Cool: Retro 1951’s Black Fade to Silver Tornado

On National Handwriting Day (January 23rd), I stumbled upon a Retro 1951 contest where a couple of prizes would be awarded for good handwriting while a few more would be randomly chosen. The prize? One of four one-of-a-kind Retro 51 Tornados, or the Goncalo (wooden) Tornado, AND a Retro 1951 t-shirt.

So of course, I entered. Using the Albert Tornado I had with me that day, I wrote out the required tag line:

“Life is too short to carry an Ugly Pen.”

Retro 51 Contest Entry

Winners were announced on January 26th and I…

WON!

My entry was picked for one of the handwriting prizes, and I was thrilled. (I’m still thrilled.)

After looking over the selection of Tornado prizes, I quickly chose the Black Fade to Silver with line cut barrel. The glow-in-the-dark owl/floral pen was a close second, but the Fade pen is more “me.”

Black Fade to Silver Tornado

This one-of-a-kind pen was produced by the factory, but never introduced into the Tornado line. Which seems a shame because it’s super cool. Featuring pitch black knurling and clip, the color of the barrel gradually fades into shiny silver. Toss in the line cut barrel, and you’ve got yourself one stunning, great feeling pen.

Pitch black knurling

It’s stealthy AND shiny— a very unique combination for a very original look.

Black Fade to Silver

The Black Fade to Silver Tornado is a pen that I think would do exceptionally well in the Tornado line-up (and the comments on my Instagram feed seem to back this up). Hint, hint, nudge, nudge.

Other Tornado models

Retro 51 is a company that does so many things right. At a time when we’re hearing of more and more pen companies leaving the customer out of their business decisions, Retro 51 regularly engages their fans with contests and requests for ideas and feedback. By regularly introducing new designs (wallet draining designs), the offerings remain fresh—with something for just about anyone. Whether you want something simple, textured, wooden, humorous, or even glow-in-the-dark, there’s a model for you…or there will be in the near future. Much like the Field Notes Colors subscriptions, these are pens I can’t resist even though I have PLENTY. Maybe even PLENTY times 2.

A Tornado line-up

 The shape of the pen may stay the same, but no two pens look alike. In the handful of Tornados shown above, there’s superb variety— a simple lacquered Kiwi green Tornado, a glow-in-the dark Zag, the playful Space Invaders model, my prize pen, the gorgeous Monroe, the textured Franklin, and chalkboard-like Albert.

Knurling

The Tornado’s knurling is a constant, as is the great writing experience. Whether you’re using the pen with the included rollerball refill, swapping in the slightly finer Schmidt P8126 rollerball refill or a Schmidt EasyFlow 9000 ballpoint refill, you’ll find the writing experience to be dark and rich.

The pens are addictive—in build quality, in smoothness, and in looks. Oh, and in affordability, too.

Retro 1951 is a company that does things right—from maintaining high quality standards, to building great looking pens, while also actively and regularly engaging their fan base. Am I biased because I won a pen— a very cool pen? Probably, but I’ve been a fan for a long time, as evidenced by my sizable collection.

Black Fade to Silver Tornado

Life IS too short to carry an ugly pen, OR to deal with an ugly pen company.

With Retro 1951, you don’t have to worry about either. Cool pens. Cool company.

Which is why this t-shirt is so fitting.

Retro 51 t-shirt prize

Thank you, Retro 1951, for my prize, and for being…well…cool.

2014 Wrap-Up: The Feelings

Simple tree
Simple tree

I had planned to get a post up last week, but then I caught a cold (unexpected) and Christmas arrived (expected). One thing was fun, the other not so much. Slowly coming out of my sinus miseries and low-key Christmas celebrations to think about getting things back to normal. Well, normalish.

Baking cookies
Baking molasses cookies. Or as I call them, mole asses cookies.

I’m off from work for most of the week— just have to pop in on Friday for a little while— so every day feels like Saturday lately. Which is what I imagine heaven feels like.

Christmas colored Retro 51s
My festive Retro 51s

A couple of feelings routinely kick in this time of year, as one year ends and the other begins. The first is gratitude. Thanks for all of the good stuff and good people that I’ve encountered in the last year, much of it related to pens (and paper and ink and pencils) and the pen/pencil communities. These are the places where I feel most comfortable, where my introverted tendencies vanish, where I have a blast.

