While the number of product reviews that show up here may suggest otherwise, I actually have pretty good self-control. I try to limit my pen, paper, and ink purchases to items that I will use regularly. The fact that something is cool and that I really want to try it isn't enough. (Well, usually.)
One company that has really put this policy to the test is Karas Kustoms. For several years, they've been making amazing machined metal pens that take popular gel and rollerball refills. I want them all. But I use fountain pens nearly exclusively, so I really shouldn't buy any. But they're so cool.
For months, I've rationalized. I've plotted. I've slipped my wife Pilot Juice gel pens like some kind of Render K gateway drug.
Thankfully, I've been released from this world of madness. Karas Kustoms now has a fountain pen: the Ink.
From a distance, the Ink could be mistaken for a more traditional fountain pen. But upon closer inspection, Karas' distinctive industrial design elements take center stage.
The Ink is available in raw aluminum, as well as an assortment of anodized aluminum colors. It was a tough call, but my love of orange won out in the end. It's a lighter orange than I was expecting based on some of the photos I had seen online. (It was pointed out on Episode 125 of The Pen Addict podcast that Karas recently moved to a new anodization partner.)
I still like it very much, but given a choice I would prefer a darker and purer orange. A little part me dies every time my 6-year-old refers to the Ink as "Daddy's golden fountain pen."
Nonetheless, I give the Ink high marks in the aesthetics department. It's a clean design that looks great, and there are color options for every taste. There is also an option to further customize by swapping in a brass or copper grip.
Design and Build Quality
I expected a high level of build quality with the Ink, and I was not disappointed. The solid aluminum material has a much more substantive feel than the resin and acrylic materials that are common in many fountain pens.
It also feels much different pen than mass market aluminum fountain pens like the Lamy AL Star.
While they look like they could be relatives, they feel completely different in the hand. I love the AL Star, but I consider it to be a plastic pen with an aluminum veneer. The Ink is a true aluminum pen.
The Ink was a very ambitious pen to make, and I'm amazed by how much Karas got right with it. Pen size is a very subjective thing, but the Ink feels just right to me. It's large enough that it feels like the bad ass machined aluminum pen that it's intended to be, but it's also small enough to keep the weight reasonable.
As a comparison point, the Pilot Vanishing Point weighs in at 30g, while the Ink (uncapped) weighs in at 25g. So, the dense aluminum material doesn't come at the expense of writing comfort.
The fit and finish are also spot-on. There is no cheating with plastic threading inserts. The threads are all machined right into the aluminum. They twist together smoothly, and just the right amount of friction kicks in to secure the cap.
Karas Kustoms uses the German-made Schmidt FH241 nib unit. It's offered in fine, medium, and broad options. The Ink also ships with a Schmidt standard international converter, providing access to a wide range of bottled ink and ink cartridge options.
Since the Schmidt nib in the Ink is the commonly used #5 size, there has been a lot of chatter online about swapping in nibs from other pen manufacturers. I started to research this a bit while I waited for my Ink to arrive, but then a funny thing happened. I loved how the Ink wrote out of the box.
The medium nib I selected writes smoothly, exhibits great ink flow, and doesn't give me any start up or skipping drama. It's not necessarily the best writing steel nib pen I own, but it's certainly right up there.
I may still try my hand at some nib hacking down the road, but for now, I'm taking an "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" approach.
For the sake of completeness, I have to mention that the Ink is also offered as a rollerball. But c'mon.
Maintenance and Cleaning
I like pens that are easy to disassemble for thorough cleaning. Since the Ink was assembled by hand, it's also quite easy to take it apart by hand. The core components, including the nib unit, are easy to unscrew for cleaning and maintenance.
This also means that if any future nib hacking experiments go sideways, it will be easy to swap in a replacement stock nib. Karas sells replacements on their website for $15.
The Ink's base price is $85.00. Adding a brass or copper grip section will take the price up by $10 or $20, respectively.
This is a fair price. It's not a steal, but it feels about right. It's in the same price territory as the Kaweco AL Sport, which is also made of aluminum. It's also still comfortably below the $100-plus territory where gold nib pens begin showing up.
I had very high expectations for the Karas Kustoms Ink, and it's everything I expected and more. I'm amazed by just how much the guys at Karas got right. The fact that this was their first fountain pen makes it all the more impressive.
It's a fun pen that is hard to put down. It looks great and will likely look even better with age. It's an excellent writer out of the box that also lends itself to some hacking if you're so inclined.
Something tells me that this first Ink won't be my last.