Karas Kustoms Starliner fountain pen review

A little bit of history Karas Kustoms have been making pens, mostly from metal, since 2011. Their first pens used gel ink but they soon began manufacturing fountain pens and have been going from strength to strength. Although they’ve made some plastic pens they continue to be best known for metal pens with a slightly industrial aesthetic.How it looks This industrial metal design is strong with the Starliner. It’s named after a Ford car and there are suggestions of a tail-light in the cap. It’s quite fifties-looking and, in fact, the Reaktor range, of which the Starliner is a part, is meant as a homage to 1950s America.

The slightly larger ‘XL’ pen has a clip of folded metal, fixed in place with Karas Kustoms’ distinctive two bolts.

There are four options: black, raw aluminium, silver with a red section, and silver with a blue section. Two of our pens came with smaller nibs but all the production pens will come with a larger #6 sized nib (although using a #5 sized feed).

How it feels Both pens are made from aluminium and are light in the hand. The cap being a push-on pull-off affair, there are no threads and so the gently shaped section is easy on the fingers. Neither pen is particularly long and the shorter version is certainly too short to comfortably hold for any length of time. Both versions would benefit from the cap being posted but as the cap posts quite deeply this doesn’t add a significant amount to the length (although one reviewer felt it added just enough). Three of our four reviewers felt the pens were too top-heavy when posted.

How it fills The XL comes with a converter and can also use international standard cartridges. The smaller pen will only accept short international standard cartridges.

Crucially, how it writes… Karas Kustoms use Bock nibs and, unfortunately, the samples we received were very inconsistent. Some wrote well but some suffered from hard starts and skipping.

Pen! What is it good for? Both pens are solidly constructed and will take a bit of a battering. They’re good if you want a pen that you don’t need to worry about protecting or keeping safe from knocks. The push-on cap (held in place with o-rings) means the cap is unlikely to accidentally come off (although one of the prototypes we had did seem to have a problem with coming loose, and most of the pens we were sent suffered from rattles).

VFM The Starliner pens are meant to fill a gap in Karas Kustom’s line-up, at $50 for the smaller pen and $55 for the larger pen. Of course by the time they’ve made their way to the UK, shipping and customs charges increase this price significantly. It’s hard to find small-batch metal pens in this price range but… opinion about this pen was sharply divided amongst our reviewers and so it’s hard to state categorically whether this pen provides good value for money or not.

If this isn’t quite your cup of tea, but almost… If you’re after a good pocket pen then the evergreen Kaweco Sport is available in plastic for less money or metal for more. If you’re after a metal pen in Britain then Namisu or Mr.Pen’s offerings are both worth looking at. If you like the design but aren’t keen on the compromises Karas made to keep the price down on the Starliner, then it might be worth considering some of their other pens.

Our overall recommendation Four reviewers looked at both the Starliner pens. Two loved them and two hated them with a passion. If you don’t like how it looks then stop reading now! But if you like the looks, and don’t mind a rattly cap (something that may well be less of an issue on the production pens rather than our prototypes), and find short pens comfortable to use, then the Starliner pens are like nothing else at this price point.

Where to get hold of one Currently only from Karas Kustoms direct.

This meta-review references:

Thanks to Karas Kustoms for sending us the full Starliner range to review.

TWSBI Precision fountain pen & mechanical pencil review

A little bit of history  It’s probably safe to say that TWSBI is a Marmite brand; you either love ’em or you hate ’em. However, the Precision line is one that those who love TWSBI will warm to, but also something that those who currently don’t indulge in TWSBIfication (mainly due to their reported quality control issues) may want to give a chance, as this pen and pencil set are rather robust in their build and look likely to be reliable. We quite enjoyed them!

How it looks Some of us had our initial reservations about the fountain pen design, but it grows on you. The shape could be described as an “inverse hourglass” with a chunky middle section and thinner grip section and piston knob which almost gives it a “kit pen” aesthetic. The pencil design has more than a hint of Rotring about it, but this is in no sense a bad thing.

