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Karas Kustoms Fountain K Mini - First Impressions


LizEF
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Today, the UPS man brought me a Karas Kustoms Fountain K Mini. His big brothers (all my normal-sized pens) and I have been anxiously awaiting his arrival, to the point where he was named "Baby Bro" before he even shipped... (Apparently I'm willing to name my pens...though this is the only one with a name.)

 

Initial impression: He's so cute and tiny!

 

post-131827-0-35670400-1483738092_thumb.jpg

 

As you can see it's the green anodized aluminum version, with the tumbled raw aluminum grip section (I thought it looked better than the others, and wanted to be sure it wouldn't get slippery). Here it is with some standard international short cartridges (5 were included) for reference:

 

post-131827-0-15833500-1483738108_thumb.jpg

 

The extra nib unit is because I already had one for the Fountain K (in hopes the nib would fit another pen - it didn't). The spring is to help ensure the cartridge doesn't work itself loose (and goes inside the barrel). It can be removed if you can find a mini converter that will fit in there (some say the Kaweco mini converter will fit). The barrel is 6cm deep (the diameter at the end may not support using all of that space, hard to say).

 

post-131827-0-58824800-1483738253_thumb.jpg

 

And there it is in my hand - I have small hands (6.5" from tip of middle finger to wrist; 7.5" span from tip of thumb to tip of little finger when splayed as wide as I can stretch them).

 

I got a 1.1 stub nib, and already had an EF nib, which is in there now. The EF nib is quite smooth - not buttery, but no scratchiness, well-aligned. It's neither wet nor dry (with Pilot Namiki Blue ink - which is way too pale - what were they thinking!?). You can get a tiny bit of line variation out of the nib. Reverse writing is scratchy, but the feed keeps up for about the width of an A5 sheet of paper, then runs dry - the line is akin to a Japanese EF nib. Though I haven't installed the 1.1 stub, just "dry writing" with it on a Rhodia dot pad, it feels smooth. I'll have to update later when I try that nib.

 

Construction and finish are first class - no scratches or anything on the body, nice even color, cap and section threads are nice and smooth. The hourglass shape of the section is my favorite, and I find it very comfortable to hold. It feels well balanced (but that could be because it's so small there's nothing to balance :rolleyes: ). I suspect the clip would survive a nuclear bomb - once clipped in your pocket, it's staying put - and this pen is small enough that you can even clip it in those things which pass for pockets on women's jeans these days. :lol:

 

All in all, I'm very happy with this purchase. After I've had time to use it for a while, I'll report back.

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I reviewed the Fountain-K in the past and had some problems with it, but I have some ideas about what might have gone wrong, and I'll be giving it another shot Real Soon Now. It's one that I just didn't feel right about giving up on.

Edited by tonybelding
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I reviewed the Fountain-K in the past and had some problems with it, but I have some ideas about what might have gone wrong, and I'll be giving it another shot Real Soon Now. It's one that I just didn't feel right about giving up on.

 

I'd be interested to know what happens when you get back to it.

 

After further use, either the nib is a bit dry after all, or it just doesn't like Pilot Blue. I've switched to De Atramentis Steel Blue, and it's much happier with that. With the Pilot Blue, every now and then, on the initial upstroke of a cursive letter at the start of a word, it wouldn't write - unless I applied pressure. Once the ink was flowing, it would finish the word (potentially multiple words); other initial strokes (like straight down) were fine. With the Steel Blue, it hardly ever happens - I'm wondering if the nib just has a small sweet spot or maybe the feed has a hard time keeping up - it does seem like I'm getting a finer line the longer I write. More experience needed. :)

 

PS: My brother feels it's important to warn everyone that the screws holding the clip on are ... flat-head slotted screws :yikes: - something intolerable since the invention of better styles. He wanted me to post a close-up photo, but I wouldn't want to traumatize anyone with views of such barbaric atrocities. :rolleyes:

Edited by LizEF
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PS: My brother feels it's important to warn everyone that the screws holding the clip on are ... flat-head slotted screws :yikes: - something intolerable since the invention of better styles. He wanted me to post a close-up photo, but I wouldn't want to traumatize anyone with views of such barbaric atrocities. :rolleyes:

Hi LizEF,

 

He's right! I'm just as glad you didn't include pictures, I have a hard enough time getting to sleep.

