Fountain Pen Restoration

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 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.


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


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


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)


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.


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.


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)


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

July 5, 2011 Posted by | Esterbrook | , | 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.


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 | | 5 Comments


%d bloggers like this: