Karas Kustoms Battleworn Ink 2.0 Rollerball

I am a big fan of Karas Kustoms machined pens, and up until recently I owned all of their lineup except for the Ink rollerball. So when Karas offered a grab bag of matching battleworn Ink 2.0 rollerballs I decided to roll the dice and purchased two of them. There’s always a risk when buying grab bag pens, but I had some tremendous luck and got two pens that are not only in some of my favourite colours, but also in colours that I don’t yet own. I was also fortunate enough to get one pen with a tumbled aluminum grip and one with a regular one, which means that I had a chance to experience both of my preferred grip styles in these pens.

Beautifully designed machined pens.

First thing’s first: the anodization on these pens is spectacular. The colours are really vibrant, and the Battleworn finish does not take away from that. They pop out in any pen lineup, rivalled only by my Spoke pen in terms of brightness:

From left to right: Karas EDK, original Render K, Battleworn Render K, Retrakt V2 , Ink 2.0, Retro51 Dino Fossil, Spoke Pen Orange Crush, Ink 2.0, Caran d’Ache 849

As you can see from the lineup photo above, the Ink 2.0 is a big, chunky pen. It’s larger than any other pen that Karas offers, and while it’s about the same length as the Spoke Pen, it’s much wider. Even so, this is not an overly heavy pen, and the added girth does make for a pleasant writing experience. This is a workhorse pen, built to last, and build to accompany long writing sessions.

The Ink 2.0 uncapped.

There’s quite a distance between the tip of the pen and the threads, and so there’s little chance of them getting in the way of your grip. Despite that, Karas has taken the precaution of ensuring that the threads aren’t overly sharp. Do take into account though that despite the 2.0 name, this is the older version of the Karas Ink rollerball, and so it has the old version of the threads and the cap. The threads on the new Ink V2 (I know, the naming could have been better, but at least it’s consistent across their lineup) are shorter, and have a flat area before them. This serves to even further place your fingers away from the threads, and is required for their Sta-Fast cap system. This system adds an o-ring to the cap, and prevents the pen from unthreading itself. My Ink 2.0s don’t have this system, and so they unthread themselves rather too easily, although nowhere nearly as bad as the original Render K. Again, this is a problem that you won’t encounter if you’re purchasing a new Ink V2 from Karas site right now, and they do a good job of clearly pointing the differences out.

You can see the differences in the tumbled grip and the regular aluminum grip.

The grip on the Ink rollerball is really where the pen’s design shines. It has such a unique profile, with the flare right before the tip cone. It makes for a very comfortable grip section, with added “grippiness” provided by the tumbled finish, should you choose to get it. The grip also comes in black anodized, brass and copper.

Unusual but beautiful design.

A closeup on the old threads shows the difference in the levels of Battleworn finish between these pens. The cyan pen was clearly less tumbled than the magenta one, so I am considering switching the grips between the two, to complete the extra Battleworn look.

The new Ink V2 threads don’t look like this.

Here you can see even better the different levels of Battleworn finish between these pens:

My pens arrived with a Pilot G2 large 0.5mm gel ink refill, and so far I haven’t replaced it. It’s very easy to unscrew the section and replace the refill with anything else that you like, and Karas does a fairly good job on their site, listing popular refills that fit their pens.

I think that the Karas Ink is one of their most beautiful and well designed pens, and there’s a good chance that I’ll buy the Ink V2 once I see a colour and finish combo that catches my eye. Everything from the robust clip design, the placement of the visible screws on the cap, to the length and girth of this pen and especially the grip design is well thought out. It’s clearly a step up from the (excellent) Render K, and if you’re looking for an impressive yet practical machined pen, the Karas Ink V2 is probably the pen for you.

Karas Kustoms Battleworn Ink 2.0 Rollerball

Broken Lamps and New Pens

My little cat (I have two, a little black and white cat, and big black cat) managed to drop a desktop table sharpener on my banker’s lamp and it cracked the glass lampshade clear in half. So I had an interesting but unexpected project today: I bought a replacement lamp shade and took the lamp apart to get rid of the broken glass pieces. A youtube video and a Philips screwdriver took care of the taking apart bit; let’s just hope that I can put it back together again.

Broken shade halfway through dismantling.

I got my Battleworn INK 2.0 Karas Kustoms grab bag rollerballs today. This was my first Karas Kustoms grab bag and my first ink rollerball and I’m very pleased with both the colours that I got and the way the INK 2.0s look and feel. These are chunky but relatively light pens, and I look forward to using them and maybe reviewing them in the future.

Karas Kustoms Battleworn INK 2.0 purple and cyan.

The INK 2.0 uses the Pilot G2 LG2RF refills, which are larger than the usual G2 refills, and built a little different. I haven’t yet tried to swap them out for a different refill, but I suspect that they won’t accept my beloved Uni-ball UMR-85, which is something I was aware of ahead of time.

These are the pens and some of the notebooks that I’ve been using today (I’m not getting much fountain pen use lately): my beloved Orange Crush Spoke pen, and the new purple Karas Kustoms Battleworn INK 2.0 rollerball.

These two pens look great together. Spoke on the left, INK 2.0 on the right.

Field notes came out with a new addition to their National Parks series, which I’ll probably pick up on my next purchase there. They’ve got an offer for a free decal for purchases made by the 30th of August if that speaks to you.

