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Esterbrook Nibs - What's The Difference Between Them All?


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#1 StrawberryJam

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Posted 11 July 2013 - 03:42

(Complete fountain pen newbie here, so please be gentle!)

 

After hours of reading forum posts, searching on the 'bay, reading writeups on the various weblogs out there, I've come to the conclusion that the really cool thing about Esterbrook pens is that there is a whole range of nibs to choose from, all of which are interchangeable. 

 

In the course of my research, I found several different sites that list all of the nib models/characteristics (for example, Richard's listing of nibs at http://www.richardsp...renew_point.htm).  My question is, what's the difference between the model numbers?  Richard's site categorizes them by family, but I'm still not sure what the difference between the 1XXX/2XXX (Durachrome) and the 9XXX (Master series), other than my guess is that higher is better?  Does "better" mean more durable?  Less likely to break/bend?

 

Also, can someone please explain what the difference between a "flexible" nib is and a "firm" nib?  I assume it refers to the "squishness" of the nib, but I'm not sure how that affects line width, etc. 

 

Thanks in advance for everyone's input!


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#2 northlodge

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Posted 11 July 2013 - 07:05

I am no expert on Esterbrook pens / nibs, but think that in general the later the series number the later the production. This would be better production methods, etc, So from a writing and durability point of view you will be better off with a 9550 than a 1550 -The tip will probably give much longer reliable use.  You will  in the normal course of events have to pay more for the higher numbers.

 

Do not follow this slavishly, I have some really nice 3XXX series nibs (3312,.3314,3550, an a Relief nib that would probably fit into this family,  etc), and the 2XXX also make good user nibs. Some of the other groups are scarce and expensive for that reason.

 

Generally the firm nib will deliver a even-width line regardless of the degree of pressure applied during writing, whilst a fully flex nib will offer considerable line variation with only the lightest of pressure during writing. The pens described as having flexi & semi-flex nibs may vary between the two extremes. It also needs to be noted that a pen having a flexi-nib will often bring with it some inherent scratchiness, so are not to everyone's taste.

 

Also, IMHO, the Esterbrook Flexi nibs are not all that responsive, and if the requirement is for a fully flex nib, one needs to look elsewhere. I would also throw in that for me the most attractive of the Esterbrook nibs are the Relief (oblique) nibs in the broader offerings. These come in the steel versions (2314-M, 9314B) in a gold tone version (3314-M) or with some English models 14ct gold examples.       


Edited by northlodge, 11 July 2013 - 07:09.


#3 OakIris

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Posted 11 July 2013 - 14:12

I have no experience with semi-flex or flex nibs so can't help you there.  I have read that Esterbrook flex nibs are not the way to start your adventure into the world of flex, that they are just not up to par, which apparently was northlodge's experience, too.

 

I am not an Esterbrook expert, either, but I do like them and have about 6 of them at this point.  The search for the "perfect" Esterbrook nib for your use with your ink, your paper and your pen, is a great deal of fun and not terribly expensive - unless you go for some of the rarer nibs.   At this point I am pretty content with the nibs I have; if I decide to chase other nibs, I will probably need to buy another Estie or two since I like the nibs I currently have on my pens.  

 

The main difference between the nib series is that the 1XXX and 2XXX series nibs have no tipping material while the 3XXX series and on up, do have tipping material, and of course the 3XXX nibs have a nice gold sunburst on them.  Do not let the lack of tipping material prevent you from trying out the series that have none - one of the very smoothest nibs I have is a #1554, and I also really like my #2668 nib.

 

This is the best and most useful chart of Esterbrook nibs that I have found, it includes a brief description of the differences between the series along with a description of each nib "type":  Snyder Family Esterbrook Nib Chart

 

Holly 



#4 VAgal

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Posted 11 July 2013 - 18:07

:W2FPN:   You couldn't have picked a better pen to start your journey in fountain pens than an Esterbrook.  They are very lovely pens, which allow you to affordably and easily try a number of different nibs.  Just to add to the great comments above about the 1xxx and 2xxx nibs, many have rolled steel tips.  All of these, rolled tip or not, wear with use.  If you get a used nib from these series, they may have developed flat spot related to how the previous owner held the pen.  The flat spot may or may not correspond to the way you like to hold your pen.  If it doesn't correspond, the writing experience with the nib will probably be anything but pleasant.  The new old stock nibs don't have this issue.  I have picked up some NOS 1xxx and 2xxx nibs at very reasonable prices on ebay to allow me to try out different line sizes.  I can't describe it very well, but there is a different feel to me in the 2668 nib I have vs the 9668 nib in how it writes, but I like both.  (Maybe someone with more experience than me can help describe that difference in feel.)  But for nibs that you are unsure about, get the 2xxx first to try it out and save a little money. 



