Back in January, I visited the Los Angeles International Pen Show, saw the sights, met some friends, and spent some money. It is there where I met two gentlemen from Karas Kustoms, and came home with a shiny new Fountain K, a bold but minimally designed fountain pen made with tough and durable materials. Its design and attention to detail create a unique writing experience that hides its most interesting features beneath the surface.
If the Fountain K seems familiar, then you may have seen my review of its gel/rollerball cousin: the Render K. And you would not be incorrect to think they look very similar. In fact, externally, the two pens are identical. They use the same barrel and cap, but we’ll get to that later. First, let’s talk about the basics.
The Fountain K is available in several body types including anodized aluminum, tumbled raw aluminum, brass, or copper. Karas Kustoms also offers their “Barstock” line, which keeps the machined cap but utilizes a range of other materials, such as raw aluminum and delrin resin, for the body. The Anodized Aluminum pens are available in eleven colors (full list here), while the brass and copper editions are shipped in their raw and polished form. As tough as the raw aluminum version of the pen is, the process of anodizing the body makes it even more durable with an extra layer of protective and vibrant color. In theory, this anodized layer will wear off eventually, but that shouldn’t happen for a year or two of moderate daily use. After about three months of pulling the pen out of my Sinclair and using it every day, the Fountain K still looks as good as the day I picked it up.
In addition to deciding on a look and style for the pen, there are other things to consider when choosing a grip section and body material combination. Weight distribution, for example, is a very important factor for these tools. If you prefer an evenly balanced pen with a consistent weight from front to back, go all aluminum. If you prefer the weight of the pen to be on the back end, stick to the aluminum grip with a brass or copper body. If, like me, you want a light and versatile pen with a slight weight advantage toward the nib, go with the surprisingly light aluminum body and a brass (that’s what I did) or copper section.
The Fountain K uses the very popular #5 Bock nib, which is available in standard polished stainless steel, black steel, or 14K gold. The Bock nibs are manufactured in Germany, so the line it puts on paper will be similar to Lamy or Kaweco pens of the same width. The Extra Fine steel nib I chose writes very smooth and puts down a moderate amount of ink. While it is by no means a flex nib, it does feel softer in use than Lamy or Twsbi nibs.
Judging by the outer size of the Fountain K’s cap and barrel, you could assume that the grip is going to be pretty short. You would be correct in that assumption. The entire pen measures only 5 inches when capped, and about 4 3/4 inches with the cap removed. The grip and nib together are about as long as the total grip section of the Render K, with the actual grip surface measuring about 5/8s of an inch. Just like the Render K, the cap does not post, so the four inches of pen behind the nib are all you have to hold on to. The grip is slightly convex toward the front end, making it great for writers who hold their instruments close to the nib. For the types of desk-job note taking and list making I do, the smaller grip is perfect. Larger-handed users or calligraphers with customized nibs may find that this grip is not conducive to expressive handwriting.
The Fountain K ships with two Monteverde international short cartridges and a Schmidt standard converter. Your chosen ink chamber will friction-fit into the nib unit and stay there pretty securely. I would think that, with an “EDC” style pen, a locking system like the Lamy Z24 converter would be in order. But my converter has not had any issue with slipping or loosening from its chamber. When the time comes to clean and refill the pen, a bulb syringe is very useful. To clean this pen, you simply unscrew the nib & feed housing from the grip cylinder and give everything a good flush.
This whole grip and feed section is my favorite part about the K series pens. To say that I am an indecisive person would be a bit of an understatement. So the ability to convert the Fountain K into a Render K gel pen (or roller ball, or fine-liner, etc.) with one extra component is a huge plus. As I mentioned once or twice, these pens are essentially identical. And luckily for us, the designers at Karas Kustoms clearly put a lot of time and love into this product. Since I have both the aluminum Fountain K and the brass Render K, I can switch the writing components between the bodies in an instant. Does that justify buying two $80 pens? Well, maybe not. But I had some bonus money and I really like the design. Plus, it’s always good to support the (relatively) smaller pen manufacturers.
So, is it worth it?
April is tax season here in The States, so I imagine a fair amount of you will soon or already have a nice refund check from Uncle Sam. If you’re thinking of spending some of that cash on a new Fountain Pen, definitely give Karas Kustoms a look. These pens are great looking, high functioning, and build to last a lifetime. Buy a pen like this, treat it right, and it will be with you ‘til the day you die.
Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored review. The products used were purchased at full retail price.