Retro 1951: My First Grown-Up Pen

“Life is too short to carry an ugly pen.” – Retro 1951

That’s the line that sold me on the Retro 1951 Tornado a few years ago. A classic looking simple pen that, at the time, was the most expensive pen I had ever considered buying at a daunting twenty dollars. I used it for a while, but ultimately it ended up on a shelf until a few months ago when my interest in pens was renewed.

From the ink to the barrel to the twist mechanism that exposes the writing tip; this pen was different than anything I had used before. At the time, I couldn’t appreciate that. But, years later, with a freshly renewed interest in pens and stationery, I have recovered my old Retro 51, revived it with a Schmidt P8125 Blue refill, and I use it almost every day.

The pen is completely metal, and feels substantial in your hand. One ounce doesn’t sound like much, but you can definitely feel this one in your pocket. The barrel on the standard “Classic Lacquer” model is completely smooth from clip to tip. Since there is no designated grip section, it really conforms to almost any writing style. Basically, this is a great looking pen that feels great in the hand of a writer. So why did it end up on the shelf for so long?

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I initially encountered issues that almost completely killed it for me. Out of the box, the stock ink was very runny on my cheap notebook paper. It would take a while to dry and I would end up running part of my hand over it on the next line. It wasn’t too long before I put the Tornado on a shelf and went back to my Jetstream, or whatever I was using at the time. Since I uncovered the pen and refilled it with the Schmidt P8126 cartridge, I was excited to see how the pen held up after so long.

Compared to all of the fountain pens I have been using recently, the Retro 51 is actually quite similar. Obviously the ball point pen writes on almost any paper surface much smoother than a fountain pen nib, and the writing angle isn’t nearly as important. But the effect on paper is very close to that of a Lamy Al-Star or Pilot Metropolitan, the ink is very wet, and shows through on most lighter paper.  As you can see here, the Schmidt-filled Retro shows through on the Yoobi (Target brand, review incoming), Rhodia, Moleskine, and Field Notes paper. The Rhodia held up the best but I was surprised to still see a little bleed through on the paper I typically reserve for heavier fountain pens.

Now, depending on how you write/journal/take notes, this may or may not be an issue. Personally, I prefer to use both sides of the page. I enjoy the feel of a notebook page laden with ink from front to back. Unfortunately the Retro 51 doesn’t quite comply with that practice, but luckily the various forms, lists, and spreadsheets that pass across my desk at work give me ample time to use the Retro 1951 Tornado on a daily basis. Ultimately, this is a rock solid pen with a timeless sense of style. I’m happy to keep it in my regular rotation.

If you’re looking for a great looking pen that will stand up to heavy daily use or just look great on a desk, and you have $21 burning a hole in your wallet, you can’t go wrong with a Retro.

Retro 1951 is available from many sources including JetPens

Schmidt P8126 purchased from JetPens

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