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 PenBoutique.com 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.


More Retro 51 Metalsmiths

Retro 51 jefferson and FranklinAfter reading The Clicky Post’s review of the Retro 51 Jefferson Metalsmith Series rollerball I had to order one and give my Lincoln some company. And while I was there I decided to give in and include the Franklin in the order. Complete lack of will power.

I’m glad I’m not the only one who didn’t get the relationship between the pen names and finishes. But a commenter at The Clicky Post suggested it was related to the coins, Lincoln being on the copper penny and Jefferson on the nickle, but that only works for those two pens. Eisenhower has stars on it so that makes sense. But the now discontinued Monroe and the Franklin defy logic. The closest I can come for Franklin is that the pattern on the pen is reminiscent of his mapping of ocean currents.

My Lincoln is smooth copper so I was concerned the raised grooves in the Jefferson would bother me. But they don’t bother me at all and are mostly smooth. They’re obviously raised, but not at all sharp. The raised design on the Franklin isn’t bothersome either. If anything, the raised design helps grip the potentially slick metal.

I always liked the designs used on the Metalsmith pens and these two pens exceed the pictures. The Jefferson has a brushed nickel finish where the indented areas are slight darker as the raised areas reflect light. The Franklin is a darker finish but it’s highly reflective and looks bright.

Ever since Brad Dowdy reviewed the Schmidt P8126 refills I’ve been using them in my Retro 51’s due to the slightly thinner .6 mm line so I did swap out the stock refills.

Rather than repeating what’s already been written I’ll post some pictures and refer you to other reviews. The Jefferson is linked to above. The Pen Addict reviewed the Lacquer Retro 51 (similar design) and the Schmidt P8126 refill.

Now I’m off to search for the Monroe which is discontinued.


Perfect Match: Pelle Notebook and Retro 51 Pen

Retro 51 Deluxe Tornado LincolnThere’s one pen in my accumulation that’s not a fountain pen. It’s paired with a leather notebook cover and I consider them a set,

The pen is a Retro 51 Deluxe Tornado Lincoln Rollerball. It’s got a terrific antique copper finish. It’s developed a unique patina over time and use. Pictures don’t do it justice , but I love the look. If the finish was available as a fountain pen it would be perfect.

The notebook cover is a small Pelle Leather Journal in brown. The notebooks inside include a Pelle notebook and a Field Notes notebook, both with blank pages, The Field Notes notebook is a little big but more on that in a moment.

I came across the Retro 51 Lincoln last May but was unsure if it looked as good as it sounded. Pictures didn’t tell the story. As for the leather cover from Pelle I had come across it when looking for a pocket notebook but it seemed small for the notebooks I wanted to use. The replacement books from Pelle were a bit expensive for my intended use (abusing a notebook by carrying it around all the time and using it for disposable notes).

As I was debating this episode 18 of the Pen Addict podcast was released. Myke had bought the Lincoln Retro 15 and his description removed all doubts I had about look of the pen. As for the notebook he solved that problem too. Well, not so much solved as turned it into a feature. The Field Notes notebook are in fact too big, but just a little and only if the intent is to keep them entirely inside the leather cover. The books fit inside the retaining straps just fine. The books stick out a little, but since they are brown they match the leather cover and give it character.

I use the notebook as a pocket notebook or carry it in my computer bag. It’s generally paired with the pen. Except for the Pilot Vanishing Point a fountain pen is typically too cumbersome for quick notes.

Any notes I make in the notebook are temporary by nature. If I need to keep the info I transfer it someplace else.

The Pelle paper is nice. It’s more fountain pen friendly than the Field Notes paper. But it is thin so there is show through, but no bleed through.

The Pen Addict has a review of the Retro 51 Tornado. It’s a different finish but the same basic pen. I like the pen, although a thin metal pen wouldn’t be my choice for longer writing sessions. It’s perfect for quick notes.

The rest of the story can be told in pictures.