Just Right: The Karas Kustoms EDK

Right here on my desk, there’s a sizable (and ever-growing) collection of Karas Kustoms pens within arm’s reach. Render Ks, Fountain Ks, Bolts, Retrakts, INKs—all at the ready. All well-loved. I simply can’t resist their hearty, machined goodness. But lately, the Karas Kustoms offering I reach for most often is the EDK.

Karas Kustoms EDK

Why is that?

Let’s take a look.

Size comparison

At just over 5″ (12.9 cm), the EDK is the shortest of the Karas Kustoms pen models, and, man, does it feel perfect in my hand. The EDK is stubby and thick, in all the right ways. My anodized black aluminum pen is substantial and well-balanced. At 28 grams, it’s not too heavy, not too light. Every time I pick up it up, the pen pleasure center in my brain lights up.

Size comparison vs. pencils

Much like a wood case pencil that’s been used down to just the right size, or the thick and perfectly weighted Lamy Scribble (love this mechanical pencil), the EDK is a pen that’s instantly comfortable—like a pair of well-worn jeans or broken-in sandals.

Knock and knurling

The retractable mechanism—or “knock”—is the same one found on the Retrakt. It’s nearly silent, smooth, and reliable. The Karas Kustoms website warns that compulsive clicking can damage the inner mechanism, but because there’s no audible “click” with which to annoy your friends and loved ones, the urge to engage in this type of behavior is reduced (for the most part).

The machined knurling at this end of the pen is a subtle and classic detail. I’m always a little happier when a pen includes some knurling.

Grooved barrel

The anodizing on my all-black pen is super smooth and flawless. I’ve been carrying and using the pen a lot and have yet to mar the finish. The grooved barrel provides visual interest, but doesn’t seem to influence the grip one way or another. That said, I don’t find the EDK to be a particularly slippery pen, despite its satiny smooth finish.

IMG_1242

The clip is pure Karas Kustoms. Formed from stainless steel and attached to the pen body with two hex screws, this clip is very snug, very sturdy. It’s certainly not going anywhere, but still exhibits just enough “give” to allow the pen to be clipped into a pocket or case.

IMG_1264

But none of these details matter if the pen body doesn’t house a quality refill. Fear not, for I bring you tidings of great joy! (Oh, wait…that’s a completely different story.) But there is joy, as the guys at Karas Kustoms wisely decided to build the EDK around the Schmidt P8126, a liquid ink refill that glides over paper like an…ummm…exceptionally glidey thing. I’m usually writing on Rhodia paper or my stash of (discontinued) Levenger Vivacious freeleaf note pads and the experience is sublime—rich, dark, and smooth.

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This Karas Kustoms EDK is a comfortable pen with classic good looks and an excellent refill. Not to go all Goldilocks on you, but this is a pen that’s “just right.”

++++++++++++

I purchased the EDK reviewed here with my own funds. There was no cajoling or haranguing or arm-twisting by anyone at Karas Kustoms to provide a review. I’m just a total Karas Kustoms fan girl…and proud of it. 

You  can check out all of the Karas Kustoms machined pens at http://karaskustoms.com/pens.html

“It’s Quality Bro!”

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My Security Blanket: Traveling With Too Many Pens

I love the thought of going away. Seeing friends, having new experiences, taking in fresh scenery, enjoying a break from home and work routines. Finally a chance to exhale.

But travel itself, especially when flying, is fun and draining at the same time. The packing. The security rigamorole. Timing airplane bathroom breaks appropriately. Not losing any of your stuff. There’s always some point along the way where I kind of wish I was home. Just an inkling of homesickness creeps in along the way.

I miss my things–my husband (if he’s not with me, as on this current trip), our crazy pups, my own just-so pillows, a well-stocked refrigerator, ice on demand.

I swear, I have an easier time deciding what clothes to pack than picking out which pens to bring. I always miss the ones that aren’t with me. I stock my Nock Co. Brasstown with more pens than a sane person needs, then typically swap things in and out until zero hour. There’s so much mental chatter in my head about my pen selections that it makes me feel like I must be going off the deep end. But what a deep end it is!

