Monday, April 12, 2021

Un(der)appreciated Writing Accessories

 


Lists of writing instruments and accessories float around the internet like any other list. I’m just as guilty of filling the world wide web with them as any other person that writes about writing. There are some unforgotten, underappreciated, or unconsidered writing accessories that I feel are worthy of being added to my list or, in this case, given their own list that is an addendum to the list I put out for the On Writing series. Here are some that jump to mind for me that I tend to take for granted but when given thought make the list without hesitation.

Post-it Notes is a complete no brainer for me. I use 5-10 of them every day around the office. I’ve tried other brands and found them wanting either in the paper category or in the stickiness category. The one outlier being the Staples brand sticky notes, but I tend to stick to Post-it brand because they just work. They can be a bit finicky with lubricated inks and wide nibs, I believe this is because of the paper composition which is not very fibrous or porous, so lots of ink takes a while to dry. That being said, using my Pilot Precise loaded Bolt or Retrakt is my preferred method, in fact this list was compiled on a Post-it before I wrote it all out in Word.

Another item that is similar to Post-it Notes is quality 3x5 (or 4x6) index card. There are expensive options that are made for fountain pens, but I find them too expensive to invest in because when I need index cards, I need a lot of them. Two solid options I’ve come across that are Oxford brand and Yoobi. Neither are truly fountain pen friendly, but they don’t have a lot of bleed through and limited feathering so they’re a great option if you don’t want to shell out $10 dollars for a single pack of index cards. Personally, I used Yoobi index cards when I was in college a few years back because they were easy to find and relatively inexpensive. Plus, they came in a hard case that protected them from getting bent up or water damaged.

Something I’m often in need of, but somehow seem to lose all the time is a good solid ruler. While I measure a lot of things with a pair of calipers, I still find myself requiring a ruler a few times a month. I used to rely on the wooden rulers we had in school back in the day, but they aren’t nearly as straight as I need them to be. I tend to use a 6-inch metal ruler/machinist’s scale, mostly because I usually need to measure something less than 6 inches long, and when I do need to measure something longer than that I need a full measuring tape. The metal ruler is easy to carry around, durable, and generally small enough to fit in a backpack or even a pocket.

This one is out-of-left-field, but I have a few of these at work that I use as jokes more than anything, and that’s custom rubber stamps. I never considered these as “writing accessories” until I was gifted a few in gift exchanges, then low-and-behold, I started using them on notes around the office or in correspondence. I think they’re a great addition to letter writing or if you leave handwritten notes for employees or coworkers. I’ve seen some that were fancy signature block type stamps and others that just had funny or irreverent sayings on them. They’re fun especially if you have a bunch of different colored ink pads and can switch things up when using them.

Specifically for fountain pen use, I love having a blotter or blotting paper handy. This was something I never considered when I was using extrafine and fine nibs, but as I’ve moved to medium and broad nibs, I have come to really value having a decent sized sheet of blotting paper handy. Sadly, there are not many options for blotting paper out there. Since I use Nanami Seven Seas notebooks, these come with a sheet of blotting paper which is a bonus, but of the limited options, the J. Herbin blotter is probably the best out there.

This one isn’t for everyone, and I realize that; but owning some decent leather writing accessories, while not a MUST, is one of those premium upgrades to the accessory realm. There are a LOT of options out there when it comes to leather writing accessory brands, and they run the gamut in terms of price. Personally, I prefer to find small makers that do high quality work even if they’re considerably more expensive. You pay for what you get and, in many instances, using a small maker will allow you more of a custom look and feel to a product plus you’re helping keep someone in business. I’m partial to Stache Leatherworks, Inc products and have quite a few of them. These are absolutely gorgeous pieces, handcrafted out of high-quality leather with beautiful stitching. I LOVE mine and always get compliments on them when I’m out in public with them.

Now for a few honorable mentions, and these are really additions because they are on my writing instrument list, but I feel like they are both writing instruments and writing accessories; mostly because they’re often looked down on by people who are active in the writing instrument world.

The first honorable mention is a decent wood-cased pencil and a pocket knife. This duo is the original EDC for writers on the go after the invention of the wood-cased pencil. I small knife to sharpen your pencil and said pencil lets you write pretty much anywhere you’re going. I’m not going to get into the specifics of knives, there’s too many to go over, maybe in a future post I’ll cover my favorite knives; but I do really enjoy Blackwing 602 pencils though I use them sparingly. For a “daily driver” pencil, I keep a box of Palomino HB or ForestChoice pencils in a drawer by my desk. They’re a bit handier than mechanical pencils when I do a LOT of writing in pencil, so I keep a few around for the days when I aim to use a pencil for all of my writing.

The second honorable mention, and something that will ALWAYS be on my list of writing instruments or accessories until they stop making them, is the Bic Cristal pen. I am an unashamed proponent of this pen and its myriad of uses. I will always recommend that you have one of these in your bag. They’re probably the best, most universal, easiest to find, reliable, fill-in-the-blank pen on the market. The 1.0mm Bic Cristals write like an absolute dream. There’s a reason it has a permanent place in the Museum of Modern Art and is considered ubiquitous in terms of pens; it just works and when it does finally die, you can easily replace it.


Monday, March 29, 2021

How Do I Choose What to Write With?

 


I get this question frequently enough that from time to time, I feel like I need to not only answer it but expound on it. There is a myriad of answers to this question, most of them are largely subjective, a few address the question from a more analytic aspect and border on objective answers. When I get the question from a customer in-person or over-the-phone, normally I’ll answer it only after asking a few questions of my own to get a better idea of what the customer is trying to do. I’ll be approaching this question from that mindset, providing some of the answers to my own questions and assuming others to better answer this question.

An aside, for this article I’ll be breaking down answers to four categories: pencils, ballpoint pens/refills, rollerball pens/refills, and fountain pens. With our pens, there is a lot of crossover due to our modularity, but the assumption is that the customer is coming from a place of little or no knowledge in writing instrument specifics and not much knowledge of our brand and the ability to move between ballpoint, rollerball, and even fountain pen in one pen body.

Honestly, I don’t often recommend a pencil, and that’s not because we only recently added one to our list of writing instruments; but more so because there aren’t a ton of applications that call for a pencil. I do enjoy the difference in the writing experience a pencil provides. Combined with the ability to make corrections easily, and the fact it can write on the cheapest or most expensive paper; pencils make a lot of sense. But they’re not permanent, and outside of using them specifically for sketching or in an environment where ink might prove problematic, there isn’t a lot of use for them outside of personal preference. And therein lies the last reason I don’t often recommend them, people that REALLY love pencils are quite picky about aesthetics, lead size, weight distribution, diameter, body material, length, etc. Taking all of those into account there are more variables to pencil preference than there are in the uber-particular fountain pen crowd. So, I tend to only recommend a pencil when the customer specifically mentions a predilection to using pencils over pens, and even then, if they’re open to it, I’ll suggest a pen that “feels” like a pencil.

