There are a couple of things that I really enjoy: small business and pens. When those two worlds collide, even better! A brand I've enjoyed following over the last couple of years is Tactile Turn by Will Hodges. It has been really fun watching his brand grow as well as seeing the progression of his product offerings into our community.
Currently on Kickstarter is the newest offering from Tactile Turn, and their first fountain pen called The Gist. There has been quite a bit of buzz around this pen and I'm excited to get to throw my opinion in the ring. Upon first seeing the pen through some of Will's posts I was pretty excited to see what he ultimately would come up with.
From a design and aesthetic perspective, I would consider The Gist to be a pleasant blend of modern and industrial. The body and cap have a pleasing arc that meets in the center, but tapers out at the ends. Rather than coming to rounded or chamfered edges, the ends stop sharply with a flat surface. This isn't overly common in more traditional pen barrel designs, but the popular Sailor Pro Gear is one that comes to mind that shares a similar shape.
I would probably say the pen actually feels like a mix of the LAMY 2000, the Pilot Myu or M90, and the Sailor Pro Gear as mentioned.
Will's choices of materials are pretty immense ranging from a polycarbonate, plastic-like material called Makrolon to brass, copper, stainless steel, zirconium, and titanium. He even threw in some Damascus steel for good measure... This range of choices is exciting, but could be overwhelming! Which to choose? Which would I enjoy most?
To help me personally with my choice (and for the review of course), Will was kind enough to loan me several of The Gist prototypes to check out, so special thanks to him for allowing me to look them over.
I was sent pretty much from the lightest pen to the heaviest, so I was able to get a good feel for the weights and balances and how that effects the pen and comfort of use.
He sent me the full Makrolon with zirconium finial, the Makrolon with titanium finial and grip, the full titanium, and the full stainless steel (the beast). Going from the super light to the super weighty has made a difference for me personally, but each person has their preferences and tastes.
Makrolon is a material we've heard of before... it is the dark grey-black material that we know and love in the iconic LAMY 2000 series. I'm not aware of many makers that have utilized this material outside of LAMY, so whether or not Will wanted to do so as homage to the 2000, he did so in a very tasteful way.
A unique feature of the Tactile Turn pen line has definitely been texture. The pens feature what is best described as one continuous spiral across either the length of the pen or the grip section. Sort of like a shallow threading that adds some visual and tactile experience in function and design.
From a function standpoint, the texture adds substantial grip to the pen, while visually it catches the light on multiple edges which really does provide a "texture" all its own. I've heard a few people mention that the spirals appear to be sharp, but on the contrary they are actually quite smooth to the touch. They still have tooth, but aren't offensive. If you've ever used the Fisher Space Pen bullet (in silver) or the AG-7 astronaut pen, there is a spiral machined into the grip that isn't sharp, but you certainly know it is there.
On The Gist, Will opted to incorporate the spiral across the entire surface of the pen's cap, barrel, and grip creating a uniform look. He had done this before on some of his earliest pens, the X, Y, and Z (for now, discontinued), but opted to only do the grip section of his Mover and Shaker retractable series. Personally, I think the full length spiral is the better of the two looks.
For the hardware, Will chose to work with the respected nib maker, Bock. He is offering on the pen three nib materials to choose from: steel, titanium, and 14k gold. For my samples I have a few steel nibs and a titanium.
I've utilized Bock nibs in the past on a few other pens so I had an idea of what to expect, but it is always fun inking up a new pen regardless of whether we have an inkling or assumption of what it will be like. There is something about new pens, particularly machined pens, that are extremely satisfying.
From the nibs I had a broad steel and a fine steel and, frankly, the broad had pretty weak flow and slow starts. I'm not certain what it is about German nibs, but once you head into the broader territory it seems a bit hit or miss. I've experienced this with Kaweco pens above a fine nib as well, so I tend to stick with the finer lines to be safe.
