New Reaktor Series by Karas Pen Co - Galaxie and Starliner Models

It is no secret that I am a big fan of Karas Kustoms, (AKA Karas Pen Co). Their original Render K was a pen I got even before starting The Clicky Post which seems like ages ago and is a design I still love today. I maybe even have a little soft spot for it in my pen collecting heart. And, for a newly established pen review blog just getting started they were kind enough to give me a limited edition white Delrin Render K to review way back in May of 2013. Yes, AGES...

Karas is located in Mesa, AZ and happens to be just a few blocks from my house. This has given me a unique opportunity to connect with those guys more so than most makers, and it has been pretty incredible to see how they've grown over the last 6 or 7 years. In today's pen market there are now literally dozens of machined metal pen makers, but Karas is one of the earlier companies to help set the stage for others to follow.

Since that first Render K, they've released upwards of 10 additional models (some variations on previous models to make them better), but what is exciting is that they've recently been designing completely new ideas and pushing their own boundaries which is pretty cool.

For product makers I think it can be easy to be set in your ways and continue to just make what you always have, but over the last 18 months or so they've been really working to expand their line of goods into territories traditionally unknown to them which I really appreciate and respect.

You may have seen some recent posts from a few other bloggers or shots of a new product line that is will be hitting the market soon called their Reaktor series. In essence, the Reaktor lineup is a set of two new models of pens, the Galaxie and Starliner, that Karas is offering as their more "entry level" series. Most of their pens start at $60 and go up from their, but the Reaktor pens are starting in the $40-45 range which is pretty considerable. They are no Pilot Metropolitans on the cheap end of the spectrum (which are still good pens), but for an all metal, machined pen made in the US this is about as entry level as things get which is exciting.

Even with my cordial relationship with Karas Pen Co, I plan on giving the Galaxie and Starliners a thorough look over so rest assured I'll give an honest impression. And, I know that they guys will appreciate my honest opinion regardless of the outcome because that is just how they are.

There is a lot to cover with these models, so this review may be a bit longer than usual.

The Models: Galaxie vs Starliner

There are two models that look somewhat similar in the Reaktor series, but what is the difference? The simplest distinction is that the Galaxie models have either a rollerball or ballpoint while the Starliners are all fountain pens.

By name I don't think there is a super easy way to distinguish between the two, but since one of the Galaxie models takes the Pilot G2 (more to come on that) my brain thought: "Galaxie - G2. Both have Gs."

Maybe that will help.

The Starliner models all come with a Bock nib (removable) and can be fitted with a variety of tip size options.

In appearance the Galaxie pen has a much more "mechanical" look to it. The finial of the cap has a machined gear shape with some lines and circular details cut out as well. The barrel has two lines cut in near the end and a small button like design on the very bottom. 

The Starliner seems to have been given a bit more of a space themed appearance with subtle "points" sloping up from almost flat ends of the pen, and three sets of rings that progressively stage from 3, then 2, then 1. A nod I'm sure to a rocket countdown: 3, 2, 1, blastoff!

Both (the Starliner in particular) seem have to have a bit of a sci-fi, 50s feel. Like, part ray gun and classic car smashed together.

An obvious design feature is the somewhat oversized look of the cap. The Render K and Ink pens both had caps that flushed with the barrels of the pen, so the distinct step from the cap to the barrel feels dramatic.

The "Snap Cap"

A new development with the Reaktor line is the introduction of a snap cap function. Rather than using threads to twist the cap on and off, Karas developed their own design which allows for a friction fit "snap-on" experience.

This is achieved by creating a slightly bulbous end on the grip section which then snaps over a ridge and o-ring that is tucked away inside the cap. With things like this I might question just how snug it is and whether the cap would just pop off on its own, but once it is snapped into place it is pretty solid although very easy to take on and off. I've yet to have an accidental uncapping incident.

With the caps there is some slight play and wiggle when the pen is closed which can give it a bit of a rattle. Not like a baby rattle, but there is some movement and slight metallic "clink" sounds as the cap and barrel move about. I think I'd prefer it to be a little tighter, but this doesn't make the pen a no-go for me. Some people it might drive them nuts.

Regarding the bulbous part on the grip section, for me it creates a specific place for me to hold the pen and is quite comfortable. If you tend to want to hold the front of your pen almost down to the tip it may make for a somewhat odd grip, but for most people I think they'd find it rather ergonomic. 

Sizes: Standard and XL

Both models come in two sizes: standard and XL.

The standard size is meant to definitely be more of a pocket carry as they come in a shorter length and with no clip on the cap.

