Let’s not loose many words of prelude, but dive straight into things.
First thing I noticed when the fountain pen arrived was the very unusual packaging, which I found pretty appealing. The Retro ’51 – as the name already indicates – is supposed to be a classic ‘vintage style’ pen (which it is, in my opinion), so the boxing really fits the pen I find.
Upon opening the box, the pen is revealed. It is packed in a safe and sound cushioning, which presents the pen really well. I got the White Nickel EXT version here with an F-nib (since I am left-handed, if you do not already know that :-)). The White Nickel is available for around 50$, from JetPens for instance. Besides the White Nickel that I opted for, the pen is also available in black acrylic, an antique copper-style, a colorful modern art-style prism-design as well as in a blue acrylic swirl style. There are also different nib sizes available (F, M, B).
This pen comes with a converter, which I find really good, and with two black ink (Retro ’51-ink, short international cartridges) cartridges.
The fountain pen also comes with a little booklet that contains some information on the pen as well as some pretty useful tips on maintaining a fountain pen. Going in hand with the vintage style of the pen, that booklet also contains some old-school retro comics – I really love the one saying “Live is too short to carry an ugly pen”, which is Retro ’51s slogan that is also printed on that round boxing that the pen comes in.
Let’s take the pen out of the box and appreciate it as a whole: the barrel of the White Nickel EXT-pen has a sleek grooved design and some rose gold-toned accents. The dimensions of the pen are as follows:
Capped: ca. 13,8 cm
Uncapped: ca. 12,7 cm
Cap itself: 5,8 cm
Posted: ca. 16 cm.
The pen is initially pretty heavy, but looses a considerable amount of its weight once the cap (a screw-on) is removed. So the cap itself is pretty heavy. I would say that the uncapped pen is of average weight – not particularly heavy, not too lightweight as well. Just comfortable to hold.
The Tornado’s major design-feature is definitely this knurled cap-top, which makes the pen really stand out. This is essentially the feature that demanded my attention when I felt the wish to trying the fountain pen.
When turning the pen a little, it is easy to see the pens second dominant design-feature, which are the groves that run along the barrel.
Let’s have a closer look at what I consider to be a really beautiful cap and clip. The cap has some engraving running around it: “Tornado” on the frontside and “by Retro 1951” on the backside.
The Tornado features an iridium-tipped steel Schmidt fountain pen nib with some ornaments on it. As said above, I got the pen in an F-nib, which writes super-smooth. The nib actually is gigantic, but more on that in a bit. The black section is also made from metal, but it is slightly coarse – so not slippery at all.
The pen is definitely one of the wetter writers I have, but as said: a very smooth writer. It requires absolutely zero pressure to write with (which ideally should be the case with all fountain pens, but certainly does not always match the writing experience).
The pen can be used posted – the cap sits a bit wobbly, but it sits. I do not prefer to write the pen posted, though, even though I have rather big hands. This is mainly due to the pretty heavy cap that makes then pen a little back heavy when posted.
When not posted, the pen has the perfect size for me. I can hold it effortlessly. It is comfortable for short notes as it is for lengthier writing sessions. On this picture here one can also see the nicely accented end of the pen, which is the same rose-gold as all the other accents.
A size comparison to the Lamy Safari – a pen that should be know to many people out there – shows that the capped size-difference is marginal in length. The Tornado, however, is a bit sleeker.
Uncapped, the Tornado is a little shorter than the Safari. In this bird eye-view, one already gets a first comparative impression of the Tornados impressive nib size (just wait for it ;-)).
Here’s a comparative shot of both writers posted. Again, the Tornado is slightly shorter, as the section and cap are.
A nib-close up then really shows the difference: the nib of the Tornado really is massive. Both nibs here are fine (F) nibs.
Here’s a another comparative nib shot. Both pens loaded with black ink.
All in all (before a short writing sample), I do find the Tornado to be a really beautiful vintage-style fountain pen. I like the way it writes effortlessly, the classic style and the nice weight. Occasionally, the cap does not screw on so well. It’s not to the extend that it really would be a problem, but sometimes one has to screw it on a little slower, otherwise (it feels like) it’s somehow twisting or jamming. Having that said, I think the pen (with converter) is a really good value for it’s price tag.
Here’s a comparative writing sample of the Tornado and above Lamy Safari, which both are equipped with a F-nib. They do both produce an approximately similar stroke, the Tornado being a bit finer, though. The Tornados Schmidt Iridium nib also is able to produce sufficient line variation.