Quick Look: Karas Pen Co. Decograph 1702 Elektron

Karas Pen Co. Decograph 1702 Pen Cap and Capsule CapThe 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.

Karas Pen Co. Decograph 1702 Elektron - UncappedI’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.

Karas Pen Co. Decograph 1702 Elektron - Cap Finial

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.

Karas Pen Co. Decograph 1702 Elektron - Capped

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.

Summary

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,

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Additional Reading

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

 

 

 

 

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KarasKustoms + Dudek Modern Goods CUBE Pen Stand

KarasKustoms + Dudek Modern Goods CUBE pen stand underside with logoThe CU13BE (the 13 looks like a ‘B’) is a collaboration between KarasKustoms & Dudek Modern Goods. The 13 comes from the atomic number of the element aluminum. KarasKustoms now calls it the “CUBE” on their website and I find writing CU13E annoying, so I’m going to call it “CUBE” from now on. The all caps is less annoying. The CUBE is machined from a solid block of aluminum (well, except for the brass version) with holes for nine pens.

Despite KarasKustoms experience, this wasn’t the smoothest Kickstarter project and it was plagued by delays and other problems. Delivery was estimated for March so it was four months late, five if you want to get technical, but August is only a few days old. There were some comments that the rubber feet fell off in some cases, although mine seem solidly attached. A bigger problem, at least in my opinion, is that those who ordered the the silver anodized version received a raw aluminum version that wasn’t anodized because the anodizing ending up being dull, unlike the samples. Another commenter mentioned that their CUBE looked dinged up before the blue anodizing was applied. While this wasn’t mentioned on the Kickstarter, and the pictures look smooth and shiny, the KarasKustoms website does mention this should be expected as they are now calling them Stonewashed or mentioning that they are tumbled before anodizing.

I ordered the tumbled raw aluminum version which was’t affected by most of the problems since it wasn’t anodized and the finish is purposely rough. And very cool. The only impact was the delay since all the CUBEs were shipped at one time. I didn’t pick any of the anodized versions because I expected this to take some abuse and I thought even the slightest ding would stand out and ruin the look. Plus, I just plain have a preference for the look of raw metals.

Being solid aluminum, the CUBE is heavy, 1 lb. 14.5 oz. to be specific, with nine pen holes drilled into it.. The pens holes are 0.563“ (9/16”) in diameter and two inches deep. There are Delrin inserts in each pen hole to protect the pens from scratches. Delrin is a Dupont product which they describe as…

Delrin® acetal homopolymer combines lubricity and wear resistance with the stiffness and strength needed in parts designed to replace metal.
They feel like smooth plastic and are held firmly in place. They didn’t budge when I turned the CUBE over and shook it.

KarasKustoms + Dudek Modern Goods CUBE pen stand Delrin inserts

I have several Dudek Modern Goods pen stands and I like them a lot. All are made of wood. In general I like the wood better, but that’s just a personal preference. The aluminum is heavier, much heavier, which gives it more stability. It will take more than a nudge to push it off a table. This weight was the main reason I decided to buy it. I’ll use it on my workbench where the stability will come in handy.

The Delrin liner also provides protection for pens that are wider than the holes. While the wood is soft in the wooden versions and not likely to scratch a pen, I didn’t like it when a pen tapered enough so it didn’t reach the bottom of the hole and was held up by the edges of the hole. For example, my Franklin-Christoph Model 25 is too wide to reach the bottom of the hole but it is secure and I don’t feel like it will be scratches.

KarasKustoms is selling the CUBE on their website for $85, a bit more than the Kickstarter price. Brass ($350) and Stonewashed ($95) versions are also available. Eighty-five dollars is a lot for a pen holder but it is solid aluminum so the price does seem reasonable. I did really want the brass but I couldn’t even come close to justify the expense for me. I did internally debate the $75 Kickstarter price but decided to go ahead and get it. I am happy with the result and the Tumbled Raw Aluminum CUBE that I received.

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Additional Reading

If you’re interested in wooden pen stands I previously reviewed the Dudek Groove and the Dudek Display stands. While there are a few Cube reviews all the ones I found were pre-production units and considering there were manufacturing issues and changes I’d hesitate to trust those if you’re considering buying one. They are arriving in people’s hands at the moment so reviews of the various finishes may begin to appear.

Ink and Pen Notes: KarasKustoms Ink with Montblanc Midnight Blue Ink

KarasKustoms Ink fine nib and a brass section with Montblanc Midnight Blue

KarasKustoms Ink fine nib with Montblanc Midnight Blue

I inked up the KarasKustoms Ink back on January 19th so it lasted over two months. I picked Montblanc Midnight Blue. The Ink (the pen – having a pen called “Ink” can be confusing) had an fine nib and I used the brass section.

I like the KarasKustoms Ink so much that I have five fountain pen versions and three rollerball versions. Montblanc is also one of my favorite ink brands and while Midbight Blue is nice enough I don’t find anything special with the Midnight Blue ink. It was a little slow drying so I had more careless smudges than normal.

Overall performance was good. No skipping or hard starts.

