It feels good to be back. I decided to take a bit of me time after my final blog post of 2017 before my university term started again. I spent some time with the other half, which was lovely (and finished binge watching How I Met Your Mother with her!) but now I’m back at uni’ I’m looking forward to getting back into.. Ykno, writing about pens (because “it’s a thing apparently..!”)
And what an interesting pen to kick it off with – the Karas Kustoms Decograph Limited Edition 1801 Sleeping Beauty, blimey what a mouthful that is (which I shall just refer to as the 1801). Being from across the pond, I don’t get much exposure to Karas Kustoms pens (I will also admit that this is the first KK pen that I have ever used), but this particular pen is on loan from fellow United Inkdom reviewer – and can be yours as part of a giveaway!
Karas Kustoms Durograph LE for review. Comes in this aluminium tube which is a tad unnecessary if you ask me. Looks nice though. . . . #fountainpennetwork #fpgeeks #fpn #penmanshipporn #penaddict #pen #pens #fountainpen #fountainpens #writing #handwriting #stationery #stationeryaddict #penmanship #blog #blogger #review #reviews #reviewblog #penblog #penblogger #calligraphy #penporn #newpost #funtainpen #industrial #machine
The 1801 is, as stated above, an interesting pen in itself but not just through design, but also when you consider that Karas Kustoms are used to producing machined pens, not acrylic. As a result, I think I was unfairly cynical about the pen when I first got it, but when I put nib to paper, I was pleasantly surprised. So let’s find out why.
The nibs that are on the Karas Kustoms pens (or at least certainly the 1801) are from Bock in Germany. These nibs are very reliable, and often I find it difficult to really review pens with these nibs because there’s not much to say — not in a bad way by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever had a problem with a Bock (or JoWo for that matter) nib. I will admit that I prefer nibs that are made in house for some reason, but I really don’t have anything bad to say about these nibs. They’re easy to remove and swap as well if you decide to change your mind on your chosen nib. Or you can use them to try out different materials, such as gold and titanium; both of which you can get on the 1801 for a price. The gold will set you back an extra $105, though the titanium is cheaper at $45. You can read my review of Bock nibs which might give you a better insight into the differences you can expect (I did get to try out a titanium nib, but not a gold unfortunately so take that into account).
The nib that came on this pen is unmarked. I wrote in the Bock nib review that I’m a broad guy, though that has since changed. I’m now a Japanese (extra) fine guy and on my own personal scale, I would call this a fairly reliable medium, though depending on your exposure you may find this a little finer to other mediums you’ve tried. I’d recommend looking at a few pictures of various Bock nib grade sizes to see which one you prefer (fine. Get fine).
There’s a saying – “quality not quantity”. While it doesn’t fit perfectly in this context, I’m gonna try and make it work. My favourite nib design is Pelikan – far and beyond absolutely no argument about it and I challenge you to show me a more beautiful nib. Really. These nibs are, uh. Boring. Put, perhaps ironically, rather simply. That being said, the nib does write beautifully – and I think that’s more important as I would rather a nib that writes well than a beautiful nib that writes poorly. Utility over beauty. Is that a phrase? Can we make that a thing?
The feed keeps up well. Again, characteristics that you would expect from a Bock nib. This is a fast writing sample.
For a steel nib, there’s actually quite a lot of line variation to be had. It is also a rather wet writer. I enjoyed the writing experience a lot.
Sometimes reverse writing can be useful in short bursts. This isn’t a pen that I’d like to reverse write with, however. I often find that when reverse writing the nib will dry out quite quickly, but that’s not the case with this pen. What is the case though is that this is a very scratchy experience and not very pleasant.
This pen has a custom pen aesthetic to it. Made of acrylic, Karas Kustoms are able to experiment a bit more than with their all metal machined pens, which they already had a bit of fun with anyway in terms of design (being able to swap out different colours of various sections etc.)
Oh, have I mentioned how amazing acrylic pens smell? No? Well, they do!
The 1801 has a beautiful colour to it, and one that I struggle to put my finger on. But search up “turquoise gem stone” or “chrysocolla” and you’ll understand the colour I’m on about. It’s not quite green, not quite blue but not quite teal either. Fantastic. It’s further enhanced by the black ‘veins’ that travel throughout the various parts of the pens. Striking yet not in your face.
