This pen represents the first time I backed something on Kickstarter. It’s also my first hand-machined fountain pen. It also has my first titanium nib. Lotta firsts with this one.
Tactile Turn Gist Fountain Pen
Price: $118.00 ($79 for the pen + $39 for the nib)
Nib: EF (Titanium)
Filling System: Cartridge/Converter (Standard International)
About the Company & Pen:
Tactile Turn is a tiny machine shop down in Richardson, Texas that designs and creates a modest line of consumer products, catering mostly to the everyday carry (EDC) crowd. The company’s current products include the Pruner and Parer razor handles and the Mover and Shaker rollerball pens. The new (and exciting) addition to their lineup is the Gist fountain pen.
Tactile Turn’s products are all made from rugged, durable, and attractive materials, including stainless steel, titanium, copper, brass, and polycarbonate. They’re made to take a beating, keep functioning as intended, and look snazzy doing it.
Because they’re such a small shop, Tactile Turn has been turning to Kickstarter in order to afford the raw materials to make their products. This seems to be a successful strategy for them, as (I believe) all their Kickstarters have been funded and have led to products hitting the streets. I stumbled onto the Kickstarter for the Gist, and about 14 seconds into the intro video, I decided I needed one.
Of course, they offered a dizzying array of materials to choose from, so it took me a while to decide what to get. But once I made my choice, I signed up for a Kickstarter account and threw some money toward Texas.
In true EDC form, Tactile Turn designed the Gist to exemplify both usability and comfort. According to their Kickstarter video, “…there was a focus on how ergonomics and materials come together to make one another better.” The Gist is intended to be both durable and dependable. Mission accomplished!
While no material is truly indestructible, these pens come pretty close. The base material for the Gist is polycarbonate reinforced with fiberglass. If that sounds familiar, it’s probably because it’s the same material used in the Lamy 2000 (a.k.a. Makrolon…a.k.a. Lexan). In addition to polycarbonate, you can get the pen in brass, copper, stainless steel, or titanium. And if you’re a fan of a la carte customization, you can mix and match materials to create just the right pen. In addition to the materials I already mentioned, you can get sections and finials in zirconium, damascus steel, and bronze.
And if the variety of pen body materials wasn’t enough, they offer Bock nibs in steel, gold, and titanium. I think this is kind of a genius move on their part. They only need to make one set of parts, but can offer a whole catalog of options by using a wide variety of raw materials.
The gist is a fairly small pen. I didn’t really think it was that small when I opened it up and started using it, but when I compared it with some other pens, I realized that it’s on the small side. In the image below, I have it lined up with an Esterbrook J, Lamy Safari, Lamy 2000, and a Jinhao x750 (the Gist is in the middle). In style, it most closely resembles the Lamy 2000, but in size, it’s really close to the Esty.
The design is really simple, and an excellent example of form following function. The barrel and cap are widest at their respective openings and taper down toward the ends. The barrel doesn’t have any sort of end cap: it just flattens off at the end, which I think is elegant and works well for a “knockabout” pen intended to be taken anywhere.
Similarly, the finial is a flattened piece of copper with the Tactile Turn logo laser engraved into the surface (this was an option…you can get it without a logo). There are no center bands, cap bands, hair bands, or any other ornamental adornments.
The clip is a wide, no-nonsense slab of “301 spring tempered stainless steel.” I don’t know what any of that means, but this sucker ain’t getting snapped off under normal (and even some abnormal) use. The section is a tapered tube of copper that houses a standard Bock #6 nib assembly (nib, feed, and collar).
All outer surfaces of the barrel, cap, section, and finial have the signature grooved texture of all Tactile Turn products. This texture provides excellent grip regardless of conditions and helps mask everyday wear and tear. Whether you’re writing with it or carrying it around, you never have to worry about it slipping out of your hand.
I’m a sucker for copper, so when it came down to it, I had to choose the polycarbonate body with the copper section and finial (sorry Zirconium…maybe next time!). This allows me to get my copper fix, but keep the pen nice and light. And I opted for a titanium nib. Of all my pens, I don’t have any with titanium nibs, so that’s what I went with.
Build Quality (4/5):
The overall build quality of the Gist is very good. It’s superbly designed and assembled. Nothing in the pen rattles or shakes, and I have no fear of any pieces ever loosening up, falling off, cracking, exploding, or becoming filled with self doubt.
The machining of the pen, however, isn’t as “finished” as I expected. (Note: I believe it was Matt Armstrong who said the pen felt “unfinished,” and I think that’s the perfect word for it.)
There are a few cosmetic blemishes, where the machining process didn’t complete all the way around the barrel. There are inconsistencies in the “polish” of the polycarbonate, too. Most of the barrel is slightly shiny, but then it suddenly gets duller in appearance about a centimeter before the threads. The cap has an even duller finish, giving the pen a pretty uneven look. It’s a noticeable transition between the shinier and duller sections.
Despite the clip’s rugged, hardened steel-ness, I find that the loose end sits about a millimeter and a half away from the surface of the cap. It will do its job holding the pen in place under normal conditions, especially on thicker fabrics, like a jeans pocket or backpack. But if you want to slip it into your shirt pocket and take a small plane out for some aerial acrobatics, you might have to chase the pen around the cockpit.
The issue that concerns me most is with the tolerances of the cap/barrel threads, which aren’t consistent or even. When I screw the cap onto the barrel, it starts off nice and smooth, gets a little harder to turn for a rotation or so, gets easy again, then finishes off with a little crunching sound. I brushed out the threads with a soft toothbrush in case there was any debris in there, but it didn’t help.
It’s important to note that none of these issues interferes with the writing experience. The imperfections in the pen’s finish and the not-as-tight-as-it-could-be clip are cosmetic and have no affect on how the pen performs. The cap/barrel threads are fine, too. I guess they could potentially turn into a bigger issue if they crack due to some misalignment, but right now, it’s just a concern.
The Gist comes with a Standard International converter that fits very securely into the section. You can also use any Standard International cartridges you have a fancy for.
Well…the Gist always writes. Always. I haven’t had any skips or hard starts since I’ve been using it. I left it uncapped for about 15 minutes while I took pictures for this review, and it wrote immediately when I touched it to paper. Not even the slightest hard start. Some nibs get cranky when you leave them uncapped, but the Gist just wrote like it was freshly inked.
No skip. No hard start. No complaints.
I can’t complain here, either. I wasn’t sure how I’d like the metal (copper) section, but with the texture applied to its surface, it doesn’t even feel like metal. the entire pen has that “grippy” feel to it. I’ve found that I never end up gripping it too tightly. Some pens are “just there” in your hand, but the Gist feels phenomenal.
The Gist does have a fairly narrow grip section, so if you like a meatier grip, you might not care for it. But it’s been working really well for me. I think the surface texture is so grippy and comfortable that I can maintain a pretty light grip and avoid hand cramps.
The Gist uses Acme threads to secure the cap to the barrel. These are much wider than typical threads and have flat peaks. I find the section to be plenty long enough so that I don’t have to rest my fingers on these threads when writing; however, I forced myself to grip the threads for a few minutes of writing just to see what it felt like. They were not sharp at all; they really just felt like part of the barrel. Just as comfortable as the section.
Writing Experience (4.5/5):
This is my first non-mass-produced pen, and it’s my first titanium nib, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. The stunads around the innernets had a lot to say about titanium nibs: They’re not for everyone, they’re scratchy, they’re bouncy, they’re “rough and feedbacky,” and they’re “full of tooth.” Honestly, I was expecting a fairly rough and gritty experience.
Truth be told, when I bought the pen, I actually got an extra steel nib just in case the titanium nib turned out to be terrible. The steel nib is still sitting in the packaging and probably will be for a long time.
But this titanium nib WAY exceeded my expectations. Rough and feebacky, my ass. This nib is super smooth. It does make a lot of nose, but that doesn’t translate to any tooth or vibration. You definitely feel the nib on the paper, but if I had to place the Gist somewhere on the smoothness continuum, I’d position it closer to “Buttery Smooth” than I would “Full of Tooth.” I do wish it put down a slightly finer line, but I can live with it.
One area where the stunads got it right is that the nib is pretty bouncy. I’m not one to “eek out” line variation by putting pressure on a nibs (THE HORROR!!! THE HORROR!!!), so I haven’t tested the nib’s flexiness, but it is mighty springy. When I write with the titanium nib, it feels like my hand is skipping down the sidewalk on a warm summer day. It makes me happy.
I struggle with this one. Including the extra cost of the copper and the nib, I spent $118 on the Gist. $118 is fairly pricy for a pen; however, there are a lot of factors to consider: the materials are fantastic (copper and titanium aren’t cheap), the nib is beautiful, and these pens are machined by hand…literally by a dude standing at a lathe. For a pen that costs over $100, I’d like to see fewer blemishes and tighter thread tolerances, but considering that they don’t affect the writing experience, I’m not going to dwell on those issues.
What the pen lacks in “finish,” it more than makes up in function and durability. The Gist has never failed to write for me, even when left uncapped for long periods. It’s made out of awesome materials, and you don’t have to worry about snapping the pen in half if you sit on it.
The whole point of EDC is to have writing instruments that you can toss in a bag, carry everywhere, and whip it out whenever you need it. It should work every time, all the time. Tactile Turn nailed it with the Gist. The most annoying thing is going to use a pen and having to futz with it to get it to write. No futzing necessary with this pen. It’s futzless.
Quite simply, the Gist functions flawlessly.
The Nutshell: Overall Score: 23/25
|Best Qualities||Worst Qualities|
|It writes every time, all the time||Cap/barrel threads don't perfectly marry|
|Nib is very smooth & very consistent||Blemishes in pen's finish|
|Awesome materials||Clip could be tighter|
I’ll be honest, when the pen arrived, I was a little disappointed in the imperfections with the pen’s finish. But Tactile Turn is still a very young, very small company. They only have a handful of products and likely need time to perfect their manufacturing processes. The design and overall construction are excellent, and I have no doubt that the company will continue to hone and refine their craft and make improvements to their products and processes.
If given a choice between “looks perfect” and “works perfect,” I’d go with “works perfect” every time. And so far, in the six(ish) weeks I’ve been using this pen, it’s done nothing but work perfectly. I’m very happy with the performance of the Gist, and I’m looking forward to seeing where Tactile Turn goes next.