The Karas Vertex is a breath of fresh air

You know how sometimes you get a new pen and it’s just so fresh and clever that you immediately love it and just want to rave about it to everyone?

Well, that’s me with the Karas Pens Vertex. I’m so blown away by this pen that they should have called it “vortex”. (And I promise that’s the last dad-joke in this review).

So if you’ll permit me, I’ll rave at you about my first impressions right now…

What pleases me so much about this pen is that I can see exactly how it fits as the next step in Karas’s evolution. It’s their second non-metal pen design, after the Decograph, and definitely builds on that. And it clearly builds on the o-ring-based slip cap design from the Starliner, complete with the wonderfully swooping, stepless section it creates. But the Vertex is also in many ways a completely fresh and new design, and I love that too.

So let’s start at the beginning.

I rarely talk about boxes in my reviews. I will here. Karas packs the Vertex in a fully machined aluminium box, with a sliding lid.

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It’s not as fancy as the screw-together aluminium cylinder that encased the the Decograph, and I’m not 100% convinced it goes with the aesthetic of the pen, but it’s very practical, evokes Karas’s history as a metal machine-shop, and has smart little touches like the instructions printed on the underside of the removable lid.

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The Vertex comes with everything you’d need, including a converter, cartridges, and a pipette. Yes, it’s designed from scratch to be an eyedropper, with a capacity of 1.75ml, and o-rings throughout to keep ink where it should be.

Take the pen out and turn it over, and a few things leap out.

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The size is short but chunky: uncapped it’s very similar to the Montegrappa Extra, and it also reminds me of the Franklin-Christoph Pocket 66.

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It’s light, but extremely solid: unscrew the components and you can see how thick the walls are.

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This is a super minimal pen. No cap rings, no clip, no finials or coins, nothing but the acrylic and the section, which I’ll come on to in a minute.

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The acrylic is worth talking about. It’s an OMAS acryloid that is nearly black, but with beautiful brown and gold swirls in it. It reminds me of the Edison Collier in Burnished Gold. Karas has named this limited edition Chrysopoeia, and there’s a whole backstory to that. What I can say is that this is a seriously beautiful pen.

Karas has a tendency toward relatively angular pens, but this is beautifully rounded in every dimension.

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The end of the cap is actually dished so it’s concave.

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The cap comes off with a tug. It holds securely in place with an o-ring, but this is not a pure sliding friction fit like the Conid Minimalistica; it has a definite positive stop and pops when it goes on or off. The inside edges of the cap have been chamfered and the inside has a soft matte finish that contrasts with the beautiful polish of the exterior. Every inch of this thing has been really lovingly finished, which is another step forward for Karas. Previously it’s worn its machining marks as a badge of pride.

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With the cap off, you can see the section.

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Well, technically you can see the section with the cap on, too, because Karas has engineered an unusual ink window built into the back of it, flush with the barrel.

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As you can see, the section is humongous, really long, and wonderfully curved. There is zero step up to the barrel, and of course no threads to worry about either.

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The sections are designed to be interchangeable, and you can pick from a few different translucent colours when you order the pen, as well as buy them separately. My review sample included a dark smoke, which I think matches the pen best, plus a greenish ‘antique glass’, a light violet that I think is the same as F-C’s Italian Ice, and a bright orange. Mix and match them with your inks if you so choose.

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Each section features a red o-ring buried deep within, which seals off the Bock nib unit from the eyedropper tank. That’s the dark line you can see in the picture above.

Unscrew the section and you’ll find another red o-ring nestled deep inside the barrel. All the threads work great and everything fits together perfectly.

I inked up the Vertex with a cartridge of Herbin Lie de The, because I figured it was the best match for the OMAS colour. I’ve not had the best of luck with Bock nibs, but this fine steel #6 example writes just fine. I was surprised that it’s Bock branded, not Karas branded, but maybe they only do that on their Ti nibs.

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In the hand, the Vertex is superb. It’s light, smooth, and fills your grip well; the long and curved section is comfortable for all kinds of grips. If you want to post it, you can.

In terms of downsides? Well, I would have loved a section made from the same material as the body, but that would have killed the ink window effect. And there’s a little smell of burnt acrylic, but that will disappear in time.

Other than that, there’s really nothing I would change about this pen. If you like clips, I guess that might be a killer for you.

I’m really excited about the Vertex, much moreso than I expected to be. And I think that’s because it’s so fresh, both for Karas and the market as a whole.

The Vertex in this fancy acrylic will be available 5th August in a limited edition of 50 from Karas Pens starting at $140. At this price, it undercuts both Franklin-Christoph (by about $10) and Edison’s Collier (by $30). It’s also available in black or white Delrin for $130, and in normal acrylic for $130. Not bad for a pen that’s USA-made.

I got this review sample for free. Yep, for free. But I’ve put my money where my mouth is and ordered another Vertex in Omas Silver Pearl acryloid, with a Ti nib, an edition that Karas calls “Galeocerdo“. I’m super excited to get it.

16 thoughts on “The Karas Vertex is a breath of fresh air

  1. Wow! What a gorgeous pen. Unlike you, I’m a Pilot fan—my current EDC includes three CH92 pens—and while I appreciate the aesthetics of many non-Japanese pens, I’m usually happy doing so from a distance. Your review and luscious photos just slid the Karas Vertex to the top of my wish list. The minimal design is seductive, as clips and bands are often too much bling for my taste. And I’m glad you included the box, which is desirable on its own and no relation to the waste of plastic and cardboard that define most pen boxes. Thank you for a read both informative and delightful!

    Liked by 1 person

      • Oh, yes—I’ve already drooled into my keyboard for the Urushi 20. But once I go down that path, it’s a short hop over to other Grail pens…. like a Nakaya Decapod Aka-tamenuri, sans clip, of course! (How I wish I could have gotten the decapod mini before Nakaya discontinued them.)

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  2. Meant to tell you I think the Herbin Lie de Thé was a great choice to fly with. In the pictures it reminds me of KWZ Honey, one of my favorite browns.

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  3. I ordered a Galeocerdo earlier in the week and it arrived today. It is a truly stunning pen, with the most comfortable grip of any I have ever held. The fine Bock steel nib is very pleasant, though the feed suffers a bit of ink starvation after a page or so; perhaps that was because i had their converter behind it and hadn’t used the eye dropper. I loaded it with Robert Oster Graphite, a great match. You should be very happy with your purchase when it arrives, if it hasn’t already.

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