Earlier this year, the ladies of the Desk descended on the new Kuretake Karappo Empty Pen Sets like 17-year cicadas. Now, Kuretake as released a more deluxe version of these “empty pens”. There are two options available, a felt tip style ($7) and a brush pen style ($9.75). The new versions feature a longer pen barrel — similar to a paint brush in length. The brush pen features individual nylon fibers for a very soft natural brush tip. The felt tip pen has a softer, more flexible felt tip. Both pens ship with two empty fountain pen cartridges and a pipette to fill the cartridges with any ink of your choosing. At the bottom of the pen barrel are two ball bearings. After filling the cartridge, place one of the ball bearings in the opening of the cartridge before seating it into the feed. It will pop into place with a satisfying click as the cartridge is seated guaranteeing a proper, secure fit.
Unfortunately, once the ball bearing is in place, these cartridges are not reusable.It is possible to buy a set of empty cartridges (5 cartridges for $4.75). Theoretically, Platinum converters are interchangeable with Kuretake and have been known to work with other brush pens though I have not tried it yet with these pens. Since the pens ship with two cartridges, I’ll test these first while I wait for a Platinum converter to arrive in the mail. I am sure I must own a dozen of them but can’t find one.
Each pen comes with a pipette to aid in filling. Though I recommend filling over a towel near a sink because I still managed to drip ink down the cartridge.
I filled the felt tip with Colorverse Extreme Deep Field and the brush pen with Hubble from the new Colorverse series.
The brush pen version has very soft bristles. Because it has actual nylon bristles, it can achieve extra fine lines as well as bend to lay down a thick, wide stroke.
The felt tip is much finer but still has some give and play in the tip allowing it to achieve a range of thicks and thins.
I tested the empty brush pens on Tomoe River because both of the Colorverse inks have been known to sheen and I wanted to see if it was noticeable in a brush pen. In the finer felt-tip marker pen, I did notice the sheen of the Extreme Deep Field ink. In the softer brush pen, the sheen of the Hubble ink was not noticeable.
Both pens performed smoothly. Ink wicked to the tips quickly and both the felt-tip and brush pens kept up with my writing speeds without missing a beat.
I have been regularly using the Kuretake Karappo “wicking” felt tip pens which have been going strong since the day I filled them. I use them at work for writing on post-it notes, adding notations to my task list, etc so I thought I’d also compare the performance of the wicking pen to the newer cartridge-based designs.
The tip of the wicking pen is firmer and finer than the cartridge felt-tip. I would compare the cartridge style to a Fudenosuke soft pen and the wicking pens are more like a traditional fine tip marker pen — think Paper Mate Flair but with the ink of your choosing.
Because the cartridge-based Kuretake Karappo Empty Brush Pens are softer and more flexible than the wicking pens, I would recommend these to anyone interested in using their fountain pen inks for art making, calligraphy or other more creative uses. If your goal is to have new, different ways to write with your fountain pen inks, then stick with the wicking versions.