The CUBE by KarasKustoms + Dudek Modern Goods

The CUBE (CU13E), a collaboration by KarasKustoms and Dudek Modern Goods, was sent to me for review purposes. I have not been, nor will I be, monetarily compensated. This review reflects my experiences and impressions.


This thing is HOT. And heavy. Like a good romance. Which is apt, because I frickin’ love it.

Loose pens
My KarasKustoms INKs and a Lamy AL-Star

I love it because it solves a daily problem. I typically start the day with a pretty clear desk, then as the morning progresses, more and more pens find their way out of their cases and onto my desk. By late afternoon, pen clutter abounds. They’re banging into each other, hiding under papers, and sometimes (eek!), falling on the floor. Shudder.


The solid aluminum CUBE solves that pen clutter problem, and does so with impeccable design, stunning good looks, and quality workmanship. A collaboration between KarasKustoms and Dudek Modern Goods, The CUBE arose from the chance friendship and complementary talents of Dan Bishop and Mike Dudek.


Their Kickstarter video does a good job of showing how the idea for The CUBE was born. Donuts, it seems, played a big role in getting this collaboration off the ground. As I thought about this project, and Mike and Dan, another video idea popped into my head.


Remember those Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup ads? The ones where two people are walking towards each other— one eating a chocolate bar and the other eating from a jar of peanut butter? They clumsily bump into each other and one says, “Hey- you got chocolate on my peanut butter!!” while the other one says, “You got peanut butter on my chocolate!!” Then they both take a taste of their accidental creation and smile big smiles as a wonderful new thing is discovered.


In MY version of the video, Dan, carrying aluminum stock from the KarasKustoms machine shop, bumps into Mike, who’s carrying his walnut CUBE. Dan says, “Hey, you got your CUBE on my aluminum!!” while Mike says, “You got your aluminum on my CUBE!!” Then, BINGO, the aluminum CUBE is born. (Okay, okay…I’ll leave the video-making to the experts.)


Some stats— The CUBE is solid aluminum and weighs in at nearly two pounds (1 lb, 14.4 oz). The nine holes, lined with pen-protecting Delrin, measure 0.563″ x 2″ deep. The CUBE itself measures 3.125″ x 3.125″ and is 2.750″ high (not including the height of the rubber feet). The rubber feet, a critical detail, protect your furniture and make The CUBE look like it’s levitating off of your desk. Available in silver (anodized aluminum), black, orange, blue, and red, The CUBE is a colorful and classy way to store your pens.

I, apparently, have a thing for orange.

Using Mike Dudek’s design and the mad machine skillz of KarasKustoms, this project is a testament to the talents of both parties. The CUBE is functional AND sculptural. It’s well-designed and well-executed.



As I write this post, there are 15 days left in The CUBE’s Kickstarter campaign. The project was funded with super-sonic speed, a testament to the reputation of the two parties involved. Though I received this CUBE for review, I’ve also backed the project. That black CUBE is calling my name.

Vintage Value: The Conklin Duragraph Fountain Pen (Cracked Ice)

Many thanks to Ron, at Pen Chalet, for sending along this Conklin Duragraph fountain pen. I was not compensated for my review, and this post reflects my experiences with the pen. There are no affiliate links in this post.

Conklin Duragraph
The Conklin box is a little coffinesque, but it holds a very nice pen.

The Conklin Duragraph originally launched in 1923. I won’t pretend to know much (or anything, really) about the history of the Duragraph line, but I was intrigued by the appearance of this recently released updated version. The look is distinctly vintage, with rich-looking resins and a flat-top cap. Branding is quite simple. The center band sports the words “Conklin” and “Duragraph,” bracketed by two sets of three tiny crescents. The flat-top is imprinted with “Conklin Est. 1898.”

Conklin Duragraph

I own a few Conklin fountain pens— all crescent fillers— and while I enjoy them, cleaning them is something of a chore. It takes A LOT of filling and flushing to clean the internal “bladder” of those pens. The Duragraph is cartridge/converter pen which means that it’s simple to fill and to clean. The pen ships with two cartridges AND the converter. (I love when the converter is included.)

Conklin Duragraph

I filled my Cracked Ice version with Pilot Iroshizuku tsuki-yo, and set pen to paper. The stub nib on this Conklin Duragraph is smooth and plenty juicy, but not overly so. My other Conklin pens have equally smooth nibs (that’s 4 for 4), so I’ve either been lucky or nib QC is quite good. Flow is perfect— neither too dry or too wet.

Conklin Duragraph

Available in Amber, Cracked Ice, and Forest Green versions, I was initially drawn to the Amber version (fall colors are kind of my “thing”), but decided to branch out a bit and chose the Cracked Ice resin. I haven’t seen the other finishes in person, and I’m sure they’re great looking, but, to me, the Cracked Ice resin accentuates the vintage roots of the pen. It looks like a pen my grandfather would’ve used— sort of understated, but still interesting— like a pen made from crushed sea shells.

Conklin Duragraph

The stainless steel nib is available in fine, medium, and this 1.1 mm stub. Though not really suitable for me as a daily writer, the stub gives my handwriting more flair than it normally has, even though I’m not particularly proficient with it. I’ve never experienced a hard start or any skipping. I’m really pleased with the flow and the feel of the writing experience. It’s silky smooth.

