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.


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.



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.


Below are the completed pens, cleaned and polished.


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.


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.


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.


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



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”.



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.


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


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  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.


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


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


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.


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.


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


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


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


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