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.

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Favorite 5: Vintage Fountain Pens

It’s been over a year since my Favorite 5 Vintage Fountain Pens list changed. I revisited the list six months ago but decided there weren’t any changes. In the last six months I’ve been almost all modern. Because of this, picking a favorite 5 was a bit easier since by definition (at least my definition) a favorite pen should be one that is used. So I didn’t have to decide from among my entire vintage accumulation. A vintage pen is any pen manufactured before I was born. Here’s my current list.

1. Esterbrook J (any of them)

Esterbrook J with 8440 nibI moved the Esterbrook J to the top spot since it was easily the most used vintage pen these past six months. Maybe it’s a cheat since I used several barrels and many different nibs, but that’s what makes the Estie J a favorite. Now that I’ve run through all my nibs (although there are many I don’t have) maybe I can narrow it down to a favorite nib or two (or six) for the next update. No real review of the pen but the nibs are indexed here with links to their reviews.

2. Sheaffer Balance Lifetime Oversize c1935

Sheaffer Balance Oversize - Marine GreenThis pen gets used so often because of it’s looks. The custom stub nib is a smooth writer. While the stub is far wider than my typical fine or extra fine preference my horizons are expanding and I’ve grown to love this nib. It was a coin toss between this and the Esterbrooks for the top slot. The Esterbrooks won on volume. I was surprised to see I haven’t reviewed this pen. At the very least I need to do a photo post.

3. Sheaffer PFM I

Photo of a Sheaffer PFM I on a mirrorThis is borderline vintage. Since most were sold before my birth I choose to believe mine were manufactured before I was born. This is the low end trim for the PFM line but it works well for me. The photo and the review are of my first PFM which was blue. I bought a second PFM I in green which is my color preference. Review

4. Sheaffer Balance Junior c1931 with custom stub nib

Sheaffer Balance Junior c1931This ugly pen used to top my Fav 5 list. It’s still a smooth stub nib that I love, but I’ve used it less over the last six months. Review.

5. Parker Vacumatic Maxima (1942) Silver Pearl with Nickel Trim

Parker Vacumatic Maxima (1942) Pearl GreyThis was second vintage pen (an Esterbrook $1 was my first) and it’s still a favorite. I love the vintage Vacumatic finishes and this one is in pretty good shape. I haven’t used it recently but since this article jogged my memory I’ll be inking it up.

Wrapping Up

The Parker Duofold Senior c1928 (Big Red) is a sentimental favorite but it was reluctantly dropped from the list in favor of the Sheaffer PFM I. Big Red leaks a bit around the nib which has kept me from using it. But I have to admit, sentiment aside I’d have to pick the PFM over Big Red even if it didn’t leak. The other four pens were on my first Fav 5 list although they’ve swapped positions around. What’s your favorite vintage pen?

Favorite 5: Modern Fountain Pens

It’s been over six months since my last Fav 5 modern fountain pen list so nows a good time for an update. I’ve been almost exclusively modern for the last six months so this is where I have the most change. For the record, my definition of modern is and pen that’s not vintage. In other words, any pen manufactured after I was born.

1. Sheaffer Balance Aspen LE

Sheaffer Balance II AspenThis one came out of nowhere and took the crown. The pen is beautiful and I just smile as I use it. While its medium nib wouldn’t be my normal choice my horizons are expanding. The nib and flow were tuned by Mike Masuyama so it writes as good as it looks. I’m glad I resisted the urge to have him grind it to an extra fine. Review

2. Lamy 2000

Capped Lamy 2000 on marblesAnother new addition to the list and another Mike Masuyama tuned nib. I love holding the pen and writing with it. The material has a unique look and feel. Myke voiced his opinion on this pen on a recent Pen Addict podcast and I couldn’t agree more. Every last detail of this pen contributes to a great experience. Review

3. Franklin-Christoph Model 66

Franklin-Christoph Model 66My nib on a stick and the only fountain pen to be on this list since the beginning. This fountain pen just writes and it does it well. The simple design is so comfortable. There’s a new Ice version but for me this pen must be black. The Model 66, along with R&K Blau-Schwarz ink, gives the lie to the statement that inks can’t stay in a pen for a year. This pen has gone over a year with regular use, but no cleaning and has never failed to perform. Review

4. Pilot Custom 823

Pilot Custom 823 not postedThe Pilot Custom 823 drops from the top of the list but it’s just as good as it ever was. It’s been inked often but I just haven’t reached for it as much as the top 3 pens. Review

5. Pilot Vanishing Point Maplewood

Pilot Vanishing Point Maple Wood 2013 Limited EditionThis has all the benefits if the Vanishing Point but the wood barrel is so much more comfortable. Plus, it’s just a tad bigger. The interchangeable nib units are a nice bonus. Review

Wrapping Up

Trimming this list to five fountain pens wasn’t easy. I ended up picking the pens I’ve been reaching for lately. If they’re favorites they should be the pens I use most. Right? I feel I should pick honorable mentions but that would defeat the purpose of the list, so add your favorites to the comments.

Always Inked – September 30, 2014

It’s been over six months since my last “Always Inked” post and the pens have changed. Plus, it’s time for another “Currently Inked” post and I’m tire of squeezing these same four fountain pens into the picture. I always have these four pens inked. At least that’s been true the since the beginning of this month and will be into the foreseeable future. The one thing they all have in common is they can stay inked for months and not have any problems.

