Retro 51 Accumulation

Photo of my current Retro 51 accumulationIt seems I don’t give my Retro 51 pens the attention they deserve. They are scattered around various briefcases, computer bags, desks, and other flat surfaces. They’re very much out of sight, out of mind. A couple of months ago a pen case with 5 of my Metalsmith series Retros turned up, and I had to admit I had forgotten about the pens. They aren’t listed on my pen accumulation page or in my electronic pen inventory. Retro 51 pens deserve better treatment than this.

I finally decided to inventory all my Retro 51s. This turned up one I had completely forgotten about, I went to my car to get the green lacquer Retro but found that I had replaced it with the Retro 51 Surf. The green lacquer was on a counter with a dry ink cartridge. It went dry, and I forgot about it before I got a refill.

I’ve been decluttering my apartment using the rule that if I come across something forgotten and unused for years, it needs to go away. I’m breaking this rule with the Retros, they’ll all be staying. Instead, I collected them all up and will keep them in a single pen case and track I went through my email and verified I had all the ones with a purchase record and I’m not aware of any others, so I think I have them all. That said, I had no purchase record of the Surf and did not remember it until I stumbled upon it. So there may be one or more forgotten pens still under a couch cushion. Eventually I’ll add them to my pen database, but for now having them in one case will be an improvement.

I should mention that the official name is “Retro 51 Tornado…”, but I’m dropping the Tornado.

Here’s my Retro 51 accumulation.

Starting with the pen tray, going left to right.

Retro 51 Green Lacquer: This was my very first Retro 51. I think I bought it after a discussion on an early Pen Addict podcast. I picked it because the lacquers were the least expensive model, and it’s green. This pen is historically the one I leave in the car, which is why I went there to get it. It’s my only Retro with a chipped barrel (although not visible in the photo). It is a pen that is tossed around and kept in a pocket or briefcase with keys, so the chip isn’t unexpected.

Retro 51 Montana (a.k.a. Ugly Sweater Pen): My favorite Retro 51 for a reason I can’t explain. Someone was trying to sell one for $130 on eBay, so I guess I’m not alone. (FYI: It didn’t sell.)

Retro 51 Terabyte: A limited edition from Anderson Pens. Another favorite since it’s green and has a computer theme.

Retro 51 Play Ball: This is the rollerball (recently swapped to gel) that currently travels in my Nock Co Fodderstack XL. After all, it is baseball season. I love the intricate design of the pen, based on baseball terms and phrases.

The next six pens are all part of the Vintage Metalsmith series. The series was an early obsession of mine, and I wanted them all up to a certain point. To me, the Albert and Dr. Gray may be called Vintage Metalsmith, but they don’t seem to fit into the design aesthetic of the series. They are more like Tribute or Deluxe edition pens.

My Vintage Metalsmith series pens are:

  • Roosevelt
  • Monroe: My only Retro 51 eBay purchase. I skipped this when it was released but found it on eBay for a reasonable price.
  • Jefferson
  • Franklin
  • Lincoln: I think this was my second Retro 51, although it might have been third, after the Stealth. I like the antique copper finish. The Lincoln is the pen that hooked me on the Vintage Metalsmith series. I also have the fountain pen version of this pen.
  • Betsy: This is where the Metalsmith began to veer from the original design aesthetic. I had forgotten it was part of the series until I looked it up for the inventory. I like the pen, and it usually comes out in July for obvious reasons. For non-Americans – Betsy Ross is typically credited with making the first American flag.

Retro 51 Liftoff: Space-themed pen designed to look like a rocket. I love it.

Retro 51 Apollo: A sentimental favorite. I was born days before President Kennedy’s speech to Congress proposing the goal of landing a man on the moon. The Apollo program started that same year, and I grew up watching it on the news (well, at least when they were getting close to landing on the moon) and was fascinated by it. It’s yet another attractive design that I love.

Now the pens above the tray, from top to bottom.

Retro 51 Stealth. I had to have the stealth version. The finish has held up well.

Retro 51 Tiki Kona: A bamboo pen with a Tiki head design. I like the intricate design, but on mine, the clip is slightly off center to the nose. The slight angle hides it in the photo, but I’ve seen it and can’t unsee it, so it bugs me. Like the regular bamboo pen, the Tiki Kona is slightly larger than the typical Retro 51.

Retro 51 Bamboo: I like the slightly larger girth along with the feel of the bamboo.

Retro 51 Vintage Surf: The forgotten pen. The Surf is another wooden pen that’s slightly thicker than the typical Tornado.

Retro 51 Hot Coffee: Another vendor exclusive pen, this time for Goldspot. I had to get a pen with a coffee theme.

So that’s my accumulation of 17 Retro 51 Rollerball pens. I previously linked to Mary’s post about a gel refill for the pens. I have the gel refills in three of the pens. The Play Ball has red, the Terabyte has green and the Tiki has black. The remainder all have Schmidt P8126 0.6 mm refills, rather than the original P8127 0.7mm refills. I still have the original refills and may revert to using them in some pens to be less wasteful.


Happy Fourth of July

July Fourth Retro 51s - Betsy Ross and Lift-OffHappy Independence Day to my fellow American readers. It seems these two pens are a more appropriate carry for today than my usual fountain pen. I can probably go a whole day without using a fountain pen, especially since it’s BBQ and picnics. Although I suspect I’ll pull out a fountain pen to write a few notes to avoid withdrawal.

