As is the case with more than a few owners of the Retro 1951 pen in it’s various forms, mine was picked up after hearing the brand mentioned (often) in the relatively early episodes of the Pen Addict podcast. The enthusiasm with which hosts Brad Dowdy and Myke Hurley talked about these pens was enough to send me searching for them online soon after. The pen in question is now almost two years old.
My choice at the time, a Tornado Stealth model, was ordered from Cyber Space Pens, for at that time I did not have a bookmark folder full of pen shops by the names of Goulet, Jet, Chalet and the like. Although in saying that, I see Cyber Space currently stock the Retro 51 Stealth at a very competitive $US24.00.
I do not recall the exact price I paid at the time, however it was essentially half the cost of purchasing locally through one of the brick and mortar stores in town. I find this both incredibly convenient and somewhat saddening at the same time, given I enjoy nothing better than stopping by and supporting one of the local pen stores, however it becomes increasingly difficult when the cost is often one and a half to two times what can be found online.
Look and Feel
Overall I would say I am fairly conservative in my pen barrel colour choices, so of course I was drawn to the Tornado Stealth model, a sleek, all black, mysterious looking pen. The smooth glossy finish is a joy to both look at and hold.
Now, as the title of this post and some of the images suggest, it has been somewhat of a workhorse pen over the past 18 plus months or so, and developed some nice brass looking highlights on some of the edges, given most of this use occurred prior to the relative luxury it now enjoys in a Nock. Co Sassafras pen case.
The band with the “Tornado by Retro 1951” branding adjacent to the clip, the clip itself, some of the knurling on the knock twist mechanism, and parts of the barrel have all worn, not quite to the Kaweco AL Sport washed look, however heading that way. That said, I couldn’t be happier. My pens are for using, with a little care, but heavily. They are some of the tools I enjoy using the most, and if that shows, all the better.
Apart from the slowly evolving outer finish, probably what I like most about this pen is the overall size and weight distribution. For my writing style, it has perfect balance, with the length of 13cm a perfect size for my hand. While the weight is on the heavy side at 28g, the stature and weight distribution ensure this pen is a joy to hold and use, either for a few notes or longer writing sessions. Although my Lamy Safari Rollerball is a light 18.5g, I do prefer the Retro 51 out of the two.
Although the barrel is a smooth glossy finish, I have never had any grip problems, and my preference for a mild taper towards the tip is well catered for by the Retro 51 shape. At the other end of the pen, the knurling on the twist mechanism provides a nice texture, and the knock mechanism itself is one of the most solid you will encounter.
Once again, you probably need to go no further than the Pen Addict Podcast to hear mention of the Retro 51 and/or Schmidt P8126 refills as being one of, if not the best liquid ink or rollerball refill going around – and I’d have to agree. I am currently using the standard Retro 51 branded refill in the pen, and as you can see from the writing samples, the line could not be smoother, broader, or more vibrant.
The only time I have had the need to swap out the liquid ink refill was in recent weeks when I decided to try out the Field Notes Expedition edition, and needed an appropriate tip for the indestructible Yupo paper of that particular notebook. In this instance, a minor trim of a Uni Jetstream ballpoint allowed it to fit in nicely, which took me through to the and of the Expedition. Mind you, once the last page was written, out came the Jetstream and back in went the Retro 51 refill to an “ah…that’s better” moment.
The majority of use this pen sees involves day-to-day writing at my office job, which is often intermittent signatures, notes, marking up document revisions, or comments/feedback on team members work. I do not have cause (sadly) in a “paperless” office for extended periods of writing, and when I do, I tend to seek out a fountain pen from my desk drawer, though on occasion, will continue with the Retro 51 which does not disappoint.
Thinking back, when I first started searching for this pen based on a podcast recommendation (granted – not just any podcast), I had a nagging feeling in the back of my mind I would not necessarily like it. You know the scenario, something is spoken of so highly, upon finally obtaining the item in question, the expectation and excitement exceeds the experience and performance of the real thing. Definitely not the case here – the Retro 1951 Tornado Stealth is a great pen, has a great refill, and serves equally well as an everyday “workhorse” or as a writing instrument of great pleasure.
I really have no excuse not to add to my collection of these great pens – though I may have a hard time choosing colours. Perhaps a Retro 51 “Unexposed” release may absolve me of making that decision.Follow @petedenison