#5 Frank_Federalist_Pens

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Posted 11 July 2013 - 19:02

1xxx/2xxx Renew-Points have the tips more or less "folded/rolled" over, whereas the 9xxx points are iridium tipped.

 

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#6 Ron Z

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Posted 11 July 2013 - 19:14

Most of information in is covered in the preceeding posts. I don't sell Esterbrooks with 1000 or 2000 series nibs becasue I consider them to be rather inferior. But it made it possible to buy a decent pen at an affordable price. That's still the case.

Some folks like the 1000 and 2000 series nibs because it's easier to make them write smoothly. But the very thing that makes that possible, the soft nib material, also means that they will wear quickly. Unless you have a NOS nib, it's unlikely that you have a nib that even remotely resembles what the nib with that number is supposed to be. Maybe, but if it writes smoothly, I usually find that the nib has been reshaped and smoothed... meaning of course that material has been removed and the nib is finer than it originally was. The tipping material also has a tendency to fall off, which is why so many of them are scratchy.

A 9000 series nib may not write as well at first, may take more time to break in, but it will last a good long time. Esterbrook used quality tipping material on these nibs, and they're worth the money.

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#7 StrawberryJam

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Posted 11 July 2013 - 21:16

Thanks everyone for their super helpful comments.  It sounds like the 9XXX family is the most durable, so I will be on the lookout for those nibs. 

 

In terms of the line widths for the different nib sizes, is there a one-stop graphical comparison that someone can point me to?  I searched around on FPN and Google and found lots of reviews for various nibs, but I didn't see one that had a side-by-side comparison.  I would be primarily interested in the EF/F nibs, although I see that Esterbrook had an "accounting" nib as well, which sounds like it might be even finer? 


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Visconti, Visconti, and...more Visconti! (And some ST Duponts too). (Ok fine, getting on the Omas and Montblanc trains now too. Toot toot.) (And maybe on the Montegrappa one too, but only for the Miyas.) 


#8 pajaro

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Posted 12 July 2013 - 01:21

Most of information in is covered in the preceeding posts. I don't sell Esterbrooks with 1000 or 2000 series nibs becasue I consider them to be rather inferior. But it made it possible to buy a decent pen at an affordable price. That's still the case.

Some folks like the 1000 and 2000 series nibs because it's easier to make them write smoothly. But the very thing that makes that possible, the soft nib material, also means that they will wear quickly. Unless you have a NOS nib, it's unlikely that you have a nib that even remotely resembles what the nib with that number is supposed to be. Maybe, but if it writes smoothly, I usually find that the nib has been reshaped and smoothed... meaning of course that material has been removed and the nib is finer than it originally was. The tipping material also has a tendency to fall off, which is why so many of them are scratchy.

A 9000 series nib may not write as well at first, may take more time to break in, but it will last a good long time. Esterbrook used quality tipping material on these nibs, and they're worth the money.

 

I applaud this post! 

 

The only 2xxx nibs I think are of any worth are the 2312 italics and the 2314 stubs. 

 

Life is too short to write with the el cheapo version of a budget nib.  Only so many opportunities to write, why waste them?


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#9 sargetalon

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Posted 12 July 2013 - 02:22

This has been a reliable reference for me in the past...

 

esterbrook-nib-chart-211_zps5fded755.gif

 


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#10 StrawberryJam

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Posted 12 July 2013 - 19:43

This has been a reliable reference for me in the past...

 

Thanks, that's a helpful chart!


Current Wishlist:

Visconti, Visconti, and...more Visconti! (And some ST Duponts too). (Ok fine, getting on the Omas and Montblanc trains now too. Toot toot.) (And maybe on the Montegrappa one too, but only for the Miyas.) 


#11 OcalaFlGuy

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Posted 12 July 2013 - 20:35

I have the Estie nib chart bookmarked on my phone.