The XL is a slightly longer pen barrel with an elongated cap (to include a pocket clip) as well which extends the pen's length for a more normal size. The clip included on the XL will look familiar as it a part shared with several other Karas models.

While the models look and feel very similar, there are some variations in their lengths.

Galaxie Standard -
Capped: 4.25"
Posted: 4.5"

Galaxie XL -
Capped: 4.75"
Posted: 5"

Starliner Standard -
Capped: 4.5"
Posted: 5" (to tip of nib)

Starliner XL -
Capped: 5"
Posted: 5.375" (to tip of nib)

I wouldn't consider either of the sizes uncomfortable to use unposted (the standard is too short for me without the cap), but in contrast to how I usually use metal pens I actually prefer to post both models.

Can I take a second to call out the posting feature? One thing that some folks just can't get over is when a pen doesn't post and the capped Render K and Ink models by Karas haven't really supported it in the past. This has been a lacking feature that may have driven some people away, but they've dialed in the ability to do so on the Reaktor line.

Posting is easy and pretty comfortable on the Galaxie and Starliner. The cap fits snugly against the barrel when posting by design, but also since there is a rubber o-ring inside the cap itself which seems to grab a bit.

One thing of note is the clip and which models have it. None of the standard "pocket" sized pens come with clips and I don't believe it will be an option. Although they are slightly different lengths, the caps on both the standard and XL are interchangeable so you could technically have a short pen with a clip or a long clipless XL if you owned one of each.   

Colors and Materials: Keeping it Simple

The original Render K came in one material and one color: aluminum and a clear anodized finish which made it more of a "silver". I have to admit, this finish is still my all-time favorite as I feel it showcases the original concept of the pen so well.

Over the years their pens took on a kaleidoscope of anodized colors and materials, but for the Reaktor series they chose to keep it simple.

The only material being offered on the Galaxie and Starliner pens is aluminum which makes a lot of sense. It is one of the cheapest and most reliable to work with, it is sturdy but not weighty, and limiting to only one material surely helps in production speed (which equals cost to a business).

From a color standpoint things have been once again stripped down to a smaller selection of only 4 standard options to choose from, but I think what they've landed on is a really good mix. 

- All black anodized: cap, grip section, and barrel are all black
- All tumbled aluminum: cap, grip section and barrel are all tumbled aluminum
- Clear and red: cap and barrel are clear anodized, grip section anodized red
- Clear and blue: cap and barrel are clear anodized, grip section anodized blue

The ONLY obvious choice I see missing from this list is an all clear anodized option. I tend to be super boring in my pen choices, but due to my undying love for the all clear anodized Render K I could definitely see myself going for that option.

Although, out of all of these options the one that I think I like the most is the all black model. It just looks awesome.

For anyone doing the math of potential options, out the gates the standard offerings make for a potential 16 variations of size and color selection, but if you buy several of the pens your options could certainly expand.

Refills, Converters, and Cartridges

For the Galaxie pens, the standard size takes a Parker style refill for which Karas provides the Schmidt Megaline that is Schmidt's version of the pressurized ballpoint. Usually with this size refill you could swap in a P8126 rollerball, but with the Galaxies this isn't the case.

The Galaxie XL is probably the more flexible of the two with regard to options as it takes the longer, Pilot G2 sized refill. This opens the door for a pretty wide variety of gels, rollerballs, and fineliner refills.

With the Starliner model the XL is also going to be the better bet when it comes to wanting to customize your fountain pen experience as it is long enough to take an international size converter. This means you can fill the pen with whatever ink you choose pretty easily.

In contrast, the standard sized Starliner is shorter and not quite long enough for a converter (although there may be small ones like the Kaweco...not a fan) so using the short international cartridges is the best bet. For some fountain pen folks this might be a let down, but if a nice pocket fountain pen is in your sights for everyday use it may be a concession to make.

Closing Thoughts

From the moment I saw these cool little pens for the first time I was pretty excited about them. For one thing, I was excited that Karas was branching out into some new territory for us to experience and I really loved the pens right away. I've definitely found myself gravitating towards the Galaxie XL (in all black) as the one I pick up most from the bunch, but even with the seeming limitations in color options I think there is at least one combo that most people would enjoy.

From a value standpoint I feel that these are a great bargain. They are solidly made and in the mainstream makers that exist today there isn't really anyone trying eagerly to hit this pricepoint and with such a cool, retro-inspired, all metal pen design. They did good.

Thanks to Karas Pen Co for sending me the set to take a look at and definitely check out the new Reaktor lineup when they arrive soon. 