That leads me to the second least recommended type of writing instrument, the ballpoint. I don’t often recommend ballpoint pens or refills to new pen enthusiasts for one specific reason, they likely have been writing with some type of gel rollerball pen and until recently gel ballpoint refills were not widely available. Because of that, the writing experience is going to be noticeably different, and what some would consider a poor writing experience. That’s not to say I am anti-ballpoint, in fact, I’m the total opposite; I think a ballpoint pen ticks most of the boxes when it comes to a writing instrument performing in almost all environments. Ballpoint pens take a lot of crap, despite the fact that they were likely one of the biggest technological advances in modern writing instrument history. They were revolutionary in a variety of ways from ink chemistry to non-smudge properties to component manufacture; there is a reason many people consider the ballpoint pen a truly groundbreaking product. In general, I like them because they can write on almost any paper, the ink won’t wick away in my pocket should the refill actuate, and they’re a little more forgiving if you’re writing in extreme weather conditions. All that being said, writing with a ballpoint pen for long periods of time can make you hate writing. They can catch on fibrous paper, the ball can stop working as fibers get caught in them, the ink can skip due to the ball not being as precise, and the ink itself is oil-based and thick which can feel weird depending on the paper being used. Taking everything into account, I generally only recommend them for people that do a lot of pocket carry or tend to write in inclement weather.

I’m going to make some of you angry with this answer, but it’s just me being brutally honest. I rarely recommend a fountain pen to people that ask this question. In reality, I might actually recommend a ballpoint more than I recommend a fountain pen, but recently fountain pens have been gaining some market share and many new pen people specifically ask about them. While I love how a fountain pen writes and how personal it can feel; I still don’t think they’re an option for a majority of people. If I were to continue in my honesty, I’d describe fountain pens as somewhat impractical when it comes to 90% of the writing that takes place on a daily basis. Yes, you could argue that writing by hand in a world of cell phones, tablets, and computers is impractical, but there are so many factors to consider when it comes to ensuring a fountain pen will function properly that using one for every writing transaction is going to be difficult. People that shift the lion’s share of their writing to a fountain pen do so with a laundry list of what I call add-ons. Need to ensure the ink won’t disappear if water gets on it? An additional bottle of waterproof ink is a necessity. Want to make sure your signature is legible on all of those documents? Higher quality printer paper will be a must. The same goes for sticky notes, legal pads, journals, note cards, greeting cards, and the list goes on and on. That doesn’t even take into account certain times you won’t be able to use your fountain pen at all. When I do recommend a fountain pen it’s always with the caveat “but carry a ballpoint or rollerball as well, cause you’re going to run into a situation where a fountain pen just won’t work”. That’s the reality of being a fountain pen person, if you don’t want to use someone else’s disposable pen you’re likely going to need to carry more than one type of pen all of the time. Fountain pens, as lovely as they are and as much as I really enjoy using them, have their place which is not always as an EDC item.

This leads me to the most recommended option by far, probably 80-85% of the time; the rollerball pen. The reasons for choosing a rollerball as the first step into pen nerd-ery are so numerous I might not be able to cover them all. It’s far easier to point out what I consider to be the two flaws rollerball pens carry with them: wicking ink that can ruin a pair of jeans or a nice shirt and no viable pressurized refill options. But those are negligible complaints about an option that has so much upside. Have a preference for a specific color of ink? There are tons of options available specifically from Pilot in the G2 or Juice refills. Want the option to switch from a fat 1.0mm refill to an ultra-thin 0.38? You can easily do that with a variety of different manufacturers' rollerball pens. Did your pen just run out of ink and you didn’t bring an extra refill? No worries, the convenience store likely sells a plastic rollerball with a refill you can rob and put in your pen. Those are just a few of the reasons I recommend rollerball pens over the other options, but the biggest one is this: if you’re used to writing with a modern rollerball pen from Uni or Pilot or Pentel, our rollerball pens are going to “feel” very similar in size and shape to those manufacturers’ retractable rollerball pens. So, there is an immediate “comfort zone” you can fall into if you choose one of our rollerball pens, and that’s the biggest reason I recommend rollerball pens over all the other options.

Yes, I still love my fountain pens and carry several with me almost all the time. Sure, I’ve added a pencil to that carrying case along with a nice eraser just in case I want to write in pencil. Personally, I’m going to pull out a ballpoint more often than not when I go to write something especially if it’s signing a receipt or taking a quick note. And I’ll almost always have a rollerball with a Pilot Precise V7 RT refill in it because that’s my favorite setup. But I’ve been a pen nerd for over a decade now, and I can’t remember the first time I asked myself this question. I think most people that try a good pen will work their way through several pen options before they find “The One” or the best option. There’s definitely a journey for those of us that really get bit by the writing bug and no matter where you start you’re likely to take a lot of off-ramps before you get to your destination on finding the best pen option or options for you. This is just my process on how I answer that question, don’t get too pissed at me it’s all just my opinion and I am well aware you could have a completely different set of answers. But that’s what makes writing and the pen community fun, we don’t always agree but we have a TON in common. Regardless of what you choose to write with, just keep writing.




Monday, March 15, 2021

On Writing 7: My Preferred Writing Instruments

 


I’ve probably covered this is multiple posts and topics throughout the 6 or 7 years I’ve been talking about writing instruments. While some things left the list and others were added, most likely you can put this list together from my older posts, but I’m going to go all out on this one and try to include everything: paper, pens, pencils, ink, technology, etc. It’s gonna be a bigger post so we might as well get started.

I’ve never started this type of post with paper, and that’s where this one will begin. I’ve babbled on profusely with praise leveled at Nanami Paper Seven Seas notebooks probably more than any other paper source out there. It should come as no surprise that’s where we’ll start. The Seven Seas products are simply some of the best on the market in terms of page count, paper quality, lie-flat ability, and stylistically. They are simply put perfect for writing. The A5 size is easy to carry, they have lined, dot grip, cross-hair grid, and blank. I prefer the dot (Micro Dot) and cross-hair (Crossfield) for pretty much any writing I do with a pen and paper that isn’t note-taking for work. If I’m journalling, writing poetry, writing a story, or anything personal, that all goes in a Seven Seas. I probably have 10 or 12 of them, two of which are full, another 4 have been started, and the others are brand new.

For work notes I tend to use Nemosyne notebook and Rhodia notebooks. I use a Rhodia planner for most of my meetings. But I have three or four Nemosyne books for planning out product releases, video topics, making lists of anodize shipments, special release names, and all other topics of importance go in my Nemosyne books. On the go I tend to use our Story Supply Company pocket notebooks. I have three, each one for a different topic that way if I have an idea or need to take notes I use the correct pocket notebook and then transfer the notes into my Nemosyne books when I get to work. It’s a system that works for me, but it can be somewhat cumbersome.

In terms of digital “paper” I use a Macbook Air 13” with LibreOffice for word processing at home. At work I have a Dell desktop and monitor and tend to use Word though I also use Google Docs from time to time though I’m not a fan of Google Docs as much as I am with Google Sheets and Forms. I have also started to use my Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra for note-taking as it can use the S-Pen technology. But this experimentation is still early days and I’m not sure I’ll use it very often. It just isn’t as user friendly and easy as I would like it to be.

