An Indispensable Trio: The Nock Co. Fodderstack, DotDash Cards, and Exclusive Karas Kustoms Render K

I picked up this trio of Nock Co. offerings a number of weeks ago, and though I knew they’d be something I’d enjoy, I had no idea how much I come to RELY on them. All day, every day. On vacation, at a conference, at work, in the car, and just knocking (haha…pun alert) around the house, I’m constantly grabbing for this ultra-portable set of tools.

Fodderstack, Render K, and DotDash cards

The Fodderstack is constructed of 1000D Nylon with DWR coating. That is, it’s tough. I chose the Steel color because it looks good with just about any pen. The interior is lined with nylon pack cloth— Blue Jay, in my case. I like the pop of bright blue peeking out of the top of the case, AND it looks great with my Nock Co. x Karas Kustoms Exclusive Render K with its gorgeous blue cap.

DotDash cards, Render K, aand Fodderstack

The Fodderstack measures 5.125″ x 3.25″ which means that it’s designed to hold a stack of Nock Co’s DotDash 3×5 cards. A separate, slim outer pocket holds a pen or two, while the inner pocket holds about 20 of the sturdy, gridded note cards. I use them for EVERYTHING— grocery lists, to-do lists, my DC Pen Show “quest” list, phone numbers, directions, airline flight and gate numbers, blog post outlines, meeting notes, you name it. If you’re walking around and doing things, you need these cards.

DotDash cards

Made of 80 lb. cover stock, and featuring an orange DotDash pattern, the 4.25mm grid is absolutely perfect for documenting all the stuff that flies at me during my day. They’re printed on both sides so I can fit A LOT of information on one card, thanks to my fairly precise handwriting. While I’m usually using my Nock Co. Render K with a 0.5 mm G2 refill, the cards are fountain pen friendly, especially with extra-fine and fine nibs. There’s a bit of feathering with medium and broad nibs, but even that is better than anything I’ve seen when using fountain pens on index cards. Impressive.

DotDash cards

The pen that knocks this trio out of the park is the Nock Co. x Karas Kustoms G2 model Render K. Even though I already have a fistful of Render Ks— plain aluminum, orange, Delrin, and raw— I couldn’t pass up the chance to own one of these exclusive (but not limited) joint Nock Co./Karas Kustoms offerings. You’ll only find this color combination— aluminum body, blue cap, red tip— through Nock Co. The rich colors really pop in contrast to the shiny aluminum body.

Nock Co. X Karas Kustoms Render K

Render K clip

The Render K is made of 6061-T6 aluminum (good stuff), and weighs 1.1 ounces. The screw cap, which features a sturdy clip and accent knurling (mmmmmm…knurling), doesn’t post. Measuring 5.125″ capped and 4.92″ uncapped, the pen feels great in hand. The pen DOES NOT ship with a refill so you’ll have to provide your own. I’ve installed a Pilot G2 0.5 mm black refill, though others swear by the 0.38 mm tip size.


The whole Fodderstack combo— case, cards, and pen— is just slightly larger then my iPhone 5 so it’s an easy item to carry in hand, or in my purse or messenger bag, which is why it is ALWAYS with me. On the rare instance that I’ve left it behind, I feel undressed, like when I forget my earrings. Ugh. The Fodderstack has become as important to me as my phone. It’s well-designed, well-made, and fun to use, just like my phone.

Fodderstack, Render K, and DotDash cards

Nock Co.’s Fodderstack, DotDash cards, and exclusive Karas Kustoms Render K have become must-have tools for navigating my day. At work and at home, in the car and in the office, they’re perfect for capturing notes and lists, numbers and names, directions, and requests. Or doodling. Even doodling is fun.

DotDash cards and Render K

How did I live without my Nock Co. Fodderstack, DotDash cards, and Nock Co. x Karas Kustoms Render K?! Darned if I know.

Nock Co. Trio of Tools

You can check out EVERYTHING Nock Co. has to offer HERE. Color options for the various cases can be found HERE.

[This post was not sponsored and doesn’t contain any affiliate links. All items were purchased by yours truly. I simply love this stuff.]


Traveling With Pens: A Case Study (or a study of a basket case?!)

I’m attending a conference in Indianapolis, IN this week. But before I traveled here, I spent a god awful amount of time mulling over which pens to bring with me. Clothes? Easy. Pens? Not so much.