Currently the pen is only available in one finish, which is a matte grey brushed look. It is very smooth to the touch, however. The pencil is available in both silver and black but has a more metallic finish than its fountain pen counterpart, and also comes with a rather nice knurled grip. Those who really insist can also obtain a ballpoint in a similar body to that of the pencil, although we can’t imagine why you’d want to. The barrel on both the pen and pencil are faceted, which is a distinct design feature. Here it is compared to Daniel’s Montegrappa NeroUno Linea to show the facets:

How it feels  Because of the materials used to make these instruments, they can feel reassuringly heavy in the hand once wielded. Both the pen and the pencil are nicely balanced, however, and this gives for a nice writing experience. The fountain pen cap does post, with a firm push, but this may not be the wisest move, partly for the obvious reason of making the pen top-heavy, but also because an accidental pumping of the piston may occur – and that can get very messy (Scribble’s carpet is reportedly still recovering).It’s quite easy to write with both the pen and pencil for a long time without any sort of fatigue. This is especially pleasing considering that fountain pen is a piston filler, which leads nicely on to…

How it fills  Segues! The fountain pen is, in typical TWSBI fashion, a piston filler. This gives you plenty of ink and allows you to write for quite a while. Some people do have their reservations about piston fillers as they can require a bit more maintenance when cleaning, though it isn’t too much hassle truth be told – and as is the case for all TWSBI pens, the tools required are all in the box.

TWSBI Precision

The pencil refills are standard leads that you can buy from your favourite stationer – be it online or on the high street.

Crucially, how it writes  Both the fountain pen and the pencil both write very well. In part, the pencil performance is dependent upon what lead you have in it (partly the case with inks in the pen, though not to such an extent). Because both are well balanced, you do get a nice writing experience coupled with the nib/lead. The pen is available in all the normal TWSBI steel offerings, including stub nibs. We found no problems in terms of hard starts or skips with the pen. Our bleistift expert did notice, however, that the test pencil pushed-through rather more lead than is normal beyond the sleeve, which can increase the risk of snapping.

Pen(cil)! What is it good for?  This set would find itself fitting-in nicely in a business context, as well at one’s own table for personal use. The pen design aesthetic is somewhat similar to that of the famed Lamy 2000, but without the price tag (and gold nib, of course). The pencil’s echoing of (and in some senses improvement upon) the Rotring tradition would fit it for a design studio – if you can find one which still uses pencils.

Value For Money  Coming in at around £70-80 for the pen and mid £20s for the pencil, this may be an investment for some. But it’s a reliable pen, and a piston filler too, so it has the makings of a ‘workhorse’ pen which could end up paying for itself if used enough; no overpriced cartridges here, and less plastic waste too. The pencil is decent value, especially compared to the Rotring models it is apparently pitched against.

If this isn’t quite your cup of tea  There’s a lot going for this pen. If you’re looking for recommendations for something similar to this, first you’d have to consider which aspect(s) you’re most put off by. If it’s the piston fill, then look for a cartridge/converter pen (this could possibly push you into gold nib territory if you’re willing to spend a little bit extra – Platinum #3776 comes to mind, which is a fantastic pen). If you enjoy the design, the Lamy 2000, as mentioned above, may be worth looking into; this would set you back an extra ~£50 (almost twice the price of the Precision), though as is the case with the Precision, you’re looking at a reliable workhorse that is worth (to most) the investment and so you can find comfort in that fact – it also comes with a gold nib and is more streamlined if you enjoy the matte grey brushed look on the Precision that you also get on the 2000 but not the “inverse hourglass” shape. If the pencil doesn’t quite float your boat, Rotring really is the obvious place to look.

There are, of course, other pen models within the TWSBI line-up that may tickle your fancy…Our overall recommendation  The Precision FP is a good, reliable pen, which has the potential to become a trusty workhorse without breaking the bank. None of us had any problems in terms of the writing experience, and the only cause for concern were our own personal preferences when it comes to design. All in all, a thumbs up! The pencil is a slightly more mixed offering given the issue Matthias identified with excessive lead protrusion, but still great value for the price demanded.

Where to get one  TWSBI have plenty of retailers in the UK now, and they are not difficult to find on the whole, although new models can sell out quickly. Our test pen was contributed by the marvellous Write Here of Shrewsbury (who, at time of writing, have this pen on special offer!) while the pencil was procured in this case from the equally splendid Writing Desk of Bury St. Edmunds.

