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  1. I am currently hesitating between two pens: a Karas Kustoms Ink with a fine gold Buck nib, black anodised section and tumbled raw aluminium or polished aluminium barrel or Sheaffer Targa silver or black with a gold nib also. Both are metal c/c pens and both come in the same price range (unless you look at the really expensive Targas). One is more classic, the other is more modern. One is slimmer and lighter the other is chunky and heavy without being Jinhao 159-kind of heavy. What I am looking for is a pen that I will love to carry around without fear of dropping it and destroying the finish, that will be fun to write with for extended periods of time without getting cramps (I would say I have basketball-grabbing sized hands), that will be fun to look at, even in 5 years time, and that will, obviously be rugged. To give you an idea of the size of pens I like, I really enjoy writing with my MB 146. It feels just perfect in my hand in terms of weight and size, whereas my Sheaffer Balance (500), as much as I like it, sometimes feels a bit on the small side of things. Strangely enough, considering what I just said, my Estie J feels perfectly adequate in terms of size and weight. On the opposite hand of the spectrum, my Jinhao 159 is nice but just too heavy to be fun to use for any extended period of time. Given all of this, which pen would you guys choose? What is your take on this?
  2. tonybelding

    Karas Kustoms Fountain-K

    The Karas Kustoms Fountain-K is one of the first pens in a while that has piqued my interest. I wasn't sure if I would find time for a full review, but here we are! First some background: Karas Kustoms (headed by Bill Karas) got their entry into the pen business by machining rollerball and ballpoint pens out of aluminum. The "Ink" was their first venture into fountain pens, and the Fountain-K is their second model. However, the Fountain-K is closely derived from an earlier rollerball design, the Render-K. The Ink is their full-sized fountain pen, and the Fountain-K is the more compact model. Karas Kustoms is a machine shop, and these are machined metal pens. They are available in aluminum, brass and copper. The brass and copper pens are, of course, more costly and much heavier, and they are sold with a bare metal finish that can tarnish and develop a dark patina over time -- attractive to some, and perfectly in line with their industrial style. My personal view is that people new to the pen hobby are often attracted to heavy pens at first but then come to prefer more lightweight pens as they gain experience. (This was definitely true for me.) Thus, I tend to view the copper and brass pens as novelty items to some extent, and I think the aluminum pens will be the real mainstays in the long run. Also, the aluminum pens are available in many anodized colors, or in a "raw" tumbled aluminum finish for that industrial look. Karas Kustoms does not make "custom pens" in the sense of a company like Edison. What they do, however, is offer all the interchangeable parts that can be assembled in many combinations. You can choose your material and color for the pen body, your material and finish for the grip section, and then choose from EF through B nib tip. http://zobeid.zapto.org/image/pens/karas/fountain-k_04.jpg I got my pen with a gold-anodized aluminum body, silver-anodized aluminum section, and a F nib. The price was $75, which is perhaps more than an impulse buy, but still nicely within the sub-$100 affordable category. Even though the Fountain-K looked very attractive to me in pictures, I also had some points of skepticism. Would the pocket clip be too stiff? Would the cap seal well and not dry out? Would the cap come loose in my pocket? This is a product from a relatively new-and-unproven company without a track record in fountain pens. Do they know what they're doing? After having the pen for a while, my conclusion is. . . Yes, they do. Mostly. I did have a few issues to sort out with mine. First there was the burping. Immediately after filling the pen, it burped ink onto the page. It did this with every ink that I tried, and it did it twice in quick succession, and then the ink flow continued to be erratic for a little while, but gradually settled down. I blamed this at first on the nib or feed, but then a FPNer suggested that I try a different converter. I was lucky enough to have an identical spare converter (from Goulet) on hand to try, and it fixed the problem. I can only presume the original converter wasn't making an airtight seal onto the feed nipple. As far as I can tell, this was a freakish problem that few will encounter, and it could happen to any pen that accepts a converter. It's not a Fountain-K issue, as such. The second difficulty was with ink flow. As is all-too-common with new pens, it was a dry