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Esterbrook Dip-Less 407 Step-by-step Dissassembly Video


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Hi Esty fans!


I put together this short video (uploaded to YouTube) as an additional guide to those who want to take apart the Esterbrook Dip-Less Fountain Well No. 407.

I'm hoping it may be helpful for those that haven't encountered one before and want to know how to take it apart to clean and restore it, or just to see if all the parts are there.


Let me know if this kind of thing is of interest and I'll include some restoration tips in future video.



Michael (mbhdesign)




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  • Grayspoole


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Thanks for posting this- very clear and helpful!


I have a 407 that was NOS when I purchased it. I’ve been using it, refilling it, and enjoying it but I think it’s time to clean it, if only to switch inks.


I would be interested in your recommendations for cleaning the 407.

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@Grayspoole Very nice! Glad to hear you're using it!


Sure! I'll be happy to share my preferred techniques for cleaning a 407. I'm sure there are others in this forum who have developed their own techniques, based on their own experiences. I'll try to create a video or PDF with photos also, but that will take a little while.


The cleaning technique I'm outlining here is intended to be very gentle — a "first, do no harm" approach — which is my standard operating procedure.

If the object resists cleaning, then I'll investigate more drastic steps. Some antique items object to being thoroughly cleaned and I tend to respect that.


First, here's a list of my favorite cleaning supplies:



• Cotton balls

• Cotton swabs (both standard and "puffy" varieties)

• Cotton make-up cleaning pads

• A few wooden toothpicks

• An old clean manual toothbrush (I prefer a Child's manual toothbrush, it has a smaller head and much softer bristles than the standard Adult versions.)

• A lint-free cleaning cloth (or two)

• Paper towels

• Liquid dishwashing soap

• Cuticle oil1 (unscented)

• Small plastic trash bag (cut flat and used as a table surface protector)

• Nitrile gloves (Optional, but they give me a better grip on wet soapy glass and keeps my hands clean of ink residue.)


Deep cleaning supplies (only when absolutely necessary)

• Household ammonia2

• #0000 Ultra fine steel wool


1 I use the most generic, cheapest cuticle oil I can get a hold of. Most drugstores carry it in the nail polish section. It's Mineral Oil and Carotene which help to "feed" the Bakelite (phenolic) base and can help rejuvenate the finish — much like teak or danish oil helps to penetrate dry wood to revive it. Don't get the perfumed or fancy stuff, it has other ingredients you don't want. In a pinch, Baby Oil or plain Mineral Oil can work too — but I prefer the addition of carotene found in Cuticle Oil.


2 Ammonia is a last resort cleaner for me. It's rough stuff. But, it can sometimes help budge stubborn ink stains in glass — especially those that have been sitting for 50 or more years. I use it in a heavily diluted form, typically a 1:20 ratio. If, after three flushes, I still have trouble I may go as high as 1:10. I'm patient and cautious.


Ok! Gather all of these items and head to your favorite workspace.

I like to separate my "wet" work area from my "dry" work area — but use what space you've got.


Cleaning Step One: Inspection

1. Empty any residual ink from your 407 glass ink well and base. (From this point on, I'm assuming your fountain well is dry and ready to take apart.)

2. Disassemble your 407 Fountain Well into each of its component parts.

3. Lay each part out on your work surface and inspect each part carefully.

A few things to check:

• Is the hard rubber plug free from cracks? Does it still sit snugly in the mouth of the inkwell and seal properly? Is it dry or crumbly looking?

• Is the glass inkwell cracked or chipped?

• Is the base cracked or showing signs of potential damage? Are all the feet intact on the underside?

• Is the gasket pliable? Is it cracked or damaged in any way?

If the answer is yes to any of the above, you may have to perform some stabilizing repairs or source replacement parts.

That's a different topic. For now, let's assume all looks OK.


Cleaning Step Two: The Glass Inkwell

1. Take the ink well, paper towels, dish soap, and nitrile gloves to a utility sink. I've even used a plastic bucket, in a pinch, just be careful.

Don't use your master bathroom sink — it's messy!

