A little something new from Classic Pens. This company, which has become well known for their stunning sterling silver overlays (how's that for nifty alliteration?) has decided to branch out a bit, with the launch of the LB1, their first limited edition acrylic pen.
It might sound like a bit of a let down, to step from a sterling silver overlay, engraved from top to bottom, to a "mere" acrylic pen. Well you can rest assured, it's not anywhere near to being a step down! In fact, if it weren't for the fact that the CP7 is only a few months away, I might have suggested that the folks at Classic Pens were close to shooting themselves in the foot by bringing out such a great new pen in the LB1.
Both the LB1 and the upcoming CP7 are based on pens from Sailor. Not just any old Sailor model, though! Looking through the currently produced models, Andreas Lambrou, the founder of Classic Pens, found he was short of the "one and only" model on which to base his edition. The 1911 Profit model, while a huge success for Sailor was just not quite "right" for what the had in mind.
There was however, a Sailor model that met all of his demanding criteria for size, shape and balance. Of course, the trouble was, this "perfect pen" happened to be the Sailor 80th Anniversary edition. A magnificent pair of pens, made in light and dark briar wood, and several steps beyond sold out. Almost, but not quite, impossible to get no matter how much you offer. And just gorgeous enough to be worth what you have to offer to get one!
Andy has developed a pretty strict set of guidelines regarding the "perfect" writer's pen. Of course, the absolute "prefect" will be different for every hand, but there are some basic rules that can be laid out. These guidelines apply whether you are designing a thin pen, a wide pen, plastic or metal. The way in which the pen sits in the hand, with the weight evenly balanced between the section end of the barrel, and the cap top (if you're posting the cap) is crucial to having the pen feel comfortable.
If the pen doesn't feel comfortable, all the pretty plastics, engraved silver, or inlaid precious gems accomplish nothing more than the deflation of your bank account. You might like looking at it, and enjoy showing it off to your friends and fellow collectors, but will you actually write with it?
The LB1 is an attempt to answer that question in the affirmative. Choosing the basic model on which to base the pen was complicated by the fact that the pen was no longer in production, but after long negotiations, Sailor agreed to reintroduce the model as the basis for both the LB1 and the CP7.
This model differs from the 1911 Profit in a couple of areas, changes that might not be apparent at first glance, but which impact significantly upon those guidelines for "pen perfection" that Andy was seeking to follow. The balance of the 80th Anniversary model differs from the Profit. The cap is a bit wider, and when posted it pulls the balance back into the hand a bit. The pen is also a bit wider through the mid-point.
With the model upon which to base the first of the LB series selected, it was time to choose a material. The acrylic used might be familiar to you if you're a Sheaffer fan, it's the same rod stock used on the Sheaffer Balance LE pen a few years back. Classic Pens had purchased a quantity of the rod stock after the production of the Sheaffer LE was completed, and when it came time for a new series, they felt that this material would provide a good starting point.
It's a subtle blend of grayish green, with both lighter pearlescent marbling as well as reddish veins. It's reminiscent of the original Sheaffer Gray with Red Vein celluloid without being identical. Best of all, being modern acrylic, it's lightweight, and strong. It's a great material for a pen of this type, colorful, without being too flashy. Off went the rod stock to Sailor in Japan, and in due course, the prototype was delivered. A few minor changes, and production was begun.
In the title, I refer to this pen as a "Writer's Edition", and for good reason. Of course the pen balances well in the hand. It's lightweight, yet still seems substantial. It even looks nice. But the real reason I think these pens are destined for a lot of use comes when you remove the cap. The nibs available on the LB1 are limited to two versions, the Cross Emperor, and the Naginata Togi.
It sounds like a very slim choice, but it's not. Between this pair of nibs, you pretty much have all your writing needs covered. The Cross Emperor is a wonderful signature nib. Big and bold are the words for it. The Naginata is much more unassuming in initial appearance. Once you take a close look at the carefully ground tip, however, you begin to get an idea of what this simple looking nib has to deliver once you put it to paper. Either one of these nibs will give you a real experience when it comes to putting ink down, each is interesting in it's own way.
Both nibs are the creation of Nobuyoshi Nagahara, one of the all time masters of the fountain pen nib. From the original designs, each was then refined down to it's present form, and each one of these nibs is checked and tuned by Nagahara himself. This makes for a truly excellent nib, as you might imagine. It's amazing what you can accomplish by simply slowing down and doing things right, and Sailor has taken this practice to heart with their nibs.