Interestingly enough, the term ‘Sleeping Beauty’ is actually in reference to the colour of the pen body. Not because it makes you feel sleepy by hypnotising you with all the different routes the veins take, but rather because it’s in reference to a turquoise mine from Karas Kustoms’ residence in Arizona.
The finial is a simple silver dome and at the bottom of the pen you have the Karas Kustoms logo, which I quite like and feels rather TWSBI-esque (though the opposite side). I really hate branding on my pens unless it’s off of the body (such as on the cap band, which is fine). This is a nifty place to display the logo.
The clip is the same colour as both the top and bottom of the pen (and yes, I’m going to say it – I prefer gold) and looks polished; I wouldn’t go as far as to call it matte though – nor does it feel that way. The clip is strong yet movable. Easy to clip over something, but not impossible to pull at.
The pen is a limited edition of 100, with a few 000 models out there as review samples (this being one of them). The number can be found on the section of the pen, which is a nice place to put it. At time of writing, the 1801 isn’t sold out.
The pen fills through standard international cartridge/converter and can be (I think) eyedroppered. Though I haven’t tried this myself and not advising it without being certain yourself, but I see no metal parts that the ink would come into contact with. To unscrew the section it’ll take you a total of 7.5 full turns (yes I counted) which just feels like forever. As someone who doesn’t eyedropper my pens, this annoys me a bit. This pen came with a K5 Schmidt converter, though I’m not sure whether all the pens come with this (at $165 I do hope it is shipped with one). I don’t think that cartridges are supplied, however, so if that’s what you prefer to lean towards then you’ll have to make sure you’re stocked up when ordering this pen.
This isn’t an oversized pen, but it’s not a small one that’s for sure. I prefer larger pens and this sits great in my hands. I have no problems when it comes to holding the pen or writing for long writing sessions as it isn’t heavy either (coming in at about 20g). The pen can be posted if you desire; it doesn’t become ostentatiously large like other pens that are already on the larger side, but it definitely feels funny when you write with it posted (take this with a pinch of salt as I am someone who doesn’t really enjoy posting their pens). Also take into account that this is an acrylic pen, so you don’t want to be forcing the cap on the end of the pen as it’s at a higher risk of cracking.
Ehh. This is where the pen falls short for me. $165 (£116.65 at time of writing) not including shipping (which I shall get onto later) is a little steep for me to justify this pen. It looks nice, but it’s just another pen with a Bock nib. Of course, the limited edition aspect of it does push the price up, but that’s not really something that matters too much to me, which is why I have to say that I find the price a bit silly. Also, taking into consideration if you want a gold ($270/£190.74) or titanium ($210/£148.35) nib then this will increase the cost too.
Now, shipping. Karas Kustoms is based within America. The pen ships in an aluminium (al-yew-min-ee-um) tube, which’ll drive up shipping costs internationally, and perhaps domestically too as well. The tube is completely and utterly unnecessary. I keep my pen boxes and this tube would just go straight into the same draw with these boxes and never be used again. The only upside to it is that it’s cylindrical which means it won’t take up too much space. I know why KK did it and I’m sure you do, too. They’re known for machining pens and it is quirky, but unfortunately it’s lost on me. Others I’ve spoken to have actually liked the idea, but it just doesn’t tickle my fancy as I’d prefer a more lightweight package to keep shipping down.
Would I buy it?
I guess that question has already been answered for you. If this was a regular edition pen (and therefore without the limited edition price tag) and easier to purchase in the UK, I would consider it. It’s a lovely design and it does write well. It’s a pen that does everything a pen is supposed to do (oh, and it smells great). But with that being said, I would rather get an acrylic pen here within the UK from someone such as John Twiss, from whom I’ve bought from before for a group-custom pen for the London UK Pen Club. Perhaps even at a lower cost, too.
For those who stayed for the ride
As I mentioned earlier on in the review, this pen can be yours as part of a giveaway. Unfortunately it’s not me giving the pen away, but rather fellow United Inkdom reviewer over at Pen Paper Pencil – you can read his review here, which opens to a new tab where (at time of writing) the information about the giveaway will be published soon.
This pen was leant to me for review purposes from a fellow reviewer for an open and honest review with no other compensation provided.