The Tactile Turn Gist is a new line of fountain pens designed and manufactured by Will Hodges at Tactile Turn. Originally offered via Kickstarter last year, the Gist started shipping to backers last month. Available in 21 different combinations of eight different materials, the Gist is classically designed with a few unique design flourishes.
The Gist is the first fountain pen from Tactile Turn, following the Mover and Shaker machined click pens. With hints of the Lamy 2000 in size and shape, the Gist offers a cap and body system that posts and contains a clip.
The Gist arrives in a simple, yet fairly sleek two-piece cardboard box. The box has a dark gray exterior with the Tactile Turn logo printed in white. One end of the box features a textured white cloth pull tab folded into a short loop. Pulling the tab out, the inner box slides out from the outer cover. The inner box, also covered in dark gray, contains an attached black foam insert. There is a cutout in the middle of the foam insert for the pen. The cutout is shaped around the pen with an extra semicircle cut out on both the left and right sides of the pen. The semicircles provide the necessary space for your fingers to grab and pull the Gist from the foam insert.
The box itself weighs 1.4 ounces. It measures six inches long (not including the pull tab) by two inches wide. It stands just 3/4 of an inch tall. The pull tab is 5/8 of an inch long and 1/2 of an inch wide.
The packaging is well designed with rounded edges throughout except for the vertical corners. The pull tab makes it easy to open and close the box. The only real negative about the box is the screech-like noise it makes when opening or closing the box. The top edges of the inner piece, particularly along the longer sides, appear to rub against the inside of the outer piece of the box to cause a less-than-pleasant sound.
The box does not contain any instructions. The pen comes fully assembled in the box with the converter already installed inside the pen.
Hodges offers the Gist in a myriad of materials. The standard material for everything except the nib and clip is fiberglass-reinforced polycarbonate. Known for its high strength, toughness, and heat resistance as well as good dimensional and color stability, polycarbonate is a thermoplastic polymer used in a variety of applications, including Blu-Ray discs, phone cases, and dome light covers.
Polycarbonate components in the Gist are all black. For color variety, the Gist is also available with brass, copper, bronze, stainless steel, titanium, zirconium, and Damascus steel options. While polycarbonate is an option for the cap, body, grip, and finial, not all materials available for the Gist are available for the cap and body. The following chart lists what materials are available in which parts of the Gist:
|Available Material Combinations|
|316L Stainless Steel||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
You can mix and match materials to create a pen with any of the materials listed above. So, for example, the Gist I am reviewing here has a polycarbonate cap and body with a brass grip and finial.
The Gist uses #6 size nibs from Peter Bock. Hodges offers these nibs in steel, titanium, and 14-carat gold.
On the cap, the Gist features a spring-tempered 301 stainless steel clip in black. The strength of the clip from the tempering process is incredible. This is the strongest clip I have ever used on a pen.
From the outside of the pen to inside, the Gist includes a plastic piston converter. Compared to the strength of the clip and other metal components of the pen, the converter feels weak and cheap. Regardless, the piston mechanism is smooth and easy to use.
The Gist is machined on a lathe from rods of material. The eight materials available are all rather strong in nature and it shows in the build. The pen, even the polycarbonate parts, feel deceptively strong and sturdy. The polycarbonate provides a bit of a contradiction in feel since it does still have a plastic feel (after all, it is a polymer) in spite of how strong it is. There is a bit of give, for example, if you try to squeeze the open end of the cap when it is not connected to the body. The give is a lot less than I first expected to get from the polycarbonate. I imagine that there would be little to no give, or flexibility, with many of the metal variants of the cap.
The polycarbonate is lightweight, but when used in conjunction with a metal grip, the balance feels pretty good in hand, as the weight centers on the heavier grip. As such, there is minimal weight "carried" above at the end of the body. The pen feels good both posted and unposted. With the heavy duty clip on the cap, the balance of the pen shifts quite a bit when posted, but remains comfortable to hold.
