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How to replace an Esterbrook Sac


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I had some time to kill today and four pens to re-sac, so I decided to break out the camera and make a step-by-step tutorial of it. Maybe this can be incorporated as a sticky? DISCLAIMER: I am an amateur. I am not a professional. Repair your own pens at your own risk! It is easy to break something if you're not careful, so heed this warning!!!!



- Pen

- Blow dryer or hot water

- Hands + fingers (preferably at least six distributed evenly across both hands)

- Scraper/pick/thin, long tool

- Pen shellac ("orange" shellac, available at pen repair suppliers). A little goes a LONG way, so opt for a small bottle.

- #16 latex pen sacs. You will trim them to length.

- Talc powder (pure talc), not talcum powder, etc.

- Scissors or a cutting tool


Step 1: Obtain a pen


This is a nice Esterbrook J with a Bell System Property imprint.


Step 2: Heat the pen


GENTLY heat the threaded area and section of the pen to cause a little expansion of the plastic. This will make pulling the section easier and will help avoid cracking the barrel where the threads are.


Step 3: Open the pen up by pulling the section


This is hard to photograph, so this is NOT the handhold I use for this maneuver. KEEP A NIB INSTALLED IN THE SECTION. If you do this without a nib, you greatly increase the risk of crushing the section. I use three fingers to get a good hold all around the section, and I use 3 fingers to surround the threads of the barrel, the I pull and twist maybe 15°. Go slow and be careful. Don't be tempted to "rock" the section out as the lateral stress can crack the threads. You may need to re-heat several times during this operation. Try to isolate your pulling to straight distraction and twisting, no rocking.


Step 4: Stay organized and protect your pen parts


Everyone has their own system. I like plastic baggies because I have them, they take up no space, and they're cheap. If you're only working on one pen, it's not such a big deal, but if you are doing more than one pen at a time, use one baggie for each pen's parts. Also, the baggies help keep barrels and caps from rolling off the table and breaking.


Step 5: Get your bearings


Here is a pen with the section removed (man, it was in there TIGHT!) and you can see the old, desiccated, fossilized pen sac crusted onto the section's nipple. We're going to remove that. The rest of the sac will be down in the barrel...





Step 6: Clean up your parts


If you're lucky, a few shakes will cause the sac to fall out in one piece. This is a good thing. If it doesn't, GENTLY go excavating with that metal tool and dig the sac remnants out.



Also use the metal tool to GENTLY scrape the old crusty sac away from the nipple. It is held on with shellac, so it will be kind of sticky, or maybe rock hard. Just work slowly and get the nipple nice and clean.



Step 7: Install a new sac


You need a #16 pen sac, made of latex.



The rule of thumb for lever-filler pens is that the sac not extend past the end of the lever when everything is reinstalled. So, line the parts up like so and you'll have an idea of where to trim the sac with your scissors.



You'll need orange shellac for the reinstall.



Put a light coating around the outside of the section's nipple. Be careful not to paint the part of the section where it friction fits into the barrel or it could cause problems upon reinstallation.



Reinstall the new trimmed sac. You can buy sac spreaders to help with this if your dexterity if off or if you don't have the hands for this. I put the sac at about 45° to the nipple and push it on with a twist, which gets shellac on the inside of the sac, lubing it up and letting it slip on easily. Sounds sketchy, but trust me.



Make sure the new sac is orthogonal to the section (in line with it). You don't want a sac that veers off in one direction or another.


Step 8: Celebrate!


Let the shellac dry. Suppliers say wait 24 hours, but no one is that patient. Wait a while before the rest of this...


Step 9: Dust the sac with talc


No, that isn't 100% pure Colombian blow. It's talc, and it's enough to run a full-time pen shop with 20 workers for the next 1000 years! :ltcapd: You need pure talc, not talcum powder or that sort of thing. Talc. Powder. Pure. Why? It lubricates the sac and protects it from damage from the j-bar that squeezes it for filling. Keep the talc out of the inside of the section.






Step 10: Put the pen back together again


Most Esterheads are really anal about how the nib lines up with the lever. I tend to like the top of the nib to line up with the lever side of the barrel, so I take this into account when I put the pen back together. I do not heat the section or barrel again for reinstall, which is much easier than pulling the section. But, again, be mindful that your force is directed in line with the long axis of the barrel or you could crack the barrel if you get going too crazy. Again, keep a nib in the section, just in case.


Step 11: Enjoy!


How did that black Bell System Property J turn into a putty-colored purse pen?! What the hell?! :ltcapd:


Now, on some pens from the wild you may find an old sac that seems to work perfectly well. Different people say different things. I've kept a few in use and I've replaced a few to be on the safe side. Here is an original OEM Esterbrook sac that feels great and fills with no problem!



But, further inspection makes me feel a little more cautious, as half of it around the nipple seems really thin and like a potential breaking point:



Anyway, there you go. There are some different things to consider for different pens (i.e. some Dollar Pens take #18 sacs, etc), but this tutorial gives you the gist of things. I hope you get a lot out of it!