The Retrakt
Karas Kustoms Retrakt

Though not a complete list by any means, these are just some of the people and places who made 2014 a memorable year:

Podcasts/Videocasts
The Pen Addict with Brad and Myke (responsible for oh so many pen purchases and for an always entertaining commute)
The Erasable Podcast with Andy, Johnny, and Tim (Who would’ve thought I’d listen to a show about pencils? I do, and I love it.)
Anderson Pens (Oh, that chat! It’s like meeting with friends every time I tune in.)
SBREBrown & Gourmet Pens & the “I won’t be ignored” kitty (Great information with great humor. You guys rock.)

Pen, pencil, ink, notebook, and storage vendors
Anderson Pens
Dudek Modern Goods
Edison Pen Co.
Field Notes
Fontoplumo
The Goulet Pen Co.
JetPens
Karas Kustoms
Levenger
Nock Co.
Pen Chalet
The Pen Company
Retro 1951
Write Notepads & Co.

Thanks to some for supplying review items, to others for great customer service, and to all for great products and that extra-special personal touch.

My nib guy
Dan Smith @fpgeeks

Thanks for making less than stellar pens remarkable, quickly and affordably. Great work!

Penpals
Tracy Lee
Michelle

Thank you for understanding when I TAKE SO LONG TO REPLY. Your letters and cool envelopes are a source of delight in my mailbox. So glad we’re getting to know each other better while using our pens and inks.

Bloggers, Tweeters, Facebookers
I won’t name names because I’ll leave someone out then feel bad, but you all entertain and educate me, amuse and enlighten. This is the BEST community.

Best hotel
The Sheraton at Tysons Corner for returning my “left behind” Akkerman ink after the DC Pen Show. Amazing customer service. So grateful.

Pencils at the ready
Pencil line-up

The other feeling that kicks in this time of year is “fresh start.” Old year out, new year in. Time to purge, reorganize, and start with a blank(ish) slate. Fred and I regularly purge and straighten out our pantry during our break between Christmas and New Year’s. Annual ritual. Afterwards, we vow to use what we have on hand before adding more stuff to the cupboards.

Conklin Stylograph
Conklin Stylograph (to be reviewed)

In that same vein, I plan to make 2015 a year where I buckle down and USE my pens, pencils, papers, and inks— switching my focus from acquisition to using. When you have a Staples Printer Paper box full of empty notebooks, it might be time to stop buying notebooks and start writing in them. Like every day. Don’t get me wrong, I use my stuff but I need to REALLY use my stuff. There’s plenty here to be written in and written with, plenty to be reviewed, plenty to have fun with. Plenty.

Machined goodness
Machined favorites

So I’m closing out 2014 and starting 2015 feeling grateful and blessed. And you— all of you— are the reason.

Peace and good health to you all.

Write Notepads & Co.
Write Notepads & Co. loot

Jolly Good: The Retro 51 Tornado Touch

Many thanks to my friends at JetPens for sponsoring my purchase of the pen reviewed here. I was not compensated in any other way and this review describes my experiences and observations with the pen.

Standard Retro 51 Tornado vs Tornado Touch
Standard Retro 51 Tornado (the new “Flipper”) vs. the petite Tornado Touch

The Retro 51 Tornado Touch is both dapper and darling. It’s a teeny thing, but still packed full of Retro 51 goodness. At 4-3/8″, this isn’t a pen that you’ll want to use to write a novel, but for jotting down a grocery list, signing paperwork, or capturing on-the-fly notes, it’s ideal. Ideal AND classy.

This is a “honey, I shrunk the pen” version of the standard Retro 51 Tornado, with a couple of bonus features that add to its charm. The first is the “bowler hat” stylus on the end of the pen. As a kid, I used to religiously watch “Family Affair“— a sitcom that featured a British butler named Mr. French. Mr. French typically wore a suit and a bowler to run errands (as you do). Whenever I look at the Retro 51 Tornado Touch, I picture good old Mr. French, his smooth manners, and lovely accent.