Right up until the last minute I was swapping pens in and out of my Nock Co. Brasstown case. The case, at least, was pretty much a given. Even though I schlep three or four Nock Co. Pen cases to and from work every day, I knew I only wanted to travel with one, and the Brasstown quickly made the cut. With its roll-up, multiple pen holding “tongue” and space to carry some ink cartridges and a small ruler, the case was an easy pick.

When it was time to leave for the airport, I had to STOP with the pen swaps and go with what was in the case. Here’s the final line-up:

Fountain pens
Lamy AL Star Blue-Green (fine nib) with Lamy black cartridges
Lamy Vista (extra-fine nib) with Lamy black cartridges
Pilot Knight (medium nib) with Namiki Blue/Black cartridges

Rollerball pen
Retro 51 Betsy Tornado Rollerball

Gel pen
Nock Co./Karas Kustoms exclusive Render K with 0.5 mm black G2 refill

Ballpoint pens
Fisher Space pen (matte black bullet model)
TactileTurn Shaker with Schmidt EasyFlow 9000 black refill


I’m a couple of days into the conference now and have a few thoughts about my choices. The Lamy Vista is great. The EF nib is perfect in my Clairefontaine notebook and I especially like being able to monitor the ink level. The fine nib on the Lamy AL Star is a little broad, while the medium nib on the Pilot Knight is wonderfully smooth and lays down a precise fine line as it’s a Japanese medium.

The Fisher Space pen has been particularly handy for filling out entry forms at today’s trade show. It’s easy to carry and completely reliable. Maybe not my favorite refill of all time, but great when you just need a pen to do its job whenever and wherever.

I haven’t used Betsy or the Shaker as yet, though both are favorites when I’m home. I think I’ll work them into tomorrow’s sessions. Could it be I have pen A.D.D.? Is that a thing?


A couple of other Nock Co. products have really performed well on this trip- the Fodderstack loaded with the DotDash 3×5 cards paired with Nock Co. x Karas Kustoms Exclusive G2 Render K. The pen looks and writes great. I love the playful trio of colors, and loaded with a 0.5 mm G2 refill, it’s been perfect for taking meeting notes AND for keeping track of action items that are popping up at work and at home. By jotting down tasks on the DotDash cards, I’m able to concentrate on what I should be concentrating on- the conference.

Someone on Twitter suggested that I should travel with only one pen as a challenge, and I considered that for a little bit. Obviously, I didn’t go that route since I have a stupid number of pens with me. But really, I’m having fun swapping pens from day to day…or even within the same day.

And, I must admit, pens are something of a security blanket for me. I feel better when they’re with me.


There…I admitted it.

Written and photographed on my iPad and iPhone with poor hotel lighting. But written nonetheless!

Wish Granted: Ink by Karas Kustoms

Designer Dan Bishop surprised me with a prototype of Karas Kustoms newly launched fountain pen, Ink. This review reflects my personal experiences and observations.

A fountain pen from my favorite machine shop has been on my wish list for months— maybe even before it was a glimmer in Dan Bishop’s eye. I’ve periodically politely pestered the Karas Kustoms designer, and I’m sure that other fans of their Render K, Bolt, and Retrakt pens have done the same. Maybe our prodding did the trick, or maybe Dan’s had this project up his sleeve all along.

Ink by Karas Kustoms

Whatever the case may be— Ink is here! It’s here! It’s here! I’m as excited as Will Farrell’s Buddy the Elf (in case you couldn’t tell).

This is not a dainty pen, and I mean that in a very good way. It’s beefy, polished, and oozes quality as well as a large dose of Karas cool.

Brass AND warm

The tapered grip section— brass on my pen— is very comfortable. I like how the metal starts out feeling chilly, then warms with the heat of my hand. So it’s cool— but also warm.

#5 Schmidt nib (Medium)

Fitted with a medium #5 Schmidt nib, I’m finding this to be a stiff but smooth writer. I’m not able to coax any line variation from the nib, but that’s not my strong suit. I’m reading that Schmidt nibs are swappable so you should be able to customize your pen in the future, should you desire a larger size nib or a finer or broader line. For me, this medium is perfectly fine— very nice for a daily writer.

Converter with kon-peki

Loaded with Iroshizuku kon-peki, the flow is smack dab in the middle of dry and juicy. Again, just how I like it for daily use.

Ink's cool clip

The design of the pen’s clip is classic Karas— unique and stylish with just a hint of bad-ass. Recessed into the top of the pen’s cap, the clip is anchored with a couple of set screws so it’s not going anywhere. It’s not an exceptionally springy clip, but slides easily into my pocket or pen case.

