Quirky: Levenger’s Chroma Twister Stylus Ballpoint Pen

Levenger's Chroma Twister Stylus BP

This is, to be sure, a quirky pen. I suspect that it’s one of those pens that divides folks into love it/hate it camps. When it popped up as a recent offering on Massdrop, I had to give it a go, despite the fact that it’s a little homely, a little odd. I was intrigued by this pen with the long name—the Levenger Chroma Twister Stylus. The name, like the pen, lacks elegance, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you should dismiss it.

Levenger’s description specifies that the barrel is made from a copper alloy. I can attest to the fact that the weight (1 ounce/28 g) is just right, and the well-balanced heft immediately conveys a feeling of quality.

Levenger's Chroma Twister Stylus

The pen features a simple twist pattern on the barrel for a bit of visual interest, which mirrors the simple twist action needed to extend the writing tip. I’ve found this action to be reliable, smooth, and efficient. The front of the pen is bluntly rounded and doesn’t have the usual “nosecone,” so the look is unconventional—kind of strange—especially when the writing tip is extended. It’s a look that takes a little getting used to.

Tip extended

While the look is not what we’re used to, this odd design choice doesn’t affect the pen’s performance in the least. There are sure to be haters, but I really don’t mind it. I don’t exactly love it, but I don’t hate it, either. The pen takes a Parker-Style refill and ships with a Levenger-branded EasyFlow ballpoint refill. I happen to enjoy this ballpoint refill, but if you don’t, there are a slew of Parker-style alternatives available.

Clip placement

Much like the Pilot Vanishing Point fountain pen, the clip on the Chroma Twister Stylus is positioned at the writing end of the pen so you need to experiment a bit to figure out a grip that works for you. Unlike the Pilot VP, you can rotate the pen so that the clip is positioned on the underside of the pen and out of the way of your fingers, though I usually use it with the clip positioned between my thumb and forefinger without issue.

Fabric stylus

At the opposite end of the pen is a fabric stylus— and this is where the pen really shines. It’s so good that I use the pen more for the stylus than for writing. I use it constantly on my iPhone—when playing word games, flicking through my Twitter stream, and also when composing emails. It’s wonderfully responsive with a very low “failure” rate, and feels much more accurate than my fingers. This is, without a doubt, my favorite stylus.

Size comparison

This isn’t a pen that will blow you away with its stunning good looks, and some of the design decisions might leave you scratching your head, but the Levenger Chroma Twister Stylus is a pen that’s worth a look. It’s not a pen that I use for long writing sessions but with both a quality writing experience and a truly excellent stylus, it’s a pen that’s wormed its way into my pen-loving heart. It might be a little homely—a little goofy looking—but don’t you often find that that quirkiest looking things (and people!) are the most interesting?

Let’s face it—normal is boring.

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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.”

Little time, little pen: Monteverde’s Poquito

Monteverde Poquito pair
My pair of Poquitos

We’re cranking through chores (will the dusting never end?!!) and food prep for Thanksgiving, so time is at a premium, but I can’t let myself break my chain of weekly posts. It makes sense, then, to write about a little pen when I only have a little time.

Poquitos
One is a bit worn, the other’s still in tip-top shape and is in reserve.

I’ve owned the red/black version for quite awhile (thus the dings), and amazingly won a door prize at the DC Pen Show which turned out to be the metallic purple version. I’m especially glad to have two of these adorably teeny pens because it seems inevitable that I’ll eventually lose one. The Poquito is THAT tiny.

How tiny? Well, I could list the dimensions, but it’s easier to just show you. Here’s the Monteverde Poquito along with an Uniball 207 and my VW car key—

Size comparison
Itty bitty pen

For all of its smallness, the Poquito is a very handy pocket pen. Need to jot a quick note? You’re covered. The 0.7 mm D1 refill is quite nice— smooth and fairly solid. If you click on the photo below, you can see some white in the line, but it’s not very noticeable on the actual page. And let’s face it, you’re probably using this for notes and in quick bursts, not for extended writing. It’s pocketability is key.

Poquito D1 refill
The diminutive D1 refill

The stylus is a good one and has been coming in especially handy lately. Why? Well, because of the cold weather, I’m constantly slathering my hands with lotion, and lotion + iPhone/iPad screen is a messy combination. Using the stylus on the Poquito keeps my screens clean and smudge-free. I’ve also been cooking more lately (Thanksgiving!) and trying to answer texts and emails with messy hands is a pain. Again, the Poquito stylus to the rescue!

Poquito stylii

The stylus responds quite well with just a bit of pressure. In all honesty, it’s one of my favorites, and certainly the most portable. The writing tip deploys with a little twist of the pen body. It’s all very convenient.

Writing tips

As you can see from the above photo, the Poquito spends its days in my pocket (yes, that’s pocket lint), ready for action. It’s unobtrusive and a great EDC tool.

The Monteverde Poquito— a little pen that I like a lot.

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