Thursday, August 7, 2014

Tactile Turn Shaker

When I was writing the Top 5 EDC pens list, I reached out to Brad Dowdy, the Pen Addict, and he recommended I take a look at the Tactile Turn Mover or Shaker (the Mover is the full sized pen and the Shaker is something like a 3/4 sized pen, between a full pen and a golf pencil).  I went to the site and saw the two pens and I was impressed by the impeccable lines and the stout materials.  But I thought that there was no reason to get one, having reviewed the Tuff Writer Ultimate Clicky, a very similar design using the same German nock mechanism. 

Safe to say after a good stretch of time with intensive use, I was wrong.  The Tactile Turn Shaker is a superior pen.  Its truly great and thanks to a cleaner design and thinner body, it is a true writer.  The Tuff Writer is great, but it is so heavy duty and so stout that over long writing sessions it begins to feel like your writing with a stalactite.  The Tactitle Turn Shaker quickly proved itself to be superior, as a writer to the Tuff Writer, and quickly challenged the MaxMadCo Bolt Action and the Prometheus Alpha as my favorite EDC pen.  That's some pretty hallowed company, but this thing is just amazing.  Right away you can tell, given the competition, its going to get a good score.  The real issue is whether it gets a perfect score.

Here is the product page.  Here is the Kickstarter for the new "Exotic Metals" runs of the two pens.  The exotic materials are 1) titanium (this review is the titanium model); 2) brass; 3) copper; and 4) bronze. Both the Mover and the Shaker ("s" is for Shaker and Small, that was my mnemonic I used for writing this review) are available in any of those four metals.  There are lots of pledge levels and pen material combos, but the basics are this:

Aluminum: $50 ($45 on early bird with 1 left at the time the review is written)
Brass: $60 (with $55 and one left on early bird)
Copper: $75
Bronze: $90
Titanium: $100

These prices are well within the norm and favorably compared to the Embassy Pen lines which have many of the same materials at a slightly higher set of prices without the click mechanism. 

Here is a written (and I mean written) review by Ed Jelley.  There are no video reviews, but here is the KS video:

Finally, here is the review sample with some of my favorite gear:   


Twitter Review Summary: The high water mark for EDC pens.

Design: 2

Looks can be deceiving because while APPEARING simple, the Shaker is anything but.  The look is so clean in part because of some truly superior machining (more on that below) and because of Will, the maker, and his ability to hide fasteners.  The clip buries nicely into the tail area of the pen and the grip section is scored nicely with some machined in ridges.  The overall design is simply flawless.  There are so many small touches and neat ideas that it took me awhile to fully appreciate just how cool the pen is.  The size is also perfect.  Big pens are great if you work in an office or write only at a desk but if you are on the move, I have found that these 3/4 pens work perfectly.  Finally, and perhaps most noteworthy, Will did a lot of work on the pen to make it light despite the material.  Titanium is light in comparison to stainless steel, so on knives it feels different, but in the pen world, where a lot of high quality stuff is resin, it feels like a boat anchor most of the time.  Here, the Shaker design calls for a significant amount of material to be removed and the pen's feel is amazing because of it.  The pen is still plenty stout, but it feels much better.


Fit and Finish: 2

Okay, here is a quiz.  Where does the pen body screw apart?  Not near the grip section, that is a machining line for added grip. Not near the top, close to the nock.  In fact, the pen unscrews at the midpoint.  You might be able to see it in this picture if you look very, very closely.  There is a hair line that is potentially visible on the lower half of the pen body, where the titanium looks more silver than black.


This is a testament to the pen's fit and finish.  Frankly the machining here is off the charts amazing.  The nock feels great (as this nock always does).  The grip is well cut and effective.  The taper towards the writing end of the pen is consistent.  There nothing at all to complain about here, as it relates to how this pen was made.  There is some stickiness in the threading, but that has to do with the material (titanium is notoriously sticky) and not the fit and finish.  This is one of the finest items I have reviewed in terms of fit and finish, from custom lights to high end knives.  The Shaker's fit and finish is simply insane.  The seam isn't just finger flush, its almost invisible, and the rest of the pen is that good.

Carry: 2

As beefy has the clips have been on other EDC pens like the TuffWriter and the the Alpha, the Shaker's is thicker still.  It also has a nice round finish and it isn't so tight as to be annoying.