Esterbrook Dip-less in an empty #407 inkwell

Esterbrook Dip-less in an empty #407 inkwell

The Esterbrook Dip-less is my newest always inked pen. Since it’s a dip pen it’s desk bound. I primarily use it for short notes and it still has the Esterbrook #7550 extra fine nib. There’s Sheaffer Red in the inkwell which is a nice bright red ink that suitable for the way I use the pen. It’s the only pen of the four that I clean off every couple of weeks. The red ink dries around the collar so I clean it off before it has a chance to permanently stain the pen. Plus, it starts to look cruddy on an otherwise pristine pen. The dip pen gets used nearly every day, although probably for less than 20 words each day.

 

Franklin-Christoph Model 66 with R&K Blau-Schwarz

Franklin-Christoph Model 66 with R&K Blau-Schwarz

If there’s a perfect fountain pen and ink combination this has to be it. They’ve been together for well over a year. The Model 66 went over a year just being refilled, no cleaning and it was problem free. It’s mostly desk bound since it’s so big, and clip-less. Because the Esterbrook Dip-less sits on the same desk and I now use the Model 66 less often, it does leave the desk at times so that it gets used.

Kaweco AL Sport Raw Aluminim postedKaweco AL Sport Black Stonewashed photoI couldn’t decide which Kaweco AL Sport to carry, so I carry two of them. Both have finishes designed to be abused so I carry them in the same pocket as my keys. In a bit of irony, even though I’m always carrying these pens they are used the least of all my inked pens. I usually have another pen in my shirt pocket which gets used first. So these get used when I don’t have another fountain pen, or when I need additional ink colors. Maybe it’s because they bounce around in my pocket all the time, but I never have any hard starts. I also don’t have a lot of ink in the cap either.

Commonwealth Pen Show Recap

I visited the Commonwealth Pen Show earlier today. I didn’t take any pictures and didn’t leave with a large (or even medium) haul but it’s worth a recap.

While there was a Boston Pen Show last year the 2014 show is put together by different organizers and is outside Boston. The show was at the Somerville Holiday Inn and in a relatively small ballroom. I heard there were 18 vendors and that seemed about right (I’m terrible at estimating these things). The venue was nice, I really appreciated the free parking right at the hotel. It’s also about a half-mile from the local MBTA station. The room was well lit and didn’t feel congested. Even though 18 vendors is on the small side the room was obviously sold out as there wasn’t any more room for tables without making things feel cramped for the sellers or attendees. There was enough room to walk around and browse, at least when I was there from about 10 to 11:30 am.

Most of the pens were vintage. Richard Binder and Paradise Pens were the only vendors I saw that had primarily new pens, so the brands were limited. Richard Binder was also doing nib work. Also, I think it was Jim Baer I also saw doing pen repairs or nib work.

Jay Potter from PaperForFountainPens.com was also there with pads made from Tomoe River paper. I made my only purchase of the day from Jay. A hard cover notebook of white, blank Tomoe River paper. A review of the notebook was done by The Unroyal Warrant. Jay had only brought seconds to the show so the price was only $20 (regularly $29). I couldn’t tell what the defect was, if I had to guess I’d say it’s because the paper is ever so slightly misaligned where it’s glued into the covers.

A couple Sheaffers caught my eye but I resisted buying them. There were a lot of flex pens being sold, at least they claimed to flex. Since flex is lost on me I skipped those. There was a lot of variety among the vintage pens. I’m not familiar enough with pricing to know if there were good deals or not, but there did seem to be a lot interest in the pens that were there. If I had gone there wanting to buy a pen, rather than show restraint and wait for a perfect pen, I could easily have found one.

The small show size worked in my favor since I had to leave by noon. There was enough time for me to see everything and visit with a few people. I could be wrong, but I would guess that it would get busier after lunch but there seemed to be a good turnout when I was there. Hopefully there were enough attendees and sales to bring the show back next year.

Pen Show Weekend

Wow, looks like there’s three fountain pen shows going on this weekend.

The east coast (of the U.S.) has the Commonwealth Pen Show, just outside of Boston in Somerville, MA. It’s one day only, just Sunday September 28th from 9am to 5pm. I’m hoping to make it to this show.

It’s not exactly the west coast but it is the other side of the Mississippi, the Dallas Pen Show started today and also runs on Saturday. No Sunday show according to their site. {Update: Chris posted in the comments that the show does run on Sunday too – it was a last minute change].

There’s also the Tilburg Pen Show in Holland (aka The Netherlands). I couldn’t find a website for the show but it’s on Saturday. This FPN thread has details.

I put together my pen show list, although my pen budget (aka my PayPal account) is low at the moment.

  • A extra fine nib for my Pelikan M620(s) – I really like the look of all three of that I have but don’t use them enough because of their wide nibs. OR Get my Pelikan M620 medium nib ground down. It seems a waste of gold tipping to get a medium nib ground to an extra fine, but it would be cheaper than a new nib.
  • Sheaffer Crest (modern) Ultramarine Blue or Cadium Yellow – my current obsession is the modern Sheaffer Crest. While there were more variations I’m looking to get all four that have the Nova pattern. I’m half-way there.
  • Any Esterbrook nibs I don’t already have.
  • Any Esterbrooks or Sheaffers at bargain prices.
  • Just browse any Sheaffers or Esterbrook eye candy that may be there.

Anyone else visiting a pen show this weekend?