This Just In: Karas Customs Ink Fountain Pen

Karas Customs Ink Fountain Pen on eagle I backed the Ink fountain pen from Karas Customs last December. Like other Kickstarter projects I’ve backed, the pen was late, but it’s here now. Here are my first impressions after using the pen for an hour or two.

This is Karas Customs first fountain pen but their fourth Kickstarter pen and sixth KS project overall. I backed at the early bird level for the silver anodized aluminum fountain pen. The pen is available in a rollerball version but that was meaningless to me.

It’s been awhile since I backed the project so I had forgotten what to expect. My first reaction was “Holy @$%@, that’s big!” The pen arrived in three parts: pen body (and cap), gripping section/nib and the converter. Each part was sealed in it’s own plastic pouch. Assembly and filling instructions were included along with a discount code for an second Ink. Even though it arrived in pieces (probably because a rollerball version was available and would have had a different section). Assembly was easy and no different than most fountain pens these days. The section just screws into the barrel.

I decided to skip the pre-ink cleaning which is what I think most people will do. I immediately filled it with Montblanc Mystery Black. When I first started writing the pen felt strange. Not uncomfortable, just strange. I finally figured out the my hand didn’t like the difference between the gripping section width and the width of the barrel. I got used to it after about a page of writing and don’t notice it anymore. The threads are big and a little sharp, but the section is long enough so that my grip doesn’t rest directly on the threads.

The fine nib is made by Schmidt. Flow is good. It’s not the smoothest steel nib I have but it is smooth. A look through a loupe shows that the tines are slightly misaligned. I haven’t experienced any skipping with the pen and I wouldn’t call the nib scratchy so the misalignment isn’t significant.

The pen is big and heavy, although the pen body is not as heavy as it looks and it’s very comfortable to write with. I’ve only written a few pages so I can’t really speak to fatigue, but I don’t expect it to be a problem. The pen cap feels heavier than the body but this is an allusion created by having most of the weight in the clip. The pen body is 26 grams (with the converter and ink) and the cap is 16 grams. I don’t post my pens and this one is plenty long enough to use unposted. The cap does post but it doesn’t feel secure to me. Plus, the cap makes the pen very long and very top heavy. With much of that weight in the clip I also find it unbalanced.

Speaking of the clip, I love the look of the clip but it’s solid aluminum with no spring to it. Because of this it won’t grip the material unless its thick enough. It’s secure in the shirt pocket I have today because the material is folded over and sewn at the top. It may be less secure in the typical dress shirt pocket. There’s also no give for really thick material but in my case it does fit in a Franklin-Christoph Penvelope case which is probably the thickest material I’ll encounter.

Overall the Ink has a machined look to it which I like. It both looks and feels solidly built. The aluminum finish does collect fingerprints but they aren’t too distracting and I do have to look closely to see them.

My early bird price was $60 and at that price the Karas Customs Ink fountain pen is a terrific value. At the regular pledge price of $70 it’s still an excellent value. Brass and copper sections do cost a bit more. They still aren’t up on the Karas Customs website so the final price is unknown, but I’d say anything under $100 is a good value. The fit and finish are great and the pen feels like it will last forever.

Update: After storing the pen nib up overnight it didn’t start in the morning. I ended up having to prime the feed. Since this hasn’t been a problem with the ink in other pens I suspect there’s some manufacturing oil in the pen and a cleaning would have been better rather than jumping right in.

Karas Customs Ink Fountain Pen uncapped

About these ads

This Just In: TWSBI Classic

I just received my TWSBI Classic today and wanted to post my early impressions. Really early, I’ve only had the pen a couple hours.

In the interest of time the photos are from my phone and it’s a picture of my article draft written with the pen. I usually don’t inflict my writing on you, especially since sometimes the words in my head appear differently on paper.

It’s a thinner TWSBI than usual, there’s a comparison photo in the gallery. So here’s the initial impressions and a camera phone gallery (double-click the photos for full size).

For some reason I want to call this the “Mini”, a pen I do not have. Hopefully I caught the only slip.

While I say the ink is Diamine Ancient Copper. It’s not. That was my plan but I picked up Diamine Oxblood instead. Long day, didn’t notice until the post went up and I was proofing it.