 

Let me ask: Do the threads bother you?

 

In your assessment, is it worth the $80+?

 

I've considered getting a standard K in olive, but I hesitate... :unsure:

 

- Anthony

Edited by ParkerDuofold
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It will be easier to clean detritus from the slot of a flat-headed screw than a Phillips or hex.

It's hard work to tell which is Old Harry when everybody's got boots on.

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Hi LizEF,

 

He's right! I'm just as glad you didn't include pictures, I have a hard enough time getting to sleep.

 

Let me ask: Do the threads bother you?

 

In your assessment, is it worth the $80+?

 

I've considered getting a standard K in olive, but I hesitate... :unsure:

 

- Anthony

 

The threads don't bother me, and I've found myself occasionally moving my thumb up onto them. But I've only had it a few hours, so I'll need some more time to really be able to give a good opinion.

 

The mini is $75, and they were (maybe still are) offering 15% off your first order, so it was $63.75 - so far, yes, I'd say it's worth it - but I love tiny things. One of the big tests will be when I put it in my jeans pocket and go to work on Monday - how comfortable that ends up being will be a significant part of it for me. Also, in the long run it'll depend on whether I can fix the occasional skip that happens at the start of some words - that kind of thing will drive me nuts. From the few review threads here, it seems like the nibs might be hit or miss, and it may depend on which nib grade / size you get... Your level of comfort tuning a nib might be a contributing factor in your decision.

 

Sleep well, and dream of anything but antiquated screw heads... ;)

 

It will be easier to clean detritus from the slot of a flat-headed screw than a Phillips or hex.

 

Good point. My brother would probably point out lots of fancy ways to clean out the slots on other screw heads, though - even if he had to buy $12,000 worth of tools and build a jig to do it. :rolleyes:

Edited by LizEF
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Let me ask: Do the threads bother you?

 

My brother said to inform you that the threads bother him: "It bothers me not knowing what the tpi and screw size are so I can send you appropriate screws." :)

 

I explained that you mean the cap threads above the section, but thought someone who appreciates his appraisal should commiserate with him... :)

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I've got both the Kustom K and the Ink models from Karas - they are very different and there's something special about them from my perspective. Both nibs needed some tuning (both had skipping issues) to get them up to spec but nothing I couldn't do on my own. In fact I just inked up the K a few days ago - it's such an industrial looking pen!

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I've got both the Kustom K and the Ink models from Karas - they are very different and there's something special about them from my perspective. Both nibs needed some tuning (both had skipping issues) to get them up to spec but nothing I couldn't do on my own. In fact I just inked up the K a few days ago - it's such an industrial looking pen!

 

Yes - love the industrial look of this thing (even if it is a bit small to be taken seriously :) ). If you don't mind me asking, how did you fix the skipping? I've had nibs that were misaligned or needed smoothing (so I know how to fix those), but this is the first that keeps skipping on me and I'm not sure how to fix that.

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Yes - love the industrial look of this thing (even if it is a bit small to be taken seriously :) ). If you don't mind me asking, how did you fix the skipping? I've had nibs that were misaligned or needed smoothing (so I know how to fix those), but this is the first that keeps skipping on me and I'm not sure how to fix that.

 

It was a bit of a crapshoot for me but I assumed it was baby's bottom. I would get hard starts and skipping (mainly on the downstroke) which fit the classic description.

 

I watched the Steven Brown video (

) then used some very fine sandpaper ( I didn't have micromesh at the time so I used super fine finishing sandpaper - you probably want to use micromesh!) very slowly and carefully to grind it down a bit. My fallback was simply buying a new nib if I ruined them as they're affordable ($20 from Goulet) but I had success for both nibs - they write wonderfully now!
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It was a bit of a crapshoot for me but I assumed it was baby's bottom. I would get hard starts and skipping (mainly on the downstroke) which fit the classic description.

