Originality in the fountain pen world is rare, so when a small maker from the Philippines managed it news travelled fast. Being individually hand made, few, so far have been lucky enough to get their hands on these pens. From what I can tell there are two models, the larger Una and this model, the Tala. Being a small company there is no website, instead Instagram is used to show their wares, so no product list but lots of shiny works in progress. By no intention of Kasama themselves these pens have become rather desirable due to limited numbers and lack of an obvious ordering system.
Before I go further I have been informed by owners that you just ping Kasama a direct message on Instagram and they will get back to you with a list of stock and what they have in the Production line. I suspect present popularity means that little stays on the list for too long. In time, if they are able and willing to ramp up production I’d personally like to see a dedicated website, even if much is listed as ‘sold out’.
I think most if not all the people I know who’ve bought or sought out a Kasama have wanted one made of Ultem. This is an interesting thermoplastic made by the same company who do Lexan (SABIC). For those interested in the differences I’ve quoted product information from their website at the end of this post.
Having sawed at sheets of Lexan I hope Ultem is easier to work with but suspect it still takes time and wears out machining and finishing equipment more quickly than normal.
I’m not quite sure how to describe the colour of Ultem and looking at pictures on line it appears to be very sensitive to texture, thickness, and finish. Needless to say the finials are almost amber in appearance, where as the rest of the pen moves through cognac onwards to light gold and ending in straw yellow. I can imagine it will not be to everyone’s taste however I do think Kasama’s photos capture the differences and shades well, so you do know what you’re buying in advance and have no need to worry you’ve been sold through heavily photo-shopped images like some big companies do (Pelikan, cough cough).
Possibly because of its girth, the Tala looks shorter than it is. In my mind it was a pocket pen, yet when lined up against a few of those you realise it is larger than you first thought. Having said that it is not that long and I suspect some of you may find you have to post the cap to hold it comfortably. Needless to say it is a chunky pen.
I’ve been leant this pen by Bernardo ‘Mr Teal’ Gomes of FPUK fame and a fellow member of United Inkdom, and in the three weeks it has been in my possession I can still not work out if I like the looks of the pen or not. It has character and that is no bad thing. The looks draw the eye and start conversations. Can’t say that about many modern fountain pens. I salute Kasama for this.
The cap has a slight curve to it, tapering in to the opening where there is a smooth edge. There are two rings in the upper half which I suspect work well on a solid pen however they are part lost with the markings inside. I’m not sure if it was intentional or not but the interior has not been polished and the machining marks vary, so not forming a pattern or consistent finish. The finial has the Kasama logo (a palm tree) etched on it. I like the look and I also like the way the finial darkens to an amber like colour compared to the cone shaped space inside. The upper band almost helps give the impression that this part was made separately and slid/screwed on as is so often the case with many pens out there. The edges of the palm, especially where the branches meet, are sharp and it is a shame that this could not be polished down. I’m actually not sure if this is possible without ruining the effect and it is a common thing with engraved/etched finials. The cap does seal the Tala well and in the two weeks this pen has been inked I’ve not suffered from any hard starts/flow issues or seen any ink evaporation.
Remove the cap and things are more normal until you look at just how far back the barrel starts. The shape of the section reminds me of a Pineider with the rook/castle piece appearance. The threads are right at the end, something I’ve always liked, and the shape means your fingers will never touch them, which is a good thing for while short they are hard and sharp. It is a comfortable pen to hold, though if you need or want to hold the grip slightly further back then you will need to post the cap.
The barrel is only half the length of the uncapped pen. While you can see threads through the Ultem, these are are inside the section with that hosting the barrel unlike on most other pens where it is the other way round. It is different and adds character though there’s been a few times where I’ve accidentally removed the barrel rather than the cap – you just need to remember to hold the body higher when you go to remove the cap. The end finial looks smooth but there is a very slight ridge which can be felt if you move your finger across it.
The pen comes with a standard international converter. I assume it will take cartridges as well however I would not advise to try one. The reason being there is no support inside the barrel for the cartridge/converter due to the design of the section/barrel threads. With a converter you can feel the peg at the back of the nib unit bend slightly when you fit it. I most certainly would not want to apply pressure to the peg by trying to pierce the plug on a cartridge as I could see it snapping. Now while this might sound bad, remember the pen did come with a converter and the design of the threaded part of the barrel means it is held firmly in place, so no rattling around. I assume this pen could be eye dropper filled, however being transparent and the USP being the material with it’s colour, I’d be very careful about what inks you used with this method in case of permanent staining and would also suggest applying some silicon grease to the threads.