 

:lol:

 

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#12 JesterKat

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Posted 13 July 2013 - 16:35

OK, is it weird that I have a pdf of a spreadsheet of every bit of nib info I've found with what I own marked on my phone?  I have to figure out how to do that without having to download another pdf every time there's a change, but it works for the moment.  I kept losing the paper printout while shopping. :angry:

I've amassed numbers and info on 47 nibs from all the available online resources including the 4 Venus nibs.  My hubby bought me a couple of Osmiroids, so now I have to add them to the spreadsheet.

I'm getting a little ocd about keeping track of everything, but I'm trying not to duplicate myself too much so that I have more money for more pens and nibs!

That reminds me, I have to update the pen and nib spreadsheets sometime soon, it's a pain rummaging through the pens in their box to make sure I actually want to spend money on something.



#13 aalmcc4

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Posted 17 July 2013 - 21:18

I don't mean to hijack this thread, but is there any difference betrween the "manifold " nibs and the regular ones. I'm assuming they're stiffer nibs?  Does a "fine- firm" write differnetly than a fine-manifold"? I know the manifolds are for carbon paper.



#14 publishing guy

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Posted 17 July 2013 - 22:41

Most of information in is covered in the preceeding posts. I don't sell Esterbrooks with 1000 or 2000 series nibs becasue I consider them to be rather inferior. But it made it possible to buy a decent pen at an affordable price. That's still the case.

Some folks like the 1000 and 2000 series nibs because it's easier to make them write smoothly. But the very thing that makes that possible, the soft nib material, also means that they will wear quickly. Unless you have a NOS nib, it's unlikely that you have a nib that even remotely resembles what the nib with that number is supposed to be. Maybe, but if it writes smoothly, I usually find that the nib has been reshaped and smoothed... meaning of course that material has been removed and the nib is finer than it originally was. The tipping material also has a tendency to fall off, which is why so many of them are scratchy.

A 9000 series nib may not write as well at first, may take more time to break in, but it will last a good long time. Esterbrook used quality tipping material on these nibs, and they're worth the money.

This raises a question I've wondered about for a long time. It goes to Estie nibs, but others as well. Maybe this is not the thread for it. But here goes. Move it if you want, MOD.

 

How likely is one to wear out a nib these days?  Time was when a person used the same pen all day, every day for all their communication. Now, even those who write a lot (like me) have two or three pens in my pocket and a couple of dozen in rotation. I'm thinking I COULDN'T wear out a nib -- iridium or no. I've used the devil out of some smooth (cheap) #2668s for example, and I have an old Sheaffer with no iridium left that writes like a dream right on the gold and has for quite a while.

 

Tipping, as I understand it, was only added to pens to preserve the life of nibs But surely nibs, even before any were tipped, must have had a pretty good life. They were metal (sometimes steel) being rubbed on paper, after all.

 

I'd love to hear more from Ron or one of the historical experts.


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#15 Ron Z

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Posted 18 July 2013 - 00:16

Well, you asked.....
 
A few years ago a modern pen manufacturer (now out of business) got caught selling pens (expensive too!) that didn't have tipping material on the nib.  They got caught when the owner sent the pen to Richard because it wasn't writing well.  It had developed a flat spot from steady use and close examination revealed that the "tip" was a blob of melted steel VS an "iridium" tip.  The quotes around "iridium" BTW are there because most tipping material is not iridium but some other alloy of metals, usually in the platinum group.
 
The early steel nibs did not wear well.  They rusted, and they wore down rather quickly, which is why they were so cheap and were made in such large quantities... they had to be replaced frequently.    Gold nibs wore down more quickly, so the manufacturers found a way to tip them with a harder material.
 
I rather agree that most of us will never wear down the platinum alloy material usually used to tip a nib. We don't use our pen day in, day out, for all of our writing.  Note the singular.  In the golden age of pens, many people owned just one pen and used it for all of their writing.  We are collectors and rotate through the collection, so no one pen sees extensive and exclusive use.  I've had one or two come through that are worn, but relatively few compared to the number that I repair.
 
Not all "iridium" is equal though, as anyone who has worked on nibs will tell you.  Some manufacturers material is much harder than others.  Sheaffers modern tipping material is not nearly as tough as Montblancs for instance.  That will have an effect on how quickly the nib wears. 
 
Likewise, the paper that you use will make a difference in the life of a nib. The brown paper bag trick "works" because it is fairly abrasive and wears the nib down. (insert editorial comments here about using an abrasive of unknown grade to "smooth" an expensive nib)  A smooth paper is not as abrasive, and you can feel the difference as you write.
 
