Posts filed under Rollerball

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.

Kaweco AL Sport Stonewashed Roller Ball Pen Review

(Jeff Abbott is a regular contributor at The Pen Addict. You can find more from Jeff online at Draft Evolution and Twitter.)

The Kaweco AL Sport is a classic, beautiful design that many of us love, but we also probably assume that we're talking about a fountain pen when that name comes up. Well, there's also a roller ball version of the pen, and it's pretty nice.

The Kaweco AL Sport Roller Ball is exactly what you might expect — it's the same as the normal fountain pen, but with a different section that uses a roller ball refill instead of the fountain pen nib. In fact, you can even swap the section out with other AL Sports if you want.

In my opinion, this is one of the best pocket carry pens out there. It's well made, durable, and has a refill that behaves better than most fountain pen nibs. Even better, it can accept the Schmidt capless refills. Yep, the same ones found in the Retro 51. Knowing that, this pen was an insta-purchase for me.

How does the pen perform? In many ways, it's the same as the regular fountain pen version, so I'll just summarize it with: it feels great in the hand, it's made of durable materials with high tolerances, and it can withstand a lot of punishment. With this particular version, the stonewashing effect means you don't have to worry about making that first scratch because there's already an infinite number of scratches on the pen from the factory. (I hope I'm not the only one who has a fear of making a first scratch on a new pen.)

If the body is the same as the fountain pen line, then the most important thing to consider here is the refill. I'll be honest with you — the Kaweco refill included with the pen is OK. It tends to skip every now and then and it doesn't fit in the pen perfectly. When writing, the refill moves a tiny bit and makes a noise that distracts me when writing. I like the refill to be snug when writing. And, the skipping can be a bit of an annoyance as well. Like I said, it's OK.

But, you have to also consider that the awesome Schmidt Capless refills work with this pen. Any Parker style refills will work this pen as well, but I'm a huge fan of the Schmidts. Most of us probably had our introduction to these refills from a Retro 51 of one kind or another, and you'll know immediately if you like it or not. Basically, the Schmidt refills are really smooth, dark, and skipless. I've never had problems with them hard-starting, skipping, or any other problems that sometimes come up with roller balls. They're really one of my favorite refills, and I'm really happy when a pen accepts them.

With that in mind, I whole-heartedly recommend this pen. Just remember to pick up a Schmidt P8126 or P8127 with your order. The combination of a comfortable, nearly indestructable pen with an awesome refill is what joy is made from. The price for the pen is a bit high, but you probably already know that this is a standard price for the Kaweco AL Sports, and it's certainly fair due to the materials and high quality craftsmanship that goes into them. If you're in the market for a great roller ball, definitely check them out!

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

Posted on March 11, 2015 and filed under Kaweco, AL Sport, Rollerball, Pen Reviews.

Parker IM Liquid Ink Roller Ball Review

Parker IM Roller Ball.jpg

If there's one thing I know about myself, it's that I'm a sucker for metal barrel writing instruments. This is the reason I flicked the Parker IM rollerball into my cart one day when I was browsing through the different rollerballs on JetPens. It's the only Parker rollerball on JetPens, so I thought I'd give it a try. In short, I love the design and aesthetic of the pen, but not the refill.


The Parker IM has a really pleasing look and feel. I opted for the gunmetal finish, which is a dark gray with a silver sheen. The accents look like chrome, although they probably aren't real. The clip on the pen has the classic Parker arrow shape, which is a nice touch. My favorite part of the pen is the all-metal grip area – this is a huge plus for me. I love pens with metal grips.

The pen is a little on the heavy side, but it's not noticeable unless writing for more than 20 minutes or so. I usually write with it unposted anyway. The pen looks classy and feels well-built.

And then I tried to write with it.

Writing performance

I was greeted by poor ink flow and a really scratchy sound when I tried to write. It sounded like I was writing with a nail, and the ink trail looked like I was using a ballpoint pen that hadn't been used in a few months. It was skippy and faint. I was perplexed.

A little background info that might be helpful here: I hold my pen in the "standard" grip. The grip rests on my middle finger, and my thumb and index finger hold it in place. The angle of the pen to the page is usually between 40 and 60 degrees. From my knowledge, that's a fairly common and universal grip.

I couldn't write with the Parker unless I held it perpendicular to the page – 90 degrees – any deviation would result in the scratchy sound and feel. This was frustrating, so I put it away for a bit. I wondered if there was something I did wrong. Did this pen have some sort of seal on the tip like some of the gel pens? It didn't look like it.

After fiddling with some other pens, I had an idea. I put the Parker refill through a similar process as smoothing a fountain pen nib. Figure eights and infinity symbols on varying grades of grit while holding it at a 45 degree angle.

To my relief, a few rounds of smoothing produced a better (not perfect) result. It was closer to what I was expecting, but still scratchy. At least the ink was flowing well now. And, wow. This ink flows. It's extremely smooth and bold ink. Parker calls this a "medium" point, but I would call it a bold. It looks like a 1.0 mm line on the page.

Parker IM Roller Ball Open.jpg

My only guess is that I received a refill that wasn't quite ready for retail. Maybe there was too much metal around the roller ball that was causing the problem? Seems like that might be the case since a little grinding made it better.

But really, who's going to do that to a roller ball? These are the types of refills that just work straight away. I considered buying a replacement refill, but decided it wasn't worth it. They're the same price as the Schmidt refills used in the Retro 51s, but I'd much prefer those to the Parker. The Zebra R-301 is only a few bucks and delivers a stellar performance.

Instead, I set out to find another refill that I could retrofit into the body. It's pretty universal and will accept a Pilot G2 size or a Pentel Energel with very little fuss. I used a 0.25" piece of tubing from the kit I received with the Retrakt to provide the right amount of spacing for the refill. Perfect.


I'll continue using the Parker IM, but not with the Parker refill. For now, I have several better options that produce smooth, silent results on the page. Maybe one day I'll try another Parker refill in this pen to see if I got a lemon, but I doubt it.

JetPens sells several colors of the Parker IM roller ball. With the experience I had with it, I can't really recommend it unless you're prepared to do some retrofitting or tuning.

(You can find more from Jeff online at Draft Evolution, Twitter, and

Parker IM Roller Ball Review.jpg
Parker IM Roller Ball Samples.jpg
Parker IM Roller Ball Nock.jpg
Posted on April 2, 2014 and filed under Parker, Pen Reviews, Rollerball.