Retro 51 Tornado Vintage Metalsmith Juliet Heart Tree Rollerball Pen Review

(Susan M. Pigott is a fountain pen collector, pen and paperholic, photographer, and professor. You can find more from Susan on her blog Scribalishess.)

The Retro 51 Tornado Vintage Metalsmith Juliet Heart Tree Rollerball Pen (what a mouthful!) is a design created with acid etching and vintage metal accents. The Juliet looks like tree bark, and, because the design is etched, you can feel the texture with your fingers.

A heart with an arrow appears below the clip, and it just begs for initials. I asked, but you can't get that part of the pen engraved. I suppose you could write initials on the pen yourself using a Sharpie or other permanent marker to personalize it.

The Retro 51 Tornado is substantive for an average-sized pen. I couldn't find any specifications regarding its length, width, or weight, so I took my own measurements. Length without point extended: 12.5mm; Length with point extended: 12.9mm; Width at clip end about 1.8mm; Width at top of cone about 1mm; Weight: 1 ounce [29.57 ml] (if my scale is at all accurate).

The pen balances fairly comfortably in the hand, though it tapers dramatically from the clip end to the cone. If you like thick grips, this pen may not be comfortable for you. I wrote with my fingers on the cone, though you could hold the pen further back for a slightly wider grip.

The rollerball ink flows smoothly and didn't stutter or leave ink globs on the paper. I was pleased with how beautifully the pen wrote.

The pen comes with a Retro 51 Tornado rollerball refill. The Goldspot website doesn't state what size the rollerball is, but it feels like a medium (0.7) to me. Apparently refills from other brands (Monteverde, Schmidt, and Parker) can be used in the Retro Tornado pens, and you can choose either rollerball or ballpoint refills. These come in sizes other than medium.

The retractable rollerball system works smoothly. Turn the knob clockwise to extend the tip and counter-clockwise to retract it.

The clip is rigid. I could not lift it at all. I suppose you could clip the pen to a piece of paper, but getting it over a shirt pocket might require pliers.

Refilling the pen is simple. Just unscrew the cone, remove the spring, insert the new refill, replace the spring and cone, and you're done. I noticed while writing that the spring or pen cartridge knocks against the cone making a constant clicking noise. I tried replacing the spring and pen cartridge several times to see if repositioning it helped. It didn't. It's not terribly noisy, but if clicking noises bother you, be forewarned that this pen clicks.

I like the design of this pen, though I would have chosen brown for the etched portions to make it look more like a tree. The heart and arrow in a different color (maybe in red?) would have added to the playfulness of the design. Unfortunately, a visible seam runs along the length of the pen, and it looks unprofessional.

After writing several pages with the Retro Tornado, my hand got fatigued. The pen is fairly heavy and the steep taper forces your fingers into an uncomfortable writing position. Although Retro 51 offers many fun designs (I particularly like the Albert which sports a black background and mathematical equations), this is not a pen I would purchase for myself. The weight, the steep taper, and the clicking noises didn't impress me.

However, for people who enjoy quirky designs and solidly-built rollerballs, the Retro 51 Tornado is a good choice for short writing sessions. The Juliet version is currently on sale at Goldspot Pens for $28.00 (regularly $35.00). Refills are $4.00 a piece. Be sure to check out the Albert ($40.00) and all the other Retro 51 designs. I was sorely tempted to buy a Harley Davidson Blackline Skull Pen ($65.00) because who doesn't want a skull pen? Right?

Goldspot Pens kindly provided the Retro 51 Tornado Juliet as a loaner pen for this review.

Posted on July 3, 2015 and filed under Retro 51, Pen Reviews, Rollerball.

Sakura Ballsign Knock Gel Ink Pen Review

When I think Sakura, I think of only one pen: The Sakura Pigma Micron. This art/drawing/sketch pen is ubiquitous, appearing in creators pen stashes all over the world. Sakura makes other pens too, like the Grosso that I was a fan of back in the day, with the Sakura Ballsign Knock Gel the most recent to land on my desk.

