Wow! I’ve actually been waiting the good part of a year to write this review…
It was actually last summer when I was able to get my hands on one of the earliest examples of the Karas Pen Co Vertex fountain pen, and I’ve been anxious to provide my thoughts on it since then. As it would have it, the production timeline of the Vertex took a little longer than expected, but it is officially here.
Over the last 7 years, Karas Pen Co (AKA, Karas Kustoms) has become one of the household names in the machined pen niche. They were one of the earliest to launch a new pen design using the then new-ish platform, Kickstarter, and it has been a strong journey ever since.
They went on to produce at least 10 new pen models over the last several years, and the Vertex is the most recent to officially hit the scene. But, why I’ve been so excited to talk about the Vertex is due to it being a bit of an outsider (but in a good way) to Karas’ traditionally “tough”, metal pens that they are best known for. While many of the pens have steel metal clips and knurling, the Vertex in contrast is a completely new animal and gives the Karas brand a bit of “refinement” if I may say so.
From the beginning I’ve been a fan of the Karas lineup of pens, and still carry them consistently today. Each release has been well received and enjoyable, but you sort of knew what to expect, you know? With the Vertex, I have to admit that I was completely stunned at what they had produced.
The Vertex pen can be best described as an all acrylic (or delrin…) eyedropper capable fountain pen that is pocket friendly.
It is quite portable in size although not small in my opinion, and rather than rigid shiny metal, we have softer, subtler lines that provide a very pleasing look and feel. If you didn’t tell me it was a Karas pen, I wouldn’t have guessed it, but that to me stands as probably one of the highest compliments I can pay to it I think. The guys at the shop set out to make something different than they are traditionally known for, and I feel like they succeeded really well.
In design, the pen has a few visual features that stand out. The cap is slightly larger in diameter than the barrel, the barrel starts wide and slopes down to a rounded point, and the “finial” is part of the cap material and is a machined out bowl which adds some nice interest to the overall shape. I’ve not seen a pen with quite that design on the cap, but I think it is one of the more interesting aspects overall.
Being an eye dropper pen by design, the guys wanted to make sure you could see inside. The solve for this is quite clever as the cap and barrel don’t touch or meet, but instead the section is made from a selection of clear or colored transparent acrylic which creates an elegant ink window. This serves a function, but also adds a layer of material for a pop of color or additional interest in the overall profile.
Filling the pen to my hearts content was actually pretty easy. The pen ships with a standard international converter as well as a plastic pipette to eye drop from the get go. Of the pens I have, I opted to eye drop one and then converter fill the other. Overall, I think the eye dropper is more fun and likely what I’ll do ongoing with this pen moving forward.
I opted to fill the converter pen with Iroshizuku Kon-Peki (since it has a blue section) and then did the eye drop with Iroshizuku Yama-Budo.
In total there are 9 different possible section colors that you can select with the production models of the Vertex ranging from clear, smoke gray, blue, red, orange… even to a “Coke Bottle” material that is similar to the color of the vintage glass used to hold the soda. Regardless of which color you choose, you will be able to clearly see the ink sloshing around in the pen when used as an eye dropper, but the various colors will limit being able to see the ACTUAL the ink color itself. If showing off what ink is inside is important to you, I’d recommend either the clear versions or even the smoke grey. In the black delrin barrel version I have the smoke grey section and the rich wine color of the Iroshizuku Yama-Budo (mentioned before) stands out clearly.
When it comes to sealing up the pens, the guys seem to have it covered with at least three o-rings. (I’m pretty sure that is it…) One in the cap that connects the section and cap while closed to help reduce the nib drying out, one in the section where the nib threads in to help keep a tight seal there, and one more inside the barrel where the section goes in so that when eye dropped the pieces stay together and don’t leak. I appreciate them going to this level of trouble to make all those things happen. When using other pens as an eye dropper, generally you have to add silicone grease to all the parts to be “safe”, but this makes it a bit more plug and play.
I did notice on a couple of occasions that ink was in the cap of the pen when pulling open (it is a fountain pen) and then got back on the section when closing, but not sure if the tight seal of the cap o-ring produces some suction. Fountain pens tend to make inky fingers to some extent, so I don’t necessarily see this as a huge problem.
Now, to that end, silicone grease is pretty easily applied and most fountain pen owners have had to use it on pistons, etc to keep things moving nicely. I’m not certain as to the shelf life of these o-rings meaning, how long they will last before needing replacement, and whether replacing them in the long run will be easy or difficult. This in no way gives me anxiety about the pen, but something to think about. The hope is that the Vertex will be a pen to own and use for decades… long term upkeep is an important factor when buying a nice pen.
I actually have three models of the Vertex: the original polished black acrylic from last Summer, one of the limited edition Galeocerdo (Tiger Shark) versions which I believe are now sold out, and a black delrin which will be one of their more standard options going forward.
Of the three, I think my overall favorite is the black delrin… if you’ve not used a delrin pen, the material has a sort of soft feel where metal or acrylic is just stiff and smooth. It is light like acrylic, but is extremely durable so if you bump your pocket unexpectedly there is really no likelihood of damage being done to the pen (and inky pants). The delrin just looks cool too. It has a matte black vibe that is pretty forgiving of scuffs and scars and looks sleek. I wouldn’t call it “beautiful” like the Galeocerdo which is a grey, metallic material that catches the light, but I appreciate it very much on its own. Understated, but cool.
Each pen comes with a #6 Bock nib that has been engraved with the Karas Pen Co logo which is nicely done. Not entirely sure if it is more just a striped decoration, or if they were wanting to incorporate the Arizona flag “rays” being where they are from. The nib options are pretty vast from steel, titanium, or gold with a variety of sizes to choose from. For the most recent two I went with steel for both, one a medium and one a 1.1 stub. The medium is a fantastic writer out the gates, but the 1.1 took some tuning to get flowing right.
The pen writes posted or unposted. With the pen overall being so light at 0.8oz, with or without the cap isn’t terribly noticeable, but I enjoy the extra length that posting provides. And, you get to see the interesting “bowl” shape of the finial as you write.
The final piece to note is the custom packaging that Karas has created for the Vertex lineup. For the Decograph they created machined aluminum “tubes” to hold the pens (super cool), but for the Vertex they did something completely new by milling aluminum boxes with a sliding, laser etched lid. I’m generally not a big packaging person, but I really love that they do this. They are, at their heart, a MACHINE shop so it seems only right to mill their own boxes to go with their Signature line of pens. Inside the box is a custom foam core that holds the pen safely inside.
If it isn’t obvious enough, I am a huge fan of the pen. The minute I got my hands on one I knew I loved it. The size, the feel, the look, the fit and finish… all of it stood out as something new and great. And, coming from Karas Pen Co who are traditionally known for their metallic and weighty instruments, this one is a welcome and awesome surprise.
And, the price point on these is extremely reasonable being a machined product made in the USA. The production models start at $130 which comes with any section color you want as well as a steel nib. I’m going to go as far as saying if you enjoy pocket fountain pens, you really do need to get your hands on one of these. While the guys were kind enough to provide these for me to review and try here on The Clicky Post, I foresee others being purchased by me in the near future (the dark green acrylic looks sweet too).