Karas Kustoms Starliner

Let’s have a break from the World Cup. Though as someone who, ordinarily, isn’t very interested in football, the World Cup (and maybe the Euros, if England aren’t losing to sides like Iceland like, last time, that is) is the only time I’ll be rather interested. But when England inevitably get knocked out, and I do hope to eat those words, I shall go back to not caring.

I have reviewed the Karas Kustoms 1801 Sleeping Beauty before and today I have another Karas offering: the Starliner and Starliner XL. The Starliners are part of Karas Kustoms’ Reaktor lineup which is supposed to be a more affordable feature within the Karas catalogue. I have both the XL and the “regular” (which is too small to be called as such in my opinion) models. Ordinarily I would do a separate review for both of them, but this time I feel it’s unwarranted – mainly because these pens are so similar and only really differ in size and slightly in aesthetic. My feelings about the two pens are the same, also. I am not impressed.

In the slightest.

Design

Apparently these pens are supposed to be space themed, a throwback to the 1950s in America. I don’t share the same nostalgic sentiment and so when I see these two pens all I think is “olympic torch”. I don’t know if I’m missing something, but the design just doesn’t do anything for me ,and I don’t think it really relates to the pen. The body is significantly smaller in diameter than the cap and to me it just looks odd.

Karas Kustoms Reaktor Starliner XL Small fountain pen review

The finial is a slight dome shape. If the pen has a redeeming quality, this is the only one. I quite like the design of this for some reason. Very subtle and a nice touch, if anything.

The regular size is without a clip. I would assume this pen is supposed to be used as a pocket pen, as something portable. I wouldn’t go so far as saying “handy” because, while lightweight, it’s quite difficult to use the pen without posting it and when you do post it, it becomes quite back heavy. Meh.

The clip on the XL reminds me not of 1950s America but 1920s Britain because this style of clip reminds me of what would be expected on Mabie Todd pens of this era. Karas Kustoms have added rivets to the clip for something unique and to give it an industrial look. The clip is so stiff that it’s basically unusable, which is a further disappointment.

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The smaller Starliner is available in four colour schemes: silver/black body with a blue section or silver/black barrel with a red barrel. Being me, I’d prefer the blue section, but I shan’t complain about having the red one to review because blue is an option. It is quite boring that you only get the one colour, while Karas Kustoms before have been known for providing buyers with multiple colours that are interchangeable. The XL is available in black or silver body, with no difference in section colour. You can, however, swap the sections over etc. if you so desire. Of course, adding to the cost.

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Karas Kustoms Reaktor Starliner XL Small fountain pen review
Starliner XL with the section of the smaller size

Nib

Karas Kustoms have, as far as I am aware, always used Bock nibs on their fountain pens. I usually sing the praises of Bock nibs, but this time both nibs disappointed me. They’re smooth, sure, but I experienced quite a number of hard starts. Interestingly, more so on the fine nib than the broad. I took a look but it’s not the result of baby’s bottom. Of course the pens didn’t do this when I was doing the writing samples. Sod’s Law, huh? You can see one skip below in the green writing (Starliner XL) on the f.

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The XL uses a #5 nib, but the regular size has a smaller nib. #4 perhaps?

When the nib does write, you get a fairly decent line – the broad nib in particular is very wet. For steel nibs I was quite surprised by the line variation offered. Please do note, however, the pens aren’t marketed as a flex nib.

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Filling

The XL is a cartridge/converter pen, while the smaller version will only take small international cartridges.

Feel

The pens are rather lightweight when uncapped and not posted. As mentioned earlier they do become quite back heavy if you post them, which is a shame. The XL can be used unposted and fairly comfortably, but the smaller size needs to be posted, ideally, to be used. Given the weighting issues this does make it quite difficult to use the pen.

Karas Kustoms Reaktor Starliner XL Small fountain pen review Wing Sung 618, Kaweco Liliput, Karas Kustoms Starliner, Karas Kustoms Starliner XL, Platinum #3376 Nice Lilas, TWSBI Eco T
Left to right: Wing Sung 618, Kaweco Liliput, Karas Kustoms Starliner, Karas Kustoms Starliner XL, Platinum #3376 Nice Lilas, TWSBI Eco T
Karas Kustoms Reaktor Starliner XL Small fountain pen review Wing Sung 618, Kaweco Liliput, Karas Kustoms Starliner, Karas Kustoms Starliner XL, Platinum #3376 Nice Lilas, TWSBI Eco T
Wing Sung 618, Kaweco Liliput, Karas Kustoms Starliner, Karas Kustoms Starliner XL, Platinum #3376 Nice Lilas, TWSBI Eco T

Price

The Starliner is $50 and the XL is $55 – so there really isn’t much between the two. That’s nice. This isn’t including shipping, which will add $15 overseas plus potential customs. The economical line therefore eventually adds up in price. It costs even more to have a titanium or gold nib, too. That being said, you could actually source these domestically instead of buying them with that nib as this may keep costs down on customs declarations. That’s how I’d do it, at least. $50-55 occupies a nice niche in the pen market so I hope if anything this prompts other companies to fill the same price range with their pens which would be nice to see.

Would I buy it?

No. Plain and simple. The price isn’t an initial deterrent – it’s more a case of “what you get for [price]” that puts me off. I think Karas need to go back to the drawing board on this one so you get, as they say, more bang for your buck.

If not this then what?

It’s difficult to recommend pens around this price – as I said it occupies a niche, where there aren’t many pens. If you’re looking to spend the same or less, you’re looking for something like the TWSBI Eco or perhaps Chinese pens – the Wing Sung 618 in particular I think is a phenomenal pen and you’ll enjoy it far more than one of these.

If you’re interested in a pocket pen then you may be a bit harder pressed. You could consider a lower priced Kaweco Liliput.

There are so many other pens, some cheaper than these, that I’d recommend over and above the Starliner range. Unfortunately I’m just really not taken.

Karas Kustoms Reaktor Starliner XL Small fountain pen review

Disclaimer: This pen was sent to be from Karas Kustoms in exchange for an honest review. All views expressed are my own.

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