The nib is a JoWo unit with the Kasama palm tree logo laser etched on to it. This has been well done and almost looks printed. The writing experience was hard to judge as Bernardo bought the pen with a 1.1 stub, which is smooth and lays down a nice line, but is hard to test general writing due to it’s nature and my small (and poor) handwriting. I was tempted to swap in a spare before making a page or two of notes but decided against it. Most people will find a comfortable way to hold this pen and while it may well be a very hard pen to get hold of and try before buying, the low production numbers and high interest does mean if you buy a Tala and regret it, especially in this material, then you should be able to get back much or all of what you paid for it if selling on.
If I were to have one problem with this pen it is the finish and many of you may feel I’m being picky, however at the same time I would caution those with OCD from buying one of these blind. I should point out this may all down to the material and may just show how hard it is to work with. While not having one to compare with I suspect the same problem will not exist or be noticeable on the non-transparent Unas and Talas. I’m assuming the pen has been left unpolished on purpose. This includes the outside of the cap and where your fingers lies on the section. This is an effective way to provide texture and grip, but then why not continue it on the rest of the section and the barrel. I should note this is actually fine with me, it is on the inside where my issue lies. This is inconsistency with the appearance of the machining marks, primarily in the cap. I’m not sure if this is down to different widths of bits being used, as it is noticeable where the narrower ‘inner cap’ starts or if it is due to a change of speed which machining, but the differences are there, and stand out once you have dried ink collect in the grooves, which will happen. Using a wet q-tip to clean the inside improved things but I know from experience that just picking up, putting down, capping, and uncapping pens causes ink to splash, maybe not much and not enough to be visible when it happens but it does collect and will become noticeable over time.
There is a lot to like with this pen. Kasama have managed that rare thing known as a unique look. The way the pen fits together is different and the material is rare in a pen . Additionally looking at their Instragram page you can see they have moved from just rarer plastics to other materials including some very appealing looking anodised finishes.
Would I go for one. Not sure as feel in the hand wise it is not to my normal taste. I can see me being more tempted by one of the pens in the above Instagram picture, so who knows in the future. It could also depend on the cost though. I know Ant at UK Fountain Pens wrote that his Una cost him £400, though that included shipping and presumably taxes, however that is a lot for a pen with a steel nib. Asking Bernardo his cost ~£200 however he had a friend in the Philippines tell him they had picked up an interesting pen for him and was he interested in it (of course he was). To me this is still a lot, how much is down to the material I do not know – happy if some one could reach out to me with the prices their various pens go for (so I can compare) – an anodised Una or Tala like above could be tempting.
One thing I can say is you will not be buying one of these pens blinds as you need to look at their Instragram page to get an idea of what they are working on and then message them after which they will send you details (including, I believe, photos) and as mentioned they do not tweak their photos so what you see is what you should get.
Before I go in to the pros and cons, one final thing, which is packaging. The pen comes in a hand made coconut leaf woven basket/case, which is a really nice touch. For most pens I’d say I would hope they were properly packed/secured inside, however with the materials used by Kasama I can’t see the pens suffering any damage bouncing around. I’m not sure what else you could use the case for, but it’s the sort of packaging where you would want to try to do so.
- Unique design.
- Interesting look.
- Cap threads by the nib and not reachable by the fingers (personal taste).
- Not much out there in consumer land made with Ultem.
- Easy to get a comfortable hold in the hand.
- Ultem material means this pen can comfortably be used at a place where there’s a risk of knocks.
- Machining marks on the inside may trigger OCD reactions.
- Almost certainly could be filled by an eye dropper, but be careful of the ink as stains will show up the machining marks.
- Sharp threads, though you should not normally be able to touch/feel these.
- Cost, especially once it gets to the UK.
- No support in section for a cartridge or converter – would not recommend trying to open a cartridge in a Tala.
Here I’ve included an OPUS88 OMAR with the ubiquitous Lamy Safari to show just how chunky a pen the Tala is.
“LEXAN™ resin is a polycarbonate, amorphous engineering thermoplastic which has a high level of mechanical, optical, electrical, and thermal properties. The LEXAN resin portfolio provides a wide choice of products with potential benefits including high impact strength, inherent ‘crystal-clear’ transparency, and high heat resistance. Available in transparent, translucent, to opaque, the products can come in different colors“
“ULTEM™ resin is an amorphous thermoplastic poly-etherimide (PEI) resins that offers outstanding elevated thermal resistance, high strength and stiffness, and broad chemical resistance.“