Quick Look: Retro 51 Tornado Popper Montana Rollerball

Retro 51 Tornado Popper Montana on pen standWhile I almost always use fountain pens there are times when alternatives are needed. The only non-fountain pens I willingly use are the Retro 51 Tornado line of rollerballs, and the recently added KarasKustoms Ink rollerball which uses the same ink refill. I’ve managed to limit myself to Retro 51’s Vintage Metalsmith collection, with a couple exceptions from other collections. The Retro 51 Tornado Popper Montana Rollerball is now one of those exceptions.

When I first saw the Montana on a retailer’s website (I’ve never see it on the Retro 51 site) I passed over it because my brain translated “Popper” to be one of their click pens and I don’t have any interest in those. I saw it a couple more times and realized that the click pens were there “Snapper” collection. Retro 51 considers the Poppers to be:

…covered in unique designs reflecting the latest trends, retro fun or using a new production technique to achieve a one of a kind writing instrument.

All the Poppers are limited, numbered editions. In the case of the Montana it is limited to 500 pens, mine is number 490.

Even though the Betsy was a Metalsmith pen, I got it as a theme pen for the fourth of July here in the States. I decided to get the Montana as a holiday theme pen. I was going to get it locally but when I visited my local dealer it was the first day of their going out of business sale. The store was mobbed and the pen wasn’t on display so I headed to a second dealer which didn’t have it and couldn’t order it. The Poppers tend to sell out quickly from Retro51 although they are still at retailers, just not at ones near me. So I ordered it on Amazon.

The Montana’s design is certainly appropriate for winter and the holiday season. Unlike some Tornados I can see the link between the design and the name. The design fits the Big Sky country of Montana, but being from New England I also think of Maine. Some have called it an ugly sweater pen, which also fits.

The barrel design is a lacquer print that includes a moose, stars (which I also see as snowflakes), trees and bigfoot (which could be a badly drawn hiker). The trim is all chrome except for the very top of the barrel which is dark red.

Like all my Retro 51 Tornados I swapped the refill for a Schmidt P8126 refill. It’s the same ink as the original Retro 51 refill, just a little thinner line.

I’ve been sharing pens more than usual recently which is why I now usually carry a Retro 51 rollerball in my shirt pocket. The Ink isn’t suitable for a shirt pocket, at least not for me. Like the Betsy, the Montana usually draws a comment or two. Sometimes the comment is even on how nice the Retro 51 Tornado Popper Montana writes.


Sunday Notes and Links

Edison Huron GrandeThis week’s favorite wasn’t the most used since it’s pretty much desk bound and I didn’t do much writing there this week. The Edison Huron Grande sat unused for far too long before I inked it up with R&K Blau-Schwarz a week ago. It’s bright red, white, and blue colors are the exact opposite of my usual desk pen, the all blank Franklin-Christoph Model 66. I use it a an eye dropper fill so there’s a lot of ink in that large barrel so it will be around for awhile.

Some links I enjoyed this past week…

Pilot Elite 95s Review — Pens and Planes! // A new pen (and plane) blog reviews a pen that has intrigued me but I rarely see reviewed.

Sheaffer Skrip Red – inklode // Glad to see my favorite true red ink get noticed.

Aurora 88 Fountain Pen Quick Review – THE UNROYAL WARRANT // Every time I read an Aurora review I make a mental note of the pen and the brand. Yet it never seems to quit make my wish list.

Mystery pen unveiled: Pelikan maki-e Fantasia – these beautiful pens // Wow!

Shopping Local and Serendipity – From the Pen Cup

Review: Conklin Duragraph Cracked Ice Fountain Pen (F Nib) – The Well-Appointed Desk // Several good reads at the Desk this week so browse around after reading this one.

Taking the pressure off: Improving the writing experience… – A fool with a pen // Good advice

Pen Review: Karas Kustoms Ink Black ‘n Copper — The Gentleman Stationer // Glad to know I’m not the only one who likes these.

