due to their tendency to stain quickly, they are an interesting side to fountain pen history.

August 5, 2011 Posted by | Esterbrook, Esterbrook Fountain Pens | | Leave a comment

Esterbrook Pastels

This week’s restoration is and Esterbrook Pastel “Purse” pen from the mid 1950s.  It is amazing how many fountain pen collectors have started their collections with Esterbrooks, but it makes sense.  They are plentiful (especially the earlier J, SJ, and LJ models in the basic colors) and relatively reasonable in price, and quite easy to restore.  The interchangeable nibs also make them attractive.  As common as they are, it is somewhat amazing, and embarrassing that I have only discussed them in one previous post out of over 150.  The pen that I worked on this week is specifically an Aloha Gold Purse Pen from sometime around 1957.  These pastel pens are much more difficult to find, especially in good condition.

Below is a photo of the pen after I took it apart.  Be especially careful when taking these pens apart as the plastic used in the pastel series of pens is much less sturdy than the standard Esterbrook  pen.  It tends to be quite brittle and prone to cracking.

Fortunately, this pen came apart fairly quickly and without incident.  You can see that the nib is barely stained and the threads are moderately inked.  So the repair consisted of gentle cleaning an polishing.  The lever and internal jbar are in perfect working order and there is no reason to replace them.  I am not certain of the nib is original.  Most of these that I have seen carry a lower level 1551 type nib.  This one had a 9556, which is a nice fine nib.

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Here is the pen after polishing and replacement of the section into the barrel and screwing in the nib unit.

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These pastel pens are smaller than the SJ model and measure 4 3/8 inches closed and 5 1/4 inches posted.

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Here is the Aloha Gold pen between two slightly earlier models (Aqua and Pink).  The earlier pastels purse pens had black jewels.  Later colors were brighter and often had more colorful jewels (as this aloha gold model has yellow jewels)

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I have a couple of Esterbrook advertisements that have photos of pastel purse pens.  The first one, from late 1954 shows a yellow, earlier purse pen with plain black jewels.

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This second advertisement, from 1955, shows an aqua set, in a nice Petite-Pak in a “findable” case.  These cases are highly collectible and are a nice addition to any collection if found in clean condition and matching the pen and pencil.

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Esterbrook collectors have a wide array of choices of styles and colors to collect.  For additional information, I would recommend the following resources ~

The Fountain Pens of Esterbrook, by Paul Hoban (1992)

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and an excellent website, founded and maintained by an Esterbrook expert ~ Esterbrook.net.  Both of these resources assisted me in this article.

July 5, 2011 Posted by | Esterbrook | , | 2 Comments

Hutcheon Brothers Fountain Pen

This week’s restoration is from a pen I picked up last May and had not had a chance to work on until this week. Sometimes the good ones get pushed back in the queue, forced to follow the pens that need more work.

As you can see, the mottled hard rubber is in quite good condition, though the sac has been reduced to dust.  The j bar is in great condition and I will be able to use it again.  It had a few rust spots that I was able to sand out with little effort.  No new parts will be needed other than a new size 16 sac.  I often receive questions as to whether vintage pens should even be resacced, given the potential for the sac to potentially decompose over time and discolor the barrel.  I would (and do) respond that it is totally a personal preference.  If you are not going to use the pen, I see no reason to place a new sac in it.  I tend to use most of my pens, especially just after I restore them.  But I do have a few Houston’s that I have not used and I have removed the sacs. Ok, off of the soapbox and back to the workbench….

I thoroughly cleaned the section / feed and nib as there was quite a bit of dried blue ink in and on them.  Simple water does the trick on the section and feed, making sure to dry them quickly as water and hard rubber to not get along well.

I polished the nib with Pentiques metal polish and a dremel set at low.  After I reassembled the section / feed / nib,  I reinserted the j bar into the barrel, making certain it was firmly seated back in the barrel and flush with the lever.