Retro 51 Torndao Touch bowler hat and mustache

The stylus is not only stylish but works very well on both my iPad and iPhone. In fact, it’s one of my favorite styluses (stylii?). I rarely have to repeat a motion while typing or swiping through pages or dragging letters around on the Words With Friends board. Very responsive.

The second feature is not functional in the least but adds a splash of whimsical charm to this diminutive pen. A mustache. That’s right— the pen sports a tiny mustache, because why not?! The pen is available in three finishes— Lincoln Copper, Stainless, and Black (the one featured in this review). Though the copper version tugged at me, I ultimately chose the black version because it made the pen look like it was wearing a little suit. (And for some reason it was important to me that my pen be properly attired in formal wear.)

Ballpoint refill

The D1 refill that comes loaded in the pen is made by Schmidt and writes quite well for a ballpoint. What’s great, though, is that because the refill IS the D1 style/size, there are plenty of D1 refill options available should the included one not thrill you. I picked up some Uni-ball Jetstream D1 refills that I’m anxious to try when the the current one needs to be replaced. You can also swap in D1 gel refills, if that’s your favorite type of ink. There are plenty of ways to make the Retro 51 Tornado Touch your own, ink-wise.

Accessing the D1 refill
Accessing the D1 refill

Disassembled
Refill removed (refill extender still in place)

Swapping the refill is not super intuitive (I had to Google it) so here’s how that works. Grab the knurled section, just below the bowler stylus and give it a good yank until it pulls out of the body of the pen. Looking into the pen body, you’ll see the end of the refill assembly. Using a small Philips head screwdriver (or your Swiss Army knife), unscrew the refill housing until it can be pulled out of the pen. Pull the refill extender off of the D1 refill, and place it onto the new refill, then reverse the steps to install the assembly back in the pen. [Updated to add: Click HERE for a video that details the process.]

Disassembled
Refill extender removed from D1 refill

If there’s any downside to this pen, I’d say it’s the price. At $27 from JetPens, it costs a few dollars more than many of the standard size Tornado rollerballs. That said, the small premium buys you an awfully cute pen that successfully combines both novelty and panache. That’s a tricky combination, but Retro 51 pulls it off with ease.

The packaging is a scaled down version of the usual Tornado tube, and it’s as adorable as the pen inside.

Tornado Touch pen and packaging

The Retro 51 Tornado Touch is a cool little pen that oozes charm with its distinctive bowler and well-groomed mustache. It’s dapper, dashing, and debonair; both well-groomed and well-designed. If your everyday carry needs just a little more class, this is your pen. A very good writer with an excellent stylus and lots of D1 refill options, it’s another clever AND solid offering from the folks at Retro 51.

The Tornado Touch is, I can safely say, “jolly good.”

Traveling With Pens: A Case Study (or a study of a basket case?!)

I’m attending a conference in Indianapolis, IN this week. But before I traveled here, I spent a god awful amount of time mulling over which pens to bring with me. Clothes? Easy. Pens? Not so much.

Right up until the last minute I was swapping pens in and out of my Nock Co. Brasstown case. The case, at least, was pretty much a given. Even though I schlep three or four Nock Co. Pen cases to and from work every day, I knew I only wanted to travel with one, and the Brasstown quickly made the cut. With its roll-up, multiple pen holding “tongue” and space to carry some ink cartridges and a small ruler, the case was an easy pick.

When it was time to leave for the airport, I had to STOP with the pen swaps and go with what was in the case. Here’s the final line-up:

Fountain pens
Lamy AL Star Blue-Green (fine nib) with Lamy black cartridges
Lamy Vista (extra-fine nib) with Lamy black cartridges
Pilot Knight (medium nib) with Namiki Blue/Black cartridges

Rollerball pen
Retro 51 Betsy Tornado Rollerball

Gel pen
Nock Co./Karas Kustoms exclusive Render K with 0.5 mm black G2 refill

Ballpoint pens
Fisher Space pen (matte black bullet model)
TactileTurn Shaker with Schmidt EasyFlow 9000 black refill

20140729-223046.jpg

I’m a couple of days into the conference now and have a few thoughts about my choices. The Lamy Vista is great. The EF nib is perfect in my Clairefontaine notebook and I especially like being able to monitor the ink level. The fine nib on the Lamy AL Star is a little broad, while the medium nib on the Pilot Knight is wonderfully smooth and lays down a precise fine line as it’s a Japanese medium.

