I received an email from a reader, Justin, with some questions around my opinions of a couple of Karas Kustoms pens, and which one I thought was better. Now, I really enjoy Karas' pens; a lot. I've discussed before my appreciation for their products, and it wasn't until I received that email from Justin did I think through the "whys" of my appreciation of each pen. Thanks, Justin.
If you are looking to purchase just one pen from Karas (a really difficult feat...), there are definitely some things to consider. For what you get, I absolutely think their products are priced well. The quality, design, "cool factor"; they are worth the money in my opinion. That being said, if you're going to drop $45+ on a pen like this, you want to make sure you're making the right decision, right? I can speak from knowing the guys at Karas, they want you to enjoy your pen as much as they enjoy making them, which happens to be a lot.
Karas Kustoms is currently offering three different pen styles: The Render K, The Bolt, and The Retrakt. All of these pens bear a very "Karas" style and are all awesome, but are all quite different from each other.
In thinking through this, I came about some ideas and criteria based on a few factors: material/weight, finish, refills, and functionality.
Currently, Karas pens come in three materials (except for the limited Delrin): aluminum, brass, and copper. Whether one of them is right for you is absolutely up to preference, but I wanted to layout the features of each.
Aluminum (Aluminium for Myke Hurley): sleek, shiny, and lightweight. Great for long-term writing if you do a lot of it. The aluminum versions will not tarnish/patina over time and can be anodized clear or with a variety of great colors. My personal go-to for day-to-day.
Brass: Can be 2-3 times as heavy as the aluminum and is very weighty in your hand. Feels very smooth and substantial in your hand, and the weight requires less effort to "push" the ink onto the paper. For long term writing, may be a bit heavy or cause hand fatigue. Will tarnish and patina over time as it is a raw finish, but is antimicrobial, so great for medical, germaphobes, etc. Can have kind of a metallic smell.
Copper: Slightly heavier than the brass version, but similar features to the brass so "see above". A really striking and unique material for a pen that is kind of a show stopper. This is a pretty manly pen, people. If you are thinking the copper is the way to go, the only available model is the Retrakt currently on Kickstarter. Very cool choice.
If you are wanting a pen that will maintain the finish day after day like you bought it, the clear or colored anodized aluminum versions would probably be best. The Bolt in aluminum is a raw, unanodized version, but the finish on mine has held up really well. I actually kind of like the natural feel of the metal on The Bolt.
The brass and copper versions as outlined above will tarnish/patina over time with use. Your pen will come shiny and new, but the finish will dull as the metal is exposed to your hands. You could clean the tarnish off periodically, but if you are wanting a maintained, "shiny" finish always, these versions may not be the right ones. They are very unique and fantastic materials that I enjoy, but they are not for everyone. To enjoy either of these, you will need to appreciate the weight and unique finish you'll get with your pens.
This section is pretty much going to list out the major refill types that fit into the various pens. There could be others, but these are ones I know personally to fit. Now, some of the refills might take a little trimming off the end or creating a custom spacer with the nylon tubing they provide, but no duct-tape type work needs to be done.
Render K: Pilot Hi Tec C, Parker Style (Moleskine Gel Roller does not very well), Fisher Space Pen
Render K G2: Pilot G2, Pentel Energel, uni-ball Signo 207, Mont Blanc Rollerball, Pilot Hi Tec C Cavalier, Cross Felt Tip... (there are a lot of "G2" style refills that you could get in this one). Probably one of the most versatile of the bunch.
The Bolt: Parker Style, Fisher Space Pen
The Bolt with G2 Barrel: Pilot G2 and similar refills
The Retrakt: Pilot G2, Pentel Energel, uni-ball Signo 207, uni-ball Jetstream (awesome), Parker Style, Fisher Space Pen
The functionality of the pens is where their individual features start to come out, and depending on your tastes will definitely determine which route you may want to take. A common piece to all the pens is their sturdy stainless steel clip. This thing is solid and would take a considerable amount of force for you to bend it out.
Render K: This one pretty much started the journey for Karas Kustoms into the pen world. I absolutely love this pen. My recent review of the Render K G2 goes into some additional detail, but these babies set a pretty high standard for machined pens. They are a capped pen, so you have some responsibility of not losing the cap. The cap on the Render K does not really post (although it can sit on the end, which I never do). For some people this is a bother. With machined metal pens I've used that are a normal pen length, I've found even if the cap posts I never do it. They always seem too heavy. The Render K is well balanced without the cap and feels great.
The Bolt: This pen is very unique. It is not your traditional retractable pen as it has a bolt action mechanism to extend and retract the pen tip. The design is very sleek and minimalist. As stated above, the plain aluminum version is raw, but I also have a black anodized edition and the finish feels really nice. I like both, but the anodizing gives it a smoother feel. The mechanism can be worked with just one thumb and can take some practice and "breaking in", but I sometimes use a thumb and index finger action. Out of the three pens, the mechanics of The Bolt is the most intriguing to me. The mechanism isn't just functional, but is fun to use too. Its like they've made a pen into a machine which is fascinating.
The Retrakt: The newest of the trio is a traditional click-style pen that most of us are used to, but is on a much higher level than your average office clicky. As it is a traditional clicker, it may be considered the most convenient and mainstream of the three for the sake of usability. The click mechanism is a nickel plated brass and feels amazing. The Retrakt has the most tapered grip and is a great writer. You can refer back to my review of The Retrakt for a more in-depth look.
Whichever you choose, you shouldn't be disappointed in your pen. The guys over at Karas Kustoms make top-notch products that will literally last a lifetime.
This is a lot of information, but hope it may have been helpful!
Other Reviews/Posts about Karas Kustoms to Read: