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Well, Josh beat me to the punch with his review of the TWSBI Eco (which is great, by the way: I have an Eco as well and love it). I’ll admit to being a tad disappointed that mine wasn’t the first pen review to go up, but that’s what you get for falling behind. On the upside, I don’t have to explain what a pen review is doing on a site (supposedly) about knives, so thanks, Josh. Load off my mind.
As much as I love fountain pens, they’re ill-suited to my work environment. Most of my uses for a pen are quickly jotting down notes on a variety of surfaces, often using my hand in lieu of scrap paper, and even when I have the luxury of writing on a hard surface, a fountain pen wouldn’t apply enough pressure to imprint onto the graphite copy of the forms I fill out.
Most sane people would look at such a predicament and buy a box of cheap pens from the nearest office supply store, but my fascination with shiny objects will have no truck with that. Thus, when I read Tony’s rave review of the Tactile Turn Shaker a few years back, I knew I had to get one. It appears that my reaction wasn’t an anomaly, either, as the Shaker is without a doubt the most commonly asked-after part of my daily carry.
Unfortunately, Will retired the Shaker years ago, so all I could tell the curious was that the pen was no longer sold. This was true until fall of last year, when he unveiled the second generation of Movers and Shakers, complete with a new, in-house clicky mechanism. Since then, the question has changed from “Where did you get that” to “Is it as good as the first one?” The short answer? Absolutely. Read on for the long answer.
General Dimensions and Details
The Shaker measures in at a neat 5” overall, and weighs just 1.13 ounces. While certainly heavier than the plastic pens supplied by most employers, it’s by no means egregious in use or in the pocket. This is also one of the few categories in which the two generations differ, as the original Shaker is ¼ ounce heavier. Another difference (and one that matters far more) is that Will took the grip pattern from the original Shaker and extended it over the entire body of the new model. The texturing is fantastic: it prevents your fingers from slipping, even in wet conditions, yet isn’t rough enough to cause any discomfort.
Will has a well-earned reputation for stellar machining, and this is plainly evident in the details of the second generation Shaker. Every line from the grip to the clicky mechanism is perfect. One example of this is the seam between the two halves of the body tube, which, while not entirely undetectable, plays a fair imitation of it. The threading is crisp, even, and smooth.
Writing and Refills
Each Shaker ships with a Schmidt Easy Flow 9000 refill. Prior to purchasing my original Shaker, the refill I was most familiar with was the Fisher Space Pen in black ink with a medium tip, and it’s probably the refill most folks in the gear community are familiar with. It writes anywhere, regardless of the conditions, and those are great attributes if you need them. If you don’t, there are significant shortcomings that may not be obvious if you haven’t tried other refills. Prior to using the Schmidt, I had no idea that it took an abnormal amount of pressure to write with the Fisher. Other than the weight of the pen, the Schmidt requires virtually no pressure to leave a smooth, consistent line on the page.
Fair warning to the left-handed: the Schmidt takes a few moments to dry, so if smudges are a concern, consider purchasing a different refill online or at a local office supply store. The Shaker accepts all Parker style refills, and I’ve been told it’ll take others if you trim them down to fit.
Deployment and Carry
What truly sets the second generation Shaker apart from the first is the new, in-house clicky mechanism. Good as it is, the original uses a brass Schmidt mechanism that’s prone to wearing out and jamming. It’s enough of a problem that I’ve had to replace the mechanism at least two times. By contrast, Will’s new design is constructed entirely of titanium, and thus far has proven to be quite robust. Despite the rough and tumble nature of fieldwork, the second generation exhibits none of the problems of its predecessor.
The Shaker is the perfect kind of pocket pen: unobtrusive and secure when it’s not needed, yet easy to access when it is. Will deserves a heap of praise for his clip design, which is so simple I can’t fathom why others aren’t using it. Clip aside, the new mechanism has a longer cycle length, which translates into fewer accidental exposures of the refill. More than a few of my old work shirts bear ink stains from the original Shaker.
Tactile Turn Shaker V2 Review – Final Thoughts
If you compare them side-by-side, it’s pretty clear that the Shaker V2 is substantially better. It’s lighter, has a better grip, a more robust mechanism, and in general is finished to a higher quality than the V1. I still carry my original Shaker on a regular basis, but frankly, for sentimental reasons rather than utilitarian ones.
There are a few competitors that operate in this little share of the market, but honestly, Will’s stuff is far and away my favorite. The Shaker V2 is my benchmark for modern ballpoint pens, and will remain so until someone manages to change my mind. If you need a pen that’s durable enough for fieldwork but elegant enough for the boardroom, look no farther.
Tactile Turn Shaker V2