The weight of the Gist will vary depending on what materials you use. Polycarbonate provides the lightest experience, with copper on the other end of the weight spectrum, weighing nearly fives more than the polycarbonate. The weight of the polycarbonate cap and body with the brass grip and finial is satisfactory. It is neither too heavy to hold for long periods of time nor too light to feel. With extra parts, you can quickly adjust the weight of your pen by changing the combination of materials used. Here is a complete breakdown of material combinations by weight:
|Pen Weights Table|
|Cap and Body||Grip||Finial||Weight in ounces|
|Polycarbonate||Stainless Steel||Stainless Steel||0.86|
|Polycarbonate||Damascus Steel||Damascus Steel||0.87|
|Titanium||Damascus Steel||Damascus Steel||1.66|
|Stainless Steel||Stainless Steel||Stainless Steel||2.56|
As with weight, the durability of the pen will depend on what materials you use. Although the polycarbonate feels thick and sturdy enough, it is plastic and will not have the strength to withstand as much force as some of the available metal alternatives. For daily use, the Gist is sufficiently durable. The threads are incredibly solid. If this pen is going to physically fail, I suspect it will be more from a shocking disturbance than from every day wear and tear. The one caveat may be the polycarbonate grip as it's smaller size may be more susceptible to force and pressure than the larger polycarbonate cap and body.
The Gist is a unique combination of classic shape and surprising finish. The shape is a bit reminiscent of the Lamy 2000 in that the barrel and cap both taper from one end to the other. The difference in diameter throughout the barrel and cap are less pronounced in the Gist than in the Lamy 2000. The combined shape of the body, grip, and nib works as the widest point of the complete unit lays between the grip and the end of the barrel, the two places where the hand holds onto the pen. As such, the pen typically falls directly into a comfortable writing position when in use. The widest section of the cap is at the bottom which allows it to fit right over either tapered end of the body. This allows the pen to close or post with ease.
As simple and classic as the shape of the pen is, the finish, regardless of the material, is different. The body, grip, cap, and finial all feature concentric rings repeated approximately 0.75 millimeters apart along the entire length. The rings appear etched into the material and give the Gist a very tactile feel. When holding the pen, you will notice the feel, which reminds me of old lenticular prints. Whereas the finish on the Lamy 2000 is soft and smooth, the Gist feels rough like the feeling you get rubbing the outer edge of a quarter. The rings soften the color of the material a bit as well.
The Gist measures 127 mm (5 inches) long when capped. Without the cap, the pen is 118 mm long and when posted, the Gist extends to 153 mm (just over 6 inches). The length of the pen is rather ordinary, which in many ways is a good thing. It's neither too long nor too short.
The cap itself is 64 mm tall, of which the finial is 3 mm and the rest of the cap is 61 mm tall. The finial itself tapers slightly from where it meets the rest of the cap to it's narrowest point at the top. The end of the cap (the top of the finial) is just 8 mm in diameter. On the other end of the cap, the opening measures 13.5 mm in diameter. The variation in diameter allows the cap to easily and securely post over the tapered body of the Gist which starts off narrow at the top and gets wider toward the bottom of the body. This also allows the cap to deeply post onto the body, preventing the pen from being too long or top heavy when posted. The tempered clip on the cap starts at the bottom of the finial and runs 44 mm long.
Inside the cap, Hodges uses acme threads, which he claims is a first for use on a fountain pen. According to Hodges, the threads provide a great strength advantage.
They are MUCH stronger than traditional threads and they make perfect sense for a fountain pen that is meant to be used every day no matter what you put it through. They locate much better than standard threads and when you put the cap on your pen it will feel amazing every single time. They also have flat peaks instead of sharp peaks so they feel much better on your hand.
This is where the pen starts to show signs of being over-designed to the point that practicality becomes negatively impacted. Yes, Hodges is right that these threads are strong and smooth; however, if, like me, you prefer to twist your cap until it no longer turns, the threads lock together so much so that it requires more force than usual to uncap the pen. In fact, the Gist is the first pen that I cannot uncap with one hand when fully threaded. While using two hands is not a big issue, it does upset my subconscious use of capped fountain pens in that it breaks my line of thought when I want to quickly uncap a pen and start using it. I'm not convinced that the acme threads provide any real benefit in use. They sound great on paper, but when put to use, they actually detract from my experience with the Gist.