Write-up of first impressions

Diamine Oxblood ink. Not Diamine Ancient Copper like it claims to be,


Recent Arrivals

Last week was a good week for acquisitions, and they arrived this week.

Esterbrook 8440 nibFirst up is yet another Esterbrook 8440 nib. The base is stained with red ink but the gold is in better condition than the other 8440 nib I have. No doubt the staining kept the price down.

Then my Parker Vacumatic collection grew by one with the addition of a 1944 Parker Blue Diamond Vacumatic Major in Golden Pearl (aka Brown Striped). The transparency is very good and it has an XXF nib.

1944 Parker Blue Diamond Vacumatic Kajor

The bargain of the bunch was a batch of 6 Esterbrook nibs. Three were the common #1550, but the three nibs below are new to me. The first two are the uncommon #1314 flexible fine nibs. One was in the original box and seems either unused or lightly used. The third nib is a 2314-M Relief medium Stub which is new to me although I like my other Relief Stubs. I usually avoid flex nibs since they’re lost on me but I have this need to collect every Esterbrook nib and this deal was too good to pass up..

3 Esterbrook nibs

I haven’t inked any of these up yet, but that’s what weekends are for.

This Just In: Parker Vacumatic Maxima

Photo of the Parker Vacumatic  Maxima Silver PearlMy latest acquisition is another vintage pen and new fountain pen territory for me. The Vacumatics caught my eye at the Long Island pen show, especially the ones I later learned were the “pearl” colors. I didn’t get one in LI because didn’t know much about them (and onsite research was overwhelming) and I didn’t find one that was just right.

I was especially drawn to the wear pattern and the amber tint that some of them had. It was only this week that I learned from the Pen Addict podcast that the amber tinting is shunned by Vacumatic collectors, or if not shunned, it lowers the value to a collector.

I was browsing eBay last Sunday when I came across this pen, a 1942 Parker Vacumatic Maxima. It was perfect. A silver Pearl finish with nickel (not gold) trim and a fine nib. It didn’t seem to have any amber tinting from the pictures or description. While I didn’t know the meaning behind the tinting at the time, I knew I didn’t want it with this particular pen since it would clash with the silver and black.

The downside was that the pen would be pricey (IMO) and I would be buying it sight unseen. The seller had a good rep as a seller and fountain pen restorer so I took a risk.

Photo of the Parker Vacumatic  Maxima Silver Pearl

The pen arrived today and it’s every bit as nice as I hoped it would be. If I look closely, in the right light, I can see some amber tinting in the clear areas. But it doesn’t show in normal light or distance and the view of the ink is excellent. I love the way the silver striping has worn away from use. Too bad it’s not my use that created the wear pattern.

For its first ink I picked Montblanc Bordeaux, which is my favorite. I’ll probably stick with Bordeaux until I run out then decide whether I should switch to Montblanc Burgundy or something completely different. The ink just seems right for the pen. I was a little leery of going with a red ink but Bordeaux has always treated me well.

I’ve only had the pen for a couple hours and I’m still on the “new pen” high (new to me at least) but this pen seems destined to be one of my favorites, if not my favorite.

Photo of the Parker Vacumatic  Maxima Silver Pearl

This Just In: Esterbrook J Copper

Photo - copper Esterbrook J

Actually, this arrived at the end of March but I just inked it up this past weekend. It’s a copper Esterbrook J with a #9461 rigid fine nib.

It’s my second vintage pen and second Esterbrook. It’s a eBay purchase I added to my accumulation because I/m I sucker for copper or bronze and I could add another hard fine nib.

The paperwork (the pen came with the original box & literature) refers to the nib as “rigid, fine” but I’ve also seen it described as a “manifold” nib. It’s designed to be extra strong for uses such as carbon paper. I figure it will also last longer with a light writer or be suitable for a non-fountain pen user to try.


Ink and Nibs

Photo of today's deliveryI just received my latest shipment from Goulet Pens, ink and nibs. It may have been rash but I decided that the TWSBI Vac 700 would make a good pen for testing inks. Rash because I’m not sure how much its quirks will annoy me, although those quirks affect it more as a daily carry than a pen that stays home. Plus, I’m just curious on how it will write with different nibs. The pen is comfortable to write with and the nibs are easy to change. Add ease of cleaning to this and it does seem like a good pen for ink testing. So I ordered some nibs giving me the extra fine that came with the pen plus a fine, medium, broad and 1.1 mm stub. The only one I ignored was the 1.5mm stub.

