I have, in the course of my fountain pen reviewing career, often reviewed pens that most would consider to be in the price range most people would consider “insane.” (For many, even a pen that costs $20 would fall into the category of “insane.”) And while I regularly review fountain pens that are in the higher end, luxury range, it’s rare that I review pens that move beyond “pen” and into “work of art.”
The pen in this review, the Classic Pens LB3 Jupiter is one of those pens. Like all of the pens in the Classic Pens portfolio, the LB3 is a beautiful, and beautifully made, limited edition fine writing instrument with a significant price tag.
Made in 2007, the range of only 100 LB3 Jupiters is made from the same dark blue diffusion bonded acrylic that would later come to grace the first of my favorite Classic Pens LB5 pens, the Tensui. Made of 3mm sheets of acrylic, bonded together and cut across the grain, the rich blue material shows streaks of chattoyance and lighter blue highlights. Due to the darker blue background, this Tensui (raindrops) material doesn’t show as much motion as some of the other colors of the same material. For this particular pen, the darker, more subtle blue color serves as a perfect backdrop for the pen’s real highlight: the inset design.
For the LB3 Jupiter, Classic Pens partnered with penmaker and artist extraordinaire, Paul Rossi, to create a space-themed inlay pattern on the pen that depicts the planet Jupiter, its moons, and the stars. For the space lover with too much disposable income, it really is a beautiful piece of masterfully-created art.
The shape of the pen body itself is quite ho-hum. The standard cigar-shaped pen features a rhodium-plated clip with a chiseled point tip that is reminiscent of the Classic Pens logo design. The cap also features a wide cap band engraved with the Classic Pens Logo, Name, the model, and the pen’s limited edition number out of 100. There is also a rhodium-plated washer betwixt the barrel and the end finial. But aside from that, the silhouette is entirely unremarkable.
Normally, such a uninspired design would illicit yawns from me, but in this particular case, the plain form factor makes the perfect background for the artfully applied inlay that gives the pen its name. The center of the inlay design is the large red circle of Classic Pen’s Kaen acrylic representing Jupiter. The striations of the material, which also show up in the LB5 line and the LM1 lines, closely mirror the gaseous swirls of the giant planet it represents.
Circling about the diameter of the pen are four smaller discs of blue, yellow, or white to depict the planet’s moons. Across the remainder of the pen is a veritable starfield in 18k gold and sterling silver. The gold stars are arranged in seven distinct constellations, while the silver stars are there to fill out the remainder of the galaxy.
According to Classic Pens, the placement of all of these inlays in done by hand, and no two pens are exactly the same, reflecting the natural variations that are the inevitable result of the Paul Rossi’s handiwork. When taken as a whole, the effect of the background and inlays together is quite stunning.
It takes about 3/4 of a turn to remove the twisting cap. The pen’s precision-cut block threads only allow the pen to be capped in one orientation, with the clip pointing directly at the planet. The pen can be posted as well, but I found the posted pen to be too long to use comfortably, and a bit unbalanced.
Under the cap, there is a relatively narrow section that tapers down to a short flange. The section really isn’t super-narrow, but in comparison to the pen’s length and overall girth, it feels a bit less girthy than it should. The pen’s nib is a clean-lined #6 bi-color nib in 18k gold, with the Classic Pens logo stamped and plated in rhodium.
In talking with Andy at various pen shows (if you ever get a chance to run into him at a pen show, I highly recommend chatting with him for a bit…but hide your wallet if you do. The man has magical powers in helping people part with their money) he mentioned that they originally had issues with the feed on the pen being unable to keep up with long writing sessions, causing minor ink starvation. They, according to Andy, worked with Bock to resolve the issue and it appears that, on my pen at least, they have. The pen writes beautifully, with a whisper of feedback and a nice wet ink flow that was rock solid consistent. When writing this written review by hand, I was using a nicely sheening ink (Monteverde Yosemite Green), and it was sheening just as nicely on the fifth page as the first.
The nib does have a bit of a soft bounce, but that should not be taken to mean it’s flexible by any stretch of the imagination.
The pen uses a standard international cartridge/converter system, what with the Bock nib. I haven’t had any issues with the included converter at all, though I know a standard international converter on a pen in this price range is a deal-killer for some folks.
Speaking of price, here’s where things get a little tricky. The Classic Pens LB3 Jupiter, as an out-of-production limited edition pen, is not only extremely expensive, it can be very difficult to track down. The website has the original list price of the pen at $1,995. I purchased my pen directly from Classic Pens at a pen show, but at a greatly reduced cost. (It was part of a multi-pen deal, so that had something to do with the price.) It’s hard to tell you exactly what you can expect to pay for the pen if you purchase it, but I think $1,300-$1,500 would be in the range of reasonable, if not a touch on the low side.
Is it worth it? As a writing instrument alone, no, probably not. If you want a cigar-shaped pen with a nice 18k gold nib, there are lots of less-expensive options out there for you. There’s nothing in the pen’s writing experience alone that justifies the higher cost. With a pen like this, you’re paying for handcrafting, materials, theme, and a very limited production run. While that may not be for everyone, for those who look to incorporate high-end artistry into the pens they purchase, or have a deep love of all things celestial, this is a wonderful option.
Material: Diffusion-bonded Acrylic
Nib: 18k Bi-color Gold Medium
Filling System: Standard International converter
Length (Capped): 150.2mm
Length (Uncapped): 132.3mm
Length (Posted): 169.0mm
Section Diameter: 11.4mm
Barrel Max Diameter: 14.3mm
Cap Max Diameter: 16.8mm
Weight, Uncapped (with ink and/or converter): 20g
Weight, Capped (with ink and/or converter):33g