 

I watched the Steven Brown video (

) then used some very fine sandpaper ( I didn't have micromesh at the time so I used super fine finishing sandpaper - you probably want to use micromesh!) very slowly and carefully to grind it down a bit. My fallback was simply buying a new nib if I ruined them as they're affordable ($20 from Goulet) but I had success for both nibs - they write wonderfully now!

 

Thanks! Step 2 was to go and re-find that video. :) Symptoms are the same for me, except on the initial upstroke (lower left curving up and right) for cursive letters. I do have a full set of micro-mesh (never used any but the finest).

 

I'll watch the video later today and give it a shot. Thanks!

 

(Oddly, this morning I've been doing logic puzzles and using the reverse side of the nib and I rather like it! It's like a Japanese EF. If I were going to continue that, I'd have to smooth it a little, but it's made me think...)

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My brother said to inform you that the threads bother him: "It bothers me not knowing what the tpi and screw size are so I can send you appropriate screws." :)

 

I explained that you mean the cap threads above the section, but thought someone who appreciates his appraisal should commiserate with him... :)

:lol:

 

Please do keep us posted, though; I've had a curiosity about these pens since I learned about their existence. The things that have kept me at bay, (besides the sub-standard screws :D), are the sharp cap threads and the nib complaints.

 

I don't mind adjusting a nib on $10 Chinese pen, but I resent having to adjust/fix one on a $100 pen.

 

- Anthony

Edited by ParkerDuofold
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OK, I followed Dr. Brown's instructions and the EF nib is perfect now - no skipping on either Rhodia or Clairefontaine. Since it's an EF nib, I started at 3600 grit rather than at 1500 (which is where he started, assuming the colors are standardized, which I think they are). While I was at it, I smoothed the top just a bit so the reverse writing is more than tolerable (if not entirely scratch free - didn't want to do too much lest I screw up the regular side).

 

I'd say this nib writes about like a Lamy EF (in other words, on the fatter side of EF).

 

Now I've swapped nibs and am testing the 1.1 stub. It started off dry - didn't want to write without pressure. So I ran a shim between the tines to be sure there was nothing in there, then I applied pressure on a sheet of scratch paper atop a hard surface, just to force the tines wider - did 5 short strokes that way. Now it's writing like a champ - I'd say it's a little wider than my Lamy 1.1 stub. It also likes a more vertical angle - like when you hold the pen by the joint where your index finger meets your hand, rather than resting it down on the web between thumb and hand. It writes either way, it's just harder for me to find the right rotation at the lower angle.

 

Obviously, more time will be needed to give an accurate impression over time, but I'm very pleased to have that EF nib working, and as soon as the Blue Steel runs out, I think I'll go back to it and the Pilot Blue and see if that will work for work (where I have to use a waterproof blue ink).

 

Please do keep us posted, though; I've had a curiosity about these pens since I learned about their existence. The things that have kept me at bay, (besides the sub-standard screws :D), are the sharp cap threads and the nib complaints.

 

During my testing, I did a fair amount with my fingers on the cap threads, and they're not bothersome at all (unless I squeeze really hard, and then it's only my middle finger under the pen that's irritated - I use a tripod grip). So I'd say the biggest issue with the pen is the nib, and fortunately, that was easy to fix.

 

I should point out that for the Mini, it won't take a converter (except maybe a Kaweco mini or similar). Right now I'm filling an old standard international short cartridge via syringe. I suspect that will get old before long, and I'll try the Kaweco and any other mini converter I can find, just to see how they work.

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And, after more time using the stub, I decided it wasn't me having a hard time keeping the rotation right, and followed the same procedure for the stub as I did for the EF nib, and now it too is much better. So it would seem that these nibs tend to have baby's bottoms or something else which is fixed in the same way.

 

Also, I've been thinking it's slightly back-heavy, so I weighed everything:

  • 24.5g Entire pen with empty cartridge
  • 9.4g Cap
  • 15.1g All but the cap
  • 11.4g body without the section, nib, cartridge
  • 3.7g section, nib, cartridge

I think a full cartridge would shift the balance slightly forward, but I kinda doubt it would be enough to notice. I vaguely recall reading about someone who got a brass or copper section so the weight would be more balanced. Based on what my brother says, the copper is slightly heavier than the brass, and both are a little more than 3x the weight of the aluminum (roughly). I could get another section and steel nib for $35. I may do that, may not. I'll have to use it longer. Just something to think about for anyone considering the pen.