The Fisher Space pen has been particularly handy for filling out entry forms at today’s trade show. It’s easy to carry and completely reliable. Maybe not my favorite refill of all time, but great when you just need a pen to do its job whenever and wherever.

I haven’t used Betsy or the Shaker as yet, though both are favorites when I’m home. I think I’ll work them into tomorrow’s sessions. Could it be I have pen A.D.D.? Is that a thing?

20140729-224319.jpg

A couple of other Nock Co. products have really performed well on this trip- the Fodderstack loaded with the DotDash 3×5 cards paired with Nock Co. x Karas Kustoms Exclusive G2 Render K. The pen looks and writes great. I love the playful trio of colors, and loaded with a 0.5 mm G2 refill, it’s been perfect for taking meeting notes AND for keeping track of action items that are popping up at work and at home. By jotting down tasks on the DotDash cards, I’m able to concentrate on what I should be concentrating on- the conference.

Someone on Twitter suggested that I should travel with only one pen as a challenge, and I considered that for a little bit. Obviously, I didn’t go that route since I have a stupid number of pens with me. But really, I’m having fun swapping pens from day to day…or even within the same day.

And, I must admit, pens are something of a security blanket for me. I feel better when they’re with me.

20140729-230713.jpg

There…I admitted it.

Written and photographed on my iPad and iPhone with poor hotel lighting. But written nonetheless!

Albert Einstein, the Pencil

It’s no secret that Physics and I have had a rocky relationship. All I can say as far as college Physics goes is, “Thank God for a smart lab partner.” My seat in the lecture hall was in the WAY back (alphabetically arranged) which didn’t help my precarious grasp on the formulas and theories that the professor tried to jam into my head. I got through…somehow. This was not my finest hour, academically speaking.

Retro 51 Albert pencil

Given that history, you’d think I’d avoid this Retro 1951 Albert pencil like the plague. But no, I had to have it. (Held out for awhile, then cracked.) I have a couple of theories about this:

1) One of my favorite childhood activities was writing and drawing on the blackboard in our playroom. Every now and then my father would apply a fresh coat of blackboard paint so the surface was restored to a deep dark finish. Fresh chalk on a smooth blackboard. Nothing better.

2) My office is situated on the floor with the Physics department so I see a lot of this…

Physics on display
Ummm…what?!

I love where I work, so maybe, this pencil with its blackboards and formulaic scribbles makes me feel at home even though I don’t understand a whit.

Knurling and eraser

Whatever the reason, I love this pencil. It’s my first one from Retro 1951, though I’d been eyeing the all-black stealth model for awhile. Even though that one looked cool, I like this one with Albert Einstein’s formulas scribbled on a blackboard even better. The iconic Tornado knurling holds the pencil’s substantial eraser. And this eraser ERASES! No smudgy business going on here. The eraser feels soft and is big enough to handle even my Physics-sized mistakes.

Erasure

Albert clip, knurling and eraser

A twist of the knurled section advances the beefy 1.15 mm HB lead, which means that you can advance exactly as much or as little lead as you like. You’re not at the mercy of a click-to-advance system that often extends too much or too little. The mechanism works without a hitch and the lead is luscious. At first I was leery of such a thick lead, but I absolutely love it. I’ll have trouble going back to those fragile 0.5 and 0.7 mm leads.

Various line sizes

The pencil itself is hefty and smooth feeling, not unlike the Makrolon body on the Lamy 2000 writing utensils, but without even that HINT of texture. This is pure smoothness. It feels so good in hand that I find myself using it when I’d typically use a pen. And that’s saying something.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that the Albert pencil comes with a 12-pack of 1.15 mm HB lead as well as a 6-pack of replacement erasers, meaning that I’m set to write and erase for a good long time.

The whole Albert package

Though Physics was not my thing, this Albert pencil by Retro 1951 is. With its slick blackboard look covered with Einstein’s tidy formulas, I can’t help but feel smarter for owning it. Professor Lapetina, though, might beg to differ.
————

I purchased my Albert pencil from Goldspot Pens. Here’s a LINK. (Not an affiliate link, I’m just a happy customer.)