Part of me wishes that I could embrace minimalism–pick ONE pen and use ONLY it for the entire trip. Maybe someday. Right now that thought gives me what is technically called the heebie jeebies.


So here I am in California, oh so far from home, with new and old pen favorites. For this trip (a conference), I brought along:


Pilot Metropolitan White Tiger fountain pen. Nice fine point for note taking. Replaceable should the unthinkable occur.


Karas Kustoms Two-Tone Retrakt outfitted with Pilot G2 0.5 mm black refill. Great pen in my favorite color.

Ti2 Techliner Red Alert and Orange Crush. The Red Alert is outfitted with a uni-ball Jetstream  0.7 mm black ballpoint refill while the Orange Crush holds a uni-ball Signo 207 0.7 mm gel refill…both excellent options.


Amy Grigg’s Apex Kickstarter pen with a Schneider Topball 850 rollerball refill. Great on the Levenger Circa Vivacious paper in my notebook. Smooth. Dark. Gorgeous wood.

 
Bigidesign’s Ti Post Raw Pen + Stylus
, also with the Schneider Topball 850 rollerball refill. Do I need to carry two pens with the same refill? Nope. I never said any of this was reasonable.

Retro 1951 Lift-Off with a Schimdt P8126 refill. It’s my newest Retro so why shouldn’t it travel with me to California?

I also have my Lamy Scribble tucked into the Hightower, should I need to do pencily things. I have not tired of this mechanical pencil. It’s a gem.

There’s no need to carry this many pens across the country. Technically I could survive with a few of the Bic Stic Queen Mary pens the hotel provides. But these pens and pencil (and pen case) make me feel secure. They’re unique, well-made, and reliable–comfortable to hold and top-notch performers. They remind me of the connections I have with the folks who make and sell them. We’ve exchanged everything from brief messages to emails to long letters. Pens aren’t just pens. They’re the people behind the pens.

And that feels like home.

—–

This post was composed and photographed entirely with my iPhone, so excuse the lack of links (too cumbersome) and any formatting and lighting oddities. Fun fact– the photos were taken on the desk President Eisenhower used while aboard the Queen Mary. I’m sharing his suite with a friend. Pretty cool.


I’ve Been Remiss: TactileTurn’s Mover & Shaker

Mover & Shaker

I’ve been remiss. I should’ve reviewed these pens ages ago but they’ve become such staples in my daily pen arsenal that I let them slip below my pen review radar. The Mover and Shaker by Will Hodges, of Tactile Turn, deserve mention.

Disassembled Shaker

I’ve always had a little trouble remembering which pen is the Mover and which is the Shaker. (Perhaps I should spend more time on Sudoku puzzles to keep my mind nimble.) Eventually I came up with a little trick—the Shaker is shorter, running 5.1″ (129 mm). SHaker = SHorter. Problem solved. The Shaker takes Parker style refills. Right now I’m using a Moleskine 0.5 mm gel refill, though I’ve been known to swap in a Schmidt EasyFlow 9000 for an excellent ballpoint experience.

Mover disassembled

The Mover measures 5.5″ (141 mm), making it the longer of the two. Despite the added length, the pen remains very well balanced and is just as comfortable to hold as the squattier Shaker. I have 0.38 mm Pilot G2 refill in mine, which lays down a super crisp and consistent line.

Machined clips

Both pens live in one of my “goes to work with me” Nock Co. pen cases and are used often. I remain enamored with Mike Bond’s Ti2 Techliner so that gets heavy use as well, but I do plenty of writing in and out of work, so it’s easy to give multiple pens a workout in the course of a day. I use both the Mover and Shaker in my Five Year journal as the fine tips allow me to squeeze sufficient detail into the day’s limited space.

Almost seamless

Will’s pens are solid and rattle-free. The “break” in the pen—where you twist the two halves apart to change the refill—is just about invisible. (See the photo above of as evidence.) The look is so seamless that I always have to remind myself where exactly the pens twist apart. The look is clean and tight.