While I use a ton of different pens, my preferred writing instruments are the Lamy 2000, Montblanc 146, and a late 40s/early 50s Sheaffer Snorkel. But I do have preferred Karas Pen Co pens as well. My two go-to pens are the Delrin Vertex fountain pen or rollerball and our older ringed Retrakts. The Vertex is a no-brainer in my opinion, it’s the most comfortable pen I’ve ever written with. The section shape, length, width, and weight are all just perfect for my grip. I can write forever with the Vertex, and my hand never tires. I used to hate the Retrakt because it felt too skinny, but the ringed version for some reason feels great. Just enough extra grip to keep my hands on the pen, and with a little tweaking it takes the Pilot Precise refills which are my favorite rollerball refills of all time.

I use our Retraktable Slim mechanical pencils for any pencil work I need to do. Previously I preferred Uni Kura Toga mechanical pencils, but I actually find them too light and my hand starts to hurt after a short while when I’m writing with one. The weight and width of the Retraktable Slim is where it’s at for me, plus I use large hi polymer erasers and the Kura Toga eraser is pretty much garbage if you need to erase anything. I also use Blackwing pencils from time to time when I’m feeling posh or I have one in front of me. I don’t go out of my way to buy hardcase pencils, but I have a few in my drawer at work.

I’ve already covered my favorite rollerball refill, the Pilot Precise, and generally I prefer the 0.7mm refill to the 0.5mm but it depends on the task. I use a variety of fountain pen inks, from Namiki Blue to Montblanc Shakespeare Red to Karas Pen Co Desert Varnish to Sailor Yama Dori and a bunch in between all of those I can’t count how many bottles of ink I have. Namiki Blue and Waterman Serenity Blue are probably the two standbys that I always keep on hand. They work in just about any pen; modern or vintage and both look great on paper. I also like Akkerman Shocking Blue but because it sheens a lot, I tend to only use it in cheaper pens or converter pens like the INK V2.

Lastly my cases are almost solely Rickshaw Bagworks cases. I have a coozie holder, several Waldos, one of the breifcase bags, multiple single pen sleeves, and none of them have failed me yet. They are stylish and keep my pens safe plus they are do what they are supposed to do and are great quality. I also have a bunch of Rickshaw masks that I have been wearing in the pandemic and plan on adding a few larger pen holders to the list of Rickshaw items I carry on a regular basis.


That about wraps up the list of writing instruments that get the most amount of mileage put on them. I’m sure I’ve forgotten something and it will dawn on me in a few hours after I’ve posted this. But this is the best I can do on 4 hours of sleep. I think I’ve covered all the most popular items outside of colored pencils and crayons. I’ll save those for April Fools.

Whatever your preferred instrument is, keep writing!

Monday, March 8, 2021

Some Recent Questions Among Fountain Pen Users


I’m not super active on fountain pen social media platforms, though I am around and reading posts and responses. I tend to ignore a lot of the stuff that doesn’t specifically deal with Karas Pen Co, but recently I’ve been intrigued by a lot of the posts with interesting questions and many of the assumptions posing as answers to those questions. I’ve pulled a few from the last week that really grabbed my attention, and I’ll discuss them here for a variety of reasons.

A recent post on a major fountain pen Facebook group warned users of removing their converters to clean and refill their pens. This post was put up by Richard Binder, who many consider THE gatekeeper of fountain pen knowledge. Binder has a TON of knowledge in almost every facet of fountain pens so I’m not going after him in terms of his reasoning behind this post, I’m merely citing my personal preference AND the reasons behind the way I clean and fill by converter pens. Here’s a breakdown of the argument and recommendation stated by Mr. Binder: some people remove their converter to clean it before replacing it and filling it with ink. He doesn’t do that and he doesn’t recommend doing that due to the damage that can be caused to the plastic adapter on the converter, nib unit piercing tube, and feed capillary tongue. He did show a badly damaged converter and nib unit receptacle.

This isn’t really my response to him, rather it’s an explanation of how I fill, clean, and assemble my pens with converters and why I do these things. Firstly, I don’t fill my pens through the nib unit, rather I fill directly into the converter. I prefer this method specifically because it allows a more complete fill and minimizes the air inside the converter. I realize this requires manually saturating the feed once the converter is attached, but I don’t mind this process. I also clean my pens this way, removing the converter to clean it separately and using a bulb syringe to squirt water through the nib unit.

To be fair, I have not cleaned nearly as many pens as Mr. Binder, but I’ve cleaned a LOT of them in my time working for Karas. I’ve also assembled a ton of pens. I have only twice seen a converter with a damaged plastic converter adapter (the area that connects to the nib unit). Once was on my own pen and was due to being left on the pen too long resulting in the plastic “learning” the larger diameter of the nib unit piercing tube and no longer fitting snugly, in fact, the converter simply fell off and couldn’t be used on any pen. The second was a customer’s pen and his was due to improper cleaning which allowed the ink to collect to a point where the plastic became brittle and snapped off.  

I have seen many more damaged nib unit piercing tube and feed capillary tongue. I can’t speculate to all of the reasons why they were damaged; however, the feed capillary tongue is easily snapped off when improperly removing the nib and feed from the collar or improperly reinstalling the nib and feed into the collar. Most of the damaged nib unit piercing tubes I’ve seen have been due to lack of cleaning and the buildup of ink on these parts. It is my supposition that ink buildup can cause this type of plastic to become brittle over time. Then at some point when installing a converter or more likely a cartridge, too much force is used and the nib unit piercing tube is deformed or in some cases completely snapped off. Some nib manufacturers have better designs on their nib units than others, but all nib units are susceptible to this.

My final remarks are as follows. First, clean your pens often. Don’t allow ink buildup on any of the plastic parts, and use warm water and mild detergent to clean these parts (this is specific to modern pens, consult an expert on vintage pen cleaning techniques). Second, do some research on inks and the pH balance of the inks you are using and find inks that lean more pH neutral. If you’re using a pen that doesn’t completely disassemble like ours do, then take extra care when removing, cleaning, and reinstalling parts. BUT a converter is a $5 dollar part if you need to replace it, and in our case, if you send us a pen to repair, we’ll normally replace damaged plastic parts like the nib unit for free. Damage to nibs can be costly, but in 99% of the pens sent to us we’ll repair or replace parts for no fee (unless negligence or misuse are evident). In principle, if you clean your pens often, I tend to agree with Mr. Binder in that you probably don’t need to disassemble everything, but I also know that if you disassemble all the pieces the cleaning time is dramatically decreased. Exercise care when disassembling and assembling your pens, but I’m still going to continue to fill to my converter directly and trust that I have yet to see enough examples of this type of damage to warn me off of this method of filling and cleaning my pens.