Fun Find #1: Retro 1951 Tornado Umbra Orange Rollerball

(Click on any picture to enlarge it.)

Retro 51 Umbra Orange Rollerball

Sometimes a pen finds you more than you find the pen. That was exactly the case with this Retro 51 Tornado Umbra Orange Rollerball. I was browsing on the Pen City site, and found that they have a “Shop By Color” feature (great idea!). When I filtered for “orange,” this was one of the pens that popped up. Since I’d never seen a Retro 51 in a translucent acrylic, much less an ORANGE translucent acrylic, I had to order it.

Translucent Orange Acrylic

When the pen arrived, it looked even better in person than it did on the website. The acrylic shimmers and displays wonderful depth. I think it looks a little like jello salad, which made me love it just a little bit more. I really like how you can catch a glimpse of the branding on the refill and the internal threading through the body of the pen.

The familiar Retro 51 elements are here as well. Like that wonderful knurling…

Retro 51 Knurling

And the immediately recognizable open-design clip that’s both cool looking and functional…

Retro 51 clip

The pen body’s color is reflected in the twist mechanism’s finial for one more pop of color…

Retro 51 Orange finial

The Retro 51 REF-5P black refill that came with the pen is reliably smooth and dark. Writing my rough draft of this review on Staples Arc notebook paper was a really enjoyable experience. That paper and this refill seem to be made for each other.

I’ve since seen some other acrylics— red, blue, and white— and though they look very cool, too, my heart belongs to this orange version. Sadly, none of the acrylic versions appear to be easy to find, but the folks at Retro 1951 have hinted on Twitter that more acrylics may be introduced. Or should I say “re-introduced.”

Translucent acrylic

That would be as sweet as— well— jello salad.

Teal and Purple Friday: ACME Crayon Rollerball in New Colors

The new ACME colors

My local source for the ACME rollerballs emailed me just before Thanksgiving to let me know that the two newest colors— teal and purple— had finally arrived. She’d given me a “heads up” a number of weeks prior to this, but every time I stopped in the store, the story was the same— nothing yet. But now, just in time for Black Friday, the pens were in stock.

Teal & Purple ACME rollerballs

When I bought my first ACME Crayon— a red one— I had no intention of acquiring the entire collection. But little by little, I picked up each color until I owned a full set, including the retired colors. There’s something irresistible about these hefty brass pens. The design is pure nostalgia, with colors straight from that big box of kindergarten crayons. The slightly matte body is textured to feel like the paper wrapper on your favorite crayons. These are pens that conjure up memories and tug at your heartstrings. (Can’t you just hear the hiss of the radiator in your elementary school classroom? Or am I the only old one here?)

Well-polished

A collection slowly sprouted up, as collections tend to do, and I knew I’d have to pick up the two newest colors to round out the set. So— on Black Friday— after lounging around the house most of the day and lunching on plates of Thanksgiving leftovers, we ventured out to our small Scandinavian Design gift store and picked up this pair. Other than groceries, that’s all the shopping we did that day.

Exploded view

The ACME rollerballs take the Schmidt P8126 refill and it’s good one— dark, smooth, and consistent. The ink does have a tendency to feather just a bit on some papers. I wrote the rough draft of this review in a Clairefontaine spiral notebook and you can see (if you click on the above photo) that the letters aren’t perfectly crisp, even on this excellent paper, due to the liquid nature of the ink. But I like the pens enough that I’m willing to overlook what some may call a flaw.

BUT, if any amount of feathering makes you crazy, there IS another option. Just as the Schmidt EasyFlow 9000 ballpoint refill works in the Retro 1951 Tornado rollerballs, turns out it ALSO works in these ACME pens. Mike Dudek, of The Clicky Post, turned me onto these refills and they really are excellent— one of the best ballpoint refills out there, in my opinion. It’s always great to have options.

Teak and purple rollerballs

So my Black Friday— well, my Teal and Purple Friday— was a quiet one. No doorbusters. No waiting in line for hours. No midnight madness. Just time spent relaxing with my husband, lounging in a cozy chair, eating tasty Thanksgiving leftovers, and, of course, playing with these new pens.

ACME Rollerballs

My motto: A day without pens is like Thanksgiving without the turkey.*

*One year my grandmother made roast beef. It was weird.