Broken Lamps and New Pens

Karas Kustoms Retrakt Review

Back in 2016 I purchased the 2016 Anniversary edition of the Karas Kustoms EDK. It was a Parker refill machined pen (i.e. relatively short) that came with a Schmidt P2186 rollerball refill (and a Rickshaw bag pouch with a notebook which I won’t review here).

You can see that pen on the right, with it’s grey red finish and its Karas logo with the year 2016 engraved into the barrel:

 

The 2019Anniversary Retrakt is the pen on the left, and when I first saw it during Karas end of the year sale I fell in love with the sleek design. The 2019 anniversary Retrakt fits a Pilot G2 refill (astrix. We’ll get to that later), comes in a matt finish with a black click mechanism and clip, and a “fluted” grip. Unlike the 2016 edition, it’s completely unbranded.

 

Both pens have a distinctive and attractive industrial design, and both are built like tanks. The anodization is fantastic, and both the clip and click mechanism are rock solid. The pens are fairly priced for the quality you get, they have good heft and balance, and are a joy to use. I personally found the fluted grip slightly less comfortable for use in long writing sessions than the regular grip, but I have a tendency to go “grip of death” sometimes. The fluted grip just reminds me to let go a bit, the pen isn’t going anywhere without me.

2016 Anniversary Retrakt on the right, 2019 Anniversary Fluted Retrakt on the left

This brings us to the refill situation on the 2019 Anniversary Retrakt. As soon as I got it I took out the Pilot G2 refill it came with and tried to replace it with my favourite G2 compatible refill, the Uni-ball UMR-85. It’s something that I do automatically with every G2 compatible machined pen. The click mechanism wouldn’t engage. The plunger went down but didn’t stay down, the tip of the refill never saw the light of day. This has never happened to me with a G2 compatible pen before, so I grabbed the original refill and placed it side by side with the Uni-ball one:

Uni-ball UMR-85N on the top, Pilot G2 on the bottom

This was when I realized that the Retrakt V2 must have somehow been designed to accommodate the Pilot G2 tip configuration and only the Pilot G2 tip configuration (unless you purchase a Parker style conversion kit from Karas). This was a big disappointment to me.

Schmidt vs Pilot G2 Retrakts

I probably wouldn’t have purchased this pen had I known this going in. I don’t hate the Pilot G2 refills, but I’m also not a huge fan of their tendency to be globby or stop working while they’re still half full. This means that I’ll be trying to hack a Uni-ball refill into this pen one way or another. Here’s hoping that I succeed because this the 2019 Anniversary Retrakt is a handsome and well made pen that I would really like to have in my rotation.

Karas Kustoms Retrakt Review

Karas Kustoms Battleworn Render K Review

In 2016 I purchased my first Karas Kustoms pens, a grey Render K. Brad Dowdy said that the grey Render K is worth checking out, as photos don’t do the pen justice, and he was right. I love that pen and I still use it regularly, despite it having two minuses:

  1. The refill is a ballpoint, which I’m not a fan of.
  2. The cap doesn’t stay on. Ever.

So I relegated my Render K to desk use, and I only used it in my reading journal, where I don’t write as much, so I can usually wait a few minutes for the ink to dry.

The “cap not staying on” bit didn’t bother just me, and Karas decided that it was worth addressing. Their Render K V2 mainly came out to address that problem. When one of the V2 Render Ks in Battleworn finish came on sale on Black Friday, I decided to give it a try. And this time I got the G2 version, which accepts Pilot G-2 refills (my favourite refill, the Uni-ball UMR-85N is G-2 compatible).

This is the olive coloured Battleworn Render K, and though it looks heavy and hefty it’s super light. It’s much lighter than my old Render K, and more well balanced.

The “Battleworn” finish means that the pen was tumbled after anodization, and so it’s full of nicks and has an “old jeans” kind of look to the top of the cap, the threads, and the tip.

You can see the effects of the tumbling most significantly on the grip. The rings on it are pretty well battered and chewed. While it may look rough, the finish is smooth and there’s no risk of cutting your fingers on a raw edge.

The finish on the cap looks great too. The cap has an o-ring inside that makes sure that it stays on unless you unscrew it, and the threads have also been redesigned to make capping more secure. As in the old Render K, you can’t post the cap.

I was prepared to dislike the olive colour, but I like its subtlety. It’s interesting without calling too much attention to itself.

Render K V2 on the left and the original Render K on the right

When you put the new and old Render Ks side by side you can see that they’re practically the same size, that the grip section has been redesigned, and that their threads look different.

The old Render K accepted refills through the top part of the grip, unlike the new Render K, where the entire grip section unscrews. I think that the new design is more streamlined and elegant, and in general the rings on the new grip make the Render K V2’s grip much better designed and less slippery to hold.

The old Render K feels much heavier than the new one, partly because I think that it’s not as well balanced as the Render K V2. However, it’s worth noting that in both Render K versions the grip section is a little on the thin side, so you might not find them well suited for long writing sessions.

The Karas Kustoms Render K V2 is one of the best machined pens in the market, and now that the cap stays on its a great EDC pen. I personally love the look of the “Battleworn” finish, and I highly recommend getting the G2 version of the pen and swapping the Pilot G2 refill with one of the many, better, G2 compatible refills in the market.

Karas Kustoms Battleworn Render K Review