Knocks

The knock is the silent variety, just like the one on the Karas Kustoms Retrakt. Since I’m a compulsive clicker, this features keeps co-workers from wanting to strangle me. The action is always smooth and trouble-free. Every click goes off without a hitch.

Grooved grips

The finely grooved grip areas— a stand-out feature on Will’s pens—look cool, feel great, and make for a wonderfully subtle slip-free writing experience. This grip area is the part of the pen that sets the Mover and Shaker apart from many other machined pens.

Grooved grips

Will Hodges ran a smooth Kickstarter project and delivered a pair of solid, understated machined pens. They’re 100% reliable, very comfortable, totally solid and problem-free.

Mover and Shaker

The Mover and Shaker are so good that I found myself taking them for granted, and I TOTALLY mean that as a compliment.

Sorry, Will!

2014 Wrap-Up: The Feelings

Simple tree
Simple tree

I had planned to get a post up last week, but then I caught a cold (unexpected) and Christmas arrived (expected). One thing was fun, the other not so much. Slowly coming out of my sinus miseries and low-key Christmas celebrations to think about getting things back to normal. Well, normalish.

Baking cookies
Baking molasses cookies. Or as I call them, mole asses cookies.

I’m off from work for most of the week— just have to pop in on Friday for a little while— so every day feels like Saturday lately. Which is what I imagine heaven feels like.

Christmas colored Retro 51s
My festive Retro 51s

A couple of feelings routinely kick in this time of year, as one year ends and the other begins. The first is gratitude. Thanks for all of the good stuff and good people that I’ve encountered in the last year, much of it related to pens (and paper and ink and pencils) and the pen/pencil communities. These are the places where I feel most comfortable, where my introverted tendencies vanish, where I have a blast.

The Retrakt
Karas Kustoms Retrakt

Though not a complete list by any means, these are just some of the people and places who made 2014 a memorable year:

Podcasts/Videocasts
The Pen Addict with Brad and Myke (responsible for oh so many pen purchases and for an always entertaining commute)
The Erasable Podcast with Andy, Johnny, and Tim (Who would’ve thought I’d listen to a show about pencils? I do, and I love it.)
Anderson Pens (Oh, that chat! It’s like meeting with friends every time I tune in.)
SBREBrown & Gourmet Pens & the “I won’t be ignored” kitty (Great information with great humor. You guys rock.)

Pen, pencil, ink, notebook, and storage vendors
Anderson Pens
Dudek Modern Goods
Edison Pen Co.
Field Notes
Fontoplumo
The Goulet Pen Co.
JetPens
Karas Kustoms
Levenger
Nock Co.
Pen Chalet
The Pen Company
Retro 1951
Write Notepads & Co.

Thanks to some for supplying review items, to others for great customer service, and to all for great products and that extra-special personal touch.

My nib guy
Dan Smith @fpgeeks

Thanks for making less than stellar pens remarkable, quickly and affordably. Great work!

Penpals
Tracy Lee
Michelle

Thank you for understanding when I TAKE SO LONG TO REPLY. Your letters and cool envelopes are a source of delight in my mailbox. So glad we’re getting to know each other better while using our pens and inks.

Bloggers, Tweeters, Facebookers
I won’t name names because I’ll leave someone out then feel bad, but you all entertain and educate me, amuse and enlighten. This is the BEST community.

Best hotel
The Sheraton at Tysons Corner for returning my “left behind” Akkerman ink after the DC Pen Show. Amazing customer service. So grateful.

Pencils at the ready
Pencil line-up

The other feeling that kicks in this time of year is “fresh start.” Old year out, new year in. Time to purge, reorganize, and start with a blank(ish) slate. Fred and I regularly purge and straighten out our pantry during our break between Christmas and New Year’s. Annual ritual. Afterwards, we vow to use what we have on hand before adding more stuff to the cupboards.

Conklin Stylograph
Conklin Stylograph (to be reviewed)

In that same vein, I plan to make 2015 a year where I buckle down and USE my pens, pencils, papers, and inks— switching my focus from acquisition to using. When you have a Staples Printer Paper box full of empty notebooks, it might be time to stop buying notebooks and start writing in them. Like every day. Don’t get me wrong, I use my stuff but I need to REALLY use my stuff. There’s plenty here to be written in and written with, plenty to be reviewed, plenty to have fun with. Plenty.