Top of cap

What I REALLY like about this project is that the anodized color options (and, oh, what colors!) are available right out of the Kickstarter gate. No need to wait until the Kickstarter project is over to snap up some of those richly colored pens.

I’m a backer. An excited backer. In fact, I’m pretty sure that I was backer #1 (ONE benefit of being home sick on launch day).

Aluminum/brass Ink

Here’s what I’m excited for— an aluminum/anodized orange fountain pen that I’ll fill with Iroshizuku fuyu-gaki. Orange bliss.

Not into fountain pens? Now’s the time to change that. But if you’re REALLY resistant, Ink is also available as a rollerball. Same great construction, same superb color choices, coupled with the ever-popular Schmidt P8126 refill.

Mesa, Arizona— where pen wishes DO come true.

Pen eyes
This pen has eyes, don’t you think?!


Check out all of the backer levels, weight and dimension schematics, material/color options, as well as THE best launch video HERE. As Prescott says, “It’s the bee’s knees!” That’s the same as bad-ass, right?

It’s Quality: RETRAKT by Karas Kustoms

Note: Karas Kustoms provided me with a pre-production prototype of their newest pen, the RETRAKT (copper version), for evaluation and play. All other Karas Kustoms pens mentioned/shown in this review were purchased by myself. I’m obviously a fan, but I promise to tell it like it is. And though I received this prototype free of charge, I’m also a backer.

Retrakt in package
The complete package

The pen body arrived, nicely packaged, with a number of little doo-dads. There’s a spring, a spacer (for Parker-compatible refills), a piece of tubing to create your own custom spacers, a package insert that explains everything and offers a few Karas Kustoms words of wisdom. (“Only use your RETRAKT for good, never for evil, as this may void the warranty and make you much less cool as a person.”)

Funny story…when I unpacked the pen, I slipped the spring from the packet over my Pilot G2 refill, inserted it into the pen body, reassembled the pen, and clicked the knock mechanism. Hrrrmmmm. The mechanism wouldn’t engage. What the…??? After a little futzing around, I discovered that there was ALREADY a spring for use with a G2 refill installed in the pen, so I had actually tried to engage the mechanism with TWO springs in place. Oops. Once the correct spring was used on its own, the knock worked like a charm. (When I have one of these mental lapses with my computer at work, my boss calls it a “PICNIC” issue…Problem In Chair, Not In Computer. So I guess what I had here was a PICNIP issue…Problem In Chair, Not In Pen. Which would make sense if “picnip” was a word.)

So to summarize…
Pilot G2 set-up
Use the larger/looser spring with a Pilot G2 refill

Parker-compatible refill
Use the smaller/tighter spring and spacer with Parker-compatible refills

With that bit of business out of the way, let’s get to the pen itself.

Copper Retrakt

The RETRAKT is a custom-machined pen body (refill not included) available in anodized aluminum, and hand-finished/raw brass and copper. I have the copper version, and it is a looker. Great finish, unique color that will develop an antiquey patina (AND it smells like pennies). It is ALSO quite heavy, weighing in at about 63 grams (2.25 ounces)…as measured on the same scale that I use to weigh spaghetti (so take those weights with a grain of salt). The copper RETRAKT certainly is a SOLID PEN. For all of its weight, I don’t find it unwieldy to write with. Granted, I haven’t written pages and pages in one sitting, but I’ve been using the RETRAKT to make notes for this review and I’m none the worse for wear. The weight seems to be distributed in such a way that the pen sits solidly in the cusp of my hand and doesn’t list forward or backward. Should you desire something less weighty, consider the aluminum version. But keep in mind that the copper looks really cool, AND exhibits anti-bacterial properties. (It’s true! Google it!) The RETRAKT looks great and it’s good for you!

Karas knurling

As with the Render K, a bit of knurling adds interest to the look of the pen. Some girls go crazy over nail polish and purses. Not my thing. But show me some KNURLING, and you’ve won me over. Can’t explain it. Maybe genetics?! (Does “love of knurling” run in families?)

Karas clip
Karas clip

The RETRAKT sports the iconic stainless steel Karas Kustoms clip, the same one you’ll find on both the Render K and the Bolt. It’s super sturdy and attached to the knurled section of the pen via two set screws. I regularly slip one of my other Karas pens into a jeans pocket and have never had a issue with the clip not doing its job.

