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Esterbrook Transitional J

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#1 bdngrd



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Posted 10 March 2007 - 15:38

Esterbrool Transitional J

First Impressions
I thought I would write a review of one of my favorite project pens, a blue transitional J. I originally bought it on Ebay and it was my first Esterbrook and it was dried up and crispy on the inside. Thinking that I was on my way towards great skill as a repair expert, I promptly took my new section pliers and broke the section into bits. I was very frustrated with my lack of patience and set it aside for a few months. I have also retired the pliers and have learned how to easily remove a Estie section. After putting out some feelers on the site here, I was happy to find someone who sent me a section (and a fresh sac) and now it works beautifully.

Appearance/ Finish 4 out of 5

My Estie was in very nice shape when I bought it, and it is very amazing how well these guys hold their finish and color over many years. The marbled or wavy finish is a nice, understated, yet interesting look. The color and pattern are classic Estie, I am not familiar with any other manufacturer who used this style, perhaps there are some I don't know about. The transitional is a model with a single jewel on its cap, and the end of the pen is simply flat. The jewel on this one has three ridges on it. It does not seem to be as common as the other J models. The pen has faded a little though and has scratches that would be expected for decades of desk wear.
The trim is stainless, plain, and has weathered the decades well. The clip is firm and unsprung, with no engraving on the clip. The body is imprinted Esterbrook Made in U.S.A. Capped, it measures 4 & 15/16” I fitted it with a shiny new 9668 Nib which may not be one that would have come stock on this pen, however, it is a nib I like for its smoothness.
Esterbrooks may not win any awards for amazing “pocket presence” but the immediately recognizable style is pure American classic. Of the pens I regularly use, it is the one that elicits the most compliments and notice. Anyone who recognizes your pen in a modern setting will have to give you points for practicality and no-nonsense style. I have also had a few co-workers ask to see it and then lapse into fond sentimentality over the Esties they used in their younger years.

Design/Size/Weight 5 out of 5

It is a user pen, meant to be put through the ringer as a workhorse. It takes a bit less than one turn to remove the cap which posts easily, although I don't usually post. It feels a lot like a Pelikan 200 unposted - it is a bit shorter. Capped, they are similar in size and weight. I like the fatter Estie models more than the slimmer ones, they seem to be more comfortable.

Nib Design and Performance 5 out of 5
One of the best features of Esterbrook pens is that the nibs are designed for easy swap-outs. They nib unit unscrews just like a Pelikan, which has the added benefit of easy cleaning and filling if you are so inclined. The “renew points” are readily available from sellers like Richard Binder and also common on Ebay. The inexpensive nature of the points make Esties the perfect pen to experiment with and play around with for different sizes. The nibs are steel and fairly plain. They do not have a “wow” effect of many more snazzy pens, so if that is what you are looking for, an Estie will disappoint.
I do find that the part of the section that I grip when I write becomes inked up. I presume it is a little bit of ink that collects there when the pen is capped. It is the only pen that I own where this happens. It makes little lines on my thumb, index, and middle fingers when I use it. It is a mild annoyance, I wish I could prevent this from happening. The plastic insert in the cap seems to collect ink. Even though I wash it out a lot, this ink still shows up there.

The Filling System 4 out of 5
The filling system is one of the reasons that Esties have such a following. It is a simple lever fill, with a modest sized sac inside. It is simple and effective. They seem to be pretty easy to work on, and the sacs, adhesive, and instructions are easily obtained. I still have not done a resac job yet. (I keep buying esties to work on and the sacs have been good when I get them!) I have some sacs that still are factory Esterbrook sacs and working well! There is a lot to be said for a pen that has such longevity. One slight drawback is that I wish that they held more ink, I run one out in less than a week.

Cost 5 out of 5

This is where Esties shine the most. I have yet to pay more than $20 for one including the postage. In fact, I have found a few for under $10. To buy a vintage pen in working order for this amount is an awesome bargain. That they are so inexpensive and easy to find might even diminish the way people think about them. They might be more prone to value an expensive hard-to-find pen more as familiarity breeds contempt for some. Those people would be wrong though. Hmm... they are easy to find, inexpensive, look nice, and work great- what more do you want?

Conclusion 23 out of 25
It is a timeless classic. I don't feel the need to say anything other than if you do not have one or two of these in your collection, it should be next on your list.

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#2 dwmatteson



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Posted 10 March 2007 - 15:47

Very nice review! You describe the Estie well, and your observations reflect my experience as well. I also enjoyed your choice of text for the background of the photo. smile.gif


#3 Maja


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Posted 10 March 2007 - 20:48

Another great review, Bill---thank you so much!!

It's nice to see reviews of great vintage pens, especially ones like the Estie Js that are still available in abundance... and at reasonable prices. I wish you better luck in your next resacking attempt---I am sure it will be successful smile.gif

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#4 georges zaslavsky

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Posted 10 March 2007 - 22:41

great esterbrook and enjoy it wink.gif
Pens are like watches , once you start a collection, you can hardly go back. And pens like all fine luxury items do improve with time

#5 johnr55


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Posted 11 March 2007 - 02:32

Thanks for the great review, and showing us your pretty Estie. Would that all of our purchases in this world be so enduring, so utile, and so easy to maintain-

#6 bdngrd



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Posted 11 March 2007 - 04:05

Thanks everyone, I have been trying to write some reviews for pens that do not get much attention. I liked winedoc's text background for his photos, so I have to admit I used his idea.
The journal is from www.BookJournals.com they make their journals from re-used hardback covers and sometimes include pages from the original book.
My Journal looks like it is an old textbook called, Theories of Counselling and Psychotherapy.