Another question that comes up a lot is in regards to nib manufacture and pricing. Before I worked for Karas I probably voiced a similar question about why companies didn’t make their own nibs and why flex nibs weren’t more readily available. Now that I’ve been involved in the process of sourcing nibs for a number of years, I understand a lot more of the peculiarities that exist where these questions are concerned. First and foremost, nib manufacturing on a large enough scale to be considered anything other than boutique, if not bespoke, would require a rather large investment of money. On its surface, nib manufacturing seems rather straightforward. You need some stamping machines, a rudimentary design that can be placed on the nib, some slitting machines, and a way to attach the tipping to the nib. In reality, there are quite a few hurdles to accomplishing this endeavor. Stamping nibs out of raw material is easy enough, and a design that can be then stamped into the pens is just as easy. However, special tools are required for nib slitting and especially for nib tipping. Not only that, but those machines and tools are no longer in production.

In 2017 and 2018, we invested in the initial phases of research and development towards a goal of manufacturing our own nibs. We spent time designing and stamping out some prototype nibs. Contacted companies that used to manufacture nib tipping machines, sourced tipping material. Researched alternative methods of tipping a nib, sent numerous samples out to companies that made devices that would replicate the tipping machines. And ultimately, we abandoned the project in late 2018. Our conclusion was that we’d never be able to manufacture steel nibs cheaper than what current third-party (Bock, JOWO, Schmidt, etc) sell their bulk nibs for. Setting aside the initial investment in machine, design, and development costs; the raw cost of materials would be nearly as expensive per nib as we are paying to have them made by another company.

This ties directly into nib pricing. There are often a lot of questions as to why modified nibs, custom ground or altered-for-flex, are so expensive. The assumption by many is that a nib that has been modified should have only a moderate increase in price. Custom nib grinds can run anywhere from $30 to $75 dollars depending on the nib grinder, type of grind, type of nib, etc. Altered-for-flex nibs cost in the range of $150 dollars for a steel nib. These price increases to a $20 dollar nib are seen by some to be vastly more than they should. They fail to take into account the fact that ALL of this work is done by hand, requires specific skills that are not easily attainable, require specific tools, and currently, the demand is far higher than the supply. It can take hours to create an altered-for-flex nib and get it tuned and writing correctly. Even a skilled nib grinder takes quite some time to grind a nib bit by bit, testing as they go, until the nib is to the correct width and writing well. The price reflects the time, effort, and skill of the artisan working on the nib. Lastly, the market can bear the price, which can seem frustrating but as long as there are abundant consumers willing to pay the price, it won’t come down.

I have several more questions, but we’ll end this post here and hopefully, I haven’t caused all kinds of issues with these statements. I just felt like putting a bit more effort into answering and addressing some questions I found interesting that could be applied to Karas Pen Co and our pens. 

Monday, March 1, 2021

Why We Use Reviewers


We get asked why we provide pen samples to reviewers quite a bit. It’s one of the top questions we get right behind “Are you going to use titanium any time soon?” and “How can I become a reviewer?”. To my knowledge, it’s not a question we’ve answered before. I figured I could take a quick break from the “On Writing” series, and I’d address this question.

The simplest answer to this question is that when we went out on a limb with the design and release of the Render K pen, we had no “clout” in the pen community. Karas Kustoms was a nobody in the realm of writing instruments, but we had started building relationships in the Everyday Carry community on several forums that catered to the watch/knife/backpack/etc. collector crowd. Several people that were active in these communities had started or would go on to start “pen blogs”, so our relationships with these people were made relatively early on in both our journey and in their journeys. It was mutually beneficial for us to send samples to these bloggers and reviewers because it helped grow our brand and helped them establish themselves in an industry that was in its infancy.

People can and do have all kinds of feelings about “professional product reviewers”. Distrust and even animosity are commonplace when it comes to how people view pen reviewers. As time has gone on the line between unbiased-person-reviewing-a-pen and reviewer-that-receives-paid-sponsorships-from-pen-companies has been blurred quite a bit. We take all of that into account when we are approached by a reviewer asking us to provide sample pens, or when we’re approached by a reviewer asking us to advertise on their platform.

The fact is our product reaches a limited number of eyeballs organically or via our marketing platforms. Providing sample pens to reviewers that have small, medium, or large audiences expands our reach but also continues to lend our brand credence in a niche but growing market. It’s a strategic decision on our part to engage, not only with the community at large but with a select group of people that have been appointed gatekeepers of the pen community.

I can’t comment on how other companies interact with these reviewers and what they ask or demand the reviewers write or don’t write about their product. I can honestly say we are extremely upfront about our desire that the review is completely free of pressure and bias from our company. We’ll provide product and company background information along with the item, but we like to stay as hands-off as we can during the process. If the reviewer has specific information they want or need, we’ll provide them the information if we’re able to, but we don’t ever want to be accused of influencing a review. I’m very careful to stress that there are no requirements being placed on the reviewer in their receipt of product from us. We don’t expect a review, but we’re hopeful of one, and we rely on the quality of our product to influence the final outcome of the review itself.

This has led us to a point where we feel we have really good relationships with a large majority of the reviewers that are active both as bloggers and vloggers. We value these relationships and just as much as we love the chance to have our product be featured to their audiences, we enjoy supporting these people that helped us on our journey as a pen manufacturer. To say it’s a symbiotic relationship removes the friendship and emotions aspect from the equation. It’s similar to our dedication to working with other small manufacturers like Rickshaw Bagworks, Jonathon Brooks, Turner’s Workshop, and many others. As big as the pen community has grown, it’s still pretty small and tight-knit. It’s still a lot more like a family than a fandom in some aspects, and this is one of those aspects.

A decade after we made our first pen, we're at a completely different spot as a pen manufacturer and retail brand. It's not as vital that we have interaction with pen people everywhere they gather. We'd love to be able to get featured on every blog, vlog, magazine, podcast, and other outlets that talk about pens. We also understand that just isn't a reality. We're REALLY busy and while we make time to hit up virtual pen meet-ups, podcasts, and blogs we can't be everywhere. But we value the friendships and relationships we have with a handful of pen reviewers, and we'll offer them products when they ask or when we release something we feel they'd enjoy featuring. We feel that these relationships mean too much to us as people to simply abandon them, and that's why we continue to send products to pen reviewers.


 

Monday, February 22, 2021

On Writing Pt. 6: Choices, Choices

 


As I’m branching out into territory that is beyond the “why” I figured there was room to talk about some of the decision-making involved in my writing process. This post has been one of the most difficult for me to write. I’ve actually had this post written out a few times, and gone through it to change it because it didn’t seem correct. I’ve probably written this topic five or six times and never finished it. It’s hard to put this topic into words because much of the decision-making can be very knee-jerk and reactive. In the moment, it can seem subconscious and without planning. That’s not to devalue those decisions and choices, it’s just the reality of writing. Instead of writing solely about the informed choices that carry planning and forethought; I’ll attempt to cover some of the more spur-of-the-moment choices. I’ll also include some examples where I’ve rewritten something later in life with planning that was originally put to paper in the heat of the moment.

Much like other topics in this series, the choices made before, during, and after writing can stem from a myriad of different places. For me there are the obvious choices I make when writing something: format, style, tense, or topic/subject/content. There are also the less obvious choices: emotions (of the writer and the writing), media used, and often structure (specifically for poetry) fall into this category for me. When I write now there is a lot of frontend decision-making that goes on, much more than at any other point in my life. I write drafts and develop timelines, take notes and make bullet-point lists on longer pieces, even poems often some planning depending on the type of poetry.