Machined goodness
Machined favorites

So I’m closing out 2014 and starting 2015 feeling grateful and blessed. And you— all of you— are the reason.

Peace and good health to you all.

Write Notepads & Co.
Write Notepads & Co. loot

A Class Act: Ti POST RAW Pen + Stylus by Big Idea Design, LLC

Full disclosure: The pen reviewed here was sent to me by Chadwick Parker of Big Idea Design, LLC. I was not otherwise compensated and this review reflects my observations and experiences with this pen, as well as my previous interactions with Big Idea Design via two of their Kickstarter projects.

Ti POST RAW Pen + Stylus
Ti POST RAW Pen + Stylus

I’m currently snarled in a couple of Kickstarter projects where the creators appear to have gone AWOL, and that’s disheartening. I’m frustrated enough by these bungled projects to vow that I’ll only back projects by creators who have proven themselves to be seriously committed to delivering quality goods. That list is a short one and includes Chadwick Parker and Joe Huang of Big Idea Designs, LLC.

Big Idea Design titanium pens
Big Idea Design titanium pens: Ti POST RAW Pen + Stylus (2014), Solid Titanium Pen + Stylus (2012), Ti-Click Pro (2013)

I backed their Solid Titanium Pen & Stylus in 2012, then a follow-up model in 2013, the Ti-Click Pro: Titanium Click Pen + Stylus. Chadwick and Joe love their titanium and they consistently deliver products that ooze quality and attention to detail. Their 2014 offering, the Ti POST RAW Pen + Stylus is just as good as its predecessors— actually, it’s even a little better. That’s what I love about this team— they take the lessons learned from each project and apply them to the their next one— always improving their products, always fine-tuning the details, and always available to provide support in the rare case that it’s needed. I’ve been 110% impressed with their products and how they conduct their campaigns. Chadwick and Joe are the real deal.

And so are their pens.

Posting comparison
Cap posting comparison, 2014 pen vs. 2012 pen

Chadwick graciously sent a Ti POST RAW Pen + Stylus my way and it’s another beauty— great looking, great in hand, and a great writer. The pen is solid TA2 titanium with a scratch-resistant finish. I’ve been using this pen for a couple of weeks and so far it looks brand-new. At 36.5g (cap 9.5g, body 27g) this pen has heft, but is well-balanced in hand, whether posted or unposted. The cap posts deeply onto the body, which is a well thought out improvement over the 2012 Solid Titanium Pen which featured a shallowly posting cap that resulted in a pen that felt a little too long. Like I said, they listen, then make improvements.

Exploded view
Exploded view

The pen ships with a Uniball Signo 207 0.7mm Black Gel Ink refill and I’ve been so happy with it that I haven’t swapped it out. But if you prefer a different refill, you’re in luck. The Ti POST RAW Pen + Stylus takes many, many refills. Check out this list:

