Karas Kustoms INK Fountain Pen Review

The fact that Karas Kustoms was there at the L. A. Pen show came as a very pleasant surprise. I entered the hall, looked around, and there, tucked into a quiet corner, was the Karas Kustoms table. There sat Bill Karas and Dan Bishop, the brilliant minds behind the Karas Kustoms pen line. I walked up and Dan greeted with a warm, welcoming smile which disarmed me completely. I stopped being so nervous, and we started chatting about their solid, well-designed pens, that I salivate over.

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Karas Kustoms on Instragram

KarasKustoms.com

I had been looking at the INK in black body/brass grip combo for the longest time, but it was constantly sold out by the time I had earned enough to get it. Incidentally, I was looking forward to getting a Spencerian grind on my Falcon, but was informed that John Mottishaw doesn’t work on pens not bought from Nibs.com. This came as a huge disappointment to me, but it also cleared about $110 of my budget, allowing me to re-purpose it towards getting an INK in my dream combo. Best of all, Dan kindly knocked $10 off the original price, which helped me save enough to buy another dream pen (a story for another review).

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Karas Kustoms Retrakt Review

Specs:

  • Length: 5.625″
  • Weight: 1 ounce
  • Refills: Pilot G2/Parker-compatible refills
  • Stainless Steel Clip and Hardware
  • 6061-T6 aluminum body

These specs were taken from the Retrakt’s product page on Karas Kustoms’ website.

Introduction:

Right around the time I discovered Massdrop, I noticed that the Retrakt was one of the featured drops. I couldn’t resist the price I was getting it at, and convinced myself that I needed this in my collection. After an agonizing wait, it finally appeared in my mailbox. I ripped open that packaging like it was Christmas morning and lo and behold, there it was in all its shiny aluminum glory. Before purchasing the Retrakt I had been adamant that I get at least one Karas Kustoms pen, so I had ordered Pentel Energel black 0.5 mm refills from JetPens in advance, should I ever pull the trigger. They waited in my desk drawer until the glorious afternoon I opened my package up.

Feel:

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When I first laid hands on it, I was surprised at how light it was. I have relatively big hands, so I wasn’t sure whether the pen would be too small, having only looked at other reviews and pictures. When I held it though, all doubts about the size vanished. It was very comfortable to hold, and the brushed aluminum finish helped give a decent amount of grip for someone with really dry hands (I have dropped all my pens at least once, no nib accidents have occurred as of yet).

Setup:

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This is where things get a little tricky. I realized a little late that the Energel refills I had purchased had to be “hacked” (literally) to fit in the pen, as the standard sized refill is too long. I read a guide that simply said measure and cut the excess off. On my first attempt, I cut the refill way too long and conservatively snipped away at the tube till it was at my desired length.

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Messy end from all the snipping

Problem was that when I had properly sized the tube, the knock(clicky mechanism) didn’t fully push the point through the hole properly, so I followed an online guide that told me to insert the black plastic piece in the back and size the refill to accommodate it. After that I was good to go.

For those of you thinking to use the same or a similar combo read this post on refill hacking: Karas Kustoms Retrakt Hack 

Writing Performance:

Doesn't it look pretty big? O.O

Doesn’t it look pretty big? O.O

When I initially loaded up the pen, I had used the spring meant for the Pilot G2 style refills, because I thought that since the Energel refill was so large, it would fit properly.

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Notice the slight gap on the left? It really made a huge difference!

However, I suffered a lot of frustration when the point of the pen had a visible gap when extended and did not fill the hole properly. This may sound like me being extremely picky, but there is a good reason for the complaint. When I was taking notes in class, the tip just started bending and hitting the gap causing a weird feeling that messed up my handwriting. After rereading the guide I linked above, I noticed that it said to use the thinner of the two springs. I immediately switched out the springs and the knock felt more responsive and the tip stopped wobbling around. This improved my experience by a lot, and I find myself using it with increasing frequency.

Overall:

This pen is a very sturdy, well-built pen that can take a lot of punishment (dropped it twice on concrete, didn’t even scratch it). I highly recommend it for anyone who wants a simple, utilitarian pen that can accept a myriad of refills to suit your writing style, while feeling solid and balanced in the hand. I would like to thank Karas Kustoms for making such an elegant writing instrument, and I look forward to many more years of use.

Disclaimer: I am in no way affiliated with Massdrop, Karas Kustoms, and any other parties mentioned in this post. I am just another happy customer. 🙂