When I first started this whole Nib and Ink Adventure, I began with a review of the original Karas Kustoms Ink. With the release of the 2.0, we're seeing some much-needed and well-thought-out upgrades as well as a renaming of the original Ink, now referred to in the pen community as Ink 1.0. You may remember my original article discussing the Ink 1.0. If you didn't get a chance to check it out, please feel free to do so now. My thoughts haven't changed much since then. It's still a fantastic pen, but was made even more so by a few very subtle, but very welcome changes.
First, the size and shape of the Ink 2.0 is roughly identical to its predecessor. We still have a slightly tapered body with a fairly straight cap adorned with a small groove at the top and lightly chamfered edges on both the cap and the end of the body. They're still offered in a wide range of beautifully anodized colors (Red, Orange, Gold, Green, Blue, Gray, Violet, Pink, Black and Silver), but the team at Karas Kustoms has added in Olive and Brown to their selection of anodized colors as well as a tumbled aluminum finish and, for you high rollers, they're offering solid brass and copper models. And where the Ink 1.0 only offered aluminum, brass and copper grip sections, the 2.0 adds a tumbled aluminum and black section as well, opening up even more color combinations; 75 to be exact. If you add in the four different nib sizes (extra-fine, fine, medium and broad) and the clipped and clipless options, you're looking at 600 possible combinations. Whoa!
The grip section is slightly larger and, in my opinion, much more comfortable to write with. it's thicker with a different shape and works wonderfully. This is probably the biggest and most welcome upgrade for me. And attached to this beautifully designed grip section is the nib... Karas switched from Schmidt nibs to Bock, opening up more choices for sizes and, in my opinion, it's a higher quality nib right out of the box. The few Schmidt nibs I've had experience with, while not awful, needed some smoothing or tuning or adjusting. They always felt a little "cheap" to me. I seldom have found a stock Bock nib that needed anything, unless I was just feeling spunky and wanted a custom grind. I've tried an assortment of these nibs and they all seem to perform quite well out of the box, just as I expected they would. In addition to changing manufacturers, they've bumped up to an appropriately-sized Bock 250, which is a No. 6 nib. It's larger than the Ink 1.0's No. 5 Schmidt nib and, in my opinion, suits the pen far better than its predecessor. And, that makes the 2.0 compatible with all of the awesome Bock nibs out there (like gold and titanium in addition to the regular polished steel).
In order to keep the pen the same size and not run into issues with the cap and nib contacting, Dan Bishop, designer of the pen, went for a slightly hooded nib; meaning it's recessed into the section just a bit. This looks really cool in my opinion and sets the pen apart from others in the same class. In fact, the only other hooded or partially-hooded modern pens I know of are the Lamy 2000 and the Franklin Christoph Model 20 (Marietta). The combination of larger nib and slightly recessed design makes for a really sleek finish with a slightly stubby look, which is great. Something to keep in mind is that while these design changes are welcome, they do mean that the Ink 2.0 is not backwards compatible with any of your original Ink parts (caps, grip sections, etc.). Not a huge downside as really the only thing I can see someone wanting to swap over would be a nib and the use of the No. 6 nib opens up lots of opportunities anyway so probably not an issue for most users.
One thing I don't like about the Bock nibs is that they aren't marked with the size. For the life of me, I can't figure this out, but it's a pretty big miss on the part of the manufacturer. Karas Kustoms sent me a selection of nibs and none of them were marked with the size. Perhaps in a later iteration, Karas Kustoms could see about a custom-engraved nib with the sizes presented visually without removing the nib unit from the section.
But... Do not fear the unknown, reader, for I reached out to Dan at Karas Kustoms who informed me that they add a colored dot on the collar to differentiate nib sizes (if you unscrew the nib unit from the section, this is the black plastic threaded piece holding it all together). The color codes are as follows:
- Extra Fine: White
- Fine: No Mark
- Medium: Yellow
- Broad: Red
The one place I think the design falters a little is in the clip. They have revised the clip slightly so that there are no issues with gapping like there were with the 1.0, however, it's still the same ol' clip. In my opinion, despite the rugged metal body, the Ink (in both iterations) is a sleek, beautiful pen and the clip feels clunky and out of place. Dan designed some clips on his own, which are available for purchase via Shapeways, but they're not available for sale at Karas Kustoms as an "official" part. I suspect the tooling needed to create these on a CNC platform is out of reach or that the machining process isn't something easily handled in-house. In my opinion, the clip could be a little more elegant to match the overall style of the pen far better than the clip provided.
But fear not fellow clip-haters! The Ink 2.0 is available clipless, which is a fantastic option. The clipless Ink 2.0 actually makes for quite a nice front-pocket pen as the body is sleek and tapered and it slides in and out of a jeans or khakis pocket easily. The aluminum models aren't overly heavy, either, so they're not a burden, nor do they weigh you down. I really, really love the clipless option and think it was a smart move on their part for offering it up.