This meta review references:

Thanks to Write Here for sending a pen our way before their initial stock sold out!

Faber-Castell E-Motion fountain pen review

A little bit of history  Faber-Castell is a well-known brand, but their mid-range fountain pens are too often overlooked. Many of us are already fans of the E-Motion, and when Executive Pens Direct offered a rather attractively-finished parquet black version to test we certainly weren’t going to miss the chance.

How it looks  It’s a tricky finish to capture on camera, but it looks decidedly smart. The pen itself is as sturdy-looking and ergonomically-shaped as ever. There’s no mistaking it for any other pen, really.

How it feels  Well weighted, and poised to write. That shiny section offer more grip than you might expect, too.

How it fills  This a straightforward cartridge/converter number, and that seems to work well.

Crucially, how it writes…  The pen looks great, but writing performance is what really seals the deal as far as we’re concerned. Faber-Castell use #5 Bock steel nibs in many models including this one, and that’s a promising starting point but their quality control and fitting are second to none. We find these nibs write reliably, and smoothly, without exception – this is as good as a steel nib can get, essentially!

Pen! What is it good for?  This pen would definitely not look out of place in a board-room, but there’s nothing to stop you using it anywhere else. Some of us already own an E-Motion of our own and have found the design robust and reliable – including that big spring clip.

VFM  Very good indeed; around £80 is typical for this handsome, well-made pen. The nibs are excellent, and the body is likely to last for a few decades with normal use too. ‘Nothing to complaint about there.

If this isn’t quite your cup of tea, but almost…  Then there are plenty of options. If you like the sound of that smooth steel nib but this material doesn’t quite do it for you, then the pure black or wood-finish versions of the E-Motion are worth a look. If the shape doesn’t quite float your boat, there are several other Faber-Castell fountain pens which use the same nib – even down to the super-affordable Basic. If you love the shape but would prefer a gold nib this is a little trickier, as the company saves gold for its up-market Graf von Faber-Castell range, presumably upon the numerical advice of neighbouring aristocrat Count von Count. But a Bock #5 from Beaufort Ink should fit, and even a JoWo #5 can be made to play nicely with a bit of careful fettling.

Our overall recommendation  This gets a unanimous thumbs-up from all our reviewers; a nice to pen to use, attractive to look at, and great to write with. We think the price is about right too.

Where to get hold of one  This is not the most difficult pen to find, but since ours was donated by Executive Pens Direct, and they’re selling it for a rather reasonable £78, we’ll include a link to their page here.

This meta-review references:

Thanks to  Executive Pens Direct for the sample.

Divine Design Eyedropper fountain pen review

A little bit of history  Before there were pistons, vacuums, pneumatic blast-poppers or funky crescent levers, there was but one filling system – the humble eye-dropper. Like its fellow Taiwanese offering from Opus 88, the Divine Design Eyedropper goes back to the  roots, albeit with a syringe rather than a pipette in the box. It is apparently only distributed within the Iberian peninsula at present (for reasons we can’t quite fathom, but there it is), but of course that geography neatly includes the marvellous fpnibs.com, and they know a thing or two about interesting pens.

How it looks  Very plain and straightforward: black cap and ends, transparent barrel, undistinguished clip. This is either helpfully minimalist, or a bit boring, according to taste – but we all agreed that this much ink sloshing around inside was a pleasant view.

How it feels  Unposted, it’s a fairly big pen, but not oversized – so comfortable for most hands. That cap does post, but this makes it a bit top-heavy in our opinion(s).

How it fills  Here is this pen’s first party trick – no less than three filling options. Why you’d put a puny cartridge in a beast like this is hard to imagine, but it’s nice to know that the capability is there for real emergencies. The box comes with a decent converter, which is considerate, but also somewhat redundant – because this thing is made to be filled to the brim. Open the barrel, which has nice long threads and an o-ring already fitted – and you can get a whopping 4ml of ink in there, which is enough to write for days.

Crucially, how it writes…  Here is the pen’s second party trick; it takes a JoWo #6, and fpnibs stock a lot of those. For fun, and to make interesting photographs, we went for one of their colour-lacquered offerings, but any of their steel options would do – or you could even push the boat out and choose a gold upgrade. We’ve yet to encounter the JoWo #6 which  writes badly. The purple lacquer did start to wear off once it reached its fourth reviewer, but the tip carried on writing just as well.