Ink and Pen Notes: KarasKustoms Ink Broad Nib with Iroshizuku Yu-yake

KarasKustoms Ink broad nib with Iroshizuku Yu-Yake - pen and bottle

Another broad nib bites the dust, or more accurately gets flushed out. This particular KarasKustoms Ink is one of the more recent arrivals so it was inked up to give it a try. I got the broad nib to be complete and have some variety. Since I have five Inks I decided to include a broad nib even though they really aren’t for me.

KarasKustoms Ink broad nib with Iroshizuku Yu-Yake - feedUnlike the other KarasKustoms Inks (which are fine and medium nibs) the feed on this one is slightly misaligned as can be seen in the photo. This didn’t affect it’s writing and I didn’t notice it until the photos were taken. Although if properly aligned the pen might be even wetter.

It’s a Schmidt nib so it’s a western broad nib, wider than my recently reviewed Sailor broad nib.

I flushed the pen early, it wasn’t even close to written dry. The broad nib doesn’t fit my writing style. And while I could use the Sailor broad nib enough to empty the pen and write a review this broad nib is just too wet and wide for me. I reviewed the KarasKustoms Ink here, although I didn’t have the broad nib at the time. I really like the Ink, which is obvious from the review, so I’ll probably get this nib ground into something with a little more character, although it may be awhile before that happens.

I like the Pilot Iroshizuku Yu-yake ink. Like all Iroshizuku inks it’s well behaved and I really like the orange color. Unfortunately for me, it really needs a wide or wet nib to shine, and those are nibs I tend to avoid.

I inked the pen up back on December 9th. There was still plenty of ink in the converter. Considering how much ink the nib puts down it just goes to show how little I used the pen.

 

Ink and Pen Notes: KarasKustoms Ink with Medium Nib and J. Herbin Vert Empire Cartridge

KarasKustoms Ink with medium nib and J Herbin Vert Empire pen and inkI just reviewed J. Herbin Vert Empire cartridges and this KarasKustoms Ink with a medium nib was the primary pen for the review. It’s the Tumbled Raw Aluminum version with an aluminum griping section. I didn’t write the pen dry and wasted about 1/2 a cartridge. While the ink performed well the color just wasn’t for me. I kept the pen inked after the review with the intention of writing it dry, but I always passed it over. Of the twelve pens I currently have inked it was debatable whether this would be my 11th or 12th choice if I ranked the pens.

I did review the KarasKustoms Ink although this Tumbled Raw Aluminum version wasn’t part of the review since it’s a recent addition. The specific nib is also new to me but I did review a different medium nib and this one is consistent with the earlier nib, It’s always good when pen manufacturing is consistent.

The pen was inked up back on January 19th. I have no complaints about the performance. The flow was consistent and there wasn’t any skipping or hard starts. My dislike of the ink is purely aesthetic.

There’s a complete lack of any nib creep or splattering so the nib seems nice and clean even though I don’t clean them before the photos.

Ink & Pen Notes: KarasKustoms Ink and Montblanc Permanent Blue

KarasKustoms Ink (silver) fine nibWhen I empty a pen, either by writing or otherwise, I usually write a few notes about the pen and ink for future reference. I decided to try moving those notes to the website. This isn’t an original idea as David from NibsAnd.Ink and JustPelikans.com has been doing this regularly when he inks his pens.

I inked up the KarasKustoms Ink with Montblanc Permanent Blue back on November 26, 2014 and cleaned it out January 7, 2015. I picked the fine nib and aluminum gripping section.

Forty two days is a bit long for a ink that has some iron gall in it. But the modern stuff is very mild and Montblanc themselves (in the included pamphlet) just say to clean the pen “regularly.” Although, they say this is to avoid build-up of solids rather than corrosion.

Montblanc Permanent Blue is a bit on the dry side which I like. The flow was good in this pen until the final days. I’m not a fan of true blues, which is what this is, but I kind of like the color. There was some skipping and I noticed a little ink clinging to the sides of converter. I forced the ink down into the feed and got another page or two before it was completely dry.

I reviewed the KarasKustoms Ink here. I’ve yet to review Montblanc Permanent Blue but my limited experience matches this review at The Unroyal Warrant.

 

This Just In: KarasKustoms Ink (again)

KarasKustoms Ink Raw Aluminum and GoldTwo more KarasKustoms Inks arrived today, further feeding my obsession with them. These are two new finishes but I reviewed the Ink here. With eight fountain pen versions and three rollerballs it’s rather obvious I like them.

The new additions include a Tumbled Raw Aluminum finish. I went with a aluminum gripping section, although I can swap with any of the others. I picked a medium nib since I already had a fine nib in another aluminum section. Although I can swap nibs if I ever want to fine aluminum sections inked at once. I like the raw look of the aluminum. It’s a finish I didn’t see in the Kick Starter or on their website until very recently.

The second addition was the Gold version with a brass gripping section and a fine nib. I already had a brass section but I really like both the gold and orange finishes and the brass section is ideal for both pens. I can envision inking both pens at the same time and wanting brass sections.

I included a comparison photo showing both the my new gold pen and the older orange (which looks more gold in most light).

Also new, at least for me, was that the raw aluminum pen arrived in a actual box. It’s a simple but functional box. Even though it’s apparent in the photo, I missed the section and converter in the box and opened an empty pen.

I think this will satisfy my obsession for awhile. At least until they come out with a brighter orange finish.

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