writer. Too dry. I pondered a nib swap, but the Fountain-K nib has an unusual profile and doesn't swap easily with other No. 5 nibs. You really need to change out the entire nib-and-feed assembly. However, I noticed it seemed to get a little better as I wrote with it, and I thought, "Maybe it just needs some breaking-in?" I made a series of firm strokes down the back cover of a notebook, flexing it pretty hard. Suddenly the flow was good! Easiest nib adjustment I ever made. Once adjusted, it performs as I expect a contemporary, made in Germany, fine steel nib to perform: firm, smooth and perfectly serviceable. No surprises there. Now, with the pen writing as it should, I could focus on more details of its design and construction. Cosmetically, I agonized a bit over the choice of color and finish, even though (or perhaps because!) they all looked good in the photos. The gold color pen I picked does not disappoint. The anodized aluminum has a satin luster that cannot be mistaken for gold metal, but it does somewhat resemble clean brass. The cap has one tiny "flea bite" ding, but it's only visible when I look closely. The knurled (checkered?) cap, slightly rough edges of the pocket clip, and exposed clip screws all reinforce the industrial styling. It does look good! It's sharp looking without being at all pretentious. In that sense I think it falls into the same stylistic category as a Lamy 2000 or a stainless steel Sheaffer Targa. Nobody's going to take it for a "status" or prestige pen, but nobody's going to see it as shoddy either. This is a very easy pen to carry in a pocket or pen loop. I often wear a canvas vest with a pen slot sewn into the pocket, and the Fountain-K fits very neatly into that space. The tension on the clip is perfect, and it does not snag or chew on the fabric. The knurled portion of the cap makes a perfect handle when pulling out the pen to use it. The smooth profile of the body and cap also allows it to slide in and out easily, and I don't have to worry about wear from the canvas upon the super-tough anodized finish. Portability is a strength of the Fountain-K. The "guts" of this pen are pretty standard. The nib-and-feed assembly is German made, and the converter is a standard Schmidt K5. It's not a screw-in converter, which I would usually prefer (and which might have avoided the problem I had with that first converter), but the pen body is perfectly sized without any extra space for the converter to shift about. The only unusual thing to see here is the very small nib. It's a No. 5 nib, but it's shorter than most and has a very specific profile to fit into a recessed area of the feed. I don't think I've seen a modern fountain pen that puts my fingers this close to the page, and I don't particularly like it. For my money, I would have preferred a more standard No. 5 nib like you'll find in a TWSBI 580, for example. On the other hand. . . If you are accustomed to writing with ballpoints and want a fountain pen you can hold similarly, then you might love writing with the Fountain-K. If you have very small hands, then you might love it. For me it's not going to be the most comfortable for long writing sessions. However, in the context of a "carry" pen that I'll be using away from the house, scribbling down quick notes, signing documents or writing a check -- then it's OK. (And let's not forget, the Karas Kustoms Ink is bigger and has a larger nib!) http://zobeid.zapto.org/image/pens/karas/fountain-k_03.jpg After using the pen lightly for a few days, I encountered another problem. The two tiny screws holding the pocket clip in place came loose! Luckily I caught them before they fell out. The fix for this was easy: use a small screwdriver to remove them, put a tiny dab of threadlock compound on each screw, then put everything back together. It should be good now. However. . . This is not a fault that I can easily dismiss. It would have been very easy to lose those screws, and then my pen would have been out of service until I could get replacements. Not everyone has a tube of threadlock laying about in their toolbox either. Pens have had pocket clips for many decades, and the vast majority have been designed in such a way that the clips won't spontaneously come loose. Even simply applying threadlock when the caps are assembled would probably solve this. Why don't they? http://zobeid.zapto.org/image/pens/karas/fountain-k_05.jpg After carrying and using the Fountain-K for a while, I realized this is no Lamy 2000 and this is no Targa. It's a less expensive, less sophisticated pen. A better comparison might be the good old Esterbrook J. The Fountain-K is actually very close in size to an Esterbrook J, and it shares the traits of toughness, compactness, customization and affordability. If Esterbrook was still in business today -- and was owned by Alcoa -- this is the pen they might give us.
