The Karas Pen Co. Special Edition 1702 arrived unannounced in my post office box just before halloween. I don’t particularly like doing “review units” for pen reviews and I asked Karas to take me off future mailings. But I have this pen now and will take a look at it.
The box was obviously from Karas Pen Co. but that was the only clue as to what was inside. I haven’t been following new pen releases very closely and was only vaguely aware that Karas has a non-metal pen. Also, their rebranding from Karas Kustoms to Karas Pens was new to me.
When I opened the box I wasn’t too surprised to find a big metal tube, after all I know them for their metal pens. Then I opened the Pen Capsule (Karas’ name for it) and two things did surprise me. First, it was a acrylic pen. Second, a strong odor greeted my nose. I’ll address the odor first and get that out of the way. It smelled a bit like glue so I thought it might have been from glue holding the foam in the tube. But it was the acrylic. In response to my question Karas responded:
The smell is from off-gassing of the acrylic after machining. Different acrylics have different dyes and pigments which change how the material off-gasses. Leaving the pen out will reduce the smell. It is not hazardous, it occurs after the machining process and should go away if the pen is left out.
The smell was never very strong from the pen itself but there’s still a trace after the pen has been out a couple of days, especially after uncapping the pen. If the smell wasn’t so overwhelming when I opened the tube I probably wouldn’t be noticing it as much from the pen itself. The odor was enough to keep me from using the pen that first evening, but the smell had mostly dissipated by morning. Uncapping the pen still releases the built up gases with the odor even though it’s been a week.
So, an acrylic pen from Karas. Specifically, the material is thermoplastic according to Karas. It’s still a machined pen. As expected, the pen does have it’s share of metal, the finials and clip are machined aluminum.
I’ve only had one Karas Kustoms pen, but I did love it and bought a half-dozen or so. It was the original version of the Ink. While I appreciate the designs of their other models, none have been for me. So how’s this one?
It’s a traditionally sized fountain pen. My postage scale puts it at 0.7 oz. (18 grams) with an ink cartridge in it and capped or posted. Unposted the pen only weighs 10 grams with the ink cartridge. It’s about 5″ long uncapped & unposted and nearly 6.5″ when posted. The gripping section is about 20mm long and 9.83mm at its narrowest part (the middle) and about 10.75mm at the top and bottom. The barrel is 12.62mm wide at the base and tapers to 9.75mm” at the top.
When posted the pen feels a little top heavy for me, but that’s the opinion of someone who doesn’t post his fountain pens. But not surprising since nearly half the weight is in the cap and most of that is in the clip and cap finial.
Speaking of the clip, it’s attached to the cap finial with a piece of aluminum. It’s bolted/screwed to this piece which is thinner than the clip itself. The clip feels firm enough to me but this this is a weak point that may develop some play over time.
So it’s a light fountain pen. My first impression is that It’s far too light for my own personal tastes, especially since I don’t post my pens. I have a tendency to grip a pen too tightly when it’s this light and eventually my hand hurts, or at least fatigues faster. But this is a personal preference and I know many people prefer light pens.
There’s a large step between the barrel and the gripping section which could be an issue for some people. The barrel is 11.77mm wide where it meets the 10.78mm wide gripping section. This drop makes it sharp if you grip the pen at this point. My fingers don’t press against this point with my natural grip so it’s not an issue for me. But if you like to hold the pen high up on the section it may be an issue for you.
The acrylic is gorgeous and nicely colored for it’s Autumn (in the U.S.) release. I’m a bit partial to browns which makes this even better. My pictures show the swirls but don’t do justice to the translucence and depth of the material. In the right light the converter (or cartridge) is visible in the pen. Personally I don’t like seeing the metal, or outline, of the converter or cartridge in a pen, it ruins the aesthetic for me unless it’s a completely clear demonstrator. It is very subtle in this case and doesn’t bother me too much. On the other hand I do realize the translucence is what provides the beauty so this is a pen I would normally eye dropper fill. I didn’t see any metal in the pen but to be safe I did confirm with Karas that it can be eye dropper filled. I would use this pen as an eye dropper fill but haven’t done so yet.
