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Karas Kustoms INK V2

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I backed the original Kickstarter version of the INK back in 2013.  Comparing it against other machined-metal pen designs at the time, the INK stood out for its nice usable size (without being too hefty), attractive shape (flat-top), and a clip that really appealed to the engineering geek in me.  There were only two issues I had with it, one minor, the other more serious -- the minor issue was the name "INK" which didn't seem to make sense ("A pen named Ink?"), but the more serious issue was the small #5 Schmidt nib that was incongruously small for the solid-but-not-overwhelmingly-large dimensions of the rest of the pen.  Unfortunately, the particular nib I got with my Kickstarter backing had flow problems, causing me to put it away and essentially forget about it.  


Karas Kustoms (as they were then) took into consideration customer feedback about the mismatched nib size and, remarkably, in 2015 managed to put a full-size #6 Bock nib into the pen without noticeably changing any of the external dimensions!  However, in order to do so, a part of the new bigger nib needed to be recessed into the section.  This 2015 design is called the "INK 2.0" by Karas.


Then, in 2020, Karas (now renamed as the Karas Pen Co.) made another change to the design of the INK 2.0 to display the entire #6 Bock nib, again without changing the external dimensions of the pen.  They also addressed other usage issues such as the cap unscrewing in people's pockets (with an O-ring inside the cap, something they call the Sta-Fast mechanism) and the discomfort of the section threads under one's fingers (by making the threads more square).  This newest version of the pen they called the "INK V2" thereby continuing the tradition of confusing naming (shouldn't the "INK 2.0" by rights be the holder of the "V2" title, and shouldn't therefore the "INK V2" actually be the "INK V3" or maybe the "INK 3.0"?).  




From left to right: Kickstarter INK (2013) in gray anodized aluminum with silver grip section and #5 Schmidt nib, INK 2.0 (2015) in silver anodized aluminum with silver grip section and #6 Bock nib, INK V2 (2020) in black anodized aluminum with silver grip section and #6 Bock nib.  (The INK V2 grip section is backward compatible with, and can be mounted on, the INK 2.0 pen, although I have not retrofitted it that way.)  Note how the #6 nib is partly recessed in the INK 2.0 section.  Note also the improvement in machining quality of the INK 2.0 and INK V2 sections compared to the Kickstarter INK section, which clearly shows machining marks.  All the pens are C/C fillers accepting standard international sized cartridges and come with a good Schmidt converter.


Anyway, with the INK V2, I think Karas has got pretty nearly everything right.  I voted with my wallet by purchasing one V2 in each kind of finish: tumbled aluminum, anodized aluminum, "battleworn" (a kind of stonewashed finish), and the ceramic-coated (as opposed to anodized) "cerakote".  They also make the V2 in copper and brass, but those models are both substantially heavier and substantially more expensive, so I did not buy them.




From left to right: Kickstarter INK, INK 2.0, INK V2 in black, INK V2 in tumbled aluminum, INK V2 in battleworn olive, INK V2 in red, INK V2 in "Storm Trooper" cerakote finish.  The cerakote pen is the only one with a black anodized clip and even the screws holding it to the cap are black anodized. 


So what exactly did Karas get "right" with the INK V2?  At a hair under 138mm capped, this pen is neither oversized nor small.  The design is clean, futuristic, and modern, like one of the better designs from the house of Lamy.  At 14.6mm at its widest, the barrel has just the right girth to feel substantial.  The section is (I think) 12mm in diameter, giving a nice comfortable grip.  And the trademark clip remains!  The aluminum pens weigh just under 42g with cap, so this is not a lightweight pen, yet the balance is excellent and you can write for many pages with no fatigue.  Karas also addressed the issue of nib QC by testing each nib they put on any of their pens (you will get a tester's card with your pen), and all the nibs that came with my V2 pens have performed excellently.


Talking of nibs, the default option is steel, but Titanium and 14kt gold are higher-priced options (all nibs from Bock).  The nibs are engraved with the Karas name on them -- a nice touch!

There are several choices of grip section materials and finishes as well -- in the aluminum grip sections you have tumbled, silver, and black as the usual options and very recently Karas introduced (presumably as an experiment) a body-colored grip section derived from one of their rollerballs which they call the "frag."  You can see this section on the "battleworn" finish olive pen below.




This battleworn olive pen has a Titanium nib, which I think nicely matches the color of the rest of the pen.  Note the difference in shape of the "frag" grip section compared to the two sections on either side of the battleworn olive pen.


Talking of that frag section, it seems to be an unfortunate miss in terms of writing comfort -- somehow my fingers actually start to hurt after only a brief period writing with that pen.  The issue seems to be the same as that reported by other reviewers when writing with the much-more-expensive Otto Hutt Design 08, which has a similarly terraced section.




The obligatory writing sample, although there is nothing much to say about it -- nice, smooth, well-tuned Bock steel nibs of different widths.  The paper is Doane Paper's Utility Notebook with the Boxcar ruling.  The inks are (from top to bottom): Diamine Terracotta, Kyo-no-Oto Adzuki-iro 06, Diamine Burgundy Royale.


At $100 with a steel nib, the aluminum INK V2 is an excellent value.  Moreover, it is very sturdily built and can be carried anywhere (with even more confidence now than before, given that the O-ring will both seal the cap and prevent its opening easily in one's pocket).  Karas have shown that they listen to customer feedback and make subtle but useful design changes to improve usability, while also experimenting on their own (unfortunately, the "frag" section was a failure, at least for me, but the battleworn olive finish is a rousing success).  I would go so far as to consider a modern-day pen collection incomplete without at least one INK V2.


S.T. Dupont Ellipsis 18kt M nib

Opus 88 Flow steel M nib

Waterman Man 100 Patrician Coral Red 18kt factory stub nib

Franklin-Christoph Model 19 with Masuyama 0.7mm steel cursive italic nib

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Thanks for this review - I recently took possession of the same Olive INK with frag section - so far I'm not having any issues with comfort, but I haven't yet used it for a long writing session!


Like you I have an original INK with #5 Schmidt nib (very rarely used), and a whole host of 2.0 pens (I've swapped a new grip section into a couple of them).  I really do think, though (as per your review) that the V2 is yet another improvement: the nibs look better in the new grips, and the sta-fast cap is definitely handy!

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Thanks for the review.

Very comprehensive taking into account the development history too which I always find interesting.

Strangely, I am moving into the market for a metal pen and this Karas model is on the short list with the Gravitas Sentry, TWSBI Precision and maybe the Lamy Aion as a bit of an outsider at present.

Your review may well sway me towards a purchase!

Thanks again.

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Glad I could help you make a purchase decision, @Topcat666!  Of the other pens you mentioned, I have a Lamy Aion and like it a lot, but I think the Karas INK V2 is actually just that bit more satisfying to hold and use. 

S.T. Dupont Ellipsis 18kt M nib

Opus 88 Flow steel M nib

Waterman Man 100 Patrician Coral Red 18kt factory stub nib

Franklin-Christoph Model 19 with Masuyama 0.7mm steel cursive italic nib

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