Fountain Pen Guide Series, Session 3: How to Maintain Your Pens – Pentorium // Detailed information

Blue-Black, Bleu-Noir, Blau-Schwartz… — Just Pelikans // What color is blue-black?

Nock Co. DotDash Pocket Notebook – That One Pen // First review I’ve seen of Nock Co’s latest product

Check out all of this week’s links at Fountain Pen Links.

These Just Ink: More KarasKustoms Ink and the Bullet Pencil – TT

KarasKustoms Ink

Black RB with brass section and Blue FP with copper section

My obsession with the KarasKustoms Ink has brought two more of them into my accumulation, one fountain pen and one rollerball. This gives me one gripping section for each material (aluminum, brass, copper) for each pen type (fountain & roller) along with one of each nib size available. Since I can mix and match to my hearts content  I’m hoping to stay satisfied. But there’s still two barrel colors available that I don’t have and their Pen Addict discount code runs through year end. I wouldn’t bet against an end of year order.

I’ll add pictures and update the review once I’ve used the pens awhile.

Bullet Pencil TT

My first bullet pencil also arrived. The Bullet Pencil TT was a Kickstarter project which I backed. The TT (Traditional Tip) is a standard bullet pencil, no stylus tip included. Like all the other Kickstarters I backed it was late, but only by a couple of months which is on time based on my Kickstarter experience.

It’s my first bullet pencil although (I also backed the Twist Bullet Pencil which should arrive soon). I’m expecting it to join my Kaweco AL Sport as a daily carry, maybe replace it.

Review: Caran d’Ache Dunas

Capped Caran d'Ache Dunas uncapped on pen stand

I pulled the Caran d’Ache Dunas from long term storage (a.k.a. – out of sight, out of mind) so I could give it a spin and a quick review. I can’t remember the last time I used this fountain pen. That’s not due to a bad memory, it’s been years since I inked up this pen. I didn’t find it on the Caran d’Ache website and it’s not produced anymore. I did find it listed as in stock from Pen Boutique and I found some forum comments saying it was purchased this year, so it does still seem to be around at some retailers. Current prices are just under $100. Recent eBay sales ranged from $71 to $125 although those were for different finishes.

Why I Got It

I bought the pen in late 2005, about two years after I got the Caran d’Ache Ivanhoe which was my first Caran d’Ache fountain pen and one of my first really nice (read that as “expensive”) fountain pens. While it is nothing like the much more expensive Ivanhoe, I had already picked up a second Caran d’Ache (a Geneve) which was also a great writer. I had high hopes for a budget priced Caran d’Ache. At the time the pen was $68, which is only budget when considering the Caran d’Ache premium.

I also liked the red finish which was unique in my accumulation at the time. The design was just different enough to catch my eye.

What I Got

Uncapped Caran d'Ache Dunas uncapped on pen standWhile described as a high quality resin, my shiny red Dunas has a very cheap plastic feel. And yes, “shiny red” is the official color name. Despite the plastic feel the pen is solidly built.

The cap and barrel have a hexagonal shape although the barrel becomes more rounded towards the end. The shapes prevents the pen from rolling. The cap end is flattened, angled and has the Caran d’Ache logo emblazoned on it. A band around the barrel has the Caran d’Ache name engraved. It’s a nice looking design that elevates itself above the cheap feel of the pen.

It’s a snap on cap and while it seals tightly it easily rotates on the barrel when capped. The cap doesn’t post securely unless it’s pushed down hard on the barrel. Very hard which might eventually crack the cap since there’s no cap band. This isn’t a concern since I don’t post my pens. I believe the pen has Caran d’Ache’s lifetime warranty although I don’t have the original paperwork so this may not be a concern for anyone. It’s a little strange that it doesn’t post very well since the barrel is round where the cap posts.