I put quite a bit of planning into the writing I do for work. I have a Google calendar that lists a brief synopsis of what is being featured each day of the month including some historic content. I have not one, not two, but three separate pocket notebooks and one A5 notebook dedicated to different aspects of the writing I do at work. Almost every aspect of the writing I do for work is planned out, except product descriptions. Most of those are written in the moment, though I do rely heavily on a “tone” that is part of our style guide. Even the newsletter topics on the weekends, which tend to cover more candid thoughts and moments, do have some planning. The one area where I could really improve upon is writing content ahead of time. Currently, even when I plan things out, the execution is taking place the day each piece is being released, or sometimes the day before. That’s definitely something I want to change.

In terms of personal writing, I admit that I have two modes and those modes depend on the format and style of the piece. I have one mode for stories and even some prose, but specifically longer pieces, and I have a separate mode for poetry and most short stories. The former runs on planning, precision, even mental outlining, while the latter is almost always “fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants” frenzied. There are a handful of poems and short stories that have a lot of planning to them, but they’ve been some of my most personal writing stuff I’ve really wanted to polish and eventually see published. But when I write for myself, a lot of time the catharsis comes in just getting the words out.

I’ll briefly walk through a few examples of how either of these modes occur, starting with the planning mode. I’ll have an idea or concept frequently based off something I read or saw in a movie or streaming show. More often than not, the touchstone is something small like a thought of “if only they’d have done X in this part of the writing or story, it would be far more interesting” or “what if instead of it being another instance of X being the antagonist, instead Y and Z have interpreted the intent incorrectly”. This leads to a brief sketching of that main idea in my mind of what I thought could have been done better. Then I’ll start the long game; I’ll take that one idea, strip away any element of the original inspiration, go back to a “starting point, and begin to craft a story via a loose timeline with the center of the timeline being the touchstone. I know full well there are going to be changes and revisions, I’ve even completely abandoned the initial touchstone and shifted to other ideas during the planning stages simply because it was a poor idea to craft a story around. I have no idea what other writers do when they plan stuff out. This is just one way I’ve done it in the past, and to be fair, I’ve never completed writing a long-form story. So maybe I’m doing things wrong, but this type of planning and fleshing out ideas and inspirations does get my creative juices flowing for sure.

Writing poetry, short story, and even some prose is far more visceral for me. It’s also a very immediate task, what I have inside of me needs to be written down as quickly as possible otherwise I may lose it. I rarely have a lot of time to polish something inside my head. I’m almost always pushed to write poetry or short story by a phrase or a line or a few words, colors, or sounds. Very tiny details that my brain is connecting with a life event, emotion, need, or memory have suddenly taken up residence in every aspect of my brain. The need to write during these times is almost a compulsion that is painful to ignore. If I put it off, I’ll find myself using those phrases or words in writing I’m doing for work or even when I’m talking to someone on the phone or face to face. My brain is telling me to do something, and it’s just easier to get whatever it is written down or face the consequences.

There have been a few times where I’ve written something just to get it down on paper and out of my head, and then at a later date come back and read it and been prompted to keep much of the original work but to rewrite it. One piece that comes to mind was a poem I wrote a few years ago after breathing a mouthful of dust when I was cleaning something. It brought back memories of the rotor-wash from a MEDEVAC Blackhawk in the desert outside of a tiny border town in Iraq. I wrote down the initial memories quickly on a beat-up Field Notes, and a day later sat down to write them into my poetry journal. Instead of simply copying them over, I made small changes to a line here or there, deleted a few, and made the poem more compact and hurried. It mirrored more of the urgency of the original moment and the memory that had prompted me to write it in the first place. I find this a pretty rare occurrence, but one that crops up more frequently now and I think that has more to do with my growth as a writer than anything else.

I’m sure more accomplished writers will tell you there is a right or a wrong way to do things. I’d imagine they’d really push for planning, writing, rewriting, revising, editing, and more planning. Personally, if the piece has the potential to be published, it needs to be read by someone other than the writer and edited by someone other than the writer and then likely revised. I’m also a contrarian with my poetry because I feel like editing can strip away the raw emotions of the piece, but I also know that often those emotions are mine and the reader is going to experience their own set of emotions. I guess what I’m saying is that I know I need to be more mindful of the choices I make when I’m writing, but I don’t know that I’m ready to make a lot of changes to the process; and I’m okay with that.

Until next time, keep writing.

Monday, February 15, 2021

On Writing Pt 5.: How Reading Impacts Writing

 



If you’re thinking this is going to get all scientific with a reading list and footnotes, that’s likely not going to happen. I’ve read articles on this in the past, but this post is going to mostly draw from my own experiences rather than pulling primarily from online articles. I’m sure there will be a crossover, but I’ll base my insights on experience and opinion. Let’s dive in.

One of the biggest benefits of reading is an ever-expanding vocabulary. I was homeschooled for several years in the late ’80s and early ’90s before I went into high school, and part of my homeschooling entailed trips to the public library. My mom would take my brother and me to the library two or three times a week. We’d do our “classes” there and between lessons climb through the shelves reading books on all kinds of topics. When I turned 16, I applied for and got a job at the library and would work there for six years. I’d always been a reader, but spending that amount of time at the library flipped a switch for me. I became a voracious reader. I’d stay up until 3 am reading, then get up at 7 am, do my school work, work from 4 pm until 9 pm, eat a late dinner, and then read again until 3 am.

This all led to a rather large vocabulary that I always knew I had but started to benefit me when I went to college. I had professors comment on it, both in positive and negative ways. A few times I had a professor specifically call out sections of a paper I wrote as an example to the class. Though I was happy to be getting good grades, I wasn’t so happy about the rest of the class thinking I was some kind of teacher’s pet. This didn’t just impact my writing though, it also helped me in my speaking. One of my classes had weekly mini-presentations, and the professor of that class did historic reenactments. He had a rather large vocabulary and after my second or third presentation, he kept me after class and talked to me about my presentations. It was interesting to hear him say that he was also a book lover, and he attributed much of his success in life to being such an avid reader.

Reading is an exercise for your grey matter. In the beginning, you’re paying attention to each word and using them to mentally form the images in your mind of what you’re reading. You’re building each story and experience. You’re probably not paying attention to things like subplots, literary themes and tropes, specific contextual elements, character nuance, etc. when you begin to exercise your brain in earnest. As you become more comfortable reading your brain will become better and better at multi-tasking. Suddenly you’re not consciously crafting the building blocks of the story. They’re happening “behind the scenes”; instead, you’re now picking up on other aspects of the piece you’re reading. Structure, dialogue, context, and theme pop up in your brain but also incongruities, grammar mistakes, unresolved plotlines, things used out of context. This “next level” of reading is massively helpful for anyone that wants to write because it mainly deals with everything that isn’t the “story” being told; instead, it is all about the blueprint, foundation, and frame with which the writer has crafted his or her tale.

