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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Review: Uchida Reminisce, Gel Ink, 0.7mm

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Given its name and the fact that I found it in a craft store, I get the feeling that the Uchida ‘Reminisce’ is intended for scrapbookers. Though the full name, as far as I can tell, is the Marvy-Uchida Gel Excel Reminisce, and though its acid-free, archival ink could be good for scrapbooking, it can really be used just like any other gel pen. In fact, it has a rubbery, soft grip running the length of the barrel that makes it quite comfortable for general writing.

It’s a nice pen overall, though at $2.50 the cost of the Reminisce is probably on the high-end for its category. The ink flow can sometimes run a bit heavy and skips out on the rare occasion, but it works flawlessly the majority of the time. The cap posts snugly, and the clip is tight and relatively durable for being made of plastic. Additionally, large ink-windows are positioned on the side of the barrel, making it convenient to see when the ink is running low. And in case that isn’t enough, the Reminisce’s packaging also boasts of ink that is “smudge resistant when dry” (though I’m pretty sure that’s true of every pen I’ve ever used).

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The Reminisce isn’t the sort of pen I’d suggest bulk-ordering or driving across town to find. Even if you’re looking for a scrapbooking pen, almost any gel will do a similar job, and good ones like the uni-ball Signo and the Pentel Energel are likely easier to find. Still,  if you happen across one, I think the Reminisce would be worth grabbing off the shelf.  And if you don’t like it for its performance, hopefully you will still appreciate the great curly-cursive logo printed across its barrel.

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Review: Tombow Zoom 707, Ballpoint, 0.7mm

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The Tombow Zoom 707 is nothing if not distinctive. Between the accordion-like twist, the red ball at the end of the clip, and the protruding grip, it looks like no pen I’ve seen. In fact, it seems almost like a novelty pen.

That’s not to disparage it; the Zoom 707 is clearly a high-quality pen. It has a durable, metal barrel, a clip that secures snugly, and a twist mechanism that ejects the pen’s tip smoothly. It has a soft, rubber grip and comes with a ballpoint refill that’s comparatively darker and smoother than most (though some ink blobbing does occur).

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Due to its size, however, the Zoom 707 is the kind of pen that’s best slipped inside a planner or pocket-notebook. Despite the grip section, which is noticeably thicker than the pen’s barrel, the Zoom 707’s slenderness is simply impractical for writing longer notes or letters. Writing at any length quickly becomes uncomfortable.

The Zoom 707 will likely run you anywhere from 15 to 35 dollars, depending on which color you’re after, and, to me, that seems a bit pricey given its limited practicality. If you’re in the market for a super-slim pen, I’d recommend checking out the Pilot Couleur. If you just want a unique-looking Tombow pen, I’d suggest the Airpress. The Zoom 707 is a nice pen, but it’s hard to beat these alternatives, as they typically run in the 5 to 10 dollar range.

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