After falling in love with KarasKustoms Retrakt and being less impressed with the Bolt I was hesitant to try the Ink. A fountain pen was a deviation from their progressively improving ballpoint line, and it is the most expensive pen that they offer so far. But my hope that their experience producing pens would carry over (and a discount code supplied by a friendly soul over at r/fountainpens on Reddit) convinced me to try the Ink.
The Ink has a very interesting look that combines classical fountain pen aesthetics with the modern industrial design that KarasKustoms has become known for. Like all of their pens, the Ink was machined from aluminium and gives off a rugged and robust impression.
The cap and barrel have a very understated look with some eye-catching special features. The cap screws on to the barrel flush with no visible step down, giving the pen a clean line. The pen feels wide when held in the had, very appropriate for the solid aluminium material it was made from.
The cap is straight with a little groove going around it at the top. Above that we find the clip, that has been cleverly attached to the cap.
The cap has a slot going through it all the way, and the clip sits in there. It’s attached by 2 hex screws, a common design trademark with KarasKustoms pens. A welcome sight that establishes similarities between the ink and it’s siblings. The clip is made from steel, solid and extremely stiff. KarasKustoms left a little gap between the clip and the cap so that you can attach it to a notebook or your pocket more easily.
The barrel is conical, slimmer at the end, with a beveled edge that gives the impression of a modern finial. The design is reminiscent of cigar shaped, classical fountain pens and contrasts nicely with the cap to create this interesting mix of styles.
KarasKustoms offers the Ink in 10 different color finishes for the pen body. I have always preferred the plain aluminium myself, but the color options look very attractive and fit the overall style of the pen very well. (Hm. The Retrakt Tu-Tone in blue thought? Worth a thought…)
The section is much thinner than the barrel, to achieve the clean lines of the capped pen. Coming from the barrel, there is a step down towards the threads for the cap and a section that is flared towards the nib to keep your fingers from slipping during long writing sessions.
The threats are cut well and not too sharp, but people that grip their pen higher towards the threads have told me that they notice them while writing.
The section offers a second option to customize your Ink, after the color finishes. You can pick between 3 different materials, aluminium, copper and brass. You can also chose weather you want your Ink to be a rollerball or a fountain pen.
The fountain pen version uses Schmidt nib units, KarasKustoms offers them with steel nibs in the sizes F, M and B.
The Ink is a cartridge / converter pen, a versatile, uncomplicated filling system that fits the pen well. The supplied converter is a Schmidt unit that works well and without leaking.
Uncapping the ink for the first time was a bit of a let down for me. The size #5 nib looks too small for the pen, the otherwise well proportioned and balanced looking Ink could have used a #6. I understand that the smaller nib makes it possible to achieve the streamlined look of the capped pen, but I can’t help but wonder from time to time if the nib unit would accept a bigger replacement nib that got worked on a little.
The nib comes a little short when it it hits the paper, too. I got all 3 nib sizes, and I prefer the fine nib. All the nibs performed adequately, but I would describe the experience as a little uninspired. Not exceptionally smooth, or flexible, but passable.
Where it excels is practicability. The ink is incredibly sturdy and well thought out. You can carry it everywhere, take it out of your pocket, and it will work. The aluminium material is light enough make it comfortable to write with for longer periods. It fits perfectly into the fountain pen shaped hole in your every day carry. It’s uncanny, really. Despite it’s average writing performance I find myself using the Ink even if I have other pens in front of me.
I’ve been living with the Ink for a few months now, and I am stumped by it.
The Ink has been designed to be an attractive, dependable everyday companion, and I have never encountered a fountain pen that fits this use case better than the Ink. I can’t even think of any improvements to make it better in this regard.
For somebody that is into buying and collecting pens because they like to use pens, the Ink might be the last pen that they have to buy. It is that reliable, that useful, that perfectly designed to fulfill it’s role.
But that would be a shame, since there are so many nibs out there! If you have ever experienced a steel Jowo nib (in my opinion the best widely available steel nib on the market) or a firm but smooth and slightly springy gold nib, you might find yourself in the same position I ended up in: looking at gold nibs that cost more than the Ink itself to swap in.
Until I make that jump, I consciously make myself pick up pens with gold nibs, or just great steel nibs.
The Ink is an amazing tool, so good that I wish it was a slightly better pen.
Update and Correction:
Dan Bishop of KarasKustoms points out on Twitter:
@TheRealNibCreep just FYI, that nib is made by JoWo for Schmidt.
— Dan Bishop (@dsgncncssn) 5. März 2015
I did not know that, and I honestly can’t explain why I have had better experiences with Jowo nibs in other pens. I can’t change my opinion on these nibs, but please take my criticism with a grain of salt. The nibs on the Ink are fine, but the Jowos on Edison and TWSBI pens feel better to me. I still use my Ink more. It is quite the conundrum.