The tempered clip is the strongest clip I have ever used, but it does slide over most materials with relative ease. The strength of the clip prevents the Gist from slipping and sliding in pockets and bags when properly clipped. On the other hand, the strength of the clip is another example of too much design. By using 301 spring tempered stainless steel, the clip is so strong that it is near impossible to manipulate by hand. Whereas more common fountain pen clips can be slightly lifted with ease by using just a finger to quickly attach to a pocket, a folder, or a stack of papers, the Gist requires a change in habit because the clip will not lift with the simple flick of a finger. To get the clip to rise by hand, it (again) requires two hands. To be clear, the pen slides over fabrics, papers, and other materials easily, but only by pulling the cap over the material. You cannot easily flick the clip up and hook it on to whatever you want to clip. This breaks another subtle subconscious habit of mine.
The clip is coated with diamond like carbon, using physical vapor deposition. The coating is black, fairly glossy, and very strong. It should be quite wear resistant in everyday use.
On top of the cap, the finial is very well designed. It's subtle in that continues the concentric rings from the barrel and cap, but it's tapered from the bottom to the top to finish off the overall aesthetic balance of the pen as the end of the body tapers the same way. The top of the finial is available with or without the Tactile Turn logo. I chose to forgo the logo and instead show off the smooth brass of the finial. Of course, the finial is available in seven other materials besides the brass I chose.
The cap itself feels substantial in hand, even when made from polycarbonate. On its own the polycarbonate cap with brass finial and stainless steel clip weighs 0.3 ounces. While the bottom of the cap has some give when squeezed, given the larger opening, the top of the cap has no give. This is a solid cap through and through.
Without the cap, the body itself is considerably shorter than the body of the Lamy 2000, although the grip of the Gist is longer than the Lamy 2000. From the top of the body to the start of the threads on the body, the length of the Gist is just 63 mm. The threads run another 9 mm.
The length of the pen is comfortable enough for writing and for carrying in a pocket. It's not too long or too heavy and the tapered shape of the body lets the pen rest comfortably in hand. The concentric rings on the body of the pen are unique in design and perhaps a bit rough in hand, but they do not dig into your skin or cause any pain or harm in use. The rings do, however, make noise when you slide your finger or hand over them. It's not loud, but it is noticeable and something I could do without. Interestingly, the top of body has a smooth finish which matches the smoothness of top of the cap, but runs counter to the rougher finish of the rest of the body where the concentric rings repeat.
One design oddity with the body that stands out is that it is not long enough to hold a standard international converter. While the Gist comes with a piston converter that fits onto the international standard feed, the included converter is shorter than other standard converters. Most international standard ink cartridges should still fit the Gist, but if you plan to swap converters from other pens, they may not fit.
There are two sets of threads on the body. The outer set seamlessly transitions from the end of the body's concentric rings and has wider grooves than the inner set. The outer set of threads connect with the threads inside the cap. While the outer threads are exposed when writing, they have flat peaks. As such, they don't scratch or dig into your skin when holding. The inner threads begin right after the outer threads. The inner threads have a smaller diameter and circumference and connect with the threads inside the section. While the inner threads and the section threads connect tightly, they are not as difficult to unscrew when fully threaded.
The polycarbonate body is a bit light, but still feels sufficiently sturdy. The metal barrel options, of course, will provide more heft and durability. On its own, the polycarbonate body weighs just 0.2 ounces.
The diameter at the top of the body measures 9 mm, which is just slightly bigger than the top of the finial. The bottom of the barrel measures 10 mm across, while the opening on this end is 8.5 mm. There is no ink window, so if you want to check how much ink you have left, you will need to unscrew the body and check either the converter or cartridge.
The grip measures 27 mm long and the nib protrudes out another 24 mm. The same concentric rings that repeat on the cap and body are on the grip, too. The inner threads start about 1 mm inside the top of the section. Directly beneath the inner threads, there is another set of threads that you screw onto the feed. The shape of the section is conical, but instead of ending at a point, it ends at a smaller circle. The diameter of the top opening of the section is 11.5 mm, while the diameter at the bottom is 9 mm. The thinness of the wall at the bottom of the circle allows the lip of the feed to rest flush against the bottom of the section.
The section works well. The concentric rings on the grip continue the design of the body and cause no discomfort in use. The length and width of the section is sufficiently comfortable as well. With the section available in eight different materials, the standout feature here is variety.