It’s a medium steel nib and as far as I can tell, a medium nib is the only option. It may have been offered in other nib widths, but I’ve only ever seen medium and it was the only option when I bought mine. The nib is silver with the Caran d’Ache logo engraved on it along with some other ornamentation. All the furniture is also silver.

I don’t remember much about the packaging, but a converter was included. From some forum posts or reviews a converter isn’t always included.

The Numbers

  • Length Capped: 5.4085″ (137.37 mm)
  • Length Uncapped: 4.79″ (121.67 mm)
  • Length Posted: 5.9600″ (151.38 mm)
  • Section Length: 0.9150″ (23.24 mm)
  • Section Diameter (near nib): 0.3215″ (8.16 mm)
  • Section Diameter (below barrel): 0.395″ (9.99 mm)
  • Section Diameter (mid-section): 0.3530″ (8.96 mm)
  • Cap Diameter: 0.46″ (11.69 mm)
  • Barrel Diameter: 0.4610″ (11.71 mm)
  • Weight: 16g (no ink or converter)
  • Weight (body only): 1g (no ink or converter)

Writing With The Pen

Dunas nib closeupThe snap on cap does seal securely but the pen can still be uncapped with one hand. The clip has a little spring to it and it slides easily into and out of most of my pockets. I usually require two hands to slip the pen into my pocket since the clip is a bit stiff and sits right against the cap.

The pen is just a little small for my comfort since I generally like larger pens. It’s not what I would consider a small pen, it’s just I prefer larger pens.

The section is long enough for my grip but my thumb just touches the step between the barrel and the section. The step isn’t sharp so it’s not noticeable.

The pen is much too light for my tastes and a little on the thin side. Pens with both these attributes usually become quickly uncomfortable when I use them. This pen is no different although it did seem to last longer than most, probably because of the nib.

And what a nib it is. The medium steel nib is extremely smooth and it certainly enhances the writing experience that this pen delivers. I didn’t experience any skipping or false starts. It is a stiff nib but that’s a benefit for me.

The only problem I had was ink clinging to the converter when I stored the pen nib up for over a day. Well, the ink always clung to the converter but storing nib up seemed to get enough out of the feed to cause starting problems when I picked up the pen after a couple days.

Inks Used & Cleaning the Pen

I used Waterman Black while using the pen for this review. There’ weren’t any problems and it was easily flushed from the pen. It’s been a very long time since I previously use the pen and I have no idea what inks I used in the past. But I don’t have any memories of problems with the pen.

I did have the previously mentioned problem with the ink clinging to the converter. This was only a problem if the pen was stored nib up for a couple of days. When it was I had to help the ink saturate the feed as gravity wasn’t doing it fast enough for me.

Wrapping Up

There’s nothing fatally wrong with the Caran d’Ache Dunas fountain pen. It’s got a great, smooth nib and the design is a little different than other pens which gives the Dunas some appeal. Despite this it’s not a keeper.

The pen has a cheap feel to it even though it’s actually solidly built. But the fatal flaws, at least for me, are that it’s too small and too light.

The value of this pen is debatable. While this pen has one of the best steel nibs I’ve used, if not the best, and has a lifetime warranty, it seems far too expensive at the $90+ prices I’ve seen currently. Recent eBay sales of around $70 are more reasonable (and close to what I paid 9 years ago), but these days there are some very nice pens and nibs for about half the price. The Faber-Castell Basic has a comparable nib and sells for around $35. Even though I say the pen feels cheap (and it does) it is in fact well built, with a good fit and finish, so it will last a long time. That certainly justifies a higher price.

Even though it isn’t a keeper for me, if you have small hands (or like smallish pens) and like extremely light pens you won’t be disappointed with the Caran d’Ache Dunas.