  3. Hi everyone, I am currently considering buying the Karas Kustoms Ink fountain pen. I am having trouble deciding on a nib material. I want a very rugged pen that I will be able to carry around without fear of breaking and so I also want a nib that will stand the test of time, i.e. resist to corrosion, not bend beyond repair too easily (although I am not much of a flex writer, I don't enjoy a stiff nib either) and generally be easy to maintain. The gold nib is out for me though just because I feel like it really doesn't fit wit the rest of the pen's design although if they ever came out with gold furniture gold would certainly be my main option. Or maybe you will convince me to pick gold despite the clip being silver coloured. I was wondering if I should just go with stainless steel or take a risk with titanium (even though Richard Binder seems to really strongly recommend against using titanium)? Thank you all very much in advance! Edited from the post I originally made. I must have a dreamt that they were offering platinum nibs...
  4. My Karas Kustoms Fountain-K arrived in this morning's mail. I opted for the gold-anodized aluminum body, silver (or clear) anodized aluminum grip section, and a Fine nib. So, here are some quick first impressions. . . It is, in fact, a compact pen. It's not tiny, but it's smaller than the Bexley that I've been carrying in my vest pen loop, and it's fatter-but-shorter than a Sheaffer Targa. The cap, in particular, is slimmer than a lot of screw-on caps and, closing flush with the body, it can't hang it up when slipping the pen into a loop. The knurled top makes it easy to pull out, too. The pocket clip works much better than I expected. I'd heard about how stiff these are, and I usually avoid very stiff clips. However, the shape is ideal, it doesn't have sharp edges, and it slips into the canvas loop easily, and it holds firmly. The gold color is attractive. The finish isn't super slick, but to me it has exactly the right luster that anodized aluminum ought to have. I can put it under the loupe and find a couple of flea-bite sized dings, but for a pen of this material, style and price point, it simply looks good. The cap can be posted. It can actually go on pretty securely, but it hangs way out on the end of the barrel, and I'd worry about wear to the finish. I think most people will choose not to post it. The cap give me some concerns. The threads are very "loose", and the cap can wobble and rattle all the way down until its lip snugs up against the shoulder of the pen body. When you screw it all the way down, a sort of wedge forms with threads pushing one direction and the lip pushing the other direction and locking it shut. However. . . If any bump or jostle were to break that wedge loose, there is no more friction, and the cap would immediately come unscrewed -- in your bag, in your pocket, wherever it is. It does not seem secure to me. Also, I have some doubts about the cap seal. As already mentioned, the threads are quite loose. There is no inner cap. There is no O-ring. There is basically nothing to seal the cap except the lip wedged against the shoulder of the pen body. Only time will tell if this is sufficient to keep the pen from drying out. The No. 5 nib and feed and converter are all off-the-shelf standard parts. I would normally prefer a screw-in converter, but I don't think it matters in this case, since the interior of the pen is so filled that there's no space for the converter to shift around. It also fits snugly onto the feed. After filling the pen and starting to write, it immediately burped ink onto the page! Oops, did I not wipe off the nib properly? I grabbed a paper towel and wiped it. Then started to write again. . . and it immediately burped more ink onto the page! What the hey? I wiped it again and gave it a minute to settle down, then started writing again. I got about two words in, and it suddenly became super-wet as if it was just about to burp again, but then it went back to normal and started writing well. Smooth, good flow. . . I'm still trying to figure out what happened. Aluminum is an excellent conductor of heat. I am concerned that grabbing the pen may warm it so quickly that it creates a slight over-pressure inside the pen body and pushes out a burp of ink, which is more than the (rather small) ink collector can handle. I'll have more to report later. Eventually I'll work up an actual review.
  5. I want a Karas Kustoms Fountain-K pen. They are sold through Goulet now, so that should be easy, right? Wrong! They are offered in many choices of material and finish: copper, brass, raw tumbled aluminum, and aluminum anodized in a wide range of colors. I know I don't want the copper or brass, but what color of aluminum I should get is driving me nuts. There are several that look really good to me, although exactly how dark these colors look in "real life" is hard to discern exactly from photos shot under varied lighting. I almost went for olive green, but then saw that color is out of stock. Blue, gold or gray all look good to me. Silver, black, or tumbled raw are viable options. They don't even have a photo of the orange one yet. . . I almost went for blue, then thought. . . If I got blue, I would find myself only wanting to use blue ink in it. But then I thought, I like blue ink. I have a lot of blue ink here. Is that so bad? I think this would be a good looking pen almost without regard to the chosen color. There is no "wrong" choice here, and that somehow makes it so much harder.

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