Pen Review: Kuretake Karappo Empty Brush Pens

Kuretake Karappo Empty Brush Pens

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.

Kuretake Karappo Empty Brush Pens

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.

Kuretake Karappo Empty Brush Pens Filled

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.

Kuretake Karappo Empty Brush Pens
Testing the Kuretake Karappo on Profolio Oasis Notebook

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.

Kuretake Karappo Empty Brush Pens
Testing the Kuretake Karappo Empty Brush Pens on Tomoe River paper.

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.

Kuretake Karappo Empty Brush Pens with the Karappo Wicking Pen

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.

Comparing Kuretake Karappo Brush Pen to "Wicking" Pen

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.

DISCLAIMER: The items included in this review were provided free of charge by JetPens for the purpose of review. Please see the About page for more details.

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3 comments / Add your comment below

  1. Ana,

    Interesting pens. Are the tips/brushes washable and re-usable with other inks? I’m also curious about why the pens can’t be re-filled after the ball bearing is popped in. How does that work?


    1. The idea is that the tips can be rinsed out and reused. I didn’t try to clean them out yet but should work. The brush pen should be pretty easy. The felt tip might be more challenging.

      The issue with the one-use cartridges is that the ball bearing locks into the cartridge and is difficult to get it out of the cartridge without damaging the cartridge. If you’re familiar with the Platinum/Kuretake cartridges, you’ll know the ball bearing I am referring to.

      1. Can’t you just use the refillable cartridges without the ball bearing?
        I thought the ball bearings were to make it easier to move the ink within the refillable cartridge. Shouldn’t you still be able to ink fill the cartridge with ink even with the ball bearing in place?

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