Retrakt knock

Let’s get to what makes the RETRAKT retract. Tricked out with a German-made, all metal knock, the retractable mechanism engages smoothly and quietly. Yes, quietly. Using a ball-bearing and groove system, rather than a cam, makes the difference. The knock itself is rock solid…no wiggling or wishy-washiness…and will surely survive my compulsive pen clicking habit. And because the pen is retractable, there’s no cap to post or set on your desk. Retrakt. Write. Retrakt.

Retrakt's knock mechanism
Up close and personal with the knock mechanism

Karas pen family
The Karas Kustoms line: Render K (aluminum), Render K (orange aluminum), Bolt (aluminum), Retrakt (copper)

Another feature to note is something that you DON’T see…branding. Their pens are sleek and industrial and YOURS. You’re not using and carrying a billboard for the company. Karas Kustoms design aesthetic and build quality speak for themselves, without the pens saying a single word. So clean, so cool.

I’ve been a fan of Karas Kustoms since their first Kickstarter project, the Render K. Backing their second project, The Bolt, was a no-brainer. Both experiences set the bar high for all other Kickstarter projects. With frequent updates and mesmerizing production videos, they bring their backers along for the ride, so you’re never in the dark wondering where a project stands. I was impressed then, and I remain impressed with this latest addition to the Karas Kustoms pen family.

The RETRAKT. “It’s Quality, Bro!”

It's Quality, Bro!

Intrigued? Want to know more? Check out the RETRAKT Kickstarter page HERE. Levels start at just $30 for the EARLY BIRD aluminum offering (while they last!) all the way up to $250 for an on-site visit to the Karas Kustoms shop, complete with lunch and an aluminum RETRAKT.

The Bolt: A Machined Bolt Action Pen

The Bolt
The Bolt, by KarasKustoms

Last week was a good pen week, and one of the pens that made it so was The Bolt, by KarasKustoms. I backed their first pen project, the Render K, and was so pleased with that pen that it was a no-brainer to back this project.

KarasKustoms sets the bar pretty high when it comes to Kickstarter projects. They provide regular updates that often contain videos of the machining process. (I’m oddly fascinated by these glimpses of the birth of a pen.) The shop truly brings you along for the ride and provides a very transparent experience. I haven’t backed a project that’s done it any better.

Like the Render-K, the Bolt is available in both aluminum and brass. I chose aluminum, as I did for their first project, and am again pleased with my choice. The pen has heft but is not heavy. The weight is just perfect for me. The pen measures 5.5″ long and 0.45″ in diameter, and feels great in hand. I’d consider it well-balanced and comfortable.

Bolt action
Bolt action

Unlike the Render-K, this pen is retractable, and that’s where things get particularly cool. To extend the writing tip, you push down on the knock, as you would for any other retractable. But THEN, use your thumb to twist the knock to the side so that the bolt continues to travel in the machined slot, and the extended writing tip is locked into place. (At first this action took two fingers, but now that things have loosened up, I can do the whole thing with just my thumb.) I don’t know why this is fun, but it is. It is.

Sturdy, sturdy clip

The pen comes with stainless steel hardware, AND an Allen wrench so that you can tighten the clip’s screws, if need be. (Have I mentioned that these guys have an eye for detail?) The clip on my pen hasn’t budged, but it’s nice to know that I can tighten it up if I have to.

0.5 mm Moleskine gel refill
Writing sample with the 0.5 mm Moleskine gel refill

While the pen DOES comes with the Allen wrench, it DOES NOT come with a refill. Why’s that? Well…because the body is able to accept a number of refill options (generally in the Parker-style format), Karas Kustoms chooses to leave the choice of refill up to the customer, rather than providing refills that users may toss. That’s fine for me, and I was well-stocked with my Parker-style refill of choice- the Moleskine 0.5 mm gel refill. Within minutes of unpacking the pen, I popped in the refill and was off and running. (A few folks missed this detail in the project’s documentation, and were puzzled/angry. This lack of refill is the same as with the Render K, AND is clearly stated, so I wasn’t caught off guard.)

