The Esterbrook Cobalt Blue is a beautifully made and finished acrylic pen that is a pleasure to hold and to use. It is deceptively large pen, but in most hands should not strike the user as too large in length or girth. It is certainly a great (in all sorts of ways) departure from the older Esterbrook pens of the brand’s heydays reflecting the new owner (US luxury pen brand owner Kenro since 2018) and animateur of the original US manufacturer that closed its doors in 1971. My 1950s Estie 9555 looks like a runt with its 121 mm length and 10.6 mm body width reflecting an age when hands were smaller and fountain pens diminutive; indeed, almost discrete. Now the new Esties, like this flagship model, and pens in general, seems to veer to the beast-like, steroid enhanced dreadnought.
Comparisons in size and feel
There has been a tendency, perhaps some might say ‘group think’ for the pen community to measure our pens out in reference to iconic Lamy Al-Star/Safari/LX dimensions. As a reference point the Esterbrook is bigger than the Lamy measuring stick, also pips the ‘very large’ Pelikan M1000 and almost measures up to the defunct over-sized beast of the Danitrio Cum Laude in length, though not in width.
As the table below summarises there is not a great deal in it.
|Make & model||Length (mm)||Width (mm)||Weight (grams)|
|1||Esterbrook Cobalt Blue||148.9||13.4||25g|
|2||Danitrio Cum Laude||149.3||14.1||28g|
Measured with a digital vernier calliper & digital scales – slight discrepancy with ‘official’ statistics.
You could say that the numbers count for nothing in the hand really. And certainly, the feel of the Esterbrook Cobalt Blue is a point of difference with these other ‘over large’ pens. Just as the yardstick reference of a Lamy LX is a particular lens to gauge it against, the feel of the pen is the ultimate subjective test. The section size (to the end of the threads) of the Pelikan M1000 (22 mm) and the Esterbrook Cobalt Blue (23 mm) is almost identical but the former with its wider barrel (albeit accommodating a piston mechanism and so requiring uniform width) feels more hefty and less comfortable in my hand than the Esterbrook. The threads on the Esterbrook feel soft and almost unnoticeable with the shaped transitions between the body of the pen and the section. Similarly, when comparing the Danitrio Cum Laude the Esterbrook’s section and body feels easier to grip and push ink across the page. Hence the feel that the pen is ‘deceptively’ large. The gentle taper of the cigar-shaped body as well as the very gradual, from 12.4mm at the threads to 10.7mm at the end of the section, gives it an ergonomic feel of being ‘just right’.
Appearance and Feel
The Esterbrook Cobalt Blue comes in a cardboard sleeved neat red cloth covered box (approximately 35mm by 55mm by 180mm – measured with a guessing stick or ruler) with a magnetic closure flap. The cloth box splays out adding to the overall impression of a well-thought out and implemented design (see picture) and inside was a short international standard cartridge, a plastic enveloped warranty and a questionable branded red cloth square (what is it for?) and the pen. (I bought the 1.1 stub nibbed pen with a spare fine nib which was also inside the box.)
The cigar-shaped pen sits on a faux leather base and the high-quality body, cap and section is made from a beautifully patterned blue and black mottled acrylic. It has a high lustre and you certainly don’t feel short-changed by it being made of acrylic. The cap has an engraved Esterbrook legend in white italic and the strong chrome clip neatly enters the flush cap without any finial or topping. The cap comes off quickly and easily in approximately one and half turns. Inside there is a liner (not sure what material) and it has a soft cushion cap closure which is similar to, but better I think, than the famous original innovator in this regard of the Platinum 3776 pen. This sealing mechanism is very well-executed, with a secure and solid feel to it and with the lined cap makes you confident that you will not experience drying out of the nib and feed if you leave your pen for a long period. I have left mine for several days without any problems in starting to write with it again. I feel confident that as other pens catch my attention it may in the future languish unused for longer periods without any problem in starting up again. The cap can be posted but as a big pen it feels and looks ungainly. (Like some others I am anti-poster. I don’t appreciate the added length or weight and feel that posting will in the end mean marking the pen barrel over time.)
The Pen’s Particulars
The overall statistics for the pen are as follows:
|Esterbrook Cobalt Blue||Statistics for the pen|
|Closed capped Length||148.9mm|
|Section length (to threads)||23mm|
|Weight of capped pen||25g|
|Weight of cap||8g|
These measurements were made independently with a digital vernier caliper and digital scales and thus may well have a slight difference with ‘official’ statistics.
Performance, Nibs, etc
Back to subjectivity and perceived performance; the Jowo #6 steel nib is engraved Esterbrook and the legend 1858, which is the date of the original foundation of Esterbrook. The pen was purchased with a steel 1.1 stub italic nib. As a relative stub neophyte this was a revelation and a pleasure to experiment and write with. Over the December 2020 period the stub nib inked with Robert Oster Fire and Ice effortlessly glided through scores of Christmas cards and notes. The pen, nib and ink worked well together. The picture of the writing shows the performance of the stub and whilst not pushed to any calligraphic heights or skills people who received the cards and notes commented very positively on the writing (and the ink). This model can be purchased with extra-fine, fine, medium, broad and 1.1 stub italic nibs.
The fine nib is a European style fine and worked straight out of the box and has already been used for several letters (typically 6 to 8 sides of A5 writing using a 7mm line template on Clairefontaine Vellum 90 gsm paper). It too has been a pleasure to use; it feels comfortable to use for long periods and my hand does not feel cramped or tired by it. (Just to note I have trigger finger in the middle finger of both hands, plus Dupuytren’s contracture beginning in both hands; so, the comfort factor of using a pen is increasingly an important personal writing consideration.)
You can also buy an adapter to use vintage Esterbrook nib units with the Esterbrook Cobalt Blue which may be another factor attracting pen users and collectors or just Estie fans. I didn’t buy the adapter but may do in the future.
With deep apologies to John Donne: no pen is an island unto itself, separate from the whole, etc. This is a premium steel nibbed pen that is pitched against quite serious competition. Indeed, you could buy a gold-nibbed pen for the same price (perhaps a Platinum 3776). You can buy the Esterbrook for £149 from Hamilton’s Pens, The Writing Desk or Cult Pens. (Subscribers can often get 10% discounts and Cult Pens have a 10% on the pen as of late January 2021.) Give or take a bit of leeway price wise that puts the Esterbrook Cobalt Blue in tough competition with similar excellent designs such as Pineider’s Avatar (£117 on 25th January 2021 on Cult Pens) or a Maiora (the Impronte at £159) or Leonardo Positano Blue at £135 both of the latter from Izod Pens. Certainly, you might go for a different pen on price alone. Notwithstanding the normal subjective choices on purchases the Esterbrook Cobalt Blue is certainly a well-made pen. It has the looks, quality, functionality and performance and it is well worth considering against other options. However, it could perhaps be more competitively priced .
The Esterbrook Cobalt Blue equipped with the 1.1 stub and the fine nibs is a lovely pen to use and has become an EDC and use fountain pen. The chrome version model looks good sitting on the desk and feels perfect in the hand. Subjectively and objectively the Esterbrook Cobalt Blue feels and works really well. It is a well-thought through and executed design that delivers a functionality and performance that impresses and gives confidence that it will last, and still be looking good and working well in years to come. Indeed, in time the type of pen to give to another generation. So, it is definitely a keeper.