Review: KarasKustoms Ink

Four KarasKustoms InksKarasKustoms is well known in the pen community for their machined rollerball pens. They launched 3 rollerballs on Kickstarter, all of which received great reviews. I was always attracted to the machined look of the pens along with their choice of materials. Despite this, I’ve never bought one because, well, rollerball. But I was immediately attracted to their fourth pen design, the Ink, which was offered in both fountain pen and rollerball versions. I quickly backed at the early bird level for one silver anodized aluminum fountain pen.

After getting, and using, my first Ink I added another fountain pen and two rollerballs to my accumulation. An thanks to a black Friday sale at KarasKustoms (which runs through December 1st so there’s still time to get the 20% discount if you’re reading this on the day I publish this. Use coupon code “blackfriday”) I’ve ordered both another fountain pen and a rollerball. So while the pens aren’t perfect It’s obvious I like them.

The Kickstarter pen was a few months late, as I’ve come to expect from Kickstarter. The pens I ordered directly from KarasKustoms shipped quickly.

Why I Got Them

I love the industrial look of machined pens and aluminum, my raw aluminum AL Sport is a favorite. So the aluminum Kickstarter fountain pen was a no brainer. The size of the pen also seemed perfect for me. I was also intrigued by the Rollerball since it used the Schmidt P8126 refill which is my refill of choice in my Retro 51 pens. But I decided to stick with the one pen since I didn’t have any experience with KarasKustoms pens. (So unfamiliar that I spelled their name wrong when previously writing about them.)

The Kickstarter pen arrived and it included a discount code for a second pen. After a couple days of use I used the code to order a green rollerball version with a brass gripping section. The barrels, caps and gripping sections are all interchangeable so I could mix and match. To be clear, the rollerball section remains a rollerball and the fountain pen section remains a fountain pen, but they can we swapped to different barrels and the caps can also be swapped among the barrels.

The finish on the green rollerball was stunning so I wanted more. I used the Pen Addict discount code and ordered another two pens, one fountain pen and one rollerball. The rollerball was red with an aluminum section and the fountain pen was orange (but more on this later) with a copper section and a medium nib.

This weekend I ordered a blue fountain pen with a brass gripping section and a medium nib. I also ordered a black rollerball with a copper gripping section. This will give me a gripping section in each material for each pen type but not quite all the available colors. Ok, I’m a little obsessed. I’ll update this review after those pens arrive and I’ve used them a bit.

What I Got

The packaging is about as minimal as can be. The pen parts are sealed in plastic pouches which are wrapped in packing paper for protection. The only box is the shipping box. At least there’s no decision as to whether or not to save the box.

The Ink parts

The barrel, rollerball and fountain pen packaging.

The caps, barrels and sections are all interchangeable but here’s the pens as I ordered them. While I’ve yet to do it, the nibs can also be swapped between the fountain pen gripping sections. Insomnia has some nib swap instructions.

  • Silver aluminum fountain pen with an aluminum gripping section and a fine nib.
  • Green aluminum rollerball with a brass section. I ordered this one with a black ink refill.
  • Red aluminum rollerball with a aluminum gripping section. I ordered this one with a blue ink refill.
  • Orange (light orange) aluminum fountain pen with a copper gripping section and a medium nib. I ordered this pen as a orange model. What I got wasn’t what expected and appeared more gold than orange. In fact, when I checked the website after the pen arrived I saw orange was no longer an option, although gold is. I don’t remember if gold was an option when I ordered, but the photo does include a pen that is clearly bright orange along with one that seems a closer match to the pen I received. I didn’t immediately contact KarasKustoms because I really like the gold, especially with the copper section, and wanted to keep it. I don’t know if they changed the anodizing (which I’ve heard) or sent me the wrong pen. I did send a note this past weekend asking for clarification on the color and I’ll update this review when I hear back. (I heard back, and as mentioned in the comments it was confirmed the pen I got was officially orange. But I forever be calling it gold.) But if you see orange listed in the future and want bright orange  you may want to contact them before ordering. My pen looks gold in bright, direct light but does appear a light orange in indirect and subdued light. If I had to guess I got what they are now calling gold. But until I learn different I’ll call it orange in this review.

The fit was excellent in all the pens except the green rollerball with the brass section. The cap was very tight to screw off (and on). What’s confusing, at least to me, is that the green cap fits perfectly on all the other barrels and all the other caps fit perfectly on the green barrel. The green cap has smoothed out a little but remains tight on the green body. I may eventually add a little silicone grease to help things along.

Both fountain pen nibs were smooth out of the box, I mean bag. The nibs, and converter, are made by Schmidt. The nib is a #5 nib, Schmidt part number FH241. I didn’t clean either fountain pen before using it. The fine nib had some minor skipping which went away after the first cleaning. It wasn’t bad enough to cause me to flush the pen before I wrote it dry, but there must have been some residual manufacturing residue.

