(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.