Will Hodges is something of a phenom. His first few products have repeatedly done very well, both commercially and critically. The classic Tactile Turn texture is beautiful and functional. His stuff is simple, functional, and durable. I loved the first Shaker, so when Will reached out to me about a Gen 2 I was excited, because it was a new product, but I was also a bit apprehensive. How much could this new pen really improve on the original, given how good that original was? This review will answer that question.
Here is the Kickstarter, which is funded so buy with confidence. Here is the product page for the original. Here is my review of the original. There are two releases here--a large pen, the Mover, and a smaller pen, the Shaker. As is my tendency I prefer the smaller of the two, given that function is identical. There are bevy of options for both.
And here are the review samples along with the old Shaker:
Twitter Review Summary: A solid upgrade and totally worth your money.
The design, externally, has only a few changes, none of which are monumental. Now that distinctive Tactile Turn texturing graces the entire body of the pen, not just the grip section. Additionally, the nock is configured a bit differently. These differences are slight and so when placed side by side only aficionados would be able to tell the difference.
The guts of the pen, however, are very different. The Gen 1 Movers and Shakers used an off the shelf mechanism made by Schmidt. It was the same mechanism found in many machined pens including the Tuff Writer. The mechanism itself is very good. As implemented on the Gen 1 Movers and Shakers, it did not have a sufficiently long stroke and I lost one dress shirt to an ink stain. The issue was, even when retracted, the tip of the pen was just inside the pen housing. Now, the pen tip is held deeper inside the pen. I found that the new mechanism is a bit easy to push and that it is more consistent than the Schmidt mechanism--that is, there are fewer hang ups or misfires when pressing the nock and extending the tip of the pen.
Overall, I like the new, in-house mechanism a lot more. It is very smooth, it allows for a long stroke for the pen refill, and it is more consistent. It is also weighted differently resulting in a better balance for the pen in both the aluminum and titantium version that I was sent for review.
Fit and Finish: 2
The pen seam trick still disappears. The clip is still wonderfully attached. All of the things you would expect from a Tactile Turn product are still hear, meaning, of course, that this is an incredibly well made object. In talking to Will for the podcast, there were a couple of things that he told me that really cement in my mind that this is an excellent pen. First, there is the fact that he designed and made the mechanism himself despite already using a very good mechanism. Second, there is the fact that he took the time to vary the thickness of the walls of the pen internally so that it is weighted correctly in the pen. This is a masterful design that has been obsessively implemented. And the result is a truly enjoyable object to use and hold. You will not be disappointed.
I don't know about the Movers, but the Shaker is, for me, just the right size. It is big enough that I don't get that "writing with a golf pencil" feel that sometimes occurs with very small pens. It also fits quite nicely into the pocket for transport. More importantly though, is the fact that the "stroke" of the pen is much longer. The tip of the refill hides deep within the pen making it very hard for it accidentally write. I lost a shirt to the original because of its short stroke, so for me, someone that carries this pen in the shirt pocket all of the time, the difference is a big one. This, alone, is an upgrade that is worth the price of admission.
This pen, like the Gist and the Slider, is covered completely with the Tactile Turn texture. The result is a truly beautiful pen that LOOKS like a Hodges design. The original had the texturing just at the grip section, and while it too looked very nice, this pen's extra texturing gives it a more unique look. This is not a big deal, but it is notable. Both this pen and the original really hit the minimalism look right on the nose, unlike, say, the Baron Fig Squire. Note, this pen has zero logos and one pocket clip. This vastly preferred over the Squire which has TWO logos and no pocket clip. The texturing is all you need to tell you this is a Tactile Turn pen, no logo necessary. This, my friends, his how you do branding. Baron Fig, please take note.
Like the original, the Gen 2 Shaker is built like a baseball bat. Unlike the original, this clicky mechanism is also built like a baseball bat. There is nothing at all wrong with the original Schmidt nock--nothing. But if you want that extra bit of oomph, that extra feel of solidity, this mechanism gives you that.
Writing Performance/Refill: 2
Will was smart and made this pen, like the original, compatible with all of the best refills. Personally, I do not like black refills (the whole copy vs. originals thing is a big deal for lawyers), but I have stash of good blue ones, so as soon as I got the pen, I took out the stock refill and replaced it with a fine, blue EasyFlow refill.
Balance/In-hand Feel: 2
Aside from the stroke of the pen, this is where the biggest upgrade is between the Gen 1 and Gen 2 Shaker. Will remade the nock mechanism. Unlike the original, which ran stainless steel guts, this one uses titanium. The result is a much improved balance in hand. The balance is so good that I don't really have a preference between the aluminum and the titanium version.
Well, this is the brand's namesake, so you know the grip has to be good. And, in fact, it is as good as advertised. In many ways, the Tactile Turn texture solves all of the problems associated with adding grip to tools. It doesn't have that gummy, grime-attracting feel of rubberized grips. It has none of the harsh, sandpaper feel of G10. Its not sawtooth shreddy like poorly cut jimping. And, unlike other textures, this looks great. Honestly, I'd love a flashlight and knife with similar texture. Just great.
Over the years I have found that these 3/4 sized pens are the best pens out there for purposes of use and carry. Those big, long Mont Blanc pens are wonderful, but they aren't exactly a down and dirty pen that you haul from place to place. This pen, with its slightly more manageable barrel is.
So the main benefits of the redesigned nock mechanism are really strong points in favor of the new Shaker--balance, a longer stroke, and durability are all great, but there is some undeniable fun to be had when fidgeting with this nock. Its so fast and so effortless. There are many fewer "misfires." Overall, it just feels better.
Overall Score: 20 out of 20, PERFECT
With this new nock mechanism, I feel confident in saying that this version of the Shaker is at least an equal to the MaxMadCo bolt action pen. Its a little beefier and much grippier than the MMC. And with that, I think it is fair to ask if this is the best machined metal pen available. For me, its hard to find something outright better. The improved balance and more reliable nock mechanism are good. The longer stroke is tremendously helpful for those of us that breast pocket carry pens. And the entire body being Tactile Turn textured is great.
The real question is whether this pen is worth the upgrade. If you carry pens in your clothes and don't want them messed up, the answer is a simple yes. For me, my pens are always carried in a suit or a dress button down and the first version of the pen cost me a shirt. So the longer stroke is a very big deal. If you don't care about that kind of stuff, then the pen might not be a must-buy upgrade. It is certainly better. It is now one of my one or two favorite non-fountain pens ever, but the original was damn good too. For me, the question of upgrading is really simple--whether you appreciate the longer stroke or not, the new pens aren't that expensive and over the long run they will last longer and work better. If this was a $200 item, I would tell you the upgrade isn't worth it. At its price on Kickstarter, even if you don't care about dress shirts, it is a worthy upgrade.
In case your wondering, I love both versions, the titanium and the aluminum. The aluminum is lighter, but the titanium feels better balanced. And well, I do like titanium.
I think it is fair to say that with this iteration the MMC Bolt is no longer my favorite capless machine pen design. Now it comes down to this pen and the Prometheus Writes Alpha, which, while having a cap, uses the best non-fountain pen refill on the planet. Its exceptionally close, especially when you drop in a good fine blue refill here. I don't know which I would choose. Fortunately, I own both, so I don't have to.