Pen! What is it good for?  It’s probably just the thing for when you don’t need to show off, but do need to write for a long stint without refilling. There are other ways to achieve that aim, but let’s face it  – this solution is a tenth of the price of a Conid.

VFM  With the nib and a bit of VAT inside the EU (for the time being, at least) this comes to about £45. Not dirt cheap, but pretty fair value for a useful pen, if not the glitziest. The box includes a syringe, converter, and instrucciones (in Español), so it covers all the bases and  even provides a diverting translation challenge if, for some inexplicable reason, you’re the sort of fountain pen enthusiast who knows everything apart from where the ink goes.

If this isn’t quite your cup of tea, but almost…  Have a shop-around for eye-droppers. They are making a gradual comeback – take the Opus 88, for instance.

Our overall recommendation  We like the way it works, for the most part, even if we’re not all blown-away by its plain looks. A safe choice as long as you don’t insist upon posting all your caps.

Where to get hold of one  Direct from fpnibs.com is probably the simplest route.

This meta-review references:

Cleo ‘Skribent’ fountain pen review

A little bit of history  Cleo Skribent is the company which kept fountain pen manufacturing going behind the iron curtain, and now make affordable daily drivers like the capable Classic which we tested last year. Their most enthusiastic retailers in the UK, the aptly named Write Here, were determined to persuade us to try one of their more exotic offerings.  Well, we didn’t take THAT much persuading…How it looks  Quite distinctive, with a tapered barrel which is reminiscent of a desk pen, and that impressively over-engineered clip. The gold finish wasn’t to everyone’s taste, but a chrome trim alternative and a nicely blue version are also available.

How it feels  Light but well-poised and ready to write. It’s hard to resist the urge to try a few squiggles when you pick this up, even if you have nothing in particular to write – but as Skribent roughly translates as ‘scribble’ that’s perhaps appropriate.

How it fills  Somewhat disappointingly, given the piston option of the reasonably priced Classic, the Skribent is a cartridge/converter number. However, the converter does screw in for greater security, which is a smart move.

Crucially, how it writes…  Ah, here is where the Skribent changes opinions quite quickly. The looks might not win everyone over, but that nib does! It’s small but perfectly formed, with a gentle bounce usually only encountered on a Japanese ‘soft’ nib, and although it offers only modest line variation it is a real joy to write with.Pen! What is it good for?  This is a proper ‘writer’s pen’, this one; it is well-built and could cope with whole reams of text. ‘Just the thing for writing that novel you’ve been meaning to get around to…

VFM  This is the one area where the Skribent struggles a bit, at the moment. It’s a nice pen with a really excellent nib, and deserves a premium price, but £300 is an awful lot of money. For that kind of cash one could buy a piston-filler, with a bigger nib, from a famous name, and it’s hard to escape the sense that Cleo have been a little over-ambitious with the RRP. If this was closer to the £220 mark we’d be recommending it with enthusiasm, though.

If this isn’t quite your cup of tea, but almost…  Cleo makes a wide range of fountain pens, and we do aim to review more of them over the next couple of years. But probably the nearest writing experience to that available from the Skribent would be a Platinum #3776 with an SM nib – if you can find one.Our overall recommendation  If you do have a yearning to write a book long-hand, and you can afford a luxury ‘daily driver’, you could do a lot worse than the Skribent – and you’re sure to fall in love with the nib. We think that Cleo would be wise to reconsider the price positioning, however.

Where to get hold of one  There are few Cleo stockists in the UK so, review samples not withstanding, it does make sense to go straight to a specialist.

This meta-review references:

Thanks to  Write Here for lending us the Skribent to play with!

 

Summer Solstice give-away

It’s time for us to announce another give-away here at the United Inkdom Citadel!

Today it’s the Scrikss pen that’s up for grabs – procured in person by our very own Scribble from a trip to Nuremberg’s Insights-X trade fair at the end of last year. This is the Noble 35 that we’re offering up here, and it’s rather lovely to use!

 

As usual, all the answers are found on the blogs of the United Inkdom bloggers or on the Scrikss website.

