Esterbrook 9128 Nib Comparison


If you are not familiar with Esterbrook fountain pens, check out

Bottom line is Esterbrook fountain pens were made during the middle years of the 20th century and have held up very well. They come in a variety of colors, several sizes, and have easily swapped nibs. Since the nibs unscrew, Esties are extremely easy to clean even though they are lever-fillers. Pop out the nib and rinse. It’s as simple as that.

Here is what I discovered this week when I finally got my hands on another Estie and just happened to set up two 9128 flexible extra-fine nibs at the same time.

Esterbrook 9128 Written Samples

Esterbrook 9128 Written Samples

They truly are different. The nib used at the top has 9128 written across the nib while the second one has 9128 written down the length of it. No photos to show but the shape of the nibs is slightly different. The first one is slightly longer, more fine and has less flex catching occasionally on the upstroke. The second nib is closer to a fine with significantly more flex and somewhat smoother performance.

I thought I had a couple of oddball nibs but then I compared them to a third 9128 and discovered that the differences were consistent. The 9128 with the number across the nib is finer/stiffer and the 9128 with the number the length of the nib is thicker/more flexible. Laura (a/k/a Phthalo in the pen world) has found the same to be true with her Estie 9128 nibs.

So if you are looking for a really fine nib, the 9128 with the designation written across the nib is the one for you. If you want more flex and a slightly wider line, look for one with 9128 written down the length of the nib. Or you can do what I did. Get two Estie barrels and buy one of each style nib. It’s twice the fun. Promise!

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  1. Those 9128 nibs are so difficult to come by nowadays, and when they sell, they sell for $70-$100. :p Good to know that there are two variations to the same nib, though! I once had a 9128 with numbers across the nib, and you are absolutely right. They were not as stiff as 9550s, but they were definitely not wet noodles either. Esterbrooks are awesome. ❤ 🙂


    • Another vote in favor of the Esterbrook! For flex I don’t think there’s a better deal than an Estie. Better nibs? Yes. But not better deals.

      Two or three 9128 nibs show up on eBay every month. They usually sell for under $40 especially without a box. Often a seller will include a second nib to sweeten the deal. Nib condition could be a consideration but for me worth the gamble. If that would be a deal-breaker for you, check out the links at the top of the post. Some of them sell nibs that ought to be reliable though for a small premium but worth it to some folks for the peace of mind it brings.


  2. Very interesting! I heard even the Estie flex nibs are stiff and you have to apply a lot of pressure. Have you found this to be true?


    • True of one 9128 but not so much the other. An Estie flexible nib is an inexpensive way to experiment with a style of writing that is challenging for most people. But an Estie isn’t likely to compare favorably to the flex of a Waterman. The latter requires very little effort to flex but finding an inexpensive one that goes from extra-fine to broad would be tough. Believe me. I’ve tried!


  3. Nice work! 😉


  4. I have two Estabrooks and have owned them on and off for a long time. The fine points are very fine and the range of nibs is very impressive. They are hard to find now.


    • If you are willing to purchase used pens online, eBay and Fountain Pen Network usually have a few available. Some are in very good condition while others need sac replacements. I’ve purchased several used Esties, most of which were fine as purchased.


  5. Wish I had a second 9128 to compare. I have the version with 9128 written across the nib and it started out just slightly flexy but seems to have “loosened up”. That’s about the best way I can describe it. It doesn’t seem to take as much pressure to flex it as it did when I first got it. Still not as flexy as my Waterman no.2 Ideal, which is certainly no wet noodle, either, but the 9128’s been my favorite drawing pen since I got it. I’ve checked ebay for 9128s a number of times and rarely find one for under $40, and usually that’s when it’s already attached to a pen. Never seen one with a second nib thrown in, because it seems like sellers have gotten wise to these nibs and how sought-after they’ve become. I paid about $25 for mine and if I ever come across one at that price again, I’ll definitely jump on it.


    • Yes, they do loosen up with use but the one with 9128 written across the nib started finer. For calligraphy that’s important. For drawing it’s an extra benefit and your line drawings take good advantage of the variation.

      An Estie with a 9128 nib for $40 isn’t a bad deal. If you wanted to have both your current nib and a new inked one at the same time, you’d need the second pen anyway.

      Prices have gone up but Esties in good working condition with stock fine nibs go for $25-40 today depending on the model and nib series. Even a 9128 nib by itself can sell for $25-30. If you find a working pen attached for $40, that would be a fair price.

      The upside is that Esties aren’t likely to sell for less in the future. So you would have a very nice pen that won’t lose value. Now that’s something you can’t say of other drawing tools. 😉


  6. […] someone like me who loves Esterbrook pens, the 9128 nib is the holy grail of pen-dom. Inkophile recently acquired not one but two of these coveted, extra-fine, flexible nibs and has been kind […]


  7. i have acquired a lot a whole lot of esterbrook nibs from a stationery store that went out of business. I dont know what to do with them. Could someone let me know some suggestions? feel free to email me


  8. Hello,

    I found this comparison really useful, there are too few Estie nib comparisons or reviews around! However, my experience is inconsistent with your findings: I have a 9128 where the number is written down the length of the nib, but unfortunately it behaves like your less flexible nib. I just got it yesterday and was severely disappointed, as I thought this nib would be a cheap but proper way to try the praised qualities of flex!


    • Thank you for posting. My tests with several 9128 nibs produced similar flex results between the two styles and were consistent with those of a friend as well. Given the age of Esterbrook nibs, it is possible some had more use than others making them softer. Your nib might be pristine or even from a different batch. I may use more pressure than you do. There are a few variables though my friend has a much lighter touch and experienced the same results. A little use may change the degree of flex to your nib. Most of mine have improved over time and with practice have displayed nice results. I hope you will find that to be true as well.


  9. It’s true mine is NOS, so I’m the first user. It really can’t be a matter of pressure: when I press it to get even a slight flex effect, it scratches the paper and makes the writing look ugly. You do see from the result whether a nib flexes readily or not. Anyway, I’m glad you gave me some hope, maybe my nib really will get softer with use! In any case it’s a nice nib, even if not flexed, and I got it for a good price.


  10. The 9128 nib was made specifically for Pitman Shorthand, as this system requires flex to make the thin and thick lines. I hope to find an estie with this nib as i need it for my shorthand.


    • I have now actually been given a 9128 nib by a generous person, so that i may do my shorthand with it. The Esterbrook name and nib number is written down the nib. I am not familiar with how flexible it is, but it certainly is beautiful to look at. I just need to buy the pen now in order to use it, cant wait.


  11. […] someone like me who loves Esterbrook pens, the 9128 nib is the holy grail of pen-dom. Inkophile recently acquired not one but two of these coveted, extra-fine, flexible nibs and has been kind […]


  12. […] compares 9128 nibs. Mine has 9128 written across the nib, and while I can’t compare to the other style, I would […]


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