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PS: My brother feels it's important to warn everyone that the screws holding the clip on are ... flat-head slotted screws :yikes: - something intolerable since the invention of better styles.

 

The thing that bothered me from the images was that the slots are not aligned, not even close.

Baptiste knew how to make a short job long

For love of it. And yet not waste time either.

Robert Frost

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The thing that bothered me from the images was that the slots are not aligned, not even close.

 

Yes, that compounded the offensiveness of the screws for him too. :) (And at least one other person on this forum, commenting on a regular Fountain K review.) I see it as an opportunity to engage in a healthy form of indifference. :lol:

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I received a bag of parts from Karas this morning: replacement nib unit, rollerball conversion kit, and the plug removal tool so I can switch freely between rollerball or fountain pen.

 

A quick test of the new nib-and-feed unit showed it has exactly the same burping problem as the original. I tried it with two different converters as well: a Schmidt K5 and a Wing Sung squeeze converter. No joy. I am forced to conclude that this is a design flaw in the pen. The feed and ink collector is simply too small and inadequate, and it can never be made to work properly and reliably with a converter. Although I haven't tried it, I speculate that it should most likely be OK with cartridges. I know that some people also remove their converter and fill it, then re-attach it to the pen. That would probably work too. Filling with a converter in the normal way just isn't going to fly with this pen, though.

 

Presumably this would never be an issue with the K Mini. I think that's the kind of pen this nib and feed were designed for: small pen, small capacity, cartridge only.

 

As for the rollerball conversion, it works as expected. The click-click-clicking of the metal refill tip against the aluminum grip section as I write would take some getting used to, though. I guess I'll stick with my Targas.

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A quick test of the new nib-and-feed unit showed it has exactly the same burping problem as the original. I tried it with two different converters as well: a Schmidt K5 and a Wing Sung squeeze converter. No joy. I am forced to conclude that this is a design flaw in the pen. The feed and ink collector is simply too small and inadequate, and it can never be made to work properly and reliably with a converter. Although I haven't tried it, I speculate that it should most likely be OK with cartridges. I know that some people also remove their converter and fill it, then re-attach it to the pen. That would probably work too. Filling with a converter in the normal way just isn't going to fly with this pen, though.

 

Presumably this would never be an issue with the K Mini. I think that's the kind of pen this nib and feed were designed for: small pen, small capacity, cartridge only.

 

Interesting. I plan to buy a couple of mini-converters and try them out. I'll reply back with results (but it'll be weeks or more before I buy them, so don't hold your breath). :)

 

Sorry you've had such problems. :(

 

Have Karas Kustoms had anything to say about it? Seems like if the pen won't write without burping, it's kinda useless.

 

I found that the Monteverde Clear Ink Cartridge Converter solved this problem for me on my Nemosine Singularity (only tried one converter on one of three pens - all of which burp; my next purchase will include two more converters, one for each of the other pens). This converter fits very tightly and doesn't like to let the ink move quickly.

 

As for filling the converter directly rather than through the nib, have you tried filling, then squeezing out a few drops, tipping the pen nib up, and sucking in some air to replace the dripped ink? That ought to pull at least some of what's in the feed down into the converter.

 

I wonder if Kaweco nibs would work better (they have a different feed), but are supposedly the same unit...

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As for filling the converter directly rather than through the nib, have you tried filling, then squeezing out a few drops, tipping the pen nib up, and sucking in some air to replace the dripped ink? That ought to pull at least some of what's in the feed down into the converter.

 

I had not tried that, until just now. It, uh... It didn't burp. But the ink flow soon started becoming erratic again, going wetter for a word or two at a time, as if the ink collector is still struggling. I wouldn't feel like I can trust it.

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I had not tried that, until just now. It, uh... It didn't burp. But the ink flow soon started becoming erratic again, going wetter for a word or two at a time, as if the ink collector is still struggling. I wouldn't feel like I can trust it.

 

I understand. When things don't perform consistently, it's pretty hard to trust them. :(

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