This Just In: Retro 51 Tornado Popper Lift-Off

Retro 51 Popper Lift-OffI’ve been able to resist the recent Retro 51 Tornado special editions, until I saw the Retro 51 Tornado Popper Lift-Off. As soon as I saw it I headed to Goldspot and ordered it. It looks like I wasn’t the only one since the virtual shelves seem to already be empty since there were only 500 made. Luckily pricing wasn’t based on demand so the pen was only $35 which is in line with other Poppers and a couple bucks less than the recent Sport themed Poppers that are still available.

Mine arrived Monday and is number 460. While the pen is undamaged, Goldspot shipped it in a padded envelope,  not a box. The Retro 51 tube was a bit crushed near the top. Not a huge deal for me since I don’t keep the packaging but something to keep in mind if you order a Retro 51 from Goldspot.

There’s not much to say about this that the pictures don’t say. It uses my favorite Rollerball refills so there’s that.

Retro 51 Lift-Off Number 460Retro 51 Lift-Off



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.


Review: Retro 51 Tornado Lincoln EXT

Retro 51 Tornado Lincoln I’m a fan of the Retro 51 Tornado Roller Ball pens and the Lincoln version of that pen tops the list. So when I saw there was a fountain pen Lincoln I couldn’t place the order fast enough. My only other Retro 51 fountain pen was a Double 8 which had one of the poorest build qualities I’ve encountered. But since the copper Lincoln was in the tried-and-true Tornado design I wasn’t concerned.

Why I Got It

It’s a fountain pen version of the Lincoln Tornado Rollerball. The only reason I needed.

What I Got

Retro 51 Tornado Lincoln mibA copper colored metal fountain pen with a medium nib. Retro 51 calls the finish “antique copper”. The pen can use a standard international convertor (and comes with one) or short international cartridges and comes with two cartridges in the barrel. It’s a Schmidt nib.

I bought my pen from where it was priced significantly less then other reputable sellers, although they only had the medium nib version.

The “EXT” in the name just indicates that this pen is longer than the original Tornado pens (extended).

The Numbers

  • Length Capped: 5.452″  (138.50 mm)
  • Length Uncapped: 4.945″  (125.60 mm)
  • Length Posted: 6.255″  (158.91 mm)
  • Section Length: 0.670″  (17.02 mm)
  • Section Diameter (near nib): 0.366″  (9.31 mm)
  • Section Diameter (near threads): 0.406″  (10.32 mm)
  • Barrel Diameter: 0.468″  (11.90 mm)
  • Cap Diameter: 0.518″  (13.17 mm)
  • Cap Length: 2.299″  (58.40 mm)

Using The Pen

It’s a heavy pen, it is made of metal after all. The nib was surprisingly smooth out of the box. Not the smoothest ever, but one of the smoothest I’ve had in a pen under $50. The pen is very long when posted and also a bit top heavy. I don’t typically post my pens so I may not be the best judge, but this doesn’t seem well balanced when posted. But unposted, which is my preference, I find the pen to be quit comfortable.

I used the supplied blue cartridge for a couple of days. The pen wrote well with the ink. But I soon swapped it out for a more interesting ink. I picked J. Herbin Perle Noire in a cartridge. (Yes, black is interesting, especially when compared to blue).

The pen was problem free with the Perle Noire for the first couple of days. Then one morning the nib and feed were completely dry. I ended up having to flush the nib and feed with a bulb syringe. The pen returned to normal when I returned the cartridge. So there was probably some debris in the pen.

The nib does often skip on the first stroke after being uncapped for use, but it’s fine after that. This became more common as the ink level in the cartridge fell. The ink does evaporate off the nib a little quicker on this pen than others I’ve used this ink in.

I have been using Iroshizuku Tsukushi in the convertor and the slow starts have been non-existent so far (about 4 days) . The ink does still evaporate from the nib quicker than I’m used to. I have to cap the pen when I put down or pause for more than 30 seconds.

The pen is heavier than many of my other pens, but not so heavy I get fatigued. It would be considerably heavier and less balanced if I posted the cap. It’s a threaded cap which fits securely although sometimes the cap needs a little extra care to line up the threads properly to screw on the cap. It takes about 2 twists to uncap the pen.

Cleaning the Pen

Cleaning was easy. A few flushes of the nib unit with a bulb syringe and it was ink free.


J. Herbin Perle Noire in a cartridge is the ink I’ve used the most in this pen. There was the need to flush the pen but this was probably paper fibers or something else clogging the feed. There were hard starts, just a brief skip on the first stroke. They got more frequent as the ink level in the cartridge went down. This was annoying but not a huge problem since the writing was consistent after that first miss.

Pilot Iroshizuku Tsukushi was used in the converter. There wasn’t any skipping on the first stroke or any other time.

Wrapping Up

I really like the copper look of the pen and expect it to develop a distinctive patina similar to the rollerball. The nib is good, very good most of the time, but not great. This is a pen I’d be willing to have the nib worked on, maybe stubbed or ground to a fine or extra fine. That would cost nearly as much as the pen but I think it could join the ranks of my favorites after that. It’s already a favorite in the looks department.