Threaded into the grip, the black plastic feed is standard fountain pen fare. The feed measures 45 mm in length. With the nib attached, the entire unit measures 48 mm. The feed holds a #6 Peter Bock nib available in steel, titanium, or gold, as well as in sizes ranging from extra fine to broad. Hodges also offers a 1.1 mm stub nib in steel only.
|Nib Size Chart|
|1.1 mm stub|
The broad steel nib I ordered with my Gist writes smooth and consistent. The line it produces is broad, but not too wide. I like that the feed unscrews easily from the grip, which allows for easy switching should I choose to use a different #6 Bock nib. The smoothness and consistency of the nib and feed are standout features.
The Gist comes with a basic plastic piston converter that measures 27 mm in length, 3 mm shorter than common international converters. While the included converter is shorter than standard, the opening at the bottom is standard size, so cartridges that are no longer than 27 mm will also fit in the pen.
The converter included with the Gist is primarily clear with two silver bands, a black piston, and a white nipple on the end of the piston. Twisting the top section of the converter moves the piston up and down. The twisting action on the converter is very smooth. The top half of the top section has small lines etched in the surface to provide a noticeable tactile feel to where you should grip the converter to activate the piston.
The filling system on the Gist is basic and works as it should. The downside, as mentioned earlier, is that you cannot use a longer standard international converter in place of the one that is included with the Gist. Hodges does offer additional convertors for sale on his site.
How it writes
The Gist writes well. The Bock nib is smooth, the feed keeps up well with the broad nib I used, and the pen has good length and balance. Writing is consistent without skipping or hard starts. The Gist does not slide in the hand due to the repeated concentric rings and tapered section and barrel. The Gist is neither too heavy nor too wide or too thin, so longer writing sessions with the pen are doable. The pen itself writes great in spite of some of the design issues I have with it.
With eight materials, 21 different configurations of the cap, body, section, and finial, three different nib materials, each with 4 or 5 size options, the price range for the Gist varies considerably. Hodges offered lower pricing during his initial Kickstarter campaign, including a single $49.00 early bird discount. Now that Hodges fulfilled his Kickstarter pledges, his retail prices range from $99.00 for one of six combinations up to $299.00 for a titanium body with a Damascus steel section and finial.
|Cap and Body||Grip||Finial||Kickstarter Price||Retail Price|
|Polycarbonate||Stainless Steel||Stainless Steel||$79.00||$119.00|
|Stainless Steel||Stainless Steel||Stainless Steel||$129.00||$179.00|
|Polycarbonate||Damascus Steel||Damascus Steel||$139.00||$179.00|
|Titanium||Damascus Steel||Damascus Steel||$219.00||$299.00|
* Hodges offered a single early bird discount on Kickstarter for the all polycarbonate option with a steel nib. For the first 50 pens in this configuration, the price was $49. After that, the price rose to $59 during the Kickstarter campaign.
Extra sections retail between $15.00 and $65.00 depending on the material.
|Pricing for Additional Sections|
Hodges sells additional steel nibs for $15.00 each, titanium nibs for $59.00, and gold nibs for $119.00. Finally, additional converters are available for $4.00 each.
- Variety of materials: 21 different combinations of materials plus three nib materials, each with 4 or 5 nib sizes
- Cap posts easily and securely
- Nice weight and balance
- Nib and feed are smooth and consistent
- Packaging is well designed
- Acme threads are too strong (the cap can be too tight if twisted all the way)
- The clip is too strong
Who is it for
This pen may be polarizing in that some people may not care for the feel or look of the repeated concentric circles, the tightness that the threads produce, or the strength of the clip. On the other hand, those who like variety in their materials may enjoy the Gist.
The Gist could also be a great pen for those who want something sturdy and well built that does not slide around in hand and securely clips onto pockets. Perhaps those who work outdoors and want to use fountain pens in their work or those who want to use fountain pens in an industrial setting will benefit from the use of the Gist.
The heaviest Gist is the all copper version, which weighs 2.84 ounces. This is roughly half the weight of an official NHL hockey puck (PDF link).
The lightest Gist is the all polycarbonate version, which weighs 0.59 ounces. It would take nearly five all polycarbonate Gists to equal the weight of the hockey puck.