Additional Reading

Caran d’Ache Dunas Review – The Fountain Pen Network


This Month’s Ink – December 2014

It’s been two months since I showed what I have inked. Between re-inking and less writing than usual things didn’t change much until November was well under way. Five of the nine pens inked when October started are still in the rotation. Although one of those has a different ink now, and another was re-filled with the same ink. With the first weekend in December inked up some new pens to replenish the rotation, bringing me up to 13 pens. I’m keeping to my goal of not flushing good ink down the sink. Fountain pens stay inked and in the rotation until I write them dry. Of course, there’s no rule I can’t add more anytime I want.

I have been plagued by ink clinging to converters. Converter pens stored nib up sometimes need a little help or a lot of time to get going if they’ve been unused for a couple days. Now that the cold weather has set it the heat has been on and windows have been closed so it’s probably the dry air.

I was shocked to find my Pilot Custom 823 has been inked since September. It does hold a lot of ink and the fine nib is stingy. But Montblanc Bordeaux is a favorite and I need to use it more. I keep thinking I have to use this ink for special things since it’s a dwindling supply. I have three unopened bottles so I really need to be less concerned, at least for two more bottles. I keep telling myself there’s no difference between not using it for conservation and not using it because I ran out is the same thing but I still hesitate.

I cleaned my Franklin-Christoph Model 66 and put it back in its case when I wrote it dry. It’s tough to be without the pen but I wanted to give my Edison Huron Grande some use.

There are three pens I wouldn’t consider part of my rotation. Or at least not pens I picked solely because I enjoy using them. The Caran d’Ache Geneve is inked because I’m working through my long neglected fountain pens and inking them up to use and review. The Sailor 1911M is inked because of it’s having severe flow problems. I took it apart and cleaned it thoroughly and now need to see if the problem is gone. The Sheaffer Imperial is still inked because it’s a nib so far out of my comfort zone (and ability) that it’s fun to play with but gets little use.

I do need to get some variety in my ink colors. Maybe next month. Unfortunately for most of my writing I like black, grey and brown. To be honest, I don’t consider it a problem until I look at my options in one long list. It seems that these days I’m more interested in the pen than the ink.

The Pens

As usual, the writing sample is in the same order as in the photograph except the unphotographed Esterbrook Dip-less. If I carried it to my living room window for lighting the only question is which part of the carpet would I drop the inkwell on. So it stays desk bound. Follow the link for pictures.

This month's ink - the fountain pens

This month's ink writing sample Edison Huron Grande (extra fine) – R&K Blau-Schwarz LE // KarasKustoms Ink (aluminum section & fine nib) – Montblanc Permanent Blue // Lamy 2000 (fine)GvFC Carbon Black // Franklin-Christoph Model 03 Iterum (extra fine)Caran d’Ache Infinite Grey // Pilot Custom 823 (fine)Montblanc Bordeaux // Edison Menlo (extra fine)Montblanc Toffee Brown // Pilot Vanishing Point Maplewood (extra fine) – Pilot Back cartridge // KarasKustoms Ink (copper section & medium nib) – Montblanc Permanent Back //  Sheaffer Balance Aspen (medium) – Montblanc Permanent Grey // Caran d’Ache Geneve (medium) – Pelikan Edelstein Tanzanite cartridge // Sailor 1911M (broad) – Waterman Purple // Sheaffer Imperial (broad italic) – Sheaffer Jet Black cartridge // Esterbrook Dip-Less (#7550)Sheaffer Red


Sunday Notes and Links

My favorite pens this past weekThis week’s favorite fountain pen and ink isn’t a single pen. My favorite was the number of enjoyable pens that I got to write with during the past week. I did a lot of writing and picked a different pen to start most days. Since a couple pens went dry there was also a couple of days with two pens.

Only two inked pens didn’t get used. My Lamy 2000 was often in my carry, but was never uncapped which seems like a waste. It’ll be first up in the week ahead. My Sheaffer Imperial has a nib that’s interesting, but far too wide for me to ever consider it a favorite. A tenth pen will be reviewed in the coming week. It was surprisingly nice but didn’t make it as a favorite.

I finally got active on the blog this past week. In case you missed it I reviewed the Karas Kustoms Ink and a Dudek Modern Goods pen stand.

