For the past 3 or 4 months, I’ve been wanting to get my hands on a Karas Kustoms INK – I’d heard so much buzz about this pen, but (cheapskate that I am) was waiting till I could jump on a good deal. The opportunity presented itself a few weeks ago, when Massdrop listed the pen for a second time – having passed upon the first offering, I wasn’t going to miss out again! The pen arrived yesterday, and I’ve been giving it a bit of a workout over the past 24 hours. So this isn’t a systematic review, so much as my initial impressions and a few photos. (For a more comprehensive review, not to mention more creative one, check out http://www.fountainp...-karas-kustoms/).
1. Appearance & Design
A word on the packaging, first of all. Anyone who’s bought a Karas Kustoms pen will probably be familiar with the brown and red cardboard box it ships in – about as ‘workmanlike’ as you can get. With the Karas Kustoms logo on the front, silhouettes of a few of their pen designs, and the words “Fully Machined in the USA”, you know exactly what you’re getting. I had to smile, though, at the writing on the underside. “Dozens of satisfied customers” – I hope they’re not over-stating their popularity...
I like the instruction sheet, too – especially the last line or two of text!
After some to-ing and fro-ing (and having read the following review: https://thepassionat...ain-pen-review/) I opted to pay an extra $10 for the brass grip section – which I think was a good move. It helps to move the balance of the pen a little more towards the front end.
The two words that immediately come to mind when I look at this pen are ‘industrial’ and ‘robust’ – it’s a solid, substantial pen to look at, and a fair bit of heft in the hand. The pen looks pretty cylindrical – though it does taper a little from top to bottom. It’s a shame that there’s such a large gap (2-3mm?) between the cap of the pen and the clip – it means the pen will be a little less secure in my shirt pocket. But that’s a minor quibble for me. This pen looks and feels like it could survive being run over a tank – which hopefully means it can withstand whatever abuse it might experience riding in my pocket as an EDC pen.
2. Construction & Quality
The build quality on this pen is just phenomenal – expertly machined from aluminium, with a semi-glossy anodised black finish on the pen cap and body. It takes about two full rotations of the cap to secure or unsecure – which is quite acceptable in my book. More importantly the cap screws smoothly and securely onto the pen body – likewise with the grip section. The clip stands out a long way from the cap of the pen (~5mm), which would be a liability if it were any less robust – but again, we’re dealing with solid metal materials here.
Here's a comparison with two of my other understated black pens - a Pilot Vanishing Point (top), and a Lamy 2000 (bottom):
3. Weight & Dimensions
Capped, the INK is about 137mm long; uncapped it’s 127mm, which is a pretty good fit for my hand. Just as well – the pen is not designed for posting, and you’d probably scratch up the finish if you tried to ram it on! It weighs in at a hefty 50g – though roughly 1/3 of that weight resides in the cap. That’s pretty comparable to some of my Jinhao pens (the x450 and 159), but for some reason this pen feels a lot heavier in the hand!
The exterior of the cap is about 14mm in diameter – this tapers down to around 11mm at the bottom end of the barrel. There’s a big step-down from the pen body to the grip section – but the way I hold the pen, that doesn’t matter. The grip section diameter is around 11mm at either end, tapering inward slightly to ~9.8mm in between.
4. Nib & Performance
The nib on the INK is a little smaller than I’d expect for a pen of this size – to my mind a #6 would look a little more natural than the #5 the manufacturers opted for. I’d also say that it lays down a broader line than I’d expect for a Fine nib – but I knew that would be the case when I bought it. The ink flow is generous, and the nib glides smoothly across the page. I’ve experienced a little bit of skipping – but I expect that will resolve itself as I “break the nib in”, and maybe give it a thorough rinse..
It’s worth noting that these pens utilise a Schmidt nib assembly that can be easily screwed out and replaced with another, compatible unit. The nib and feed are friction fit within the assembly, and can be pulled out with a bit of effort, if you want to experiment with #5 nibs from other manufacturers.
5. Filling System & Maintenance
The INK is designed to take standard international cartridges, and a good quality cartridge converter is included in the price.
6. Cost & Value
I was able to get a good discount on this pen via Massdrop – especially considering the shipping costs from the USA to Australia. $70 for the pen, plus $10 for a brass grip section, plus $5 postage – that came to a total of US$85. That’s still not a cheap pen – but for the quality of the design, materials and workmanship, I’d say it’s worth it!