 

Gillian at Pens, Paper, Plans

Scribble at Too Many Pens

Alison at Her Nibs

 

If you are based in the UK and as fountain-pen-mad as the rest of us at United Inkdom, why don’t you take part?

 

You just need to answer the following questions:

1) How long is the warranty on a Scrikss pen?

2) What is the finish of the Noble 35 pen that we’re giving away?

3) Which country are Scrikss based?

4) What year was Scrikss founded?

5) Our pen is from the ‘Noble’ range of fountain pens. How many ranges of fountain pens do Scrikss have in total?

 

Send your answers to unitedinkdomprizes@gmail.com   The closing date for this give-away will be 21 July. Good luck everybody!

Ensso Piuma fountain pen review

A little bit of history  You’ve probably heard of the ‘architect nib’, as favoured by Frank Lloyd Wright, but have you ever wondered what would happen if an architect started making actual pens?  Well, here’s the answer. The same designer responsible for the remarkable parabola chair has been making pens for a couple of years now – and it was high time that we took a look.

How it looks  The first pen that Ensso have sent us is the brass version of the Piuma, named after the Italian for feather – the earliest sort of nib, of course. It looks like a classic cigar-shaped pen, albeit without summoning-up the toxicity that a cigar might suggest. It’s not a complex or even surprising shape, by any means, but it’s easy on the eye. The branding is subtle, and the whole thing looks classy and understated.

How it feels  Now here it’s a matter of personal taste and preference. A brass pen is always going to be heavier than its aluminium equivalent, and this is no exception to that iron (woops, wrong metal) rule. Whether that’s a good thing depends upon what you like. Scribble has a lot of big heavy brass pens and finds this one of the lighter ones, while Rob likes the look of brass but found the Piuma a bit too heavy. As Ian points out, naming it after a feather was perhaps a bit ironic given the heft. But if you can handle the weight, the grip is comfortable and the size just right for large-ish hands.

How it fills  It’s a straightforward cartridge/converter job, but that’s no problem.

Crucially, how it writes…  The Piuma takes a #6 nib in the screw-in Bock housing, as is often the case with relatively small-batch production runs. The steel nib we tried was competent rather than special, but that’s not so bad a place to start – and upgrading to something a bit more interesting should be quite straightforward.

Pen! What is it good for?  If you can take the weight, this is probably a good pen to travel with. You can enjoy watching it take on a handsome brass patina, or polishing it in between expeditions, as your prefer.

VFM  $99, (about £75/€85) looks like pretty good value for an unusual, classy and well-made pen like this.

If this isn’t quite your cup of tea, but almost…  This is the only brass pen we know of with a shape quite like this, but if you want something hefty with a #6 Bock nib then brass versions of the Karas Kustoms Ink, the Tactile Turn Gist, the Namisu Nova and the Kaweco Supra are all worth a look. Ensso is also working on a much smaller pen which will also be available in brass, and can currently be located on Kickstarter.

Our overall recommendation  Check whether the weight is really for you first – but if you like the design and can manage the mass, get one while stocks last.

Where to get hold of one  Straight from the maker.

This meta-review references:

Thanks to  Ensso for kindly sending a sample our way.

 

Pure Pens ‘Celtic Collection’ fountain pen inks

A little bit of history  The tribes living at the edges of the old Empire (the Roman one) may or may not have ever referred to themselves as the Keltoi, but the name rather stuck nevertheless. Successive waves of invasion and colonisation (by Romans, Saxons, Vikings, and Normans) pushed these Gaelic and Brythonic language groups to the north and to the west, in the areas we know today as Ireland, the western isles of Scotland, much of Wales and Cornwall – and since Pure Pens is based in one of those areas (just about), it was a natural inspiration for naming their new ink collection.  We couldn’t wait to get our pens loaded…How it looks  Cadwaladr is a rich red, with plenty of character.Celtic Sea is a pleasing blue, with lots of maritime presence.

Somewhere between mustard yellow and light brown, Pendine Sands takes the shading trophy.

Porthcurno summons up the water of a Cornish bay, if you’re lucky with the weather.

Llanberis Slate is a civilised grey with the teeniest hint of purple.