The Ink 1.0 offered brass and copper sections, but the pen itself was only available in a variety of anodized aluminum colors so the addition of solid copper and brass models is kind of a big deal, especially given the higher cost of both of these materials. They're both beautiful, premium metals which will patina over time and gain their own character. In the past, my brass and copper pens have almost developed a "gradient" as my hand only hits certain parts. And, if you're tired of the dirty, grungy patina, a little elbow grease, some metal polish and a soft cloth will have your pen looking good as new in no time. Or just get yourself a buffing wheel and save the elbow grease for, well, some other manual labor you need to get done. Don't have any of that stuff? Never fear for Karas Kustoms has been kind enough to toss in a polishing cloth for you. Bonus!
While the brass and copper are beautiful, they're heavy. Especially the copper. I'm actually quite a fan of the brass, but the copper is a bit too heavy for me for a longer writing session. Your mileage may vary and if you prefer a heavy pen, the copper is right up your alley. I wouldn't advise pairing either of these with an aluminum section as the pen becomes quite back-heavy, especially on the copper model. A brass pen with a copper section is quite stunning as the warm gold of the brass mixes curiously with the warm orangey-red of the copper for a unique look, which will get better and better with a little time and use as both metals patina. If I were buying one of these today, It'd be that exact combination. You can see in one of the photos above just how good this combo looks...
Something I love about the brass and copper is that they come wrapped in a new "premium" packaging; A custom letter-pressed sleeve adorns the outside of the box, giving the pen a really handsome out-of-box experience. The silver and black letter-pressed sleeve is elegant, classy and has a bit of a retro feel to it, tying in nicely with the rest of the Karas Kustoms branding. Packaging may not seem like a big deal, but when you're dropping a bit more on a pen, it's since to see something a little different so I think it's a really nice touch. Bravo.
These pens do come in at a bit of a premium with the cheapest option being standard aluminum in any of the color options with an aluminum section at $95 and the most expensive option being the clipped copper dropping at $195. Are they worth it? In my opinion, yes. But everyone's budget is different. When trying to decide on the value of these pens, I would encourage you to not only consider the pen itself, but consider the fact that it was designed and manufactured right here in the United States. It is made from the highest quality parts and meticulously machined. Each pen is hand-inspected and assembled and boxed and then shipped to your door. There's a lot of hands-on that comes with these pens. That kind of service and dedication to manufacturing comes at a cost, and for what you get, I think the Ink 2.0 is well worth the price of admission.
Despite my issues with the clip, which just doesn't do this pen justice, I'd still give the 2.0 a solid thumbs up. If the clip bothers you, I find the clipless option to be sleek and beautiful with an incredibly refined and elegant feel, and it's hands-down one of the nicest looking pens on the market and is certainly the nicest-looking pen of the machined pens I've had an opportunity to use.
Wanna win one of these bad boys? Read just a little more...
Karas Kustoms was kind enough to send me a couple of extra pens to try out free of charge in addition to the gray one I purchased. And, being the amazing folks they are, they said I could give one away to you fine folks. So that's what I'm gonna do. I'm giving away the Mack daddy of them all... A Clipped Copper Ink 2.0 with a juicy broad nib. Yup! That's right. The Copper is up for grabs, for free, courtesy of Karas Kustoms.
So what do you have to do to win? Simple... You can help me build a holiday party playlist. You just have to leave a comment below telling me your very favorite holiday song which I will then add to my playlist (make sure your email address is attached to your comment or I'll skip right over you). In return, you get an entry into the drawing for this Copper Powerhouse. I'll draw a winner on Sunday, December 20, 2015 and ship it out Priority Mail on Monday the 21st. Wanna enter twice? Head over to my Instagram profile (@heymatthew) for details on an extra entry. Note: Due to the value of this item and the cost of international shipping, this giveaway is open to US residents only.
Thanks so much to Karas Kustoms for their support of Nib and Ink and for sending over the goods for this amazing giveaway. I can't wait to get these in your hands and I think these pens are a welcome upgrade to the already wonderful Ink 1.0. Snag one for yourself or your favorite pen addict. They've got 15% off your entire purchase at KarasKustoms.com right now with coupon code HAPPYHOLIDAYS and it's good to January 1st so if Santa leaves some cash in your stocking, you can head over and get a little more bang for your holiday buck.
Thanks for reading,
Disclaimer: I bought my grey Ink 2.0 with my own hard-earned American Greenbacks. The others were sent to me free of charge for the purposes of this review and giveaway. These thoughts are my own, etc. I wasn't paid or coerced or blackmailed into doing a good review. Yada, yada.