It's no secret around here that I'm a fan of Karas Kustoms and Nock Co. But what's better than a product made by Karas Kustoms or Nock Co.? How about a product made by Karas Kustoms and Nock Co.!
Yes sir, I'm talking about the Karas Kustoms x Nock Co. Render K, designed around the Pilot G2 refill (although others will fit thanks to the handy-dandy plastic tubing Karas throws in to let you fit shorter refills. And, in case you're not familiar with what sets this particular Render K apart from other Render K pens in the lineup, it's the custom anodizing. This freedom-lovin' bad boy comes handsomely decked out with a standard silver body, blue cap and red tip.
And, as with all Nock Co. and Karas Kustoms products, this patriotic pocket pal is made right here in the USA. And a lot of other countries use this awesome color combo, too so you can snag it if you live in Australia or England or any number of other countries and still be reppin' your home team flag. Hot dang!
Now... A little history lesson. The Render K was the first pen Karas Kustoms put up on Kickstarter, launching their campaign way back on December 9, 2011. It funded in just over 24 hours and ended with an impressive $69k with close to 1,100 backers. The original Render K came in straight-up aluminum and took the very popular Hi-Tec C cartridge. I was a backer of the original Kickstarter and have been a fan of Karas Kustoms ever since.
However, I was not a fan of the Hi-Tec C, nor am I now. I know, I know... I'll be hung and quartered for saying so, but the Hi-Tec C just doesn't tickle my fancy. I find them to be inconsistent and a little finicky for my needs. That, paired with the thin, metal tip, and it's just not a good EDC pen choice for me. What IS a good EDC pen choice for me is the Pilot G2 or, better yet, the Pilot Juice. With their conical tip and more reliable performance, they're a shoe-in for my gel refill of choice (actually, my all-time-favorite is still the Energel, but that's for another article). I sold off my original Render K a while back and have been enjoying other Karas pens since then, but just couldn't bring myself to pick up another Render K with that Hi-Tec C refill, despite the fact that I really liked the pen otherwise (my dislike for the HTC refill has nothing to do with the overall quality of the original Render K, but I just didn't enjoy using a pen with a refill that I disliked).
As soon as I saw the Render K in G2 compatibility, I knew I had to have one. I held off for a while, but once I spotted this bad boy on Nock's site, I knew I had to have it. I missed out on them a few times as they usually only come in limited quantity. I snagged one this last time around and I have to say that I'm extremely pleased with my purchase. The G2 and Juice refills work well in the Render K.
The Render K is a surprisingly lightweight pen. Looking at it, you'd think it would be fairly heavy, given its metal construction, knurled ends and sturdy hardware, but the aluminum construction keeps it light. I'd guess the standard Render K offerings from Karas Kustoms in brass and copper would be significantly heavier. The small size and light weight is nice, though, for an EDC pen. It's hardly noticeable in a pocket and the light weight makes it comfortable to clip into a shirt pocket.
All of the parts fit together smoothly. Aside from the refill and the spacer tubing, there is no plastic on the pen. Where a lot of manufacturers will build a plastic sleeve into a metal pen for threads and the like, the guys over at KK have kept this pen completely metal. And, they did it really, really well. The threads are smooth with no grit or squeaking and everything locks up tight. The only problem I had with the build quality of my pen is the clip was bent too far out with too much space between the clip and the cap so it wouldn't stay in my shirt pocket. I was able to remove the clip and bend it a little and reattach it so it's tight. No harm done, but I would like to see these kinds of things addressed at the QC level if possible. (Note: In the photo on the right below my clip has a slight curve to it from where I bent it. I corrected this so now it's nice and straight.)
Also, while the blue and red anodizing on my pen look good, the clear anodizing on the metal body of the pen leaves quite a bit to be desired. It's a little uneven and has some "waves" and blemishes in the finish that are a bit unsightly. This is not the first issue I've had with the anodizing on a Karas Kustoms pen. I experienced a difference in the anodizing between the cap and barrel on my blue Ink fountain pen. In fact, it seems that most of the issues I've had with their products have been with the anodizing. However, It should be noted that Karas Kustoms does not anodize their products in-house. I reached out to them and they're replacing the barrel for me ASAP. Top-notch service, as usual from the KK Crew.
Update (06/22/15): Roughly a month after requesting a new barrel, I got my replacement in the mail. I'm still seeing the same "chatter" in this new barrel as the first one, albeit a little worse this time. It seems that the weak link in the KK lineup is the anodizing. I'm pretty disappointed that they sent out a new barrel to me with the same exact issue. I'd have thought they would have at least looked at the barrel before dropping it in the envelope, but apparently that's a little more effort than the CS team wishes to put forth. I'm a huge fan of KK pens, but I'm annoyed at this point, especially considering they didn't even check to see that the replacement part they sent out was correct. I could see it slipping through QC the first time, but the second time? Nah. That's just lazy.
One last little nitpick is that the opening in the tip is just a bit too large so the refill has a bit of movement, which I don't really like. It's not a ton of movement and I'm guessing the hole is sort of a "one size fits all" solution so it works for a lot of different refills, but I'd have preferred a G2-exclusive tip that would sit tighter around the refill and keep any movement at bay. Just to see if it's a problem exclusive to the G2, I put in a Schmidt EasyFlow 9000 and it was even worse, creating a "clicking" noise when writing with it which makes it completely unusable with that refill, in my opinion (but I hate the 9000 anyway so it's not a deal-breaker for me). I spoke with Dan at length about refills for my Karas Kustoms Bolt and he told me that refills vary based on manufacturing tolerances and sometimes manufacturers adjust manufacturing tolerances and sizes so it's hard to make "custom" pens to fit specific refills. What may work for one specific run of refills from a manufacturer, could be too large or too tight for another run of identical refills due to manufacturing tolerances or changes in design, thus the variance in the tip of my pen. I'd still like to see it fitting a little tighter. I threw a spring from a G2 in the tip to create some added pressure and it has taken care of most of the movement. See? That junk bin is coming in handy after-all.
The grip is long and smooth, but it's not uncomfortable to use at all. The lack of any real defined "grip area" means I get to grip the pen where it is most comfortable to me. I've said in previous reviews that a defined grip area on a pen limits the user on where and how to hold the pen (a reason I can't use the Lamy Safari and Al-Star) and Karas Kustoms has done a good job of leaving grip placement up to the user. Even gripping farther up on the pen is not uncomfortable as the threads are smooth and not intrusive.
Outside of the finish issues and the clip, which I fixed, the pen is really nice and is machined perfectly. As-is, I'd say that I'm fairly pleased with this pen. I think Nock Co. did a great job picking out the colors for this pen and I'm really hoping maybe they'll give us a Fodderstack or Fodderstack XL with a red/white/blue theme to match the pen and the blue-grid Dot-Dash Cards. You listenin' Nock Co.!? If you haven't yet, definitely check out Karas Kustoms. They make amazing stuff from hot rod parts and salt and pepper shakers, to machined pens and toy tops; and they make it all right here in the USA, which is super, super awesome.
Thanks for reading,