When you start to write, you’re subconsciously using your analysis of other author’s works in little ways to improve your writing. It’s not plagiarism because you’re not recreating plot and character and dialogue, instead you’re avoiding mistakes you’ve read, ensuring the dialogue is unique and “real” for each character or using nuance and context similarly to good writers. The phrase “don’t reinvent the wheel” comes to mind for this. For the most part, writing isn’t creating some new method or style; it’s applying your ideas, experiences, stories, etc. to a method of communication that’s pretty time-tested. Reading helps you absorb the less obvious techniques of both the good and the bad writers.

One thing I learned a few years ago in terms of reading was how impactful reading different types of writing or genres or authors showed me a variety of different styles of writing. Like a lot of people, I have my preferences when it comes to reading. I PREFER to read fiction, and specifically the genres of fantasy, thriller, mystery, and science fiction with a smattering of historic fiction and alternate history fiction. I am a fan of nonfiction biographies and histories but it really has to be on a topic or figure I’m SUPER interested in. A few years back I took a class in college on American short stories; a genre I disliked immensely until that class. Going through that class and analyzing the writing, writers, and techniques was massively impactful on me as a reader and a writer.

Getting deep into short stories gave me a real appreciation for the difficulty involved in crafting a compelling short story. There’s not a lot of wiggle room when you’re constrained in the number of letters, words, and pages you can use. Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” has only 3,378 words and is considered one of the greatest short stories ever written. In contrast, “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee, an American classic, is 100,388 words long. Granted these are two very different works, both are considered masterpieces of American writing, and as primarily a reader of novels I figured “To Kill a Mockingbird” would resonate with me more. I was immensely incorrect. This happened time and again when I read a new short story, I was amazed at the breadth of the story being told so deftly in so few words. So, reading this new style of fiction pushed me as a writer to attempt to write in the short story style, but it also gave me tools on how good writers can cut parts out of stories to keep the word count down without sacrificing content, emotion, or story itself.

Finally, reading causes thinking which is crucial for good writing. As a writer, when you read something your brain is sifting through the writing and analyzing it. For me, this is mostly subconscious until something big pops out at me; which is usually something really interesting and new or a mistake. Then as I read more, I’m consciously looking for more of the same from this author. I’m looking for more simple grammar errors, or I’m looking for more correct uses of relatively unknown military jargon, or whatever the case may be but I’m critically analyzing the writing now. It’s another way for me to connect with the writing, and ultimately a skill that helps me hone my own abilities as a writer.

This is something I do with my favorite writers more than I do with new writers. The higher the esteem I have a particular writer, the deeper I delve into their writing. Surprisingly enough this has led to some big letdowns when a writer I really like cranks out something particularly subpar. There are lots of reasons writers, especially those published by major houses, could release an inferior piece of writing; deadlines, contract fulfillment, lack of editing because they’re “an established writer”, etc. are all examples. It’s still a bit of a shocker when I read a new book from someone I consider a superior writer only to realize halfway through they’ve written something far below their talent level. But it is something that I notice quite often now.

Hopefully, this provides some food for thought on your writing journey, and maybe this week instead of writing every day maybe pick up a book and engage in some reading instead. Until next time, read on.


Monday, February 8, 2021

On Writing Pt. 4: Why I Write

 


I’m finally at a point where I can tackle some of the more personal reasons in the “Why I Write” series. Not that I wasn’t able to talk about this back in 2018 when I started this series, but time and introspection have given me a better grasp and hopefully a more relatable way to communicate this topic. I have prefaced other posts with the disclaimer that what I write is often subjective and is based on my own personal experiences. This post will definitely fall into that area. I don’t want to assume that what works for me will work for everyone. I’m basing all of this on my own experiences, and to be brutally honest these reasons don’t even always work for me, but they’ve worked more often than not and have generally helped me.

I’ll start at an easier place in terms of the reasons of why I write. Enjoyment, pleasure, and fun are all very much reasons why I write. I get a LOT of joy from writing. Both the physical process of putting words on paper and the mental process of compiling ideas, strategizing and crafting an outline. All of these engage my brain in a way that has always been fun. I know full-well that many people will find this taxing even to the point of anger, but for me, there are few other activities I find as enjoyable as writing. It’s one of the reasons large writing projects for school were never a chore for me, I thoroughly enjoyed the task to the point where my teachers starting giving me very strict word count restrictions.

I think one of the reasons I’m good at my job is the enjoyment I get out of writing. I’ve never looked at the correlation between job satisfaction and job performance, but I like my job and I think a big part of that is because I get to do something I enjoy. It’s not a chore to come to work and while I don’t get joy from doing inventory, planning product releases, or inspecting and assembling pens; I do get joy from writing the blog, newsletter, and product descriptions. My love of writing has definitely helped keep me sane and engaged at a few different jobs, and I like to think my employers have benefitted from this skill.

Even though I enjoy writing on a visceral level, I’m still plagued with a lot of insecurities. “Is this good enough?”, “No one is going to care.”, “Does this make sense?”, “I’m never going to finish this story/book/paper.”, and “I just don’t have it in me, I’ll never succeed” are just a few of the myriad of negative thoughts that beat back my writing and sometimes tamp down my enjoyment. It’s a battle to fight through a negative headspace, I’m well aware of how hard you have to fight to get through it. Having spent a lot of my life fighting battles of all kinds, I know this type of combat is one of the hardest to win. It’s why I’m such a huge proponent of finding the tools that help you win. It doesn’t have to be a pen, it could be colored pencils and brown paper bags, a typewriter, or a sharpie and a piece of cardboard. If you can find the right “weapons” to take to this battle, they’ll help you persevere.

I’ll be the first to admit, it’s not ALWAYS going to be fun. I don’t always write for enjoyment. Sometimes I write just for catharsis. In fact, there have been huge portions of my life where writing was solely something I did as a form of therapy. Before I ever saw a therapist, I was using the process of writing as a way to process grief, pain, loss, and trauma. I think I was a teenager when I began employing this method of therapy-via-writing. I used it quite a bit when I was in the Army, but by then it was at the direction of a therapist. While I highly recommend using writing in this fashion, it’s even more useful when done in conjunction with a therapist of some kind helping to wade through the sometimes overwhelming amount of “stuff” that’s written down.

I’m also grateful to be at a place where I can now go back and read some of what I’ve written and learn from it. Identify the negativity or things in my life that were impacting my mental state through the words I wrote and use it to help navigate future situations where I could possibly run into the same problems. For a long time, I was “fire-and-forget” when it came to writing. I didn’t go back and read what I’d written, or if I did it was right after I wrote it down and it was still too raw for me to get much out of it. I didn’t go back months or years later and read the pages because I thought it would be too hurtful of an experience. I’ve learned that for me, it can be extremely beneficial to come back and read what I wrote in 2018, 2010, or way back in 1996. I have to be in a good space when I do this, otherwise it can turn into an exercise of just bashing my old self, but if I come into it from a desire to learn from past mistakes or places of harm then it can be very helpful.