The steel nibs are all silver with a lot of ornamental engraving. The fine has a large “F” on it and the medium has a large “M”. The nib seems just a tad small for a pen this large, but I am partial to big nibs.

The pens are identical except for the gripping section. Well, except for the obvious fountain pen / rollerball difference. The gripping section material also changes the weight with the aluminum being lighter than the brass and copper. My aluminum rollerball section is 2 grams, the brass is 10 grams. I wasn’t forward thinking enough to weigh the fountain pen sections before inking them up so no separate weights for them.

The brass and copper sections should develop a nice patina over time. The aluminum section might not be the best choice for dipping in some of the more caustic inks. Although the inks I use should be find and I do clean off the section right after each fill.

KarasKustoms Inks ready to write

The pen is $85 with the aluminum gripping section. The brass section is $10 more and the copper is $20 more. Shipping is extra. If you missed the black Friday sale check the previously linked Pen Addict podcast for a coupon code, it may still be valid. Fountain pens and rollerballs are the same price.

The Numbers

  • Length Capped: 5.4288″ (137.80 mm)
  • Length Uncapped (fountain pen): 4.9330″ (125.30 mm)
  • Length Uncapped (rollerball): 4.7965″ (121.83 mm)
  • Length Posted: 6.9″ (175 mm)
  • Section Length: 0.8360″ (21.23 mm)
  • Section Diameter (near nib): 0.4135″ (10.50 mm)
  • Section Diameter (below threads): 0.4130″ (10.49 mm)
  • Section Diameter (mid-section): 0.3730″ (9.47 mm)
  • Cap Diameter: 0.5785″ (14.61 mm)
  • Barrel Diameter: 0.5785″ (14.61 mm) The barrel is tapered.

The weight of each of the pens with ink and converter is…

* Orange (very light) / copper section / fountain pen: 50g w/cap, 32g w/o cap

* Red / aluminum section / rollerball: 46g w/cap, 28g w/o cap

* Green / brass section / rollerball: 52g w/cap, 36g w/o cap

* Silver / aluminum section / fountain pen: 42g, 26g w/o cap

Using The Pen

Four capped InksThe pen is big, no hiding that fact. But being made of aluminum the pen is lighter than I expected. That doesn’t mean it’s a light pen as you can see from the weights. The brass and copper gripping sections do add weight to the pen and the difference is noticeable when holding the pens. The pens are well balanced with all of the section materials.

The pen does post, although I’d be concerned the cap threads would scratch the barrel finish. I don’t post my pens so this isn’t a concern for me. The pen is certainly big enough to be used unposted. Even though the cap adds significant weight and length the pen still seems well balanced when posted. But that’s the opinion of someone who doesn’t post his pens.

The pen really isn’t a shirt pocket pen, at least in my opinion. It’s a bit bigger and heavier than I’d prefer in my shirt pocket. Plus, the rigid clip doesn’t adapt to the material it’s clipped over. It will either fit your pocket material or it won’t. In the case of my green pen, where the clip presses right against the barrel, it is difficult sliding it over even the thinnest material. The other clips can slide of of my pocket when the material is thin. On the positive side, they work well in my Franklin-Christoph Penvelope and Nock Co Lookout pen cases where the material has some stiffness to it, even if it is thick.

The cap takes a full 1 3/4 turns to remove or replace. Except for the previously mentioned green pen the threads are very smooth.

Both the fine and medium nibs were very smooth out of the bag. Both the converters have had the relatively common problem of ink clinging to it and not flowing to the feed. This has been minor and only required manual correction a couple of times. As it happens, I’ve only used Montblanc inks in the pens and they tend to be on the dry side which probably contributes to the converter/ink issue. The pen will take international cartridges but none are included with the pen and I haven’t used any. The barrel seems big enough for long cartridges.

The pen is almost perfect for my hand. My thumb and finger does touch the threads on the barrel but they don’t bother me. There’s also a step between the barrel and the gripping section but again, it doesn’t bother me. The gripping section is concave which makes it comfortable to grip. I’ve written for over an hour with both the aluminum and copper fountain pen gripping section and haven’t felt any fatigue. I do find large pens more comfortable and the weight doesn’t bother me. I find the weight makes me feel like I can control the pen without having to grip as tightly. I haven’t written with the rollerball versions for more than a few minutes at a time but they feel just as comfortable.

Karas Customs Ink Fountain Pen uncappedThe silver pen was the first one I received and it has begun to show some scratches from use. I like that in a silver aluminum pen and think it gives it personality. My other pens haven’t shown any wear and tear yet. I prefer to keep the colored versions scratch free so we’ll see how it goes. I don’t abuse my pens but I also don’t treat them with kid gloves either. The silver version may have spent time in my pocket with keys or bouncing around my bag. The colors have stayed in cases or pen stands.

