The Esterbrook Estie is a great success story on how to relaunch a brand. I can’t speak to any sales figures, but the fact that new colors keep coming out consistently since the pen was released in late 2018, and that it remains the apparent flagship of Esterbrook’s line despite the variety of other pen models released in the last two years, speaks volumes to the amount of faith that Esterbrook, and parent company Kenro, place in this model. On paper, the Estie is a mass produced resin pen from a Western pen brand that takes a standard Jowo nib unit and a standard Schmidt converter (or standard international cartridge.) This is a description that has become so ubiquitous lately as to develop the (slightly pejorative) term “Jowo Stick”, to describe pens that one might buy primarily just to swap their collection of Jowo nibs in to. What sets this model apart then, and also set a successful tone for the relaunch of this American heritage brand, was the attention paid to all the little details.
Starting before you even open the box, the Estie makes apparent that this isn’t “just another” pen. The fabric covered box is an eye-catching red, and a real departure from the plastic or faux-leather boxes that normally come with a pen in this price range. The Esterbrook word-mark appears on the top of the box, and when you break the magnetic seal and fold the flap back you are greeted by a proclamation of rebirth. The pen rests inside on a pillow, and also included are a converter, a cartridge, and instructions to email Esterbrook to confirm your one year warranty on the pen.
The Estie model that I have personally is the Blueberry special edition with palladium trim. The material features a cracked white resin suspended in a contrasting blue resin, and provides a decent amount of depth. This special edition was released for Spring 2019; I believe the second special edition color after the initial pen launch. 500 Blueberry pens were made, approximately 250 with palladium trim and 250 with gold trim. A brief Google search shows that at least some of these pens are still available for sale, so I don’t feel too bad showing off this colorway, since I’m not taunting anyone with something that is impossible to get. The majority of Estie colorways have a similar “cracked ice” acrylic in various colors, with the notable exceptions being the solid black Ebony model, and the Sparkle trio of colors, which are made using McKenzie Penworks Diamondcast alumilite materials.
Beyond the beautiful material, the pen is full of so many little touches that could be easy to gloss over if you were only looking at it in a catalog. Starting with the cap, we see an elegant and clean design broken only in two places, the first being a slot just wide enough for the sleek clip to emerge, and the second being the branding of the Esterbrook word-mark below the clip. This logo is the only text anywhere on the pen, save for the nib, which also features the same word-mark, the original year of founding, 1858, and a tipping size denotation. While the clip’s minimal appearance may not catch the eye at first, the longer I stare at it the more impressive it becomes. Whatever is securing the clip internally rests on top of (or below, depending on how you hold it) the cap’s hidden “cushion” mechanism, that provides a spring-loaded seal for the nib when the cap is screwed down. This is a feature familiar to those who have used a Platinum 3776 or a Wancher True Urushi pen. In this implementation I found it to work quite well. Occasionally I found that I started screwing the cap down too lightly and due to the spring the threads weren’t catching at all, but a little pressure remedies this, and because the threads didn’t catch in the first place it’s not an issue you’re likely to miss.
The grip section of the Estie features an understated trim ring at its bottom, followed by acrylic cap threads on the barrel and then a second trim ring, giving a nice balanced look. This is also one of the quickest ways to visually differentiate this standard Estie model from the Oversized model, which features an identical section but blends the section’s trim ring in with metal cap threads on the barrel. Because both pens take the same grip section they also both work with the optional Esterbrook “Modern to Vintage” (MV) adapter, which is a slightly more pinched looking grip section that takes vintage Esterbook nib units and allows you to use them with the new pen. The MV adapter is not, however, compatible with the third version of the Estie, the Slim model, which is a smaller pen with a profile similar to the other Esties, but a different grip section designed for #5 Schmidt nibs.
The MV adapter really intrigues me, and was one of the first things that caught my attention about this pen, but as I don’t have any old Esterbook nib units in my collection I haven’t gotten around to picking one up yet. The adapter comes with a different converter better suited for the vintage nibs, but the converter that ships with the pen isn’t an afterthought. The attention to detail continues even here with the Schmidt K5 converter being branded with yet another instance of the same consistent Esterbrook word-mark.
Sold separately from the pen, the relaunch of the Esterbrook brand brought with it new pen accessories as well. Pictured here is the first generation of the Esterbook single Pen Nook, featuring a tan simulated leather exterior and a red & iridescent foil paisley interior. The Pen Nook is sized large enough to comfortably fit the Oversized Estie model, which also means it’s a great fit for a wide variety of pens (when I’m not using it as a photography prop, I generally keep my Wancher True Urushi pen in mine, as it’s is roughly the size of the OS Estie, and enclosing it in the Nook keeps it safe from stray UV light coming in through my window when it is not in use.) Esterbook makes Pen Nooks with a variety of different slot numbers, and recently refreshed the Pen Nook line up to feature a new blue color, a new lining featuring what they are calling their Esterbrook Infinity logo, an elastic strap to hold the pens inside, and a redesigned magnetic closure. The Pen Nook series make for some interesting cases, which I would describe as more of a “mobile display case” than a traditional travel case.
In the hand, the pen is quite comfortable. The grip section tapers from 11.7 mm by the barrel down to 11 mm, with a slight flare before the nib. The cap posts securely, but the barrel is long enough that posting should not be required for most people if they prefer not to. In fact, the length of the pen was the one thing that threw me off a little bit about its dimensions. It is not a negative in the least, but I found it to be a longer than expected, which in proportion makes the pen appear to be slimmer than it actually is. The pen is 147 mm capped, 128.5 mm from tip to tail unposted, and a whopping 190 mm posted. Compare this to a barrel that tapers down from 13.5 mm, and a cap that tapers down from 15.3 mm. That is roughly a barrel as wide as the grip section on a Montblanc 149, and a cap as wide as the 149’s barrel, but in a pen of approximately the same length (the 149 is slightly longer unposted and the Estie is slightly longer posted.) None of this creates an issue, as the pen is quite comfortable to use, but it does create a bit if an optical illusion depending on which pens you are used to looking at.
If you couldn’t already tell from my opening, I recommend this pen. It is complete with so many little touches showing that Esterbrook and Kenro care about the product that they are putting out there on the market, and it is available in so many colors and variations that there is sure to be (at least) one out there for everyone. The stock Jowo nibs perform solidly as expected, but you also have the option to swap in a different Jowo nib housing, or even to upgrade your pen with an MV adapter or with one of the Custom Nibs that Esterbrook has started rolling out based on vintage Esterbook nibs (the first of which is the Journaler grind from Gena Salorino.) The Estie is available at a wide range of pen retailers in person and online, so even though certain colors may be limited you have a variety of different shops to search through to see if you can still find inventory in your favorite color.
The pen reviewed above was purchased at retail price from Bertram’s Inkwell.