2. Using warm, or room-temperature water (not too hot), gently flush out the inkwell. I will fill the inkwell with water to overflow for a full minute and use my gloved finger to help swirl around inside the cavity.

3. Drain and repeat.

4. After three or four flushes, I'll use a damp paper towel to wipe the inside of the inkwell. If ink stains are still present on the paper towel, I'll go back to step 2 and 3.

5. If ink stains are still stubbornly present in the inkwell after this then up the water temperature a little, add a drop of dishsoap, and let the inkwell sit full for an hour in the sink.

6. Flush and rinse out all the soapy water. Then one more round of step 2.

7. Carefully dry with paper towels, or let drip dry upside down on a paper towel.

8. Bring the inkwell back to your "dry" workspace and wipe the inside of the inkwell with your lint-free cloth. If you wear eyeglasses, optical cleaning cloths are great for this.


Cleaning Step Three: The Rubber Feeder Plug (Stopper)

1. This is a rather delicate part. Look carefully through the two holes in the plug (the "feeder" and "breather") to see if they are clogged. If they are, pay special attention to the second part of step 4 below.

2. Take your plug, a few standard cotton swabs, a toothpick, some paper towels, and an old clean toothbrush to your utility sink. Also bring a pair of nitrile gloves if the plug is caked or clogged with dried ink.

3. Using warm, or room-temperature water (not too hot), gently rinse and flush out the plug. Give this plenty of time. You can immerse the plug in warm water to help loosen any clogged ink or stubborn residue in the feeder or breather holes — but be careful not to leave it in more than an hour. I've had very dry plugs crumble apart when immersed in water for too long.

Caution: Don't use dishsoap or ammonia when cleaning this part. They can dry out or damage your plug and create more serious problems later.

4. Visually inspect the feeder and breather holes in the plug. If they are clear, proceed to step 6. If not, go to step 5.

5. Saturate a cotton swab with water and gently insert it into the larger "feeder" hole using a slow, twisting motion. Don't force it. Soak a toothpick until it is saturated and insert it into the smaller "breather" hole to clear it or any obstruction.

6. Wet your old toothbrush and gently brush into the crevasses and crannies of the plug. Pay careful attention to the notch outlet of the "feeder" hole and the area where the "stopper" part of the plug meets the "base" part that sits on the glass inkwell lip. Old ink reside can collect there and prevent a good seal. Don't brush too hard. A gentle sweeping motion works best.

7. Wipe the plug with a cloth or paper towel and set it aside on a clean paper towel to dry.

8. Once dry, carefully inspect again to see if any cracks or light gray areas are present. If so, we may need to give this part a Cuticle Oil bath.


Cleaning Step Four: The Bakelite Base

1. Take the base along with standard cotton-swabs (and "puffy" if you have them,) paper towels, lint-free cloth, dish soap, old toothbrush, and nitrile gloves to a utility sink.

2. Carefully rinse the base in running warm water. Not hot. Let the base fill and flush out three or four times.

3. While the base is in the sink, wet your old toothbrush and gently brush around the inside lowest cavity to remove any dried ink residue. Pay special attention to the "notch" inside close to where the pen holder hole is located. Don't push the brush into the pen holder hole, it's too big and will damage it.

4. Set aside the damp base onto a clean cloth, or layered paper towels, and use more paper towels to wipe the surfaces free of any residual ink. If the paper towels are clean, move onto step 5. If not, repeat steps 2 and 3 above.

5. Using a wet cotton swab, gently wipe out the pen holder hole area. I prefer a water-saturated "puffy" cotton-swab for this, as it fits the hole very well. Keep cleaning until a damp cotton-swab comes out clean.


I'll compile and send the follow up to these essential "cleaning steps" with some "restorative / longevity steps" in my next post. The above should get you pretty well ready for new ink!



Michael (mbhdesign)

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Wow! What amazing information!


You’ve inspired me to tackle the task of cleaning my 407!  (I’ve been putting it off for a while…) Thanks!

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@Grayspoole That's great! I'm glad my posting gave you the confidence to give it a try! That's the best compliment I could hope for. Thank you.


If anything I put into these instructions is confusing in practice, let me know and I'll try to help clarify.

Good luck and let us know how it turned out!

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