Saturday, June 8, 2013

TuffWriter Ultimate Clicky Titanium Review

Let's be honest--titanium is to gear geeks what carbon fiber monocoques are to car guys.  Sure, they have actual, practical benefits, but the real allure is the look itself.  Titanium flashlights are, well, obscenely addictive, as are titanium framelocks.  So when Jack at TuffWriter dropped the news that the Ultimate Clicky was being made even more ultimate via an entirely titanium barrel, I was excited.  When he contacted me and asked if I would take a look, I was downright giddy.

You know the format by now, but I am going to break with tradition and show you a lustworthy pic:


On top is the Ultimate Titanium Clicky and on the bottom is my well used Aluminum version.  Yes, it is as gorgeous in person as it is in the picture, actually a bit more so.  Here is the Kickstarter page for the Ultimate Titanium Clicky (UTC).  The polished version costs $175.  You have only a few days left. Here is the product page for the Aluminum version.  Here is my review of the Aluminum version, pre-scoring system.  

Twitterable Review Summary: Gorgeous, indestructible, heavy clicky made of Ti...yummmm  

Design: 2

I loved the Al version because it was one of the few really hard use, durable pens that didn't have a cap.  This version is exactly the same, with an insanely smooth clicky.  The size is quite nice, though this is a hefty pen, even heftier than the Al version.  Here is the UTC next to the Zippo:


It is not quite a steel barreled Montblanc beast, but it is pretty beefy.  The more I used the UTC and the Al version the more I came to really, really like the simple o-ring grip.  It has even started to appeal to me on an aesthetic level.  It is an elegant solution that offers superior grip when compared to knurled, checked, or cross-hatched grips on other hard use pens. 

All of this praise of its refined and beautiful design ignores the fact that this thing is a beast.  The demo videos on TuffWriter's website are pretty insane, the pen equivalent of Cold Steel's blue jeans snuff films.  But the reality is, if you are like me, you will never use this pen to stab someone or hammer through a 2x4.  During real world use, lots and lots of travel, lots and lots of different hands, and a real beating in my briefcase, this pen just laughed.  I have been using the Al version much longer and it is practically like new other than the cool buffed sheen the bead blasted aluminum has developed.

Fit and Finish: 2

Simply put, there is nothing like it in the tactical pen/hard use pen market.  It syncs together like magnetized pieces.  There is no cross threading or rough edges.  The pen barrel is so closely sized that is seems like you create a vacuum when you drop the refill in.  There is no wobble or wiggle.  No clicking or knocking when everything is assembled an amazing feat for clicky pen. 

Carry: 1

The heft of the pen comes with two costs.  This is one of them.  The Al version is a thunk in the pocket at 1.66 ounces.  The UTC is even heavier at 2.1 ounces.  This is a heavy pen.  It is a virtually indestructible pen, but a heavy one.  

Appearance: 2

I didn't like the 1950s ray gun aesthetic originally, but it has grown on me.  Add to that a layer of refinement thanks to the gleaming polish on the titanium and...well...this is a handsome pen.  


I think the Alpha is probably a little bit prettier, but this bests the Render K and many of the other bland, machinist aesthetic Kickstarter pens.  Plus, this one is built like a tank.  I am not sure if any other KS pen could hang in there in a torture test.

Durability: 2

Shut up.  Seriously?  I'd give it a 3 or maybe a 4 if I could.  I feel like, in a pinch, a sniper could use this thing as a bullet, shoot it through a cinder block wall, take out the "target", and then write out a messy check.  Okay, maybe that is a bit of an exaggeration.   Maybe.

Writing Performance/Refill: 2

Jack and TuffWriter chose the right format--Parker refills.  You can get Fisher refills for it (it comes with a black one).  You can get Paker gels or my favorite (thanks Brad) the Moleskine gel refill.  Schmidt makes a host of nice refills in the EasyFlow line.  The sheer variety means that you will find something that will suit your needs.   

Balance/In Hand Feel: 1

Phew...what a work out.  I went from testing the all plastic featherweight Lamy Safari to testing this beast.  Yowza.  As with the Al version, the pen is very well balanced, it is just heavy.  As I mentioned before there are costs to having a nigh invincible pen and this is the second one.  A long hearing or a deposition just about did me in, but for a hour or so of note taking or the occasional use, the weight is okay and the balance is actually quite good.  

Grip: 2

I mentioned this above but it worth repeating: this actually a very comfortable grip.  The o-rings are simple, but they have a little give and some tactile feedback.  


