Karas Kustoms are at it again, this time with a newly designed fountain pen called the Starliner. If you aren't already familiar with Karas Kustoms, they've been around for a few years making high-quality machined pens of various styles. My personal favorite is the Ink, which debuted back in 2013. In my mind, quality is synonymous with the Karas Kustoms brand, and I always enjoy seeing the new designs they come up with.
The Starliner fountain pens are small pocket pens that are part of a larger "Reaktor" series of pens that Karas is working on. While I don't have exact dates on availability, you can expect these to drop sometime mid-year, so keep an eye on Twitter and the Karas Kustoms site for timing.
These pocket pens have a classic design that reminds me of The Great Gatsby and the golden age of stationery. But, your grandparents didn't have fountain pens made from solid pieces of aluminum. Because of this material choice, the Starliner pens are incredibly light and durable. The material is still thick enough to make it incredibly strong and resilient for pocket and bag use. When I pick these pens up, they remind me of the feel that the Kaweco AL Sport has. Light but solid, short but useful.
There are four color options available in the Starliner group. The one that sticks out the most is the black anodized aluminum. This is a sleek pen with a durable finish. Under the cap, the grip section is also black. I'd love to swap out the stock Bock nib with something black as well, to complete the blacked-out aesthetic.
There's also a rugged tumbled aluminum finish available, which also covers the pen from top to bottom and everything in between. Despite being tumbled, the pen still has a sleek and smooth feel in the hand. It just lacks the same amount of luster as its shiny counterparts. One of my favorite features of this finish is the fact that the grooves that are cut into the cap and lower body of the pen retain their polished shine. It gives this pen a classy feel.
There are two polished aluminum models available: one with a blue section and one with a red section. Both models feature polished aluminum caps and barrels. Like all of the anodized options Karas has provided in the past, the colors on these pens are incredible and here to last. The red section might be my favorite, as it has a slight burned orange hue in certain light. Likewise, the blue section also has some green dancing around under the surface. These are anything but basic colors — they're delightful.
Something that I believe is entirely unique in this lineup is the fact that they employ a slip cap design instead of a threaded cap system. All Karas Kustoms pens in the past have used some sort of retractable mechanism (for gel refills) or a threaded cap. So, how does the slip cap system work on the Starliner? Pretty well. I noticed that there were some rough edges out of the box, but they quickly smoothed out. Simply pull the cap off and post it, and then snap it back on when you're done. In practice, they need just the right amount of pressure to operate, and I have no concern that it will uncap on accident. When posting the cap, however, the cap can sometimes wiggle loose due to the short length of the pen and how it rests on your hand. The cap has never completely come unposted while writing, but it does wiggle. To get around this, I've been using the pen without the cap posted. While the pens are short, they aren't short enough to be uncomfortable to use unposted.
You might have also noticed that there are no clips on these pens. This is a deliberate design choice, as the clips are only available on the larger sibling (Starliner XL). These pens do roll around on flat surfaces, so beware. In practice, it hasn't been a big deal for me. They also fit snugly in pen pockets and cases provided there's something to tuck them into. I think the main use case for these pens is to be thrown into pockets and bags with other loose items.
The Starliner comes with a Bock nib out of the box, and I've been fairly pleased with them. Nibs can often need minor tuning when you receive them from the factory, and these nibs are no different. While all four nibs write perfectly well, there is some tuning I'd like to do to increase the flow and smooth out the feel of the nib on paper. The nib is also a great size compared to the body of the pen. Not too small, but not too large either. They compliment each other. Since these are standard Bock nibs, they're also fairly easy to swap out.
One of the downsides of every pocket pen is the lack of refill and converter options. Alas, the same is true for the Starliner. Given the short body, the only options available are short international cartridges. You could probably use one of the short cartridge converters that Kaweco or other companies sell, but there's also a massive market for this size cartridge.
In my time with these new pens from Karas Kustoms, I loved the aesthetic as soon as I saw them, but the writing experience is also fantastic. Every new product is always a blank slate, but I'm glad to see that Karas Kustoms have come up with another excellent product that should open up possibilities in the $50 price range.
Keep your eyes open for these pens to become available!
(Karas Kustoms provided this product at no charge to The Pen Addict for review purposes.)
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