A small but spiffy slate of pen mail this week. Hot on the heels of the latest Field Notes edition, the Fall 2017 Write Notepads “Fingerprints” edition quietly arrived. And all the way from Japan, my Platinum #3776 Century Nyhavn came in like a yellow ray of… Read More
Rugged. ‘Murican. Sexy. Okay, maybe not sexy. Nah, I was right the first time…it’s pretty sexy.
Karas Kustoms Ink Fountain Pen
Price: $85.00 to $240.00 (depending on configuration and where you buy it)
Nib: EF, Titanium (Bock)
Filling System: Standard International Cartridge/Converter
About the Company:
Karas Kustoms is a small machine shop located in Mesa, Arizona, USA. Company founder, Bill Karas, started working as a machinist in high school, and after a number of years grinding metal for “the man,” he opened his own custom machine shop. Although he started as a one-man band, he soon hired industrial designer Dan Bishop as an assistant. Bill gave Dan a broom and told him to clean up the joint.
They produced a number of different types of products, most notably iPhone cases. They sold relatively well, and the company saw steady growth, but were still missing that one big idea that would slingshot them to prominence.
During this time, the crowdfunding site Kickstarter was experiencing a trend of successfully funded pen design/manufacturing projects. This phenomenon caught Dan’s eye. He reportedly threw down his broom, ran to Bill and said, “Dude! We need to make pens.” Bill laughed and told him to pick up the broom and get back to work. Dan argued. They grappled a bit. In the end, Bill let Dan run with the idea to see how it would go. Dan fired up his industrial design engine, and their first pen, the Render K, was born. After the 30-day Kickstarter campaign ended, they had just under $70,000 in funding to produce the pen. All were shocked. Bill stopped laughing.
Disclaimer: I took a whole lot of liberties with the facts on that bit of company history. I think the general premise of my tale is correct, but I made up the laughing and grappling parts. For a more complete and accurate journalistic account of their history, check out this August 2016 article on AZCentral.
Revisionist history aside, the Render K was a huge success, and it vaulted Karas Kustoms into the pen manufacturing world, to the shear delight of both the fountain pen and everyday carry (EDC) communities. Over the next few years, Karas Kustoms continued to use Kickstarter to fund new pen designs. Today, they have six major designs (and a new one about to launch any day now) in a number of configurations and material combinations.
About the Pen:
One of their newer designs is a meaty, full-sized fountain pen called the Ink.
I’ll just get it out there now: the name “Ink” is a ridiculous name for a pen. Especially a fountain pen.
“I just got a Karas Kustoms Ink!”
“Karas Kustoms makes INK??? Where’d’ya get that?!”
“No, no. It’s not ink for a pen…it’s a pen named ‘Ink.'”
“That’s the name of the pen: Ink.”
“So, Karas Kustoms doesn’t make ink?”
“NO! they only makes pens. The pen is called the Ink.”
“Why would they call a pen Ink?”
Unlike its name, the pen is not at all ridiculous.
The Ink is machined from rods of metal (aluminum, brass, or copper). All three materials come “naked,” and the aluminum version is also available anodized in a number of gorgeous colors. In addition to the wide array of metals, colors, and finishes, there are five different options for the grip section: polished aluminum, tumbled aluminum, black anodized aluminum, brass, and copper. And if that wasn’t enough, you also have a vast selection of wonderful #6 Bock nibs to choose from. The nibs come in all the standard sizes in regular steel, black steel, two-tone steel, and titanium. So overall, you have a pretty dizzying array of options to choose from.
I bought my Ink back in March 2017 at the Arkansas Pen Show…or more specifically at the Vanness open house during that weekend. I looked over the different colors they had in stock and settled on the red. I paired it up with a tumbled aluminum section and an EF titanium nib. It turned out to be a pretty sweet-looking configuration. So with my customized EDC pen in hand, I happily tottered off into the sunset.
And to be honest, it’s been inked up and part of my EDC ever since.
Straight outta Taiwan, check out the chillin’, killin’, piston-fillin’…
TWSBI Eco Fountain Pen
Nib: Extra Fine
Filling System: Piston
About the Company
TWSBI is a brand of writing instruments produced by the Ta Shin Precision manufacturing company, headquartered in Taipei City, Taiwan. Ta Shin has been around for several decades, although historically, they served as more of a white-label manufacturer, producing products for other companies to slap their names on and sell (The Korean company LG emerged the same way). Also similar to LG, Ta Shin decided it was in their best interest to develop their own brand, and in 2009, TWSBI was born.
TWSBI is a bit of a different animal in the fountain pen world. Their aim is to create attractive, high-quality, workhorse-level fountain pens that are also
From the “No, it’s not the 3776 Century” file, I present the…
Platinum 3776 Balance Maestro Fountain Pen (PTB-5000B)
Nib: Extra Fine
Filling System: Cartridge/Converter (proprietary)
About the Pen:
Before I start telling you what this pen IS, let me begin with what it ISN’T. This is not the 3776 Century, Platinum’s highly lauded, entry-level gold-nibbed pen that’s at the top of many a “Recommended Fountain Pens” list. This review is for the Balance Maestro, the Century’s little cousin. It’s still part of the 3776 lineup and still an excellent writer. But unlike the Century, it’s more of a general entry-level fountain pen. It has a simpler design, sports a steel nib instead of the 14k gold nib found on the Century (although it is gold plated), and is does not have the… Read More
Is iron gall ink Public Enemy #1, or just a poor, misunderstood schmuck caught up in an unfair war of opinions?