Steve. Just plain ol' Steve.

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WONDERFUL, I would love to have seen this step by step when I was restoring my first Estie! Really explained clearly with the captioned photos. I want to see all the wonderful pens of Esterbrook restored and returned to their purpose. This tutorial will, no doubt, convince some that pen restoration is not beyond their abilities, especially the lever fillers.


If there is ever a COMPLETE PEN REPAIR GUIDE published, these are the pages needed in the Lever Fillers: Sac Replacement chapter. thumbup.gif

"Be glad of life because it gives you the chance to love and to work and to play and to look up at the stars" ~Henry Van Dyke

Trying to rescue and restore all the beautiful Esties to their purpose.

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Thanks, Kathleen! The info is certainly "out there" in bits and pieces, but like you, I have had to put it together on my own, too. I hope this makes things a lot easier for someone else. As long as you're being careful and you know little things like how long to make the replacement sac, it's really an easy and enjoyable task (until it goes wrong!).

Steve. Just plain ol' Steve.

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Fantastic write-up! Wish I'd had it BEFORE I screwed up my beloved copper with hot water. :( Not even simichrome is touching the oxidation...

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When I am at Step 2. , what I consider to be the most critical moment in the sac replacement procedure, before I warm the section/barrel joint with a hair dryer I wrap a rubber band around the section, as pictured here. I have found this rubberband trick greatly enhances my ability to maintain a good grip on the section as I pull to achieve separation of the section and the barrel to expose the sac. Warming and pulling may need to be repeated several times before separation is achieved. Patience is imperative! Too much force may cause damage, to pen parts! At step 2. I am always saying a little prayer that I won't hear a crack. fpn_1300318107__dscn1015.jpg

Edited by kathleen

"Be glad of life because it gives you the chance to love and to work and to play and to look up at the stars" ~Henry Van Dyke

Trying to rescue and restore all the beautiful Esties to their purpose.

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Thank you very much for this reference. It'll come in handy for me here in a couple of days!

"Hey, I'm the Doctor, I can save the universe using a kettle and some string. And look at me, I'm wearing a vegetable."- The Doctor

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What oxidized?

I have an inconsistent milky haze on the barrel. I've tried simichrome per recommendations here, but to no avail. :( I'm seriously considering offering the pen to someone who can restore it and who will treat it better than I did.

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Huh, weird. If I were you, I would take a toothbrush and toothpaste to it. I've done this to a couple pens using a medium brush and it's a surprisingly aggressive (but not like sandpaper) treatment, but it does wonders to take the little scratches out and even the finish up, prepping it for a good polish after with Simichrome. Give it a shot. Can't be any worse than it is now. I can't imagine water "oxidizing" anything in plastic. Maybe your water is really heavy and left a mineral/lime scum behind or something?

Steve. Just plain ol' Steve.

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Chiro75, very well done! This will help many people who are deciding whether or not to take the plunge and re-sac there first estie. I wish I'd had these instructions when I first started, they're very detailed and helpful. thumbup.gif




Edited by 777

Need a pen repaired or a nib re-ground? I'd love to help you out.


Colossians 3:17 - And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

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I just finished my first resac using this guide. I got a pretty little grey SJ off of ebay last weekend, for the nib that was on it, and figured I would put in an order with Pendemonium for some supplies and use it as a Guinea pig.


I do wonder though, when you say leave it alone for awhile, how long is awhile? An hour or two? five or six? I think I lasted two. :x Haven't filled it yet.


Also had a moment of fear when I heard a crack. Must have been the hardened sac cracking off at the edge of the nipple because there's nothing wrong with the section. That part took me about 20 minutes and a couple dips for the section end in an ultrasonic cleaner. The rest was almost anticlimactic. :P

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Well done! Great pics to support this good tutorial!


Frank :)

"Celebrating Eight Years of Retail Writing Excellence"

"When, in the course of writing events, in becomes self-evident that not all pens are created equal"


Federalist Pens and Paper (Online Pen Store)





Use Forum Code "FPN" at Checkout to Receive an Additional 5% Discount!

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  • 2 weeks later...

Nice tutorial, it motivated me to tackle an Esterbrook, that has been in the drawer for some time.


Just a small problem: while trying to remove the stone hard old sac I pulled more out of the barrel than I expected: a metal flat spring made from two parts, one with a bend end and a clear half tubular piece of plastic.


Is it possible to put that back in the pen and if so, how? Thank you in advance for any help.


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I have really fallen in love with Esties but have only purchased restored or working ones and have wondered whether or not I could replace a sac. Your tutorial makes me want to take the plunge and get a "fixer-upper" and give it a go so thanks for a really easy to understand tutorial.




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Gallant, no problem. How did you pull all that stuff out, though?! Push the j-bar back in first (with the long side on the lever-side of the barrel, so the lever will push it to compress the sac for filling), then the sac tray next. The sac tray goes in the barrel opposite the long side of the j-bar. I hope that makes sense. YOu can find schematics or cutaways on this forum if you search.

Steve. Just plain ol' Steve.

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