I've been a fan of Karas Kustoms for quite a while. I backed the Render K on Kickstarter a couple of years ago and have been a bit of a fanboy ever since. I've owned all of the pens they've put out over the years including the Retrakt, Bolt and now, the Ink.
So what makes the Ink so special? It's the first fountain pen pen KK has offered. And, spoiler alert, they did a fantastic freakin' job. One of the things I love most about KK pens is the amazing, made-in-America quality. Their threads are perfectly and cleanly machined. They do not rattle or give in any way. Unlike a lot of metal pens, these pens use no plastic inserts or sleeves (save for the feed and collar, made by Schmidt to screw right into the section) so you get a lot of metal-on-metal contact when screwing the section and cap onto the body.
A lot of metal pen manufacturers get this wrong in that you get that nails-on-a-chalkboard feeling when screwing the metal pieces together. Not with the Ink (or any other KK pen, for that matter). Due to the impeccable machining and anodizing, screwing the parts together is seamless, easy and smooth. Well done, guys. The only thing I don't love about the pen is the clip. I find it to be a bit too "utilitarian," if you will. It's just sort of there. A big, chunky clip that adds a bit of girth to the pen and doesn't add much in the way of design. It doesn't fail as far as clips go because it, well, clips. But it's probably my least favorite element of the pen.
Another great thing about these pens is the balance. They don't post, but they're large enough to use comfortably without posting and the balance is spot-on. I opted for brass and copper sections on my two pens and the added weight on the forward end makes the pens feel fantastic in-hand. Karas Kustoms chose to go with a slightly pinched section that is smooth and void of knurling or texture save for the machining marks. Both of my pens have already developed a slight patina from normal use and I couldn't be happier.
The anodizing on these pens is spectacular. The blue anodizing is particularly nice as it's a bright, brilliant blue. Photos don't really do it justice. On both of my pens, the color is smooth and even, but my cap is slightly off-colored as compared to the body on my blue pen. Not a big deal and most people wouldn't notice, but it's mine and I've stared at it enough that I picked up on it. Which probably says more about me being creepy than it does about the pen's mismatched cap and body. It's such a small difference that it's almost not worth mentioning, but I tossed it in for the perfectionists in the room. Note: Karas Kustoms does not anodize in-house.
How about the nib? I mean, that's like the engine in a car, right? Or would it be the tires? I suppose the feed would be the engine as it feeds the nib and the nib is the tires making contact with the road giving you different levels of control and response depending on the brand, style and manufacturing differences, but I digress.
The nib... Well, I wouldn't really know as I didn't spend a whole lot of time with the nib from either pen. I did write a bit with one of them and it was just fine. Schmidt makes them and, it was as to be expected. They're smooth, consistent and lay down a predictable line. Unfortunately for me, I didn't want predictable. I wanted some... Pizzazz! I swapped a Masuyama Medium Cursive Italic in my blue Ink and went with a Ruthenium-plated (also called Black Rhodium) broad on my black Ink (which will be ground to an architect point at some point). The Masuyama nib takes an already fantastic pen and makes it even better. The black nib is just a Schmidt that I ordered from the internet and writes fine, but is uninspiring. If you're looking for a no fuss daily writer, though, the Schmidt nibs will offer up a good writing experience. Smooth, reliable, predictable. Just what you'd want in a daily writer.
For those of you that might be interested in swapping in your own nibs, I've created a short video showing how it's done. You need a No. 5 nib (No. 6 won't work as it's too large) and you need to retain the feed and collar from the original nib unit. See the video at left for more information and a step-by-step tutorial. The nibs included with these pens are good, but there are a lot of options out there for the DIY crowd. Why not take advantage of them?
All-in-all, I'd say Karas Kustoms has hit another definite home run with the Ink. It's a solid, reliable, extremely well-made pen designed and manufactured right here in the USA. it comes in a slick cardboard box with a Schmidt nib and converter for filling from bottled ink (International Cartridges work as well, but where's the fun in that!?).
And for those of you who haven't made the leap to a fountain pen yet, Karas Kustoms offers up the Ink in a Rollerball version and you can snag the Fountain Pen section, nib and converter later to switch over from the RB world. Pretty slick, huh?
Thanks for reading! If you'd like to pick up an Ink of your very own, head over to KarasKustoms.com and snag one in your favorite color.