Edited by bdngrd, 11 March 2007 - 04:06.

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#7 DeaconKC


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Posted 01 September 2008 - 02:18

Just won one on fleabay. Can't wait for it to get here and try it out! My first Estie!
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#8 jonro



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Posted 01 September 2008 - 02:48

Esterbrook -- what's not to like? I wish they were still around making fountain pens today. They would probably be making superb, inexpensive pens with modern aesthetics.

#9 WillAdams



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Posted 02 September 2008 - 12:50

Well, to be fair, Levenger is trying hard to be an Esterbrook successor, even distinctly noting this effort on their True Writer history page.


#10 johnboz


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Posted 02 September 2008 - 13:16

Thanks for bringing a little attention to our beloved Esties! Great review.

On one of my first repairs of a Trans-J, I also gripped the section with section pliers. It shattered and a piece hit me in the face! I then had to figure out how to get the remains out of the barrel, as these sections seem to fit much tighter than in a regular J. I finally found a circular file, twisted it into the broken section, and pulled. The teeth on the file "bit" and allowed me to pull it out. Now, if I ever have to use pliers, I make sure to put an old nib in first so that there's resistance and I don't crush the section.
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#11 penburg



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Posted 02 September 2008 - 14:43

I have the same one you reviewed. Classic Estie, and as you said, the colors are still vibrant. Reminded me to get it back in rotation soon!
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#12 Frank_Federalist_Pens


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Posted 02 September 2008 - 15:04

Nice Review!

I have a black J Transition with a 3550 nib that I will be posting in the Marketplace soon.
I need to have it re-saced. Keep an eye open for it, or PM me!

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#13 DeaconKC


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Posted 08 September 2008 - 21:42

Mine arrived today and while it has a very stiff and toothy nib, I think it is because it has never been used! It will have to be resacced, but it fits my hand much better than my Balances. Oops did I really utter such heresy?
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#14 JakobS


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Posted 09 September 2008 - 04:21

I will have to disagree with Esterbrook nibs not having a "Wow" factor. I love the Art Deco style of the 3xxx nibs, the lines bending outwards commonly known as a "sunburst" but for me its all about the Deco look and simplicity. The simple stamp of the nib number on the nib shown in your photo in all it's horizontal plainness tells me of a pen that doesn't need to be dressed up to do a job it's made for, it has the experience, the education and will get it done on time and under budget. I don't know, for me that always make me go "Wow" what a fantastic nib, especially with one as smooth as my 3668 oh boy I couldn't ask for a nib better then that!! I just wondered how it's going to be with a really smooth ink like PR Naples Blue!!
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#15 yorkymama



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Posted 20 September 2008 - 19:35


Oh please to tell me how you got yours apart............I have one in red and can't seem to get into it to change the bladder.

It is my first and I am a gal and determined to do what all the guys do.....tear into my pens and make them better.

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#16 PigRatAndGoat


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Posted 21 September 2008 - 02:57

Thats a beautiful pen! Vintages usually don't appeal to me, but WOW! yikes.gif

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#17 NABodie



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Posted 21 September 2008 - 03:19

I got a copper transitional this week. Super pen and very easy on the eyes. After just a little difficulty I got it going and have really been enjoying it. Pelikan brilliant brown made a good match with itt.

#18 Firefyter-Emt


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Posted 21 September 2008 - 03:36

Just be a little more careful with the ribbed jewel Estie. The ribbed jewel, as well as the early threaded round jewel, both attach the clip with just the 10-32" stud shaft of the jewel. (The newer style went to a hollow brass rivet to hold the clip and the jewel is just for looks. I sheepishly admit that I dropped one once and snapped the jewel right off and took the clip with it. If it was a round jewel, a chip at the worst. The clip design uses a ring of the clip to seat against the cap and gives it a bit more too, but just treat it with more care than a standard J would require to be safe.

For removal of the section, keep the nib in the section and you can run the section and thread area of the barrel under hot (but not too hot) water. Keep spinning the pen and this will loosen almost every Esterbrook I have tried it on. Section pliers make this nice to hold the pen and rotate it inder the water. Just grab the barrel and try to spin it, within seconds it should "pop" and come loose.

To back the original post, these pens are great work horses. They can be heavily buffed and polished to like new condition with little to no damage. The hardware is all solid stainless which does not have a plating to wear or buff off. You can mix and match nibs with all your Esties. (No one can own just one) And best of all, they look cool! (Oh yea, and still cheap!)
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#19 QM2



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Posted 04 February 2009 - 23:28

Thanks for the review. I received a silver/gray transitional J in the mail today and I am extremely impressed! The colour and quality of the plastic seems brand new, there is no wear on trim, and the #9668 nib is perfectly smooth. This is my first non-pastel Esterbrook. Is it typical that these pearlescent colours preserve so much better than the pastel colours?

#20 DeaconKC


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Posted 05 February 2009 - 02:30

All of mine have gorgeous color and depth to them still.
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