I also mentioned The CU13E (Cube) Kickstarter project. They’ve since added tumbled aluminum finish and a machines brass cube. I’m drooling over the brass but it’s way more expensive than the aluminum versions so I may go with the tumbled aluminum. The campaign is in its final days so be sure to check it out.

Some links of interest…

Three Questions With Ben Kwok — The Pen Addict // Artwork you need to see. Be sure to follow the link to his website

New Acrylic Neponsets – Noodler’s Ink

Christmas Card Guide – All Things Stationery // It’s that time of year

The Cartridge Chronicles – How to reseal a fountain pen cartridge – Fountain Pen Physicist – // While I can see why people do this, I guess I basically lazy because I find this to be too much work.

Pilot Super Ultra 500 Fountain Pen Review – THE UNROYAL WARRANT // A Pilot that’s new to me, although it’s an old pen, with an interesting filling system. It’s not on my wish list due to the price and gold trim but it makes for an interesting read.

Field Notes: DDC Factory Floor Limited Edition — The Gentleman Stationer // I picked up one 3-pack of these (number 1473). I’ve yet to break the seal but after this review it’ll probably be the next one I reach for when it’s time for a new notebook aven if they are grid.

My Desk 2014 – My Supply Room // He claims there’s a desk in there someplace. Even so, it seems more organized than my desk typically is.*

Noodler’s Whaleman’s Sepia ink review – Peninkcillin // I have a bottle of this but haven’t used it yet. If my experience is the same as this review I’ll be disappointed.

Hudson Being Discontinued…. – Edison Pen Co // I never did get one of these popular pens, and now it looks like I never will. There may still be time to grab one if you’ve been considering one.

Harley Davidson Spirit Retractable Fountain Pen – Write to Me Often // I find this interesting. Harley-Davidson licensed their name to an unknown pen company (or created pens for a promotion). In itself that’s no surprise, but the result was a pen with a relatively complicate retractable nib.

Use the discount checkout code: GRISWOLD for 15% – doane paper feed // I already placed my order to stock up. So feel free to buy out the rest of my favorite paper. You have until December 9th.

Paper – My Rule of Thumb — Reverenced Writing

Made to measure? On buying bespoke or custom made fountain pens – A fool with a pen // My own custom pen has gone unused far too long. Unfortunately it’s a desk pen, due to it’s size, and up against my favorite F-C Model 66.

A Tale of Two M600’s – The Pelikan’s Perch // The first of a series, be sure to check out the second article too, it’s already out.

Check out all of this week’s links at Fountain Pen Links.


The CUBE (or CU13E)

I didn’t plan it this way, but the companies behind the two products I reviewed this week (the Ink and the Display) have combined on a Kickstarter Project.

They’ve combined KarasKustoms love of machined aluminum and Dudek Modern Goods love of pen (or pencil) holders. The Kickstarter campaign is well beyond its goal, so it will be funded. The campaign ends in less than a week, on December 10th.

From the Kickstarter Project:

The name CUBE was born from a combination of two things. Mike Dudek’s (ClickyPost.com) original walnut, 9 hole pen holder is aptly named the “Cube” and the atomic number for the element aluminum is 13, so combine them and you get “CU13E” (the 13 looks like a letter B, get it?).

I haven’t decided which color I want. I’ve been trying to justify backing at the Three Amigos level but I couldn’t do it. The design just doesn’t fit in with my desk, not that I actually try to coordinate things. It will work on my workbench and I don’t have a pen holder there right now. So I’ll need to decide on a color for the one I’ll have coming.

Some prototypes were sent out for review:

Karas Kustoms x Dudek Goods – “CUBE” Pen Holder & Kickstarter Launch | edjelley.com

Gourmet Pens: Review: The CU13E Machined Pen Storage @ClickyPost @KarasKustoms

The CUBE By Karas Kustoms — The Pen Addict