Saltire Blue is the shade of the Scottish flag, of course.

From the second wave of these inks, Glens of Antrim is a light bright green.

There needed to be a teal in there somewhere, and Cwm Idwal gives a good dark turquoise.

Flower of Scotland, finally, contributes the essential purple.

Crucially, how it writes…  It does the job well, with no dryness issues reported – and we put it in an awful lot of different pens, between us.

Ink! What is it good for?  These are fun inks, and fun is probably what they’re best for. But Saltire and Llanberis could probably be sneaked into the office if you’re feeling naughty, and maybe even Flower of Scotland too.

VFM  £6.99 for 60ml – no complaints there.

If this isn’t quite your cup of tea, but almost…  Take a look at the ranges from Beaufort Inks and Mabie Todd, which have a not wildly dissimilar provenance,  shall we say.

Our overall recommendation  This is a good range of inks from a serious niche fountain pen retailer, at a decent price, and most tastes are catered for somewhere in the range. What’s not to like?

Where to get hold of some  Direct from the source!

This meta-review references:

Thanks to Pure Pens for kindly sending us a whole heap of samples.

Taccia Spectrum fountain pen review

A little bit of history   You may not have heard of Taccia, but it’s been around as a brand since 2003, and today has a rather diverse range of fountain pens, ballpoints and accessories. I say diverse because as well as exotic but proven finishes like Maki-e and raden, Taccia uses frankly weird materials and construction — ever seen a barrel wrapped in woven leather? A hexagonal metal pen with wooden inlays? Or buffalo horn shaped to look like a stick?

How it looks  In this experimental portfolio, the Spectrum ironically stands out because it looks so… normal. Sure, it’s a bright (even garish) blue demonstrator, but it’s pen-shaped, and we can work with that. Our Inkdom reviewers felt the silkscreened Taccia logo on the cap seemed a bit cheap, and weren’t convinced by the design of the silver-coloured clip, but generally speaking there’s little here to complain about. A sign of good things to come is the steel nib — a rather pretty little thing that (spoiler alert) resembles a Sailor nib more than a little, and is paired with a Sailor-design feed, too.

How it feels  The Spectrum’s cap takes a good couple of turns to remove, and doing so exposes a block of shiny threads and a section that might be just a little narrower than you hoped. But in the hand it’s got a good weight, and feels solid enough.

How it fills  Our reviewers agreed that the filling mechanism is the Spectrum’s Achilles’ heel. It uses a proprietary Sailor converter, which simultaneously held very little ink and leaked like a sieve. Luckily the worst of the leaks are contained by an o-ring between barrel and section, but one reviewer still ended up with inky fingers.

Crucially, how it writes…  All three reviewers enjoyed the Spectrum’s broad steel nib on paper, noting the generous flow and smoothness, the ease of reverse writing, and — most distinctively — the similarity to Sailor’s ‘Zoom’ nib. If you’re not familiar with the term, a zoom nib writes a different line depending on the angle between the pen and the paper. Lay the pen down and you get a wide line; stand it up and the line narrows. The nib is really the best bit of the Taccia, and would you want it any other way?

Pen! What is it good for?  A good pen to keep at home (given the risk of leaks, at least in our review sample), and to play around with new inks — the broad nib and zoom effect really shows off the best of a colour.

VFM  At $127+ from its US dealer Pen Chalet, or £115 from EU-based Iguanasell, the Taccia Spectrum is not a cheap pen. Despite the lovely (steel) nib, our reviewers weren’t completely convinced that the Spectrum stacked up against rivals like the Platinum #3776, which is a pretty even match, except with a gold nib and no leaks. But the lovely packaging is not to be sniffed at — the Spectrum would make an impressive gift.

If this isn’t quite your cup of tea, but almost…  As we noted above, the Platinum #3776 is a good alternative. But if you want a steel-nibbed, interesting demonstrator at around $125, you could also try stretching to a Franklin-Christoph, or take a look at the Opus 88 Koloro, previously reviewed here.

Our overall recommendation  Divisive design, great and interesting nib, unfortunate filling mechanism — the Spectrum is a real head-scratcher. On balance, two of our three reviewers decided they wouldn’t choose to purchase one with their own funds. Probably the best reason to buy a Spectrum is if you really like the colours (the Teal version is very pretty, for starter’s), and want a Sailor nib (the Spectrum even comes in a Music nib variant) but can’t stretch to a Pro Gear.

