I can’t deny that I like Karas Kustoms’ pens quite a lot, particularly the tumbled raw aluminium versions, of which I’m building up quite a collection. I was therefore quite excited to have the chance to try a new range of their pens.
These pens were sent to be by Karas Kustoms for the purposes of this review. These are my own opinions.
Price: Starliner $50, Starliner XL $55 (including shipping in the USA; shipping overseas will be $15)
Filling method: Starliner: short international cartridge; XL: international cartridge or converter
Barrel options: see below
Nib options: stainless steel extra-fine up to 1.5mm stub; titanium and 14k gold available at extra cost
Let’s start with what these two pens have in common.
They’re both made from aluminium. They’re strong yet lightweight. The finish, as you would expect from Karas Kustoms, is excellent. There are three options for the caps and barrels: tumbled raw aluminium or anodised silver or black. The sections on the raw and black pens match the barrels and on the silver pen can be either red or blue. Karas Kustoms say they limited the options to keep the price down and that they picked these colours as a homage to space suit fixtures that often came in these colours.
The caps on both pens push on to close and use a hidden o-ring to ensure they stay securely in place. I’ve kept the smaller pen in my pocket for a while and haven’t had the slightest concern that the cap might come off.
When posting, the caps don’t snap in place as they do when capped but nevertheless they stay put as long as you push them down firmly.
Both pens use Bock nibs and come in the full range of sizes and metals that Bock provide. I’ve been able to try them from extra-fine to broad, in stainless steel. Most have been great but there is some inconsistency occasionally with how well the ink flows. Some are drier than others but all are useable. There will be some luck involved with whether you get a nib that suits you or not. That can be said about a great many fountain pens, although in my experience Bock tend to be a little more hit and miss than many others. I think I ought to point out though that I had eight of these pens side by side and so any differences between nibs was bound to feel more pronounced than if I’d been looking at them at different times.
What I do really like is that, although these nibs use the narrower #5 feed, they are closer to the larger #6 nibs in size. It’s a question of taste but I think the larger size really suits this pen.
There are other well thought out design touches. The overall design is suggestive of the 1960s while still being modern. The ends are almost flat but not quite, lending some interest, particular when they catch the light. The indented rings around the cap look slightly vintage and also suggestive of engine pistons. If that does say Karas Kustoms I don’t know what does.
The shape of the section makes for a very comfortable grip and of course there are no threads to get under your fingers.
The Starliner (not-XL) doesn’t have space for a converter and so you’re restricted to using standard short international cartridges. This of course is purely a consequence of the short length. Kaweco have tried (and, I’d say, failed) to make a converter that will fit into this size pen. If it was plastic, eye-droppering might be an option but being (proudly) made of metal you just have to live with cartridges. That’s not at all a disaster as there’s a huge range, even without resorting to filling them up from an ink bottle using a syringe. It’s easier, too, to carry a spare cartridge with you, which suits the portable nature of this particular pen.
The Starliner doesn’t have a clip. A clip would add some extra bulk and reduce the portability. However, clips can sometimes be useful! They also help stop your pen rolling away. Personally, I tend to prefer clipless pens and will pick that when given a choice.
In the hand, the Starliner is a little too short to comfortably use unposted. However it’s quick and easy to uncap and post the pen and then it’s a reasonable length. It’s a good compromise between pocketability and writeability.
The Starliner XL is long enough to be used unposted but if you have big hands you might find it a little short. Like its stubbier sibling it posts quickly and easily.
It does have a clip, secured in the distinctive Karas Kustoms two-bolt style. It looks good but it’s a little bit too stiff to use easily. If you want to clip it onto anything thicker than a couple of sheets of paper you’re going to have to put some effort in.
The extra length means you can use longer standard international cartridges or a converter, which is the best of both worlds.
The Starliner pens are fine looking pens, made to a high standard, with a thoughtful design and a very good price point. They are very good pens and outstanding value.
Inconsistency with the nibs
Karas Kustoms sent me these pens to review and I will be giving six of them away. They are currently visiting some of my United Inkdom colleagues. Once they return I’ll put something together around some giveaways, which will take place here and also on United Inkdom.