French pens and Build Your Own Esterbrook

With a traveling friend’s recent delivery from France in hand, I recently found myself staring at a large handful of pre- and post-WWII French projects and realizing that I have developed a particular fondness for them that is quite unlike my taste for other pens. I’m hoping, when I’ve restored the Edacotos, Unics, French Matador, StyloChap, Parker La Plume and NoNames that I’ll know better what draws them to me. There is no question that French pens are their own species, quite unlike their British, German and Italian counterparts. They are shorter, often a touch broader at the top of the cap, of celluloid sheet that is often rolled on the bias rather than straight down the pen, with undulating clips. They’re elegant more than Italian beautiful, prettier than the more stately English pens, and almost never piston-filled like the German or Italian pens. Nibs are also different — very often with some flex but without the English softness, shorter-tined, and the ones I see tend to have been more steadily used. This is definitely one of those times when I really need a time machine…do the nibs show more wear because of the extreme poverty in France, or because their owners kept a single pen longer?

I’ve been asked what happened to Build Your Own Esterbrook.  It was a very successful experiment in selling pens that are essentially alike and have interchangeable parts.  Its success notwithstanding, I learned that vintage pen buyers prefer to see the actual pen they are buying, not an example of one just like it.  It confirms my view that vintage pen buyers don’t buy a pen without consideration; seeing the pen is important.