The pen's heft is enough to remind you your carrying it, but not enough to be a problem.  I also like the sleek body, as it makes stowing and retrieving the pen incredibly easy.  The titanium is quite tough and dropping this in a pocket won't make you worry for the Shaker.  It can take a hit or two and still look just fine.

Appearance: 2

I get that some folks don't like the 1950's Space Blaster look of the TuffWriter.  I also understand that the Alpha can appear a bit ostentatious.  Both have strong looks that can polarize people.  But the Shaker's super clean appearance can't possibly offend someone.  It harkens back to the classic Parker Jotter, but with build quality and size that suggests the pen is tougher than the Jotter.  Every element works well and mates well with everything else and nothing seems disproportionate or out of place.  Simple, clean, and elegant.  Finally, the brushed finish will hide scratches well.  This is a gorgeous minimal design.

Durability: 2 

In the two weeks or so I had this pen, I put it through the ringer.  First I did not one, but two back to back depositions.  While they are audio recorded and transcribed, I am bit Type A and so I also try to do verbatim or near verbatim notes (using a note taking system I devised in high school).  The two depositions took about 3 to 4 hours.  I took roughly between 30 and 40 pages of notes.  It was exhausting.  After that I did the lawyer equivalent of lightning round hearings interviewing lots of people for quick court hearings.  I was in a secured facility, standing up, writing on cinder blocks and talking to very (understandably) stressed people.  It was a lot of pressure and a horrible writing environment.  Both these tasks, in the past, have killed lesser pens.  Here the Shaker was not just fine.  It worked superbly well.  I can't speak to long term durability, but my weekly routine was more than enough to kill not one but two Retro 51s in under a months time.  Given the materials and the build quality, I have no reason to think the Shaker would fall anywhere near that fast.  Its not the TuffWriter, but its plenty tough for 99% of the folks in the world. 

Writing Performance/Refill: 2 

The pen takes a number of refills and is most importantly compatible with the Parker refill.  This means it works with Parker refills which are available everywhere, Fisher refills which are great for EDC use, and it comes with the excellent Schmidt 9000 Easyflow refill, my favorite of the Parker refills.  Finally, if you want uber-fine lines you can pick up the Moleskine gel refill in the Parker format. The versaility of the refill format is second to none.

Balance/In Hand Feel: 2

This is where the Shaker kills everything else.  This pen is as balanced as a scale.  It has enough heft to feel "there" but not so much that it taxes you as you write.  The double depos would be enough, with even a decent "in hand" pen, to give me Captain Hook hand, but the Shaker didn't.  Instead, I was fine.


Its not just the size here, though I like that as well.  Its the balance.  Loveless knives were known for their wonderful balance and I think, given Will's machining of this titanium unit, he might just be known for that same thing in the pen world.  Simply put, there is no EDC pen that I have tried that is better in the hand than this one.  Home run.

Grip: 2

The grip area on EDC pens is always a challenge.  The temptation to make it really pronounced (read: overdone) is huge.  But here Will's choice, as with all of his choices, was the right one.  The entire grip area is made of nothing but subtle machined rings.  They are hard to see and even harder to photograph, but I tried anyway:


Despite their appearance they are effective at making sure the pen doesn't move around.  They do an excellent job of locking your fingers in place but they are not so prominent that they become uncomfortable over time.  Again, its clear to me that Will planned this pen as a pen first, and then made it substantial later.  This is a writer first and foremost and the grip is yet another thing that tells you that.

Barrel: 2 

The barrel's brushed appearance is not just perfectly in step with the pen's overall minimalist look, it is also great at hiding scratches and dings.  Additionally, it allows you to remove the pen from your pocket with ease.  There is no tugging or snagging that sometimes happens with the overly tactical EDC pens.  While I know it doesn't really do anything for the function of the pen the fact that the barrel screws together seamlessly is a pretty cool feet.

Deployment Method/Cap: 2 

I have always been a fan of capless pens for EDC use.  Its just one less part to lose.  If you aren't getting up and moving around a lot, this is no big deal.  But if you are moving around, writing in all sorts of places, in a rush, grabbing things and going, like I am, a clicky or twisty pen is really the way to go.  I can take a cap, especially if it posts, but in the ideal world, all EDC pens would be capless.  The Shaker is, as you can see, capless.  Yet another feather in its cap (PUNTACULAR!).

