Guess what showed up today? The new Esterbrook Estie.
In case you’re not up to speed: the revived Esterbrook brand was recently bought by Kenro, the US distributor of Montegrappa and Aurora. Kenro has created an all-new pen: it’s resin, cartridge-converter, made in Taiwan, and featuring a steel Jowo nib plus silver- or gold-coloured trim.
Yep, there’s a degree of irony to the definitive all-American pen brand now being made in Taiwan, doubly so that the brand known for its huge variety of nibs is now available only in standard F and M. And perhaps triply so that the traditional budget pen now retails for around $150.
But the new “Estie” does have a trick up its sleeve: it’s available with a separate section (only in black, it seems) that is designed to accept the traditional Esterbrook screw-in nib units. Kenro sent me one along with my review pen, but my Esterbrook nibs are currently 5,000 miles away, so you will have to wait for a review…
Is the nib adapter enough of a link to the past? Or does the Estie stand on its own merits in a very crowded market?
Let’s tackle price versus spec first, because I’ve seen a lot of people criticise the Estie for how much it costs. Well, there are plenty of mass-produced steel-nibbed pens with Jowo or similar nibs around the $150 mark. The Diplomat Aero, Edison Collier, most Franklin-Christoph, Visconti Rembrandt, and so on.
For $150 I would still go for a gold-nibbed pen or a piston-filler — Pelikan M200, Lamy 2000, Vanishing Point, or 3776 for example. But there’s nothing wrong with the pricing in my opinion. I’ve come to terms with it. The question is simply whether the market needs another pen in this particular category.
So let’s get into it.
The packaging I really love. You get this vibrant red fabric box, closed with a magnet and padded inside. It’s awesome gift material and not too large (and I say that as a guy with about 25 huge pen boxes stored in my house).
Kenro has been really clever playing on the Esterbrook branding. The tagline is “America’s Original, Reborn”. Sometimes they use “Born 1858, Reborn 2018”. I like both. What can I say, I’m in marketing. I’m a sucker for a good brand.
The pen itself is actually much more impressive than I was expecting. I opted for the cobalt blue with rhodium trim, and it’s genuinely handsome. You can get it in black or brown, with gold trim too.
The Estie is a smooth cigar, and larger than I expected. Set against the Pilot 823 and Visconti Rembrandt, you can see what a clean design this is: no finials, no cap bands, just the clip and Esterbrook logo around the cap rim.
Actually, the Esterbrook is almost identically sized to the Pilot 823. I was not expecting that — especially since there’s an oversized version of the Estie. That must be massive.
Take the cap off and you’re in for a surprise: the cap springs off in just three-quarters of a turn. There’s clearly an inner cap on a spring, which bodes well for long-term sealing. The clip is smooth and strong, very functional.
The Esterbrook branding is engraved and filled, not just printed. It’s a handsome logo.
And it’s repeated etched on the nib. I got a medium.
The threads are weird. They’re broad and plastic, with metal rings above and below. It’s a bit fussy, but I hope it makes them more durable.
Look inside the cap and it’s all nicely finished. You can see the translucency of the material — which is otherwise pretty dark and not as glimmery as you might like, if spoiled by pens like the Ocean Swirl.
Unscrew the section and you’ll be pleased to see an o-ring, as well as a good-sized collar for the converter. Both a converter and cartridge are included.
The inside of the barrel is well finished.
Here’s the optional Esterbrook nib unit, which comes with another converter optimised for flow. We’ll see how that works out.
So how does it write?
Well, actually. The nib has a little bit of tooth, but is perfectly tuned and wrote straight out of the box with Montblanc Web Grey. The medium is a true medium, and laid a nice medium-wet line.
The section is a good size and has a flare at the end. The Estie isn’t a particularly heavy pen (24g including cap, 15g without), but it’s a good size and feels really comfortable. I wouldn’t bother posting it: the cap does post, but only by an inch, and to me the Estie becomes way too long posted. I find it plenty long enough without.
So there you have it: the Estie is a good pen.
Good size. Clean shape. Nice resin (though it’s no Fantasia). Comfortable section. OK converter. Well finished in all the right areas (engraving, threads, o-ring). Solid, well-QCd nib. Great warm and fuzzies from the branding and packaging. And the flexibility to use those classic nibs if you want to.
The branding is the ace up the sleeve for why someone would choose this over any of those other $150 plastic and steel pens. But even leaving that aside, on its own merits the Estie is a rather nice pen. Welcome back, Esterbrook.