The fine nibs wrote well with nice wet lines and very little in slow starts (although occasionally). Personally, I just can't seem to get into the titanium nibs. They look awesome and have that "titanium" cool factor, but they squeak like crazy while writing. For me I get a sort of nails on a chalkboard (do people even use those anymore?) type of experience. The writing is good, but I have a difficult time getting over the feel and sound.
Regarding inking up the pen, the size of the barrel will limit you to either standard international short cartridges (a standard long cartridge did fit, but felt snug like pressure was being applied, so may not work) or the use of a "mini" converter like the ones made by Monteverde. A standard Schmidt international converter is too long for the pen barrel which is an interesting choice from a design perspective.
Maybe just a slight oversight? The converter that came with it is about a 1/4" shorter than the standard Schmidt, so maybe just a different brand. I love the size of the pen and wouldn't really want Will to change things, but with the standard converter being so common it might have been a bit prudent to try and design the inside length to accommodate. Not a deal breaker in the least, but will require customers to buy somewhat "specialty" parts.
Getting back to the materials, as mentioned before the poly Makrolon is super light. The full polycarbonate barrel, cap and grip (other than the zirconium finial) is a bit airy. Coming in at around 0.55oz, this pen for its size seemed a bit on the lighter side (maybe too light) for me personally.
The poly cap and barrel mixed with the titanium finial and grip added a slight bit of weight pushing it up to around the 0.7oz range. Still a little light, but much more comfortable and is probably the most balanced of the mixes. With something small like a pen, adding literally 2/10 of an oz makes a considerable difference when in hand.
Since I had it here, I also swapped in the stainless steel grip onto the poly cap and barrel which bumped it up a smidge more to 0.85oz overall.
The full stainless version is seriously a tank. At 2.5oz it is a hefty pen to say the least. With the lighter pens I have found myself posting them to maintain the weight but with the full stainless, posting wasn't comfortable so I wrote unposted. Now, unposted from nib to tail is just around 4" which is a bit short, but not too short to use, so if you really like the heftier pens, the all stainless may be a decent option as you don't necessarily need to post the cap while writing. And, if you don't like the smells associated with copper or brass, steel gives you the weight, but not the grime if you know what I mean.
Now, moving onto the full titanium, coming in at almost exactly 1.5oz seemed to hit a sort of sweet spot. Not too heavy, not too light, but an all-metal badass sort of pen. Is the full Ti the MOST comfortable for longer writing stints? Maybe not, but it sure is awesome. I think for longer writing I prefer the poly with Ti grip and finial (which is what I backed in the campaign).
Something interesting, while looking at the campaign stats, there are only 4 all stainless pens pledged for, while the all Ti is at 96 (at the time I was writing this). I think the rationale is that for only $20 more for your pledge, you get an ounce less of weight and the titanium cool factor in the pen. I see value in both the all stainless and all Ti, but I think the appeal definitely seems to reside in the latter.
From a possible concern standpoint, the only thing that stood out to me was that when the poly and metal parts are mixed (metal grip and poly barrel) they were physically tough to get apart. Poly on poly was perfectly fine, but when the materials were mixed it seemed to create some potential issues. Maybe the parts were turned a little tightly or maybe the poly flexes a bit? All I knew was that I had a heck of a time unscrewing them on occasion, but I'm not sure if this is something long term to be super concerned about or how Will might be able to adjust things at all. Just an observation and something to be aware of.
Lastly, the clip on the pen is exceptionally placed as a built in feature to the cap and finial. Out of a tiny slot on the side of the cap the clip emerges and hugs the pen nicely and snugly. The clip is coated in a shiny black finish and is extremely stiff and sturdy. I'd be surprised if with normal use the clip would ever flex or bend out away from the cap.
This is a lot of info but, frankly, I love The Gist. I've backed the project for the poly cap and barrel with the Ti grip and finial and know I'll enjoy this pen for years to come. I really appreciate Will sending these prototypes out for me to see and use to try and build an opinion about them and I think this pen will be a hit.
The campaign is running until November 4th, so if you're looking to hop on board you'll need to commit before then. If I've missed anything, feel free to comment below...