Where to get hold of one  Right now, US-based Pen Chalet is a good bet.

This meta-review references:

Thanks to  Pen Chalet for lending us the pen to test.

 

Opus 88 Koloro fountain pen review

A little bit of history: Opus 88 is a newer brand to have found its way into our pencil cases. While the likes of Pelikan have celebrated their 175th anniversary this year, Opus 88 is still on its way to reach its 50th birthday. Hailing from Taiwan, the brand has made its mark with a pen that has become quite popular and sought after, particularly within the internet pen community.

How it looks: There are a number of different flavours to choose from with this pen. There’s blueberry; a slightly greyer blueberry, orange and strawbe.. I mean, blue, bluish-grey, orange and red as well as an oversize clear demonstrator version (available at a slight premium). Besides the clear demo’, all the pens follow the same design scheme which is a rather vibrant acrylic main body with ebonite accents in a slightly duller (though certainly not to say this is a bad thing, as it compliments the pen very well) colour of the acrylic.

How it feels: The pen is on the larger side, and of course the ‘oversize’ version will be even larger still. It sits nicely in the hand, however, and is nicely balanced. The cap screws off but there are no sharp threads and the section is quite long anyway, so it’s not uncomfortable to hold. The acrylic is very smooth and even when it’s capped it’s quite nice to run your fingers over the ebonite.

How it fills: Not something that’s often found in the majority of modern pens, but the Opus is an eyedropper pen. This is a rather easy system to use (though its convenience may be debated), as you just fill an eyedropper (or syringe) with your ink, expel it into the barrel of the pen and you are able to use the entire barrel-full (if you so desire) giving a fuller fill than if you were to have a piston system, for example. Slightly confusingly, there is what looks like a plunger arm within the body of the pen, but this is actually used as a shut-off valve like those found in pens such as the TWSBI Vac 700 and the Pilot Custom 823, as eyedroppers are prone to “burping” out ink. A very useful system!

The pen arrives with an eyedropper pipette so all you need is to supply the ink from a bottle and you’re ‘good to go’.

Crucially, how it writes…  The nib is a steel JoWo – typically very reliable.

Pen! What is it good for?  If you need a large ink capacity and something fun to show off, this is a great pen to consider. Though, while precautions have been taken to prevent any leakage, it may still be prone to typical eyedropper problems and so therefore care should be taken when carrying this around.

VFM  This pen comes in at $93 for the regular ‘normal size’ models and $120 for the ‘oversize’ demonstrator – that’s upper £60 and lower £80 respectively. That doesn’t break the bank and you get a nice looking pen with an interesting filling system that also feels great. While the occasional dryness was experienced with the nib of the test unit, this is usually fairly simple to fix (of course, at one’s own risk) and the pen writes reliably, bar the flow.

If this isn’t quite your cup of tea, but almost…  Many early vintage pens were eyedropper -filled – Mabie Todd, for example, made several. Other pens can sometimes be converted into an eyedropper though this requires a bit of work and maintenance on the user’s end. If you’re interested in converting a pen into an eyedropper, make sure you know how to do it properly and research whether or not the materials of the pen mean you can (metal parts, for example, are a no-no) – as well as ensuring the pen is actually convertible (such as there being no holes in the barrel, such as with a Lamy, or that it’s not all one piece). Some piston-filler pens can be used as an eyedropper as well, but some of the barrel is taken up by the piston mechanism. A TWSBI may also be considered which would run to about the same cost, if not cheaper (certainly when considering buying from within the UK as you’re not going to pay as high a shipping cost or potential customs). Or if you fancy just this pen but with a gold nib, a screw-in JoWo #5 is available as an after-market upgrade.

Our overall recommendation: A pretty decent pen from a company relatively new on the scene. There’s a lot of potential with these pens, and some interesting colour choices that should appeal to most people.

Where to get hold of one: These are available at Pen Chalet, where you will find both the regular Koloro and the oversized demonstrator model.

This meta-review references:

Thanks to  Pen Chalet for lending us the pen to test.