Cleaning The Pen

It’s a cartridge/converter pen so cleaning it is easy. I haven’t tried to remove the nib for cleaning and don’t really see where that would be necessary unless the ink is allowed to dry out in the pen. The ink was quickly flushed out of the pen with a bulb syringe.

Inks Used

Montblanc Mystery Black with the fine nib. This had good flow and was easy to clean. The fine nib put down a nice dark line that was true to the nib size. This is the ink that had a little skipping but I attribute that to left over manufacturing residue since I didn’t clean the pen first.

Montblanc Permanent Black with the fine nib. This also had good flow and put down a nice dark line. I’ve yet to clean this ink from the pen but I don’t expect any problems.

Montblanc Permanent Blue with the medium nib. Again, good flow and a nice dark line true to the nib size. I’ve yet to clean this ink from the pen but I don’t expect any problems.

Wrapping Up

The pen isn’t perfect and it’s certainly not for everyone. If you like small or thin pens the Ink isn’t for you. But with four in hand and two more on the way it’s clearly a favorite of mine. The refill used attracted me to the rollerball side of the equation. It’s the same refill as my Retro 51s but in a pen I find much more comfortable to use. Another plus is the interchangeable parts so I can use the rollerball bodies with the fountain pen sections. Myke of the Pen Addict likes to mix and match caps and barrels. Me, I like consistency in my caps and barrels, but I do like variety.

Like I said, the pen isn’t perfect. My green/brass rollerball does show there are some possible inconsistencies in the manufacturing (tighter clip and threads). My ordering an orange version and getting a color closer to gold may have been a problem for some people, but I’ve grown to really like the gold (and recommend the copper section with it). Plus, the website seems to have resolved that issue since orange is no longer available to order.

At $85 the pen isn’t cheap but it is a fair value. The optional gripping section materials are also a good value. If you can use a coupon code it’s an even better value.

The KarasKustoms Ink is a keeper, both as a fountain pen and a rollerball.

Additional Reading

Inkredible? A short review of the Karas Kustoms Ink fountain pen at A Fool With A Pen

Karas Kustoms Ink Review at Modern Stationer – He also ordered the orange but received a golden pen.

Gallery

You know when I said I’ll call my pen orange in the review since it’s what I ordered. I kind of of lied. I’m calling it gold in the photos.

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13 thoughts on “Review: KarasKustoms Ink

  1. Excellent review. I love these pens, I own the Orange rollerball, blue rollerball, gray fountain pen, silver rollerball (all these have an aluminum grip) and have a black fountain pen with brass grip on order. I really like the red and will probably get one of those as well. My orange INK is a lighter orange than what the pictures make it out to be. It’s definitely a lighter shade of orange than what’s on my Render K, but it’s still a nice color. I think it was mentioned on the Pen Addict podcast that they did switch anodizing companies and that’s the reason for the lighter shade of orange.

    • Glad to hear I’m not the only one who went nuts in accumulating these. The lighter orange has really grown on me after the initial disappointment. I sent them a note mainly to find out if they changed the name to gold or if the gold is really a different color. I’ve become addicted to these pens, even the rollerballs, and if it’s a different color I may be getting one in the future. The PA podcast may have been where I heard the anodizing changed but I wasn’t sure. The black and the gray are probably in my future too.

      Thanks for reading,
      Ray

      • Haha. I have a lot of Karas Kustoms pens and knew I would own a few of these as well. I meant to comment on that too but it slipped my mind. The gold is a seperate color option from the orange. Both were options during the Kickstarter campain. I too have grown to really like the orange color of my INK.

      • Good to know the gold is a separate option. Although it probably means I’ll be buying another pen. While I liked the look of the previous pens it wasn’t enough to get me to buy one, so these are my first and I’m making up for it.

        Thanks,
        Ray

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  3. Excellent and very comprehensive review. The initial batch of orange was lighter than we expected, so we are doing what we can so that future batches will look more “orange”. Thanks for your support!

  4. Do you have any pictures, or can you post one, of the Green pen with the original Brass grip section? The photos all show it with the copper, but I’m really interested in seeing the Brass/Green combo in an actual picture!

    Thanks!

    • @Craig
      I posted a quick pic to Instagram/Flickr/Twitter, you should see it over to the right and can click on it for a larger version. If the sun cooperates with my schedule this weekend I’ll try to get some better photos and do a mix & match for the various color combinations.

      Thanks for reading,
      Ray

      • That’s exactly the combination I’ve been looking for, what a beautiful pen! Thanks so much for posting that picture and for such a quick response!

        Seeing more color/metal combinations would be great too. Potentially dangerous though, for my wallet at least.

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