AND since there are so many of these pens I was sent to try, expect a couple of giveaways soon so I can share the goods....

Inventery Bolt Action Pen - Onyx Finish

There are certainly no shortage of machined metal pens around to choose from, but which brand is right for you? For me personally, I find myself using pens from a variety of makers so my answer might be.. there really isn't one? Although many of the pens seem similar, each of the brands do tend to provide their own variations that allow them to stand out. Some brands are more rugged, some minimal, and others go for a sleek modern feel so it really does depend on your personal taste.

A brand I've seen around for a little while is Inventery out of Los Angeles, but up until now I've yet to use one of their products. They were kind enough to send me a few of their various models to take a look at in the black Onyx finish, so expect to see a few reviews to come in the next little bit. Special thanks to them for providing some pieces to review as I've been excited to take a look.

In taking a look at the Inventery website and Instagram they are definitely a style centric brand. I would say a somewhat more obviously masculine aesthetic (although not to dissuade anyone that likes the style) that feels very sleek with clean, simple lines, and is designed to allow for a more curated and uniform carry. Think of it like cool color coordinating. Your watch, wallet, keys, phone, pocket knife, and pen can all match which I know a lot of people really like to do.  

All of their products come in a range of three colors really: raw brass, nickel plated (more of a shiny chrome), and black called "Onyx".   

While they have a pretty good variety of writing tools, the first pen in the lineup I wanted to review is their take on the bolt-action style pen, aptly named "Bolt Action Pen".

The Bolt Action Pen comes in three sizes of S, M, and L (small, medium, large) based on their given lengths. The largest of the series takes the popular Pilot G2 size, the medium a Parker or Schmidt P1826, and the small a D1. This is a pretty solid spread which is bound to fit just about anyone's preference.

For mine I opted to get the M since I enjoy the Schmidt Capless rollerball refill, but could also swap in an Easyflow or Fisher Space Pen (with their Parker adaptor) if I wanted something more durable. 

One thing to note is that all of the Inventery pens are made from solid brass. This is a major consideration to be had if interested in one of their pens since this will make them a bit hefty. Even though I went with the M size of the Bolt Action Pen, all in it comes out to almost 2 oz which is a weighty pen indeed. I don't find the weight-to-length ratio unwieldy, but if you are sensitive to heavier pens take note. 

With the heft comes an extremely solid feel. The quality in the machining and finish is really nice (nothing feels cheap about it) and the pen is sturdily built.

The "Onyx" finish is a more matte black coating that covers every aspect of the pen. I've mentioned this before in other reviews, but I always appreciate very monochromatic styles in pens. Some people may find it a bit boring, but when I can have a pen that contains almost an entirely uniform color scheme it makes me happy. This doesn't have to always be an all black pen, but this seems to be one of the easiest to achieve for many pen makers. An entirely silver colored pen is also acceptable... 

The finish is likely a PVD coating (on their site they call it black oxide), but I've found it to hold up well. Just a couple of points of wear I've noticed. I wager that over time there will be more nicks and dings that it picks up which will allow the brass to show through. The coating provides enough texture to make the barrel not too slick considering it is completely smooth.

From a branding perspective the only indication of a maker's mark is the Inventery encircled "I" logo that has been laser etched in the top. Since the pen underneath is brass, the logo comes through like a shiny golden emblem which is a nice contrasting element. The Onyx finish aligns most closely to their brand and packaging aesthetic which helps to provide that very uniform experience.   

With any bolt action pen, the big question is how does it operate? Quite well actually. The spring they use in the M version (possibly similar in the others) gives the bolt mechanism a strong "snap" which is extremely satisfying. I love when pens maybe over do it a bit on spring tension, because one thing I really don't like is a weak spring. It is very easy to activate with a thumb, although not quite as smooth in transition from open to close as others I've used, but I've not been hindered in any way. It operates nicely and as intended. 

I did notice the machined edge and corners of the "J" slot where the bolt screw sticks out does have some sharpness to it. I've found it mainly on the flat surfaces between the vertical sections. I find myself uncomfortably catching my thumb on it sometimes and would prefer it be softened a bit. I don't believe I would inadvertently cut myself on it (it isn't that sharp), but it impacts comfort somewhat.

One thing that Inventory allows is some customization to the pen. The end cap unscrews easily which allows the pocket clip to be removed for either a sleeve or pants pocket carry. I'll be reviewing their Pocket Fountain Pen sometime soon and will cover some other customization options they've included in their lineup.