The Ballsign is your basic entry level micro tip gel ink pen. Simple plastic construction, lightweight, knock retractable mechanism, 0.4 mm conical tip - pretty much how you would draw it up. One addition on the Ballsign is the presence of an elastomer grip, which is essentailly a grippy overlay that works surprisingly well. I actually didn't notice it at first. I thought it was just the standard plastic barrel continued through the grip, but I realized soon my fingers weren't slipping at all and the elastomer grip was why.

When writing, the Ballsign feels a lot like its competition. The lines are solid and sharp, although oddly enough I felt the orange lines were cleaner than the blue black. The colors look spot on too, at least on the two of the 15 colors I tried out. Another interesting takeaway is that the Ballsign refills match the shape and design of the Uni-ball RT1, so it could fit in those barrels that use RT, 207, and Jetstream refills if you are so inclined.

The Ballsign is not a world beater, but it is a solid option in the world of micro gel ink pens. For me, they rank lower than the Uni-ball Signo DX, RT1, and 207, as well as the Zebra Sarasa Clip and Pilot Juice. It falls in the Pentel Slicci/Muji Gel range, which is a good spot to be. Give them a shot, especially if you want to try some of the more interesting colors like brown black, red orange, and cherry pink.

(JetPens provided this product at no charge to The Pen Addict for review purposes.)

Posted on July 2, 2015 and filed under Gel, Pen Reviews, Sakura.

Kuretake Handmade Envelope Template (Western Version) Review

I never seem to have the right sized envelope when I need one. I ought to buy stationery sets with paper and matching envelopes, but I've gotten spoiled writing on Tomoe River Paper. There may be Tomoe Stationery sets, but I don't have one. And a cheap office envelope just seems wrong.

Enter the Kuretake Handmade Envelope Template (Western Version). I found this on JetPens and decided to buy one so that I could make envelopes any time I needed them. I also bought the Nichiban Tenori Adhesive Stamp to glue my envelopes.

The envelope template is simple. It's constructed out of thick plastic, with cut-outs for four different envelope sizes, from small gift-card-sized envelopes to large card-sized envelopes: 2.6" x 4.1" (65mm x 105mm), 3.9" x 5.8" (98mm x 148mm), 4.5" x 6.4" (114mm x 162mm), and 4.7" x 6.7 " (120mm x 170mm). Note that none of these is a business-sized envelope. I made my first group of envelopes out of a grocery bag (yay recycling!).

All you have to do is place the template on your paper, draw the outline of the envelope in the size you desire, and cut the envelope out. Then it's just a matter of folding the two sides and bottom portions and gluing them in place.

The Tenori was a disaster, I'm afraid. I don't know what I did wrong, but after using it once or twice the tape got tangled, and the more I tried to fix it, the more mangled it got. I'm just going to use good ol' Elmer's from now on.

With scrapbooking paper, you can make envelopes in any pattern or color you like.

The design can be on the outside of the envelope (you'll need to make an address label unless the design is light or plain).

Or you can put the design on the inside.

The template is very handy. As long as you have paper, a pencil, and scissors, you can make an envelope. Be careful about the weight of the paper, just in case you need to add extra postage.

You can buy the Kuretake Handmade Envelope Template at JetPens for $13.50. If you want to take a chance on the Nichiban Tenori Adhesive Stamp, it is $6.50 at JetPens.

Posted on July 1, 2015 and filed under Kuretake, Envelopes.

The Pen Addict Podcast: Episode 161 - No Micarta For You

Myke and I were joined by the Gentleman Stationer himself, Mr. Joe Crace, on this weeks podcast. We discussed his excellent blog, pen show travels, vintage pens, and lamented the loss of our favorite orange ink. We also talked about my Mental Floss appearance and several new pens such as the Retro 51 Lift Off and the TWSBI ECO.

Show Notes & Download Links

This episode of The Pen Addict is sponsored by:

Squarespace: Build it Beautiful. Use code INK for 10% off.

Karas Kustoms: Get 15% off anything in their store by using the code "PENADDICT" before you checkout.

Posted on June 30, 2015 and filed under Podcast.