Saturday, October 15, 2016

Tactile Turn Slider and Glider Review

Imagine you are a freelancer for the New York Times tasked with writing a story about the new "Maker Revolution."  I hate that term, "Maker" but whatever.  Where would you start?  I would start with Will Hodges of Tactile Turn.  He has also the bona fides (curious side note: bona fides has two correct, different pronunciations to go along with two different meanings; bone-a fee days = credentials, as in the sense I just used, bone-a fide, rhymes with "hide" means something like legitimate or real)--massively successful Kickstarters, great craftsman skill, a niche focus, and the classic beard/flannel shirt combo.  Great story.

But as I have been very clear about over the years, this site is about products and not stories of their makers.  I'll leave the Magical Thinking to other folks.  Here I focus on how good stuff is.  And if we are talking about Will Hodges made things, they are as good as it gets.  Each of his pens has been amazing, designs that I would not change at all.  And so we arrive at this:

Will Hodges:Machined Pens::Mike Trout:Baseball.

That's right, the debut of both was spectacular.  Their continued performance is equally good.  Neither leave room for fans to want more.  And so when Hodges drops new products we should all pay attention.  Recently he dropped two bolt action pens--a large (the Glider) and a small (the Slider).  So naturally, I have high expectations, but a sneaking suspicion that Hodges will meet them yet again.

But there is one twist to this story: the MaxMadCo Bolt Action Pen.  Simply put this is an absolutely perfect design of a bolt action pen--simple, slim, and very functional (unlike a lot of other bolt action pens).  So the bar is exceedingly high here.  The MMC Bolt Action is probably one of my favorite pieces of gear in the entire world, right up there with the Spyderco Dragonfly II in ZDP-189.

Can the Mighty Hodges meet that challenge?  Read on to find out.

Here is the product page. There are eight variants of the two sizes: aluminum, steel, brass, copper, titanium, DLC titanium, zirconium, and damascus.  I had a Glider in Zirc and a Slider in Ti in for review.  The Zirc pen is $199.95 and the Titanium pen is $79.95.  Here is a written review from the great Ed Jelley. Here is a video review.


Twitter Review Summary: Top flight from Tactile Turn...what did you expect?

Design: 2 (both)

Classic Tactile Turn design traits--tight groove pattern on the barrel, clean, clear lines, and a thick pocket clip.  Its all there.  This is unmistakably a Tactile Turn product.  


On thing that is a bit odd is that the opening for the tip of the pen to go through is a somewhat wide, not a big deal, but it does look a little funny.  I am also not sure why this is the case.  Just a point to make, not really a bad or a good thing.

Its Tactile Turn.  Its good design. 

Fit and Finish: 2 (both)

I could repeat that line again, and sub in "fit and finish" for design.  Its equally true, but there is one thing I want to point out.  On my Shaker, the fit and finish is so good that even staring right at it I can't see the seam between the top and the bottom half of the pen.  Here on the Glider and Slider, I can.  Its not a bit deal, for God's sakes most pen companies would kill for Will's tolerances in this area, but this the first thing I have seen from Will that tells me he is making stuff as opposed to using his Q powers to magically create perfection each and every time.  Still leagues above many production pens and as good as my Edison (review on that will be coming soon).  

Carry: 2 (both)

The Zirc Glider, the heaviest possible combination of types and materials, is a thunk in the pocket, but nothing outrageous.  Its not like carrying an 8 ounce knife.  Its heavy, but in a "you know its there" kind of way instead of a "God this a pain" kind of way. The titanium Slider was super polite.  

Appearance: 2 (both)

If the Zirc is heavy, its fine because gosh is it a pretty material.  Its not just "black titanium."  There is a bit of luster there that is hard to define, something like a combination of titanium and obsidian.  Its great looking.  And this is on top of the already great lines.  Both pens are easily "2s" but man is that Zirc pen great. 

Durability: 2 (both)

Both are built like a brick shithouse and both have clips that could carry a person's body weight (not really, but it sure seems like it).  I have no complaint here or with any of Will's pens on this front.  I beat my pens down like a thug carrying out a hit and every Tactile Turn product has held up quite admirably. 