I’ve used journaling, poetry, prose, short stories, and even writing prompts to process grief, loss, abandonment, depression, loneliness, failure, and a vast array of other painful emotional and mental situations. I wrote every day when I was deployed to Iraq during my second tour in 2005-2006. Mostly poetry and short stories that dealt heavily with loss, fear, loneliness, and anger while at the same time running an Operations Center and leading several soldiers. It’s my opinion that my writing allowed me to be a better leader and to do my job better; that not keeping all of that bottled up inside allowed me to focus on the mission. Looking back, it’s surreal to think that I spent most of my downtime writing some really raw personal experiences, but it allowed me to then work 12-16 hours a day and not be distracted.

So far, I’ve covered the opposite spectrums of why I write in terms of emotions and headspace. I’ll finish up with a different look at it. Another very real reason in terms of why I write is just the amount of stuff I have in my head at any given time. I’ve mentioned having a pretty big imagination in other posts, and that’s definitely part of it. I’m constantly thinking of ideas for stories. They pop into my head at random times, mostly unbidden. If I allow them, they’ll take over almost all of my thoughts throughout the day. I can remember times when I worked retail where I’d spend an entire 8-hour shift working through an idea that grew into a story. Covering characters, dialogue, plot structure, etc. eventually simply playing the story in my head as if I was reading it, from start to finish. If the story was good enough, I’d start the process over the next day with this story playing in my brain like an audiobook. I can build entire stories this way, developing them and nurturing them as if they’re a living thing inside my head. The problem with this overactive imagination is that while I have these massive stories complete or nearly complete in my head, it’s a daunting task to transfer them to written form. I continue to try to write them down, in bits and pieces because it’s so overwhelming at times. This is the hardest part for me, knowing that I will probably never get all the words out onto the page.

But it’s not just story and plot. I can be pretty opinionated; though I try to hold that side of myself in. I’ll read something and start crafting a response or rebuttal. I’ll be at work reading through articles on writing, marketing, or something similar, and I’ll get a bit fired up, my brain will start working through what I’d say in response to parts of the article. There’s only so much space inside my head, and getting that stuff out onto paper helps free up my mental RAM. Plus, in these situations, it’s usually pretty healthy to get my opinions written down, and then most of the time I end up tossing them in the trash. So much of this type of writing is a knee-jerk response to something I don’t agree with and while it’s helpful to get it written down, it’s not always healthy to share it with anyone. So I end up deleting or tossing this type of response in the trash.

Writing is a lot of things to me, and I know that what I write isn’t going to be for everyone. My audience is pretty small, sometimes my audience is just me. But I’m okay with that. Even if what I’ve written is never read by another person, the process is genuinely helpful for a variety of reasons. I’ve come to think of writing as not just a chore, it’s become a part of me. It’s an integral part of who I am, a natural extension of thinking. It’s also become intertwined with how I speak. Writing has made me a better speaker and a more capable communicator. It’s interesting to see just how impactful writing has been on my life. It’s made me a better thinker, improved my ability to reason, helped me develop as a problem solver, assisted in my growth as a leader, changed how I communicate, helped me process emotions both good and bad, and become so present in all of my life that it’s hard to think of life without it.

This is just one part of the puzzle of Why I Write. Hopefully, my musings help you in your own journey to put “pen to paper”. Until next time, keep writing.

 




Monday, February 1, 2021

On Writing Pt. 3: Why I Write

 


Three years have passed since I started this topic. The first two posts in this series were posted in January and March 2018, and while I wrote two other posts for this series they never got uploaded. I'm returning to this series specifically because I think it's an important topic. Not just for me but for many people that write. I think there is great benefit about thinking about why one writes. While I may end up posting the two posts that were written in 2018, I've changed enough over the years that I decided to start with Part 3 from where I'm at now. It's fitting since that post is less a "Why I Write" and more about the "where" parts of writing. I'm hoping to wrap up this series in 2021 with this new Part 3 and four more posts that I've already outlined. To keep some momentum going, the next couple blogs will be On Writing pieces. You've been warned. Here is Part 3.

Monday, January 25, 2021

Inventory is Done, What Now?


 

It's official, inventory is done. For the past three Fridays I’ve been coming in, counting one section of our warehouse, verifying numbers, then updating our inventory software. It’s usually a process that takes a few days, but in the past, we’ve done it during a week when we were still actively shipping out product. This year, I chose to do all of the counting and updating on Fridays when we weren’t open. It was beneficial because I had the run of the shop and could really buckle down and get deep into the shelves, but it took far longer than I expected. That being said, I’m glad to be finished and now I can actively focus on the rest of my LONG list of things I need to accomplish before we get much further into the year. So, what’s on my list of things to get done? I’m so glad you asked.

The first three months of the year have the framework of a plan in terms of releases and production timelines. The next few weeks will revolve around me finalizing a lot of this framework and getting a more detailed plan in place. I’ll start pulling raw pens and prepping them to be sent out to anodize for the next two months of special release products. While I’m doing that, I’ll also be pulling pens for our production lines in colors that are currently out of stock or low stock. Some anodize items left last week, but the majority of it will be sent out in the next 10 days.

While this is going on, we’ll sit down for a yearly meeting looking at the pricing matrix, wholesale request list, and wholesale pricing sheet. Since we’ve moved to a new website and updated pricing when that was conducted in May 2020, we don’t expect many changes in our pricing. That being said, products that we source from other vendors (nibs, clickers, refills, etc) may see an increase since most of those vendors have also conducted their yearly price increase as well. We are looking forward to expanding our wholesale partnerships to some small brick and mortar shops around the United States. Any time someone that owns a physical store wants to dedicate some real estate to our products, we’re excited to start a relationship. We have several on the list right now that look like stellar opportunities to us.

I’ll spend much of the next week diving deep into the well of creativity for a variety of reasons. I’ve got two upcoming Vertex Special Releases to name and get lid logos drawn up. We’re getting closer to the February release of the Karas Kreepers items and while I’ve done the preliminary research, putting it all together will take a bit of time. I’m hoping to plan out the next four weeks of the Monday Morning Blog, and keep up with this planning schedule, it just helps me avoid writer’s block. With that, I also need to flesh out some of the newsletter features a little better. While I have an idea of where I want to go with many of them, I frequently don’t have much more than a simple outline drawn up for the feature. Having a list of plug-and-play topics to cover would be massively helpful in terms of my brain, the goal is to get a list of topics that I can just pull from instead of sitting in front of a computer screen hoping to have a “eureka moment”. Cross your fingers this actually happens; it will make for much better content and a saner writer as well.

Lastly, I’ll be reaching out to some vendors we work with to get orders put in for a variety of things. Reordering bottled fountain pen ink is high on the list. Followed by contacting Vince at Turner’s Workshop to get another order of resin rods put in. I’m looking at adding a different refill to our rollerball pen options, and I’ll be testing different refills in the coming weeks. Gee and I will do a brainstorming session to come up with some new sticker ideas. And I’ll start putting pen to paper on a new small series release that I’m planning for summer 2021. It’s going to be a whirlwind these next couple of weeks, hopefully, I’ve got the stamina to get it done!

