Retro Talk: The System

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In April of this year, Mike Dudek of The Clicky Post announced that he had collaborated with Retro 51 to create an exclusive Tornado. Called The System, the barrel of the pen features a stylized, overhead a map of the sun and planets in our solar system (plus Pluto) on a black background. The design looked awesome, so I had to get it.

You may not be able to see it in the pictures, but The System also has glossy black (“dark matter”) strips curving across the barrel that add a little texture, making it a little nicer to hold. The clip, twist, and tip are painted black, and the disk inset at the top of the pen is colored a sun-bright orange. It doesn’t have any acid-etching or glow-in-the-dark elements like other recent Tornados, which may have worked well here too, but I still think it manages to be one of the best Tornado designs out there.

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It didn’t come without a small bit of drama, however. Initially 300 of these pens were produced, but this was described as an “open numbered edition,” which apparently confused a lot of people into thinking it was a “limited edition.” Like limited edition Tornados, each of these pens has a number stamped near the twist, but Dudek planned to keep making them as long as there was a demand.

While I don’t fully understand the point, the “open numbered” concept really doesn’t upset me. After all, Retro 51 did the same thing with The Flying Tiger. Ultimately, a total of 1,300 pens were produced, and I think the only real angry people were the re-sellers. For my part, I’m just happy to have a cool pen.

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If you missed out on this one, it unfortunately doesn’t seem like Dudek plans to produce any more – though you can get still get the pencil version, if that’s your thing. But definitely keep an eye out for whatever he does in the future. I know I will.

Review: Sheaffer Pop (Star Wars Edition), Gel Ink, 0.7mm

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Last year Sheaffer jumped on the merchandising train and made a handful of Star Wars themed pens. Not that it’s a bad thing. While I have mixed feelings about the most recent spate of Star Wars movies, it turns out that I like these pens a lot, even though they are just a re-skinned version of the Sheaffer Pop. Luckly, the Pop is a pretty good pen by itself.

The Pop comes in ballpoint and fountain pen models and are typically found in bright, solid colors. But I’m keen on the gel pen* versions of R2-D2 and BB-8 (though they also have Darth Vader, Death Star, Kylo Ren, and Yoda designs). These barrel designs are detailed, fun, and it’d be safe to assume that any Star Wars fan will get a kick out of them. I also really love the 0.7mm gel refill for its smoothness and deep black color, though the ink will smear some.

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As for the Pop’s rubberized grip, I could do without it. Not only do they wear out over time, but they tend to feel pretty cheap. However, the pen’s thickness makes up for it by making it comfortable to write with,  and it also has a sturdy, metal clip and cap that posts pretty well.

My only real gripe with these Star Wars Pops are their cost. With a plastic body and aforementioned rubber grip, it just doesn’t seem like it should be $20+. The non-Star Wars versions can be found for around $15, which seems more reasonable – I guess Sheaffer has to recoup the expensive Star Wars licensing fees somehow. Although, if you’re willing to spend that extra money, these pens are pretty cool.

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*Sheaffer labels it as a “rollerball” pen, but according to the markings on the refill, it’s actually a gel pen similar to this one (except the model number is 0917).

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Retro Talk: NYC Tornado

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New York, New York. I’ve only visited a few times (and I’ll be going back later this year), but I know that it’s an amazing city – one that I love. So when Goldspot Pens announced this NYC Skyline Retro 51 Tornado late last year, I immediately jumped on the pre-order train.

The NYC Skyline Edition is a standard Retro 51 Tornado in almost every way, except the barrel is wrapped with the iconic structures of New York City. The art includes the obvious and mandatory Statue of Liberty, Chrysler Building, Flatiron Building, and Empire State Building. But the barrel also shows off The Brooklyn Bridge, One World Trade Center (along with the 200 Vesey Street and 225 Liberty Street buildings nestled below), the Bank of America Tower, and the CitiGrooup Center. There’s even one building I can’t ID, but it looks like it could just be generic Manhattan offices.

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Another neat feature is the disc at the top of the pen, which features a logo reminiscent of the old NYC Transit tokens. Additionally, like a few other Tornadoes of late, the wrap glows in the dark. With this Skyline edition, however, the gimmick makes sense because it represents the city at night, which, frankly, looks cool.

This is an amazing edition for anyone that loves New York City, but it was unfortunately limited to an odd 333 pieces. So, as you might have guessed, it’s already sold out. If you’re looking for something similar, the Statue of Liberty Tornado is still widely available, or Anderson Pens sells a Chicago Skyline Tornado. It also seems likely that Retro 51 will continue with this line. I can think of plenty that might come next… San Francisco? London? Paris? It will be interesting to see whatever it is.

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Retro Talk: The Ice-O-Metric Tornado

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There may be no summertime dessert more iconic than the Bomb Pop  – or, depending on your ice-cream truck guy, maybe it’s the Firecracker Popsicle. Either way, if you live in the United States, this dessert will probably conjure up memories of picnics, parks, and purple tongues. So maybe its no accident that this new Retro 51 Tornado, the Ice-O-Metric, was released in the dead of winter, when I find myself most nostalgic for memories of warm weather.

The Ice-O-Metric design – an 8-bit depiction of the above-mentioned dessert – was created by Michael Jacobs, who wrote a fascinating blog post that details its inception and evolution (a worthwhile read for any aspiring graphic designers). Originally, the design was sold on a t-shirt, but it eventually made it to the Tornado via Brad Dowdy, who sells it on the Pen Addict website.

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Aside from the red, white, and blue ice pops wrapped diagonally along the barrel, there is a matching disc atop the twist mechanism, and, as a bonus gimmick, the pen also glows in the dark.  It’s a great design, and an excellent sophomore Tornado release from The Pen Addict – the first being a more basic orange model.

I’d say, get your hands on it if you can. It’s a limited edition of 600 pieces, and there’s apparently a risk that they’ll be run over by delivery trucks.

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Review: Muji Hex Oil, Ballpoint, 0.7mm

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Earlier this year, my girlfriend and I took a short trip to Manhattan where, completely unintentionally, we happened upon a Muji store. If you’ve never heard of Muji before, it is sort-of like the Japanese’s answer to Crate & Barrel. It’s a store full of household items, clothing, and stationery products, though all of it is unbranded.  It’s trendy and cool, and it’s difficult to walk into a Muji store without buying something. Short on time during my New York vacation, I settled on this simple Hex Oil pen, which cost about $1.50.

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The name “Hex Oil” does a pretty good job of describing the pen itself. It has an all-black, hexagonal barrel – like a cross between a pencil and a Signo RT1 – and it uses ballpoint (oil-based) ink. As you might expect, the pen itself feels very much like a pencil in hand. Even though it lacks any sort of grip, the hexagonal shape does a good job of making it fairly comfortable to hold.

The ballpoint ink, on the other hand, isn’t very good. It feels sluggish, so your hand is bound to get tired if you plan on writing a lot. Also worth noting: the ink also has a minor blobbing problem, the clip is fairly flimsy, and the refills cost a dollar each, which is way overpriced.

Perhaps a recovering pencil-addict will get enjoyment out of the barrel, but better pens exist that cost less money. Check out the Skilcraft U.S. Government Pen or the Paper Mate Inkjoy 550RT instead. They may not look as unique, but you’ll have a better writing experience.

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