Friday, June 10, 2022

Newest Acquisitions (Virtual "Show & Tell") ~ part 384 & National Ballpoint Day!

Happy National Ballpoint Day! 🖊️

Today is a day to celebrate the ballpoint pen, so I thought I'd post a review of my new Retro 51 'Slim Tornado' ballpoint:

(the photo above was part of a contest I entered--please excuse my drawing skills, or lack thereof --but I liked the way the pen looked in that light ;)

I love just about everything made by this
Dallas, Texas-based company (which also makes desk sets & accessories, card holders, gadgets and other cool things). I've been collecting Retro 51 pens for over 20 years and I've posted photos of pens from my collection before, but I haven't done an overview of their most popular writing instrument line, so I thought I'd do that in this review.

The Retro '51' Tornado:

The first Retro 51 'Tornado' pen burst onto the market in 1999 (with the tagline "This pen will blow you away!") as a capless rollerball, but the product line grew to include ballpoints, mechanical pencils, underliners and fountain pens. A small handful of models are made of bamboo, but the vast majority are lacquered metallic-bodied writing instruments. They come in a variety of imaginative designs, colours, sizes and writing forms, but all of the 'Tornado' writing instruments are capless (except the fountain pens, of course) and share one distinctive feature---their knurled cap tops, which twist to propel & retract the ballpoint/rollerball refills and pencil leads (the lone exception is the 'Snapper Tornado', which has a knurled cap top, but uses a click-action). 

I mentioned that the 'Tornado' pens came in various sizes--here's a photo I found online that shows three 'Tornado' models side by side:

The 'Slim Tornado' ballpoint (the model featured in this review) first appeared in the 2016 Retro 51 catalog in the "Electron", "Graphite" and "Ocean" designs:

There weren't that many 'Slim Tornado' designs made --the three from 2016 (above) and four others which appear in the 2017 catalog - the "Aquamarine", "Lavender" & "Moonstone" (which all had metallic lacquer barrels) and the "Deco Slim" (which had a .925 Sterling Silver barrel).

Retro 51 also made five 'Slim Tornado' pens with the Apple logo on them -- four in colours that matched the iPhone 6S/6S Plus colours ("Space Grey", "Silver", "Gold" & "Rose Gold") and one in "Matte Black". Unfortunately, these pens were only available from the Apple company store at their HQ in Cupertino, California.

Ok, enough background info....Onto my pen!

 (please click on images to enlarge)

 The 'Slim Tornado' does not appear in any Retro 51 catalogs after 2017, so it appears to be a short-lived Retro 51 model...and it's becoming more and more difficult to find. That's why I was so happy to see that Buchan's Kerrisdale Stationery & Gifts in Vancouver still had a couple left for sale. I acquired my "Aquamarine" version from them a couple of days before my birthday last month (the chocolate was a little birthday treat from them :)

The pen comes in a slimmed-down version of Retro 51's famous graphics tube, which --fittingly-- has a retro aesthetic. Every time I get a new Retro 51 pen, it seems to come in a tube with a different design on it, which is very cool (apparently, some people even collect the tubes). The tubes used to be made of metal, but the company switched over to cardboard at some point, presumably for environmental reasons. Retro 51 has produced bamboo 'Tornado' pens to raise money for environmental groups like the Arbor Day Foundation, and the Retro 51 wooden pen tray is also made of bamboo, which is a sustainable material.

The tube also acts as a pen stand or a carrying case, thanks to its molded foam cushioning...

Above: The pen's aquamarine finial, which matches the colour of the pen. Other 'Tornado' models have more decorative finials that match the patterns/designs of their respective pen bodies.

(my pen and my Paper-Oh 'Quadro' B6 size lined notebook - I reviewed the B6.5 size in March)

According to Retro 51, the 'Slim Tornado' is 5 inches/125 mm long, 0.4 inch/10 mm in diameter, and weighs 0.8 oz/22.6 grams. In comparison, a standard Parker 'Jotter' ballpoint weighs about 15 grams and the Parker 'Jotter XL' ballpoint about 19 grams.

The pen comes with a black Retro 51 'Easy Flow 9000' ballpoint refill, which lays down a dark, smooth line, but you can also use a Parker-style refill in it (note: the refill that comes with the standard/'Big Shot' 'Tornado' capless rollerball pens--a Retro 51-branded Schmidt capless rollerball refill--is too wide to fit in the 'Slim Tornado').

I love the colour of the pen and its matte finish -- it matches the matte finish on the chrome trim so well. Its smooth, cool finish is also very pleasant to the touch. The 'Tornado' line of pens and pencils are known for being well-balanced and the 'Slim Tornado' is no exception. They are well-built and feel durable, too. 'Tornado' pens are designed in the U.S. by Retro 51's designers (with the exception of a few limited editions), and are hand-assembled and made in Taiwan.

Above: my Aquamarine 'Slim Tornado' next to a standard 'Tornado' Classic Lacquer in Pink (it looks purple, but it isn't). As some have remarked, the difference in size between the two pens is less obvious in photos.

The standard 'Tornado' is the same length as the 'Slim Tornado' but its max diameter is 12.3 mm and it weighs 1.0 oz/28 grams (data from The Classic Lacquers are made of stainless steel, but there are other standard-sized 'Tornados' that contain brass or copper, and are heavier.

Retro 51's motto is "Life is too short to carry an ugly pen!" and I'm so happy I was able to add this very pretty pen to my Retro 51 collection and support a great local pen store at the same time :) Many thanks to Buchan's for the stuff I bought at their store last month (I'll be reviewing the other items in a different blog post) and the birthday goodies, too!

photos & review by Maja)

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