I've reviewed pens from Karas Pen Co. before. But nothing quite like this... Earlier this year (2017), Karas Pen Co. (part of Karas Kustoms) released their first-ever non-metal pen: The Decograph. It was released in classic black and a vintage-inspired, semi-translucent green. Alongside the two "standard" colors, though, the team at Karas Pen Co. released their first limited edition, the 1701 (17 for 2017, and 01 for the First Edition) in a gray acrylic with a variety of red sections (swoon). They sold out rather quickly and the team moved on to their second limited edition for the year, the 1702 "Elektron." AND IT. IS. A. STUNNER.
The Elektron comes shipped in a machined aluminum tube (more on that in a bit) and is accompanied by a story about Greek Gods and sons and sisters and chariots and lightning bolts, which inspired the name of this edition. Rather than explaining it, I'll let Karas do the talking:
Legend has it that Phaethon, son of Helios, sought proof that he was indeed the sun god’s progeny. Helios relented to Phaethon’s request and allowed him to pilot the sun chariot across the sky. Phaethon was unable to control the horses that pulled the chariot, and seeing the chariot veer off course in danger of setting the earth on fire; Zeus struck down Phaethon with a lightning bolt. Phaethon’s lifeless body fell to earth, landing along the banks of the River Eridanos. Phaethon’s sisters, the Heliades, gathered around his body and transformed into poplars. Into eternity they weep tears of electron (amber) at their brother’s grave.
THEY NAMED THE PEN AFTER GREEK GODS AND SONS AND SISTERS AND CHARIOTS, PEOPLE! It really doesn't get much cooler than that for a back story.
And they nailed the "fall colors" with this edition. The material is a stunning amber swirl resin with hints of bright gold, translucent honey and deep umber veined with black and white. It's something you need to hold in your hands to truly see the depth of. I posted a quick unboxing above for you to look at as still images just don't do it justice.
The pen itself is a great size overall. Unposted, it hits just behind the webbing of my hand and is extremely lightweight. It's great for both short and long writing sessions. Posted, I found the pen to be just a smidge too long and a little bit back heavy due to the light weight of the pen body itself, but it is definitely usable in this configuration if you're in a situation that you really need to post the pen for use, or if you just like to post your pen for use. If it posted just a smidge deeper (1/4" or so), I'd say it would be perfect posted and unposted.
This pen is a gorgeous, vintage-inspired design with clean lines, a subtle cap taper and a metal clip and finials. The clip is straight, but has tapered chamfers on the edges and chamfered corners at the bottom to give it a tapered look that is opposite the cap taper. It's just a great example of gorgeous and thoughtful design — something I've come to expect from Dan Bishop. My only quibble is that while the clip is gorgeous and right at home on this pen, mine had a little more side-to-side play than I typically like. It's not a deal-breaker, but the lack of any visible hardware probably limits the way in which the clip can be attached and has resulted in a slightly weaker joint than I've come to expect from previous Karas Kustoms clips (the clip on the Ink, for example is just about the beefiest, strongest clip I've ever used). The delicateness (is that a word?) is fitting for this pen, and it doesn't feel cheap or breakable, but it's something to be aware of if you've come to be used to the tougher-than-nails clips on the Ink and Render K.
Karas Kustoms reached out to me regarding the clip and they apologized for the added movement and agreed that their attachment point does allow for a little more movement than on previous clips that were made from a solid piece of metal. I'm confident that the clip is more than stable and won't go anywhere, but I felt it was worth mentioning. I'm satisfied that they've done their homework and that they took the time to reach out to let me know that it's definitely a part of the design and not a flaw with my pen. Thanks guys!!!
The cap finial is a gently-chamfered, conical aluminum piece that ties in beautifully with the clip and the finial at the end of the body is easily as beautiful with the Karas Pen Co. logo engraved in it — the only visible branding on the entire pen. It's so subtle and so extremely well done. This pen is gorgeous and Dan and crew did a magnificent job branding it in a way that is befitting a clean, vintage-inspired pen.
The Decograph, regardless of edition, is shipped in a polished aluminum tube that unscrews to reveal the pen tucked in a foam insert. Think Retro 51 Tornado packaging, but made of BEAUTIFULLY-finished aluminum with the Karas Pen Co. logo engraved in the top half. This packaging is definitely fitting for a pen in the $150+ price bracket and offers a safe way to ship the pen and can later be used as a rather handsome way to display your pen on your desk or bookshelf. Again, thoughtful design done well.
The 1702 is dropping mid-November in an edition of 60 individually numbered pens. In the photo above, you'll see two sets of numbers — one on the barrel just below the threads and another on the section, just below the bottom of the section, before the threads. On the final versions, they won't have the numbering on the section as they found some inconsistencies, with the etching and opted to omit this extra numbering in lieu of a cleaner presentation with the numbering on the barrel only. This is a good example of how Karas Kustoms pays attention to details to make sure they're delivering a great product in all aspects. They're not doing something unique just for the sake of doing something unique, regardless of execution. Well done, guys!
The Decograph lineup uses the same Bock nibs we've become accustomed to from Karas Kustoms. I've yet to have a bad experience with any Bock nib and the Medium nib on the Elektron that I received is smooth and wet with just a subtle bit of feedback. It writes extremely well right out of the box. As with most Karas Kustoms fountain pens (if not all), the Decograph comes with a Schmidt converter and 5 short international cartridges. Additionally, because the metal finial in the body is separated from the body cavity itself, these pens can be eyedroppered.
Overall, I'm impressed with the Decograph. I think it's a bold departure from the rugged machined pens Karas Pen Co. has become known for. The presentation is beautiful and Karas seems to have hit a stride in their manufacturing as the threads are cut perfectly, the pens are polished to perfection and everything is smooth and tight. As stated before, I do find the clip to have a little more side-to-side play than I'm used to from a Karas pen and I found it to be slightly back-heavy when posted, but the ability to write unposted alleviates that concern for me personally and the clip is something I can live with. One other thing I think would be great to see is other metals for the accents. They use brass and copper in their other pens and I think using those metals in some of their special editions could be really fun and would be a subtle nod to their machine-shop roots without making another full-metal pen.
I'm really excited to see this new direction and can't wait to see what else Dan and his team come up with in terms of limited colors and releases. Be sure and find them on Instagram @KarasPenCo to see upcoming releases, get inside scoop on discounts and sales, and to see what pen shows they're attending where they will have limited "Pen Show Only" colors of the Decograph.
Thanks to Karas Pen Co. for loaning this one to me for review. I'm glad I got to take a look at it as it's a fantastic, American-made pen from a great company that I think is well worth the price of admission. Check them out at KarasKustoms.com.
Thanks for reading,