Fountain Pen Restoration

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.


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.


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.


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


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 |


  1. A great job you did with this Esterbrook Fountain Pen. I am a huge admirer of these fountain Pens.

    Comment by Esterbrook | May 9, 2008 | Reply

  2. I have 10 of these pens. I actually have the grey Esterbrook J that I had in high school (so I guess that dates me) and it still works well. I managed to get some NIB Esties from sellers on eBay. They all work great.

    Comment by Paul | November 11, 2008 | Reply

  3. […] Esterbrook desk pen in the Eight-Ball base (bought the pen and base separately at Canton – put a new bladder and lever into the pen). These are common pens from back in the day, but they write really well and have […]

    Pingback by Setting up my secretary | Bill Chance | July 31, 2011 | Reply

  4. Thanks for the Info.
    I think it is a better Idee to unscrew the nib after unscrewing the section.

    Comment by Peter Hotzan | July 27, 2013 | Reply

  5. Where can you get a new sac for one? Mine disintegrated.

    Comment by endee | January 25, 2017 | Reply

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