•Avant Pen Refills (0.5mm)
•Bic Velocity Gel 0.7mm (Medium)
•Cross Gel Rolling Ball Refill 0.7mm
•Dong-A Fine Tech RT Pen (GRC-43 refill)
•Duke Rollerball Refill (Medium)
•Faber-Castell Ceramic Rollerball Refill 0.5mm
•Foray (Office Depots Brand-USA) Replacement Refills
•Mont Blanc Fineliner Refills
•Mont Blanc 163 Rollerball Pen Refills (M) & (F)
•Monteverde Rollerball Refill (Mont Blanc Style Replacements)
•MUJI 0.5mm Refill
•Ohto Ceramic Rollerball Refill (C-305P, C-307P)
•Pentel ENERGEL BLN105 pen (LRN5 & LRN7)
•Pentel HyperG Retractable KL257 Series (LR7 & KLR7)
•Pilot B2P Bottle to Pen Gel Ink Pen Refill 0.7 mm
•Pilot Frixion Ball pen BLS-FR5 (LFBK-23EF-B refill)
•Pilot G2 (America’s #1 selling ink gel pen, 0.38, 0.5, 0.7, & 1.0mm)
•Pilot G2 Pro
•Pilot G6
•Pilot Hi-Tec-C “Cavalier” (Same performance as the regular Hi-Tec-C, but with more ink)
•Pilot Juice Gel Ink Refill (LP2RF, .05mm)
•Pilot Precise V5 RT/V7 RT, named Hi-tecpoint V5 RT/V7 RT in Europe
•Pilot Q7 Needle Point Refill 0.7mm (BLS-GCK-7 / LHKRF-8C7)
•Pilot V ball RT (BLS-VB5RT)
•Pelikan Roller Refill 338 Rollerball
•Schmidt Safety ceramic roller 888 Fine
•Schneider Topball 850
•Staples Classic Grip Pen 0.7mm Gel (#31581)
•TUL GL1 Gel Pen Retractable Needle Point Fine 0.5mm
•Uniball Impact RT 1.0mm Bold (Signo UMR-80)
•Uniball Signo RT Gel 0.38mm & 0.5mm (UMN-138)
•Uniball Signo (UMN-152)
•Uniball Signo 207 Gel Refill 0.7mm (UMR-87, UMR-85)
•Uniball Jetstream 0.7mm (SXR-7) & 1mm (SXR-C1)
•Visconti Rolling Ceramic 0.7mm (AA40)
•Waterman Rollerball Refill
•Zebra Sarasa Clip Pen Refill
•Zebra JF Gel Ink (JJ2; JJ15; JJZ15; JJ21; RJF5 pens)

Surely there’s something there that’s a favorite. As I said, I’ve been happy with the refill it shipped with so I haven’t explored this aspect as yet, but it’s nice knowing that I can go to my big box of refills and find something that fits perfectly.

Prior to stylus installation
Preparing to install the optional stylus

With stylus installed
With stylus installed

The pen also ships with an optional stylus. If you don’t need one, no worries— just leave it in the box. But if you’re someone who switches between analog and digital worlds, it’s a snap to install. Just unscrew the slotted back plug from the end of the pen and screw the stylus in in its place. Now you’re free to take notes on paper OR on an electronic device. All bases are covered.

Grip area
Groovy grip

There is a decent sized step down from the pen barrel to the grip area, but the grip is long enough that I doubt this’ll cause an issue for anyone. The grip is nicely tapered and features three grooves to add a bit of traction. I’ve haven’t experienced any issues with my fingers slipping as I write.

Clip profile evolution
Clip profile changes. (Ti POST RAW Pen + Stylus is the topmost pen.)

The clip is solid and springy, with an improved profile over the two earlier models. On those pens, the end of the pen curved inward towards the body of the pen, whereas on this pen, the end of clip is curved away from the pen body. This improvement makes the Ti RAW POST Pen + Stylus easier to slide into a pen case or pocket. It’s another example of how Joe and Chadwick take the details seriously.

Ti branding

Branding is super subtle— just their characteristic “Ti” logo on the pen’s clip. It’s branding that’s clean and simple and doesn’t interfere with the pen’s industrial good looks.

After their Solid Titanium Pen + Stylus pen shipped, a niggly problem cropped up for some of us where certain refills stopped working, possibly because they were hitting the inside of the cap. As the feedback rolled in, Chadwick and Joe jumped to action, remade the front section of the pen, and shipped it out to anyone who was having a problem, myself included. They listened and they acted quickly and decisively— simple as that. This is a team that builds trust AND great pens.

Ti POST RAW Pen + Stylus
Ti POST RAW Pen + Stylus

The Kickstarter project for this pen has been completed, but you can order the Ti POST RAW Pen + Stylus, or any of their other offerings, at bigidesign.com. Note that they offer free worldwide shipping along with a zero risk, 14-day 100% money back guarantee.

Ti POST RAW Pen + Stylus
A felt pen sleeve is included.

This is a fine pen brought to you by a fine team. They are, simply put, a class act.