Overall Score: 20 out of 20; PERFECT SCORE

Simply put, this is my ideal EDC pen.  It is tough and durable, but doesn't forget that its main job is to write.  It has no delusions of grandeur that it is, in actuality, some kind of ninja weapon.  It doesn't look like a medieval torture device or a medical tool from a horror movie.  It looks like a pen designed by the Bauhaus (which is a very good thing in my mind), and it writes superbly well.  

In some cases I worry about giving out a perfect score.  It has happened very rarely, averaging about 4 per year.  I am concerned I didn't test the product long enough or I was enamored with some new feature.  But here, I have no doubt.  The Tactile Turn Shaker is the perfect EDC pen.  Go buy one before they are gone.  You won't be sorry you did.    

The Competition

I as mentioned above, the competition at the top of the EDC pen heap is pretty tight.  The Alpha's Fineliner refill is amazing, a better writer for those of us that like bold (and I mean BOLD) lines, but it has a cap.  The TuffWriter is tougher than this pen (hell, its tougher than most knives I own), but it is nowhere near the writer.  The MaxMadCo pen is also excellent, but the super slick body made it not as good in the hand and not as good in the pocket (or out of the pocket, because the clip and barrel couldn't generate enough friction to keep it in place).   The Shaker does everything exceedingly well and thus, while I could see purchasing any of the other three pens I listed here for specific reasons, the Shaker would do just as well in those roles most of the time and is better in other aspects.  If you don't have any high durability pen, if this is your first foray in to EDC pens, then the Shaker is the right place to start.  


  1. Impressive, I hope to learn a thing or two from Karas Kustoms.

  2. I dunno about getting this one. It just reminds me too much of a Parker Jotter Stainless Steel with a more robust clip and different barrel material options.

    For the price of the aluminum Shaker I can two of the Parker Jotter Stainless Steel or even about eight of the Zebra F701s.

    Yah - it has the exclusivity of a custom but that is all it has going for it. Which makes it one of those items I would never let out of my sight and would hate to misplace or lose. Nice pen and great review though. Thanks.

  3. I was going to pass on this one...but a perfect score, well I pledged for a Al version.

  4. Thanks for the review.
    Your pic of some favorite gear compels me to ask if you could please do a post where you summarize your current favorite gear from your personal collection in each EDC category. Top three knives, lights, tools, pens etc...


    2. I am working on the yearly update to the price based recommendation series as well.

  5. I am very much looking forward to reading the review on that Obtanium wallet! Not that I don't appreciate the pen reviews, I've just come to accept the Pilot G2 as *my* pen* and am happy with it.

  6. I already have the maxmadco pen (including the grip rings). Would you consider this pen to really be a big upgrade over it?

  7. Am I the only one who thinks these are basically a copy of the karas kustoms retrakt? It seems like he only has a lathe, so he designed around that, but it seems like a rip-off, just saying...

    1. The only thing they share is the click mechanism and the fact that they're both pens.

      The Retrakt has no grip, other than the knurling on the end which looks great but serves no purpose. The Shaker's grip is better appreciated by feel instead of sight.
      The difference is really apparent when you look at where the pen screws together. You can barely see it on the Shaker.
      The Shaker's clip is cleverly hidden, the Retrakt's clip is just bolted on.

      I own both pens and I love them both, but don't kid yourself - the Shaker is in a whole league above.

      (As a side note, it was really nice when my Shaker arrived with an ink cartridge. Why the Karas still ships theirs without one still baffles me.)

  8. I currently own 3 of Wills' pens. The Z pen, Aluminum Mover and Brass Mover. Waiting on the Ti Mover. I love them! I especially like Pilot Juice refills. The aluminum is my go to for traveling southeast Asia. Don't feel at all that these are a copy of the Karas. These are a bit more solid feeling.

  9. I'll keep my brass-thread Jotters from the 1950s and 1960s. The tapering nylon barrel is easier to grip and more comfortable for my hand than a constant-diameter stainless one. Also, unless these are much lighter than they look, I would continue to prefer the Jotter on those grounds too.

    And if you want a "tactical" pen that coulfd serve at a minor weapon, you need the Parker Flighter model of Jotter. That's long, thin, and has a point end that would puncture skin easily with a firm job.

  10. I already have the maxmadco pen (including the grip rings). Would you consider this pen to really be a big upgrade over it?