Monday, January 18, 2021

Q & A: Catching Up On Some Older Questions

 



Q: “Any chance to get a metal roller ball version of the Vertex?” – JH

A: We are in fact looking at potentially machining the Vertex out of metal at some point this year. They won’t specifically be limited to rollerball refills since the Vertex can be used with a converter, so they’ll likely be sold as both rollerball and fountain pen versions. But if all things shake out, we’ll have a small batch of metal Vertexes available before the end of 2021.

 

Q: “Have you considered making wooden writing instruments?” – JA

A: We’ve looked at machining stabilized wood and other materials, but even if we were to do something like that it would be in very limited quantities likely as a Limited Edition similar to the Pony Express pen we released last year. Part of the reason for not moving forward on this is that there are some amazing pen makers using predominantly wood as their medium when it comes to pens. Ryan Krusac immediately comes to mind. We’ve often been shared Pen Show floorspace with Ryan and his work is some of the best out there. Another pen maker that uses wood frequently is Troy Clark from Brute Force Designs, again making really quality pens. We consider both Ryan and Troy friends, and at this point in lieu of making a Karas Pen Co pen out of wood, we’d refer you to either of these pen makers.

 

Q: “Is there a possibility of carbon fiber or titanium being used in the future?” – Too many to list

A: While we don’t have plans to use carbon fiber any time soon, we’re not ruling out adding titanium or other materials in the future. Last year we branched out and added bronze in a limited edition pen, we plan on machining a few other pen models out of bronze this year in an attempt to add some variety to the Kustoms Line of pens. We do look at adding materials, especially to the Kustoms Line, at the beginning of the year when we do our initial planning phase, and we reevaluate those plans throughout the year. As soon as we officially decide on what materials we plan on adding, we’ll start teasing stuff to the Pen Club members and likely show off finished pens a week or so before their release dates via Facebook, Instagram, and the Karas Pen Co Newsletter.

 

Q: “Will the shipwreck pens be stocked on a regular basis?” – Z

A: While we don’t plan on them being a regular addition, we are hoping to partner with Mr. Knox again this year for some small-batch releases. Likely towards the summer if everything pans out, and we can get a batch of raw pens over to him. We’ve had a lot of requests for them since we sold through them, bringing them back in a limited fashion seems appropriate for something special this year.

 

Q: “What’s your favorite pen product you’ve released?” – AL

A: I think this question would have a different answer depending on who you asked around the shop. That being said, my favorite pen would be the Vertex. It’s the most comfortable pen for me to use, it’s equally as functional as a fountain pen as it is a rollerball. It is nearly as quick to deploy as a click pen. It comfortably fits in my pocket as well. A close second would be the Retrakt, but this is a recent addition of mine as I formerly disliked it. But with a ringed grip and a Pilot Precise refill it’s a really great pen, and one I keep at my desk all the time.

 

While we wait to get the video studio back up and running, I’ll continue to randomly pull unanswered questions from older Q&A forms, but if you have a question we’ve added a new 2021 Q&A form HERE. Please feel free to ask your questions and I’ll strive to get to all of them eventually.

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

2021: A Look Ahead

 

It’s just over a week into the new year and we’re off to a rocking start. We’ve caught up on all of the orders made over our holiday vacation. The machines are all back up and running; cranking out parts for the production run of Retraktable pencils, working on the 2021 Vertex pens, and working onout of stock items like brass Render K V2s. We’ve been hard at work planning out the next 6 months as specifically as possible and here’s a quick breakdown of what we hope to get accomplished this year.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be sending out Retraktable pencils to select reviewers in the world of writing instrument blogging/vlogging. This is a push to get them to reviewers 45-60 days before the productions release. We are hoping to be able to launch the Retraktable Standard in early March, with the Retraktable Slim slated for early April. Our prototype batches of both the Standard and Slim models were extremely well received, and we only identified two minor, internal changes that need to be made to the production versions.

We made some changes to how we manufacture Vertex pens this year which will allow us to spread the releases out over a longer period of time while decreasing the time taken to machine each part of the pen. Our sanding and polishing process has also been revamped to increase the finished quality of the pens by adding several steps along the process. While it’s a bit more time consuming the finished product is far superior to what we’ve seen before. We’ve already finished machining the first Vertex Special Release of 2021 and will be sanding and polishing them this month, looking to release them in February.

Though we’re taking a break from the Karas Kreepers releases this month, we’ll return to them in February with a few more Notebook/Sticker sets and a pen release. We’ll visit Rhode Island, Michigan, Colorado, and Alaska plus a few other states; bringing you the creepiest cryptids around.

We’ll expand the Speed Groove Bolt V2 and EDK V2 pens this year. While this does mean temporarily retiring the GroovEDK and pushing back the re-release of the Fluted Bolt V2 and Fluted EDK V2 pens; it means we can focus on getting a larger batch of the Speed Groove pens ready for release. We have plans to feature one Speed Groove Bolt V2 special edition as a Pen Club Exclusive this year with custom anodize colorway, but there will be several releases straight to the website.

We are actively looking at adding some new materials this year to the Kustoms Line pens. While this addition will most likely be in the form of Limited Edition pens similar to the Pony Express anniversary INK we released in 2020, we do hope to increase the size of these Limited Editions this year. We’ll test a few materials in Q1 and Q2 2021, and push for releases in Q3 and Q4. We’re excited to expand our Kustoms Line to include some new materials and get a fresh look at some of our classic designs.

We’re pushing hard to prototype two new pens this year; something we’ve never done before. The basic function of one pen has already been laid out, it’s been on our sketchbooks for nearly two years now. Sometimes it’s just hard to get a project off the ground when there are so many other things going on. But we think we can successfully work on finalizing that product and get deep into another prototype process before the end of the year. Karas Pen Club Members will have some sneak peeks at much of this process as we move through it.

There are plans for some mini special release series this year. Somewhat similar to the Camp Karas and Karas Kreepers series’, these mini-series will feature 2-4 releases with some corresponding products and custom curated stickers and other materials. We’ve been brainstorming some cool ideas and we’re excited to see a few of them come to fruition. We hope to get the first of these mini-series done over the summer with a second in mid-fall.

Giveaways are on the horizon specifically giveaways via the newsletter. Our Instagram is our most successful giveaway avenue, but we’ll be adding a few giveaways to our main newsletter subscribers plus a few special giveaways to the Karas Pen Club members via the Club newsletter. Most of the items featured in the giveaways will be old special edition, limited edition, or small batch product that are remaining but not available on the website. It’s an opportunity to get a pen or other product that we haven’t sold in quite some time to add to your collection.

The Karas SWAP (Student Writing and Arts Program) is still our ongoing community assistance program, based around sending out pens to students in writing or arts classes. The attached form can be completed by teachers that feel their students could benefit from this program, and we’ll be going through the entrants with an eye to get the first batch of 250+ pens out by the end of spring.

There are numerous other plans and ideas in the works for 2021. I could fill pages based on a few of our meetings, but this list encapsulates our Tier One goals for 2021, the bigger priorities in terms of what we want to accomplish this year. Sure, there will be a lot of behind-the-scenes work and as always, a lot of adapting to changes and problems that come up throughout the year. We’ll remain flexible so that we can address issues as they come up, but this is where we’re at as of the second week of January 2021.