I also ordered a bottle of Pilot Iroshizuku Shin-ryoku (Forest Green). I went through my sample and decided it was a green I wanted around, and in a pen, all the time.

Since I was ordering I picked a few more samples (why not?) – Sailor Jentle Epinard, Sailor Jentle Grenade and Pelikan Brown.

The first ink for review in the TWSBI Vac 700 won’t be one of the new ones, instead I’ll be doing J. Herbin Lie de The’. An ink I wrote notes on awhile back but I need to revisit since I I think it’s better than I made it out to be.

Time to clean out some nibs and get them ready for ink.

First Impressions: TWSBI Vac 700

TWSBI Vac700 cappedEarlier this week Mike left a comment asking what I thought ove the Vac 700. I hadn’t used it very much at the time but generally liked it. I’ve been using it as my primary work pen for the last couple of days. While I haven’t changed my generally favorable impression I now have more questions and concerns which made me realize that I won’t be able to do a complete review anytime soon. Too many questions.

My pen is the clear demonstrator model with a extra fine nib. The Vac 700 line has been sold with nibs from Bock and Jowo. My pen has a Jowo nib and based on what I read the switch to Jowo was complete before the Demonstrator was released so they all have Jowo nibs.

First the good – the pen is very comfortable to write with. It’s plastic but feels solidly built. There’s a slight taper to the pen which is nice. The extra fine nib is a smooth writer (more on this later). I haven’t had any false starts or skipping. My thumb and fingers do brush against the threads but they aren’t sharp and it doesn’t bother me,

The primary reason I bought the pen was the Vacuum filling system. I’m not a fan of cartridge/convertor demonstrator pens but I am a sucker for pens where I can watch the ink slosh around inside. None of my other pens are vacuum fillers. No regrets here.

Now for the questions and concerns.

I knowingly committed the sin of using a brand new ink (for me) in a brand new pen. While flow is consistant it is a dry writer. I’ve yet to try the ink in another extra fine nib, but the ink is consistently wetter in the fine and wider nibs I’ve used. Not an ink I’d call dry. My gut is that this is a dry nib but I’ll have to try another ink to know for sure.

The vacuum filling system is easy to use as far as filling the pen goes. It easily fills to about 1.5mm. Goulet Pens has a video on how to get a complete fill, about 2 ml. although getting a complete fill might be messy. The real complications arose when writing with the pen.

The pen has a shut off valve with the filling system. When closed the pen still has several pages of ink left in the feed, at least with the EF nib. I’ve gone about two and a half pages without a noticeable difference in the ink flow. For longer writing sessions the filler nob is turned to lift the plunger and open the seal. And that’s where my questions begin.

I left the seal open during the day of taking notes but would cap the pen. I did notice some ink drops inside the cap. I can’t really say if they appeared from carrying to and from work, with the seal closed, or while it was unsealed during the day. But I didn’t notice them until the end of the workday. I also wonder what would happen if I forget to seal it up and put it in my pocket or pen case. Will ink leak into the cap or out the now loose filler cap?

TWSBI Vac 700 cappedCall it careless, but one time when I was opening the seal I slipped and moved the plunger a little too much, forcing a large drop of ink onto my desk.

It’s an expensive ink, Diamine Strauss, in there now so I’ll be emptying most of what’s left back into the bottle. I’ll fill it with water a jostle it around a bit with the seal and filler cap open to see if any leaks out. Then I’ll fill it with a ink I already know. I usually end up with Waterman Florida Blue after committing the new ink/new pen sin, but I really want a nice red or green ink sloshing around in there.

Lastly, I like that TWSBI makes pens that anybody (meaning me) can take apart and service. They include some silicone grease, a couple extra o-rings and a wrench to help disassemble the pen. Although I’ve yet to take apart this pen.

There are replacement nibs available so if the extra fine nib is still too dry with other inks I can always swap it out if I like the pen. I’m just wondering if the vacuum filling system makes the pen too high maintenance for someone who’s likely to forget to seal it back up before putting it in my pocket or carelessly squirt ink on the desk. Eventually I’ll get answers to these questions and write a more complete review. But at this point I consider it well worth the $80. The real expense is getting to know the pen.