Karas Kustoms “Reaktor”
Starliner and Galaxie
Fountain Pen & Rollerball Review
- Review Ink: Pilot Iroshizuku asa-gao
- Review Paper: Misc.
- Description: An affordable entry into the world of machined, US-made pens from one of the companies that’s been doing it the longest.
- Nib: Bock #5 nibs, available in steel, black-coated, titanium, and gold
- Filling Mechanism: Cartridge/Converter
- Color Options:Aluminum with red or blue grip, tumbled finish, and all black. Check them all out here.
The Karas Kustoms “Reaktor” line is a new group of pens offered up by the company. Their goal was to create a made-in-USA, machined, and affordable entry-level pen. I think they’ve succeeded at doing so. Today, we’re going to be taking a closer look at the Starliner/Starliner XL and Galaxie/Galaxie XL — a new fountain pen and rollerball, respectively. Both the Starliner and Galaxie are built from the same materials, but feature subtle design differences that set them apart. Karas is also coming out with a smaller, pocket-friendly version of both pens that will be released shortly. Since they sent everything at once for review and comparison, we’re taking a closer look at the entire collection.
Appearance & Packaging:
Since there are quite a few pens on the table for review (literally, they’re on a table). I’m going to break this down by model. Let’s get packaging out of the way first. Each pen comes in an unremarkable plastic case. The packaging is there to get the pen from Arizona to your door, and it does just that with ease. It’s not pretty, but it works.
Starliner and Starliner XL (pictured above – first and second pen from bottom)
The Starliner is the fountain pen offering in the Reaktor line. The XL version features a cap, while the shorter regular version does not. Both pens feature a nicely tapered body and a snap on cap. The snap on cap removes the need for threads, allowing the pen body to smoothly transition from body to grip. Visually, I think the cap is a bit large. Especially so when posted. The proportions feel a little bit off, skewing pretty heavily towards the cap. The large cap does allow the pen to be posted, which for me is the ideal writing configuration with these pens. The regular version of the Starliner is quite small without the cap, and posting it adds that extra bit of length and heft. On the cap, you’ll find some machined bands – three at the top, and two at the bottom. There’s a single machined band at the end of the pen’s body as well. The way tippy top (that’s the scientific name, right?) of the cap comes to a gentle conical point that plays with the light nicely. The XL version features a clip, while the regular doesn’t. The clip is the same metal one found on Karas’ other pens.
Galaxie and Galaxie XL Rollerballs (pictured above – first and second from top)
The Galaxie and Galaxie XL are the rollerball offerings in the Reaktor line. The XL version takes a G2 style refill, while the smaller regular version takes a Parker style refill. They’re closely similar to the Starliners in size and shape, but the design features are different. Instead of a nib, the grip section has a conical tip for the rollerball refill. The design differences are largely for decoration. Instead of a conical tip on top of the cap, the Galaxie has a gear-shaped design with ribbing on the inside. As the name suggests, its design is inspired by classic cars of the 1950’s, while the Starliner is distinctively more space age.
Nib Performance & Filling System:
There are a few different ways that the Reaktor line are capable on laying ink on the page. The fountain pen (Starliners) versions come equipped with Bock nibs. They’re available in Steel, Titanium, and Gold. The steel versions that were sent along for review perform as expected for a steel nib from Bock. The flow is right in the middle, the line width is what’s to be expected, and the smoothness sits firmly in the middle of scratchy and glassy. I do like Bock’s nib offerings. They’re a happy medium that provides a solid and reliable writing experience. The larger Starliner XL has enough room for an international standard converter, while the smaller regular version does not. You’ll have to refill cartridges (or find a shorter converter) if you want to use your own ink.
The Galaxie models use pen refills to write. The XL has enough room for a G2 style cartridge, while the regular version accepts Parker-style refills. If you’re like me, and have a preferred refill (Pentel Energel 0.7mm Needlepoint in blue) that works with G2 cartridges, then it should fit inside the pen. Karas’ website warns that not all 110mm refills will fit, and some require trimming. The way the pen writes depends heavily on the refill. If you know you’re favorite, then check out the “Feel” portion of the review for some discussion on how the pen handles.
The entirety of the Reaktor line is made from 6061-T aluminum in a few different finishes. There’s clear coat anodized with red or blue grips, a fully tumbled model, and a fully black anodized model. The pens all feature a snap on cap that posts deeply on the back of the pen. For me, the finishing is on point. The grip section threads open and close nicely, the clip is fitted onto the cap securely, and the quality of the machining is top-notch. There’s something about the feel of the pen in hand that just doesn’t quite do it for me though. The cap is pretty large. On the standard models, it’s much more apparent how big the cap is. It kind of throws off the look of the pen a little bit. When posting the clear coated and black aluminum versions, you really have to jam the cap on the back of the pen or else it keeps popping off while writing. I think the standard version of the pens is too short for me to write comfortably without the cap posted. Since the pen is short and the cap is long, your fingers grip the pen while the cap rests on your hand. Again, this causes the cap to slip around putting the clip in an uncomfortable position, or sliding the cap off the end of the body. The tumbled finish has some more “grab” to it, so it’s less of an issue on that model. While the quality, weight, and finishing, are there, there’s just something about the size and proportion that I don’t love.
- Most affordable US-made machined pen out there
- Cool design and concept
- Many models to accommodate a wide range of preferences
- Cap proportions are a bit wonky to me
- Cap does not post securely
- Snap cap may come off if the pen is clipped to your pocket
The Karas Kustoms Reaktor line fills an interesting niche. They’re quite affordable (starting at $45) for a made in USA pen. The fit and finish is great, the design points are interesting, and the performance is good. There are a few things that I don’t particularly love (like the cap size and how it posts), but not all will share that view. You can head over to the Karas Kustoms website here and snag one for yourself. The XL models are now available for order, while the smaller regular versions will be available shortly. Thanks again to Karas for sending these over for consideration!