Conway Stewart 85/Esterbrook Relief

Some time ago a friend gave me a Conway Stewart 85. It had belonged to his late father. It’s the simplest and commonest of 85s: it’s black. I wish I had known his father. I would have loved to ask why he chose black when 85s came in so many attractive patterns. It’s not like it was cheaper.

Conway Stewart prided themselves on their nibs but I find the ordinary Conway Stewart nib rather dull and uninspiring. Obviously that was not the case for Conway Stewart’s thousands of customers. I think it’s like modern Pelikans which people are happy with but I can’t use. It’s worth saying that Conway Stewart’s specialist nibs like the uncommon stubs and italics are great nibs. In pre-war pens especially there are very occasionally flexible nibs and they are superb too.

So that’s the long preamble! This pen sat in a drawer, unused, for at least ten years. Then circumstances gave me a spare Esterbrook Relief nib. During the period that Conway Stewart were producing Relief pens for Esterbrook, pens for the British market, Conway Stewart doubtless produced these nibs to Esterbrook’s design. The other possibility is that Esterbrook supplied them to Conway Stewart but I think that’s less likely.

Anyway I swapped the Esterbrook Relief nib into the 85. It fitted perfectly, of course, as it was intended for very similar pens. It rescued the 85 from the drawer and it is now in frequent use. I love oblique nibs. They flatter my writing. I think it avoids any hint of being Frankenpen-ish. That’s a word you won’t find in any dictionary.

12 thoughts on “Conway Stewart 85/Esterbrook Relief

  1. Hi, Deb. I’m a sucker for Conway Stewarts–must be the pretty colours. Most of their nibs are good everyday writers and some are quite lovely; all are a cut above the Bock and Jowo points that infest today’s marketplace.

  2. I also prefer oblique nibs. Black pens are an interesting choice, when there are options. I have found that in most cases, black is seen as professional, and business successful for many. Almost a status symbol in the business world. I cannot speak to the circumstances relating to this pen. A possability all the same.

  3. I wonder if a preference for black colored pens is because they look “serious,” whereas a pen in a different color or with a pattern (and I don’t mean chased hard rubber) would be seen frivolous or something close to that.

    This may be a guy thing. I have a couple of colored pens, but even the colored ones are in sober colors (for example, an old style Pelikan 120 in black and darkish green), and I usually prefer to use the all-black ones.

    And an unrelated question: When you swapped in the Esterbrook nib, did you use one of E’brook’s Renew points or disassemble one of them to get the actual metal nib? Or some other technique?

    And — can you actually screw a Renew nib into a Conway Stewart?

      1. And it’s bi-continental. From the wiki page on the company: “Richard Esterbrook (1812-1895) was a Cornish Quaker from England who saw an opportunity in the United States to manufacture steel pens. In 1856 he traveled to the US to set up shop as “The Steel Pen Manufacturing Company” …

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