I prefer silver trim on my pens but usually settle for gold on my brown pens. The Decograph has silver trim and I really like it. I’ll have to reconsider settling for gold with other brown pens as I really like the contrast the aluminum provides. The two rotations translates to about four flicks of my fingers to remove the cap. The clip is nice, shiny, machined aluminum. It grips my shirt pocket securely and has a little spring to it. I already mentioned the attachment to the cap finial as a potential weak point, but at the moment it’s a solid clip with just enough sprint to slide over my shirt pocket material or over the pen sleeve in my pen case. The barrel finial is also aluminum and engraved with Karas “K” logo. The cap finial is, you guessed it, aluminum and has a subtle cone shape.
There’s no cap band but the threads start down inside the cap a bit. This should help prevent cracking since the pressure is away from the thin lip of the cap. I find the cap needs a little extra twist at the end to close securely, otherwise it comes loose. I’m a little concerned this could eventually crack the cap, or the barrel would drop out of the cap if I forget to tighten it. Even if this doesn’t turn out to be an actual problem it’s the type of thing I worry about and isn’t unique to this pen. I do tend to gravitate away from using pens that require me to think while using them.
The size of the pen compensates a bit for its light weight and while I did find my grip tightening at times it wasn’t as bad as thinner pens. I wrote for about 30 minutes with only minor fatigue. By way of comparison, I can use a heavier pen like the Karas Ink or Visconti Homo Sapien for hours without fatigue.
The cap takes two complete rotations to remove (or put back) so this isn’t a pen I’d pick when I expect to be capping and uncapping and lot. Two rotations translates to about four flicks of my hand to remove the cap. I used a Monteverde black cartridge (supplied with the pen) and was able to leave the pen uncapped for several minutes without the ink evaporating from the nib.
Speaking of the nib – it’s a Bock nib. Mine wasn’t engraved with a size. Whatever the official size this does fall into the “I like it” nib size and I figure it’s a medium. The nib was nice and smooth so no complaints there. Mine was a steel nib but titanium and 14K gold are available for an added cost.
I didn’t do a lot of research but I did come across some discussion about the pen capsule that’s included with the Decograph. (The Decograph line, while new, has been around for a couple of months.) Some where complaining it was done to add to the cost of the pen. I’ve no doubt that the capsule is more expensive than a cardboard box so it must certainly add to the manufacturing cost. Either they pass it along in the price or let it eat into their margins. If it’s so expensive that the pen becomes overpriced then it’s a problem. I’m not a fan of elaborate packaging and attach no value to it when I’m deciding if the pen is worth the cost. But let’s face it, nice packaging gives a good first impression. This one is also functional in that if provides great protection for the pen in addition to providing a good first impression.
So the question is: is the pen worth $165? First, while this pen is a limited edition (Karas calls is a Special Edition, but also say it will be only 60 pens) it is the same price as the regular production Durograph. So kudos to Karas for no “Limited/Special” price bump. I consider these similar to Edison Pens production line pens, machined pens with nice acrylics. The Decograph has a little more metal trim than the typical Edison. The Edison pens are about $15 less but these are competitive. I consider $165 to be a far price for the pen without attaching any value to the pen capsule.
The Decograph 1702 will be available November 15th with pricing starting at $165. The reviewer’s pens are not part of the 60 which will have different engraving than the one pictured here. The production pens will also be engraved on the barrel and have serial numbers on the nibs. Nibs are available in steel, titanium and gold in a range of sizes including a couple wide stubs. Some nib options (titanium & gold) will increase the cost. The metal pen capsule is included as are five Monteverde Black cartridges and a converter. The pen uses standard international cartridges and converters.
Karas Pen Company has put together a very nice pen with the Durograph 1702. It’s a very nice material, has a great fit & finish, along with a nice, comfortable size. If the barrel/section step doesn’t bother you (and I don’t think it will bother most people) and your willing to wait a few days for the odor to dissipate (or it bothers you less than it did for me) then you’ll have a very nice fountain pen,
First Look: Karas Pen Co. Decograph No. 1702 “Elektron” – Nib & Ink
Karas Pen Co Decograph Fountain Pen – The Clicky Post
Tag Team Review: Karas Pen Co. Decograph Fountain Pen – The Well-Appointed Desk