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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Five Pens to Try – August 2017 Update

Almost two years ago, I put together a list of pen recommendations based on the 25 reviews I’d done up to that point. Now with over 100 reviews under my belt, it’s time to update it once again. So let’s get to it. Here are five pens that you should try:

1. If you’re looking for something a little nicer, get yourself a Retro 51 Tornado

Retro 1951 Tornado

At this point, it’s fair to say that I’m a  Retro 51 Tornado addict. If I’m counting correctly, I believe I have a dozen of these pens, and I’ve bought a handful more to give as gifts. Tons of different designs are available, and it’s a great option if you’re thinking about upgrading your writing experience. And while many nicer pens go for $100 or more, you can get a Tornado for as little as $20. It also might be worth checking out the Slim Tornado line, which the company has been expanding lately.

2. Need to fill up your pen cup? Place an order for the Pentel Energel Deluxe RTX

Pentel Energel Deluxe RTX

There are many great gel pens on the market, but the Pentel Energel is arguably the best. It’s durable, it’s comfortable, it has great ink, and it doesn’t cost a whole lot of money. This is really a great pen to have laying about in your work area, and it comes in a variety of colors and tip sizes. And if you really like this pen, you can get a stainless steel version for under $10.

3. For when you’re on the move, grab the Fisher Cap-O-Matic Space Pen

Fisher Cap-O-Matic Space Pen

If you need a compact pen that can write in variety of situations, the Fisher Cap-O-Matic is the way to go. The pressurized Space Pen ink cartridge will write upside-down or on wet paper, if you need it to. Though, I still really like my Tombow Airpress, the slim, metal body of the Cap-O-Matic makes it a bit more pocket friendly.

4. For your everyday writer, you’ll want the Foray Stylemark

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I’m constantly using porous point pens because they produce crisp and clean lines that make anybody’s handwriting look a little bit nicer. My new favorite: the Foray Stylemark. Its soft grip and good-quality clip are features that other porous points pens don’t typically have, making it the best one out there. But if you can’t find a Stylemark, the BIC Intensity comes in at a close second, and the Sharpie Pen will do in a pinch.

5. If you’ve been thinking about fountain pens, check out the TWSBI Eco

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Fountain pens are typically perceived as finicky, old fashioned devices, yet there’s still a large market for them because they provide such a unique and interesting writing experience. So if you or someone you know is looking to try one out, you can’t do much better than the TSBI Eco. It’s about $30, which is rather inexpensive for a fountain pen, and it looks great, writes great, plus it’s easy to use. It’s available in various nib sizes and styles, though I have to say that the stub nib is pretty killer.


So there’s a handful of pens for you to check out. If you have any questions or concerns, feel free to email me at atb@pensandjunk.com or just leave a comment below.

Retro Talk: The Bioworkz Edition

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One year ago, Vanness Pens and Retro 51 collaborated to create the first “Artist Series” Tornado, designed by Joey Feldman, and it remains one of my favorite pens for its unique barrel design. Whenever artists are brought into the world of stationery, interesting and one-of-a-kind products are almost always produced. So when Vanness tapped California artist Bioworkz (Ben Kwok) to create the second “Artist Series” Tornado, I was excited and ultimately blown away by the result.

This edition’s barrel design features a trio of flying owls in a style that is reminiscent of henna body art, and two color schemes of the artwork were created as options for purchase: one blue/red, the other orange/turquoise. Overall, these may be the most beautifully designed Retro 51 Tornados I’ve seen. Additionally, the design is ever-so-slightly raised on the barrel, creating a texture that feels good to hold.

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Aside from the difference in the art’s color scheme, there are few other differences between the two versions. The blue/red version comes with dark gray metal accents, whereas the orange/turquoise’s metal accents are a made to look weathered. The inset disc at the top of the twist mechanism also differs in color between the two versions, and the blue/red version comes with a signed and numbered print – hence why it costs an extra $20.  The pens themselves are also individually numbered, and a total of 500 pens were produced (250 of each color scheme).

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So far, the Retro 51 Tornado Artist Series has been great. Besides that, there’s not much more to say, except that I’m looking forward to whatever comes next.

Nib Novice, Part 9: Pen Cleaning & Retro 51

This is the ninth part in a series in which I’m learning to use fountain pens. For all the previous installments, click here.


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It’s probably an understatement to say that I have a fondness for the Retro 51 Tornado. Not only do I have an embarrassingly large collection myself, I’ve also given away many of them as gifts, hoping that others will appreciate the pen as I do. Of course I’ve been aware for a while that Retro 51 offers a fountain pen version of the Tornado. I even ordered one a few months ago, but it has been sitting, unopened, on my desk. Before cracking the packaging open, I promised myself that I’d do something I’ve been putting off: fountain pen cleaning.

While I like the fountain pen collection I’ve built up over the course of writing this blog series, the simple fact is that I just don’t consistently use all of them. For example, my Parker 51 is great, but I feel guilty letting ink just sit inside a vintage pen. And I think it’s neat to have that counterfeit Lamy Safari in my collection, but I’m never going to actually use that piece of junk ever again.

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The good news is that Goulet Pens has a wonderful guide to pen cleaning. The bad news is that it is tedious as hell. The procedure goes like this: fill a cup with room temperature water in a sink, then pull the water into your pen (via whatever filling system the pen happens to have), then flush the water back out. Keep doing this over and over, replacing the water every once in a while, until the water being flushed out of the pen comes clean. Wiping the nib down with a paper towel after a few flushes can speed the process up, but the whole thing still feels endless.

The Parker 51, with its aerometric filling system, was pretty easy to clean. The counterfeit Lamy, on the other hand, required quite a lot of clockwise and counterclockwise twisting of the cartridge-converter. I have a couple more pens that I should probably clean, but, in all honesty, I currently lack the patience. So while letting the pens dry out overnight, I decided it was time to finally break out the Retro 51 Tornado Fountain Pen.

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In typical Retro 51 fashion, the Tornado fountain pen is available in a bunch of styles. My choice was The Lincoln,  a vintage-looking pen with a shiny, copper-colored coating. It’s got some weight to it, and it feels like a substantial pen. It uses a medium Schmidt nib and comes with both a cartridge-converter and a generic ink-filled cartridge.

Initially, I was going to use the cartridge converter, and I even started filling the pen with some bottled ink. Then I remembered all the tedious cleaning I’d just finished, so I did an on-the-fly switch to the pre-filled cartridge. That probably wasn’t my best idea, as it caused a bit of a mess.

After using the Tornado fountain pen for a few days, I’m sad to say that I grew a little tired of it. I had some trouble with ink flow, particularly whenever I’d set the pen down for a few hours. But mostly, it worked just fine. I guess this one just didn’t blow me away in the same way that the TWSBI Eco did. It’s almost as if this Tornado fountain pen is one I’d rather look at than use – or maybe I’d rather just buy the rollberball version of the Lincoln instead.

As someone who collects Retro 51 Tornado pens, that’s fine. I’m glad I have this pen. However, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it to anyone else. Hopefully my next fountain pen pen – the final one I’ll be purchasing for this series – will leave more of an impression.

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