I also think they look nice, an echo of the touches on the barrel itself.

Barrel: 2

Oh man, this is where the UTC smokes the Al version.  I simply cannot get over how cool the polished Ti looks.  It feels great in your hand, smooth and well-worn.  I can only imagine what will happen once it acquires the "Sebenza patina" that knife knuts know and love.  This is a beautiful pen, especially among the hard use pens available, many of which are hideous when it comes to the barrels.  Even with the raygun aesthetic, I am smitten.  Its titanium.  I am addict, what can I say?   The barrel also scores well because it is balanced and just the right size.  Some of these hard use pens have ENORMOUS and awkward barrels, handling something like a sheet of drywall being carried by one person.  Not here.  Jack did a great job with the barrel on the Al version and the UTC is even better, because, stop me if you heard this, its titanium.

Deployment Method/Cap: 2

Clickies are very complex, given their task.  They are difficult to machine, especially in metal, which is why you see so few of them among the hard use pen set.  So to have a clicky and have it be a superb version, well...its amazing.  And this is a superior clicky.  It operates quietly, if not silently, and unlike the Al version, this one has been perfect.  Every once in a while the Al version will misfire, nothing big, but noticeable.  Here, you get a silky action and a bright gleaming knock.    

Overall Score: 18 out of 20

Until the Ultimate Titanium Clicky you had a choice among small batch and Kickstarter pens--you could get a stylish pen, like the Render K (which doesn't allow for the cap to post, which I find incredibly annoying) or you could get a tough pen, like the Embassy Pen from County Comm.  The original Al version gets you part of the way there, but the Ultimate Titanium Clicky gives you the best of both.  If you have the Al version, you probably don't NEED the UTC, but if you don't or you are looking to bling out your Instagram EDC pics completing the all Ti EDC trio of a McGizmo and a Hinderer XM-18, well, then Mr. Snooty, you have no choice but to get this pen.  To put it another way, if the Al version was the pen equivalent of the production version of the Paramilitary 2--an effective tool with brutish durability, the UTC is a Sprint PM2.  This is a special pen.  And though it costs a lot, there is not really anything else like it.  The list of good looking, insanely durable, clicky pens is a list of one. 


  1. Ok, so which one do you prefer... Prometheus Alpha ( or the UTC small difference in scoring not-with-standing?

    1. Geez that is tough. I have a very unusual set of writing tasks every day: I write A LOT, probably on aveage about an hour to two a day, I also give my pen away to folks to sign stuff, and I do a lot of traveling. The Al TuffWriter has hung in there for 6 months so far, much longer than anything other than a modded Zebra F-701, and it has performed much better than my mod pen. Given that the Alpha does well at writing for a long time, but not as well at traveling, I feel like I have to baby the finish more. I am sure I don't, but it is a natural tendency. I'd say this: if you do a lot of writing and don't put wear on the pen, get the Alpha, if you do a little less writing or put wear on the pen get the TuffWriter. It is as damage resistant as they claim without the hassle of a cap. Both are excellent pens and both could serve you for a long time, you just need to figure out what you use your pens to do and that will give you the answer.

    2. Excellent analysis, though I'd add one should select with the cartridge as well. Montblanc I'm sure writes wonderfully. But for me and my 'I don't always write, but when I do, it's in crazy conditions' style, the Tuffwriter wins for having the durable, low-clog Space Pen refill. (Disclosure: I own an Al Ultimate and have a Ti ordered.)

    3. Thanks for the reply Tony. I have an Alpha on order. Trying to assess if I need the TuffWriter too ! :)

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  4. Hi Tony,
    Based primarily on your review, I've been lusting after the UTC for a while now. But, because the Kickstarter was over and Tuff Writer only offered the Al version, I thought I would never get one. Just a month and a half ago, they released the production version of the UTC in Tumbled, Brushed, and Polished finishes. There are a few differences, one of which is a Titanium tip instead of an SS tip.

    I was given the polished version for christmas, and it is awesome. I was wondering about how yours has aged. From your pictures, it looks like you have the brushed or polished version. Has it marked up a lot? Does it re-polish easily? This is a tough pen and I intend it to be a user, so I don't mind that it'll scuffed up.

    I also ordered a 0.5mm blue Moleskine refill on your recommendation. The medium fisher is ok, but I need a fine tip for work and for my general preferences.

    1. Mine was a review sample sent by Tuff Writer. The AL version has held up very well and appears to have a stonewashed finish thanks to the beatings it has taken in the year since I got it.

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