I polished the clip and lever as well, gently, so that I did not get polish on any of the adjacent hard rubber.

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The finished product is below.  It measures 5 35/64 inches closed and 6 7/8 inches posted.

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The box that the pen came in is in excellent shape.  As you can see, the pens were made for the New York Telephone Company.

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No mystery on this nib – apparently it is a medium.

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Fortunately, this flyer was in the box and explains that these pens were made for employees of the Company.  It is a interesting glimpse into supply chains in 1930s corporate America.

Enjoy…

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Here is a closeup of the nib ~ a medium 14k with a hint of flexibility.

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The Hutcheon Brothers logo is on one side of the barrel.  I have little information about Hutcheon Brothers other than that the Manhattan Pen Maker Project (click for link) lists their address as 241 Centre Street in New York City in 1931. 

I have seen a few other pens of theirs over the years – some in hard rubber and some in gold or gold plate, however this is the first I have owned.

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Fountain pens are no stranger to Phone Companies.  A somewhat common find is the Esterbrook Black LJ sized pen that is often found with the Bell Systems Property stamp on it.  I have photographed one here next to the Hutcheon Brothers.  I would be interested to hear of other large Companies that purchased and distributed pens to their employees, stamping them for identification.

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October 15, 2010 Posted by | Esterbrook, Hutcheon Brothers Pens, New York Telehone Company | , , | 2 Comments

Fountain Pen Restoration 101

Esterbrook began in the pen business in this country in the 1850s in Camden, NJ, producing steel nibs for dip pens. I have titled this Fountain Pen Restoration 101 because, for so many, Esterbrook pens are the first vintage pen they acquire, or repair. The most common Esterbrook is one of the J, SJ, or LJ series pens produced after 1948. These were mass produced, colorful, sturdy, and had the famous Esterbrook interchangeable nibs. Here is a nib chart, showing the variety of nibs available to Esterbrook Pen owners. As you can see, nibs ranged from fine hard “bookkeeping” nibs to expressive “signature” nibs.

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The pen that I worked on yesterday is not the standard J series pen, but a CH series pen, dating to the 1955-57 period. These were also known as “purse pens” and appeared in many pastel colors, with varying end jewel colors as well. They were sold with matching pencils and had colorful carrying cases. An H series also existed, without the clip. The picture below shows the interchangeable, screw in point. This is one of the reasons that these are so easy to restore and a good place to start if you want to experiment in restoring your own vintage pens. The nib unscrews from the section and then the section needs to be removed from the barrel. Remember here that gentle heat is a good way to do this, as described in many previous posts. Often times a new j-bar will also need to be secured if the old j-bar is damaged or corroded after removal from the barrel. The j-bar for this pen was in fine shape.

As you can see below, this pen was very well preserved, down to a unique Esterbrook sac. The good news is that it is still in good shape, I filled it with water and there are no leaks. I am going to leave it on this pen as an original Esterbrook sac is kind of cool (at least to me). The color of this pen is aqua, and it has the standard 1551 Student nib. This is a plain nib, without any special characteristics. I do have several other Esterbrook pens and should I decide to use this pen, I can just exchange this 1551 for a more expressive nib, such as a 2314M, a medium stub, which I enjoy.

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After removing the section, I put the nib assembly in an ultrasonic cleaner to remove any old ink. I cleaned the inside of the cap, which was also loaded with old blue ink. I use q-tips for this. The threads were also ink stained as you can see from the picture above. I used an old toothbrush to remove this. The resulting pen is below. A nice aqua Esterbrook CH, dating to the 1950s.

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Here is a picture of this pen with a pink CH, which I have had for quite some time.

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If you are interested in learning to restore vintage pens, these pens (especially the J series – not shown) are an excellent place to start. They are readily available and at very reasonable prices. For the price of a new sac and j-bar, they can be brought back to life again.

May 8, 2008 Posted by | Esterbrook | | 4 Comments

   

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