Writing Performance/Refill: 2 (both)

The Slider runs a Parker style refill and the Glider a G2 one.  I like both, but if I were being honest, I like the G2 refill a bit better.  The Parker compatibility opens up a wider array of options, but the G2 refill itself, as shipped, is better.  Its a matter of preference really, as the EasyFlow 9000 that the Slider comes with is still pretty great, but the incredibly small line of the G2 allows me to write in my megatiny print.  Its one of my tricks, like being double jointed, I can write really small.  I sat down one day after lunch and wrote my two son's names on two grains of rice.  It was actually pretty easy.  I got almost both names on a single grain of rice before it broke into a bunch of pieces.

Balance/In Hand Feel: 2 (with the Glider being very close to a 1)

Here, the Glider, in Zirc, is just a bit too heavy for me.  There are a lot of moving parts up top and that, coupled with the denser material, starts to throw off your balance.  Its not exactly off, but close.  The titanium Slider was dreamy. 

Grip: 2 (both)

Tactile Turns's signature, tight milling is both nice to look at and great in the hand.  These are tough pens and you could using them with wet or dirty hands, but the look so nice you could also use then when wearing a suit.  Its hard to complain here--you get the best of both worlds.  

Barrel: 2 (titanium); 1 (zirconium)

In the end I liked both, both looked classy, but the zirconium barrel was just a bit to bulky to use over a long period of time.  To jot a note or sign a document, both are fine.  But if you plan on taking pages of notes, you better have some limber digits because the zirconium pen is heavy and the barrel is extra bulk.

Deployment Method/Cap: 1 (both)

And finally, after three reviews, there is something I am not completely blown away by on Will's pens.  The bolt path here is not as clean or as precise as that on the MMC.  That pen snaps into place and out of place with a thoughtless flick.  Here, you have a bit of manuvering to do and sometimes the pen can get stuck.  My Zirc model actually got stuck in the open position a few times--the bolt was retracted by the pen tip was still out.  A few times with both pens, the bolt didn't fall exactly into the bottom of the track and when I went to write, the pen tip snapped back inside the pen itself. 


This is proof that Will Hodges is great, but mortal.  For anyone else, this pen would be a high watermark.  For Will it is slightly less than perfect, which means its below his average.  Still great though...

Overall Score: Glider: 18 out of 20; Slider: 19 out of 20

The Glider and Slider have one issue--a hitch in their bolt-action giddy up that the MMC Bolt Action Pen does not.  To be fair, only the MMC has that super smooth, spring action feel of the bolt action pens I have tried.  Both the Glider and Slider are truly great pens and without the MMC Bolt Action, it is entirely possible that the Slider would have scored a 20/20.  But the MMC does something that no other bolt pen does and it does it in a slimmer package than any other bolt action pen.  And for that, it bears on the conversation here.

If I were choosing between the two pens, I'd take the MMC, but I wouldn't think it was wrong to go the other way.  The Glider and Slider have a better grip and they are more stylish by a country mile.  I also think these pens further cement Will Hodges reputation in my mind.  He does great work.

The short version of this entire thing is simple--the non-Zirc Slider isn't perfect, but it is very, very good.  The MMC Bolt Action is better, but it too is not perfect and the scores would be so close (if the MMC Bolt Action had been scored) preference can dictate your pick.  For what its worth, the price is about the same on the two pens as well, when you price comparable materials (as Ameer points out below, they aren't exactly the same price, but close...).

CORRECTION: They aren't "comparable" in terms of price.

Finally, here is the Zirc model resting in a NockCo case.  Love this set up.



  1. Thanks for another great review, Tony. I was actually considering my first "good pen" when the slider and glider popped up, and the mmc was in the running for me.

    I went with a ti glider as not only my first nice pen, but also my first Kickstarter and first tactile turn product (although I bought a gist as a gift).

    Sounds like I won't be disappointed (although fidget factor was a major consideration, so a I'm a little disappointed to see the tt falls below the mmc in that regard).

    I have to disagree with your comment on the prices being comparable, though. As of the writing of this comment an ss slider/glider vs mmc is $59 vs $85. Ti is $79 vs $125. That's pretty significant. In particular, I think it's impressive that Will got the price of the ti down so low compared to the competition.

  2. According to their website, the zirconium is the second lightest of the six materials listed, as seen here:

  3. $35 and $45 price differences are hardly "close" when the prices are in the 2- and 3-digit camp.