Conklin Duragraph

This is a pen that’s meant to be used unposted. Though it’s possible to post the cap, it doesn’t post securely at all (the cap could/would definitely wiggle off), AND extends the pen to an unwieldy feeling 6.9″ (175 mm). Capped, the pen measures 5.9″ (140 mm). Unposted, it measures 4.9″ (124 mm), which feels fine in my hand, but might be a bit short if your hands are very large. The concave grip gives my fingers the perfect resting place for writing and doodling. The capped pen weighs 26 grams— sort of a nice “middle-ground” weight. I have NO complaints with anything about the look or the feel of this pen.

Conklin Duragraph

This newly released Conklin Duragraph stays true to its vintage roots without the price tag that can come with a vintage pen. Listing for $55, and available from Pen Chalet for only $44, this is a pen that’s hard to resist. I really can’t get over the price. I suspect that the Amber one is in my future, maybe with a medium nib.

Conklin Duragraph

The Conklin Duragraph is a pen that’s easy to fall for. The cartridge/converter set-up means that it’s easy to maintain, the resins are gorgeous, and the nibs smooth. And that price? What’s not to love?!

Conklin Duragraph

Check out the Conklin Duragraph line at Pen Chalet HERE. You really can’t go wrong.

Nib 9-1-1: Nib Tuning by Dan Smith

Sailor 1911 Profit fountain pen

I bought this Sailor 1911 Profit (Ivory White Body, Iridium Gold Plated Medium-Fine nib) from Engeika (Japan), having dealt with them in the past without issue even though we are continents apart. I’m not sure I buy the bit about this being a “rare pen,” but I was curious about Sailor pens and nibs and this seemed like a good, and reasonably priced, starting point.

The transaction went very smoothly, with good communication along the way.

A couple of days after the pen arrived, I inked it up and sat poised over the paper, ready to scribble away. (I typically write my name, or the name of the pen and the ink, or my dogs’ names, a million times.) This is always the high point of pen suspense— how will this newly purchased pen write?!?!

As it turns out, not so hot. Well, #&@%.

I have theory, borne out in this case, that the further a pen has traveled— the more difficult it is to return— the more likely it is to act up. This nib was dry and skippy. Really dry. Really skippy. Sad Mary.

The next day I tried the few things I have in my “if a fountain pen doesn’t work” arsenal:

  • Emptied the converter and flushed the pen;
  • Flossed the tines with a brass sheet;
  • Re-inked pen;
  • Crossed fingers. Prayed to pen gods.

The pen gods were obviously tending to more pressing matters because there wasn’t even a hint of improvement. (It would’ve been cool if I had had the presence of mind to photograph the lousy nib performance for blogging purposes, but I didn’t. Trust me, though, it wasn’t a stellar writing experience.) With my meager skills depleted, I had two choices. Shove the pen back in the box and into a drawer, OR send it off for a tune-up. (Normally I’ll contact the vendor if I have a significant nib issue, but in this case, with the vendor in Japan and me in the US, I decided to scratch that option.)

"Fountain Pen Geek" Dan Smith

Though I wasn’t happy, I wasn’t overly distressed either. I immediately knew who could help me out— Dan Smith, Fountain Pen Geek and my go-to nibmeister. I’ve purchased a couple of used pens from Dan— some of my vintage favorites— and found him to be wonderful to deal with. Satisfaction is priority #1, so purchasing a sight unseen pen from him is completely stress-free.

I had him tune a dryish nib some time ago, and immediately knew that he could work wonders on this problem child.

I contacted Dan, packed up the pen (along with a writing sample) after getting the go-ahead from him, and mailed it off. Dan’s good about keeping you posted— emailing when he receives the pen and again when the work is completed, which in this case, was only a couple of days from receipt.

Sailor Profit 1911

The newly tuned pen arrived a few days later— coincidentally on Fountain Pen Day. And it is awesome— smooth with spot on perfect flow. I couldn’t be happier.

Sailor 1911 Profit

The whole process took about a week and the pen writes as I hoped it would when I ordered it. No more frustration. No more #@%&. Well worth the $20 (+ shipping to and from).

Dan does stellar work, at very reasonable prices, with excellent turn-around times (though, of course, that depends on what he has in the queue). He’s who I think of when a nib needs work OR when I want one modified. I purchased the Edison Glenmont 2014 LEA pen with a broad nib so that, down the road, I can have Dan do a custom grind on it. I’m thinking about a medium stub. Or Architect/Hebrew. Still pondering.

100% thrilled

Dan guarantees satisfaction. He wants you to be thrilled. 100% thrilled.

Sailor 1911 Profit

And I am. Thrilled. 100%.

Check out Dan’s services, current turnaround time and prices HERE.

[There are no affiliate links in this post and I purchased both the pen and Dan’s nib-tuning services. I’m just a very pleased, and repeat, customer. The nib issue was probably just a fluke and hasn’t put me off  the Sailor brand or the vendor, Engeika.]


For The Pen Company: Diplomat Life Ballpoint Pen

Busy days and nights lately. Here’s a little something to tide you over.


I wrote a review of the Diplomat Life Ballpoint for my friends at The Pen Company.


I’ve been a fan of Diplomat since picking up a Diplomat Optimist Loop fountain pen at the DC Pen Show in August.


This is a great looking and feeling ballpoint that I’ve been using daily since receiving it.

 There’s a lot to like about it and one thing that needed a little tweaking.

Check out the pen, and my review, HERE.


(The pen was provided to me for review purposes. I was not otherwise compensated and there are no affiliate links in this post.)