(Susan M. Pigott is a fountain pen collector, pen and paperholic, photographer, and professor. You can find more from Susan on her blog Scribalishess.)
When I saw the Retro 1951 Tornado Prism fountain pen on Jet Pens, I was immediately taken by its colorful patterns. It reminded me of a patchwork quilt. Although I had a few qualms about ordering a Retro Tornado fountain pen (I read some negative reviews a while back), I decided to give this one a try.
Packaged in a cylindrical cardboard box, the pen is nestled in the center like a spaceship ready for launch. It comes with a couple of cartridges and a converter.
The exterior of this pen is really nice. The colors and design set it apart from other fountain pens. The barrel and cap both have a light texture to them.
The barrel is made of metal as is the cap, the trims are chrome plated, but the grip is plastic. The reason the pen has the "EXT" in its name is the barrel is extended "to hold a converter, one standard international long ink cartridge, or two standard international short ink cartridges" (Jet Pens description).
The cap has the signature Retro 1951 finial with "Tornado by Retro 51" inscribed in the metal. The upper portion of the finial sports an engraved diamond pattern.
In my opinion, the top looks like it's missing something. Couldn't they have put a stylized "51" there or maybe a shiny, prism-like color of some sort?
In the usual Retro 51 style, the clip is metal and quite rigid. I suppose with some use it might loosen up, but you would need to work to get it onto a thick shirt pocket or a sheaf of papers.
Although the cap screws on to the barrel, it doesn't post well. You can jam it on the back of the pen, but it pops off pretty easily and throws off the balance of the pen anyway.
The nib is a Schmidt steel with an iridium tip. It has a basic scroll work design, along with a stylized "F" for the nib size and the Schmidt branding.
I honestly did not expect much from this nib, but it is fairly smooth with just a little feedback, depending on the paper. It seems to be a true western fine.
The converter is all plastic but works smoothly and holds a decent amount of ink.
Although the pen is light, the metal gives it just enough heft to feel substantial in the hand. I find it comfortable to write with for short periods, but after grading several papers with the pen, I experienced some hand cramping and fatigue. The grip is fairly narrow (10.1mm), and I suspect that's why my hand got tired.
The Retro 1951 Tornado Prism is a decent fountain pen for $44.50. My main concern is that the ink doesn't always flow perfectly, and you have to push it down into the feed with the converter. This intermittent ink flow causes some skipping, especially if your writing surface isn't perfectly flat.
The other concern is the cap. It screws on, but the threads aren't machined very well, so if you don't get the cap positioned just right, it gets stuck on the threads and you have to start over. I usually have to try two or three times to get the cap on correctly, and that's frustrating.
Overall, I like this pen and it will join my grading pen rotation. But, to be honest, my $12 Pilot Metropolitans are much more comfortable, better writers, and a lot cheaper than the Tornado. They remain my top-choice grading pens.
- The unusual design and subtle texture make the Retro Tornado Prism a unique-looking fountain pen. It is a colorful and fun pen to use.
- The pen is light, but not overly so, the metal body giving it some heft.
- The Schmidt nib is reasonably smooth and writes a solid western fine line.
- The plastic converter does its job fairly well. An agitator ball would help keep the ink flowing.
- The Tornado makes a good EDC pen because it is metal and should hold up well to abuse.
- Although the nib writes smoothly, the converter doesn't always supply enough ink to the feed and you have to push the ink down manually. I'm having this trouble with several of my converters. The only ones that don't seem to suffer from ink flow problems are those with agitator balls in them.
- The cap does not screw onto the barrel smoothly most of the time. I think this is an issue of bad threading.
- You cannot post this pen.
(JetPens provided this product at no charge to The Pen Addict for review purposes.)
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