The Naginata Togi is ground to provide several different line widths, depending upon the angle at which the pen is held. The name derives from the Japanese word for a type of spear, the tip of which has a gentle curve to it's shape. This curve translates to the shape of the tipping material after it has been ground to provide three different line widths, depending upon angle. The two sides taper in, from the rear of the material to the front, this gives you a nice widish line if you have the back part of the tip on the paper, narrowing down to fine as you lift the nib to a more perpendicular position.
The finishing job on these nibs is no simple matter, given the requirement to produce a varying line width in this manner. The Emperor is hand crafted, and then assembled to the feed, and tuned for performance, while the Togi is individually tuned after coming off the regular Sailor nib production line. The delivery of ink is every bit as important as the shape of the tipping material when it comes time to write, so tuning the nibs assumes major importance for Sailor. These nibs are obviously a cut above the run of the mill modern pen nibs seen from many manufacturers.
I wouldn't go so far as to describe any nib as "perfect", there is simply too much variation in what I want any given nib to perform. But the Naginata Togi comes pretty close. It's very smooth, as you might expect from a nib that has been literally hand finished, and thanks to the individual fitting of the nib to the feed, the ink flow was just right, no matter the angle at which I tried the nib.
This isn't a flexible nib, despite the 21K construction, it's fairly rigid. The tip shape makes it fun enough to play around with, however, the resulting change in line width isn't as extreme as a superflex nib might produce, but it seems to be easier to control in fast writing. In fact, in terms of just being an all around "everyday" nib, the Naginata Togi ranks pretty high on my list of nibs I've tried.
It sounds as though the Naginata Togi is the way to go with the LB1, right?
Well... There is the Cross Emperor nib. If you like your nibs big and bold, and don't mind a wide line, the Cross Emperor nib takes the art of nib building to a new level. This nib is made in two layers, with the tipping material cut through in a cross, both horizontally as well as vertically.
This allows for a very fast flow of ink to the tip, which is ground at an angle, again allowing for the adjustment of line width through the way in which the pen is presented to the paper. To top it all off, there is a gold overfeed atop the nib, ensuring that you never run into a situation where the ink flow cannot keep up with your writing.
With the Cross Emperor nib you get a very, very wide, wet line. It's perfect for making an impressive signature. It's also perfect for impressing your pen knowledgeable friends, with the boldly shaped tipping, and overfeed clearly proclaiming that this is no ordinary nib.
But in day to day use? As impressive as the Cross Emperor might be, I'm leaning towards the Naginata Togi. While they are both very good nibs, offering perfect performance, the Togi seems a bit more usable under "ordinary" circumstances, filling out a form, or writing a letter. The Emperor has all that flair and dash, but the resulting line is wide enough to make using it for anything demanding precision very difficult.
Whichever nib you might choose, the LB1 you receive will have been checked for function. I am pretty sure from what I have read, and from conversations with Dick Egolf of Sailor USA, that each of the Naginata Togi and Cross Emperor nibs are tested by Sailor Japan. With the LB1, each one of the one hundred pens made was also checked by Andreas Lambrou before being packaged for delivery. This is all after the nibs have been practically hand made and tuned to the feed!
All this means that your LB1 will be a great writer. And that is what it is all about in the long run. A pen that you can fill and enjoy using is worth much more than the highest end LE that simply sits in a box. Appreciated, but unused. That's hardly a proper fate for a pen!
The LB 1 is packaged in the same type of handmade box as the previous Classic Pens limited edition pens, if you do insist upon keeping it in the box between uses, it will at least be attractively displayed. Each pen is numbered, the edition size consists of only one hundred pens.
Fifty of those will be available with the Cross Emperor nib, this version is priced at $795. The other fifty will be offered with the Naginata Togi nib, priced at $595. Basically, all the cost of these pens lies with the nibs. Sailor's "bargain" offering for the Cross Emperor nib, for example lists at $1100! The amount of hand work that goes into the creation of the nibs is very expensive.
Aside form the great nib (either choice!) you get a very nicely made pen that also combines a great feel and balance with a "middle of the road" size that should make most hands very happy. The LB1 looks like it's destined to be a success in terms of sales, the edition is almost sold out with pre-orders, but even more importantly, it looks to be a success form the standpoint of performance as well.