A while back, I published a post describing my experiences with iron gall ink and how one specific ink ate a pen and a spare nib. If you haven’t read it, I’d recommend doing so before reading this post. This is going to be a long, photo-heavy article, so I’m not going to rehash the initial story, which has proven to be really popular. It’s sparked quite a debate across reddit, including one in which a lovely redditor repeatedly called me… 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.
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
More Eye-Popping Colors from Australia!
But first…a song!
There’s red in my head, but I don’t want it
The blues were swarming there in my soul
Shadows over me and
The only colour I can paint my soul
I want black and don’t fade away
I want it black forever
Inside of me, all I wanna see’s the colours in my head
I’m in black the only way
And make it black forever
Go inside and…go inside and…never come back out again
—Black Forever by WASP (One of the best bands, EVER!)
Sorry…I’ve expended the interesting bits of inside information I have on Robert Oster and his inky endeavors, so I don’t have much to lead off this post with. So instead, you get heavy metal lyrics about colors. Yes…it’s your lucky day.
Honestly, by this point, the man and his company probably don’t need much… Read More
Busy Beaver…Or would that be Busy Platypus in Australia?
Robert Oster might be the hardest working man in the fountain pen ink industry these days. Yeah, yeah, I know…I can hear the chorus of “What about Nathan Tardif?” and I haven’t even pushed the Publish button yet. True Story: Nathan is a machine. But this post isn’t about him, it’s about Rob Oster, who exploded onto the fountain pen scene not even a year ago, but has managed to win the hearts and minds (and money) of fountain pen users across the globe in that very short timespan.
It seems like we can’t go more than a couple weeks without… Read More
Robert Oster Signature Inks: That’s a Wrap! (Yeah, Right)
Inspired by the Australian nature surrounding him, Rob Oster engaged in much research and thought, which culminated in his first fountain pen ink: Lime Green (although he originally named it Matcha Green). After coming up with a few more colors, he started selling his inks on eBay. He made a few sales and worked with his customers to understand what makes great inks great.
Sales started to pick up, a few prominent bloggers wrote reviews and spread the word, and at that point, all hell broke loose. In a matter of five months, he went from… Read More
More Amazing Colors from Robert Oster Signature
I asked Rob Oster for stories to share with you, wondering specifically how he decided to start making and selling his own line of inks. His reply: “My obsession with ink occurred out of the blue one day as I looked from over my powerbook at a sea of ink bottles….wondering why I don’t make an ink as close to nature as possible.”
I believe it. Especially looking at… Read More
Robert Oster Signature: A Tsunami of Color from Down Under
Australia has a lot of the grooviest things on this planet. They have the best spiders. They have the coolest snakes. They have the cutest marsupials. If that wasn’t enough, a mighty wave of new and little-known ink companies are emerging from the wild and wonderful island continent. In the last year, I’ve learned of four such companies from the land Down Under: Toucan, Blackstone, Bookbinders, and the newest kid on the block, Robert Oster Signature. Nestled in the heart of South Australia’s wine country, Robert Oster Signature is a (mostly) one-man outfit run by (you guessed it)… 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