Some people avoid it like the plague, flat-out stating that it will eat your pens, paper, pets, and children. Others use it exclusively, saying it’s perfectly safe and they bathe in it and pour it over their cereal with no ill effects… Read More
Straight outta the “You sure looked different in your picture” file, an inexpensive Chinese pen from a mysterious manufacturer…
Yongsheng 088 Fountain Pen
Filling System: Cartridge/Converter (International Standard)
About the Company:
This one has me mystified. I’ve heard in the past that “Yongsheng” is a slightly different translation/Romanized spelling of “Wing Sung” and that they’re made by the same company (both of which would be owned by Hero now). And in seemingly logical fashion, the Yongsheng 088 did, in fact, come with a Wing Sung nib installed. Cut and dried situation, right? Except that I went looking for some background on Yongsheng and where the name came from, only to find reference to two separate Yonghseng pen companies: Jieyang Yongsheng Pen Manufacturing Factory and Zhejiang Tonglu Yonghseng Pen making Factory.
Now, Jieyang and Zhejiang seem like they could be different spellings of the same name; however, these two companies have different postal addresses, indicating that they are most likely different companies. Kind of a weird thing. More weird things… Read More
Inexpensive. Chinese. Classy. Dependable. Bigfooty. It’s the…
Yiren 856 Fountain Pen
Nib: Medium (#5)
Filling System: Standard International Cartridge & Converter
About the Company & Pen:
Yiren has probably become my favorite Chinese fountain pen brand. It’s not just because their pens are attractive and work well (they are…and they do). It’s also because the Yiren (or Yeren…or 野人) is the Chinese Bigfoot (or Sasquatch…or Skunk Ape). Yes, I know. I mention that every time I talk about Yiren pens. And I will continue to do so every time from here to eternity. I like fountain pens. I like bigfoot. It’s a match made in heaven. Deal with it.
Yiren, and their sister brand Bookworm, are made by the Nanchang Yiren Pen Company from the Chinese town of Wengang. Yiren refers to Wengang as the “pen capital” of China. I can neither confirm nor deny this claim, but it sounds like… Read More
I’m not sure whether to include these pens in my “Took a Flyer” file or my “Impulse Buy” file. I guess I’ll copy this review and place it in both files. Like I really have files.
Think Pens Couture Fountain Pens: Vacation & Violino
Price: $45.00 each
Filling System: Cartridge/Converter (Standard International)
About the Company & Pens:
Okay, so I’m going to do something a little different with this review and look at two pens instead of just one. Although the two pens have different designs, they employ the same “guts” internally, and they are part of the much larger “Couture” line of pen designs. The problem with Think Pens is that… Read More
Right out of my “I always wanted one of these” file, please give a warm welcome to the…
Pilot Falcon Fountain Pen (a.k.a. Namiki Falcon)
Nib: Soft Fine
Filling System: Cartridge/Converter (Pilot Proprietary)
Disclaimer & Giveaway
This pen was provided for review by Pen Chalet. Because I don’t want you clowns thinking I’m handing out artificially inflated reviews in exchange for free products, I decided to give this pen away to one lucky reader (details at bottom of post).
About the Pen:
I’ve been using fountain pens for…oh, just over two and a half years. My first was a total impulse buy. I was wandering through Staples, noticed a $7 Sheaffer Viewpoint calligraphy fountain pen hiding on the bottom peg, and decided I couldn’t live without it. Two hours later, I had blown through half a cartridge and was completely engrossed in YouTube, watching video after video from Brian Goulet, Stephen Brown, and a few others. Pen reviews, how-to videos, disassembly/repair instructions, and Q&As. I was hooked. I began researching different pens and started a list of those I “had to own.”
One of the more interesting pens often mentioned was the bold & mysterious Pilot Falcon, with its strange and unique-shaped nib, its soft springiness that allows you to get some line variation with just a little pressure (don’t you dare call it a “flex” nib, though!), and its $150 price tag. At $7, my still-freshly-inked Sheaffer was probably the most expensive pen I had in the house, so the thought of spending $150 on a pen seemed ludicrous. I put the Falcon on my “When I’m Rich” list and went on binge-watching videos.
Over the course of the last couple years, I heard many things about the Falcon, both flattering and not-so-flattering. The most common argument against the Falcon was… Read More
If you’re on the quest for affordable italic nibs, you’ll want to read about the…
Italix Parson’s Essential Fountain Pen
Nib: Fine Cursive Italic (FCI)
Filling System: Cartridge/Converter (Standard International)
Background & History:
Italix is the “house brand” of the British online fountain pen retailer MrPen. The Italix brand was born in the mid 2000s, when Sheaffer and Cross decided to discontinue many of their italic nib options. According to MrPen owner, Peter Ford, “We thought this odd because 30% of our sales were speciality nib options.”
Knowing the decision of their two largest suppliers would leave a gap in product offerings (and likely cut into sales), Ford worked with a pen manufacturer that would take kit pens and outfit them with Manuscript calligraphy nibs. This initial product was called the Originalis. It was extremely popular and is still in production today.
Looking to expand their line of high-quality, affordable italic fountain pens, MrPen developed a new model, commissioning the bodies from an Asian company and the nibs from Jowo in Germany. This new model was initially called The Buddy, and sales were not so hot. They changed the name to Red, and sales continued to be disappointing. In the meantime, they worked out a technique for quickly and efficiently modifying the nibs into a number of various italic grinds.
While the Parson’s Essential nib is from Jowo, other pen models include nibs made by Bock and Manuscript.
Upon perfecting their nib modification technique, they decided to rename the pen again, this time to reflect the quality of the market sector they were trying to attract. After a few positive reviews for the newly christened Parson’s Essential, sales of the pen “went ballistic” (in Mr. Ford’s own words).
After about a decade of producing affordable, custom italic fountain pens, the Italix brand boasts about 11 different models, each with a dizzying array of nib grinds available (standard, crisp italic, cursive italic, oblique, etc.).