Speaking of the pocket clip it is wide, flat, and ties in nicely with the overall design of the pen. With some pens the clip feels like an afterthought or is somewhat intrusive on the barrel, but the way Inventery has done it makes it almost feel like an invisible feature which I think I like. It is simple, clean, and doesn't draw attention to itself. It is somewhat thin but not flimsy, although I imagine if I gave it a good tug or snagged it on something while in my pocket I could certainly get it to budge somewhat.

As mentioned above, the M size of the pen takes either a Parker style refill or the Schmidt cap-less rollerball which is a comfortable and popular choice. The stiff spring makes movement in the tip almost nonexistent while writing.

Overall, I've really been enjoying the Inventery pens, the Bolt Action being no exception. I'd love to see some potentially lighter materials offered as I think they could appeal to a broader audience, but the uniformity of using brass also makes sense.

Being a bit of a style brand impacts the price point on Inventery pens, but not in a ridiculous way in my opinion. The M sized Bolt Action Pen retails for $70 which seems reasonable for the fit and finish I've experienced as well as the overall presentation. Oddly, the Bolt Action Pen seems like one of the more complicated designs, but is the lowest priced offering of their lineup (which I'll cover in other reviews soon). 

Thanks again to Inventery for sending me a sample of the Bolt Action Pen for review. More to come soon.          

Rhodia Goalbook Review

When it comes to notebooks I’m generally pretty set in my ways. I tend to stick with a few specific products that are old reliables to me, but I am always excited to try something new.

The kind folks over at Exaclair were kind enough to send me a Rhodia notebook called the Goalbook to check out. Actually, it is [ goalbook ] if we want to go with how the branded name appears on the cover… Special thanks to them for providing it!

The premise behind the Goalbook is that it is a dedicated notebook around keeping a record of things you’re trying to accomplish and the progress you’re making. Now, you could technically do that with any notebook, but I think the way they’ve laid it out is pretty simple. 

To discuss the look and feel of the notebook first, the Goalbook is in the A5 size (ahem, the BEST size... I'm bias) and is wrapped in a flexible leatherette cover which is super nice actually. The more familiar Rhodia Webnotebooks (Webbies) have a hard cover and aren't quite to my liking, but I really enjoy how they've made the cover of the Goalbook more flexible, but still sturdy.

The cover is a soft, matte finish and has the Rhodia logo and "[ goalbook ]" debossed cleanly into the material. I opted for the black cover (boring, I know), but there are a total of 16 possible colors to choose from. Around the cover is an orange elastic band to securely close the notebook.

Also included (as Rhodia does) are several other orange accents that make the book pop and stand out in a crowd.

The contents of the book are broken down into a pretty simple structure: 

- Contents (to be written with whatever you please)
- Calendar list for each day of the year to record one daily goal
- Monthly calendar "blocks" to record larger, monthly themes and ideas
- Lots of writing space with the remaining 200+ pages as "blank"

All of the Goalbooks come with a dot grid pattern in the "blank" pages, which is something to consider. I generally prefer dot grid or grid, so this was ok with me.

The paper used in the notebook is a premium 90g ivory vellum paper which seems to take all types of writing instruments well. With Rhodia the paper is super smooth; "slick" I'd even say, which makes ink float a bit on the page which can extend dry times. While this makes Rhodia ideal for fountain pens leaving a cleaner line, it makes the practicality of quick page turning or closing of books a challenge without the risk of transferring ink where you may not want to. 

If I have a choice I always prefer a white paper (like the dotPad or Ice series) to showcase the colors better on the page, but the ivory is a nice, soft color. 

Regarding the content structure of the book, I like how it is a bit vague yet still defined. For the daily section it really only makes room for one major idea; jot down just one thing and strive to do that. Then, write down how it went in the blank pages. How did you succeed? How did you fail and need to improve? This differs quite a bit from other systems like bullet journaling which is more around the transfer of to-do items. While those are still "goals", it is a bit more like checklists.

For some people the lack of really clear structure might make using it difficult, but I like the simplicity. Overly rigid systems require a high level of commitment and consistency while I could see the Goalbook having a bit more flexibility.

For example, the calendar structure only comprises the first dozen pages or so which means you aren't actually wasting much of the book if you start late. That I REALLY like.

Books that have pages dedicated to each day of the year somewhat force you to wait, but the Goalbook can let you start almost anytime without feeling guilty about buying a notebook that you can only use half of.

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Overall the quality of the book is fantastic as I would expect from Rhodia, and the structure they've laid out is simple and pretty easy going, but still able to keep things on track. 

Thanks again to Exaclair for sending the Goalbook for review!

If interested, Goalbooks can be found at retailers like Pen Chalet.