Nibs like the 1000 and 2000 series Esterbrooks will wear much more quickly than a tipped nib.  Most of the used ones are rather worn - you can see it when you look at them with a good loupe.  You'll find flat spots, and sharp edges which can catch the paper.  I don't sell pens with these nibs installed because they are lower grade material and can quite wear quickly compared to an "iridium tipped" nib.  That's why it's also easier to smooth an Esterbrook nib.  i.e. because the material used is soft you can take the edges and rough spots off of the nib more easily.  But that also means that the work you just did will not last as long as with a properly tipped nib.
 
BTW, one other thing that I didn't mention in my previous post.  The metal used on the body of a 9000 series nib is much tougher and corrosion resistant than the metal used on the lower grade nibs.  You are much more likely to see a corroded and severely pitted 1000 or 2000 series nib than you will a 9000 series.

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#16 pajaro

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Posted 18 July 2013 - 01:08

Thank you Ron Z for a very interesting post and informative post.

 

I am approaching 65.  A lot of you are younger and can look forward to using fountain pens for some time.  While my time is shorter now, everyone has just a finite number of opportunities to write with a pen.  I have decided that I am not going to waste the remaining opportunities using inferior pens and nibs.  As far as the Esterbrooks are concerned, that means that I am generally refraining from using 1xxx and 2xxx nibs, with the exception of a couple of 2312 italics, and I don't use those much.  In fact I am generally leaving the Esties in the pen cup.  When I do use one, it is generally a 9284, 9314 or 9312, or one of the 9xxx nibs with a fine point, like the 9048.  These nibs are more pleasant to write with.  I want to make my limited opportunities remaining to write with a fountain pen as enjoyable as possible.  I hope you make yours pleasant also.


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#17 tmenyc

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Posted 18 July 2013 - 01:42

I agree with Pajaro, but in the opposite direction.  The 9xxx are a lot smoother, but I like a little feedback, and prefer the 2xxx.  I have a 1551 and a 2556 that are juicier than any 9xxx I've tried, but they're both probably nearing the end of their lives, which at the rate I use them will mean that replacing them will be the next generation's problem, not mine.

 

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#18 Runnin_Ute

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Posted 18 July 2013 - 02:21

Thanks for the information, Ron.


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#19 pajaro

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Posted 18 July 2013 - 16:22

Interesting thought, Tim.  There are many who do prefer the 2xxx nibs.  There are a lot of these nibs still available NOS, so, why not use them?  You can always replace any of these easily.
 
I have found 1xxx, 2xxx and 9xxx all a bit toothy when NOS, and light smoothing can take them through a range of qualities from some feedback to a velvety smoothness, depending on how much you smooth these nibs. 
 
I like the Estie stubs and italics, and I don't use them enough to wear anything down.  I came to Esties too late to gain an appreciation for their fine and extra fine nibs, having already other pens with those nibs that I am used to and satisfied with.  The 9460, 9461 and 95xx nibs I have used are nice.  Some of the 2556 and 2668 nibs I have gotten in pens were very worn, but some NOS samples weren't all that bad.  I have just been spoiled by a few more expensive pens like Parker 51s.  I have to say though that almost any make and model nib can be tuned and smoothed to provide writing pleasure, regardless of cost.  Some of these Esties might surpass the most expensive pens if the Esties are better tuned and smoothed, and better cared for.  I have an expensive pen not-to-be-named that has a crummy feed, with fins bent and missing, and the pen skips.  For the $80 to fix it, I could buy a lot of Estie stuff. 


Edited by pajaro, 18 July 2013 - 16:23.

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#20 inkstainedruth

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Posted 19 July 2013 - 03:39

I don't mean to hijack this thread, but is there any difference betrween the "manifold " nibs and the regular ones. I'm assuming they're stiffer nibs?  Does a "fine- firm" write differnetly than a fine-manifold"? I know the manifolds are for carbon paper.

I don't have any manifold nibs, so I can't do a comparison.  But I suspect that they would be absolute "nails" to write with in order to go through several layers of carbon paper without damaging it or the top page, and still be legible on the bottom page: the NOS ones I've seen for sale say "Rigid" on the boxes.  Maybe "extra firm" would be a closer description? 

I keep wondering if I should get one at some point (I could have used something that went through carbon copies when I was signing papers a few weeks ago in buying a new car; for the carbon forms I had to break down and use the proffered BP...  :glare:).

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