Here’s a list of some of the refills that are compatible with The Bolt:

Faber-Castell Ballpoint Pen Refill
Fisher Space Pen Refill, PR Series- Colors (Bold, Medium, Fine)
Foray (Office Depot) Ballpoint Refill for Parker (Medium)
Monteverde Ceramic Gel Refill (Broad)
Monteverde Needle Point Refill (Fine)
Monteverde Soft Roll- Colored inks (Medium)
Monteverde Soft Roll- (Superbroad, Medium, Ultrafine)
OHTO Needlepoint Ballpoint Pen Refill PS-807NP
OHTO PS-205NP Extra-Fine 0.5mm Ballpoint Pen Refill
Parafernalia Ballpoint Pen Refill NO LOGO
Parker Ballpoint Pen Refill (Broad, Medium, Fine)
Parker GEL Ballpoint Pen Refill (Medium)
Parker Quinkflow Ballpoint Pen Refill (Medium, Fine)
Pelikan Giant Ballpoint Pen Refill 337 (Broad, Fine, Medium)
Pentel KFLT8 Ballpoint Pen Refill
Schmidt 9000M EasyFlow Pen Refill
Schmidt P8900 Super Bowl Refill (Fine)
Schmidt P900 B Ballpoint Pen Refill (Broad, Medium, Fine)
Schmidt P950M Megaline Pressurized Ballpoint Pen Refill (Medium)
Schneider Express 735 Pen Refill (Broad, Medium, Fine)
Schneider Slider 755 Pen Refill (Extra-Broad, Medium)
Stabilo Ballpoint Refill
Tombow BR-ZLM Ballpoint Pen Refill
Visconti Ballpoint Pen Refill AA49 1.4 (Broad)
Visconti Gel Refill (Broad, Medium, Fine)

Quite the list, eh?!

The Bolt

I have nothing but praise for the team at KarasKustoms. The Bolt is solidly made, and sports clean lines and a cool industrial look. And that bolt mechanism? It’s irresistible.

Keep ‘em coming, KarasKustoms. Keep ‘em coming.


Want your own Bolt? Though the Kickstarter project has ended, the pen is now available via the KarasKustoms website. Check out all of their cool products by clicking here.

I was not compensated in any way for this review. I’m just a fan, and wanted to spread the word about this interesting pen and the quality workmanship.

Kickstarter #1: KarasKustoms Render K + Pilot Hi-Tec-C refills

Render K by KarasKustoms

The Render K was the first project I ever backed on Kickstarter, and the experience was a great one. KarasKustoms, a machine shop in Arizona and the maker of the Render K, posted frequent updates throughout the process, including a number of videos that showed our pens being “born.” I bonded with my pen, even before I held it in my hands. But I worried (as I am prone to do) that there might be a letdown when the Render K actually arrived and fantasy met reality. As it turns out, there was no need to fret- the real live pen blew me away.

Why was I worried?

My pen was machined from aluminum (there’s also a brass version available) and feels like a precision tool. Mated with the Pilot Hi-Tec-C (0.4 mm, black ink, is my choice), it’s one of the pens that I reach for every single day.

Built to last, then last some more

The stainless steel clip is ultra-reliable, and keeps the pen secure whether clipped to pocket or purse or messenger bag. NO worries about clip failure. I really love the look of the knurled cap. Mmmmm…knurled. Cool word.

The ultimate clip

Awesome knurling

Technically, the cap can be (loosely) posted, but I never use it that way as the added weight of cap makes the pen top heavy. The weight is perfectly balanced sans cap.

The cap threads onto the pen body and I love this feature, too. As with the Kaweco Liliput, I enjoy the tiny ritual of unscrewing the cap before sitting down to write. This action forces me to slow down for just a moment. And sometimes, a moment is all you need to get a grip. And who couldn’t use a little more grip? (Me! Me!)

Before using the Render K, I liked the Pilot Hi-Tec-C pens, but honestly, I didn’t LOVE them. Turns out that it must’ve been the pen BODY that wasn’t my favorite because the the Hi-Tec-C refill in the Render K body is an absolutely stellar combination.

This was my first venture into the world of Kickstarter projects, but it’s not my last. KarasKustoms, though, set the bar very high with their frequent updates, and ultimately, with the execution of the Render K. It’s a fine, fine pen.

Missed the Render K as a Kickstarter project? No worries…the pen body (and its brass counterpart) are available here. Note that a refill DOES NOT ship with the pen so that you can select what works for you. In addition to the Hi-Tec-C refills, KarasKustoms includes a spacer that makes it possible to use Fisher Space Pen refills as well.

Pilot Hi-Tec-C refills are available via JetPens, and so are the Fisher Space Pen refills. One stop refill shopping!

For another take on the same pen, check out this wonderfully detailed review at Gourmet Pens.